Constraints are under-appreciated. In fact, it seems its human nature to hold constraints in scorn; to shake our fists at the shackles depriving us of unchecked free will. And yet our survival and dominant position as a species are, in large part, the result of our own physical constraints. Without these constraints human networks would never have emerged as transcendent forces. After all, we are not particularly fast, nor armed with tough hides or impressive native weapons. Still, in the face of significant physical disadvantages humans have survived, evolved and eventually come to dominate, in large part, due to our ability to quickly communicate and work together as groups.
Working together in the face of danger from an environment teeming with more physically gifted competitors requires information to flow in rapid asynchronous bursts that allow our massively parallel brains to consume and respond to many near-simultaneous inputs. We need to be able to quickly pass to and interpret messages from each other. Things like facial expressions, eye dilation, body posture and gestures are all asynchronous messages that can be quickly passed by a single individual and just as quickly interpreted by all members of the group that see them. Analyzed carefully, the constraints imposed on this universal language of the human network are speed and asynchronicity – you can’t have massively parallel consumption and efficient network cooperation without both.
With its 140 character limit and asynchronous broadcast to self-organizing networks on the web Twitter has asynchronous speed messaging in spades. It groks one of the fundamentals of human networks–the needs of the audience are more important than the desires of the individual. The ability to quickly consume and react is way more important than the individual’s desire to monopolize and pontificate. This is the lesson that user-generated web video needs to learn–it needs to be Twitterfied.
The Web isn’t about passive broadcast, there are far too many delicious distractions, and even if it were, most don’t have the tools or narrative capabilities to hold the attention of an audience for any real span of time. This is especially true in the screencasting realm which is why I’d like to propose the notion of TweetCasts–120 seconds or less of webcam or screen video. That’s all the time you get to make your point. If you need more time, break your content into chunks, give viewers a rest between segments and try engaging them through a different medium.
Follow these rules and there’s huge potential to further humanize the web and empower each other via massive web-based human networks. Remove the audience’s biggest impediment to engaging with video (long-form passive broadcast boredom) and we’ll all be motivated to create and watch more user generated video. If that happens I wouldn’t be surprised to see training / teaching, maybe the entire education system, crowdsourced. Just remember–whether you’re a producer, content-creation tool vendor or social media site–constraints are your friend and we’ll all be the richer for it.