Monoblogging for the Masses

Over the past couple of weeks, I seem to have launched a new social web platform. I say "seem" because it wasn't something I particularly set out to do.

The project is called Wordr, and it's basically like Twitter, except that you can only post one word at a time.


This started out as a joke: I was riffing on the observation that media has gotten progressively shorter and more immediate (from long-form 'articles' to blog posts to tweets), and was musing on what might come next. If Twitter is for sentences (more or less), then the next level of atomisation down must be words.

Wordr would have remained a joke (even the name is silly), but late one evening, I decided to submit it to the Channel 4 innovation fund 4iP. Mainly because I'd already unsuccessfully submitted a couple of serious ideas, and was feeling a tad mischievous.

In the meantime, I'd used some of the time I spend travelling on the train back and forth to work each day to start hacking something together.

A couple of weeks later, on May 22nd, I had another train trip to Birmingham, for the launch 'do' of new production company Mudlark. Given that I was meant to be doing a short presentation, and hadn't really planned anything, I thought I'd try and finish off the Wordr prototype on the train down. By the time the train pulled into the monstrous cavern of Birmingham New Street station, it just about worked. So when I got to the venu, I tentatively 'launched' Wordr as a website running from my laptop, available only to people in the room on the same wi-fi network. Only a few people used it, but it was kind fun, and gave us a different way to respond to the things that happened during the event.

And that probably would have been that. Channel 4 rejected the idea, on the perhaps reasonable grounds that it "doesn't meet a well defined or quantified user need". And so it was destined to be another half-finished side-project resting on my laptop hard-disk.

Toby Barnes, the MD of Mudlark (and agency Pixel-Lab) had other ideas though. He was busy organising Playful 2009, a one-day conference for "cross-disciplinary frolicking", and thought Wordr might be an interesting alternative backchannel. This was important because it gave me a deadline. And deadlines are the only way I can get anything done (and even then, it's a stretch). So I dusted off the code, fixed a few bugs, bought a domain name, got a logo designed (courtesy of Andrew Pendrick), and did all the other things you need to do to actually publish a website publicly.

The website has been running now for a couple of weeks, and I'm delighted that some other people have been game enough to join me in posting up one-word summaries of what we're thinking, doing, seeing, or hearing (or sometimes just words that are amusing). We've called this "monoblogging".

It's still early days for Wordr, but from this very rudimentary "vocabulary cloud" of the most-used words, you can see that Britishness of the site clearly shows through, with tea, waiting, beer, pub, raining and queuing all in the top 20.

Wordr vocabulary

Where will it go from here? Who knows. I'm enjoying the light-heartedness and daily commentary of it all, which reminds me of how Twitter felt when I first joined (it's become more of a semi-serious work thing now). I'm also enjoying having actually launched something for once.

As Wordr uses Twitter for registration/logging in, usernames are the same as on Twitter, and so you can follow me at @frankieroberto.

Oh yeah, and if you haven't already done so, you should join!