Friday, October 21, 2005

The social web

(this entry is still being developed)
The social web (or web 2.0 as some call it) is nothing less than a paradigm shift in computing, communication, media and life. When someone says this, he or she is sometimes accused of being too futuristic and too excited about cutting edge technology. But I am more excited about the social, cultural, and economic implications of technology than technology itself. Mind you, many of the technologies involved in the social web aren't cutting edge at all!

As a way of showing that, see how researchers were working hard at making machines smart enough so we can talk to them and they would understand us. But that failed. Because we don't want to talk to machines. We want technologies to help us talk to each other quickly and easily, and that's what worked. Skype worked. Blogging and Podcasts and Wikis worked. The 'social' applications of technology worked.

Here are a few concepts that make up the 'gravitatoinal core' of web 2.0:

Web 1.0Web 2.0
People consume contentPeople generate content
dominant platform: desktopdominant platform: the web
directories (taxonomy)tagging ("folksonomy"): spontaneous organization through the actions of the group
stickiness syndication
personal websitesblogging
Britannica OnlineWikipedia

There are now browsers, like Flock, that focus on enabling you to take advantage of new web contribution technologies, providing practical, built-in support for blogging, shared favorites, shared photos, and RSS.

Media is one of the areas affected most by this shift. 'Citizen reporting' is rapidly becoming part of mass media. Anyone can report anything on his or her own blog. True, it is fairly unlikely that many people will read your blog (there are about 15 million blogs now, increasing by 2 million a month), but good citizen reporters will stand out.

Check the 'Social Machines' feature in the August issue of MIT Technology Review. It gives a very good look at what people are doing and the smart application that are coming out to help us become more social using technology. Also, while at it, check their very interesting blogs at

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