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Editing, not Text but Software Development

May 21, 2010

I was struck by this article from Jeff Jarvis:

“Almost everything you see in Twitter today was invented by our users,” its creator, Jack Dorsey, said in this video (found via his investor, Fred Wilson). RT, #, @, & $ were conventions created by users that were then—sometimes reluctantly—embraced by Twitter, to Twitter’s benefit. Dorsey said it is the role of a company to edit its users.

Edit. His word. I’m ashamed that I haven’t been using it in this context, being an editor myself and writing about the need for companies to collaborate with their customers.

I have told editors at newspapers that, as aggregators and curators, they will begin to edit not just the work of their staffs but the creations of their publics. But that goes only so far; it sees the creations of that public as contributions to what we, as journalists, do. And that speaks only to media organizations. Dorsey talks about any company as editor.

What interests me is that this casts the role of Twitter can a company akin to an evolutionary agent – casking their eye over the adaptations that the mass of users generate, and putting their resources/support behind adaptations they judge as beneficial. What is difficult from an evolutionary point-of-view is that it is a blind process – it can’t see forward, it only is. When we act as evolutionary agents, we are trying to second guess what will and won’t work – except that the number of variables at play is so huge, our guesses are just that – guesses.

However Twitter has an advantage here in selecting software amendments – it’s users are a huge laboratory testing out the ideas to see what works and what does not. That is not to say the still can’t get it wrong (witness the debate over the RT) but you can atleast make an informed guess based on the mass behaviour of your users.

This is real-time software development!

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