Evan Williams and Medium

Twitter-CEO-Evan-Williams-002It’s always tough to follow up a great success, and that is certainly true for technology visionaries.  Evan Williams, the co-founder and former CEO of Twitter, is currently working on  a new web project, called Medium. Recently, he spoke to NPR about the site, which will be a new publishing platform. Describing it, Williams said: “Medium is very simple. It’s a website that lets people read and write things.” Specifically, Williams is interested in providing a forum for ideas that get more in depth than the quick, 140 character thoughts that define Twitter.

It’s not a bad notion, but at this point it’s hard to guess if Medium will be a success, let alone the have the culture re-defining impact of Twitter. (To be fair, I am certainly no expert about what will and won’t work in terms of new ventures. And Twitter certainly didn’t seem like that great an idea when it was first introduced, but it has become an integral part of modern culture in a number of ways.) Aside from informing readers of an article’s length next to its title (in terms how many minutes it will take to read), and from the admittedly good idea of grouping articles by topic instead of by author (as most blogging services do), its hard to see why Williams thinks Medium will have any real impact. (One more note: Medium is still in its beta phase. So what you see if you glance at the site now is probably not exactly how Medium will be.)

Skepticism aside, Williams’ belief that Medium can be the next big thing suggests that there is an interest in answering the question of what the future of reading and communicating will be. We in the publishing industry know full well that things are changing, and printed books are quickly being left behind as the dominant medium for expressing thought. (Speaking of which, check out our ebooks!) And sites like Medium and Longreads suggest that there is a desire for written ideas on the internet beyond the quick, pithy comments found on social media (though those can certainly be fun, and in some cases, valuable).

But will sites like these ever fully replace books? We certainly hope not, nor we do think so. But there is no question that right now more is being written than ever before, and more importantly, there are more than ways than ever to get that writing to an audience. How that fact will change how we approach writing and reading, and how we define good and bad, remains to be seen. Medium may not end up a world changer like Twitter, but it may well end up helping some new ideas and authors reach receptive audiences. And maybe, for today, that’s enough.

– Josh Barrer

Associate Editor

To learn more about Evan Williams and the founding of Twitter, please check out Twitter: Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams (ISBN# 978-1-59935179-7) by Chris Smith & Marci McGrath from your local library, or order it from Morgan Reynolds Publishing.

Published in: on October 24, 2013 at 9:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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Twitter Turns Six

“Just six years ago… co-founder Jack Dorsey published the very first public tweet to the world. But little did Dorsey know that the 24-character snippet of text would be just the beginning of a worldwide revolution,” reported International Business Times.

Since then, “The social network has garnered 300 million users that are collectively tweeting one billion tweets every 4-5 days.”

Twitter celebrated its sixth birthday this past Wednesday. Chris Smith and Marci McGrath, authors of Twitter: Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone and Evan Williams, wrote, “Twitter filled a basic human need to communicate and feel connected.”

This week, Piers Morgan, an avid Twitterer himself, told his audience during his “Only in America” segment, “In a maximum of 140 characters, people anywhere can communicate with each other instantly, and in real time, about anything they want. It’s used by astronauts in orbit, explorers deep under water, and even presidents.”

But in the six years it has existed, Twitter has done more than simply connect people. It has become a tool for change. Jack Dorsey once said, “I’m really excited about what technologies like this can do for government and getting more of the citizens engaged into public action and public policy and into that conversation of how we structure our societies, how we structure our cultures, and what we want to see in the world.”

And that’s exactly what Twitter has done. Throughout the unrest in the Middle East and even in our own backyard with the Occupy movement, Twitter was spitting out thousands (maybe even millions) of tweets informing citizens about what was going on, why, and how to get involved.

International Business Times reported:

While the micro-blogging platform has helped activists around the world organize, the real revolution–The Twitter Revolution–has only just begun…. The ability to dispatch information on a whim has come to represent much more than the ability to express one’s self. It has also given people the ability to share and exchange ideas at a faster rate than ever before. On Twitter’s sixth birthday, it’s evident that the infant company has already grown into a colossal force…. Not only will the revolution be tweeted, the revolution is tweeting.

