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This Time article talks about how surprisingly useful Twitter is – something I’ve recently discovered myself. The article’s main point is that Twitter has become much more than just a way to send people 140-character messages about what you’re having for breakfast: it’s become a way to disseminate information in real time, and to create and follow conversations about things happening right now. Most of these capabilities have not come from Twitter’s creators, Time points out, but from its users, who have adapted it to their needs and interests. Everything from using the @ sign to direct tweets to specific followers to hashtags was introduced by users.

Sound familiar? If you’ve got a WordPress blog, it should. Most of the features that make WordPress useful, including that godsend of a plugin, Akismet, have been developed over time by the platform’s users. Which says to me that it’s not WordPress, or Twitter, or Facebook or Firefox that are outstanding, but the open-source format. All of these things do not come from above, like most of the software you purchase, but from its users. Which means that instead of having to guess what their users (clients) want and then spending money developing a product based on their not-always-correct guesses, companies can simply allow their users to make what they need from the base that the companies supply. Which means that in the end, the users get exactly what they want – and develop something better than they could have hoped for.

Pretty exciting. I wonder what’s coming next.

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