August 14, 2005

No. Really. It's not *about* the technology.

[[Hello, Scobleizers! If you like this post, you might want to read:
Web 2.0 - It's not about the technology
Designing for the Sandbox - slides from my presentation
Designing for the Sandbox - the original post
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Relinquish Control

Rashmi challenges my philosophical bent with her writeup of the web 2.0 panel:

In my opinion, the logic (philosophy if you will) of Web 2.0 reflects its technological underpinnings. A good example is the open source movement. Now, we even have open source beer. But initially, to understand the philosophy of open-source you had to understand developer speak. As Stewart Butterfield noted at the panel, Flickr wanted rich interactivity (refreshing parts of the page at a time) so they had API hooks - they kind of went with it, rather than fighting it. The API's facilitated the openness. Currently, the logic behind Web 2.0 is baked into API's, RSS etc. Also, I question whether any business will move to this approach because it is a compelling philosophy. They will shift because it is an attractive business proposition, or because technically it makes sense/is unavoidable, or a mix of both.)

But I think this is exactly backwards. Open source didn't require developer speak. As Eric Raymond showed, he had to get *developers* to understand open source by using metaphors of cathedrals and bazaars. The conceptual underpinnings are not predicated on the technology.

APIs facilitate openness, but they're meaningless if your organization doesn't have the conceptual underpinnings to take advantage of it. And while the "logic" of Web 2.0 might be baked into APIs, RSS, etc. (and I'm not so sure about that), the approach is not.

If business shifts to this approach *without* appreciating the compelling philosophy, well, they'll fuck it up. They'll fuck it up the way that Barnes and Noble did when they simply tried to copy Amazon's features. The point isn't the features, it's the underlying philosophy of relinquishing control. Since Barnes and Noble as a company didn't appreciate the philosophy, they invested a lot of time and energy into features that then languished. Same thing with Blockbuster. They tried to copy Netflix' policy of No Late Fees -- but because they don't have the philosophical underpinnings in place, they fucked it up, and now have to post big "End of Late Fees Terms" links on their home page, because customers were getting confused when, after having a DVD for a week, they found out they were then charged the COST of that DVD.

As Ross made clear, simply adopting Web 2.0 technologies does not make you a Web 2.0 enterprise.

In fact, I'm a little distressed that the program chair for BayCHI (the "H" stands for "Human"!) would express such... technological determinism about this. As Paul Rademacher said on the panel -- these technologies have been around for at least 5 years... They're being adopted *because* the philosophy is starting to spread...

Posted by peterme at 05:39 PM | Comments (6)


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