Web 2.0 + Babyboomers + Soccer moms

February 15th, 2010

Recently, the site “ReadWriteWeb” published an article about Facebook becoming the One True Login (using your Facebook account to log into different services online). ReadWriteWeb itself incorporates Facebook connect. This article was ranked very high in Google, so that if you did a search for “Facebook login,” this article would appear next to links for Facebook.com.

So, what happens when you add old people and soccer moms into the mix?

Apparently, a lot of people still don’t understand how to read an address bar or manage their bookmarks. To access Facebook, they simply Google it and click the first link, not paying attention to the domain. It’s debatable whether they even know what a domain is. So when this article was ranked very high in Google searches, they clicked it when it appeared first. Then, because this site has a Facebook widget on the side, they thought they were actually LOGGING IN to Facebook. So imagine their frustration when they couldn’t navigate Facebook…because it was a completely different site. The poor dears had no idea.

Now commence the stream of comments rolling in from disgruntled grandmas and granddads:

Gladys Louis Davis: “Ok If I have to I will comment,I love facebook so right now just want to log in if thats ok with you..lol Keep up the good work…”

John Blair: “The new facebook sucks> NOW LET ME IN.”

Kathy: “When can we log in?”

Then people started getting desperate, wondering why Facebook had changed, and pleading to get it back the way it was — never once realizing THIS WASN’T FACEBOOK.


Ann Morgan: “I just want to log in…………”

M arvin Scott [sic]: “wtf is this bullshttttttttttt all about. can i get n plzzzzzzzzz”

Janet Pacholski Widner: “All I want to do is log in, this sucks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1”

Dawn Norsby: “Can we log into face book? This is crazy I want to get all my info off and be done with this. I recently moved from MN to SC Myrtle Beach and facebook was a great way to keep in touch with family and friends but this is getting to be to difficult.”

Judy Graham: “HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

And on and on…

Since then, ReadWriteWeb had to post a qualifier at the beginning of the article:

Dear visitors from Google. This site is not Facebook. This is a website called ReadWriteWeb that reports on news about Facebook and other Internet services. You can however click here and become a Fan of ReadWriteWeb on Facebook, to receive our updates and learn more about the Internet. To access Facebook right now, click here. For future reference, type “facebook.com” into your browser address bar or enter “facebook” into Google and click on the first result. We recommend that you then save Facebook as a bookmark in your browser.

It’s an interesting debacle, albeit funny at the expense of these poor people. More and more older adult users are flocking to services aimed at younger, savvier demographics. Will there ever be Web 2.0 services that cater to the older demographics’ needs? And that can get them away from our Facebook (and similar) services? I really don’t think we can all exist in the same online ecosphere comfortably. I wouldn’t want to run into my mother at my favorite bar downtown; likewise, I don’t want her anywhere near my Facebook or Twitter feeds.

And obviously, problems arise that we could never even dream of…like a bunch of people thinking a site called ReadWriteWeb could in any way be Facebook. Sadly, many of the people who commented have no idea they were wrong to start with. They probably made it back to Facebook eventually, thought the “layout problems” were “fixed,” and wrote a thankful wall post, thinking Facebook admins would see it.

Also, why do thirteen year olds and their grandparents type the exact same way?


Web 2.0verdose

February 10th, 2010

Before I discuss the latest reading, I want to mention that I took a new screencap and revised the first frame of my previous post.

Now, onto Web 2.0 digital storytelling.

Weird thoughts are brewing after reading this article.

I’m beginning to think Web 2.0 is a little too over-analyzed. O’Reilly’s article was good – it hammered out a lot of the internet’s architectural evolution and cultural shifts, painting a picture of a dynamic infrastructure, and also encouraged me to ponder the future of digital media. I’m not completely sure that today’s article really said anything.

It went on about Web 2.0 a bit, and tried to wrap its head around the definition of digital storytelling, and talked about the people aspect, and how we can use it at school. But seriously – what did it say? What was its message? To be honest, I felt neither educated nor inspired to create anything after reading this. In fact, I felt a little bogged down by realizing just how many rules people try to place on this medium, and how desperate we are to define it. Is there a right or wrong way to tell a story digitally? Does it help to try to figure out the core of its peculiar success? It just is what it is, and I’m okay with that.

I think the bottom line is this: there are many, many ways to engage in digital storytelling. The tools are out there to play around with it yourself, whether you’re a pro or a newb. It’s an interesting way to connect with people and express yourself, no doubt. So do it. Or don’t. Point is, it’s there if you want it.

I don’t mean for this to sound too cynical, but I think I’m getting a Web 2.0 overdose. I am still an internet enthusiast in the nerdiest of ways.

