If you’ve been following my blog at all, or if you’re one of the large percentage of my readers who knows me pretty well, you know that when it comes to technology, I am not an early adopter. The only game my cellphone can play, for example, is a monochrome version of Pong…a game that I’m pretty sure my friend’s graphing calculator could play in high school. I am notoriously paranoid about giving out passwords and cynical about the power of social networking sites. When I make a decision to jump on the tech-bandwagon while the parade is still going on, therefore, you can rest assured it’s not a decision I’m making lightly.
With that in mind, let me be a willing and unpaid sandwich board for program that’s so new it’s still in beta: Pushnote. The idea is so simple that I’m amazed no one has done something like it before, so brilliant that I can’t believe they haven’t been crashed by a mob of web users rushing to join in. Pushnote is an account-based add-on for your browser that allows you to comment on and read other people’s comments on EVERY SINGLE WEBSITE EVER. Better yet, you can follow specific people so you can easily find the comments of only the people you actually care about. No more creating a new account for a page you’re probably only going to comment on once, no more reading through the inane chest-beatings of webtrolls to find the comment thread a friend added to, no more sighing in disappointment that you can’t make a comment just for the readers of that page because they don’t have a comment feature. Pushnote could break the chains away from internet browsing to set us all free.
I am deliriously excited about the quality of community this has the potential to create, and the reason that I am making a point of telling you about it here is that I want you all to join as quickly as possible. The faster the user base is built, the more quickly the service can fulfill its potential for greatness. At the moment, most of the users on pushnote aren’t saying much more than “OMG! This is AWESOME!!!” They are absolutely correct, but until the use of Pushnote passes out of the phase of drooling excitement over a new toy, it won’t become a useful tool. And the best way for it to graduate into being a useful tool is by giving users a genuine audience that reads the same pages they do.
Here’s how I envision Pushnote changing my browsing life…
Most of my social circle reads XCKD, for example, which is in turn the funniest comic I’ve ever read and the most esoteric and confusing. Let’s imagine that I’m the only Pushnote user who also reads XKCD (an admittedly unlikely scenario, but this is make believe, so go with it). I read a comic whose punchline is only funny if the reader has a pretty good understanding of, say, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and fail to understand what’s going on even enough to Google the Uncertainty Principle to figure it out. I leave a comment via Pushnote to the effect of “Huh?” I couldn’t do that without Pushnote, because XKCD has no comment feature, but if there is no one else in the center of the Venn diagram of Pushnote users and XKCD fans, my comment falls into the void.
If, on the other hand, my friends who read XKCD (a group that includes a computer programmer, an information technology specialist, a chef-in-training, and a graphic designer) were also Pushnote users, they would see my cry for help when they wandered in to read the comic. One of them might post a link to a Wikipedia article, where they might also go to post a comment to direct me to the most pertinent section of the article. This conversation might overlap with a conversation happening on the Wikipedia page, possibly generating more readers for XKCD and shedding new light on the comic for other confused readers.
The thing I love about Pushnote is that it isn’t driven by other people, who I only occasionally like and very frequently feel driven to mock. Twitter and Facebook (mostly Twitter) will provide roadsigns for interesting things happening in the world and on the internet, but you have to read through a lot of rubbish that is of no interest to happen across new things. To have a conversation about those things with only your friends, however, you have to leave the website to return to Twitter or Facebook. Pushnote, in contrast, is a tool for creating community around the content that you are already genuinely interested in (i.e., you already read the site and take the time to look at the comments), so the community is springing not from the cross-section of interests being tossed out by disparate personalities, but from the natural growth of what you yourself are passionate about. Both types of community have their place and their value, but personally, I’m much more excited about being a participant in what Pushnote promises.
And you! You better join me so I have someone to talk to.
p.s. My user name is Melissa Walshe. Find me when you join!