Yesterday, I covered the WEB 2.0 Expo, which was held at the huge Javits Center in NY City. It's a wide ranging conference. I should start out by explaining what WEB 2.0 is.
I started my trek to the conference, leaving the house at about 5 AM, to catch a bus to the Big Apple that left at 5:45. It arrived at about 7:20 and the walk to the Javits Center was about 15 minutes-- from the Bus terminal, over to 38th and down a few blocks.
They provided free breakfast ad lunch with the conference. I grabbed some fresh fruit and coffee and sat down at a table. One of the people at the table checked my badge, which said OpEdNEws.com and clearly, using the notebook he had in front of him, as did a good 40% of the attendees, checked it out and freely volunteered just how awful the layout and design of the site was. He pointed me to the site of Khoi Vin, the guy who designs the NY Times layout, at subtraction.com
God knows, he's right. OEN desperately needs design help. Any designers out there willing to help?
But I digress, well not exactly. I went to the conference, not knowing exactly what I'd get out of it, so this fellow, James' feedback was a good start.
Now, let's talk about Web 2.0. When I think of Web 2.0, and try to explain it to people, there are several directions I go. One is easy-- it's all about the technologies involved in social networking that get people involved with websites-- commenting, relationships, friends, the social graphs and systems on facebook and linked in-- are all Web 2.0 functions.
At a more basic level, Web 2.0 is about the web functioning at its full potential.
Consider that when radio was first invented, the first content broadcast was plays. When TV was first invented, the first broadcasts were Vaudeville. When the net was first invented the first uses for websites were brochures and catalogues. The full use of the web, with all the potential possibilities evolved over time.
Now, at this conference, some of the conversations were on the FUTURE of the web-- what it will look like in a few years.
Tim O'Reilly (this was an O'Reilly publishing event) gave a keynote, Enterprise Radar, that was really a deceptive title and a nice surprise. I've been following O'Reilly on twitter and have enjoyed his links and observations. Actually, I found out about the conference through one of his twitter tweets. If you're not on it yet, get on Twitter and start following the people who are most interesting. I've put together an interesting bunch of people to follow and you can see who they are by going to my twitter page.
I mention twitter partly because O'Reilly mentioned, early in his talk about how someone had tweeted that two washers and a dryer at the local laundramat, or maybe it was a dorm laundry area, were free. And he suggested that in the future, appliances and all kinds of devices would be twittering. Makes sense. And he mentioned that plants are calling cell phones when they're thirsty.
Now, a cell phone's not a computer and the future of the web, according to another speaker, Australian Anthropologist, Genevieve Bell, whose talk was titled, Designing for the Internet(s) of the Future
She talked about how the internet is becoming less and less about computers-- an important consideration for the company that employs her, Intel. There are millions who now access the web through mobile phones, blackberries, video game consoles or, like one mother in China who considers herself an internet user, by sending her son to a nearby town where there's an internet cafe, where he can send a message she's told him, to her daughter in another country.
Can you imagine a sensor on your dog's collar telling you that he's barking and it's time to rush back from Starbucks to let him out. Or, of course, the sensor will talk to a door opener that saves you the trip.
But let's get back to O'Reilly, who really did do a stellar job. He started off more down to earth-- futuristic, but pragmatic and business oriented, talking about how more and more companies are discovering that their back-office customer records are actually data, just like on facebook, that could be used in mashups in which data from different sources are "mashed together" to produce new functions and ways of seeing things. He suggested that companies that hold on to that data as secret and proprietary are just "waiting for an innovative startup to do if for them."
This was the the taking care of business part of the talk, since so many of the people at the conference are business and tech-geek types. Then he got to the heart of things, suggesting that so many in the Web 2.0 biz are in a reality bubble, that the best and brightest were doing silly facebook games, not really tackling big prpblems. He suggested that, in scenario analysis, you look at what will work for dealing with different scenarios and tha the most robust strategy is to work on stuff that matters. Work on stuff that matters that you really care about or that really, really must be done. He quote Irvin Yalom,