From Backspaces to Beacon

I’ve spent the last year working on Backspaces because I was (and am) convinced that storytelling will forever be the defining activity for the human web. What I mean by that is, amid the endless streams of data, the commoditization of behavior, and the aggregation of interaction, narrative is the only thing that’s actually worth a damn. Storytelling is one of our best tools to articulate the universality of the human experience, and it’s in our best interest to enable it as much as we can.   

Backspaces was our attempt at bringing storytelling to the mobile web, with a photographic slant. It’s a fantastic product and we’ve had a lot of fun building it. When the community started growing, Dmitri and I were completely humbled by the incredible stories people were sharing.

We devoted a lot of time and effort into making Backspaces a “social consumer app” because that’s where we thought the big opportunity was. Personally, I was looking to macro trends and saw mass adoption as the key to Backspaces’ survival. User generated content as a model only works if there are millions and millions of creators.

But what we discovered with Backspaces is that creating good stories is really hard. More importantly, the economic model for web “content” is mostly ambivalent to the actual content itself, and more concerned with how high the pageviews are. When we saw that no story, no matter how poignant or beautiful, was going to beat a Buzzfeed cat listicle in terms of pageviews, we realized there was a huge problem with the whole model for storytellers.

So we began thinking of the problem at its root. And talking to smart people about it. People who were obsessed with the same problem. And that’s how we met Dan Fletcher, hot off his exit from Facebook. In three short months, we worked with Dan to put together a service that believes whole heartedly in the value of stories and storytellers. I won’t blather on too much about it here because we’ve said plenty elsewhere.

It’s a really simple product - find a writer, fund them with a $5 monthly subscription, and get access to every single story and writer on the platform. It’s like Netflix and Kickstarter rolled into one great experience for journalism. And it’s live right now. 

It’s with great pleasure and excitement that I introduce you to Beacon, the best way to empower writers by funding the work they do.

i dig it. 

i dig it. 


The Wassaic Project festival this past weekend featured a tremendous amount of art, music, dance and performance. This little art hamlet wedged between rolling green hills and tucked under a sky of sparkling stars showcased some deeply moving and often fun site-specific work.

It was great to see so many people from the local community and region come out. It really didn’t feel like an arty echo-chamber, but an event that was actually engaging the local community. More thoughts and photos from Wassaic all week so please stay tuned and share!

super cool. jealous, i shoulda gone. 

Let me show you what this congressperson [Rep. Steve King] is doing. Basically they’re pinning the problems that we have in this country on people who are poor. If you think about people who are poor really— you have 80 percent of people who are food insecure are actually working. That means their wages are so low that they’re eligible for food stamps. So you want to talk about dependency in this country? Let’s talk about corporations and businesses that pay such low wages that they depend on the United States government to add money to those wages through the Income Assistance Programs, like SNAP. So because if you take a company like Walmart, pays their workers so low that their workers are actually eligible for food stamps. Who’s dependent on the U.S. government? I’d have to say it’s Walmart is the welfare queen here.


Last week, Cheerios posted this new commercial on youtube. It sparked a firestorm of backlash, and (naturally) the comments on the video have been deactivated.

When my wife and I watched the video, it felt great to (finally) see a representation of our own family. Especially considering what happened at a Wal-Mart in Virginia a few weeks ago.

We created this site to publicly reflect the changing face of the American family. According to the 2008 census, 15% of new marriages are interracial. And yet, it still feels rare to see something like the Cheerios ad represented in mainstream culture.

If you’re in an interracial marriage, or family, and live in the US, please feel free to email your photo to for consideration. Please include first names, from left to right, and the city in which you live.

(For what it’s worth, you may not receive an immediate response about if/when your photo will be published — but we’re replying to everyone whose photo will be published.)

Thanks for participating. We are the 15 percent!

- Michael David Murphy & Alyson West
(For media inquiries only: please email us and put “PRESS” in the subject line. Thank you!) #mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; } /* Add your own MailChimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block. We recommend moving this block and the preceding CSS link to the HEAD of your HTML file. */

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All beasts move by instinct
but sometimes it’s obvious.
I see you easy: migrations
and the making of honey.
Desire is something we
thought of 
to name what
in us wants to pollinate.
          I can’t (don’t want to)
          tell what all
          of this is for, or about. 

We try to talk this out. Let’s stop
and see what our bodies
want to say.

From the story “Calm nights here are memories of there.” by SandersAK. Read it on Backspaces.

From the story “Calm nights here are memories of there.” by SandersAK. Read it on Backspaces.

Lemming Man


The myth is
you’d walk
right off a
stone cliff
just to follow
through with
instinct. Edge
and endings.
intuition isn’t
good for the
individual, and
it is. What is it
that is waiting
for you at the
bottom? The
truth is that
made this
story up
along the way,
on the long
walk toward
knowing. If
only to follow
the motions.
The order of
things. Kinesis,
repetition and
flow. If you
keep moving
in that direction
there will be no
where else to go.

From the story “The light show at Moto” by SandersAK. Read it on Backspaces.

From the story “The light show at Moto” by SandersAK. Read it on Backspaces.