Thursday, September 29, 2005

Web 2.1: What might the BrainJam look like?

I think the theme for the event is quite simply "Technology powers Web 2.0, People power Web 2.1" Bottom line is that Web 2.0 means too many things for too many people - I agree with Tim Bray on this to a certain extent, though I also believe there is power in language and some simplifying of big concepts can go a long way towards furthering progress. Dave Winer is right in his approach, though I disagree with his conclusion - Web 2.0 is not just RSS.

In contrast to BarCamp, this won't be about coding as much as it is about using, creating and collaborating. Sharing is cool. Contributing is cooler.

So perhaps we come together to talk about what it is today, what we thought it was going to be and most importantly, what we want it to become.

What is Web 2.1?
  • Why it's not 2.0
  • A vision for the future (my angle on this is in the post I wrote earlier today - about technologists and business people coming together and trusting one another, and developing valuable tools)
  • Things we want to see - ideas and projects, existing or imagined
  • How do we spread the word? How do we explain Blogging to the world? What efforts are going on now?

Now the thing is, I don’t want to set too much structure here. I just want enough so that the energy of the participants is concentrated on something that matters. Perhaps the idea of Web 2.1 is too soon - but as those of us in the software industry know - there is usually one team taking care of the improvements on the last version, and another working on the next release, so I personally don't have a problem with the term in the proper context.

I think what differentiates this wave is that we can apply open source principles to everyday problems - whether it is a business idea, a non-profit, or just a personal passion, we can all come together to figure it out and move forward. Ultimately, I would like to produce a mindmap or something like it which everyone can contribute to...

Another important point - I had thought it might be cool to do some small co-brainJams in different cities, but realize this is going to be hard enough to coordinate locally - so rather than trying to go that route, it is probably best to let other people organize whatever they want to do, perhaps sharing the same themes, and participate via Skype and ICQ.

Keep the good ideas and positive vibes heading this way - it is making a difference already!

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Web 2.1: The Time is Right

This week has been an interesting one indeed. It seems the old adage about big ideas bubbling up through the collective conscious is dead on. In searching the blogosphere for Web 2.1 mentions I have come across dozens of postings added within the past week all on the same theme - what is web 2.0? Why is it different for everyone? Shouldn't it really be web 3.0? and similar items.

Some good ones come from Ken Yarnosh @ Technosight, Andrew Watson @ Changing Way, HyKu, Richard McManus @ Read/Write Web, Susan Mernit agrees about people at the center and Dion Hinchcliffe are just a few...

Most notable for the purpose of the Web 2.1 discussion is John Hagel's post on this subject which closes with the following:
While the Web 2.0 definition I propose may lead some people to focus attention on the technologies required to build this emergent platform, I agree with Tim OÂ’Reilly that it is more helpful to describe it as a mindset. Technologies alone can only do so much – they are ultimately only enablers. The real power is in the mindset that will be required to re-shape economic, social and legal frameworks to exploit the full potential of the technology.

I hope that these economic, social and legal issues get as much, if not more, attention in the forthcoming Web 2.0 conference organized by Tim and others.

While my thinking around Web 2.1 and the accompanying BrainJam next week is still a bit clouded, it is coming into focus each day - I think John makes the point of our discussion clear for us. What are the socio-economic changes that are really happening here, and more importantly from my perspective where do we want them to go?

Perhaps my original post on taking back the revolution was overly influenced by my time at Webzine2005 this past weekend, but I do believe the real trend/concept of Web 2.0 is empowering people with easy to use tools. In essence, this is the same idea that John Hagle proposes in his definition
Web 2.0 ultimately refers to "an emerging network-centric platform to support distributed, collaborative and cumulative creation by its users."

Once again I see a lot of technologists being influenced by the cool factor of the technology instead of deepening their understanding of people and how they might us the tools. There is nothing wrong with being enamored of new technology (I certainly am), but I think the world could be better if we just take a moment to breathe it all in and ensure the focus is on real people first and then the technology. In the last month I have seen dozens of Web 2.0 sites without plans for how to operate as an ongoing concern. While the iterative process and the release early and often mantra takes the users into account more than ever before, many developers are still thinking of the people who will use the tools as users instead of people.

