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What is this "Web 2.0 thing?" - 2 answers

During lunch at the wonderful "Engage Your Community" conference yesterday I sat down next to a lady that had the courage to admit, "I don't really understand what this 'Web 2.0' thing is that people are talking about!".

My first reaction to her was that she was not alone (in fact she was one of a vast majority) AND that she shouldn't have to care about it. I then gave her my potted definition:
The original Web was like a brochure and a place to go and read.

Web2.o was originally a marketting phrase but has now come to describe web sites that let you DO something.

A local example is Stuff (an online NZ newspaper site) was generally from the original web era with plenty of articles to read but that's about it. However TradeMe (a very popular New Zealand eBay equivalent) is "Web 2.0" because you can do things on it ... buy stuff.
This seemed to make a difference for her and we could then talk about the "new sites" with a lot more clarity.

Serendipity is a wonderful thing and in my InBox was David Gruteens (about) April newsletter that had the following section:
Media is moving from a source of information to a site of action

Thanks to Nerida Hart in Australia I recently discovered Clay Shirky and this quote from him:
Media is moving from a source of information to a site of action.

Credit: Clay Shirky
When I read this, a light bulb flashed. When working at home, I am a documentary junkie - the UK History Channel and other documentary and news channels are pretty much all I watch. But time and time again I get a angry when I see the program makers turn the problems facing the world into entertainment. Their objective is not even to educate but to entertain. Often I switch off and throw the remote at a distant chair (a soft one I might add as I never get that angry)!

What I have long wanted more media companies to do - is to start taking the problems seriously and move from saying "here are the problems - isn't it tragic; isn't it crazy" to "here are the problems and here is what you can do to help solve them. And this is what we are setting up to help support you".

But the participatory web is moving us in this direction. In 50 years time I think we will look back at old news clips and documentaries of today in a similar way we look back at the propaganda newsreels of the Second World War and wonder why so many people at the time did not see things for what they were.

Here is a video of one of Clays talks.

I totally agree with both Clay's quote and David's interesting spin on how my kids will be looking back at us with a sense of awe, wonder and with a bellyful of laughter at how "quaint" we all were :-)