Web 2.0, Knowledge, and Splitting Hairs

August 31, 2006

Web 2.0 is taking quite a beating this week. According to The Register,

Five years after the first internet bubble burst, we’re now witnessing the backlash against Web 2.0 and a plethora of me-too business plans, marketing pitches and analyst reports exploiting the nebulous phrase.

Tim Berners-Lee, the individual credited with inventing the web and giving so many of us jobs, has become the most prominent individual so-far to point out that the Web 2.0 emperor is naked. Berners-Lee has dismissed Web 2.0 as useless jargon nobody can explain and a set of technology that tries to achieve exactly the same thing as “Web 1.0.” (Quote from The Register).

I think Dana Gardner might be on the right track:

What we are up to here is actually Knowledge 2.0, and it is at least a millennial trend, and it shows every indication of having anthropologic impact. That is, Knowledge 2.0 is changing the definition of what it is to be a modern human, individually and collectively.

So while the get-off-your-cloud folks are poking needles into the Web 2.0 bubble, I have a better idea. Recognize that as you do that you are actually breathing in some of the newly freer air of knowledge, and exhaling some added bits of your own perceptions back in. Each metaphoric breath in and out is changing the world, like the proverbial butterfly flapping its wings in Timbuktu that then affects the weather in New York. (Quote from Dana Gardner’s BriefingsDirect)

I will admit that the term “web 2.0” is over-hyped, but it can be a convenient way to think about how the web is shifting from a one-way mechanism to push information out to the world and moving toward a two-way discussion between the author and her readers. It is this user participation, user created content and the collective intelligence or knowledge generated by large groups of users that makes what we are seeing so incredibly powerful. So, we can argue about what to call it, or we can accept that participation and knowledge are becoming more prevalent on the web and find more creative ways to tap into the knowledge of our users.

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Web 2.0 Trademarks

August 30, 2006

Most of you remember the havoc in the blogosphere when CMP sent a legal letter to a non-profit organization to protect the joint CMP / O’Reilly trademark for the term “web 2.0” as used in conference titles. Tim was on vacation, the blogosphere went nuts, and the whole controversy spiraled out of control, and when Tim returned from vacation, he was able to calm the situation, but it was never permanently resolved.

Today Tim announced a narrowing of the scope of the web 2.0 trademark as part of an announcement about the Web 2.0 Expo and technical conference:

In conjunction with the announcement of the new Web 2.0 Expo and technical conference, I’m also pleased to report that CMP has agreed to narrow the scope of enforcement of the Web 2.0 trademark registration. It will only seek to protect the Web 2.0 trademark if another other Web 2.0-related event has a name that is confusingly similar to the names of the actual events co-produced by CMP and O’Reilly, such as our events “The Web 2.0 Conference” and “The Web 2.0 Expo.”

This is consistent with my original understanding about why the trademark filing was made. I must confess that I’ve always thought that the point was simply to protect the event names, as evidenced by the fact that we have always put the trademark notice at the end of the conference names on the website that O’Reilly produces, “The Web 2.0 Conference.” (Quote from the O’Reilly Radar)

This is a pragmatic approach to protecting a trademark without causing undue difficulty for the rest of the industry, especially when a term is becoming as common as “web 2.0”. One of Tim O’Reilly’s greatest strengths is seeing the big picture and doing the right thing for the industry as a whole.


Collaborative Journalism at Wired

August 29, 2006

According to Wired news,

In an experiment in collaborative journalism, Wired News is putting reporter Ryan Singel at your service.

This wiki began as an unedited 1,059 word article on the wiki phenomenon, exactly as Ryan filed it. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to do the job of a Wired News editor and whip it into shape. Don’t change the quotes, but feel free to reorganize it, make cuts, smooth the prose, or add links — whatever it takes to make it a lively, engaging news piece. (Quote from the Wired Wiki)

Ross Mayfield reminds us that collaborative journalism does not always go according to plan:

Last time someone tried this it was a disaster, but Wired News has boldly put an article about wikis into a Socialtext wiki for anyone to be a Wired editor. … This is of course different from the LA Times experminent as there is a clearly stated goal. It will be interesting to at least watch. (Quote from Ross Mayfield’s Weblog)

I am particularly interested in this experiment, since I am in the process of doing something very similar as part of an O’Reilly Media project. Danese Cooper and I are in the process of writing a book on the Art of Community, which will start as a wiki. We are taking a similar approach by writing an initial first draft of the chapters, posting them to the wiki, and allowing the community to be our editors / collaborators on the project. We are still working on the details, but I hope to learn from the Wired news experiment.

