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goon's Journal: The fog of tech - web 2.0

Journal by goon
Been a while. I wrote this quick article for Martin and it can be found at 2007FEB020931 & 2007FEB031726 on my flickr site, bootload & repeated it here for anyone who's interested. The title is a play on the term, 'fog of war'. As much as we try, we just cannot get a full grasp of what the future or near tech future holds. Just outside our reach, is something we just haven't forseen ...

The fog of tech - web 2.0

'... sorry for offtopic i just don't know how all this 2.0 stuff works. ...'

Me neither. But I've been thinking about what are the good bits to look at for a while. Web 2.0 is pretty much a created collective term coined by Tim O'Reilly & Dale Dougherty in a brain storming session. You can read the original article, What Is Web 2.0 [1]. In the brain storming session, O'Reilly & Dougherty looked at the differences between the old Web companies & the new ones popping up after the crash in 2001 & summarised them into a diagram called the Web2MemeMap which became the template of what consititues Web 2.0.

But is this really what is happening? Web 2 is after all a made up term describing an set of observations by some book & information publishers. Well yes and no. I'll start with the no because it highlights some shortcomings of the Web2 description.

No

Web 2 these days is a money making machine for information companies. Protected, loosely defined, describing whole slabs of technologies & methodologies that companies have used and can use to build what is essentially just another itteration of the first round web development. This is why it's so difficult to know what Web 2.0 really stands for.

The Web 2 meme also ignores visionaries like Dave Winer who created the technology for and demonstrated blogging and feeds with RSS. What you have here is the top down big business defining its view of the world to better its profitline (O`Reilly as an organisation are constantly looking out for emerging technology to sell to the Alpha geeks)

More than anything Web2.0 is a 'top down' view of what is happening, complete with self interests. Want to know what Web2.0 is? Well come to Web2 Summit where we tell you what Web 2.0 really is (with the attendent costs) as opposed to the lets hack what technology we find after looking at interesting problems & ideas, then organise a really cheap venue where anybody can just turn up as Winer recently demonstrated. The 'Big business Vs Hippy' approach is good in a way as it serves the fragmented market at different levels.

Yes

But supprisingly the original diagram really does describe some tech trends that where simply not as well exploited pre 2000 crash. For example in no particular order

* data: rss, atom and apis is available for a lot of sites

* rights to remix: with the Creative Commons license(s)

* components: using delicious to grab links, images from flickr, rss from your favourite news site

* perpetual beta: on the web nothing is ever finished & always in incremental development mode

* long tail: markets are fragmented into small groups of interested parties (ie: itunes, amazon)

* hackability: with an api and/or rss you can extract data with a bit of code rebuild it into something else on your own site

* mashing: with data via rss or api rebuild something unique like crime over google maps (chicagocrime.org)

* granular access: extract data on delicious by tag by person and topic.

* emergent behaviour: small companies or individuals building things & experimenting instead of a topdown big business plan

So if you have read this far and looked at the links I hope you can see Web2 a bit more clearly. But where are the good bits too look at?

Data

The area I'm increasingly focusing on is Data. For instance, "Who owns you?" If you don't own your own data or at least a copy of it, who does? To me it's data that really matters. Don't be distracted by the AJAX stuff too much. It's important but data is the key. Applications may change but your important data is what matters the most. This is why RSS, service API's matter.

You enter all your data into these fancy websites only to repeat the process over & over again. In the poorly designed or deliberately hobbled sites (Roach motels like the google reversal of the SOAP search api) you can never get your data back. Flickr, Delicious, Stickit are examples of sites that honour your data allowing you to extract it, reuse it and re-program the application via code not the keyboard.

One last concept thats not on the Web2MemeMap but explained in What is Web 2? is the concept of 'software written above the level of the single device'. This idea can be found in section 6 of Tims, "What is Web 2?" and expands on Dave Stutz's advice to Microsoft in his article, Advice to Microsoft regarding commodity software. Anyone who harnesses the Web as a computing platform can expect to gain considerable financial gain through control of that platform. This is useful to understand as key bits of infrastructure (Links via Delicious, Images via Flickr, etc) are snapped up to build that API.

Takeaways

* web 2.0 is a top down emperical description of new business & user models & technology created by O'Reilly for O'Reilly & information consumers

* the descritions of technology & models of both users & businesses who create them have basis in reality

* web 2 is top down. there is a bottom up description that tends to get drowned out or under reported by other developers not the 'oinioted ones'.

* web 2 as an idea is just as much an ideal as a description of a new approach

With that in mind a caution. Like all misunderstood or new technology, Web2 is also hyped a bit too seriously as a silver bullet to all problems and is really a small piece of an evolving technology.

Reference

[1] Its full title is a bit of a mouth full, What Is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software.

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The fog of tech - web 2.0

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