Week 4: Web 2.0

The number-one joke about this week of INFS1602 is that “they’re teaching us Facebook”. It’s a fun twist on the topic but I think there’s a bit more to it than that (;

(Source: Google, leader of the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of 84 firms that develops Android, which is based on the open source operating system GNU/Linux. I should add that I’m getting much of this information from Wikipedia and that Google Maps is a “Web 2.0 poster-child”.)

Big ideas for this week include:

  • Web 2.0 as a ‘read/write platform’. I’m a geek but even I shudder at that read/write analogy. Nonetheless, it works quite well. The internet is no longer about static pages (you were cool if you used Notepad to write HTML instead of Freewebs/Frontpage) viewed through Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 (you were cool if you used Firefox in the early days). Normal people can contribute to the internet too – that includes yours truly, typing away on this WordPress blog.
  • Peer production. It’s almost too obvious to give the example of the French police using Ubuntu (‘law enforcement for human beings’?) but it’s an excellent one. I also appreciate how Patrick explained what the LAMP stack is, and I honestly didn’t know about committers either. And the SourceForge example he gave stuck pretty close to home; a project started by one of my childhood friends is currently project of the month. But Patrick is trying to teach business here! One of the key points he makes is that we rely on “technical, legal, economic, and social architectures”, otherwise this easily sways into tragedy of the commons.
  • Open innovation. Let’s say your business needs a creative solution to a tricky problem. One way you could get a really awesome solution is by setting up a contest on the internet. You’re tapping into the collective knowledge of millions of people who simply have a bit of spare time on their hands. Smith’s did exactly this with their ‘Do Us A Favour’ competition. The winner was Caesar Salad flavoured chips (lolwut).
  • Crowdsourcing. Instead of a competition, every contributes a little bit. But nobody is a winner – you just feel a bit better about contributing to a cause. You know, like Wikipedia.

The textbook reading for this week isn’t as obvious as I expected it to be. It’s helpful that they at least try to define vague terms like:

  • social media: applications of Web 2.0 for social interactions
  • Enterprise 2.0: when businesses use Web 2.0
  • collective intelligence: wisdom of the crowd
  • the network effect: the value of a network like Facebook is contingent on the number of users (and this is why, unfortunately, we never really picked up the Jabber/Google Talk protocol – and don’t get me started on Google Wave)
  • social networking: the use of websites to create online communities
  • viral marketing: use of the network effect to promote products
  • semantic web: machine-readable webpages (think XML)

Case studies for this week include InnoCentive (an open innovation brokerage organisation), Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (a crowdsourcing website), and Digg. In Tony’s tutorial we talked about the Digg effect, while I kept thinking ‘Lifehacker effect’ in the back of my head. Sometimes I wonder if I live in a different part of the internet.

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