Web 2.0: It's all about the community

February 1st, 2010

My guess is had this article been published in 2010 rather than 2005, Kevin Rose and his team at Digg would have gotten hefty mention (especially since they’re now keynote speakers at O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 Expo). Web 2.0 has continued to evolve in the last 4 ½ years, and I think Rose’s projects in particular are a poster child for its progress. Specifically, the user-driven community is the inspiration for most Web 2.0 innovations.

For those unfamiliar with Kevin Rose or Digg, he is a former TechTV host/producer who left the channel shortly after it merged with G4. In late 2004 he officially launched Digg, a pet project that he hoped would encompass the best aspects of Web 2.0, but would also challenge the interface enough to continue to evolve. Rose’s main intention was to experiment with user-controlled media. Digg primarily serves as a news aggregator, similar to Slashdot in content, but different in that stories are promoted by users instead of a team of tech pros and editors (other influences include sites like Fark and Delicious). Stories that gain enough votes, or diggs, are visible on the front page, guaranteeing broad exposure. Likewise, stories that are inaccurate or otherwise useless can be “buried.” A simple member-based comment section for each story also utilizes the vote system.

In the five years that Digg has been around, it has had a profound influence on Web 2.0 evolution. We now take user-generated/user-promoted sites for granted, but it wasn’t that long ago that the internet was more of a one-way supply and demand, with a service always being the supplier and the user always being the demander, as detailed by O’Reilly. The relationship was very impersonal, with little to no interaction, let alone contribution from the user. The user community itself was very limited – sometimes they could link up and share info, but it didn’t go far beyond that, nor was it taken all that seriously, even in the early Web 2.0 days (and definitely not in Web 1.0).

Digg’s promotion of heavy user participation shot it to internet superstar status very quickly, and caused major internet players to take notice. The simple concept of intense social integration and user input (O’Reilly says successful Web 2.0 companies should trust users as co-developers) is what drove the success of Digg. The site architecture was consistently adapted to reflect the user community’s desires, not the other way around. It wasn’t long before most popular sites incorporated similar user-based voting systems, even if it’s just “liking” a comment with a little thumbs up (yeah, that basically started because of Digg). These social systems are crucial for allowing the community to have a say in what they need, and also helps them stay connected with each other, which in turn keeps them invested in the site.

Within the powerhouse of the online social movement, there are definitely other key features that make Web 2.0 evolution unique (and important). The internet gives everyone a voice, and when used appropriately, can prove to be extremely beneficial for all parties involved.

The shift from personal websites via services like Geocities to personal blogs is one major development. Individual space online isn’t a new concept, but the content is. Initially, personal sites were unorganized and lacked focus. They were basically About Me’s that had no structure in terms of visual flow and subject matter. Oftentimes all content was housed on one massive page rife with blinky things and Comic Sans font. The user had little to no guidance about how to portray their online presence. The advent of blogs (both written and photo) allowed users to carve out their internet identities while also providing an easy-to-use platform for organizing their content: blog posts, link menus, picture albums, etc. Within the blogging community there is also a plethora of services that can cater to everyone’s style: traditional sites like Blogger or WordPress, or more real-time stream-of-consciousness types like Tumblr. Another advance in blogging that I feel is indicative of Web 2.0 evolution is the ability to aggregate all of one’s personal sites into one. For example, if you have a WordPress blog, Tumblr, Delicious account, and flickr account, it is easier than ever to associate each of those services with one another, outside of merely linking. If you have new links bookmarked on Delicious and new photo on Flickr that you want to share, they can simultaneously appear on your preferred main site, making it simple and efficient to keep your content streamlined and easy-to-find. In the days of Web 1.0, your only resource would be housing everything together or directly linking (probably in a frame menu…). This makes it easier for users to follow one another and share their interests.

An excellent point brought up by O’Reilly is the shift in P2P services. I don’t know much about P2P architecture, but it seems that in the heyday of services like Kazaa or WinMX, the infrastructure was heavily centralized and inefficient. With the advent of torrenting, as O’Reilly says, “every client is also a server.” This means that the success of a particular torrent is dependent upon not only how many users have it, but how many are willing to share. The more sharers (seeders), the faster you can get what you want. As a measure of good etiquette, each user is encouraged to turn around and share, fostering a sense of community (notice how it keeps coming back to that?).

