Thursday, 25 March 2010

WEB101 - Learning Portfolio, Week 4 - What is Web 2.0?

Good grief, I think I'm going blind - SO much reading this week, I may have to get a bigger screen (or glasses)!

This week we started Module 2, which is all about Web 2.0. So what is Web 2.0? Well... after reading the required text by Tim O'Reilly, I'm not convinced it's much more than a marketing term, to be honest. I understand the need that some people have to put labels and buzzwords on things, but I don't really understand why we can't just look at the Web as a constantly evolving beast - just like human beings - and be done with it. Even Tim Berners-Lee labelled the term "Web 2.0" as "jargon" in an interview he did in 2006 with Scott Laningham of IBM developerWorks - and we all know how much I adore Tim. :>

My interpretation of Web 1.0/2.0 is mostly based on personal views derived from 15 years of experience working in IT, and reading the O'Reilly article didn't really sway my opinion that much. One such experience occurred while working at a publishing company in 2003-2006. I was in a meeting of senior staff, discussing the direction of the company's intranet, because at that time it was run by a small department of people who had fairly limited "online" experience, and it was always out of date. One group was arguing for more staff, and I was arguing to open it up, allow everybody to contribute so that the information would always be updated - it was a PUBLISHING company, after all, half the people on staff were authors or editors! But a couple of senior people were adamant that this would result in a complete debacle. At one point I uttered this line (which was subsequently repeated for months afterwards!): "Originally the web was like a TV - one-way, most people sat back and watched/read what other people produced. Nowadays it's becoming more like a PC - two-way, far more collaborative, people can create their own things and contribute. What do you want this intranet to be - a TV or a PC?" At that time I wasn't aware of the term "Web 2.0", but I still think it sums it up the progression of the Web quite nicely. :>

To digress slightly, one of the things I didn't agree with in O'Reilly's article is the characterisation of content management systems (CMS) as Web 1.0. Now, if he's referring to just enterprise CMS, then maybe - I remember working at a large company back in the early part of the decade where "CMS" was the buzzword - but what they were proposing was a big database chock-full of thousands of security levels and basically controlled by a few people. So yes, in that regard that particular type of CMS was probably more "TV" than "PC". However, as someone who originally hand-coded HTML back in the 90's, and who now develops websites using Joomla, I think Web CMS are very much "PC". Joomla (and indeed many of the other content management system website solutions that are currently in use today) is an open-source content management system which distinctly separates the "look and feel" of a website from it's content, and therefore allows just about anybody to easily add content to their own website. I've built Joomla websites with chat forums, blogs and commenting enabled on e-commerce product listings(similar to Amazon). Yes, in most instances somebody needs to build the infrastructure that they need, mostly because free things like Blogger don't allow them to achieve exactly what they want to achieve for their business, and building a customised, database-driven site still requires some coding abilities - but they control their own content. If you look at the Web 2.0 Meme Map on the aforementioned site, it even states "User positioning: You control your own data" as being one of the characteristics of Web 2.0!

Similarly, I'm not sure about calling Napster a Web 2.0 app - even though it was a step beyond the old "static links on an HTML page" concept of mp3.com, it was still a central point with a central database that everybody went to, which ultimately made it pretty easy to sue and subsequently shut down. Although, everybody could contribute to that... so... hmm... maybe! I suppose these types of examples are precisely why nobody can clearly, 100% define what Web 2.0 is. :>

The first activity we had to do this week was about RSS, which I'm already up with so I won't go into that here. The second activity was to create a Delicious account and seeing I already had one, I decided to also kickstart Assignment 3 and create a new one specifically to fit into that assignment. Then of course I got sidetracked and created all the other things I'll need for that assignment too, meaning I STILL haven't finished Assignment 1! So... I'm off to make a cuppa and then I'm into it!

PS: Re that intranet - it took a while and I left that company about a year later - but I believe these days it's quite "PC". :>
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