Interview: Pete Cashmore Hopes Mashable Follow Will Help Give Readers Their Own Voice

Ten minutes after walking out of The Social Network, my girlfriend's 14 year old brother declared he'd start his own social network, make millions and live with his friends in California. Just as long-hair rock bands were to the 70s, the dream of today is to be the indie developer who changes the world through the web. I recently chatted with Mashable founder/CEO Pete Cashmore about his experiences and his newest creation, Mashable Follow.

Ten minutes after walking out of The Social Network, my girlfriend’s 14 year old brother declared he’d start his own social network, make millions and live with his friends in California.  Just as long-hair rock bands were to the 70s, the dream of today is to be the indie developer who changes the world through the web, and kids everywhere are excited and trying.  But what’s it like once you’ve achieved it?  How do you build new dreams? We recently had a chance to chat to ask these questions to Mashable founder/CEO Pete Cashmore while discussing the launch of his newest creation, Mashable Follow.

“I started this thing in Scotland when I had no idea what was going on, and I had no money.  So I needed to find tools that worked for free to make it happen.  I eventually found them and built Mashable using tools given to me by the community.  With Mashable Follow, maybe I can give some of those tools to others.”

As Pete makes clear above, Mashable Follow, in short, is about letting the reader define their own experience and then share that experience with others.  Specifically, users customize their reading list from among Mashable’s list of articles, and that list or ‘stream’ of articles is then public for other users to follow.  It lets you define a profile, earn badges for sharing on various social networks and most importantly, follow your favorite trends and readers. Check out this quick video for a bit more information on the service, but make sure to read on for Pete’s insight into what’s happening in today’s social media world.

As a reader of Mashable, getting into Follow is a pretty simple experience.  I’m reading the blog as usual, and at the top of the page, “My Stories”, “People” and “Activity” buttons remind me that there’s a community of other readers available who are all checking out their own topics.  Click on any of the areas and you’re ‘in’ Mashable Follow, where readers are following one another, sharing stories and more.  The service focuses on content, so as soon as I’m in, Mashable recommends a story to me and explains why they’re recommending it (a certain followed friend is sharing it, most of the time).  It’s a hybrid of a news source and a social network, and Mashable has executed it in such a way that it’s completely optional.

Optional… Hmm.  I asked Pete whether he felt some of his users may be turned off by adding a heap of social features to a blog.  “Our users are always ahead of the curve, I’m pretty confident they will enjoy using a bunch of the social tools that we’re always writing about.”  I feel this is true about Mashable, and is also true for us here at Social Times.  We got into a short discussion about the evolution of blogs themselves, and how Social Times and Mashable are at different points on the curve.  We here at ST just took a big step in redesigning our page to allow us greater control of the content that we highlight to our users, and we’ve seen a great response from readers who now share and comment more than they ever did.  Perhaps the next step on that evolutionary chain is to give our readers even more power, by letting them become their own content curators.  Pete definitely had this as one of his imperatives, as a method of giving free tools back to the web community which has empowered him so much.

So how did Mashable make it happen?