Hints and Tips

Understanding Web 2.0

To quote Wikipedia (itself an example of Web 2.0)  “Web 2.0 refers to a perceived second generation of web-based communities and hosted services — such as social-networking sites, wikis and folksonomies — which aim to facilitate collaboration and sharing between users”.  In essence, Web 2.0 is all about users interacting with the Web, rather than just downloading information. By leveraging on the knowledge and data of millions of users, the Web can become much more creative and wide ranging in its influence. Here are some examples of Web 2.0.

Social Network Services These provide websites for people who wish to share common interests and activities using chat, email, blogging, discussion groups and file sharing.  Well known sites include Friends Reunited (networking old school friends), Facebook, MySpace and YouTube (video sharing). Social networking sites are increasingly used beyond the teen sector to expand business and political contact networks.

Mashups A mashup is the combination of material from two or more websites to produce something more than the content of either. For example, maps from Google Maps are embedded in real estate websites such as Realestate.com.au or travel websites such as TripAdvisor to add value to the users of those sites.

Wikis (from the Hawaiian term ‘wiki wiki’ meaning quick) A wiki is software that allows users to create and edit web pages. The best known example is Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia written and maintained by its own readers. Other examples include user-maintained intranets and any collaborative software used within organisations for tasks such as project management or product development.

Podcasts A podcast refers to the distribution of audio or video files over the Internet for playback on portable media players (eg iPods and other MP3 players) or computers. Podcasting delivers two significant benefits over traditional radio and TV. The first is that media can be accessed from any broadcaster worldwide – there is no restriction to broadcasters within the immediate locality. This opens up a huge range of material. The second is the ability to timeshift – media can be downloaded at any time and replayed at a time convenient to the listener. Podcasting software can be set up to download every episode of specified programs as they become available.  To get started with Podcasting visit the ABC.

Folksonomies A folksonomy is the practice of allowing users to tag information on websites with their own indexing keywords, thereby categorising information and allowing it to be extracted by keyword. Examples of folksonomies include Flickr - a photo sharing website where photos are indexed by multiple keywords, Del.icio.us – where users share their web bookmarks, index them and allow all relevant bookmarks to be extracted by keyword and Blogcatalog – an index of Blogs. Tag clouds may be used to display index tags diagrammatically where the font size of each tag reflects its popularity (see the home page of Blogcatalog for an example).

Weblogs (Blogs) Ho-hum, read the thoughts of Fred Nurk and a million like him on a daily basis in their online web diaries. However there are also blogs on specialised topics written by some of the world leaders in those topics that can provide fascinating insights at a personal level. Use a blog directory such as Blogcatalog to locate the gems amongst the dross.

RSS feeds RSS feeds are automatically ‘pushed’ from websites  as new information becomes available to users who have subscribed to the feeds. Users no longer need to keep checking favourite websites for new content. RSS feeds are used to publish changes in share prices, news, weather etc. To read RSS content you need an RSS reader. A simple example is the sidebar on Google Desktop which tailors RSS feeds automatically to your preferred topics from websites you have visited recently.

Web Services This term describes direct computer to computer communication between web sites without manual intervention, often used to match client – supplier needs at terms satisfactory to both. For example, airline websites may list seat availability at different price levels and make this data accessible to travel company websites listing seat requirements. The important factor is that the exchange of data between airline and travel company occurs automatically and continually. Web Services use Extensible Markup Language – XML – to define the data.

How important are the examples listed above to the average Tasmanian organisation? Consider the implications of online travel bookings on travel agents, auction sites on salerooms, real estate sites on real estate agents and podcasting on CD sales and video hire outlets. Forward thinking people will familiarise themselves with the technologies listed above and consider them in terms of their own business activities.

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