Web 2.0; the final frontier?

Web 2.0. This is what we’ve been talking about. The beggining of the social networking revolution. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter…the creation of online personas and aliases. In web 2.0 we can be who we want to be – take interactive experience games like Second Life – create yourself the way you want to be seen. Web 2.0 has brought us so much – but whats the next step?

We’ve already seen the boom of social networking sites – now everyone has a homepage. We’ve already seen the power of viral marketing and viral video – how many people have not seen “Chocolate Rain” or “Star Wars Kid” or even “Sneezing Panda” or “Leave Britney Alone!” – there are sites dedicated to the newest viral videos – sites like todaysbigthing.com that highlights a video a day. In the wake of the viral-ness of the internet, we have seen major organizations try and get involved in viral marketing to target the younger demographic. Sprite had a “subliminal” campaign for “lymon” – explaining the lemon-lime taste of the drink. There are companies springing up that can guarantee “seed lists” of online influencers. The world has taken notice of the power of Web 2.0 – the social web – where content can be easily generated and published by users. But what lies just beyond the bend? Where will we be in five, ten, or fifteen years down the road?

The leaders of the internet revolution (google is one for example) predict that the next phase of our internet evolution (or Web 3.0) will give rise to applications that seamlessly connect and interact with other applications – regardless of origin. In addition – they predict machines having the ability to reason better – that artificial intelligence will improve.  Programs and applications will be open source – and there will be a World Wide Database. Web 3.0 has been compared to file sharing permissions. Web 1.0 was “read-only,” there was only the ability to veiw a web page – but not to interact with the content, Web 2.0 is “read-write,” there exists the ability to read the content on the page as well as with certain websties and platforms interact with the data on the screen as well as create new data. For instance – the blog I am writing right now is a great example of web 2.0. I am – on the web – creating content for the web. That is the essence of Web 2.0. Web 3.0 is compared to “read-write-execute” – applications will be able to run user generated code. Some believe that the web will transform into 3D spaces – much like second life. Where the web is accessed through 3 dimensional imagery. Actually – the television show “Futurama” predicts this for the future as well. In the episodes where they go on the internet, the characters don what looks like virtual reality goggles and fly through a city, and interacting just as one would in real life.  While the show is offering a parody of what they think the internet may become – the writers of the show may not be too far from the truth.

The internet has come a long way since the first simple websites – and we have not yet begun to see the possibilities it holds for the way we interact. We may – in the future – be in a social web outside the box.

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Published in: on November 13, 2008 at 4:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wiki

Wiki’s seem to be the long lost brother of social networking. Wiki’s actually are great examples of users of the social web collaborating to create the best product possible. Besides the obvious perils of using wiki databases as credible sources of information (the way college students seem to think that wikipedia is a scholarly source). Wiki’s can also have organizational benefits. They can serve as databases and shared knowledge pools. I thought I would delve into the scholarly definitions of the wiki and the benefits they have.

Leuf and Cunningham (2001) explain that a wiki is “a freely expandable collection of interlinked web pages, a hypertext system for storing and modifying information – a database where each page is easily editable by any user with a forms-capable web browser client” (p. 14).  Thus, a wiki can be edited and updated by anyone with access.  Large sites such as Wikipedia allow global access to most wiki pages, however an internal wiki system that allows different levels of access to different organizational groups will serve to alleviate some of the inter-departmental tensions created by a decentralized organization.  A wiki system will not only create a new communication channel and knowledge base, rather open the door to new innovative collaboration techniques.

Raman (2006) posits that wikis have two distinct organizational benefits.  Wikis enhance communication by allowing project teams to communicate over a common platform.  In addition, the wiki provides a central information base with reference to important information salient to tasks, thus eliminating communication slowdown caused by incomplete information.  Wikis also support a knowledge sharing culture within an organization.  Wagner (2004) explains that wiki technology thrives on being an open system.  Anyone with access can edit any wiki page and share information with others. Davenport and Prusak (1998) posit three factors that contribute to inefficiency in knowledge markets.  A lack of centrality and incompleteness of information can impede the process through which both brokers unite buyers and sellers and ease of access and availability of information. Wikis create the centrality necessary to unite those who seek and those who have knowledge. An asymmetry of knowledge between different groups or teams may exist and may create a roadblock to efficient knowledge management and sharing.  By creating a wiki knowledge base with organizational access, any group in the organization will have the ability to access information thus limiting the asymmetry associated with poor knowledge sharing.  Lastly, localness of knowledge can hinder the ability of local groups to obtain knowledge from distant sources.  A catalogue of sources, such as a wiki, can be helpful to identify where or with whom the knowledge in the organization resides.

