Has web 2.0 gone mainstream?

Given the statistics in this 2007 report from Avenue A Razorfish and recent anecdotal feedback from non-geek friends, students and relatives web 2.0 is firmly entrenched in the mainstream.

Ordinary people regularly get their news by checking online newspapers, flick through YouTube when they are bored, share links to online media and upload family photos onto Facebook.

Heritage media is unable to provide fast enough access to news in a crisis. So when events like the recent Mumbai attacks or the New York plane crash occur ordinary folks turn to social media for their real time news updates.

Since the launch of the iPhone and other smart phones (like my beloved HTC Dual Touch) ordinary people are also discovering that they can access web services via their mobile devices relatively easily.

This all adds up to web 2.0 being mainstream. It also means that it’s not just about geeks anymore. This is borne out on Twitter, where recently a bunch of lawyers have been using it to communicate with each other.

It is not a bad thing that the time of the geeks is over for web 2.0, it means that the geeks are moving on to the next big thing. More about that later …

[Image source: Avenue A Razorfish]

Future of the web

This chart from 2007 shows the trajectory of the web future moving in a straight line from where we are now (or were in 2007) to the future of web 4.0 and beyond. But I don’t think that the future of the web will such a simple story.

Innovation always comes unexpectedly and from the periphery. What we know will be changed by the next wave of innovation just as our world was changed by web 2.0 and its associated new business models.

What is termed web 3.0 is pretty much here already and is merely being tweaked. But it is the next generation of web that is up for grabs. I’m watching out for the next disruptor. It might not even be a cutting edge technology. Instead it might be an existing technology used in a new way or in a new context. Remember that mobile phone text messaging was old technology that resonated in a new way with younger mobile phone users and generated an entirely new business model.

None of us know what the next generation of the web holds. But we do know that work being done now in artificial intelligence, new interfaces (like Microsoft Surface), wearable computing and semantic computing are all possibilities.

One thing is certain, the next big thing will surprise us in one way or another. Once it is here it will seem obvious, but as usual it isn’t obvious until it gets here. That is the way of the future.

News is really changing

There has been much talk of the death of mainstream media and the impact of the blogosphere on news gathering and journalism.  People have pontificated long and loud about the rise of citizen journalism.

But it seems that many have failed to see the breadth of this change. Thus not only is how we collect and disseminate news changing – from print newspapers and magazines to other kinds of news gatherers like citizen journalists and bloggers.  We are also seeing an evolution in the way that mainstream media can be consumed and brought together with other non-traditional news sources.

people-browsr.jpgA really interesting example of this changing nature of visualisation of mainstream news and the ability to link it to informal kinds of news (like microblogging) is Peoplebrowsr.

This application is still in alpha, and it is one of the more interesting ones that I’ve seen in the past few months.

While it has a bunch of really neat features that my inner geek loves,  there is one that has really got me thinking.  It is the one where you can click on a mainstream news source – like CNN – and then click on keywords in the newsfeed to find out what people are saying about that keyword on Twitter. This is a really revolutionary capability. It means we can move from formal news media sources to informal discussions about the news within a single interface.  Further we can then interact directly with those informal discussions.

In the screenshot below is the CNN news feed on the left and then upon clicking the phrase “John Updike” the panel on the right shows the tweets on that phrase.

Here we are seeing social computing technology being used to mashup mainstream media with information about social news in a new way.

And so the news revolution continues…


Shanks’ Pony (a.k.a. taking a walk)

This fine institution – shanks’ pony – has been a vital part of human transport for generations. It is an old-fashioned term that means travelling by foot.

I’ve been experimenting with this novel concept all week. Walking between appointments in the city during the business day (rather than catching a taxi).

Some benefits of walking like this include:

  • getting some exercise
  • it’s cheap (in fact it’s free)
  • getting some fresh air
  • thinking time
  • lower carbon footprint

One thing that is making this possible for me is using a rolling laptop bag. Otherwise the thought of carrying around all my stuff (including laptop & work stuff) would be too depressing.  This wheeled bag has been a really good investment.

Goal setting is not enough

Many time and productivity experts recommend goal setting and suggest writing down goals to help focus on them. But what is it really that stops us from achieving those goals?

Perhaps we are starting with the externals – i.e. the goals – before looking at the internals? We need to look at our goals in a different way if we really want to make changes in our life.

The internals really need to be aligned to achieving the goal otherwise it is just a struggle. Here are some of the things I do:

1. Look at the goal and check if it aligns to personal values & desires.
2. Identify habits of thought or behaviour that help or hinder achievement of the goal, work out how to reinforce the positive ones and minimize the negative ones.
3. Define the required action steps for achieving the goal, set target dates, write them down & tell other people about them (that makes it harder to weasel out later).
4. Ensure that the goals are S.M.A.R.T.
5. Monitor progress and adjust plans accordingly.
6. Use affirmations to reinforce goals and new habits.
7. Don’t give up, be persistent.

The key here is aligning internals – values, desires, thoughts, habits and behaviour – with the goals and linking them to structured plans of action.

Another important thing to realise is that we are unlikely to achieve mastery of new ways of thinking or doing immediately. There is evidence that expertise can take up to 10,000 hours to achieve. So there will be stumbles and failures at first. It is important to persist through these – and this is where the affirmations come in handy.

But what matters most in achieving goals is persistence, as Calvin Coolidge once said:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Ada Lovelace Day is 24 March 2009

Ada is an amazing role model for women in science and technology – more here. I’m always surprised to hear from people who have studied computing or programming but who don’t know about Ada.

