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'Life Isn't Always Great': Hater App Finally Lets You Be Honest About What You Really 'Like' (Interview)

By Matthew Klickstein , May 11, 2013 09:02 AM EDT
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There's little doubt that the world of social media is becoming a continuously more disingenuous realm of interaction.

The mere fact that there seems to only be a way of "liking" everything via Facebook or other iconic social networks makes it more and more difficult to easily express the way you might really feel about something ... or someone.

It's for this reason that we're absolutely in love with Hater, a new app recently launched at SXSW that -- for perhaps the first time -- actually allows you to express yourself when it comes to what it is you hate, as opposed to merely what it is you like.

We had a chance to speak with Andrew Batey, the Chief Marketing Officer at Hater App, who told us why "hating" can actually be a good thing, why Facebook doesn't necessarily mind that his company has essentially cadged the well-known thumbs-up "like" logo and subverted it (not to mention why some at Facebook think what Hater is doing should have been done there a long time ago) and how you can get in on loving the hate yourself.

iTech Post: Jake Banks, who created Hater App along with developing your logo and overall design, comes from the world of commercial production. What was it that led him to giving it all up to become a Hater?

ANDREW BATEY: Until recently, Jake owned an extremely large commercial production company with offices in New York and Los Angeles. A lot of visual effects, a lot of animation. Multi-million-dollar deals. I'd say he's one of the top five commercial directors in the country. But he didn't necessarily "give it all up" to start Hater App. He's still directing. He's working on a three-million-dollar project right now. He sold the company and then was trying to figure out exactly what he wanted to do. I don't think he really enjoyed running both the offices in New York and LA. I think he wanted to focus on the creative side, the directing. And his creativity led him to creating Hater App.

iTech Post: What was his specific impetus for creating Hater App?

AB: He was just really tired of having to "like" everything. On every social networking platform, you have to "like" something. And he just didn't feel like that was an honest approach to social networking.

iTech Post: What do you mean by that? "An honest approach to social networking"?

AB: Well, if you're being honest with yourself, nothing in life is perfect. You're not always liking everything. And so he [Banks] just thought it was misleading; it just naturally geared users to share things that they liked, and that's all there was available. Facebook: You have to "like" things. Instagram: You have to "like" things. They're all about how great things are, and that's not necessarily honest because life isn't always great.

iTech Post: That actually makes sense, especially in light of some of the studies that have been conducted as far as Facebook and other social networks making it seem that everyone around you is having such a better life than yours, and thus it might cause more depression. Everyone posts a pic of themselves in the hot tub, sipping champagne with a cute girl. Not many people post themselves crying about breaking up with their girlfriend or losing a job.

AB: Hater's really about sharing the things you don't like with the people you love. It's really about being able to bond over things that people mutually dislike. There's a lot of bonding that happens over people being upset. There are even good things that can come from hating, like hating for a cause or hating for charity.

iTech Post: What do you mean by that?

AB: There are things that you can hate so much that it inspires change because other people can then be aware of it.

iTech Post: Such as what?

AB: Global Warming's a good example. Gun violence. We're trying to make a big push specifically for Global Warming. There are a lot of things in which people can hate so much, that it can inspire change. Had KONY 2012 had Hater, you would have likely seen a lot of people hate around one person who's been a tyrant to an entire nation. They did rally, but it would have given them another outlet. A way for them to bond over something they dislike.

iTech Post: Were you trying to find a niche market, then, in what you were doing with starting Hater App?

AB: We weren't looking for a niche market specifically. There was no real calculation as far as people being depressed and all that that you were talking about before. But, yeah. Most time people are posting things that make it seem like they're having fun when they're not necessarily having fun. Our entire platform is really about sharing things you don't like, things that you hate, and hopefully other people also hate those other things. And then you have this whole platform of understanding each other. Understanding the things that aren't always great.

iTech Post: Have you guys thought about this instigating hate?

AB: One thing we have had pushback on is bullying. Just like any social media platform, people are responsible for the content they post. But we don't tolerate bullying. If we see bullying on any one individual person, it gets removed. We have filters in place. There's racial filters ... There's things that we at Hater take as "no-no's" and that we just don't tolerate. There's so many different platforms out there where people can express themselves and to say that Hater can be used to be any more abusive than others would be incorrect.

iTech Post: What would be the correct way of looking at Hater, then?

AB: People are using it to express what they don't like about brands, things that annoy them. We rarely see someone post something on there where they're actually attacking a specific person because they dislike that particular person. If it's a person they're disliking, it's the action that person is doing they dislike. In that way, I really feel that users are using the app in the right way, the way we envisioned.

iTech Post: What if the Hater App user him- or herself uses it a bit too much: Someone who might be focusing a bit too much of his own negativity or energy on hating via the app?

AB: There's negativity in every part of life. Maybe that's what's causing depression in some people, like what you were saying with Facebook. By ignoring negativity in life, we're doing more damage than good. Allowing people to be negative is a good way to vent. It's like therapy. It's a good platform for people to really express themselves, to get it out of the way and move on. It's a good way to help people.

iTech Post: Sometimes when we really hate something, though, we end up giving that thing a lot more exposure than it would otherwise receive. Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh, for example, were said to have achieved success via all the publicity they received from the people who hated them more than that from those who liked them. I personally would never had heard of A Million Little Pieces had Oprah not made such a big fuss about James Frey being apocryphal in the validity of the story. Isn't it sometimes better to just ignore the things we hate so that they will go away?

