Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Great Web 2.0 Distinction

Web 2.0 is big. I don’t need to tell you that.

I often find myself talking about it to people who simply don’t get it. They think Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube are a waste of time. Perhaps they’re right or perhaps they’ve been left behind…

I’m currently reading Sarah Lacy’s book on Web 2.0. She’s been reporting on startups and venture capital in Silicon Valley, the heart of all things internet, for almost a decade.

She writes Valley Girl, a biweekly column for BusinessWeek and co-hosts Tech Ticker on Yahoo!

If you get the US version of her book it’s called: Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good: The Rebirth of Silicon Valley and the Rise of Web 2.0. Penguin publishes this one (May 2008). What a crap title! (View it on Amazon)

If you get the UK version, which is the one I’m reading, it’s called: The Stories of Facebook, YouTube and MySpace; The People, the hype and the deals behind the giants of Web 2.0. Published by Crimson Publishing (November 2008).

The book is an engaging inside story of how some of the giants of Web 2.0 came to be. It’s got some useful distinctions in it and the best one I’ve ever heard to put Web 2.0 into context.

On page 145, Lacy is talking about Sean Parker. He was pivotal in a number of key internet plays, including Napster with Shawn Fanning and Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg.

He gets the web. He gets it at a gut, visceral, intuitive level. He also gets it way before most.

This distinction is attributed to him and it puts Web 2.0 into a context where you can hear the potential opportunities. Here goes…

Web 1.0 was about the digitization of media. Think Napster. You take your content and you make it available in new ways digitally via the net. Why buy a CD when you can get it for nothing online? The recording companies and the movie companies didn’t get it, Napster did.

The holy grail of Web 1.0 was the portal. You built a big website that had news, weather, sport, stockmarket prices etc. It was a one-stop shop and the direct translation of a newspaper. It was the geek’s newspaper because the web really hadn’t invaded everyone’s lives just yet.

Web 2.0 is about the digitization of identity. Sounds impressive huh? But what does it mean?

Basically, it’s the translation of you as an individual online. You get to tell the world who you are online through your name, contact details, photos, likes and dislikes, music, video and anything else you want to link to.

Your blog is one such outlet of your identity. I get to be me and I get to say what I want to whoever wants to listen. No wonder 75 million blogs have been created in less than 10 years!

Now take this one step further. I have my identity online and my friends have theirs online as well, so do a couple of million other people so… let’s hang out.

Facebook is the poster child of hanging out online. Those who get it, live it. They wake up in the morning and log straight on. They find out what their friends are doing right now, they organize their next social event or share their photos from their last one. No spam, minimal advertising and no big media or other company telling them what to do – only your boss at work standing over you!

And the best part… this is public domain. You don’t have to be a geek to join in because the interface is adult-proof. Even better you can socialize without getting out of your pyjamas. The ultimate global village - Long live Marshall McLuhan!

That’s the great Web 2.0 distinction. Do you get it now?

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Crowdsourcing Sources for the Crowd

Here's a follow-up to our earlier RAP on crowd-sourcing "The Bees Wees"...Crowdsourcing is the "act of taking a job traditionally performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call."

This is the term and definition created by journalist Jeff Howe in an article published in Wired in June 2006.

Howe has a new book out that looks like a useful addition to the arsenal of the crowd-warrior.

It's called "Crowdsourcing: How the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Business" and it's published by Random House Books.

An Excerpt from Crowdsourcing

Jeff Howe's Crowdsourcing Blog

Here's some other resources for the crowdsourcer in you...

Howe's original Wired Article

The Wikipedia version of Crowdsourcing

"The Wisdom of the Crowds" by James Surowiecki

"We Are Smarter Than Me" - the website of the book we rapped

Book Rapper's "The Bees' Wees"

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Gandhi and the Starfish

I watched one of my favourite movies last night... the 1982 spectacular 'Gandhi'.

Yep, it's now 26 years old and given it won 8 Academy Awards it might be worth a look simply because it's a good movie. It's presented in pseudo documentary style and I presume, given it's a Richard Attenborough movie, that's it's probably faithful, at least as they say at the beginning, faithful to the spirit of the man.

The thing that was most interesting was watching it through the lens of one of the books we rapped recently: Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom's "The Spider and the Starfish".

In the movie, the British play the Spider and Gandhi and his followers the Starfish.

There's a couple of really interesting points to notice.
  1. The British are completely outnumbered, some 100,000 versus the 300 million Indians, yet they control the country. Size is not everything.
  2. Gandhi undermines the British by tackling their points of control, namely the making of cloth and salt. He found out these weaknesses through his grassroots connections.
  3. Gandhi was not a traditional leader like a CEO or general. He didn't tell people what to do or control their actions. He was a spiritual leader, he lead by example and others followed, not because he asked them to, because they wanted to.
  4. Gandhi stood for an ideology. His followers weren't following him as much as they were following the ideal he was pursuing.
  5. It is funny to watch the reactions of the British throughout the movie. They are completely unaware of the forces at work undermining their role in India. At first they laugh it off. Then try to ignore it hoping the movement will go away. They even take some desperate actions trying to impose command and control. Finally, they concede victory. This could be the story of Napster and the Music Industry!
  6. Sadly, Gandhi is assassinated in the movie as in life. Fortunately, having inspired a Starfish organization, India became an independent nation despite his death.
The subplot in the movie is a further play of Spider versus Starfish. The Muslim leaders are at odds with Gandhi because they have a Spider mentality. They are portrayed as wanting to swap the British centralized control for their own. It causes a few problems in the movie, including the ultimate split between India and Pakistan. In real life this issue appears to be unresolved and may flare again in the next decade. Watch this space.

Re-read our RAP "Leaderful" and watch this movie for a fascinating insight into how Starfish can undermine Spiders.

Or at the least, grab some popcorn and enjoy an inspiring story. Ben Kingsley is stunning as Gandhi!

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Book Rapper Blog Restart

winding_roadHi folks,
I'm back again. I've been a bit quiet on the blog front. Time to correct that.

What to expect... a few more posts about books and ideas and trends including:

RAPPED : Previously, I was thinking that I'd concentrate on the Book Rapper issues only - updates, follow-ups and downgrades as new info comes to light. I've got some of these planned!

unRAPPED : It's time to extend this to other books I'm reading. I read about 40 books a year and only about 10 make it as Book Rapper issues. Most of these are valuable resources too. So I thought it was time to discuss the other 30 books that are unRAPPED.

2-RAP : Thirdly, I'll give you a look into the books that I want to read and possibly RAP. They might be the ones I've bought and haven't got to yet, or the upcoming releases that I haven't even got yet.

Join me on this journey up the long and winding road and let's see what we find together along the way...