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JEFF JARVIS, author of Gutenberg the Geek (Amazon Publishing), Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live (Simon & Schuster, 2011) and What Would Google Do? (HarperCollins 2009),[…]

Jeff Jarvis on the power of micro-blogging.

Question: What new technology will change everything?

Jeff Jarvis: If I knew, I’d be rich, and so I don’t know.

I think that it’s constant surprise. Twitter is a simple little program that lets you put in a 140 character messages from your phone or from the web, it’s micro blogging. I looked at it and I kind of dismissed it. But my 16 year old son and webmaster and the genius behind me said, “You know Dad, no you gotta look at Twitter again. Stuff’s going on there.” And he was right. It’s really amazing because it’s social blogging, you choose whom to follow and who follows you. It’s public conversation, it captures a kind of zeitgeist of the time.

I just saw that Reuters and the BBC are trying to do constant searches on Twitter for words like explosion and evacuation because Twitter becomes the canary in the news coal mine, telling you that people are writing about, their lives. And if there’s an evacuation, right now, they’re going to tell you that, and they’re going to tell you that before any news reporter would ever know this.

So Twitter, this silly thing of 140 characters--what did you have for breakfast, I don’t care what you had for breakfast-- suddenly becomes a whole new platform for understanding what’s going on in people’s lives. Who could have predicted that?

Now the fact that it came from Evan Williams, who also was a co-creator of Blogger, which popularized blogging and changed my life and the world, means that I do pay attention to Twitter. But I wouldn’t have guessed it. I think that’s what the internet is about is that when you put out a platform and you see how people use it, and when you get surprised, you’ve won.

Recorded on: April 30, 2008