Monday, January 29

Web 2.0 - after two classes...

...I find it interesting because I now listen to conversations with a completely different ear than I did before. In the two course I am teaching at Cooper Union and at Polytechnic, I discover that the concepts I thought were simple to understand are not necessarily agreed upon or understood.

When hear people discuss "Web 2.0", I hear the typical phrases:
  • "community generated content"
  • "mashable data"
  • "rich web user interfaces"
But what I do not hear is an explanation that has brought this step to our doorstep today. And will this be a harbinger of what will come.

My defintion of Web 2.0 circa Jan 2007
Funny, Howard Greenstein once referenced me in his description of Web 2.0 in an article - which lead me to write my own blogpost on the concept back in March 2006. At the time, I was riding the media wave much like everyone else. Loving this concept of "social media", building a podcasting company and thinking we had the market by the ear. But, I now look at the story with a different eye. For me, Web 2.0 is defined by the following principles:

  • Data must be free to "mash"
    Back in 1995, when I first learned of BLOBs, I kept thinking that BLOBs were the end-all, be-all. We could now store different types of content into a database and access it with minimial effort. Now, we could use a simple SQL query to get our content. The challenge was security, authentication, and other services on top of the database that hampered our efforts. Today, with the proliferation of APIs led by the energies of the web-services/XML revolution of 2000-2005, we have achieved a level of this by standardizing our protocols and allowing for managed access to the database. Include the speed of bandwidth from the server to the users client interface - and you are close approaching the speeds we saw on our 486 machines back in 1995 in terms of perceived performance - at a cost coming close to free.

  • Users must be able to contribute
    Instead of assuming experts are always correct because the tools for aggregation of opinion were always time-consuming and troublesome, today - polling the community on their opinion and their wisdom is simply a push button away - whether on a blog, on a wiki or an email message leading to a way to respond. By allowing for such community contributions, reputations are formed in ways that are not normally seen and users begin to feel the power of ownership through action.

  • Mashable acts extend beyond programming
    Instead of keeping this only in the realm of programming, mashing is an act of involvement that is part of the pendulum that is swinging back. Call it my political sensitivities, but the US has gone through 15 years of an interesting pendulum. From a recession, to a boom unlike any other, to an almost depression where a new government used fear to oppress and control our people, to a pentup energy to express and represent ourselves. Then with technology as the friction reducer, collaboration became possible - even from the desktop. And, due to our human need, we found channels to meet and collaborate off the 'net. Consider the number of non-profits and acts of physical presence that occurs on a regular basis - bringing down borders that normally were there because the obstacle for crossing was too high.
Web 2.0 is more than a short hand for technology - it ushers in a phase of collaboration and involvement by reducing friction once again. Now, we are able to speak and be who we want to be, what we want to do, with cheap resoruces allowing for the development and deployment of our dreams - whether as a videographer, social maven or what have you.

Just some of my thoughts gleaned from my students and my readings.

No comments: