Back in 2009, I wrote some thoughts on the information elements and architecture of my site and said:
I need to give myself permission to do shorter, less well-thought-out posts and not feel that every post has to be an epic article.
then mused about a distinction between blog posts that are:
This got me thinking about something in between blogging and twitter where I could jot down half-baked thoughts as they came to me.
As I thought about it more, I started thinking about the relationship between these "musings". One musing might present an idea I just had that I want to get out there. Another might be some follow on thoughts. Notes. Experiments. Observations. It seems like there's a sense in which some of these musings can be threaded together. Different threads could split apart or come together. Some may grow into entire projects.
I came up with the term "thought stream" for this (although it's been used for other things and I never really went looking for alternative names).
I started thinking about how thought streams may be shared, or collaborated on. Never got particularly far on the details and never got to implementing anything. I shared some of my thinking on twitter at the time and I think some people related it to Tumblr but it seemed (and still seems) different to me. Each new thought or musing would be the start of a new stream. It's almost like having a blog for every idea you have, or every concept you want to explore.
Sometimes I tweet my ideas and thoughts, but they often become conversations with myself as I refine those ideas and thoughts. Twitter is not the best tool for that. I'm hoping this will be.
The software that powered my blog / wiki was called Leonardo because of the notion of a notebook for scholars. That might still be a good name for this software, even if the hosted service is called something else and the concept is still called thought streams.
"a micro-blog for every idea"
"live tweeting your thoughts"
It's partly just note-taking and brainstorming in twitter form, but every project or every idea is its own stream.
Basically, I rarely have time to write well though out blog posts about this sort of stuff. I wanted a way of sharing my ideas without spamming my twitter followers, although I want to have some level of integration with twitter.
The posts will be unlimited length and use markdown so you can almost blog with it too.
...actually, drop the "almost".
Take git's idea of "cheap branching" and apply it to blogging / micro-blogging.
The idea is it's just as easy to create a new stream as to make a new post.
I imagine I'd have a stream for each project I'm working on, for example and even each idea I want to think about within each project.
I'll probably need the idea of "closing" a stream when done—almost a pull request with the conclusion.
...so you can branch off, consider a bunch of stuff, come to a conclusion, then "merge" that conclusion back into the parent.
"a pinterest for your thoughts"
Some cards are clearly calls to action, explicitly posing questions or avenues to pursue. I wonder if we should allow cards to be marked as such (almost a form of "todo").
As well as a great hacker diary, it can be also used to take notes on books, etc.
Phase One: making it easier to author and organize
Phase Two: making it easier to find good people and content
Phase Three: make it easier to collaborate and converse
It would actually be possible, without much modification, to use Thought Streams as a kanban board.
When mapping various applications into thoughtstreams, I often to the conclusion that it's better to map what might normally be thought of as a "post" to an entire stream to allow cards to represent something more fine-grained.
This highlights even more the need for some streams to come under other streams.
I've planned from the start to do a lightweight anonymous "kudos" like Svtble but I'm also considering a Slashdot style "informative, insightful, funny, ..."
I wonder if it would be worthwhile being able to mark on a card that it's corrected in a subsequent card.
I still think it needs to be easier to jot down thoughts in thoughtstreams.
I think there needs to be a public version of the Inbox; i.e. a single public general stream each user has to get thoughts out there quickly before there's an obvious stream to put them in.
In a way, it would be the traditional microblog.
In fact, maybe I should just make the Inbox cards optionally public.
The potential with this site is making the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I feel as though this could really morph in to something that not only allows us to just track thoughts on a topic, but through social features see the effect of the thoughts we publish on others and how they might trickle through other streams to perhaps influence something big.
There are so many possible applications of this tool swirling around in my head that it's hard keeping them all straight. I'm really excited to see how the site evolves and how people use it moving forward.
I'd like to have social media options for each card. For example, if a card fits the character limit for twitter, activate the twitter button so I can tweet it if I want. A facebook button would also be nice so that I could post that card as a facebook status.
Seeing this more and more as this hub for all of my thoughts and writing on line. I have a thought or idea, I come here, jot it down, polish it, then publish it out to twitter, facebook etc....
I am now a 10 stream user :-)
When I go to "Your Streams" it would be cool, I think, to have published streams show up as a different color than unpublished ones, or some similar visual indicator of published vs unpublished.
