The Web 2.0 hype of the last few years asks the question of "Web 2.0: Waste of time or useful?" But to me it's clear that social websites, blogging and podcasting have changed quite a lot the way I use the web. Here's an exemplary day of my Web 2.0 style life:
Between waking up, getting dressed and driving to work (sometimes I eat breakfast, too), I sync my iPod with my PowerBook so iTunes can fill it with my favourite podcasts. On my 25 minute commute to work, I regularly listen to "Blick über den Tellerrand", "POFACS", "Extremetech.com", "EGM Live" and the "AVForums Podcast" (The current december episode has an interview with Tomlinson Holman of THX fame!). Old school radio hardly plays a role in my car, only when I forgot to bring my iPod, or when the trip is real short. If I have time (as in: long trip, airplane, etc.), I enjoy listening to "Braincast", "Scipod", "Semi-Coherent Computing", "Spektrum Talk", "The Daily Source Code" (although it has a low SNR...) and try out some new ones.
In the office, I sign in to Plazes, XING, Facebook and lately even Twitter, and Dopplr to stay in touch with friends and colleagues. It depends on my current mood whether I type something interesting into the various "What are you doing now?" fields, someone please consolidate all this stuff into a single entry mechanism!
How do these add value to me? The obvious one is that it's now easier to manage contact data with friends and colleagues using XING, LinkedIn or Faceboo. Plazes and Dopplr let you know where people are, facilitating ad-hoc meetings. As work and leisure life styles become more and more global, keeping track of your friends' whereabouts will be more and more useful. If someone robs my house while I'm away, I'll just blame Jörg, or install a wifi camera at home that sends email whenever something moves :). But there's much more to social websites as we'll see blow. Micro-blogging, such as Twitter or to a lesser degree the Facebook status or the Plazes activities are as useless and as indispensable as small-talk is in real life. IM may give us an electronic alternative to 1-to-1 or 1-to-many chatting, but micro-blogging is more like the kind of chat you have with strangers while waiting for the bus or while being at a party, only global and with many more people at once.
During work, I'm currently doing some research on the adoption of blogs and podcasts within the company with Jörg. I also help create the HELDENFunk podcast and sometimes I present on Web 2.0 in general to customers. It's interesting to see the many shades of gray between people that are into blogging, podcasting, social networking etc. and those who are not, multiplied by the permutations of IT-literate people and not, US, German, UK and other nationalities, IT producing companies vs. IT consuming ones, management type positions and individual contributors, friends, relatives etc. Large, if not worlds of varieties in terms of Web 2.0 adoption. But this is only fun, my real work is more centered around IT consulting on CPUs, Systems, Solaris, Grid Computing, Workstations, etc., but I digress.
Between pieces of useful work, I relax my mind by attacking my friends on Facebook with Zombies, Vampires and Werewolves while retaliating their blows with my Slayer. Or I challenge someone to a movie quiz. Or other senseless, but fun stuff. Is this time-wasting 2.0? I'd say this is more like a fun way to say "Hi" to friends over the web or maybe like the quick game of snooker, table-soccer, etc. down the hall. A social, fun way to take a breath in between work.
More work. We're planning to do a new movie, after our "CSI: Munich - Saving the world with ZFS and 12 USB sticks" one was so popular. The thing with user-generated content is that it enables you to reach many, many more people than you would ever be able to present physically in front of. Quite a good thing if you're in any knowledge related business. My typical customer presentation involves 5-15 people about 1-3 times a week with the occasional presentation to an audience of maybe 20-200 about 2-3 times a year. Altogether this is in the order of 1500 people that I can reach with a traditional presentation. Well, our CSI movie has been downloaded more than 50000 times so far. I have to divide this number by 5 or so for the co-authors, but that's still an order of magnitude more people than I could ever present in front of. The HELDENFunk podcasts have accumulated a couple of thousands of downloaded episodes, which again helps me better get my messages through. And my blog has hundreds of hits each day, too. Check out Alec's wonderful video on a very similar matter. And hey, producing podcasts and videos is a lot of fun, too!
On my way back from work, more podcasts are in order. At home, I usually do most of my blog-reading and blog-writing as well as some more Facebook, XING or other Web 2.0 style things.
I hope to write something useful into my blog about once a week. A blog entry consumes about 2-3 hours of work because I try to write longer, more interesting articles with good content. There are of course many other styles of blogging, but I tend to subscribe to the views of this article: "Write articles, not blog postings" that my colleague Roland found somewhere. Blogging saves me quite some time in the end: Some howto-like stuff
that I get asked a lot gets converted into a blog entry and then I can
point people to it instead of explaining things all over again. For reading blogs and other syndicated content, I find Google's reader to be quite useful. The list of blogs I like to follow is more or less what you see to the right in my blogroll. Many useful and intriguing ideas I have found in blogs that I'd never have found elsewhere...
There's still a lot of stuff in Web 2.0 land that I don't do. I'd like to create my own personal podcast, but I'm still missing some time, concept and courage, but who knows. And I'm not convinced that Second Life is useful - yet. It's a great PR outlet for some companies (including us) and virtual worlds are clearly the way of the future. It's just that Second Life is too much, well, kinday version 0.1-ish. It sort of feels like the early days of Real Networks in the early nineties when audio quality sucked due to not enough bandwidth. SL has some serious scaling problems and the user experience is not ready for the masses (which IMHO is a requirement to make any Web 2.0 service useful). But it's clearly a step into the right direction. Check out projects Dark Star and Wonderland if you want to see how scalable 3D worlds look like and how they can add value to real businesses.
Am I a Web 2.0 addict? I don't think so. I try out a lot, but the the stuff that sticks usually is the stuff that adds real value to my work and personal life. The key thing here is to try out new things often, with an open mind, then try to understand what these services really do, and decide for yourself where the value to you lies. And yes, "fun" is a legitimate value, too :).