Monthly Archives: August 2007

A digital representation of your non-digital life

peopleincafe.jpgI’ve been toying for a while about what I actually think Web2.0 and all that marketing nonsense actually means and how it affects people, and given the job I do, how it affects business, and how it can be used by business.

My reaction has always been that “web2.0″ is a marketing phrase that clouds the fact that “web2.0″ is just exactly what the web should have always been – socially inclusive, driving collective opinion with a 2-way dialog between website and webuser, and then between webuser and webuser. To my mind, this is what drove the development of the web forward, until brand managers got hold of it and created brochure-ware hideousness.

However, the development of new technologies over the last couple of years has really enabled the web to fulfill these goals in a large-scale way for the first time. Usenet might have been around for years, but there was still always a barrier to entry for the average person on the street (“whats a modem?”). And therefore, perhaps the advent of new technologies has changed the way we use the web, and the way brands and businesses should use the web.

I’ve started summing this up with the phrase “a digital representation of your non-digital life” – to me, this is an ethos where web sites, applications and other digital technology is being used to create human situations; taking digital and modeling it around human interaction. The reason I like Facebook is that its like having constant really short conversations with all your friends at once – you feel up to date with their lives, and can sit there and procrastinate together – its like the ultimate pub conversation. Second Life, and other virtual worlds, are very literal interpretations of this idea, and of course, blogs (some would say in their very worst form) are your diaries and notes that you’ve always wanted the world to see.

For brands and business to use this successfully then, I think there are 3 elements that they need to consider:

1) Themselves. Are they willing to be open, honest and inclusive? Do they want to build an even relationship with the consumer? Will they listen to what the consumer has to say, without censoring them? It won’t work if they won’t take this step.

2) The Product or service and its audience. Do they have something that is of interest to people? Will people want to talk about it? Is there an angle to take to encourage people to debate and discuss it. Is there an audience here in the first place?

3) The technology to enable it. What best suits them and their audience.

The key thing is to create something your audience actually wants, to give something out to get something in return. The Cluetrain Manifesto guys got this a long time ago, but maybe now the rest of the population has caught up.

Smashing Magazine

Smashing Magazine is a great new intenet-based magazine about website design and technology that I think indicates a future trend in online behaviour. Smashing is regularly updated, containing information gleaned from around the web alongside quality editorial. It also makes certain articles it publishes available via pdf to download, print and read when away from the computer.

Rather than taking the blogging route of posting little and often, Smashing seems to average roughly one article every three to four days. These articles are in-depth, informative and, in certain cases, will take more than three to four days to read on their own.

To me, Smashing represents the next evolutionary step in blogging and blogs – with Technorati claiming to track over 70 Million blogs, it’s become impossible to sift through the online dross to find the gems out there. Sure, peer review and personal recommendation is still a great tool, but with the sheer amount of blogs now online, it’s hard for anyone to find quality new reading. I can’t remember the last time I was advised on a new blog I just had to read – the good ones are just too hard for anyone to find.

So having a reputable online magazine in effect performing editorial duties seems to save me a lot of the bother of finding new and useful sites. Smashing, with its quality editorial and excellent recommendations, is quickly gaining a rapid following. Whats interesting is that it follows a much more traditional offline magazine approach, and I think we’re going to see a lot more of this across different sectors. As the sheer size of the internet prevents people from easily finding the good stuff, people are going to rely more and more on quality editorial magazine sites to do it for them.