Cool discussion of Web 2.0 by ThoughtWorks crew

I spent a lot of time on the road to & from the Twin Cities in the last few weeks, so I used that chance to catch up on some old podcasts and explore some new ones. A really nifty discovery this weekend was a panel discussion on Web 2.0 by the smart folks at ThoughtWorks. The discussion is led by Martin Fowler. Fowler goes through Tim O’Reilly’s seminal “What Is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software” from 5 years ago, where O’Reilly lays out what he believes to be seven defining principles of Web 2.0. Fowler and the panel discusses each of these seven principles, looking at how they’ve held up over time. While the panelists didn’t think that all had held up equally well, in general O’Reilly had successfully identified many of the key trends. One might think this conversation is pretty esoteric, but I think it would be understandable and valuable to anyone looking to better understand what the web has become (and is still becoming). Definitely recommended!

It’s interesting to see in what ways various organizations do and don’t “get” these changes. Sadly, the U in general and the Morris campus in specific, for example, aren’t generally real on top of things when it comes to modern web technology. What’s particularly frustrating is the U’s unwillingness to work with and empower their users to help generate and manage content and value. Big Web 2.0 successes like Google and Amazon, Twitter and Flickr are all about leveraging user generated content. The U has its little fits in that direction (the U of M wiki, the UThink blogs), but they’re always peripheral to the life of the University, always in the back alleys instead of on the front page.

The ThoughtWorks discussion runs about an hour, and they divided it up into three chunks for podcasting. Unfortunately they haven’t released a new podcast since last July, so it appears that I’m late to the party and the party may be over. I look forward to listening to their other podcasts, and I certainly hope that they start making new episodes sometime soon.

If you’re interested you can find all their podcasts on the ThoughtWorks What We Say page through either RSS or iTunes.

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Can we please remember that M$ hasn’t completely taken over the world?

I just had to take four on-line safety courses here at Essex in order to get money from our research grant. I’ll spare you the horrors, although I did twitter on about of some of them as I went as a sanity saving device, and will share a couple:

“Keeping your workstation and office tidy is crucial to short-term and long-term health and wellbeing.” I am doomed.

[The] Irony of spending much of an hour wading through a tedious online lesson on risks of spending too long at the computer is not lost on me.

As if the exams themselves weren’t annoying enough (and trust me, they were), the people that assembled them implicitly assumed that everyone in the world is in Microsoft’s pocket. I eventually became so frustrated that when I’d verified that I’d passed them all, I sent the following along to the folks that put all this together:

While I’m here, I should mention that there were several pieces of media that seemed to assume that one was on a Windows box. Quite a few images (clip art, I assume) didn’t load on either a Linux box or a Mac. Also the PowerPoint in the “Working at height” lesson assumed that you had PowerPoint or some compatible viewer, which isn’t always going to be true.

None of these problems were fatal for me. There didn’t appear to be important content in any of the images that I couldn’t view, and I was able to view the PowerPoint file in another program. Still they were confusing and frustrating (especially at first), and it would presumably be fairly easy (if somewhat tedious) to convert them all to a more standard and open format.

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