Some people find my posts too long. I’m sympathetic to the modern plague of shortened attention spans, but I also don’t want lazy readers. At the same time, this piece felt like it was missing a through line that would help pull a reader through.
And then I had a minor epiphany, or perhaps it was a moment of delusion. Either way, it provided an organizing conceit: I decided to write this piece in the style of the TikTok FYP feed. That is, a series of short bits, laid out vertically in a long scrolling feed.
This piece is long, but if you get bored in any one section, you can just scroll on the next one; they’re separated by horizontal rules for easy visual scanning. You can also read them out of order. There are lots of cross-references, though, so if you skip some of the segments, others may not make complete sense. However, it’s ultimately not a big deal.
Eugene Wei takes a deep dive into the world of TikTok. He explores the the various features and the user experience. This includes the way in which creativity feeds creativity, the abstraction of a bunch of steps into an effects or filters (e.g. Duet feature), improvement on productivity, ability to easily remix based on length, the place of the network and comments in regards to context and success, the way in which the message is in the medium, and how TikTok is entertainment Cheetos.
Wei also provides thoughts on what is missing, such as the ability to trace trace multi-part videos, sort by descending popularity and improved search rankings.
One of the things that stood out in this piece is what Wei says about ideas and the origin of innovation:
One day, the conditions are finally right, and an idea that has failed ten times before suddenly breaks out. Sometimes it’s a tweak in execution, maybe it’s an advance in complementary or enabling technology, sometimes it’s a cultural shift.
Most of the best ideas in tech first appeared in science fiction books in the 1960s, and many of those are still waiting for their time to come. This is why rejecting companies that are trying something that’s been tried before is so dangerous. It’s lazy pattern-matching.