Answers. Clean and Simple.

What is Soap?

Soap is a new media platform being developed with AI and humans working together.  Soap listens to millions of articles from thousands of vetted sources. We bubble up the top issues identified and discussed by a wide range of leaders, organizations, and media across the U.S.

Does a machine write all the headlines? What does the AI do and what do the humans do?

Soap is powered by a machine-learning platform that scours the news so we humans don’t have to, and organizes it using our (human-defined) “perspectives.” It’s really good at spotting areas of common concern and pulling together sources that help give a diverse, informative view. Every news cycle our team reviews stories and adds some finishing touches to our presentation, including those descriptive labels you see in the bubbles. Our platform isn’t (yet) very good at doing that. Give it time.

What is Soap Public Media?

Soap Public Media is the nonprofit organization headquartered in Palo Alto, California that brings you Soap.

Why is Soap needed?

We all need a better way to see information clearly.  At Soap, we’re aiming to get good information from a diversity of sources in front of you. We do our best to make sure that the sources have “standing” —  that they are who they say they are. That doesn’t mean you won’t see opinions, points of view, or assertions that you might disagree with. But it does mean you’ll know where those views are coming from, and can follow the argument, know who is making it, and make your own mind up about its merit.

Why 7x7?

There’s both contemporary research and ancient intuition about why this is a neat way to help organize information flows that are growing ever faster and more confounding. Psychology Today in 2011 article outlined all the reasons why 7 just happens to be the ideal number for processing information overload and remembering things. Someone on our team remembered that, and here we are!

What is a perspective?

Perspectives are the organizing method behind how we present the news. We look at groups of content “sources” – individuals and organizations – who share common roles in our society but may have very different ideas and points of view. Initially, Soap is focusing on six: Reporters, Scientists, Celebrities, Advocates, Businesspeople and Politicians. We combine them together and get a seventh perspective, Everyone.

As we develop our platform, we plan to add additional perspectives that can enrich the range of view and contribute to the public debate. We’ve included tens of thousands of individuals and organizations. Are we missing voices you think should be heard? Let us know. Contact us.

How do you decide who fits in which perspective?

Our team consults a wide variety of published sources, including biographical data, private-sector membership directories and lists, and supplements this with our own research.

What exactly do you mean when you say “sources of standing”?

We knew you’d be asking that. We aren’t going to pretend that we’ve knocked on the door and personally checked the ID of every source we cite. But we take this effort extremely seriously, and we only include organizations and individuals who have established reputations and professional identities that are confirmable through multiple methods online and off. If you have concerns about anything you see on Soap, contact us.

Soap Insights: What data sources does Soap Insights use?

Insights are generated from publicly available information, such as Wikipedia, the websites of our Sources with Standing, etc. These calculations exclude Sources with Standing included in the issue that do not have this data (such as political party) available in the public domain.

How do you decide what’s real and what’s fake?

Our platform tracks a finite set of known sources, confirmed as described above, and presents stories, videos, and other content either produced by or shared by the source. That gives us a good, but not perfect, defense against “fake news.”

We will cite just one example to explain why: We all know that President Trump, and his social media accounts, are real, ana d have real impact on issues and events almost every day. The stuff he says is sometimes much harder to verify, but since he’s the President we all need to know he’s saying it.

As a parent, how do I decide at what age I want my child to see this?

Soap reflects what goes on in the real world. We believe it is important that young adults engage as democratic citizens of the world, so we try our best to let our users think for themselves. If you are concerned that some of the content may not be age-appropriate, we suggest using Soap as a great starting point for a guided conversation about what’s happening today.

I read you use AI. Does a machine write all the headlines? What does the AI do and what do the humans do?

Soap is powered by a machine-learning platform that scours the news so we humans don’t have to, and organizes it using our (human-defined) “perspectives.” It’s really good at spotting areas of common concern and pulling together sources that help give a diverse, informative view. Every news cycle our team reviews stories and adds some finishing touches to our presentation, including those descriptive labels you see in the bubbles. Our platform isn’t (yet) very good at doing that. Give it time.

Do Soap staff have political affiliations?

Sure some of us are registered to one party or the other, we work for causes we believe in, and encourage our staff (and you) to vote. Lots of media claims to be unbiased, but almost everybody is subject to biases, acknowledged or not. We keep an eye on our blind spots, and seek to present information from all sides of issues as clearly as possible. Let us know how we’re doing.

How is Soap Public Media funded?

Soap Public Media was initially funded by our co-founders, and two business associates Michael Spector and KV Rao, who believe in them. Today, Soap Public Media is sustained as other public media are: through donations, grants and volunteer support.

Our backers think the public media model is more valuable than ever in an age of increasing concentration of media ownership. You can read more about that here. We don’t accept donations from political organizations or candidates. If you’d like to support us, please make a donation.

What is SoapAI? How is it funded?

SoapAI is a private company established by Soap Public Media’s founders, Karen Edwards and Raj Narayan. To make Soap work, the founders realized that the technology they needed for their mission wasn’t available, so they formed a for-profit company to build a technology platform. By managing the platform as a for-profit company Soap has access to more funding, talent and expertise in a very competitive environment. SoapAI can also apply its expertise to help a variety of organizations engage their audience with more clarity and transparency.

SoapAI has been initially funded by individual social impact seed investors who include some of its current managers: Karen Edwards, John Marcom, John Buoymaster, Mark Peek, Bill Unger and Adam Berman.

What exactly is the relationship between Soap Public Media and SoapAI?

Soap Public Media licenses technology from, and is provided certain other support services by, SoapAI.

Help us realize the vision.

“It’s my dream scenario to have a place where I can trust the sources and know that I can see all different points of view.”
India, Age 16

Soap Public Media is a non-profit (501c3) with a robust platform that supports a vision for bringing trusted sources, clarity and context directly to youth through the Soap app for iOS , Soap on the Web, and Soap's News Literacy Guide & Exercises for journalism, social and media literacy programs in universities & high schools.

With Soap, users get the issues first then they get a broad range of perspectives for every issue — not the noise or personalized bias inherent in “What’s Trending” in social media, or the possible slant of getting all their news from one news service.

The Soap Public Media team is experienced in journalism, education, design and technology. We combine humans with AI to insure the integrity and quality of Soap.

We need your support to realize this vision, improve the behind-the-scenes efforts and the experience of using Soap.

Please make a donation today or, if you prefer, contact us to discuss a contribution.

 

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