The News will follow us

I woke up this morning, feeling a little more groggy than usual. I could have slept more, but a voice from the other room started to fill my apartment. It got louder and finally entered my room, announcing that things were changing on Twitter. My eyes opened a little wider; I wanted to hear what they were saying.

As I climbed out of bed and moved in automatic mode to the coffee machine, I caught the general idea from the announcer: Twitter was going to open source their interface and stop developing it. They had realised that their value was in being a utility, not a publisher. This was amazing news!

I switched on the screen and as the voice faded, a picture appeared showing a press conference. The sound matching the video came on and Jack Dorsey, the CEO, was at a podium addressing the group of interested citizen-journalists.

“When I created Twitter, I was fascinated by emergency dispatch systems. They were built upon lots of small information updates. I saw the potential for all of us to take part in this kind of system, sharing updates on whatever we were doing. There was no business idea behind it in the beginning. It was just a useful system.”

A small message appeared below the video point to a 60 minutes interview from 2013 with Dorsey. I touched that and the press conference paused, while I caught up on what Dorsey meant about dispatch systems. After it was finished, I returned to the press conference and watched again. I was 10 minutes behind the live event, but that didn’t matter. After all, the difference between live and rebroadcast was in the eye of the beholder.

I ate some breakfast as Dorsey continued to speak:

“A lot of people have challenged Twitter’s value, because it wasn’t growing like Facebook and making the kind of money that Silicon Valley companies should make. But many people who rely on Twitter, especially Journalists and Activists, cried out to keep it the way it is. After Robinson Meyer’s The Decay of Twitter article appeared, I knew we had a deep divide between the company and the network.”

I paused the broadcast here and jumped into the shower. I needed to get going or I would be late.

After getting dressed and running out the door, I began to message my network, seeking feedback on this news. A few in my interest group around this area were sending out opinions and discussing what would happen next. I hadn’t fully caught up on the announcement yet, so I only ‘voiced out’ my excitement over the network that something good might be happening.

When I got on the MTR, I opened my mobile and the conference was ready to resume. But first I wanted to read Meyer’s article. I had read it before, but I needed a refresher. Fortunately, the Atlantic had front-ended the article with an explainer, reminding me of what I had read. I was able to see a few key points from the article, as well as highlights I had made and a few comments from my network. In about five minutes, I was refreshed. Back to the broadcast…

“What this means is that Twitter the company is becoming the utility company that many have suggested it was and should continue to be. Our focus will be on customers, paying customers. The content and the use of the network will be left to the end-points. The Net Neutrality debate has been settled. You can’t be in both the network and the content business. Although this line is still being blurred by many, especially Facebook, we are now admitting that the interface, the application that provides the content is too deeply tied with that content. If we are to continue to support and help the network grow, we must excuse ourselves from the business of developing that interface. We’ve seen third-party developers prove that they understand the hearts of the users better than us. Yes, that was a reference to our failed UI change last year, introducing hearts to replace stars.”

Several people from my network began to comment on this. The live feedback mechanism developed by Periscope had really been embraced in broadcasts.

“We are certain that this shift will open up a lot of new possiblies for communication throughout the world, and above all else, Twitter, the company, wants to be involved in shaping this future. Note that I say ‘involved’. This is what is primarily changing. We are admitting that Twitter the network is larger than Twitter the company. This is ok though. Our investors should not fear, because this step we are taking proves that we are agile and can adapt to innovation outside of our company. We will not let disruption destroy our company and our good work. Instead, we are ready to streamline our focus and grow our company along different lines.”

At this point, both the transcript of the conference and a company report of Twitter’s reorganisation were available for viewing. I wanted to see the report first. This was not your parent’s Company reports. It was an interactive story about the future changes, including earnings projects and calculators to figure out how your investments in the company might be affected. I did have a small investment in Twitter, so I quickly calculated that I could either try to sell immediately, or wait at least one year to see the effects of this shift. I would need to explore this deeper later, but for now, I was comfortable enough leaving the report.