I do notice now (thank you, jtauber for pointing it out :-) ) that there is a visual distinction between published and unpublished streams in "Your Streams". Didn't get my attention at first. something more colorful might help, but only if it doesn't mess with the clean design of the site.
It's not a blog nor a paper, nor a very limited input field (twitter, I'm looking at you). It's the best place where I can structure the mess I've in my head.
For me, it's a place where ideas can fly by along with introspections, explanations, etc. In other words, it's the place where I can print thoughts without limits. I don't have to cut them nor make them long. The thoughts I put in thoughtstream are what they are and as they are.
The fact that it is possible to group those thoughts by logical context, allow people to read them, share them and even "discuss" them is exactly what a person with much to say and share needs.
When I first signed up for twitter, it was a while before I used it with any regularity and even now I find that my use of it is in bursts.
One of the things that it did force me to do was to learn how to get messages across succinctly, and I think that's a good thing. But the succinctness of twitter is both its strength and its curse. While it's still useful as a source of information on some things that interest me, for the most part I feel as though its jumped the shark.
Thoughts are not a one size fits all thing. They vary. Sometimes they need a little more room. Sometimes less. With ThoughtStreams, my thoughts don't feel any pressure. They have the ability to reach their full, unfettered expression.
Most of what I want to write or capture on the web is in that goldilocks zone between a tweet and a blog post. Which is precisely what ThoughtStreams is, but I love knowing that I have the freedom to go beyond that when I feel like it.
My thoughts finally feel at home.
James Tauber wrote a very cool little backing track for use with a possible ThoughtStreams ad this week. I'd been kicking around several ad ideas for the site, and have done at least one audio mockup that everyone was pretty excited about. However, the tune that he came up with took me in a slightly different, and I think a more compelling direction. His public reaction to it was pretty amazing. I really can't wait to complete it and share it with the rest of the world, most importantly, our ever growing ThoughtStreams community.
We're planning on giving TS users a sneak peak as we get further along with the development of it... More on that soon.
The entire Eldarion team could not be more excited about where this site is headed, and the work going on to continually add features and improve it is really very exciting.
In the most basic, obvious terms, it's a novel middle ground between tweeting and blogging: through formatting and post organization it tries to encourage a series of concise mini-posts—usually about the length of a single thought—which, unlike in Twitter, are all organized into individual streams, each on an individual topic.
This is an interesting and elegant enough choice that I think all the different purposes it can be put to remain very much to be seen. In my case it seems perfectly suited to the practice of thinking aloud (this stream itself being a notable exception), that is, sending a series of individual thoughts or steps of a thought process across the transom without necessarily having my entire argument reasoned out ahead of time; indeed the format seems to lend itself just as easily to realizing halfway through a stream that one's initial premise is redundant, or malformed, or not as interesting as one originally thought. Which is part of the fun.
On the other hand the format creates new niggles and demands in the realm of contextualization and personalization. Because each user does not have just one blog, and because any user's output is going to exist in a form that's not really familiar or immediately intelligible to a reader from offsite, the design can lead to the expectation, I think, that users are all writing for each other; that is, that it's a social network, and that we are in the process of accreting a culture and vocabulary that we all share, and talking primarily for each other. Which isn't right, I don't think; my intended audience is the internet at large, and that seems to be the case for most users here.
It's hard to tell how to assist that intention. Greater personalization and theming is one obvious way; like in Marquee above, and to a lesser extent in Twitter itself, custom backgrounds and fonts are an effective way to create a 'brand' and emphasize the individual user. On the other hand, any web designer will surely lament the day that they sign away their pleasing, homogeneous aesthetic to the disarrayed whims of the mob.
Simple familiarity might be the greatest aid here; I am trying to think back to the first couple of times that I clicked in to someone's Tumblr or Twitter page, and whether—font customization be damned—I simply needed to see more and more unconnected people using the service in order to know what to expect when I clicked a link, and to not have to waste any thought on contextualizing the feed; that is, to when I was able to simply read a Twitter feed as an individual's Twitter feed, rather than another instance of this service, Twitter.
Looking back at this list, it's clear that one of the areas in which developers have really progressed from the first generations of blogging software is in posting methods—the whole conceits of many of these services lie in the clever and frictionless way that a user can make a new post. I'm particularly attracted to Dropbox-based services, as I retain a slight pre-web suspicion of text input boxes located in the browser, and because they also completely solve the problem of data lock-in as a bonus.
