Keeping it civil: Charlotte-based Web site tries a fresh approach

By Sharon Smith - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - It's anonymous, civil, and catching on. The founder of Fastnote-dot-com hopes to change the tone of public discourse over the internet

Richard Shaffner had the idea to create a forum where people can write "notes" to anything or anyone. Maybe it's a boss, a neighbor, or a school district that deserves some praise, or some constructive criticism.

He was inspired after the 2008 elections, where some of the public discussion took an angry tone. Disagreement is fine, but Shaffner says the Fastnote standard is to keep things civil.

"People have good, interesting, helpful things to say; they just lacked a way to say them," said Shaffner.

To visit Fastnote, click here

He says thousands of new users have logged on in the last several weeks, doubling their initial numbers. The website officially launched in the Fall.

When asked about the competition from well-established websites like facebook and Twitter, Shaffner said Fastnote offers something different.

"You can be completely anonymous on Fastnote," he said, referring to the fact that other websites require a personal profile page or personal information.

So far, notes to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Superintendent Peter Gorman, and WellsFargo top the list.

Shaffner pitched the idea to his brother, who got on board last year.

"No one's thought of having anonymity as a positive," said Louis Shaffner. He says people can be honest and candid, without the repercussions.

Their goal is to build a following nationwide.

It might seem like an unusual business venture for a former banker, but Richard says they are filling a void.

Two other former bankers have joined the team in their southwest Charlotte office. It's a risk-averse group, which shows how much they believe Fastnote deserves a piece of the internet pie.

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