The Web 2.0 Evolution

So I turned up for the day at DCU. Witnessing the Marc Canter show was entertaining and there was a bit of tech discussion sprinkled on top. But the overwhelming topic for the day was…

Money

Yes, that’s an actual slide, taken out of context, from one of the company’s presentations. It was web 2.0 very much from a business person’s perspective (not surprising given that it was an EI event). “What exactly is this web 2.0 thing?” “What features and technologies do we need to adopt to get some of this web 2.0 money?” or “How can I tell that a company is web 2.0 so I can decide whether to invest?” Web 2.0 used as a noun or an adjective.

Here’s my take. From a developer’s perspective web 2.0 should be a verb, if anything. Ask “How can I web 2.0 my business?” Say “Our product is web 2.0ing”. It means you’re pushing things forward, doing things right this time, right by the web, right for the people. And you’re not quite sure what the final desination of your web 2.0ing will be (Hint: there is no final destination). You’re just trying to be valuable to somebody. Web 2.0 is not any one group of technologies or features. It is whatever makes sense and makes value for the people you affect. Web 2.0 is a vague, yet meaningful term that describes a movement, a journey. The reason there is no clear definition is that we’re not sure where we’re headed yet.

The most interesting things will happen without knowing exactly how they’re going to make money. Web 2.0ing should convey a sense of relinquishing control. Relinquishing control of people’s data, sure. Relinquishing control of taxonomy maybe. But most importantly, relinquishing control of your business plan. Admit that it’s difficult to predict who will use your software and how they will use it. Release it and be ready to adapt.

What is my problem? I don’t really have one. I’m not bashing Enterprise Ireland or the companies who presented at the event. They put on an interesting and valuable show. I have masses to learn about the business side of things and I’ll take every opportunity i can get. In one sense Web 2.0 is about the money. It’s a resurgence of venture capital interest in web companies. It’s not a case of they’re wrong, I’m right, or even that we disagree. I’m not trying to own the term, only give a different perspective (one that may be equally, if not more bullshitty, sorry). However slight a distinction it is though, it makes a difference to the audience at your conference and the ensuing discussion. Thursday’s event did contrast to the unconferences I’ve been at where the feeling really was “let’s push things forward”. I’d like to recreate that here in Ireland.

So we’ve had the Web 2.0 conference. How about a Web 2.0ing conference? I caught a whiff of it during Adam Green’s roundtable. There are hackers out there interested in pushing things forward. I want a regular get-together focusing on them (us). If you’re in teh Valley this summer look me up. And if another TechCamp happens in September I won’t miss it this time.

10 Responses to “The Web 2.0 Evolution”

  1. Fergus Burns Says:

    Great post

    The whole community needs to do a better job in working together. At the end of the day we need great developers to great great products – only way we can compete on a world stage.

  2. James Corbett Says:

    Great thoughts Rowan, I’d certainly be interested in a Web2.0ing conference and whatever follow ups to TechCamp we can come up with.

  3. Emmet Says:

    The next Techcamp is planned to go ahead on June 10th and 11th in Galway.

  4. r0wb0t Says:

    Nooooooo! Shit. Oh well, I am going to miss it again so :( Hope we can have another in a few months.

  5. David Barrett Says:

    Surely the goal should be to create the greatest product possible, buzz-words be damned?

    What has always worried me about the "web 2.0" movement, is that a company may decide to "web 2.0" their product offerings, and so decide to bung in AJAX, pastel colours, some DOM scripting effects, and then site back and wait for the money to roll in. Meanwhile, users come to the new application and are entirely confused.

    Take RSS feeds for example. Who uses them? Geeks. That’s who. And they are damn useful, TO GEEKS. But I’ve yet to see a usage model for RSS feeds which is useful for non-geeks.

    Non-geeks don’t have feed readers that they use… sure, Outlook may have an RSS reader built-in, but they won’t see the connection between the feed URL and the main Outlook window. Even the best browser feed reader, Safari, is pretty lame for keeping track of updates to several blog feeds.

    What’s the best alternative for non-geeks? A mailing list, which emails you whenever a blog has been updated. But mailing lists are, like, SO web 1.0… why would you have one of those up on your fancy web 2.0 blog?

