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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sharing a Potluck of Links, Not Food

More and more, we are looking to consume less and less - at least when it comes to online content.

Over the last year, new start-ups and existing social networks have been offering solutions to help cull the endless stream of online content and present the results to us on neat little Web sites and apps. While these companies - Digg, Twitter, Reddit - often succeed in slicing away the fat, the conversation that takes place around content is still difficult to understand. Sometimes you feel as if you're trying to hear someone talk to you underwater.

A new Web site called Potluck, by the New York-based start-up Branch, began this week, with the hope of simplifying both link-sharing and the chatter around those URLs.

Potluck, the Web site, works much like a real potluck, where a number of people bring dishes t o a dinner party and everyone gets to sample them all. But instead of salads and casseroles, people share links with their friends, or friends of friends, and they can discuss why they like or dislike the offering.

Josh Miller, co-founder of Branch and Potluck, said one of the biggest challenges online was still meeting people you didn't know but trusted enough to talk to.

“Today's teens use social networks and only talk to people they know, which seems so silly,” he said. ”If you start a Potluck room, and a conversation about a link, everyone in there may not know each other. But like a dinner party, they trust each other because you said they were invited.”

Mr. Miller said he believed that the next big trend of the Web would be creating sites where you could “interact with cool people that you don't know, or don't know that well.”

Cemre Gungor, a designer and co-founder of Potluck, said in a blog post that the concept for the new site came after trying to invent the equivalent of “a house party on the Internet.”

“Potluck's feed was inspired by what it's like to walk through a party, looking for conversations to hop into,” Mr. Gungor wrote.

Mr. Miller's other site, Branch, entices people to start a longer, more in-depth conversation about a specific topic and invite others to join the discussion. Unlike on most social networks, where anyone can join in and add their verbose opinions, only people involved in the conversation can invite others.