Context is king. Book’s web site has lesson for us

I was looking up author, David Carr, after using a quote from him in my previous post. His is a fascinating story captured in his book, The Night of the Gun.

Since every book today has a companion web site, I nearly skipped it, assuming it was another content dump with blurbs and links. I was wrong!  It’s a trove of context, not content.

  • One of the tabs opens a page laid out in a grid of 60-squares. Click on each square and it takes you deeper into Carr’s story by way of candid interviews, photos, scanned documents etc.
  • Another tab has a timeline, which takes you on an online experience you couldn’t even come close to in the pages of a book.

The publisher, Simon and Schuster, notes that it created a database of content because Carr ended up with a large stack of material, recording his thoughts and interviews using many formats – video, audio, notes etc.

With help from the New York Times‘ digital guy, (a ‘User Interface Specialist!) they built a site as a multi-media backdrop, or more precisely, a back-story, to his memoir.

While it makes for a novel way to market a book, we could learn some important lessons in how to surround any other form of communication with rich, contextual information.

In the end The Night of the Gun is more than a book -a living story that cannot be contained within templates, hard covers or style sheets.

A smarter Easy Button called Twine!

John Kestner reminds me of Steve Wozniak. He’s always tinkering with a gizmo that could potentially change lifestyles, even incrementally.

There was the Tableau, a coffee-table-like device that was a connected dashboard for your home. Basically an ‘anti-computer experience’.

There was his digital wallet –not a new idea, but it was packed with easy-to-figure out features. You could see his ideas here.

But this latest one, also developed at the MIT lab with co-inventor David Carr, is called Twine. It is a potential killer app, to use the term a bit loosely. It is, in their words, a way for people who don’t know how to program or solder, to be able to listen in on your (digital and analog) world, and talk to the web.

John and David are looking for funding, and on Kickstarter, have already raised over $556,00. Take a look, listen to the simplicity of how it works. I’m not saying all of us want to be this connected, or need to talk to the web.

BUT, if this is just the first iteration, it could end up simplifying anything from digital due diligence (painstakingly carried out with expensive software), to becoming security sensors (miniaturized and embedded in shipment containers). Or, who knows it could be a plug and play box from Best Buy that makes the average soccer mum –the ones who don’t yet know PHP or HTML5– less complicated.

If only there was an Easy button for raising capital!

Twine : Listen to your world, talk to the Internet from Supermechanical on Vimeo.