I love visiting the U.S. National Archives. I’m humbled every time and honored to talk with David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, when there’s an opportunity.
In July, I reflected upon how the national creed preserved there belongs to all Americans.
To be an American is to know our history, from slavery to civil war, and honor the patriots who defeated fascism to extend equal justice to all.
To be an American is to know that our rights can never be taken for granted, nor can injustice to one be tolerated lest it be extended to all.
To be an American is to know we have always been a country of immigrants, of second chances, of parents sacrificing to give children their shot.
To be an American is to embrace self-government of, by and for the people, which requires requires more of us as citizens than a biennial vote.
To be an American means putting aside party for patriotism, whether we serve with those who put out fires, heal the sick, or mete out justice.
Our shared history also includes racism, rage & ignorance. Social fabric can be ripped and undone by demagogy. Civil rights suspended by fear.
I am proud to be an American because we have overcome fear and injustice in the past. I’m humbled to stand with all who protect and serve today.
Our times ask more of us than apathy. Be informed. Be engaged in a community. Be kind. Volunteer. Serve. And vote.
After hours of fierce debate over a report that Twitter was building a way to expand its famous character limit to 10,000 characters, Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey responded by tweeting a picture of a statement, embedded below.
— Jack (@jack) January 5, 2016
I ran the image through free online optical character recognition software to get the following text:
At its core Twitter is public messaging. A simple way to say something, to anyone, that everyone in the world can see instantly.
We didn’t start Twitter with a 140 character restriction. We added that early on to fit into a single SMS message (160 characters).
It’s become a beautiful constraint, and I love it! It inspires creativity and brevity. And a sense of speed. We will never lose that feeling.
We’ve spent a lot of time observing what people are doing on Twitter, and we see them taking screenshots of text and tweeting it.
Instead, what if that text…was actually text? Text that could be searched. Text that could be highlighted. That’s more utility and power.
What makes Twitter, Twitter is its fast, public, live conversational nature. We will always work to strengthen that. For every person around the world, in every language!
And by focusing on conversation and messaging, the majority of tweets will always be short and sweet and conversational!
We’re not going to be shy about building more utility and power into Twitter for people. As long as it’s consistent with what people want to do, we’re going to explore it.
And as I said at #flight, if we decide to ship what we explore, we’re telling developers well in advance, so they can prepare accordingly.
(Also: I love tweetstorms! Those won’t go away.)
Quick thoughts after reading this:
1) What are users with disabilities to make of this tweet by Twitter’s CEO? No <alt text> for a screen reader. No blog post. No text at all. Social media platforms should be accessible to everyone.
— Eric Wright (@ewaccess) January 5, 2016
I don’t think this is a great look for Twitter, on this count, but maybe its developers might fix this issue for the website & apps.
2) Twitter’s cofounder used a screenshot of text, or “screenshort,” to get around the very 140 character limit that’s being discussed. There’s enough demand for this feature that ex-Twitter staff built an app just for that called One Shot.
3) Twitter deserves credit for watching what its users are doing on the platform to get around the character constraints.
“We’ve spent a lot of time observing what people are doing on Twitter, and we see them taking screenshots of text and tweeting it,” he said. “Instead, what if that text…was actually text? Text that could be searched. Text that could be highlighted. That’s more utility and power.”
You don’t need to imagine what that would look like: Google+ had no such character limit and amazing text search from the start. (Google’s effort had other issues, leading to a complete redesign and relaunch of Google Plus in November.)
Or consider Facebook, which announced universal search last October after years of development.
4) Can you recall Twitter ever effectively asking its users what we want?
Is Twitter adapting to perceived need or an implicit feature request? Enabling people to tweet more text in that could be searched would indeed be more powerful and useful.
Frankly, I welcome the death of the tweetstorm, and Twitlonger hacks, and walls of text in images. 140 characters and a “read more” link? 👍
— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) January 5, 2016
Is that what users want, versus, say, an edit button?
@jack just give us the edit button then we can talk characters mkay?
— Brian Ries (@moneyries) January 5, 2016
Or is it better search of the billions and billions tweets sent over the last decade, now that Topsy is gone and the Library of Congress archive hangs in limbo?
Or the quality filter that only Verified users (like me) have?
— Alex Howard (@digiphile) March 24, 2015
Dorsey said that “as long as it’s consistent with what people want to do, we’re going to explore it.”
I read that as good news. Let’s see what happens next.
Media hype around the livestreaming “Meerkat election” helped Twitter, which put up its own Periscope for social livestreaming last month. Today, RhinoBird.tv officially launches its beta during that the spectacle of the running of the 119th Boston Marathon in the greater Boston area, offering an opportunity for thousands of Android users along the race route to download the app and crowdsource livestreaming the event.
The original funding for RhinoBird came from the Knight Foundation in 2012, where a proposal to “aggregate live mobile video streams of breaking news events into an easily searchable world map, connecting users directly to global events as they unfold” won the 2012 Knight News Challenge.
