Web 2.Oh-My-God

More and more as we work and play services and toys are netting together with web technologies that weren’t in existence at the turn of the millennium, under your nose and in plain sight. Just as we voluntarily accepted the carrying of GPS locators (cell-phones) we are also volunteering our personalities. Would you have done that 10 years ago if you saw the “big picture” then?

The value of knowledge – “content” is not intrinsic but lies in its use. Search engines are the intermediaries between knowledge (information) and the people. But most forget the middle man – the authors and contributors. Us – and what we build.

Authors are people and corporations but more than ever they are bots, scripts and other programs.

The web – the world is all connected, did you know? And its connections are growing in number, deeper than most realize. How many people are in your address book, your cell phone, your buddy list? How many subscribe to an e-zine or news-list? How many groups, communities, blogs and forums to you participate in, have membership within? How many chat rooms, who do you bookmark and check daily and where do you “share” photos? Who is on your sms (txt msg) list and who have you socially tagged or bookmarked?

And who has done the same with you, your friends, associates and how far does this pyramid need to go before we are all in the “net”? Mathematics answers it – it’s not far.

FaceBook, just as an example, is a social “friends” site like MySpace that currently (for your convenience) parses your personal address book to track down, invite and add your “friends” (contact list) to the “network”. This system intelligently and craftily aggregates a huge amount of data coupled with volunteered information and provides “feeds” (automatically generated data exchange documents) containing even creepy pieces of information you didn’t know was available – about you. Who you are, what you look like, your birth date, your friends, your employers, your schools, your event calendar, your music tastes, who you date, who you dated, your schedule, your hobbies and every mentioned location has a coordinate easily viewable in the oh-so-cool mapping warez available – for free. Did you know that even digital photographs may have geo-tags built in with every snapshot? Bet you didn’t.

Again, you must consider the information about you on your associates’ profiles, all tagged and labeled -all offered as “fun”, “convenient” and “entertaining”. Did you know people have been stalked and killed because of this?

Remember – this is ONE example.

Yes, it goes much further than you most likely know or wish – but this genie is out of the bottle. Consider your “clickstream” – your pattern and history of clicks around the web. From here to there, when, how often and at what frequency. From what location, what type of machine, your interaction pattern – meaning do you save images or text, copy/paste or bookmark? Yes, it’s all tracked in different ways and recorded by various means. And, thanks to (as I mentioned before) information data exchanges (web 2.0) this “information” we call content is aggregated to form your virtual profile. What does yours look like and who can see it?

This information is valuable – much more valuable than any widget on a website, a silly “service” that a mom-and-pop may present on the web. Information about SOMEONE is so much more delicious than SOMETHING – isn’t it? This information can be used to target you for ads, but what else? We all have a profile, and remember the only items of importance to most are those that are negative.

Though innocent services like the above example (there are MANY) provide these information feeds, there are those that use that data to accumulate information about you. We are all contributors to this archive and we do it willingly – sometime we’re amused and entertained and that’s the actual goal of that service. WE are contributors – not just to the “wow” factor of web 2.0 but to the problem.

Is it all about advertising? Mostly yes. But as there are billions of websites out there to sell, there are those built to collect and exploit.

Intelligent delivery systems (server side document presenters and dynamic experience providers) are becoming more prevalent (trust me, I’ve deployed one). More than a mere cookie induced personalized “welcome back {your name} message” on a website or recalling your zip code for the weather widget you smile at – far more than REMEMBERING you. It is RECOGNIZING you. It is learning. This is not written in past, but present tense. We all have an online profile, like it or not.

Keep in mind the world of information delivery is not engineered for fairness, but to establish authority. Just as we were in the days of serfs, commoners, lords and ladies to royalty – we are now on the digital side of the same coin with lurkers, contributors, authors, moderators, gurus and administrators.

I’ve talked about the “reputation economy” before where spoils will go to those that know the rules, not those with best intentions. Even since I wrote that note I’ve seen this space grow exponentially to where I am actually concerned for the future. I said the fields won’t be level – that was written in the future tense. If I wrote that today it would be in the present.

Exponential acceleration in not only the sheer amount of information contributed but also in the ability to parse, cross-reference and tabling of data is becoming scary. This happens while we watch survivor and vote on the American Idol. More people know the names on our football teams roster than our own states legislature.

The Romans built “stadiums” for the same reason – a distracted and indulging public hasn’t the time to realize or act on current affairs. We are the Roman Empire.

The coming years may be fantastic – or horrifying.

6 Responses to “Web 2.Oh-My-God”

  1. James Boyer November 28, 2007 at 2:23 pm #

    I still wonder at where this is all going. We have already reached the point in parts of the country where you can be tracked anyplace you go. I wonder if at some point people will become a little more concerned with this.

  2. Knox December 6, 2007 at 2:41 am #

    I see no return – I really think this ride has no brakes.

  3. Dan O January 2, 2008 at 5:48 am #

    Fascinating post. I work with college students, and am constantly amazed at how much they opt to put online, potentially affecting their stake in the “reputation economy” you so aptly describe. I recently listened to the audio of a 2005 speech called the “participitory panopticon” which takes a bit of a different spin on all of this. You may have heard it, but if not, you can listen to it here: http://itc.conversationsnetwork.org/shows/detail375.html

    Quite interesting.

  4. Brian Kinkade November 20, 2008 at 6:48 pm #

    Very interesting and thought provoking post Knox.

  5. Knox November 20, 2008 at 7:49 pm #

    @Brian – that was a year old too, before geo-tagged photos were understood to most, es an example 😥

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