Archive for the ‘Web 2.0’ Category

Are we getting a smell of Web 3.0?

March 9, 2008

It is going to happen or it may already have happened. The race for defining what is next after Web 2.0 i.e. Web 3.0, Web 4.0, etc. is on. I have seen various different sources starting to talk about the next generation of Web 2.0. This week an article in Newsweek – “Is User-Generated Content Out?” by Tony Dokoupil is certainly going to add more this debate. Especially because it is coming from a popular news-source like Newsweek.

Tony’s article talks about how there seems to be a growing need of having a layer of control over the increasingly unreliable user generated content which traditional Web 2.0 era is generating.

This article also alludes to the points I had raised in my blog few weeks back – “Social Aspects of Search Engines“. I had talked about how controlled and organized search are making their way.

While I am not sure if this is what is going to be called as Web 3.0, I agree with the issues associated with growing noise in the content out there on the internet and hence a definite editorial layer needs for the same. However, I think I will disagree with Mahalo founder Jason Calacanis whose premises behind all this seems to be that wisdom of crowd seems to have peaked. Not too sure if there are any buyers to this assumption.

[On the side note – Calacanis certainly seems to have a great knack of making hugely people-stirring statements. Especially considering how much of a blogger-world attack he has received on his latest blog-post titled “How to save money while running a startup?“]

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Building blocks for a typical Social Networking application – An Engineering Ontology

February 29, 2008

From Software Development Perspective – as one starts gaining the experience of building up few social networking-based applications – we would all realize that there are certain common reusable building blocks which are common across many of them. While the core configuration and its presentation may vary from application to application, from an engineering components perspective they tend to remain same or similar across all Social Networking Applications.

We did an exhaustive study of various applications catering to Social Networks. Here are some of the common building blocks which we could find common in almost all.

  1. User & Profile Management System – From the backend perspective, all Social Networks are all about this. Managing users and their profiles and their choices! Investing in proper design for this at the initial stages would take a Social Networking application a long way.
  2. Content Management System – Surprisingly, from what I have seen and read, significant number of Social Networking applications seem to have somehow skipped on this. IMO, this is the key to remove the data from the presentation layer. It also forces the application provider to start thinking of their data in a structured manner.
  3. User Session Management Service – One of the key for Social Networks is to be in touch and know their users. To do this the application needs to have a functionality to keep track of user’s activity across various sessions of interaction.
  4. Discussion Forums/Message Boards/Blogs – The way you expect HBO to be there when you check in a hotel room, users expect this in any application associated with Social Networks.
  5. Streaming Media – Streaming is what keeps the social networks ‘live’. And content comes today in different forms and shapes. Hence the need for this functionality.
  6. Viral Spread Mechanisms – Related to Viral Marketing. This is related to any mechanism which replicates the ‘word-of-the-mouth’ spread on the internet.
  7. Ratings Engine/User Ratings – Almost all social networking applications put in measures to continuously rate various users, content, actions, etc. For example, YouTube allows its users to rate its users and also the content i.e. videos along various different scales. These ratings can be driven by the user community themselves or through certain actions of the users.
  8. Personal Social Groups/Groups Management – In theory, the overall social network implemented by the application itself stands for a group or a community. However, even within a communities, people like to create mini or sub-communities and also want to part of various different sub-communities. This feature is to implement the same.
  9. Integrations with Multiple Third Party Feeds Services – Almost all the social networks today supplement their own existing content by providing a feed for information from various different channels. News feeds associated with weather from a third party content provider is a good example of this. Such services enhances the overall user experience and at the same time in some sense tends to increase the stickiness of the users.
  10. Feedback and Contact Mechanisms – A minor thing. The key idea here is to provide mechanisms wherein the user feedback about any aspect of the application can be continuously captured.
  11. Search Services – Must have. Better the search capabilities a social networking application has – better are the chances that the users on the same application connect with each other and the content.
  12. Personal Favorites List/Watch Lists Tracking Mechanisms – Users would typically have choices or preferences. Something which they would like to keep re-visiting as often as possible. This feature is to implement that functionality.
  13. RSS Feeds/Trackbacks/Notifications/Alerts (Emails/SMS, etc.) Services – People do have life outside the social networking application! So one should not expect that they are not going to be in touch with the application 24 x 7. However, many certainly do like to be in touch in some way with the application even when they are away – by getting updates, notifications on any particular actions, etc. There are many different ways to do this today.
  14. Integrations with other Social Networks – There is a growing realization amongst almost all of the social networks today that users are going to be part of various other communities or networks – for various different reasons. This feature would help users to interconnect their favorite communities with each other.
  15. Social Networks News Feeds – While point no. 9 above was more related to data associated with external feeds, there is always a need even within the community/social network for providing users an information feed associated with what others in the community are upto. This feature is meant for the same.

I am sure we must have missed out few more of the building blocks. Would love if anyone points them out.

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Social Aspects of Search Engines

January 29, 2008

I read this interesting article by Jeff Jarvis on The Guardian which talks about how the search is becoming more social. It talks about how the linear model of search – I call it the ‘Google Way‘ – is now getting evolved using the Web 2.0/Social Networking principles.

