by Tamas Deme
Mixed Reality Engineer, VIM
June 29, 2021
It has been over a year now since I've had a friend talk about a work-related site intending to do things differently. As a self-designated "internet veteran" my (and probably most people's) gut reaction was to be skeptical, at best. A little later when I had the opportunity to join a round-table discussion about work and saw both the preview of the site and the way the discussion was going, my preemptively negative feelings faded away faster than people's smiles after my horrible puns. (Coincidentally, "Punstoppable" is one of the available badges on Polywork.) I bought into the idea, doubled down because of the community, and alongside a handful of others became one of the first alpha users.
So, what is Polywork? Maybe the best way to phrase it is, that it is a site where you are represented by what you do, and not your job title. Your accomplishments and failures, instead of outdated endorsements. A playful and FUNctional environment, instead of rigid boxes that force people to cut corners off their own image to fit into.
The Polywork team tapped into something magical. They made a platform that let people be themselves to the fullest extent and created a stress- and numbers-free social network without the anxiety popularity contests bring about. And maybe most importantly the community came into existence first, being the heart of Polywork - the site was built around us, almost "by" us: it always feels great to see your own suggestion coming into existence by the stellar dev team. And not just one - basically all of our concerns and feedback points were heard and acted upon. Acted upon with a level of thoughtfulness I haven't really seen displayed before, only in the opposite direction maybe (anyone remember the recent Slack DM debacle?). Moderation, inclusivity and safety are core values of Polywork - which made the diverse group of alpha members open to express themselves freely, both in the community chat and on the site itself - knowing that bad actors would be dealt with swiftly. It has been several months now since our first introduction and the enthusiasm of this community is still on an upward slope - not to mention how exciting it's been to see the Polywork team grow and light up features. The discussion is free flowing... may that be designs, features or bug fixes... with the developers, community leads or even the founder.
A great way to help people answer the question of "what do you do?" is letting them post highlights - almost like bullet points in a CV -, then letting people assign badges to these highlights. Aside from a select few originals, it is a community led effort to create these badges that describe every activity the universe has seen, conveniently satisfying humanity's desire to categorize and classify everything. I like the metaphor that these badges then allow the people to assemble a "higher resolution" image of themselves online... if LinkedIn is 360p from 2004, Polywork is 4K. But importantly, with user generated content comes the need for guidance. Allowing us to provide that through the Atom Project benefits everyone: the community can shape the way it wants to describe itself, or even the rules of engagement on the site.
As our tiny group of roughly a few dozen members started growing, the beauty of badge system started showing its strength in discoverability. Maybe you want to find a group of like-minded individuals, or people with similar experiences. Maybe you want to find the perfect hire, or mentor. The badges allow you to do either of these things much better than you could ever before: the community members could represent themselves as if they would have done it on their personal websites, except it was finally seen and networked... unlike actual sites. For many, Polywork even became their new site. The final piece of the puzzle, the Opportunity Requests area displays the same commitment to safety we have came to expect. Every member of the community is able to choose what categories of opportunities they can be contacted about, and each request starts with an accept / reject question. Unlike other networks, Polywork thinks of You as a Person and penalizes the perpetrators of harassment and spam. If someone abuses the system and gets rejected too many times, they will be removed. Sadly, it's not obvious nowadays that the priority is the user, and not their commercial value as a row in a database.
Here we are a year later, and I’m just thrilled to see the hype train still accelerating... it is as if the Polywork team has two gas pedals, and they are flooring them both. The community is sharing honestly, without the stress of LinkedIn haunting them in the rear-view mirror. The multiverse is growing. People are asking for invites as if this is GMail and it is 2004, being excited to sign up and just delighted to be part of something new...
Just as I was back then, and as I am today.
Want to check out Polywork? You can use this link to skip their waitlist