Archive for April 9th, 2006
Since I signed up for the reboot 8 conference in Copenhagen at the start of June, I’ve been looking at it as a “web 2.0″ conference, but hoping it is more than that. What is Web 2.0? Wikipedia offers a useful summary of the history, current situation, and arguments for and against the use of the term. It also includes links to various commentary on the topic.
“Knowledge is organized information”: a motto that may sound simplistic, unless one takes into account the recursive nature of the process: by organizing information you are creating more information. When this process is able to run, and keep running, the results can be startlingly effective. Witness the rise of Wikipedia in the last year, the amount of time and effort that goes into it.
One criticism leveled at Wikipedia is that it is not an authoritative source: this is missing the point altogether. If anything, it is a reflection of the original idea I remember: the use of the Web to make connections between all manner of pieces or information, to let you find the authorative source. The differences in my view, is that it is centralized without (much) bureaucracy. Call it a “clearing house” for information on a topic: you may start there, but you won’t necessarily stop there, not if you are looking for anything authoritative. With that in mind, I’m not sure that it’s completely necessary to refer to Wikipedia as “Web 2.0″ at all. Or, to put it another way, could Web 2.0 be seen as the realisation of some (if not all) of the promises (implicit or explicit), made by the World Wide Web, version 1?
How Web 2.0 is Wikipedia? It doesn’t use AJAX, as far as I can see; the Wiki technology it uses is ancient by web standards, but that’s not what it’s about, if you ask me. A Wiki, in principle, is a web page that anyone can edit, a web publication under no strict editorial control. It takes advantage of the boundless brainpower, energy and goodwill offered by people passionate about a subject. Something’s missing or broken? We’ll fix it. It might not be right away – there’s no deadline imposed on me – but it’ll be done, probably quicker than you expect. The result, to me, screams Web 2.0, because it is all about knowledge and context, with added links to the authoritative content where possible.
Can I use the same principles at work? I currently work for a large US technology company, which makes various claims about its technology leadership. Yet, neither the people I work with, nor the company I work for, are remotely ready for Web 2.0, to be blunt. We spend so much of our available brainpower, in coping with the day-to-day stresses of our work, that gathering knowledge is a secondary consideration, and sharing knowledge still further down the list of priorities. I have been trying to encourage some knowledge sharing, using our internal Microsoft Sharepoint service, my colleagues are treating that as a place to post documents to read, and little else. I wish we could get into the relevance of the contents to us, and our work, and be able to summarize it.
Never mind Web 2.0: we’d be hard-pressed to call ourselves Web 1.0, given how hard we have to work to find the basic information we need to do our jobs, in any form, organized or not. The frustration is getting to us, and I’m clearly on the way out of my current role; that much would be clear, even if my job was not on its way to India. If the reboot 8 conference is to be any use to me, it will help me decide whether I have a future in the technology business at all, or if I should become a plumber or a teacher, or go and work with horses in a racing stable.
Two weeks without a post, for two good reasons. Work is one of them: when I’m at work, I’m really at work, with little time for much else, or energy to do much afterwards. Never mind that my job is being advertised in India today, quite literally: we have been told we will probably lose 30% of our staff this year, and we expect the figure to be more like 50%.
The other reason is related to travel. At the beginning of this year I thought there would be little travel this year, but it’s turning out rather differently. The photo above is from a quickly-organised trip to London last weekend, for shopping, and to meet up with some old friends. We did something I had never done in eight years in London: visited St. Paul’s Cathedral. Once past the “tourist trap” – £9 to get through the door! – it was actually fairly interesting. It’s not hard to see how the dome was designed to instil feelings of awe and submission in Christians, through innovative use of space and acoustics.
The crypt was interesting, with its memorials to all manner of soldiers and nobles. I was surprised to see one to my namesake, 1st Baron Roy Thomson of Fleet, the Scots-Canadian media baron with the clout to get my family its own tartan. Then, the 530 steps up to the Golden Gallery, with its amazing views of London. I’ve added some pictures to my image gallery, follow the link behind the picture above.
The next trip is in ten days’ time, to Portugal, a few days holiday that includes a wedding of a colleague from work. I’ll be staying in the northern resort of Esposende, and hoping the weather plays fair with me, something not guaranteed in that part of the world at this time of year. Rather than fly to Porto via Stansted on RyanAir, I’ll fly direct to Lisbon by Aer Lingus and take the train up the coast to Porto.
As if that wasn’t enough, I have a “two birds, one stone” trip to Denmark at the end of May: after visiting the reboot 8 conference, I’ll be visiting friends on a farm for a weekend. The farm is quite some way from Copenhagen, in the middle of the island of Fyn (Funen), a hundred kilometers away. The conference is all about “Web 2.0″, something I am still profoundly sceptical about, especially when it comes to privacy matters. I can’t help wondering just what I’m missing, so this will be an opportunity to find out.
Since my job security is clearly limited, I know I have to look beyond my normal hardware / operating system interests in the IT world, and even beyond that.
It’s now well after 2AM, and much as I’m enjoying the live baseball on cable TV – Japan flattening Cuba in the World Championships in San Diego – I have work on Monday, and need to stick to a sensible circadian rhythm, for the next week at least. After that, only the day of my return flight from Portugal requires an early start, and I can sleepwalk through that connection.