Conference Notes

John Lewis, "Introduction to Web 2.0 Concepts", Mar 19

John Lewis, a Production Designer at Intergen kicked off the formal conference with a setting-the-stage presentation entitled Introducing Web 2.0 Concepts. He used a Mac.

Major change in the landscape last year, with the announcement by TIME Magazine that “YOU” are the winner of the Person of the Year. The power of Web 2.0 technologies has made this the case.

Agenda: What is Web 2.0?; the Case Against; a Web 2.0 Challenge

What is Web 2.0
Many people when asked for a definition of Web 2.0 readily give off a list of buzzwords — AJAX, RSS, Blogs, Wikis, tagging — and more. But what’s missing, is the definition in the middle. But let’s first look a day in the life of a Web 2.0 consumer, eg, planning a holiday trip to Samoa. There’s a lot of places that John can visit to consume different information from a variety of sites — ticket comparisons, travel wikis, youtube for videos on Samoa, and more. When coming back, John can upload his photos to Flickr for sharing with others.

So what exactly is Web 2.0? There’s no one definition; it means a lot of different things to different people. John said that we need to go through a journey to come to a definition. Four key things:

  1. Rich User Interfaces … Rich content in the browser, with rich interactivity. Standardization via the presentation layer is another key driver. AJAX is one of the standards. However, Web 2.0 is a lot more than just a specific design style.
  2. Data Supertransformimagicability … As a trend, we’re allowing our data to be a lot more free, and allowing users to access the data the way that they want it to. Eg, RSS
  3. The Users are the Point … Web 2.0 applications interact with the user as the point of existence. Sites such as Flickr are only useful because users contribute to them. Blogs are a fundamental part of this.
  4. Continuous Improvement … Web 2.0 sites deliver incremental improvements on an ongoing basis, rather than going for big bang deliveries. This also applies to infrastructure build-out; rather than going for a big bang with big iron, companies put in commodity-class servers when and as required.

The key point? Applications that get better the more people that use them.

The Case Against
John (appropriately) argued the counter-arguments to Web 2.0. Within Intergen, John indicated that there’s a healthy set of discussions about the pros and cons for “Web 2.0”. Various experts also weigh in on the case against, eg, the Tim Berners-Lee quote that ended “but that was what the Web was supposed to be all along.”

Jeffrey Zeldman argues that “Web 2.0” is just a marketing term to differentiate what’s going on now from the previous boom-and-bust. That is, it is an attempt to get a new round of venture capital.

Is Web 2.0 just another name for “Bubble 2.0”?

Web 2.0 Challenge
In concluding, John argued for four points:
1. Keep users front-and-center.
2. Re-imagine your UI for the benefit of the user.
3. Free your data … don’t lock it up in a single environment.
4. Your site will get inherently more useful, the more people that use it.

More Information
John works at Intergen. His blog is at Umami.

Questions & Answers
Q. Viral marketing requires considerable brain power. What does this mean?
The key to success is inherent uniqueness and specialness. We can’t copy what others have done to get the same outcome and result. It requires creative thinking and brain power to achieve such things.

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