At Le Web 3 conference in Paris this morning, we were tuned into Evan Williams, the founder of Twitter. The topic of his mini keynote was Persistent Communication, but he really didn't say much about that actually. And I must say I wasn't too disappointed -- I happen to think we're all twittering a bit too much these days, and I don't much care what you had for breakfast, nor if you're stuck in traffic on 101 Northbound. Sorry!
What was interesting about Evan's talk was his focus on simplicity, a concept increasingly noodled upon these days, and one close to our hearts.Evan dug down a little on the idea of adding constraints to the scope of a thing and by doing so, creating new value. He asserts that there are a lot of examples of this. And of course Twitter was his favorite.
Evan described Twitter as a blogging service with all the features removed and some serious constraints added -- like 140 characters per message and a grand total of 3 methods in the core API. Questions he and his team have focused have primarily boiled down to "What can we take away?".
In a world that's constantly adding features, this is refreshing. But with Google already on record in abundant support of simplicity, its not new ground. Nevertheless, this idea of simplicity is worth being reminded of. As for most of us, it's not so natural of an inclination. We tend to complicate.
What is Simplicity?
At the cmf2007 conference in November Stanford's Dr. B.J. Fogg gave a talk on persuasive technology. Simplicity was dwelt upon in some detail and even defined. Fogg's definition of simplicity was "the minimally satisfying solution at the lowest cost." He asserted that there were six elements to simplicity:
# Physical Effort
# Brain Cycles
# Social Deviance
...and that simplicity is a function of your scarcest resource at the moment. On the Web, I'd venture that routine, brain cycles and time are our most common scarce resources.
For Evan, for FeedBurner, for Fotolog, for Google and for others, great amounts of value have been created by delivering web-based simplicity, not by adding and expanding. This was Evan's message. "What can you create by taking things away?", was what he asked.