This post is in response to the TED talk (Feb, 2009) by Evan Williams: How Twitter's spectacular growth is being driven by unexpected users.
A summation of the 8 minute transcript- without visuals. The absence of visuals alters whats involved in the tedtalk; take into account that live feeds of tweet are an aspect that a transcript doesnt show, and interestingly graphics associated are ironic given twitter is not a picture oriented medium.
4 years ago on the ted stage i announced a company ODEo, raised venture capital and hired an engineer called Jack Dorsey, and a year later when deciding which way to go with ODEO Jack presented an idea he had been tinkering with for around with for a number of years around sending simple status updates to friends and we put two and two together and early 2006 launched twitter as a side product (had earlier launched blogger as a side product and it took over my life, so i learned to follow hunches even though cant really justify them or know where they are going to go.) Twitter based on a very simple seemingly trivial concept, you say what yu want to say in 140 characters or less, and people interested in you get those updates, and if there really interested in you they will get it on cell ph. in my case 60,000 people receive message in seconds sharing of momentus or mundane moments, sharing these moments as theyre happening despite distance and in real time, what we didnt anticipate were many other uses that would eveolve from this very simple system, eg during real time events, eg wildfires San Diego Oct 2007, people turned to twitter to find out what was happening, neighbours, but not just individuals LA times even dispensed with an rss feed, 100s and 1000s around the world then follow coz they want to know what its like to be here. There is also businesses eg to an insanely pop korean bbq truck as to where it will stop....47 members of congress, president himself most popular twitterer, even in presidential circles...originally designed as a broadcast medium, you send one message and it goes out to everyone, one of many ways users shaped was inventing a way to respond eg syntax @ailsa...and we didnt invent this or write this in, the users did, and they have shaped another is through api , it further, writing currently we know of 2000 applications interface either mac or windows, iphone or blackberry or even a baby when it kicks or a plant twitter when its thirsty.
Twitter search engines, an incredible resource to find out about any topic or event while its going on. We liked this so much we bought the company and built it into the main one of my favourites was following a gas shortage in Atlanta, appending a specific tag to allow others to search and to find out... a trend of people using it to help each other out, whether raising money or keeping contacts. Seems when you give people easier ways to share information, more good things happen. I have no idea what will happen next with twitter, I have learnt to follow the hunch but never assume where it will go.
As a story of change there are some fascinations here; change happens in tinkering, is iterative, is altered by users and designers, comes out of a history, the seemingly trivial can yield significance, whats designed differs from what is, whats envisaged differs from what is, shaped in practice...and that where things will go to is known retrospectively rather than in advance.
In contrast with conventional change theory wisdom such as that proposed in E. M Rogers diffusion of innovation text, it is evident that:
Technology is not so much diffused as infused; altering what it touches and in turn is also altered.
Unanticipated second level effects can be as powerful or more powerful than the expected or first level effects.
The myth of early adopters doesnt get a look in here; rather than who or how it is pushed is its perceived usefulness whether or not such planned usefulness was a factor or not.
Being connected or having a sense of this appears to matter to people. As Evan Williams notes here, having more means of communicating seems to make good things happen.