As a daily writer and reader, I can’t live without Twitter: I get story ideas there, I drum up freelance work there, I get inspired and educated there. But man, that 140-character limit is a bitch sometimes. And let’s face it–in Twitter’s big tent, there’s a helluva lot of noise. What if there were something like Twitter, but populated solely with unabridged snippets of interesting books, articles, and essays? Findings.com is exactly that: Instead of exchanging hashtagged brain farts and link-shortened headlines, users can post full-length quotations from whatever literary source they like (provided it’s electronic).
Findings.com is the brainchild of Steven Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From. Johnson got the idea for Findings while writing that book, and wishing there were a 21st-century digital equivalent of “the commonplace book, one of the great intellectual engines of the Enlightenment: books of quotations assembled by hand by 18th-century readers, annotating and indexed and remixed by readers like Locke, Jefferson, and Priestley.”
Findings provides a bookmarklet you install in your browser, so that anytime you see a bit of text you want to clip and share with your social-network-turned-library, you just hit the button. But the real genius of Findings is its e-book integration–especially with the Kindle, which has included a publically shareable “Highlights” function for years. By adding a Twitter-like interface layer to Highlights, Findings gives e-books an innovative edge on their paperbound ancestors: Here’s a social network that literally lets you actively read over other bookworms’ shoulders and watch their thought processes coalesce in real time. The site design is clean and quiet, like a library–and instead of inane Trending Topics, you get Trending Books. A social network that may actually make you smarter? From the author of Everything Bad Is Good For You, I’d expect nothing less.