The Medium is The Messenger

Kudos to Kik Messenger, a new messaging app for smartphones, with a twist. It tells the user when a message has been sent, delivered, read, and even when the other user is responding. In doing so, it converts regular text messaging into real-time conversations.

It runs on all types of smartphones: Blackberry, iPhone, iPad and Android.

And it’s free.

(No – I have not been paid by Kik to say this – I own a dumbphone, not a smartphone.)

The technology behind this app is not new: it’s similar to Blackberry’s messaging software. However, not everyone owns a Blackberry – something Kik’s creators realized and took advantage of.

These new messaging apps are excellent examples of what I call meta-info apps. Meta-info is information about information. Sending a piece of information (such as a text) is one thing; getting information about that information’s delivery, reception, content and response is quite another. It adds a whole new layer of complexity and value to the original information.

In this case, the original information we are dealing with is quite simple: a text message. But what would happen if you applied meta-info technology to a user guide?

The result could be an online user guide with meta-info that could be visible to the author or the public such as:

  • the number of people who have read (or are currently reading) a particular topic
  • the search terms the user entered to find a topic
  • how much time the user spends reading a topic
  • a ranking of the quality of a topic; that is, whether the topic was useful
  • notes or comments from readers about a topic
  • an overall rating of the entire guide and its ranking compared to other guides 

Can you even begin to imagine how valuable this information would be in helping to improve the contents of the guide?

Some of this feedback technology exists today, but most guides are still in the old flat, one-way format. A document is delivered to the user, and it’s the last we see or hear of it. Documents using meta-info, or meta-documentation take information to the next level.

Meta-info is here to stay. Kik Messenger has been downloaded over two million times in the past three weeks.

How many users have “downloaded” your documents? The fact that most of us cannot answer this question raises many more questions.