I certainly agree that we have the opportunity to create new kinds of networks with new kinds of stakeholders and governance structures. Collectives are a very interesting approach, and complement other organizational structures with a social and economic justice focus — such as B corps or even more traditional corporations that have values and investors that point in that direction. It’s a great opportunity for what Sarah Blankinship and I dubbed the “team of rivals” strategy: a federation of collectives and social/economic justice-focused business is potentially a scalable alternative to the billion-user exploitative social networks we have today.
In general I think strategy is an important complement to design thinking here. Where are the possibilities for a sustainable advantage — with a large enough audience and product offerings that can support the desired business model? And if you’re looking to be reallllly disruptive, what are the advantages that the entrenched incumbents will find it hard to counter or replicate? You’re completely right that interaction with real people and a heavily iterative approach is key to developing a great product, and that as part of that you discover how wrong some of your initial assumptions are, but a good strategy can be resilient to a lot of that.
That said, if the #WeAreTwitter folks can get together a collective to purchase Twitter — or just do a dry run for a collective that’s big enough to buy some other running social network site (Ello, Imzy, Minds, MeWe) — it would certainly be worth trying!
BTW I did think it was pretty funny that the Slate article you linked to quotes the CEO of Prismatic to support his point the point that ello wouldn’t succeed. Two years later, ello’s going strong, and Prismatic’s gone. Point taken that it’s a lot harder to win simply being a “X alternative”, especially when competing against a competitor with a dominant market position and essentially infinite money. And yes, it’s true that Diaspora* and others (Piddr, and a Montreal-based startup whose name I can’t remember) showed that in 2010 “privacy” wasn’t seen as valuable enough to get a critical mass of people on board products that weren’t as usable as Facebook was at the time. ello and MeWe are both doing a good job of differentiating based on things other than functionality and so far it seems to be working for both of them.