Beyond the organization – wikis can serve as repositories for data shared by social groups. Also, many software applications use wikis for their user manuals – especially if the software goes through many permutations and versions.  To stress the importance of wiki’s – many organizations, celebrities, and public figures devote time and effort to ensuring the validity of their wiki.

While wiki’s are not direct social networks – they are a growing source of information that is becoming increasingly relevant in our digital age.

Published in: on November 8, 2008 at 6:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Los Angeles Social Club

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This week – I am in Los Angeles. I’ll tell you – it’s a different world out here. For an east coast boy like myself, it was a hard transition to let go and relax. New York is rush rush rush, LA is about taking it slow. Been talking with some people about social networking sites and their influence on the entertainment and music industries.

Social networking technology presents a double edged sword. Since there are little barriers to the creation of new social networking sites – we have both the best and worst ideas presented to us as users, and ultimately we are given the decision as to what applications become part of our everyday lives – and what fades into the dreaded internet obscurity,

While on the left coast, I learned of an interesting approach to social networking in regards to music. Through a network of musicians and fans this site allows the average user to profit off their taste in music. Indie911.com is a site like no other. The process is simple – yet brilliant. The platform for this innovative dissemination is the Hooka media player. The hooka player is a media web application that plays music (mp3) and video objects (flv). Each user, fan or artist, has a personal hooka player. The player also has direct links to purchase songs off the Indie911 site. The artist hooka has the tracks submitted by the artist with a pre-determined percentage agreement regarding the sale of each song. Thus, if a user buys a song directly off an artists site – the artist in entitled to a share – as is indie911. Sounds normal so far, but here’s the brilliant part: the user’s hooka player is comprised of whatever songs they choose from the catalogue of songs posted by the artists – if any of those songs sell directly from that user’s hooka player – indie 911 takes a cut, the artist takes a cut, and the fan takes a cut. Indie911 is taking the fan experience to the new level actually giving listeners the opportunity to profit from their favorite Indie bands.

This interactive opportunity is indicative of the trends sweeping the internet social-scene. The more involved a user can get the better. Whenever I consult clients on their online presence and media strategy I always mention that whatever media is presented online should serve as an interactive portal to the individual experience. I suggest that users and fans and any other potential viewer is ultimately looking to have an experience that exemplifies the brand in which they are interested. Being able to capture the essence, whether through design, functionality, or brand awareness (almost always a combination of those plus other factors specific to client needs) – is the litmus test of a successful online experience.

While anyone can create social networking tools, it will ultimately be those that engage the user in meaningful experience that will see ubiquity in use, and a fixed place, even if only for a short time, in the cannon of the internet experience.

Published in: on November 1, 2008 at 4:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Digital Privacy and Influence

As online marketers – how much should we be able to access from social networking sites. However, to what extent do users of popular sites such as facebook and myspace get to retain their privacy. The larger question would be, what is considered the public domain when the Internet has blurred the lines between public and private spheres.

For example, would it be okay for a market researcher to sit in a tall building and use a shotgun microphone to listen in on conversations happening on the street below? In my opinion, this may be a little strange. However it is really no different that what online media specialists do to identify consumers and opinion leaders.

In our technologically advanced society – it is becoming increasingly commonplace for individuals to post personal information about their identity and interests online. If this information is in the public online sphere – then it should stand to reason that it is for the use of public. Especially if the information is about specific interests to foster the creation of communities. Online marketers if they can access the information – can use these new communities to build product brands and Internet presence.

From a media specialist’s perspective – if the information is accessible it should be fair game. However – from a users perspective, this could be seen as a gross invasion of privacy. Invading personal social networking sites for profit is tantamount to the shotgun mic example mentioned earlier.