    Web 2.0 is not synomous with a better product.

  6. r0wb0t Says:

    Well actually what I’m saying is that Web 2.0 is (or should be) synonymous with delivering a better product.

    What it’s not synonymous with is AJAX, pastel colours, RSS or any combination of technologies. Those are some of the things we have to play with at the moment to deliver better products but we have to keep refocusing on the end, not the means. Web 2.0ing isn’t an all or nothing change, it’s a process. If your users get confused by your changed application then that’s telling you something! Maybe you need to undo and try again.

    You’re right though. Delivering better products for users shouldn’t need a buzz-word.

    Re: RSS. I totally agree that the user experience is horrible for non-geeks. Future apps, browsers and operating system upgrades will, of course, address this. I believe we can make it a whole lot better.

  7. Justin Mason Says:

    Well said overall.

    However, I’d just like to comment regarding the "only geeks use RSS" line. this is rapidly becoming, frankly, horseshit — and oft-repeated horseshit at that, particularly in the Irish blogosphere, for some reason!

    Look: my *mother* uses RSS. she goes to a page she likes in Firefox; she sees the little "feed" icon in the URL bar; she drags and drops the URL icon into the feed reader, hit "OK" a couple of times, and she’s subscribed to a new feed. where’s the scary techie bleeding edge there?

    Note, however, that she doesn’t know it’s called "RSS", or that it includes "XML". she just knows that she’s got a new feed. that’s all she needs to know, and it’s perfect.

  8. David Barrett Says:

    Oh, just in case it seems that way, the "fancy web 2.0 blog" I was referring to was not YOUR blog, Rowan; it was the "fancy web 2.0 blog" of the hypothetical example company who was trying to "web 2.0" things instead of making a better product.

    I don’t think that Web 2.0 is about making things better. I think it’s about making things cooler. The amount of Web 2.0 products out there which (a) make no sense and (b) have a non-sensical business model, is just plain insane. But they often look cool, or use cool geek tools (or at least TRY to).

    One of the biggest problems with the Nakatomi parody is that it seemed impossible to actually make everything sound ridiculous enough so that people would know we were a parody. In fact, not soon after we launched the homepage were we informed of COMPETITORS which seemed to do exactly what Nakatomi was claiming… even though what we were claiming made no sense, had no substance, and didn’t describe anything.

    I think what you are trying to do is change the usage of the term Web 2.0, but that’s dangerous because you won’t be successful, and companies will take advantage of any attempt to legitimise Web 2.0 to waste everyone’s time and money with stuff that wouldn’t even get funding back during the bubble.

    The focus should always, ALWAYS, be on creating a great product. Your marketing should always focus on how your product is great. If it happens to get the label "Web 2.0", then that’s just a coincidence.

    The Web 2.0 phrase has been misused so much by now that it is essentially meaningless and, good intentions or no, I don’t think it can be legitimately redefined as being synonymous with "great product". In fact, given the amount of SHIT products which have the Web 2.0 sticker applied to their name, you’re not going to be able to redefine it.

    Justin, anecdotal examples are not proof of any larger trend. Do you have any statistics to back your argument up?

  9. Paul Watson Says:

    So how do we kick start the discussion amongst Web 2.0 developers in Ireland? I’ve found a good number of Irish Web 2.0 blogs in the past few days but it is a bit distributed. Mailing lists and then frequent dinners and events?

  10. r0wb0t Says:

    If we do get-togethers I’d like them to be about getting real. That means show and tell. Actual demos and as much working code as pos. You tell us what you’ve been working on. You ask for help or comments and we go from there. It’s not a marketing thing. Sure, feel free to show off whatever you’re proud of doing as long as you can handle critical discussion. It should be frank and honest and constructive. Help and ideas. I want us to be DevBuddies 😉 And, before you mention it James, yes I am aware that the domain is available!

    I like James’ skypecasting idea. I think it would be interesting to see if the contstraint of a single voice channel acually helps with focusing attention. And people could always break off later into individual skypes. Voice alone is not enough though. What it needs is screensharing.

    So first DevBuddies assignment: can you set up a VNC multicast in parallel with a skypecast? And for bonus points, be able to record both to video.