Some examples which Jeff gave in his article –

  • Mahalo: Called as “Human-edited Search Engine”. The idea here is that bunch of folks are creating organized content themselves which users can search from. They seem to be guaranteeing ‘the closest match’ search results (their content goes through thorough review process). Personally, I am not sure how scalable this model of search is and how would it work with combinatorial search. [On the side note – I added one word to my dictionary. Mahalo is “Thank you” in Hawaiian]
  • Wikia: This is started by Wikipedia founder – Jimmy Wales. Quite naturally, this search engine has the Wikipedia look-and-feel. In some sense, this is similar to above. Content here is assumed to be generated by user community and user feedback. In other words, Mahalo is paying/spending to generate content whereas Wikia is not.

IMO, until Internet and then Google came along, search was a very social activity. We were used to asking people (typically friends and families) and then they asking people and so on to get us the answers. It feels like we are again going back to the traditional social ways of doing the search. Only difference this time is that we now have the powerful medium of Internet and our circle of friends and families just got extended to the whole world.

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Enterprise 2.0 and Organization Core Values

January 13, 2008

The Enterprise 2.0 talking bandwagon seems to be picking steam in the last few quarters. When I started reading about it some time back, it took me some time to catch up to what exactly Enterprise 2.0 really meant and how it was related to its other counterpart – Web 2.0. Wikipedia’s description of Enterprise 2.0 is here. I think, the simplest way to start understanding Enterprise 2.0 is to think about it as “Web 2.0 within firewall“. (If you are curious what Web 2.0 is, where have you been?)

Organizations are exploring avenues in adapting Enterprise 2.0. Some of them are looking at it from a technology perspective, some from tools perspective, some from social aspects, and some simply just because it is a ‘buzz-word’. While all this is good, one of my strong feeling is that so-called benefits of Enterprise 2.0 core philosophies cannot be achieved without the organizations themselves looking at their core values. In my experience some organizations inherently have it in them to easily adapt what Enterprise 2.0 is preaching at while some simply don’t. Many of the practices of Enterprise 2.0 are going to introduce some disruptive technologies within the organization. The key here is to confirm if the organization’s core values facilitates the change associated with them. (Jevon McDonald’s blog on core values requirements is a good read here. He calls them as the ‘edges’.)

Organization leaders may proclaim that their organization’s values are aligned with what is required to drive the change associated with Enterprise 2.0. IMO, it does not matter what they say. It is important to remember that social aspects of Enterprise 2.0 are driven from the grass-roots level and not from top-down. Organizations should do more than defining the core values. They should facilitate everyone (stakeholders, employees, partners, etc.) in the organization to walk the talk.

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What is Social Networking?

January 12, 2008

It is high time we had a crisp definition about what “Social Networking” means!

Here is one which comes from the potpourri of my experience and many of my readings –

“Social Networking is a set of features that builds up and facilitates an electronic map of relationships amongst entities and adds value to the activities which are typically done online.”

Remember! Social networking is a feature, not an application.

Experience in Social Networking?

January 7, 2008

It just flips me slightly when I hear many people saying that they are “looking for people with experience in Social Networking”. Shouldn’t the correct way to put that should be “looking for people who have experienced Social Networking”?


Coming of age for Facebook?

January 5, 2008

Just few days back I read that Bilawal (son of Late Ex-Prime Minister – Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan) gave his first statement to the world after the tragic death of his mother. Considering the sympathy I had after the event, I was very curious to hear what he had to say. However more than what he had to say, there was one thing which I thought was very peculiar and fascinating. He did not say this in front of an audience or gave out the traditional press-release handouts. He did that by a post on Facebook! (I am not able to trace the article where I read this. If anyone wants, I can try to search again).

IMO, this event has just taken applications like Facebook to another level. Well, I think it is no longer an application. I know that many are already claiming Facebook (or similar applications like Orkut) to be a platform or medium. For me this event just put a stamp on that fact.

I am ready to bet here today that atleast one Presidential candidate for the 2012 United States Presidential Elections would be making an announcement of his/her Presidential aspirations on a platform like Facebook. Time for Jay Leno Or David Letterman or John Stewart to move away! Facebook is ready to replace them as the Politician’s choice.


Web 2.0 – Is it for real or just a fad?

January 5, 2008

I come across people and have read articles/blogs where I have seen many saying that Web 2.0 is just another fad or another gimmick pulled out by the crazy marketing folks out of their hats. I also know that there are some who claim that the whole notion of what Web 2.0 prescribes have existed since ages. Only now we have given it a name.

May be they are right. I don’t think I have a loud opinion on that. However, one thing I can certainly say that the user-experience associated with Web 2.0 philosophy is now something for real and it has become prominent only in the last few years. You can now FEEL it. It is there in the air. User Experience has now taken the center stage more than ever. Uni-dimensional user experience is now a passe. (By uni-dimensional, I mean that the user is just interacting with people associated with business). Users are now putting a much bigger premium on the experience of doing business rather than just the business transaction. They are very interested in peeking in what others are doing; they are much more open to letting others impress on their decisions; and they are also very eager to share their own experiences in real-time with others (or should I use the term ‘showing off their experience’). If any application is not able to provide such user-experience (I call it the 360 degrees User Experience), then they are missing the points of what the preachers are preaching in Web 2.0