We started Tattle with a simple intention of making accurate information more accessible to mobile first users in India. More of India is coming online, learning about the Internet first from social messaging apps such as WhatsApp. As content creation is more democratized, the rules of trust around digital media are rapidly changing. In absence of digital and media literacy, these rules can be especially confusing. As a result, users can become unwitting vectors of misinformation.
Tattle was driven by curiosity. As we saw more rumors circulated on WhatsApp in India, we wondered- what could be done to improve the health of online conversations in India?
The simple question took us on an unanticipated journey of immense learning. Over the last year we’ve found communities of researchers, fact-checkers, journalists, civic technologists, doggedly committed to understanding and improving the health of online conversation. We’ve also learnt that the challenge is beyond one chat app. Indians use a variety of platforms to communicate; rumors can be creatively weaved into any online conversation.
In April this year, Tattle was selected as one of the winners of the AI and News Open Challenge. The grant is a phenomenal opportunity for us to ramp up our work. It is also a responsibility, to all our stakeholders who have supported us with time, money and expertise, to do our best.
Given the fast changing digital media ecosystem, we know we must be nimble in our approach. We felt the need to clarify our values early in the process, so that they may serve as guiding principles when we think about future products and collaborations. It is only right that we begin our blog series with a statement of values.
As long term beneficiaries of open source projects, we realize the value of tools that are community driven, community built and community managed. There are plenty of practical advantages of running an open source project, but we think it is especially important for what Tattle is trying to achieve. Misinformation is simultaneously a global and a local problem. It is bigger than any one platform or any one team. Any long lasting solution in this space will be participatory and multi-disciplinary.
Openness is a commitment that anyone and everyone can use, change and share the tools made at Tattle for their unique purpose. But, openness is not restricted only to software released by Tattle (all software is licensed under GPL). It is also about being open in our communication and open to participation in all forms so that the project can evolve as a Commons.
India is a diverse microcosm in an overwhelmingly diverse world. Our aim with Tattle is to embrace that diversity- of languages, of experiences and of styles of learning and communicating. We will aim for our work to be accessible to people of different backgrounds.
At any point, we have to choose between multiple product ideas and potential future directions. Given the challenge Tattle is aiming to address, there is a space and need for unconventional socio-technical approaches. But the risk of untested ideas must be balanced against long term viability of ongoing projects and the organization as a whole. In conception of any idea or project, we will plan for its long term sustainability in all respects- be it the tech stack or the organizational structure.
Building good tools is contingent on careful listening. Humility means that we always engage as listeners and learners. We put people's experiences first and our conceived ideas second.
As stated earlier in the blog, Tattle was driven by curiosity. We started by wanting to learn more about the phenomenon of misinformation- about why people share what they share. One year down, we have a lot more questions and some hypotheses about what might work.
We think wide eyed curiosity towards people, different ideas, technologies and new challenges, enables us to widen our canvas of intervention.
We know these are lofty principles and that we will fall short of them. More than once. More than we would like to. But by beginning with a clear statement of values, we are setting our vision to the horizon- to standards that we would like to achieve even if that is not where we currently are. We hope that being transparent in our values will also serve as an accountability mechanism- that we will be called out when we fall short of these values; and will be advised on how to do better.
*Shubharambh is a Sanskrit word with the root words Shubh and Aarambh that translate to good and beginnings.