The page is dead, long live the chunk

Don’t miss this awesome article in the HBR by mobile strategist Karen McGrane. (Found via a @stoweboyd tweet.) McGrane argues that the “page,” as a physical and conceptual vehicle for ideas, is a fossilized appendage without much meaningful function beyond print media. In short, having inhibited how media companies understood the desktop web, the page is destined to be skeuomorphic road kill on the smart phone and tablet. Looking at mobile devices, McGrane writes:

You don’t have to spend too much time thinking about all these new form factors and device types to realize that the very notion of a page doesn’t hold up. Content will “live” on many different screens and presentations. The amount and type of content that’s appropriate for a PC screen isn’t the same as what would work best on a smartphone or a smart TV. The way content gets laid out, styled, and presented must be different for different platforms.

The future of connected devices is content in “chunks,” not pages. Smaller, discrete content objects can be dynamically targeted to specific platforms and assembled into new containers on the fly. Which content and how much content appears on a given screen or interface will be defined by a set of rules, informed by metadata. Content will break free of the page and “live” in lots of different places.

We’re increasingly realizing that Pullquote, beyond being an efficient way to link directly to ideas rather than webpages, is a super-efficient format for consuming ideas on mobile. When you’re next on a smart phone or tablet, check out my personal feed of pullquotes to see how swiftly it filters and displays mobile-friendly thought-nuggets.

For another angle on McGrane’s chunk-centricity, this time from the perspective of the information consumer rather than the publisher, read my post Micro bookmarking: linking to ideas, not web pages written some months back.

Stowe Boyd looks at Pullquote

Stowe Boyd, researcher-at-large for GigaOM, has been an active Pullquoter in recent weeks. Yesterday, Stowe published a long look at Pullquote and other genre-busting publishing tools. He reached this conclusion:

Companies alike Tumblr, Medium and Pullquote are redefining the ideas about commenting that we have almost taken for granted since the start of the century. Once again, the web is breaking what seemed solid and foundational, taking the concept of comments and going sideways with it.

My bet is that this set of innovations will mean that the canonical series of comments at the bottom of a post will seem totally out of date in a few years, just like grunge fonts, left margin navigation, and embedded flash shouts ‘old school’ today.

Stowe focused on Pullquote’s new quote-commenting feature, introduced last week, and was the first to notice the member stream of Pullquote texts and comments. (Here’s Stowe’s stream, for example.)

Stowe and I’ve known each other since long before “social media” was a common phrase. In his generous GigaOM post and a second post on his own blog, Stowe made a number of good suggestions for improving Pullquote. In short:

* Pullquote should tally and highlight comments for a Pullquote’s creator. [Coming in a day or two.]
* Pullquote should alert readers to when there are comments on a page’s content, creating a kind of “virtual graffiti.” [Definitely! We’re waiting for a critical mass of users to make such encounters likely.]
* Pullquote should show the inciting tweet on an individual Pullquote’s page. [Great point, will do.]
* “The only way to see the comments (if any) are by following the Pullquote URL.” In fact, people can burrow and find comments via clicking on quotes in the “member” page (again, here is Stowe’s) but clearly we need to improve the UX to make these more easily accessible.
* “And it appears that only those with the plugin can see or add to the comments. Bummer.” [In theory, anyone with Twitter can leave a comment — we’ll figure out what gave this appearance.]

Like Stowe, we sense that Pullquote and peers represent the tip of a giant iceberg of new web behavior that’s just waiting to surface. Some of our previous thoughts on that potential future are here.