Twitter is inventing trans-media

CellyIronically, the send-from-web side of Twitter was only released today.

This is actually something significant.

For one thing, web-first isn’t the only game in town anymore. And it ought not be taken for granted as always the best place to start. It’s just one of the places to start.

In fact, web-second might become more common as more and more devices become web-enabled but not web-based. I mean, once the iPod gets a web browser… then what?

So during a conversation I had today with Jen Pahlka about the design track of the Web 2.0 Expo, she suggested holding a discussion about the changing context of content created or spread online, inspired by a post by Richard MacManus.

“Context” raises some very interesting challenges and opportunities for traditional web developers and designers (those who support web standards will be in better shape, but I digress).

So, let’s say your client tells you that they want a blog. “Okay” you say, and set them up on WordPress with a theme that looks like their corporate website. Woohoo.

Weeks later, out of the blue, the client calls you up frantic about their content showing up in some other unintended context. Like TechMeme. Or Tailrank 2.0. Or something. One never knows.

“How did they get my content?!” they squeal. “They’re stealing from me!”

To which you explain, hopefully in a calm, steady tone, “Noooo, actually, that’s how feeds and syndication work… Say, isn’t that why you started a blog? To get your ideas out there and engage in these kind of conversations? To connect with people? You should only be so happy that someone would republish your [blank] thoughts!”

Well, clearly what was missing from the initial conversation was a note about the changing nature of context and of the decaying control over where what publish or information shows up: “Well, to get your stuff out there, it’s gotta be put where people are — and hell if I know where people are! — so let’s make your content as accessible as possible and if they’re interested, all those folks will adapt it to and consume it in whatever context is appropriate to their situation.”

Facebook learned its lesson the hard way by not being upfront about this and setting expectations. Twitter, OTOH, is setting a new standard by pioneering what is effectively multi-modal trans-media content publicity: from web, mobile, email or API to IM, web, widget or feeds, with community built in at every stage of the process. In fact, it’s never been about Twitter, it’s always been about the Twitterers. And apparently, since it’s up to them, it’s okay to context-switch their content. They don’t mind. In fact, they quite seem to like it!

Author: Chris Messina

Head of West Coast Business Development at Republic. Ever-curious product designer and technologist. Hashtag inventor. Previously: (YC W18), Uber, Google.

2 thoughts on “Twitter is inventing trans-media”

  1. Thanks for the great writeup, Chris. I think you’ve nailed down what makes twitter interesting. Hopefully we’ll be able to follow up and surpass expectations!

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