On a related note, I couldn’t help making a couple of edits to the Wired Wiki. This should be fascinating to watch.


Foo, Cats, and Kids (AKA Sunday Morning at Foo)

August 27, 2006

Despite being exhausted after two late nights of Werewolf (thank you to the kind werewolf who killed me off so I could go to bed last night), this has been a great morning of talks with a number of interesting themes.

Danese Cooper, Karl Fogel, and I led a session about the Art of Community, and we had a great discussion around the topic. We talked about how open source and other developer communities tend to start with a more tangible end goal, while other communities (social networking, communes) tend to be more about the evolution of the community than about the end goal. The tools also tend to be different across different communities with web 2.0 communities having intuitive user interfaces, while developer communities tend to use the techie tools that developers are comfortable with. The barrier to entry is also a bit higher for many developer communities while anyone can easily get involved in web 2.0 communities. We had an active and engaging discussion with participation from many different people. We even had a mascot for the session.

Geir Magnusson led a discussion about Web 2.0: Fact or Fiction starting with the caveat that he really didn’t know much about web 2.0, so he was hoping to learn from the group discussion. We talked about the definition of web 2.0 as a new method of using data: collective intelligence / user created content along with combining existing data in new ways (mashups). It was such a great discussion that I did not

Danny O’Brien talked about Cat Poop vs. Blogging related back to brain infections (you had to be there), and he even recruited a little help for the session.


Saturday Sessions at Foo Camp

August 26, 2006

Some of the morning was spent on the “Cylon Raider” project, but I attended several very interesting sessions. Here are a few of the highlights (these notes are a bit raw … in other words, forgive the typos):

In Democratization / Disintermediation of traditional media led by Jay & Kevin (Digg)

  • Mainstream media excels in areas where you have limited distribution (only so many people can be invited to White House press briefings, for example).

  • Media is changing and has a symbiotic relationship with the new media. Editors might look at sites like Digg to see user behavior trends and use that as an instant feedback mechanism to direct the edited content. Digg relies on traditional media for much of the content.

  • Competition for advertising dollars is really hitting the traditional media. Local newspapers are losing ad revenue to other advertising mediums – classifieds is where it’s starting, but it is involving into other areas. Bloggers who do reporting rather than relying on mainstream reporting will get more attention (TechCrunch) and more advertising dollars.

  • Opinion pieces and magazines are being eroded by new media

  • New media excels for speed of information vs. the accuracy / fact checking of traditional media.

  • Sites like Digg usually have a self-policing mechanism within the community.

In Passionate users – Kathy Sierra

  • People are passionate about the things they kick ass at, and they have a higher resolution experience – they pick up on things that the rest of us would not (jazz musicians, etc.) We want to create this for our users.

  • It’s not about the tools – it’s what you do with them – focus on the end result, not the tool.

  • Decisions are usually based on emotions – we are just not always rational / logical.

  • Keep users engaged.

  • Don’t want to interrupt the flow of what you are doing – if the software interrupts and become aware of the tool, the flow and outcome are disrupted.

  • Learning increases resolution.

  • If you want the user to RTFM, we need to write a better FM.

  • Pictures and surprises get people’s attention.

Doctor Who vs. Snakes on a Plane: Lessons from Fan Culture for Community Builders. Annalee Newitz

  • Fan culture – free collaborative narratives often incorporating elements of commercial culture.

  • Lessons:

  • Not all fans are good producers of fan culture

  • beaing a fan makes you a better creator

  • communities united around collaborative storytelling can last for an extremely long time.

  • Not all fan culture can be turned into commercial culture

  • communities can be quickly united by satire, but satire doesn’t last

  • “buzzers” do not equal “buyers”

Note: The fan culture session relates back to the passionate users session. Fan culture seems to have some of the most passionate users coming together on a topic. We also had an interesting discussion about how more of these fan communities seem to be based around sci-fi. I’m not sure whether this is because we had a really geeky audience or because people who watch sci-fi tend to be a bit more fanatical than the rest of the population.


Cylon Raider at Foo

August 26, 2006



They are doing a flyover for Google Maps at noon today, and we decided that the O’Reilly campus needed a Cylon Raider. More pics on Flickr.


Friday Foo

August 25, 2006

People camp.

We hung out in a big tent with tags projected on the roof of the tent.

We had fire.