However, I think there may be a middle ground. Consumers have to recognize that, now – more than ever, they control what they are being offered. The communities that are created become direct reflections of what the media will offer. Thus, I believe that users should be cognizant of those who are accessing their sites. If denizens of the social networking community wish to create truly private pages – it is important to set the proper restrictions. If your page is public – and there is a wealth of private information, then why should it be inappropriate for anyone to access that information. It is imperative to be aware that social networking sites are not popularity contests – they are powerful tools for community building. Once a user decides to let everyone in – that user is set up as a prime target for those who want to gather information. On the contrary – to be a powerful opinion leader in the online social-sphere – it is not important to have many “friends” rather to be connected to a close knit community of people who share the same interests. This is what is valuable to many online marketers – and this is what can turn into a nominal profit for those in that position.

Through blogging we have seen how everyday Internet users can become professional surfers – there will come a time in the near future when the Internet opinion leaders will demand as much respect as those traditional leaders in the non-digital sphere. Users will be able to charge for their influence and make a living off the firms and corporations that need thought leaders to survive in the new digital age.

Currently, we are in the younger years of social networking sites – soon we shall be living in a time where much more weight will be placed on the influence and information gathered from these digital communities.

Published in: on October 26, 2008 at 11:52 am  Leave a Comment  

Guiding Laws and Twitter.

In this post I would like to take a step back a moment and discuss some of the ways to use the Internet and it’s social media capabilities to increase web-presence.

Perhaps the most important consideration when entering the online community for commercial purposes is the effort to remain completely transparent and truthful. Most of the online-community shares a similar moral code that creates difficulties for those organizations that attempt to circumvent the “law of the people,” namely: stay truthful, remain transparent about goals, do not cause unnecessary harm or use unnecessary bandwidth, and no spam. Thus, any online marketing effort must take these into consideration while developing a strategy that will ultimately yield results.

However, what about in the socialsphere? How can one really effectively use social networking tools to enhance web-presence. Well – the first thing an organization, product, or artist can do, is create pages on social networking sites and link to them from the homepage. This is a very easy step that takes little to no effort. To attract “friends” reach out to some “opinion leaders” on social networking sites (more on this in previous post). The idea is to set up an online presence which is more than just a homepage. Anyone can set up a homepage – the idea is to get people to know about it and make part of their Internet routine. A word about routine: Think about when you go online. What do you do? Maybe your homepage is a news site, maybe it’s email, maybe it’s just a search engine. Regardless, think about the first things you do when you are just surfing around the net. Maybe you check your social networking site, maybe you go to eBay to see if there is something you could bid on, maybe craigslist to find listings you may interested in, maybe to digg to see what’s going on on the net. In my opinion, the idea behind a homepage is to become a part of users everyday experience, not to be the only portal to your presence. You need to draw users in using social networking then ensare their interest with a great homepage.

Besides the usual suspects like Facebook and Myspace, Twitter can be used as powerful tools to draw users to sites and increase presence.

Twitter is a site that allows users to post what they do all day in order to create communities surrounding interests and activities. For instance, if five people are twitting that they are going from New Brunswick to Metuchen everyday at 8:15 am – they could find each other and set up a carpool. While this is just one of the ways twitter can be used – it’s a good example of it’s functionality (check it out at Twitter.com). Organizations can use twitter to post about what developments, socially conscious programming, volunteer support, etc. Artists can twitt (that’s what posts are called) about their artwork, albums, tour schedule, what they are doing from moment to moment. The idea is simple. Create a community around the organization/cause/artist(s)/anything else to increase web traffic to your site. If you get big enough – it could translate into a story in traditional mainstream media – thus creating a crossover success.

It takes a lot of effort and time to create communities online, however the payoff is great social presence and appearances in traditional media outlets.

For more info – check out this article about twitter – http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/business/story.html?id=2c32110f-b048-49ec-9c30-7f14330867be

Published in: on October 19, 2008 at 3:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Facebook Cred.

Ahh, the joys of social neworking. Many times during the day (moreso than I’d like to admit), I find myself drifting off into socialsphere to check up on my “friends” to see whats new. Instead of the old fashioned method of bringing their contact up on my cell phone (who remembers numbers anymore) and calling at a reasonable hour to see whats new, maybe even grab a cup of coffee – I stare blurry eyed into the monitor I sit at all day and peruse though pictures, video, who-said-what-to-whom updates, and “omg! can you believe ____ is listed as single”-isms. Believe it or not – this is valuable market research.