So this is an obvious area of potential growth for ThoughtStreams. Right now one can only post in a text input box located in the browser. Email-to-post is an obvious direction, though it immediately becomes complicated by the novel format. Normally one emails one's blog, and the subject becomes the title, and the body becomes the text. For any given ThoughtStream user, the blog analog is an individual stream. Leave aside that individual posts don't have titles; that would imply that there would be a new email address for every stream created in the system, and the word 'profusion' quickly comes to mind.
The alternative is that blogs (and thus destination addresses) map instead to users, subjects map to streams, and bodies map to text. But the same problem as above sticks in here: users tend to have a lot of streams. They're encouraged to have a lot of streams. As such, it's a pretty lofty technical requirement that in order to post by email the user must a) remember and b) spell correctly the precise name of the stream they'd like to post in.
Posting by Dropbox is a little more appealing to me, though that's probably because a vision of its operation involves more handwaving—that is, more hard technical work on the part of somebody else. But one could imagine a system in which the entire structure of a user's ThoughtStream (what's the name for all the streams that belong to a given user? Stream bed? I hope so) stream bed is reflected in their Dropbox folder hierarchy: there is an Apps folder in my Dropbox, and a ThoughtStreams folder in my Apps folder, and therein is one folder for each stream. If I want to create a new stream, I can create a new folder or subfolder. If I want to create a new entry in a stream, I can create a new plaintext file in the folder of my choosing. This is appealing; it would doubtless also require significant refactoring.
I don't know if I'd ever want people to comment on cards or streams I was thinking today that if your browsing a stream and you have a thought that you'd like to add, why not have the ability to suggest a card to add to a stream?
The use model would be click on the suggest icon for the card and either select an existing card you may have from an existing stream for repost in the stream, or create a card right there. The next time the user of the stream logs in, they would see something like "Stream foo has n suggestions".
You review them, and post the cards you want into your stream and decline the ones that you don't want.
I think suggesting cards to add rather than allowing comments, encourages people to offer something more constructive to the stream rather than just "lol", "great thought, I totally agree." etc.
To me it seems like an interesting way for users to contribute to the stream and interact with one another while allowing the owner to moderate the things that go into it. It also does not pollute the site with a load of mindless comments.
Why Thought Streams? Because thoughts don't come with a character count.
I don't really like comparing Thought Streams to Twitter, but at times it's unavoidable. I've never really liked that you can't make edits to tweets once they've been posted. Neither does Wired. I really like that I don't have this limitation with cards on Thought Streams.
I'd love a "fast draft" mode. Instead of clicking "Publish" after each thought (or in my case, pressing
Enter, because I'm not a savage), I'd simply press
Enter: closing the paragraph, skipping a line, and starting a new thought.
Interesting that Martin Brochhaus sees the general stream view as being an approximation of twitter. I felt that way until we added the firehose view which, to me, now feels like a closer approximation to twitter as it reflects an aggregation of all cards posted to all streams whereas the general view just aggregates what people post in their general stream.
While general was really just intended as a holding pattern for thoughts you wanted to capture, but didn't necessarily want to stream about when they came to you, it's very easy to see how it could be used primarily for status type update messages similar to twitter. It certainly seems to be how a lot of people are using it.
One of the cool things about TS is that you can scope the top level views based on the streams and users that you favorite (note the "All/Favorites" links to the right in the image below)
I am surprised that parent streams don't reorder on the RHS when their child streams are updated.
It would also be nice if the parent-child structure was reflected in the URL.
If wikis and Twitter had a baby, it would be ThoughtStreams.
Excited that our new Thought Streams explainer video is now in production. With all of the feature development and epics planned for the next few months, the things that we'll enable people to do with the site become extremely compelling. The thing that I've found interesting in going through the process of learning how to explain it effectively to other people, is that what TS offers really feels to some extent like it's own category. It's not quite blogging and it's not quite microblogging, although elements of both are certainly present, but the more the site evolves and the more our concepts around it and how it can be used evolve, it stands out more and more as a solution that really can't be bound definitively to either the blog or microblog category.
You just wrote a comment on Hacker News then realize you have a bunch of follow-on thoughts. They're not yet well-formed enough for an article. They're longer than a tweet.
That's what ThoughtStreams is for.
In some respects, ThoughtStreams gives you an instant "Hemingway mode" for getting down your thoughts.
It encourages you to put something down, save or even publish it, and then continue to add to it rather than continue to futz around editing what you've already written.
Of course you can go back and edit later, but ThoughtStreams gives you permission to get stuff out as you think of it, setting the expectation that it is a stream of thoughts that will evolve.
