Tuesday Jan 16, 2007

Lag Marketing

Could Facebook "grow up" to be a LinkedIn competitor? Alex Iskold thinks so. It's an interesting possibility, and reminds me of trends previously seen from the likes of Apple and Linux.

Basically, the idea is to reach your market before they are your market. Step one: build popularity with starving college students (where there is little or no profit). Step two: wait for those students to age into powerful and affluent corporate workers (providing significant profits, if they still think highly of your company/product). Apple did it consciously with discounts at college bookstores (encouraging more student ownership of Apple products) and to college IT purchasers (encouraging more Apple machines in computing labs and thus more student use of Apple products). Linux and other open source projects did it unconsciously by providing free software to technical students with an itch to tinker.

Per our formula, financial benefits came later. The students eventually graduated, and a portion of their increased income and corporate influence went to the benefit of vendors such as Apple and Red Hat. If Iskold's theory plays out, the same could soon happen for Facebook (given its enormous penetration into social networking for college students).

I think there is an obvious message here for Sun and anyone else looking to build up communities. A little foresight and patience goes a long way.

Monday Jan 15, 2007

Tagging Formats: Why Not Follow Search's Lead?

Why is there so much argument over the need for a tagging standard? Of course we need a standard. It just doesn't have to be a new one. We have a ready-made standard in existing keyword-to-content systems: search engines.

How is tagging so different than searching? About the only difference I see is that they're done in reverse order. Instead of proposing keywords for a not-yet-found piece of content, tagging applies keywords to content up front. Great. Both are useful. Both are important. And both should share one syntax for keywords.

Since search came first, it gets to set the standard. So if you want to see how tagging should work, just look to Google's search form. It's space-delimited, spaces can exist within quoted items, and quotes can exist within items if they're escaped. There you go--the tagging standard wars are settled. The settlement just happens to predate tagging itself.

Friday Dec 22, 2006

Explaining REST to Your Grandmother

Ryan Tomayko has written a good post on explaining REST to a nontechnical audience. Unfortunately for Ryan, the whole "how I explained it to my wife" angle left him open to some complaints of sexism. His response (that he was using his wife in reference to an average layperson, not an average female) seems reasonable enough. Still, the episode can serve as an important reminder to us all. If you're going to talk about explaining technology to the family luddite, stick with your grandmother. People are more willing to attribute her inexperience to a generation gap rather than to some sexist prejudice on your part.

Friday Dec 15, 2006

Just say three-dot-NO

Ever love something but hate its name? You know, kind of the way you feel about your Aunt Mertalina. (Just kidding, Auntie--you know I love you!) That's how many people feel about Web 2.0: great ideas and fun to use, but stuck with one horribly hype-driven name.

I'm actually not in that camp (at least not any more). I'm willing to accept the idea that Web 2.0 has emerged as an example of useful jargon. It's been thrown around enough that most people who care know what it means. So we're stuck with it and there is no going back. I've accepted this and must recommend that you do the same.

Still, there is an undeniable dark side to the name. For one, any old fool now thinks he's brilliant if he slaps an integer-dot-oh name on some otherwise bad idea. Not good, but it can probably be survived. (For the nerds out there, at least we're only creating bad new terminology at a O(n) rate.)

But where things get really bad is the incrementing of the version number itself. So we'll not only be stuck with Web 2.0, but also the inevitable Web 3.0, Web 4.0, Web N+1 (aka Web I'm-Incrementing-Faster-Than-You-dot-oh), etc. And as we already noted, the arbitrary versioning craze isn't easily restricted to the "Web" term. That means we're bound to get similar version sprawl on all those other bad ideas mentioned earlier. Now we've got a problem (nerd update: generating bad terminology at a O(n\^2) rate). Yikes.

I see only one solution: the madness must stop here. There is a Web 2.0 (as we said, there is no putting that genie back in the bottle). But there is no Web 3.0, nor will there ever be one. Likewise, there never will be a Web 4.0 (much as I may appreciate a good rant). These terms are dead on arrival--no, make that dead before arrival. And it looks like I'm not the only one to think so. Sometimes there really is wisdom in the crowd.

Yes, there will of course be something fundamentally new and different after Web 2.0. But it should not be called Web 3.0. Call it by its real name, the Semantic Web (if that does end up achieving widespread adoption). Or if it's something else entirely, call it something else entirely. Don't propogate the unnecessary rise of bad terminology.

No one wants to hear your brilliant ideas for Web 3.0, 4.0, or 99.0 (and before you try, don't even think about some kind of stealth versioning with a Web 2.0 Service Pack 1 or Web 2.0 Enterprise Edition). The versioning madness must stop. And it must stop at 2.0.




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