Also worth looking at – to put Ada’s achievements in context – is Women’s  Status in Mid 19th-Century England by Helena Wojtczak. Women have come a long way since then but we still need to be watchful for our rights to education and participation.


The User Revolution & IT

300px-Cnut13Caught up with Tom Austin at the Gartner conference in Sydney in late 2008 and he shared his perspective on the web 2.0 user revolution and its impact on IT.

Tom started out by asking how organisations fell so far behind user & internet trends. He noted that in business attention follows budget. And the IT budget is focused on delivering SLAs and applications that support the business, keeping the lights on not on innovation.

According to Tom businesses are not seeking out richer more sophisticated ‘bleeding edge’ technology that enables people to get new & better jobs. Then he asked the question “Where is real innovation happening?”

He argued that maximum innovation happens at grassroots with users in how they apply technology. Commenting that maximum innovation happens at the periphery and not at the centre, which is the space occupied by enterprises. From Tom’s perspective “web 2.0 catalyzes consumerization and five major mutually reinforcing discontinuities”. The discontinuities, that mutually reinforce each other, are:

  1. open source
  2. SaaS
  3. global class
  4. web 2.0
  5. consumerization

The buzzword arc that reflects this includes: on demand, IT utility, Saas, and cloud. He noted that “users are doing this [i.e. buying access to web 2.0 applications or services] on their corporate cards as if it is a lunch” or are using things like using iPhones instead of following the corporate standards.

Also once users start using “global class systems” like Amazon or eBay where they don’t care what browser or OS you are using it changes user expectations of what corporate IT should provide.

This is major disruption that is enabling users to access global class systems outside of the IT department. So Tom sees IT departments as competing against the great entrepreneurial wave that is seeking to be the next Google.

This all means that IT is changing, and the changes are in the operational tempo of IT departments:

enterprise v internet
project cycles = years v hours
project life spans = decades v months

According to Tom (and I agree) “most IT organisations cannot do both of these well – CIOs need to realise they can’t do it all”. There is generally nothing more fatal than a corporate IT department that thinks it gets web and web operational needs.

Some more gems from Tom include:

“demographics is destiny”

“you can predict for groups of people how they use technology ”

“decision makers are the 60 year old group”

“rabble rousers are the 23 year old group”

“with democratization of the technology it means that the 2nd group can now get their own technology and know how to use it”

“even in companies with 2000 or more than 15% of knowledge worker use their own notebooks at work”

“data shows that IT & non IT staff use web 2.0 technology also ”

“75% end users are using web 2.0 applications from work”
“77% IT pro users are using web 2.0 applications from work”

“both groups report they think only 40% of other staff using same”

All of this is real food for thought for corporate IT. Trying to hold back this tide of user empowerment might make them seem a little bit like King Canute.

[Picture: King Canute]

Required history for anyone considering online marketing

Jeremiah Owyang’ post on A Chronology of Brands that Got Punk’d by Social Media should be required reading for all marketers seeking to venture online.

Some of the issues in these marketing disasters include:

  • lack of openness & authenticity
  • just not getting the community & what made sense to them
  • not getting that there is often a community out there
  • that the consumers were able to talk back about the campaign
  • the message did not resonate positively with the community
  • the message annoyed the crap out of the community & galvanised them into some kind of action
  • the message or brand got subverted and used to further another cause (e.g. brandjacking)

What has changed & what do we need to do?

The answers are pretty simple.

  • Authenticity and transparency are key – be open, tell the truth.
  • It is getting harder to keep secrets with mobile devices and camera everywhere – own up to bad stuff, follow good crisis management principles (NB: opens pdf Principles of Crisis Management in a Viral Age).
  • Bad behaviour and bad products get outed very quickly these days – develop rules of engagement for staff so they know what is acceptable behaviour, if bad stuff happens own up. I am a Civil Servant shows how rules of engagement can be done.
  • Consumers can now share their displeasure and mobilize fellow consumers quite easily – if consumers voice  their anger engage with them, listen to their concerns, and don’t be defensive.
  • If you annoy people it can go around the world in minutes via channels like Twitter (refer Motrin Moms for great example of this) – so monitor reputation online as a matter of course so you are aware of what’s going on.

The success stories – like Dell moving from ‘Dell Hell‘ to ‘Dell Community‘ are the result of hard and consistent work, dedicated resources and a willingness to embrace openness and authenticity.

It is really worthwhile to learn from the experience of others before dipping a toe into the somewhat murky waters of social media.

Cloud Computing – are we there yet?

Way back in the early 1990s Sun Microsystems had a slogan “the network is the computer”. It did not make sense to any of us back then. However, today it is a different story. Today we are rapidly moving our personal applications into the Cloud sometimes perhaps without even realising that it is happening.

Here’s some examples of how we’re already using cloud computing in our personal lives:

* Gmail & Google Calendar for all your email and appointments
* Facebook for all your friends
* LinkedIn for all your business contacts
* Blogger, WordPress or another hosted blogging platform for your diary

It might be time to make a backup of some of that info that you’ve got floating around in the cloud. Only a few months ago I was unable to log into Gmail for 3 days. And recently there was a total data loss for JournalSpace blogging platform, where all blogs going back about 5 years were wiped out. What price then cloud computing?

There is some way to go yet before we can really trust the cloud. But rest assured it is coming. In the future people will laugh at the quaint idea that we once had stand alone computers and storage.