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Social computing in the Web 2.0 era

This new monthly column, "Buzz Networks," will provide insights, descriptions, analysis, and evaluation of some of the Web 2.0 businesses and concepts that are gaining credibility and providing utility for both end consumers and businesses. It won't delve deeply into the underlying technology, but rather will focus on the user acceptance and business viability of these platforms. We look forward to your feedback and participation in the conversation.

Blogs, Podcasts, Vlogs, Wikis… Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, YouTube… It is hard to keep up with all the new online resources and websites generating buzz, gaining users, attracting advertisers, and creating a flock of new competitors. Start by laying the blame on what Business Week calls "Generation @," young, connected users teaming up online in virtual communities to share, compare, gripe, learn, and shop - when, where, how, and with whom they want.

Beyond Generation @, we're starting to see resources targeting other segments, including women age 25 through 45 who will soon be able to join Martha Stewart's new online social network, or sales people who can take advantage of the social network at Jigsaw to share business contact information, or technology buffs who can go to Digg for the latest news with user-generated ratings of the hottest stories. These online resources are part of what is commonly called Web 2.0.

So what is Web 2.0? A while back, Wisconsin Technology Network published an article by Chris Shipley with lots of definitions of Web 2.0. Let me add mine - it is all about individuals creating conversations using web-based platforms that connect them through enhanced interaction, collective content creation, and shared expertise. You might also call it participatory media, social computing, or as Newsweek's recent cover story headlined, "Putting the `We" in Web." Tim O'Reilly succinctly summarized Web 2.0 in a recent commencement speech at UC Berkeley: "The real heart of Web 2.0 is harnessing collective intelligence."

What are some characteristics of Web 2.0 applications? They include:
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• Enhanced and integrated customer self-service.
• Collective content creation and hyperlinking across the web.
• Constant improvement generated by users.
• Ease of use.
• Content delivered to a wide range of devices (iPods, cell phones, etc.)
• Open source programming tools.

Forrester Research and others have categorized social computing technology or Web 2.0 into various "buckets" that we'll be reviewing in Buzz Networks. These include:

Blogs - A chronologically ordered, self-published diary allowing comments and supporting interaction while generating a historical trail of permalinks (examples: Blogger, SixApart, Weblogs, etc.)

Comparison shopping sites - Price, item description, and availability data is captured from individual retailers with social networking occurring through consumer evaluations of the vendors. (Campusi, Froogle, MySimon, Price Grabber, Shopzilla, etc.)

Consumer-2-consumer commerce - Direct sale through an intermediary, supported by social evaluation (Craigslist, eBay, uBid, etc.)

Mashups - Combines applications to create a new use, i.e. mapping combined with photo tags and mapping combined with real estate (Frappr, HousingMaps, Mappr, etc.)

Open source software - Public software readily available for sharing, enhancing, and use (Linux, my SQL, etc.)

Peer-2-peer file sharing - Allows direct exchange of files over a network (BitTorrent, Gnutella, etc.)

Podcasts & Video Blogs (Vlogs) - Single-use or subscription-based online audio or video downloadable to a PC or other device ( iTunes, Odeo, PodcastAlley, Waxxi, etc.)

RSS - Live web application pushing updated content (blogs, photostreams, press releases, promotional offers, stock updates, web site updates, weather forecasts, etc.) to users through desktop or web-based applications (Bloglines, Feedburner, Newsgator, Pluck, Rojo, etc.)

Search engines - Crawl the web for content based on pre-defined criteria or aggregate content from multiple search players. Page ranking provides an example of Web 2.0 through peer "voting" as demonstrated through in-bound links (A9, Google, Kartoo, Sphere, Technorati, Wink, etc.)

Social networks - Online networking platforms allowing social interaction (CollectiveX, Jigsaw, Linked In, MySpace, Plaxo, etc.)

Tagging & bookmarking - Also called folksonomy, where users assign tags (descriptive words or phrase) to content, either their own or that created by others. ( Del.icio.us, Digg, Flickr, PhotoBucket, Tagworld, Tabblo, YouTube, etc.)

User review portals - Users evaluate products, services, locations, people, etc. creating feedback for other purchasers/users (ePinions, CNet, Rapleaf, ZDNet, etc.)

Wikis - Shared publishing technology that allows multiple authors, version control, and enhanced social interaction (JotSpot, PBWiki, SociatlText, Wikipedia, etc.)

In addition to the technology referenced under each of these categories, there often are supporting plug-ins, activities, and utilities that enhance these social computing technologies. As you look at your business strategies, it is important to stay abreast of these technologies and to consider adopting those that can assist you in accomplishing your business objectives. With many of these in their infancy, businesses that stay ahead of the mob will be the winners in our increasingly competitive environment.

Paul J. Gibler, "The Web Chef," is principal consultant for ConnectingDots, an e-business and marketing strategic consulting and training company. In addition to his column for WTN, Buzz Networks, Paul speaks on e-marketing and writes two blogs - e-Bytes and PPT - Powerful Presentation Techniques. He can be reached at pgibler@connectingdots.com.


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Comments

Tom responded 7 years ago: #1

Have you seen the New MotorMapUSA.com website?

It is a Google Map + eBay Motors Mashup that displays all eBay autos on a map.

Lars responded 7 years ago: #2

This column is a great idea! I find it very difficult to stay abreast of all the web morphing taking place!

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