At a recent meeting of the Product Design Guild, a shadowy organization of designers and developers in Silicon Valley (for which I’m the journalist-in-residence), I made a change to Wikipedia, but not as an Editor.
I was talking about making Wikipedia more accessible, and spreading the act of editing the web’s biggest knowledge repository to the larger web. It is a problem that contributes to the falloff of editors that Wikipedia is experiencing. \
I asked a simple question.
Can I currently share a fed of my edits to Wikipedia, and autopublish them to another source, via RSS or via an API call.
The answer I got was, no… not right now.
But, I was just congratulated on having made a real change to the way wikipedia works across the entire world. Now, or, rather, a week from now, all wikipedia editors will be able to use an RSS feed of their edits, to share them with the world.
Did you change spelling? Do you frequently author articles on Latin American History? Now you can share them automatically. I’m gonna plug mine into Tumblr or Posterous.
This week: A video visit with, some questions for and a few pertinent stats about Chris Wetherell and his creation, Brizzly, a Web-based social media reader, one of many in the hot status update arena.
Who: Chris Wetherell
What: VP of Technology, Thing Labs, creator of Brizzly.
Why: Brizzly is a Web-based social media software client, for microblogging sites like Twitter or Facebook, expands attachments automatically and allows users to describe and define the trending topics for all its users to see. It’s in invite-only beta.
Where: @cw (Twitter); massless.org (Wetherell’s personal blog); San Francisco (HQ for Thing Labs and Brizzly)
Who else: TweetDeck, Seesmic, TwitIQ
Five Stats You Won’t Find in his Facebook Profile
Worst Job: Assembly line at Fujitsu, making rack servers
Gadget of the Moment: Roku’s digital video box. “It’s got Netflix, You Tube and TV. Damn.”
Wishes There Was an App for: The legal arena. “They need to, like, use a computer.”
Fails at: Anything related to email
Bio in 140 Characters
From Beaverton, Ore. Dropped out of Berkeley. Got hungry as an indie rock drummer. @Google Reader. Left Google, invented Brizzly.
The Five Questions
Why should I care about Brizzly?
It depends on what you’re looking for. If one of the things that interests you is how a large community is experiencing life–I mean really interested in the community and not just the idea of your friends–then Brizzly does that a little more easily than other things. [Brizzly’s assets are] no small difference for those who are interested in it.
Why are all Twitter-related logos, including yours, so darn cute?
Yeah, we’re a little cheeky, right? I think it’s probably just because of a pendulum swing. I mean, the last thing [Thing Labs’ CEO Jason Shellen] and I worked on was the exact opposite. Google Reader is not cuddly. It’s friendly, but cuddly it isn’t. The other thing is, we were hoping to try what strong branding is like–in terms of anthropomorphic animals. The bear design [was drawn by] both Jason and [Twitter Co-founder] Biz Stone.
What can we expect from Thing Labs and Brizzly three months out?
We will have at least three richer sets of experiences, some of which include entirely different products all connected through our letsbetrends.com API.
Every geek has a memory where they saw something new and had to say to themselves, “Dang, I love living in the future.” What’s yours?
One big one for me was at Google–it was my first day and someone says, “Hey, have they taken you to see the robots yet?” I was like, “Hahaha… No.” They took me to this building where there was a room filled with these Rube Goldbergesque mechanical devices. Large cages with metal bars and wires, culminating in this ball in the center. This girl climbed into the thing. She put her feet in these stirrups and sat in this weird chair, and then this book slides out. The girl started tapping her feet on this base drum pedal and doing this thing with her hands, and then the book slides away [they were scanning the books]. I was like, “What is this?” and they said, “Well, this is Ocean [the internal name for Google Books].” What struck me was the scale. It was clear to me that they were going to scan ridiculous amounts of information very, very quickly, and I realized: Whoa, THIS is very different.”
Are you really competitive with rivals?
I just don’t have that kind of fight in me. I mean, I want to kick my own ass. I know there are lots of guys out there who can totally drop the names of someone they want to just crush. I just don’t have it. I get more frustrated with me, more than anyone else. I’m like Jim Carrey in “Liar Liar”: “I’m kicking my ass.”