A couple of weeks ago, I talked with Felipe Heusser, the CEO of RhinoBird and a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, about the app and livestreaming in general.
Our video interview is embedded below.
As Heusser notes, along with Android, RhinoBird also works within the Web browser using the open WebRTC project. It is, as they say here in Massachusetts, wicked fast.
Whether its approach to organizing livestreams around channels in a #hashtag convention familiar from Twitter is adopted en masse by hundreds of millions of Android users over the coming months will be fun to watch, along with those watching runners today.
If the app catches on, you’ll be able to watch the #BostonMarathon on RhinoBird.tv. Good luck with your respective races.
Today, Twitter’s livestreaming app is live in the Apple App Store.
Cue “Periscope Election” hype! More seriously, it’s a slick app: easy to sign up, browse, network and, most importantly, livestream.
Twitter once asked us “What are you doing?” Now, Periscope asks us “What are you seeing?”
When I logged on, I saw windows into our shared worlds from all over the globe.
Fast wireless broadband service, social networks, and powerful smartphones with great cameras create a new context for livestreaming services, which has led tech companies, entrepreneurs and huge corporations to bet big on them.
I downloaded Stringwire as well this week, but it’s not on par with Periscope’s features, UX or integration. I wonder if NBC Universal will create clear incentives for its use.
As I found some time ago, Google Hangouts can also be streamed live to YouTube. There are an awful lot of a Android devices in the world; I’d keep an eye on how that evolves, along with Facebook’s video features.
I also wonder about who will use these apps and where. Established celebrities can find their audiences. This morning, I saw people tuned in to see Mario Batali cook this morning. As with Vine and YouTube, unheralded talent may find success as well.
Most of life is, however, mundane by definition. I look forward to seeing how Periscope and other apps help us choose and share moments that resonate with the rest of humanity.
The New York Times “First Draft” and Politico Playbook picked up the “Meerkat Election” idea today, so get ready for the hype cycle to wash through the commentariat. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush “meerkatted” yesterday — which is to say, used an app integrated with Twitter on his smartphone to livestream an event online. If that doesn’t sound revolutionary in 2015, congratulations: you’ve been paying attention to mobile technology over the last decade.
When you read posts that predict Meerkat’s prominence in 2016, keep a couple things in mind.
First, Twitter did change how political reporters covered the campaigns in 2012, so everyone is looking for the “next thing,” particularly in the New York and DC media world. Politicians and media using a shiny new app that “conquered all at SXSW” makes for easy copy and gets clicks. The integration of Meerkat into Twitter means that social network will drive more attention and adoption, although the app’s access to the company’s social graph bears watching. By the time 2016 rolls around, Twitter’s native live streaming function may be the new new killer campaign app. Steel yourself for the “Periscope Election,” friends.
Second, when you hear hype about technology like this breathless account in Politico from political reporters and operatives, be extra skeptical. Remember, 2008 was the “MySpace Election” and 2004 was to be the “Friendster Election. Heck, 1860 was the “Telegraph Election!” (Ok, the last one isn’t quite true, but you get the idea. )
Third, at present Meerkat videos are not archived on the site or embeddable . While that could certainly change in the months before the election, particularly if the startup gets funding, it is a consideration for journalists. That doesn’t mean, however, there isn’t another option: Ben Rubin, the developer of the app, told me that you can save Meerkat streams to your phone and upload the archived session to video sharing platorms like YouTube, an ability I subsequently confirmed.
Finally, livestreaming is not new to American politics. Presidential candidates like Senator Chris Dodd were using uStream in 2008. Ask President Dodd if it changed the election. A couple comments on Medium add some context, including one by Matt Browner Hamlin, who worked on the Dodd campaign.
Livestreaming was available in the last two presidential campaign cycles, but it didn’t fundamentally change our politics. It didn’t even shift the primary in 2008, as Browner Hamlin noted on Medium:
To state the obvious, the Dodd campaign’s innovative use of live streaming technology and public engagement via streaming video did not move the needle an inch in the Democratic presidential primary. Maybe it’s because we were eight years ahead of our time. But more likely it’s because the forces of political sentiment in America are too big to be influenced by one technology platform or one medium of engagement.
A covert video did affect Governor Mitt Romney’s campaign, but the reality of small video cameras had been part of the fabric of our lives for years before.
I wrote this post entirely on my iPhone, so it’s fair to acknowledge that media has evolved in recent years. (I’ve also been guilty of hype about new platforms myself.)
It’s also fair to acknowledge that Meerkat does something that defines innovation: it makes it easier to livestream on your phone.
“I think that because we remove friction to watch or go live (everyone can consume or contribute on the go with one click) it makes it easy for people to gain a larger audience while keeping the intimacy with the audience,” commented Ben Rubin, via email.
Faster connections, powerful smartphones and much high social media adoption do change the context from past election cycles, but will they change the outcomes or the dynamic?
We’ll see. The White House press secretary is doing a Meerkat interview today: maybe someone will ask him whether the size of the lens, camera and screens used to view it are a revolution or an evolution.