People, not tools, will drive 2006

People, not tools, will drive 2006

My New Year’s column spurred more than the usual amount of mail, much of it fueled by folks who have, with Sisyphusian effort, been advocating for collaborative software for many years.
These folks are vocal advocates for virtual online communities, and not surprisingly, many of them also offer platforms to support them.
A comment that has me thinking the most, though, came from Niall Rigby. In suggesting alternative nomenclature for the phenom of 2006, Rigby declared 2006 as the “Year of the Tag.” There is ample evidence that he might be right when he says that tags will gather “so much momentum [they are] going to penetrate every store of digital content . . . 2006 is going to be the year that tags stopped crawling, stood up and raced off at incredible speed.”
But in placing the emphasis on tags, Rigby misses the subtle point I was trying to make in my column a fortnight ago. It’s not the tag that is as interesting to me as the people who are doing the tagging. Tags will become a phenomenon because millions of people will start using them in both direct and indirect ways. The act of collaboration, I believe, is far more important than any tool of collaboration.
If my point was missed again, let me say it again: Technology, and the information generated and published by it, has become overwhelmingly complex. Computer algorithms alone won’t solve the information management challenge that arises when terabytes of data are generated by individuals and added to the collective store called the Web.
The only way to parse this data effectively and meaningfully, I believe, is with a massive human effort. But I’m not talking about some gigantic public works project. Rather, each of us will contribute in small ways, and that aggregate effort will have a massive effect to organize, categorize and structure Web-based information. To do this project, we’ll use tags, of course. We’ll also use social browsing tools, stored search queries, blogs, and a whole lot of other technologies.
You won’t be surprised to learn that DEMO 2006 will host the unveiling of a passel of these tools. Come to the conference and be among the first to put them to work. Or, if you can’t make it to Phoenix, keep an eye on this space Feb 6 – 8, when the DEMOletter blog brings you live coverage of the conference.

Chris Shipley is the executive producer of NetworkWorld’s DEMO Conferences, Editor of DEMOletter and a technology industry analyst for nearly 20 years. She can be reached at chris@demo.com. Shipley, has covered the personal technology business since 1984 and is regarded as one of the top analysts covering the technology industry today. Shipley has worked as a writer and editor for variety of technology consumer magazines, including PC Week, PC Magazine, PC/Computing, and InfoWorld, US Magazine and Working Woman. She has written two books on communications and Internet technology, has won numerous awards for journalistic excellence, and was named the No. 1 newsletter editor by Marketing Computers for two years in a row. To subscribe to DEMOletter please visit: http://www.idgexecforums.com/demoletter/index.html.

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