A new level of trust and understanding needs to be cultivated between people with different skills, backgrounds and perspectives. Technologist/developers and marketing/business people need each other - together they form a whole brain which can have much more of an impact than either could alone. The ability for teams and organizations to collaborate will be the key factor in determining success. To this end, we all know that diversity yields better results for the projects we undertake, let's bake this idea into the foundation of Web 2.1.

If you are interested in talking more about these sorts of things and have not yet expressed this interest to me or through the BrainJams Wiki, please do so in the next 28 hours or so. No matter what the response, next FRI October 7, we will be getting together to talk about this and other related issues in San Francisco - but I need to know if we will just be doing it here at my house or if we need a bigger place to handle the group.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Web 2.1: An Idea, Some Focus

My girlfriend and I have been talking about how cool this idea really could be. I was worried about the content quite honestly, which is determined by those 3 things I mentioned - an idea, some focus and some structure - but more importantly, it is determined by participants.

As the first participant, I wanted to refresh an old idea I had whose time had come - The Noble Pursuit - evangelizing the fact that the world does not always need to be this way - that each and everyone of us can make change and improve our world with the unique gifts we possess. Just read it and comment on it - and if you do blog about it, tag it with 'TheNoblePursuit' so everyone can stay on top of your input and ideas.

I need to run, but wanted to mention that I set up a WIKI for BrainJams the other day, which is the type of event this would be (read my other post on this below). I now have registered and redirected it to the BrainJams site where we can all talk about how this might go down - please add your ideas there...

Web 2.1: Taking Back the Revolution from Big Money

It seems that big money and corporate interests are trying to seize stewardship of the overall concept of Web 2.0 - though the current Wikipedia article credits the folks at Web 2.0 Conference with coining the phrase, I understand it came from an authentic human being who will remain nameless until I get further validation on this. So perhaps I should not be too shocked at this.

But I was really shocked when I went to register for the Web 2.0 Conference and found that it cost $2,800 to attend. This means that most of the real movers and shakers of this movement are not going to be there - which might be fine considering it is geared at a different audience and has a different purpose than a Gnomedex or BarCamp event. As a friend mentioned the other day, the leaders who will be there are either going because they are speaking, they received a comp pass from John or Tim because they are FooCamp worthy or because they are backed by VC's who are ponying up the cash (of course traditional multinational corps will also be willing to pay up).

As an unfunded Web 2.0 startup, without the juice to merit a comp pass, I wont be there

So I have been thinking about trying to organize a BarCamp styled BrainJam for the rest of us who are in the trenches of this next wave. It is time for us to seize the reins of the evolution ourselves - it is time for us to let those big money interests have the Web 2.0 - it is time we launched Web 2.1

I can't imagine a better way to seize it back than to organize a BrainJam that focuses on how we can put the consumer back into the center of consumer generated content and restructure this movement. Let's look at and define some of the goals we all want to see happen - let's empower each other with the knowledge necessary to make it happen - let's bring technology people together with business people and have a meeting of the minds to set the true north on our compass. This is not exclusionary in any regards - there is even room for traditional media as a participant, but they are just networks of individual citizen journalists/writer/editors rather than the gate keepers of truth and knowledge and passion. As I have often said, an idea, a focused question, some minimal structure and some bright minds can result in massive and positive change.

I propose we put together a Web2point1 Conference for next Friday October 7, 2005 somewhere here in San Francisco. We can charge $2.80 for people to attend - providing 1000x the take away value for 1/1000th of the cost - a factor of a million times better than Web 2.0. While Barry Diller won't be attending our BrainJam, the next Barry Diller just might be... The minimal structure will focus on the question "What do we need to do with the technology to get to the future in which we want to live? What does that future really look like?" Separate working sessions could address certain aspects of the problem. This structure is merely a suggested starting point for pre-BrainJam discussion - ultimately the focus will be decided upon by the participants.

I can't do this alone, so I need your help. We need a space with open WiFi, organizers and bodies - we need to mobilize as soon as possible. We also need some sponsors to pony up some green to cover basic expenses, any profit will be donated to the Internet Archive (though I would not expect profitability from something like this, it would be nice to think in that direction at least). Perhaps the folks at TechCrunch might be interested in helping to organize this?

Is anyone else out there interested in making this real???