We've been working on an update to the site which will incorporate our new explainer video into the landing page. We'll be launching that update shortly. The explainer video is live on vimeo now, and for all of those who have not seen it, you can view it here:
For all of the things that it could be, the one thing that Thought Streams is trying the most not to be is a twitter clone. I think we were all thinking that comparisons to twitter would be unavoidable, and in some sense, it could replace twitter for some things, but that was never the intention.
We feel the explainer clarifies that.
There are comparisons to twitter, and examples of things that might work better on TS than twitter in the explainer, but it's not a clone of twitter. A lot of what TS is now and will be in the next few months are things that twitter never was or never really could be, at least as we currently know it. Twitter is great. We're all fans, and most of us still use it extensively. However, apart from having some similarities in the feed and the fact that it's also in the micro blog category, Thought Streams is not, never has been, nor never will be an attempt to clone twitter.
This is an ssg stream.
It's an accumulation of wild ideas of equal access to opportunities.
I think we're finally starting to reach the critical mass of content where we actually want to default to the "favorited-only" people and streams.
Or perhaps make it configurable. And when new users start they get the firehose. Once they've favorited a certain number of people or streams, they can switch over to the "favorited-only by default". We can even suggest they do so when a threshold of favorites is reached.
While Eldarion has taken a couple of small angel rounds over the years that we are grateful for, we are for the most part, self funded and that gives us a lot of latitude when it comes to how we operate the company.
For example, Gondor.io is a PaaS offering that came from our need to host our apps. We were able to productize a solution that we'd come up with to solve our own problem, and turned that into a revenue stream.
Thought Streams was born out of trying to solve a problem that we had tracking thoughts and ideas over time, and was something we felt that others might want to use as well.
In both cases, we never had any intention of either of these solutions trying to compete with things like Heroku or Twitter.
In both cases, we simply put something together that solved a problem for us and shared it with the world.
The longevity or fate of either platform is not in the hands of investors or board members telling us we need to find our market, pivot or fold. We're doing these things because they worked for us first then found a following in a broader sense. As long as they continue to work for us and the people outside of Eldarion who choose to benefit from them, we'll keep them going, growing and evolving.
It's about the simple notion that if we're having a problem and we've got a solution, let's share it and see if others can benefit from it as well.
We can do this because we find ourselves in the fortunate position of not being slaves to overly demanding investors or a board, to playing the startup game, or clinging to the hope that one of these things may turn into a unicorn.
thoughtstreams seems to fit well to my nowadays reading and writing habits. that's nice.
if thoughtstreams makes it into an android app for my tablet:
increase the header's height, make the search field hidable, make the person data on the left hidable or smaller in width, change the hyperlinks outside of paragraphs to buttons, and add the ability to share selected texts and urls from other apps.
I really love the UI's layout so far, and my listed points are not a big problem so far.
this indicator for the reading direction of streams is sometimes too small and too hidden. a bigger arrow icon on the bottom-center of the first card would be nice.
maybe also on the top-center of the last card for convenience.
I wonder how thoughtstreams relates to these fundamental thought processes I stumbled upon this month.
some software companies prefer to test job candidates on the white board instead in front of computers. I think the big advantage is here, that it helps interviewers to better understand the candidate's thought processes and how it relates to the team's thoughts.
there are also visual tools for diagrammatic thinking called thinking maps (based on the works of albert upton and richard samson), that can help with this process.
in thinking maps these processes are basically defining context, describing things, sequencing events, identifying relationships, classifiying, comparing and contrasting as well as analyzing causes and effects and illustrating analogies.
This would really reduce my perceived risk for devoting time to TS. I wonder if there's been any progress?
I don't know why I feel like it's scary or a bad idea, but there's something there. Like, for reflections and one offs, not a big deal. If I wanted to seriously talk about my artistic practice, that feels like something I want some freedom with. (Although, I must admit that lately I sometimes feel like a luddite with this sort of view, especially with the rise of Medium.)
Does ThoughtStreams have a public API? I was on the bus this evening and thought that it'd be convenient to be able to upload media and a quick thought along with it, directly from my device.
I wonder who Eldarion sees as competitors for TS/Teams. I think it's something like Quip. They're not really in the same space, but I think they're trying to solve the same problem: make it easier for teams/companies to write things down and have a conversation.
Been away way too long.
Busy year for sure. Not too busy to though stream though. I need to get back to it!