Web 2.0 is giving me flashbacks to an old TV commercial for Prego spaghetti sauce; “Tomatoes, in there! Garlic, in there! Carrots, in there! Half of Italy, in there!…” It seemed no matter what you asked for it was in that bottle of sauce. Being a sauce, how could you really tell what was in there, or if it was really needed? Plus, the tomatoes colored everything red so who knows? Now we have another bottle of technical sauce here called Web 2.0; it’s in there! It’s colored all Internet so how can you tell what is really in there, or if it is really needed?
Good question, seems like every vendor says they’re on the bottle of ingredients, in fact the most important one. It would be funny if it was not so pathetic. Unfortunately, the smell here is not a nice bubbling spaghetti sauce, closer to a warm crock of….., you get the concept. Every vendor out there seems to believe companies will blindly buy anything labeled Web 2.0. Rather, the CIO’s are more apt to remember the Internet bubble and where that approach got them the last time.
What is required is more definition of what Web 2.0 is, and why we in IT need to move in that direction. To get that basic understanding, we need to breakout that old spaghetti sauce pan again to boil out all the fancy analysis and obsequious technology. Lo and behold! What remains is a simple concept: the inmates are now in control of the asylum. Users of the Internet have turned the tables on the big players in the space, they are no longer happy being spoon fed from a portal. The denizens want to hunt it on their own terms, see it their own way, save it and dispose of it as they please. If you stand in their way, this mob of Internet hunter-gatherers will crush you with the loss of their eyeballs (poor Yahoo, poor EBay, happy Facebook, happy iPhone).
If this basic principle is followed like a lode stone, much that is occurring in the Internet space is much more illuminating and the proper path forward (with supporting technology) is a great deal clearer to discern. For example, the winning companies embrace openness and external developers. There is no way their internal staff can create and the site push enough content and functionality to stay on top. The Tao of a top site is to be one with the masses, following and attempting to push is uncool. Allowing users to mash-up specialty widgets into cool personal discoveries is winning, monetization will ultimately follow.
By this point, you are thinking — how is all this ethereal philosophic spew helping me? I need to get something together that can be called Web 2.0 or my IT existence is at risk! Do not worry Grasshopper (I’m showing my ’70s again, rats!) I’ll put forward a corporate-friendly straw man. If SharePoint is used to enable a project, process, or department; it is so Web 1.0 (boring!). If we put the entire corporation up on SharePoint, acting like a corporate Facebook, we are getting there. If we template it such that we now have ubiquitous collaboration; optimizing and moving our corporate intellectual property (IP) at light speed much nicer. But for ultimate coolness, we need to commit heresy and wire a Google search appliance in, after adding all of our corporate content to the pile: documents, presentations, everything. Then the cherry on top, flatten key data bases to HTML and toss them in. Now, with proper organizational change management (Yes Billy! You can run with scissors, points down please), employees can use all of the power contained in Web 2.0 to maximize unstructured corporate data for speed and profit. Mangiare! Mangiare!