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How We Invented the Like of Social Audio

November 10, 2021

A little more than a year ago we set out to build Angle because we believe in the value of great conversations — talking to the right person at the right time about the right topic. It helps people grow, and it’s deeply human. Back then we weren’t aware of the wave we now know as social audio coming in — led by apps like Clubhouse and followed by big tech. It seems like social audio rooms become a generic feature that we’ll see popping up in many places. But that’s a topic for a different post. For those of you not familiar with the concept, social audio rooms are places online where people meet virtually and talk to each other — it’s as simple as that.

With Angle Audio we are building a place where people can have intentional and authentic audio conversations. That’s what guides our design decisions, and it’s what makes Angle conversations feel distinctively different from other social audio apps. In this series, I will share the stories behind some of these decisions and our learnings along the way.

Break out of the world of generic reactions

So, what do we mean by “the Like of social audio”? We learned quickly that people who are part of an audio conversation often want to share their affection, gratitude, or simply signal their approval. What they don’t want is to interrupt the flow of conversation, or maybe they just can’t talk right now. What does a smile or a nod look like when you can’t see the other person? And how do you translate this very human moment for an audio-only conversation? Body language and paralinguistic cues are a fundamental part of human conversation. They set the tone and drive the dynamic. So where does that leave us when building an audio-only product where most participants are muted most of the time?

We iterated through a couple of designs, starting from a generic like-button and going over different reactions. What we were missing, was the more personal and direct feeling these solutions lack. Audio conversations are happening in the moment. The dynamic of a conversation changes all the time. Throwing an ordinary reaction into the void wasn’t enough.

We call them Celebrations

Instead, we introduced a new type of interaction. It borrows and combines the best from social media and gaming. We call it a Celebration. During a conversation, when you want to give someone a Celebration, you simply double-tap on their profile picture. A Celebration emoji will show on their profile picture, visible to everyone in the conversation. At the same time, a smaller indicator will show for a few seconds next to your profile. This allows people to easily understand who celebrated whom. To add visual variety, the Celebration emoji is randomly chosen from a set of options.

Celebrations are something special, and shouldn’t be over-used. That’s why we included a cool-down. After you celebrate someone, you will have to wait for 60 seconds until you can celebrate again.

This cool-down is shown by a timer-overlay, similar to how it’s being used in video games. This visual indicator also serves as a tool-tip in case users want to learn more or use the feature for the first time.

Balancing seamlessness and intimacy

From observing and talking with the Angle community we learned that this type of interaction is both seamless and allows for human connection. Seamless, because a double-tap is a known and direct gesture. It doesn’t interrupt the flow of the conversation at all. It rather serves as real-time feedback. It connects because it’s bringing two people closer together. Visually, of course, but also mentally. If I receive a Celebration, I know that that person chose to use it because of something I said. It’s a time-scarce gesture.

People on Angle celebrate others for all sorts of things. Because they agree, connect, show gratefulness, or simply welcome new people to a conversation. We love the positive ambiguity that it comes with and the creativity it unfolds.

We keep iterating on this: what’s the right cool-down; should users be able to choose their own custom Celebrations; what happens with the Celebrations I receive? At the moment, we count Celebrations on people’s profiles. We’re still not sure what to do with them and if a counter is the right way to go about it. We love to see people become active in conversations. At the same time, we try to avoid an environment that makes people only hunt for more Celebrations and followers. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Hope you enjoyed the read, and maybe it sparked some thoughts. I’ll keep writing about the product we’re building at Angle Audio here on Medium. If you’re curious, drop by and try out the product — no invite needed 😉

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