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Last Sunday, my husband, daughter and I had breakfast in our favorite Sunday market in Quezon City. It was our first time in a long time. As I sat with my toddler on one of the wooden picnic tables, sipping a cappuccino and mixing garlic flakes into our scalding bowl of lugaw, I reveled in the sounds and smells, the hubbub, the wafting through of a dozen conversations happening all around us.
There is something magical in public spaces that draws people together. On that Sunday, the people in that market, including my family, gathered in the same spot because of our shared love for good food and common need to restock our pantries.
Once upon a time, social media exuded that same enchantment and optimism. Finally, a shared space overcoming distance and time for citizens to talk about issues they care about. But profit-driven algorithms, abuses by bad actors, and lack of responsible regulation turned these social media platforms into toxic spaces.
So we retreated to our closed messaging groups. They’re safe because we know the people there – our friends, family, bicycle club mates, fellow vintage furniture lovers, etcetera.
But they are also insular and limited in reach. They are our comfort zones and echo chambers.
I want to invite you to a hybrid space – the community chat rooms on our app, Rappler Communities.
For two weeks, I’ve been leading something we call community chats on the app. They are live, time-bound chat sessions about specific topics of public interest. Our first community chat was about the rich tradition of Traslacion on January 9.
Our faith reporter Paterno Esmaquel II, along with our other staff who covered the hours-long religious event, went on the #faith chat room to give updates about the procession. Jayeel Cornelio, an Ateneo professor and sociologist of religion, chimed in with compelling insights about what it means to be a Nazareno devotee.
We also recently had a community chat about the new Samsung smartphone, the first to prominently feature artificial intelligence, led by our technology editor Gelo Gonzales as he covered the launch in California. Two fellow tech lovers, Isa does Tech, a content creator, and Gadget Pilipinas’ Gian Viterbo joined the chat.
When p-pop group VXON performed in our newsroom, their fans, Vixeys, got on the #pop-culture chat room to send their questions that were then read out during the interview portion. Our resident p-pop expert Russell Ku sent behind-the-scenes photos of the VXON boys to the chat room, to the delight of the fans.
Not a p-pop fan but a p-pol geek? There were some interesting community chats in the #philippine-politics chat room too! Our political reporters and editors got a chat going about the appointment of Ralph Recto as Marcos’ new finance secretary while the President was holding a press conference about it.
Last Monday, there was an interesting discussion about who the opposition should field for senator in the 2025 elections. You can still check out the names mentioned there by backreading the conversation.
It would take several newsletters to recount all of the community chats we’ve held so far. I invite you to download our app and see for yourself! There’s a chat room for different kinds of public interest issues – #climate-change, #liveable-cities, #overseas-filipinos, #health-and-wellness, #money, #sports, #factsfirstPH, #crime, #justice-and-human-rights. There will be a private invite-only chat room for Rappler+ members to update them on exclusive events and content. If this sounds interesting to you, here’s how you can get Rappler+ membership.
We’ve invited several key opinion leaders, who we call Thought Leaders, to be part of these chat rooms to provide context, expertise, and insight to the conversations. They will soon be identifiable by a green shield icon, which Rappler journalists also have beside their names.
What makes Rappler community chat rooms different from the group chats you’re already part of?
- The content is not determined by profit-driven algorithms. Journalists are in charge. A newsbot is programmed to send articles relevant to the chat rooms but it does so based on topics that thematically fall under the chat room’s focus.
- Journalists are present in all the chat rooms. Your insights and takes matter to us and this is a way we can meaningfully and immediately engage with you.
- It’s open to the public. The app is free and can be downloaded by anyone. Chat rooms can be joined by anyone.
- Community guidelines banning hate speech, calls to violence and harm are enforced in all chat rooms. A bot has been programmed to automatically censor harmful messages. This can then be appealed to human moderators.
- Anyone can start a conversation. And when you do, Rappler’s journalists and the chat room community are listening.
There are currently around 200 to 300 members in every chat room. We hope to grow this community with you. We have many more exciting plans for the chat rooms. Could some serve as hotlines to report abuse or government negligence? Could they be a space for crowdsourcing story ideas and getting instant feedback about our reportage? Could they be a place for people to assess candidates in the upcoming 2025 elections? Could they be where book lovers converge with literary critics and bookstore owners?
At Rappler, we dream big, but always with you, our readers, in mind. Dream with us, and let these dreams turn to action, and hopefully, change.
Pet-lovers unite! If you’re curious about pet health teleconsultations and are weighing the pros and cons for your beloved furry friend, this is the Community Chat for you. Carlo Flordeliza of PetPal, a local pet healthcare provider, can answer your questions in this conversation moderated by our health reporter and fellow fur mom Kaycee Valmonte. The chat will take place in the #health-and-wellness chatroom.