It’s always fun to watch the evolution of a great idea. I first talked with Radar Networks, Twine’s creator, a year ago, in January 2007. In fact, Radar’s was the inaugural profile of The Guidewire Report, kicking off our in-depth look at up-and-coming companies with a bang. Unable to speak specifically to the Twine application (which wasn’t even named at that point), I mixed my praise for the idea with a bit of skepticism.
A Web that learns from its users and manages the infinite amount of knowledge available, in a unified Web-based environment, is without question where technology must head in the next few years….Convincing set-in-their ways consumers that a new form of communication, collaboration and information management is needed is perhaps the biggest challenge. Educating users on the semantic Web and why it should matter to them may require more effort than is reasonable.
It’s surprising that not much has changed in a year. The landscape in which Twine launches is just as undefined, if not more so. The chatter is rising to louder levels, as I mentioned in a recent post on semantics, making it that much harder to clearly define this important but hazy sector. Even worse, any application tied to the semantics label these days carries a heavy weight. So many are touting the life-changing aspects of semantics that disappointment is all but inevitable. By the time you’ve read dozens of articles on the brilliance of semantic apps, you half expect these programs to answer your email and write your blog posts.
It’s into this environment that Twine is finally opening up more – to the press, as of this writing – with 30,000 people on its waitlist and arguably an entire market sector watching. So…. what’s the verdict? Twine is an entirely new attitude toward the online community and content in general. It is an incredibly deep, incredibly smart app that hasn’t yet found its ultimate form. The involvement and input of a larger number of users will dictate somewhat where Twine is headed, though no one should forget that the mind of Nova Spivack is behind this endeavor. Spivack is an incredibly sharp tech veteran with a wealth of AI experience under his belt. Perhaps most impressive, though, is his willingness to listen to and learn from users. He has reacted openly and positively to feedback during the beta period and Twine is a better experience because of it.
Twine is too complex to receive a quick thumbs-up or thumbs-down product rating, though some will no doubt attempt that. In order to “get” Twine, you need to jump into it with both feet and play around. Make connections and subscribe to multiple Twines. Save items to your Twines and others’ and make comments all around. Perhaps most importantly, forget the word “semantic” entirely. Educating users on the semantic Web is a pursuit we should all abandon, focusing instead on the creation of engaging, immersive products that will bring semantic technology to the masses.
Out of all the communities I’m involved in, I consistently find the most interesting and engaging people, articles and conversations on Twine. It’s a thriving community built around content that has made me and my work smarter. One of my favorite contacts on Twine, Twain Luu, made a spot-on observation about the site:
I like the thought that on Twine — unlike facebook et al — friendships and associations I’m making are based on shared intelligence, similarities, differences and challenging and advancing concepts…
If I have a complaint about Twine, it is that it can be too much sometimes – an information overload from a solution that aims to solve just that problem. But I have no doubt that Spivack and his team will work to resolve this and look forward to the ongoing adjustments and upgrades to the Twine engine. It will be interesting to see how this community and technology evolves with the addition of thousands more users but one thing is for sure: Twine is a huge first step toward bringing semantic technology to the mass consumer market.