The Making Of: How It All Began (Part 1)
About two years ago, I had dinner with a good friend and business colleague of mine, Jonathan Menon. He presented me with an intriguing idea for a project that would use Twitter to deliver “real time history.”
There’s one thing you need to know before I continue: I loathe Twitter. I was delighted when the satirical site The Onion published an article on the ‘Nadir Of Western Civilization’ which lists the following as the penultimate moment before the apocalypse: “Twitter will be used to communicate a series of ideas so banal they will instantaneously negate the three centuries of the Renaissance.”
But Jonathan’s a convincing guy. Besides, we did have a long track record of creating pioneering web projects. If there were any unorthodox things to be done with social media, we were the ones to do it.
The subject matter would be the 100th anniversary of an event close to our hearts: the visit of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to America. As Bahá’ís, the occasion is of great consequence to us. It is a compelling and improbable story. In 1912, an aging Persian man, just released from 40 years of imprisonment at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, traveled across North America for 239 days, and confronted Americans with a vision of human nature, social unity, and the nation’s future that was 100 years ahead of its time.
Jonathan proposed we reconstruct this little-known period in history, essentially hour-by-hour, for the entire 239 days. Using Twitter, it would be delivered in real time, shifted precisely 100 years into the future.
We would soon dub this little experiment a “Social Media Documentary.” For the first time, Twitter made sense to me. At least for this single, one-time, never-to-be-repeated use. I even got a Twitter account.
Stay tuned for Part 2: The project grows…and grows…and grows…