AB: Yeah, it's kind of the adage of, "There's no such thing as bad publicity." But from our perspective, we didn't really make the app for that purpose. 99 percent of the people are going to express the things that they dislike in life, whether it's traffic or the fact that their ex-husband or ex-wife took all their money ... That one percent of hate that helps fuel something becoming more popular is the exception, not the rule. That's the case with every platform and everything in life. When people discuss things, it brings awareness, whether they like it or don't like it.

iTech Post: What are some of the other advantages of hating through Hater App?

AB: It helps people realize they're not alone. Sometimes people hate their lives, and they feel like they're alone. They hate things and they feel like they're the only ones dealing with it. And if you can post things on Hater App, that gives people a little bit of security to find other people who feel the same way. It puts them at ease.

iTech Post: What else does Hater App allow you to do aside from merely sharing what it is you dislike?

AB: It's set up very similar to Instagram. It's its own social media platform where people are following you, you're following other people ... You can share things you dislike by hitting the thumbs-down button and by posting photos you take yourself or from other libraries ... We've added a cropping feature just a few days ago where people can zoom in on the part of the photo they want to highlight ... After you've posted a photo, it goes into people's timeline, their newsfeed, so you and they can see what people are disliking. And you can give it a thumbs-down, as well. And you can comment on those photos.

iTech Post: How has that part of Hater App been working out for you guys?

AB: We've been seeing a lot of conversation back and forth. There's even been text rants. If you don't want to post a photo and just want to rant in general, it'll take whatever you write in text and put it up in an image almost like an e-Card. And people can hate or comment on that, too. It kind of opens up the discussion in a way. You can also post on Facebook.

iTech Post: Which OS is Hater App available for thus far?

AB: As of right now, we've only launched on iPhone. We just launched at SXSW a little over eight weeks ago, so our main focus has been fixing any kind of bugs. We're really into feedback. If there's a feature people want to see, we're up for hearing about that. We try to update every week, every two weeks if possible. Our goal would be getting the app to the point on iOS where users really love it and then tackling the Android market. Hopefully in the next six months, we'll have an Android version as well. As of right now, you can just get it for iOS at the iTunes Store.      

iTech Post: Are there any particular celebrities who are using the app yet?

AB: We're being featured in the new Fat Joe music video with Wiz Khalifa and Teyana Taylor. They really love the app a lot. And they decided to feature it in their new music video coming out. I think it's being released next week. It was really awesome to see them rally around the app and to say they're really enjoying it.

iTech Post: Anyone else we may have heard of?

AB: A lot of comedians are starting to use it. They have private names on there, though. We allow you to decide if you want to be anonymous or not. In case you don't necessarily want your boss to know you've posted something.

iTech Post: Any coincidence to the fact that you guys are based out of LA? That's a town that seems to be the Center of Hating.

AB: [laughs] It's funny you bring that up, because when we were at TechCrunch in New York, everyone thought we were from Newark, because they said this was the perfect New York app. "Everyone here hates everything." But then when you're in LA, everyone says, "This is the perfect app, because everyone here is so cynical about everyone else." And so I think LA and New York might be tied closer than they might realize. Living here, though, probably helped the process along as far as creating it and trying to develop a marketing plan to launch it.

iTech Post: Have you heard of any kind of competing platforms?

AB: We've done a lot of market research, and it doesn't seem like there's anything out there like Hater App. If there is, it hasn't received any kind of significant downloads or anything I would consider to be a competitive edge.

iTech Post: Have you heard anything from Instagram or especially Facebook about Hater App, especially since you've basically parodied Facebook's "like" button?

AB: For sure, we're definitely a giant "dislike" button as an entire app! Facebook hasn't really hit us up, though. I think there's some internal conflict at Facebook when it comes to Hater App. I've heard from a lot of people at Facebook that they're super-stoked by what we're doing. They're just glad someone did it. When it comes from a company mandate, Facebook has said they don't want a dislike button. "We don't want this negativity." I think there's a lot of people at Facebook who disagree with that mandate. So I think there are people there who think that what we're doing is wrong and there are people there who think that what Hater App is doing is exactly what Facebook should be doing right now. So there hasn't really been any pushback from them because they're not really aligned about what they think as far as Hater App is concerned.

iTech Post: So Facebook has at least left you alone for now?

AB: They let us operate. We have a Facebook fan page. They allow us to do app downloads or installs through Facebook. We've really had no pushback from Facebook at this point.

iTech Post: Of course, I have to ask: Has anyone yet "hated" Hater App?

AB: [laughs] Unfortunately, there's been a lot of "hate" on Hater App. Especially when we first launched. The tech just wasn't ready yet. When we first launched at SXSW, we were really just looking to gauge people's reaction to the idea and the branding of it. Not necessarily the functionality of it. We were really just trying to hear about what people liked. It got crazy. Mashable picked us up multiple times. The New York Times, LA Times, the Wall Street Journal ... We got something like 50,000 downloads inside of a couple of days. We were on Apple's iTunes Top 30. So it got really wild for a bit and our tech just wasn't ready for it.

iTech Post: What exactly happened?

AB: I was hating on us ... I couldn't stand the log-in functions the way it used to be set up. But all that's been fixed now. This app's only been around a few weeks, so there's so gonna be issues. But we've been working on that. For sure, there's been hate on Hater, but I can't blame them. Hate away! The more we get feedback, the more we know what you're thinking. If you don't want to drop us an email and tell us what's wrong with Hater App, just upload a picture. I'd love to see it.         

Do you know someone in the tech community who would want to speak with us about his or her feelings about tech and the tech community? Connect with us, or email m.klickstein [@] itechpost.com.

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