Facebook is my poison of choice, and an apt begining for starting to explore the box social. Not the first social networking site (you win Friendster) – Facebook started around the same time I was a freshman in college. As soon as I heard about it I was rip-roaring and ready to go. Got to keep in contact with all those buddies from high school – even elementary school – that had already started to fade into obscurity. I got to learn about their interests, events they were attending, and communities that were surrounding them.

Some of my friends became leaders of their communities, starting groups and organizing events “outside the box” (i.e. in the real world). But so what? Who cares about the guy/girl that really hates cars that look like cop cars (actual Facebook group that I am a part of – I hate cars that look like cop cars….) – well I do.

These internet influencers, or opinion leaders if you will – hold a very important place in the niche marketing universe. They are gatekeepers to consumers and customers, and they directly translate to publicity or cash. An example: I was working on an intiative in NYC concerning healthy foods – this intiative gave money to replace unhealth street vendor food with healthy vegetagbles in underserved communities. My task was to find who on the internet cared about any of this. In addition to the traditional media blitz – there was going to be an effort to gain favor with the internet markets.

The first thing I did was look up groups on facebook, find out who the creators or admins of the group were and contacted them with the opportunity. In the process we were creating a forum for the intiative – and if they chose to help – they would become moderators on the forum run by the City of New York (a feather in the cap of any internet dezien). By an overwhelming number – we were able to contact al of the members of te facebook group – and (through this intiative and others) gain unprecedented responses to the forum. For those interested, it ended with a blowout celebration that all everyone wan invited to, when we compared the emails collected to the emails signed up fo the forum – they comprised 20% of the people at the gathering.

Facebook – for all it’s destraction power, can be a powerul tool for the new media marketer.

Published in: on October 11, 2008 at 11:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

The New Box Social

Ok. What does the Internet have to do with boxes? Well, everything of course! You turn on your box, then click a box to make another box appear – then, you can use that box for a myriad of applications. Friends, we are living inside of boxes. We laugh at boxes, we cry with boxes, we bid on boxes! There are boxes we want, and there are boxes we want to get rid of – there are nasty pop-up boxes we’ve fought to destroy. And while a skeptic may infer that it is important to “think outside the box,” I respectfully disagree.

As humans, we are inherently social creatures. We seek to find those with interests similar to our own, and seek their companionship. We then form little communities around a shared interest or foray – and in turn fuse with other little communities until we have created a worldwide nation of interest sharing persons. Used to be, before communication efficiency (BCE, read: the internet), individuals would gather in a home or other meeting place to partake in a social event or club activity to acquaint themselves with neighbors with a knack for the same niche – now, after digitization (AD) – we use…. you guessed it…. boxes.

The Internet has become a powerful tool for social networking. There are a plethora of sites devoted to linking friends, professionals, artists, teachers…the list goes on. Furthermore – there are sites devoted to content sharing around the internet – even down to the mundane details of everyday life (I’m looking at you twitter) – allowing us to live a virtual existence sharing thoughts, experiences, and memories with virtual friends; all within the box.

All of us in the world of communication and journalism hear the words, “New Media” a lot. Organizations, now more than ever, are focusing their efforts on strategies that target the online community. More and more, social networking sites are becoming vehicles for niche marketing – and in our time, AD – we are becoming more digitally segregated than ever. Thus, as a communication professional – I am forced to think inside the box. This blog will explore the relationship between communication professionals and the new reality and challenge of implementing strategy within this new realm. The “Box Social” I refer to in this blog represents the boxes in which the online community exists. We will explore the significance and strategies behind Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, Twitter, Stumbleupon, Fark, deli.ci.ous., digg, Second Life, as well as other socially driven sites and applications.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy as we take a look deep within the box…maybe we’ll find something!

Just some words about the author: A graduate of the School of Communication and Information Studies at Rutgers University the author received his B.A. in Heath and Mediated Communication, and is currently pursuing a master’s of communication and information studies at Rutgers. In addition to working as project manager for The Center for Communication and Health Issues, the author consults media strategies for clients with a major public relations firm in New York City and independently designs media plans for clients in the music industry.

Published in: on October 3, 2008 at 7:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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