A short break down of some other shifts I notice are as follows (all of which seem to foster the community):

Web 1.0 // Web 2.0

  • Guestbooks // Comments
  • Chatrooms // Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  • Heavy, overt advertising // Savvy viral marketing combined with engaging user participation; also, text ads catered to your interests
  • Closed source // Open source

Some negative shifts:

Web 1.0 // Web 2.0

  • Virtually free, open content // Must be member (the downside of community based systems: many people are inevitably left out of the party)
  • Relatively stable standards // More primary options (especially mobile) mean a more divided internet (read about the Splinternet)
  • If you’re on the internet, you’re on the internet // Continuing debates about Net Neutrality and corporate regulated access, shielded behind the euphemism of community

Some other articles of interest:

Martin Sargent’s Goode Job Snafu — What happens when a business tries to embrace social media without understanding the rules
Kevin Rose at Web 2.0 Conference — A breakdown of tips he gives for Web 2.0 startups

Doug Engelbart

January 25th, 2010

When I first started reading this article, I did not realize that it was written by Doug Engelbart. While many people may not recognize his name, they will recognize his most well-known invention: the computer mouse. This and several other innovations by Engelbart were unveiled in 1968 at the “Mother of All Demos.” Other keynotes at this convention included the first example of video conferencing, and crude versions of email.

This article, being written in 1962, offers an interesting look into some of the early concepts behind Engelbart’s soon-to-be-unveiled ideas. Hands down, he is one of the most important people in modern computing history. He had a keen insight into the fundamental human-computer relationship, which was necessary in order to innovate. Let’s take, for example, the mouse, one of the most basic peripheral devices that we take for granted.

At its inception, it wasn’t highly sought after. Sure, some people were interested in it, but no one could really wrap their head around how useful this device would be. This is because they couldn’t look deeper into the human-computer relationship the way Engelbart could, which we can see mapped out so clearly in his article. He didn’t just want to invent new things for computers in the 60’s – he wanted to deconstruct the fundamental interface, and then cater tools to this relationship. This is why many of his early innovations laid the groundwork for things we use today: email, networking, work applications, and of course, the mouse.

Videos of his 1968 Demo can be found here. You can see him demonstrate some of the ideas conveyed in the article.


January 21st, 2010

I’ve always lamented the terrible computer training students receive throughout their educational careers, from elementary school to college. Quality digital curricula has been reserved for the IT guys and CS majors. For those of us who consider ourselves tech savvy yet not necessarily professionals, or even hobbyists, this has been more than a little frustrating. It’s kind of like the way I learned piano: I taught myself how to play piano when I was little, and still dabble today. I’m really terrible, actually, but I can get through a few songs and it sounds like I know what I’m doing. But since I never had any consistent, formal training, my ability to understand the art and process of playing piano never developed. I can do a few things, but with no real insight into the hows and whys.

My tech experience has been comparable. I’ve been teaching myself little things along the way, and even briefly managed a website for a company I worked for. I can do a few cool things, but I can’t seem to tie it all together due to lack of consistent education, and also lack of time and/or personal interest on my part to keep up with the constantly changing standards – especially in those post-bubble burst days before the Web 2.0 phenomenon, when all the rules changed.

The revolution that was dreamed of in the days of the DynaBook was partially realized: we have superb, intuitive machines that are reliable, functional, and generally progressive. We can do anything from schoolwork, to business management, to hobbies like gaming, music composition, and art generation. We can own  traditional desktop towers, or super-mobile devices like laptops, netbooks, and pdas. Access to broadband means everyone is connected, and information is always at our fingertips. Physically, the revolution is here. But something is lacking. As Gardner Campbell said, the computer revolution was realized, but the true dawn of the information age has yet to be seen.

Gardner Campbell’s take on the personal cyberinfrastructure truly sums up what I’ve been thinking all these years, but could never put a finger on. We’re completely capable of moving to the next step in our digital evolution, but instead we’re stuck in this digital facelift. Ironically, as computing becomes more user-friendly, allowing the masses to participate in the digital world, the disparity between tech savvy pros and average users grows wider. Sure, everyone can use a computer and the powerful applications that come with it, but who actually knows what they’re doing, and why? Does anyone else find it absurd that one person can program their own applications while another is still trying to figure out how to use a firewall? The user-friendly method is great for accessibility, but has dramatically hindered our ability to think outside the box.

I love how kids were exposed to the DynaBook. Nothing was dumbed down, they weren’t confined to the realm of At Ease and Office products. They were taught not only how to use the device, but also to manipulate it. The quote “a computer is an instrument whose music is ideas” is so very fitting. Students need to be able to identify with interfaces, not be blind to them. The idea of mainstream education about basic cyberinfrastructure management is very appealing to me. This way, each student is at a basic level of competence when entering real-world situations. We will be able to think on a more dynamic level than before, pushing the boundaries and allowing for comprehensive participation.