I switched to the major opinion pieces being written right now. I had my favourite tech journalists’ channels right in front of me. A few were live streamed. Dan Gilmore preferred the stream of conscience open writing approach. I watched his text ‘write itself’ in the live editor, including corrections and comments, footnotes and links–each a potential path to go down. After returning from a footnote which led to a case study about issues in establishing a global utility, I found the article was now presented as a video intro from Gilmore with an accompanying card stack. I loved the way that stories were constructed now. Dan Gilmore was not the only author in this news package, but he was the leader of a team – the Gilmore team. This model has started to take root over a year ago, after the success of small data journalism teams proving their worth with top quality, comprehensive and live news reporting.

When I arrived at work, my screen came alive to a few preferred channels to begin to gage the general public reaction. Reddit made up a lot of this content, but I was seeing it broken down and organised by many of the people from my network. We were all collaborating now on making sense of this announcement. Changes in Twitter’s valuation and the opinions were beginning to influence the news, but what surprised me the most was that my Tweetbot desktop client was finishing updating itself. There were 3 new features available, all built upon the news of this developing story. The feature that most caught my eye, was a little button that allowed me to tell the system and my network, that I was ‘caught up’ on this news. I clicked it and moved on to other work.

the web

[this story was originally written for the squib]

The computer came alive and the room began to glow.  He sat on the floor in his studio.  Only two minutes ago he was drifting off to sleep.  His body was slowly letting go, each muscle beginning to relax.  He felt himself drift, like he was lying in a boat, moving with a gentle stream.  The sun was overhead and too bright to keep his eyes open.  He could see the sun and felt its heat under his eyelids.   A dark figure moved over him.  It was a bird.  Suddenly it dove, collapsing down onto him, like a guillotine falling.  He awoke.
He awoke remembering one thing he had forgotten to do.  He grabbed a light robe which he draped over his body.  He moved down the dark hall, his hand tracing the wall and his path.  As he entered the room, he quickly sat down into the almost empty studio space.  There was a drafting board in one corner, but beyond that, it was an open space with a large mat.  He sat down in the middle of the room in front of a large piece of glass, standing upright, at a slight angle.  As he slide down into a crossed legged position, the glass wall began to glow.He remembered a collection of 50,000 images which he had forgotten to scheme.  It wouldn’t take long.  Maybe a few minutes at most.  This was a task that he could accomplish, even in his sleep.  Doing this kind of work had become second nature to him.  He often thought it was funny that he was born to do something that did not exist when he was born.  The program opened immediately – it was always running. On the window was a deep dark blue background with one image in the center.  The image was a simple ying/yang symbol.  He touched that and his screen quickly filled with 144 other icons.  The categories ranged from the abstract to the practical.  There was person, place or thing and every major family on the earth.  And there were categories for things not of this earth; space, void and inbetween.  A few philosophical ideas like love and friendship.  And then a whole array of words to describe digital files: text, image, movie, sound, event, blog and many more. This was his input device.  He could speak anything and the system would transcribe it, but he rarely used words, being so imprecise.  He found that a good schema could essentially make the written word irrelevant.   On the left side of the window, another panel opened.  This contained the list and just their names.  He moved quickly.  Just with his finger, he could move whole groups, reordering them into place and dragging them over into a new collection.  This group is all mammals.  They are also images.  Most of the scheming he did was with images.  These days, 85% of all data were images.  The word is just too vague sometimes; at least for organizing.  How do you classify a work of fiction that is completely true, or one that is purposely sarcastic?  Narrative works were easier to work with.  Ultimately most of the fiction had disappeared from the web.  There’s a lot of talk these days about gatherings, where people will recite their writing – there’s even some talk of poetry.  He’s wondering whether he’ll ever seek a gathering.  Does it seem wrong to support something that goes against all of his work and even, to a certain degree, his society?  Click, the last file disappears from the IN box.  Everything classified with at least 20 hardlinks and 40 softlinks. Now, he can go back to bed, knowing that he did his job and did it well.