Illustration of Derek Powazek by Adam Ellis

Kvetch! Reborn with Twitter a Decade Later

kvetch 2008

You know all those things you wish you could post to Twitter but don’t want to say with your name on them? Those brilliant angry complaints that would feel so good to get off your chest? Now you can.

Kvetch is an anonymous oracle of complaint. Kvetches are displayed randomly and anonymously. There are no permalinks and no search mechanism. Just enjoy the moment.

Wanna play? First, you’ll need a Twitter account. If you’re not a Twitter member already, go sign up. I’ll wait.

To participate, you have to follow Kvetch. Go to Twitter and type “follow kvetch” or click the “follow” link on this page. Kvetch will automatically follow you back. We need to have this relationship so you can send us private messages.

Now that we’re all set up, just direct message Kvetch with your complaints. To do that, just twitter “D Kvetch Your kvetch here!” or just post it here (you must be logged in to Twitter and a Kvetch contact for that link to work).

Once an hour, the Kvetch website pulls in all the direct messages, strips out the sender, and displays the kvetches randomly. Sweet, sweet release!

kvetch hit me

But that’s not all! On the Kvetch website, there’s this widget under each kvetch. If you like a kvetch, click the thumbs up button. If you don’t, click the thumbs down. If you’re ambivalent, click in the middle. Clicking any of the three will refresh the kvetch. We use these votes to determine the frequency of the kvetches displayed. Higher rated kvetches will be displayed more often. Lower rated kvetches will be banished to the dustbin of obscurity.

If this seems a little familiar, it’s because Kvetch has existed for over a decade. The site was born while avoiding paying work way back in 1996 as a place to blow off steam (thanks to Christian Mogensen). I redesigned it in 1998 and tricked it out with a realtime chatroom (thanks to Greg Knauss). That’s where I first experimented with the Community Boot – a system that put the chatroom participants in charge of moderating their own space – which I later wrote about in Design for Community.

kvetch past

I shut down Kvetch in 2002 because it’d just grown too unwieldy and I could no longer handle weeding out the dumb posts by hand.

But the ascendence of Twitter got me thinking. Its 140-character limit matched a similar limit we had at Kvetch. And its popularity again created that need for a more temporary, anonymous place to let off steam.

I whipped up the design and gathered a garage band of talented friends. Let’s hear it for Josh Bryant on html/css, Jonathan Snook on javascript, Toby Joe Boudreaux on php/mysql, Alex Payne on the Twitter api, and Media Temple on the server box. They’re all masters of their craft, come from good homes, and are kind to children.

Why do all this? Just because it’s fun. Isn’t that why we started making websites in the first place?

Kvetch! Let it out, baby. You’ll feel better. Promise.


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Hi, I’m Derek. I live in San Francisco and make awesome community-centric web stuff. I sometimes post things to Flickr and Twitter. I’m mostly harmless. More.





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