There is no doubt that Twitter will play a major role in the coming election year, as a campaign board for candidates and a discussion forum for citizens. Revolution, indeed.

Adrianne Loggins
Associate Editor

For more information about Twitter and its founders, check out Twitter: Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone and Evan Williams by Chris Smith and Marci McGrath (ISBN 9781599351797)

Published in: on March 23, 2012 at 1:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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SOPA

Since SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act, was introduced to Congress in October, the nation’s entertainment industry, Internet entrepreneurs, and government have been up in arms and taking sides.

SOPA was created to stop copyright infringement of American products by shutting down supposedly infringing foreign websites that target U.S. consumers.

SOPA would allow, according to CNet.com’s Declan McCullagh, “The U.S. attorney general to seek a court order against the targeted offshore Web site that would, in turn be served on Internet providers in an effort to make the target virtually disappear. It’s kind of an Internet death penalty…. to be blacklisted, a Web site must be ‘directed’ at the U.S. and also that the owner ‘has promoted’ acts that can infringe copyright.”

McCullagh also reported that in a letter to the New York Times, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wrote, “Rogue Web sites that steal America’s innovative and creative products attract more than 53 billion visits a year and threaten more than 19 million American jobs.”

Controversy has developed among internet big-wigs.

These internet executives, in addition to several others, signed an open letter opposing SOPA. The open letter stated the concerns that the Act threatened to:

 * Require web services, like the ones we helped found, to monitor what users link to, or upload. This would have a chilling effect on innovation;

* Deny website owners the right to due process of law;

* Give the U.S. Government the power to censor the web using techniques similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran; and

* Undermine security online by changing the basic structure of the Internet.

According to Forbes, Sergey Brin commented on his Google+ page:

In just two decades, the world wide web has transformed and democratized access to information all around the world. I am proud of the role Google has played alongside many others such as Yahoo, Wikipedia, and Twitter…. For our own websites and for the internet as a whole we have worked tirelessly to combat internet censorship around the world alongside governments and NGO promoting free speech. Thus, imagine my astonishment when the newest threat to free speech has come from none other but the United States…. While I support their goal of reducing copyright infringement … I am shocked that our lawmakers would contemplate such measures that would put us on a par with the most oppressive nations in the world.

Morgan Reynolds authors Chris Smith and Marci McGrath wrote in Twitter: Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone and Evan Williams, “The Internet [is] much more than a hobby for computer nerds. It was becoming the way millions of people live their lives.”

If this Act passes, the fear among the tech world is that it would inevitably “break the internet.”

David Carr of the New York Times, reported, “Entertainment companies think that technology companies are aiding and abetting thieves on a broad scale, but the legislation is alarming in its reach, potentially creating a blacklist of sites and taking aim at others for unknowingly hosting a small fraction of copyrighted material.”

Twitter, Facebook, Google: all of these sites and many more would be under the scrutiny of the government. And there is no denying that they have been major players in how the world operates and, maybe most importantly, the access to information once impossible to access because of government censorship.

Smith and McGrath wrote, “But in Egypt–just as in Tunisia, Iran, Libya, Moldova, and other countries experiencing political unrest–Twitter, Facebook, and other Internet-based social networking sites have been there in the thick of things too. Although it’s hard to know how big a role the Internet has played in the unrest, one clue is how often the governments involved try to block Twitter and other messages, or just shut down Internet access completely.”

It seems that one of the biggest issues about SOPA, as Sergey Brin implied, for the technological world is, if it is passed, what makes the U.S. government different from those governments we look down on for oppressing their people by censoring information.

Adrianne Loggins
Associate Editor

For more information about the Internet and how Twitter, Google, and Facebook have changed the world and how we access information, check out:

Twitter: Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone and Evan Williams by Chris Smith and Marci McGrath (ISBN 9781599351797)

Google Founders: Larry Page and Sergey Brin by Kerrily Sapet (ISBN 9781599351773)

Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg by Judy Hasday (ISBN 978159935-1766)

Published in: on January 13, 2012 at 12:45 pm  Comments (1)  
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