Consumer Generated Media: The Revolution in Marketing Pt 1

When I switched to my Tivo last night I was captivated by a circa 1950's black and white game show on GSN which turned out to be "Beat The Clock". I was struck by how much the emerging media of that era (the television) was absolutely driven by marketing. This is seemingly in stark contrast to the current rise of Citizen Media, though not as completely as one might be inclined to think. The leading forms of televised media consumed back then were Game Shows, Soap Operas, News, Acting, Performance (some live) and Variety programs.

It was at the time a natural and necessary fit between media and marketing. Producing media was an expensive proposition over the relatively open communication conduit of the air waves. Excepting FCC licenses and regulation, at least the air through which the transmission traveled was free, though there was a considerable expense in transmitting (transmissions towers are analagous to hosting infrastructure) and receiving (televisions are analagous personal computers). And of course, cameras and related equipment were all relatively new technologies.

We like to think of the Interent and Web 2.0 media as being zero cost and therefore available to all citizens. But this is not entirely true. There are costs to producing and consuming Internet based media. Beyond the time investment, individual's need to be educated on the means of production. Surely, the cost is lower since so many free sources of learning are available online, but this is presuming the individual has a PC. Unlike most of us promoting the next wave of technological change, most people don't have PowerBooks, but surely, more people do have something since the entry cost has dropped considerably. But then we need to consider the cost of cameras, both still and video. Then of course there is the access/connectivity fees. If the individual is successfull in creating popular media that reaches a broad audience, they then face the ominous need to fund the increasingly complicated organizational effort required for production and distribution.

Ultimately this success can lead to a switch from free hosting to a more robust hosting infrastructure. This brings forth a critical need for money which can only come from a few sources - personal wealth, charitable contributions of others, a patron, a non-profit organization or it can be handled by turning the media production into a business. If the latter avenue is taken, the business operations can be financed by investors for a short time while operating at a loss, but ultimately, it is necessary for any business operation to take in revenue.

For Consumer Generated Media the revenue can come in a combination of different forms. This is where things get really interesting. For the first time in media history, marketing is not required in order to fund the distribution of content. This allows many to operate free of the influence of other's, particularly free of powerful, potentially coercive force of multi-national corporations, resulting in a stronger sense of trust for the source and their message.

Subscription revenues are possible, but not often sought in the interest of reaching a broader audience with the message. That is of course excepting those who have a unique filter or proprietary technology which has broadly recognized value differentiation. But in the age of open source, particularly with the advent of Web 2.0, the technology is not proprietary. Instead it is open, largely free and standardized. The means for accepting charitable contributions is easily built right into the media itself. I am not too sure of the success of current "shareware" styled media/content efforts, but I do know from attending WebZine2005 that LiveJournal was originally funded in this way, so it is certainly possible. But eventually, as the need for operating cash grew, so did the need for new ways to acquire it.

Ok, I could continue down that deep tangent for a while, but the real point here is that most consumer generated media will not garner that level of poularity so as to require it be operated as a business, but it can become the major source of media for most of society. With cable/satelite channels becoming more granular and niche oriented (like the Game Show Network and The Military Channel) the natural progression is the often talked about "long tail" of media segmentation (ok, its the Pareto principle, but I feel compelled to address it thusly) down to the level of the individual. Of course, this has been the promise of the Internet for some time now - what has really changed is the level of knowledge and skill required to use the tools and the wide spread availability of free or low cost publishing using tools we already own and new services/software.

In this emerging era of Web 2.0 media, marketing dollars do not necessarily buy the ability to influence, inform or persuade any longer. This socio-economic disruption makes the Tivo debate in the marketing community pale by comparison, but it has not yet been elevated to the level of discourse we should expect. This disruption should be the demarkation point for a tectonic sized shift in the global concept of marketing - one that is driven by the "do no evil" mantra and an understanding that increased sales is not always what is best for the orgnaization or society.

For the past few years, I have called this Conversational Marketing - reaching out to those who are talking about areas of interest to the organization. I now realize that the conversation is only one channel of communication and not the focus.

The future for marketing is the future of our society. As we move from the information economy into the experience economy and beyond, we stand at the dawn of the Knowledge Economy. The future is Knowledge Marketing...

(to be continued...)