Web 2.0: Ron Donaldson

The Ecology of Web 2.0
Victor Shelford – ecology is the science of communities. This is relevant to the web.

Had the internet, people started to develop applications, starting conditions for Web 2.0. Started to grow, and was unconstrained. Put stuff up and see what people use – free to use was critical, if there’s a cost people won’t try it. If it’s free people will try and will leave it behind if it doesn’t work. Huge overproduction – too many for us to try them all.

Just like organisms coming into a new land, e.g. the UK after the ice-age. There’s overproduction – too many seeds, young bats, whatever. Those are our starting conditions. Each new site has novelty, which is the same thing that happens into survival of the fittest – it’s the novelty that’s important. So it diverges and we get more diversity.

In nature, and we can see it on the web, is that you get competition. Facebook competes with MySpace. Is it different? Should I use both? So start fighting for new customers. Some systems move into their own specialised niche. Flickr, Dopplr, are specialised apps and they try to hold that niche as early as possible. Some things co-exist. Facebook and Flickr co-exist, and try to interact as best they can. Also get domination and wipe-out. Some things come in, start to dominate, then wipe out the smaller ones. So small tools, as novel or as good as they are, they won’t survive in the face of big competitors. New websites start to inherit each other’s variations, e.g. feedback systems from Amazon get used by other people. Friends Reunited is starting to become more like Facebook.

Go2Web20.net, says that it lists every Web 2.0 application or site on the web. And it’s huge – there are page and p ages. There is huge overproduction, lots of diveristy. What happens next?

In nature, the system starts to constrain itself. Things that appear within that system start to control and direct. Not like management direction – targets and objective – it’s the feedback from above that directs what happens below. Start to get weak constraints, things that control the development of the system, e.g. we each have a limited amount of time to spend on these things. The knowledge we have is limited too, LibraryThing.com is great if you love books, but if you’re interested in developing then you go somewhere else. Energy is a constrain too – the system can’t keep getting bigger as there’s a limited amount of effort that can be put into it.

Cognitive bias of mind – and the main one is that we look at first fit, not best fit. Most of us are members of the systems that we first joined when we first started, so if you’re in Facebook first, you won’t move off it. you’ve got all your stuff there, so there is inertia, so you make do with what and who is there. It’s a huge amount of effort to move on, so if Facebook Ver. 2 displeases people, who’s going to move first? Early adopters, people like David, have directed us down a path and have it’s hard to change direction. Relationships are the main reason for us holding together these systems.

Set up a blog in April 2008, and was very careful because wasn’t supposed to blog at work, but wanted a history of interesting blogs, but didn’t want people to notice it and to get into trouble. Then in final week in his job, he sent and email to everyone at work and published his weblog address, and got lots and lots of visitors, and kick-started a huge wave of interest. Left an interesting trail, so Innovation Watch, track trends, and pointed to his blog.

Ants do the same thing when looking for a food source. Ants go out and see if they can find food, and one or two ants get ignored, but when a critical mass is reached of ants saying there’s food, they whole lot change direction and go off to see. Bees do the same thing when assessing positions for new hives.

Behind the scenes of Web 2.0, there is a real chemical trail. Oxytocin is an interesting hormone, triggered when you laugh with other people. It’s the bonding hormone that mothers produce when they have a baby, and that couples produce when they orgasm. That bonding hormone makes you more connected with the other people that you laugh with – or do other things with – so if you laugh together then it’s more likely you’ll connect with them online. So there’s a web of chemical connections in your head that are mirror images of the web, and which also limit you because there’s a limit to how many people you can have relationship with.

Lots of social networks, newsgroups, newsletters – and newsletters are a good trigger to remind you that you’re connected to something, that you’re part of something bigger.

Wordle of Wikipedia entry for Web 2.0, there are lots of technical words, but not many words that focus on the social. It’s the social connections that are interesting not the technology.

Science blogs, there are lots of scientists who are doing stuff that’s really interesting and you can see their thoughts coming through. ScienceBlogs has collected all the ‘good’ ones in their view, and packaged them up. Has emerged to become almost a magazine in its formats. It now has an editor and points you at the good pieces of research.

Respectacle and the OmniBrain, and then got together to form Of Two Minds. That’s almost sexual reproduction, because the best of those two blogs came together to form a better blog.

Interesting apps:

Alltop, like RSS, but you don’t have to set it up. Scan the interesting areas and see all the blogs that are about public speaking, and that gives a summary about what people are saying about it. Really gives you a taste of what’s going on.

ReadTheWords.com, put some text into it and an avatar reads it back to you, but you can create an MP3, put it on your iPod, and have a podcast made of text. Admittedly, it’s read by a robot though.

Text Mindmap – if you cut and paste indented text it will draw you a mindmap from it.

SenseMaker Suite – make sense of things like blogs, videos, audio recordings, text, and throw them into the system then pick three axis, so if you had all the people who have been in touch with Dave Gurteen, you can map attributes, e.g. satisfaction, location, and age. And it draws a 3D landscape, and you can then see interesting trends. Can home in on the negatives you might want to work on, or the peaks that you want to focus on.

Human evolution – we are designed to handle story fragments. Dunbar’s number of 150 – brain’s capacity to manage relationships. If networks get too big, the system can manage it to some extent.

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