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The topics discussed here grow out of the bread-and-butter issues that confront my consulting and software clients on a daily basis. We'll talk about prosaic stuff like Membership Management, Meetings and Events Management and Fundraising, broader ideas like security and software project management, and the social, cultural, and organizational issues that impact IT decision-making.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Another view of this 2.0 thing

As you know, I've always been cautious of the marketing frenzy around "web2.0" even as I evangelize among non-profits for the use of some of this newer technology. I'm not the only one wary of the buzz. For example, I enjoy following the discussion in EDS's Next Big Thing blog. Coming from the heart of a major "old-time" tech company, the contributors here often have a different take on things from all the writers focusing on small tech firms we so often quote.

EDS fellow Charlie Bess, writing this week suggests the "Web 2.0" is not really a wave of significant innovation, but a period of consolidation. Tools like Ajax, RSS, XML he sees as "refinements" of innovations from the .com period.
Most of the things I see listed as Web 2.0 appear to be incremental improvements and not the radical changes that will be coming from more of a context computing approach, based on location, role, time, function ...
So what does Charlie want? In a related post several months ago, Charlie makes it clear that while Web2.0 techniques like Ajax access data more dynamically, the real paradigm change in his book will be when browser "pull" is replaced by push technologies.
The Web 2.0 concepts are focused on using data dynamically but in a pull fashion. Even though the [O'Reilly article] describes RSS as a push technology, I just don't see it that way. Turn off the refresh of your RSS reader and no new content - that's pull by my definition.
Charlie is also waiting for context-aware computing, where the application will know from the user, the time, the room the workstation is in and so on, just how to react to an input.

Another developer critical of the millennial tone of web 2.0 evangelism is Brady Joslin. His criticism comes from a different source. Last month in a post called "Quit with the Web 2.0 Silliness" he wrote "Web2.0 is as stale as Y2K". Cold, eh? His concern is that while indeed some new techniques have come into use, simply using them does not necessarily provide better applications:
The Web 2.0 buzzmachine would benefit from being a bit more critical of new web services. Don’t blog about Ajaxy sites just because they are Ajaxy. Communities sites don’t mean anything if they aren’t sustainable. A mashup isn’t cool just because it uses data from different services - does the service provide real value? Most importantly, just because a site does not employ the latest trends, this does not make it less valuable. Conversely, it is the elegance and efficacy of the chosen implementation techniques that matters, not the techniques in isolation.
So why all this hype if the technology is not really all that brand new?

James Lewin, writing in Small Business IT World, suggests it is a business response to the .com crash, a way to keep investors interested in web-based business:
The concept of "Web 2.0" is pure marketing. It was created by O'Reilly Publishing and MediaLive International when they were brainstorming conference ideas. They wanted to capture the idea that, far from having "crashed", the web was more important than ever, with exciting new applications and sites popping up regularly.
What do I think? I think users and technologists alike should be focusing on usability, flexibilty, and the addressing of bonafide organizational and business needs - not on the ability to stake a 2.0 claim. The new tools available in the last few years are very exciting - but is there really a web 2.0? The technologies grouped under that rubric are just a collection of recent newsworthy tools, techniques, and software features. Tagging, for example, is not a technology at all - it's just a program feature. We provide for tagging of people, organizations, and tasks in our Windows-based CRM. That can't be Web2.0 - it's not even in a browser!
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Comments on "Another view of this 2.0 thing"


Blogger David Geilhufe said ... (January 6, 2006 at 9:37 AM) : 

Michael, I agree with you entirely about how technologists should view Web 2.0. Even the "social" elements of Web 2.0 are an old story... the Well and other online communities did it all years ago.

BUT, the nonprofit sector as a rule, lags perhaps 5-10 years behind the commercial sector in technology adoption.

Web 2.0 is therefore more of a marketing slogan that gets people's attention and encourages them to consider technology solutions.

Netsquared is a good example of levereaging the "hype" into education, relationships, and hopefully outcomes. That is the real value of Web 2.0, IMHO.


Blogger Michael Stein said ... (January 6, 2006 at 9:47 AM) : 

David - well said... your last paragraph helps me underatand my own lapses into buzz when trying to excite my clients.


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