I have am fascinated by rap battles, where contenders take turn at improvising lines in a song on a common base, while hurling terrible insults at each other and their closest relatives.

I also know there are competitions of writing improvisation, but the things that I find most fascinating in this area is something my friend Brian called Crowdwriting, a text written by many people in a sequential fashion, also called a Stream.

Our first attempt to a Stream (in the early 90’s) was the imaginary history of Georgius Lottus, the XIII Century inventor of the spreadsheet. That was more a game of tag, where each contributor would write a chapter and then nominate the next one, but having discussed the topic at length, we came to the conclusion CW has rules and here they come:

  1. it should never start consciously as we did with the story of Georgius Lottus. Proper Millennial CW starts spontaneously: i.e. someone writes some silly statement, and whoever sees it can build on it, and so on
  2. every addition must make (sort of) sense in its own right, but must be connected to the previous ones. The Stream is a story, and each author must keep the reader in mind.
  3. keep individual contributions under 1,000 characters
  4. the style of the Stream can be humorous, or tragic or academic or scientific or whatever. However, it cannot change too often, lest readers be confused and lose interest
  5. it’s OK to introduce new characters, but don’t overdo it.
  6. it’s funnier if many people take turns
  7. it’s funnier if snappy
  8. the initiator does not own it, the biggest contributor does not own it.
  9. be careful in using “closing” statements (like the death of a character) as it may make difficult for others to follow up
  10. it may be acceptable to add a #CW tag after the stream has started (still under review as it may conflict with #1)

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