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Thoughts from the Gypsey Mission

Web 2.0 is a move away from the first model where their were a few
publishers and many consumers of information. For example a company
created a website and lots of potential people looked at it. The
barriers to creating a website (better looked at as content) were too
high for most users in this model, and lets face it your average AOL
user can just about cope with email so HTML was going to look like PhD
physics to them. What I’m driving at was that in order to publish
information in the first web model a user needed to understand markup
language, have some grasp on image creation layout and also hosting
before they were going to be ready to take on gathering their thoughts
together to publish.

Web 2.0 takes the view that every consumer of information should be able
to be a publisher as well. This is purely subjective but in my view
there are several key sites and technologies that make web2.0 available
to the masses

Picture phones and digital cameras make it much easier to gather
graphics together now, and this is as true of video content as it is for
still photography. This is completely personalised graphical content
and therefore is very focused on the user.

Flickr.com is a very easy to use and highly configurable way to make
photographs available across the web.

U-tube does the same thing with video content.

Blog hosting sites, Livejournal and Myspace provided extremely easy to
use layouts and publication mechanisms that even the tabloid reading
masses could get their heads around.

These sites (obviously there are others) should all be viewed as Web 2.0
projects and the cornerstones of the web 2.0 publication method.

The essence of web 2.0 is therefore encouraging content not simply from
brand owners but from their customers, which is why I bring the essence
of Web 2.0 for business down to the phrase that “Web 2.0 enables
companies to have a closer relationship with their customers than ever
before and brands have the opportunity to create personal relationships
with consumers. The key to this is user content and the creation of
discussions online about products and services offered by companies. A
classic web 2.0 is AOLs ‘Discuss’ project about the very fabric of the
Internet itself.

The problem is that with all this content is that with everyone
publishing there will be an absolute wealth of it out there. The
problem is how to categorise it and how to consume it.

Consuming the content is achieved via a syndication model and RSS
(Really Simple) syndication is the model of choice for the Web. No
conversation of Web 2.0 is complete without a section devoted to RSS and
RSS readers.

In the old model, a user searched for a website and entered via the
homepage through a browser. They then navigated to the section they
wanted and found the content. Some websites were updated regularly and
were read regularly by consumers but the same navigation model was used
to check for updates. What I’m getting at is that this is a lot of
wasted time spent on looking and checking for information when the
information itself is the valuable item.

RSS enables a site to be syndicated and RSS readers monitor sites for
updates automatically and then alert the user to this. The user is then
able to scan headlines to see which individual pages they want to read.
The point is that individual pages are read as they are added and
updated rather than navigated from a homepage. It saves time and
therefore is significantly more productive.

This however does not solve the problem of categorising the content.
Blogs account for a great deal of this content as they are the largest
publication method. Google therefore created the blog search engine
which ignores all other content and concentrates only on user based
content.

The biggest and most respected tool for categrosing this content is
however technorati.com. It uses the concept of tagging to add short
descriptions of what each piece created is actually about. Tags are
added to the bottom of the content with short descriptions and keywords.
This is then categorised by Technorati and can be searched. Similarly
it relates blogs sharing tags to each other in what are known as clouds.
The idea is that if two people are using the same tags as each other
then the chances are that their content is quite similar and therefore
readers of one will find the other relevant.

There are obviously new methods and improvements to categorization
coming along all the time, and many of them are led by users themselves.
One concept which is highly useful is called Declarative Living. Quite
simply this is a discipline whereby whatever you are reading and the
sources you find are published for others to see. The logic follows
that if people are interested in what you are saying, they are also
likely to be interested in your sources. This is achieved via OPML.
Every RSS Reader has a listing of blogs sites and sources which the
individual user reads. Any good RSS reader can import an OPML file and
so publishing your OPML file for others to download and install into
their own RSS reader’s list is a very good idea. The concept was first
introduced to me by James Governor who also has a blog you should read
Googel him or look for him in Technorati. My OPML file is freely
available form my blog and I would encourage you to download it
regularly as it will cite many resources for you.

There you go, introduction to Web 2.0. That’s procedurally how things
work with a little bit of technical information as well, together with
identifying the major players as viewed by Aaron Savage. The real
question though is what does this all mean for business. Advertising is
the medium that is having to adapt quickest to this but others will
follow.