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Metadata design pattern for the web

The Web is shifting. Web pages are no longer silos of information. Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are adding conversations to the web, and those conversations are context for web content that can potentially provide an amazing amount of value to users.

The major shift began when people could begin commenting on diaries with Open Diary in 1998 and growing quickly in popularity when Google bought Blogger in 2003. Today, conversations are happening everywhere, and more people are joining in every day.

New problem: Conversations are silos

But now conversations are falling into silos. Commenting on a blog about an linked-to-article isn't the same as commenting directly on that article. If I'm looking at web content, I should be able to see what people everywhere are saying about that article. Instead, I have to become my own search engine robot—crawling the web to see what others are saying.

But why do I care what others are saying? Because it's social proof. Because it provides context. Information in context is infinitely more valuable.

Twitter redesign is tearing down the silos

Twitter's redesign is beginning to unlock this potential. Before the redesign, tweets were silos. I only knew that this person made such and such comment, and possibly that they tweeted such and such. But what exactly were they responding to? Who? Why?

After the redesign I instantly see what others are saying, who said it first, and even a peak at what's being discussed when I click on a tweet. Suddenly, a wealth of information is at my fingertips with each new tweet coming in.

Others want to demolish the walls, too

Recently InformationArchitects.com (@iA) posted their own redesign of Facebook, which shares many similarities with Twitter's redesign. Click on something posted on your wall, and a panel opens revealing context for the post.

Building a design pattern for metadata

In Twitter and iA's Facebook designs you'll see that on the left is the main content, and on the right is metadata, unlocked by clicking on the main content. I believe this should become more commonplace for content on the web.

Applications

Search engines

Imagine clicking on a result in Google and viewing discussions about a link, other pages that link to the page, and other popular pages on the site.

Content feeds

Twitter is already doing it. iA's Facebook redesign shows it. What about Google Reader or other aggregators? Aggregating content is not as powerful as aggregating content with context.

Websites

I'm thinking about this for my own blog: Imagine clicking on a link and getting context about it without leaving the article? Or when I visit a page it automatically pulls in conversations and metadata from the web to supplement my own content.

Web browser plugins

Same as above, but the UI is built into the navigator. Some of Safari's extensions are already doing this, including Twitter for Safari and Reddit Comments.