This is my first post, so I decided to go with one of my favorite observations: inversions. It is a fun lens to look at an industry — to take the basic premises and completely flip them. Based on my previous experience with forums, my favorite example is Twitter.

In the old days, the best way to chat from your home was to use a BBS: a dialup modem from your home to someone else’s, back before your parents would use CompuServe, Prodigy, and AOL. From then to now, online communities were driven by creating a chat “room” around an idea, and then bringing people there, and then posting your thoughts for the others to read. Wether it was a chat room with live people there to read the messages you posted, or forums (message boards), didn’t matter.

What mattered, was that people joined the room or forum. It could start small and grow. But it also often failed if it got too big, so instead you had lots of them. Traversing all the boards took a toll. You might say it wasn’t web-scale.

So, what if you inverted the basic premise? No rooms, only people posting. You could create rooms, in a sense, by grouping people whose posts you are reading.

This whole experiment wouldn’t work in small numbers. It would have to be big. And it would later be named Twitter (and, ironically, they know a lot about web-scale).

The whole “follow” rather than “join” also works if you invert the experience of reading a lot of blogs. Instead of having a list of sites to visit every day, you follow people on one site, and you have Medium. Now this inversion has been done in other ways, mainly via RSS readers and similar like Flipboard, Feedly, etc., but Medium did to blogs what Twitter did to chat and forums.

What expectation did Snapchat flip? What other messaging invariants can be changed? Of course, messaging isn’t the only place to find inversions. Think of some others!