Web 2.0 is hard

Question: How much investment does Web 2.0 really take?

Answer: A lot.

I’ve seen the same quote repeated in several different locations recently. It was uttered by O’Reilly and has the twin benefits of being short, quantitative, and seemingly true. As I’m in the midst of setting up a new website for our company, focussed on the developer community that already exists (in number if not in action), it was a phrase that made me realise just how much work lay ahead of me.

Part of the work I’m doing is to replace the existing website, rebranding and updating it in one fell swoop. Most of the work is largely concerned with uploading documents and files to make sure that everything that is currently available will be available from the new website, but there are already thoughts around how we can use the website to drive further adoption, innovation and so on.

And, of course, because Web 2.0 is the phrase of the moment there are quite a few eyes waiting to see what will appear.

One thing I have realised, and I’m still winning over minds on this, is that most of what Web 2.0 is about isn’t the technology and, whilst this may seem like an odd statement, it’s not really about the people who use the website, not initially at any rate. No, for me the big issues that surround Web 2.0 adoption by corporations are centred around information and transparency, about being part of the conversation.

That last sentence is important. You cannot drive a conversation on the internet, you can start it, you can contribute to it, but once you’ve set it free you no longer have control over it. All you can do is hang in for the ride, and that’s where transparency kicks in. As the numbers of conversations grow the easier they are to manage if you are open and upfront. For, as Tim O’Reilly said of Web 2.0 (and I’m paraphrasing here):

“The more people that use it, the more uses we’ll find”

So, just as the benefits of having a more connected community of users will increase what they can acheive both individually and collectively, so to do the number of pitfalls awaiting the cumbersome.

What this confirms is that most of the challenges around setting up a community website are largely about the individuals and being able to reach out to them, to be able to consistently engage them and ultimately offer them benefits for their time and input.

Which doesn’t half take a lot of work.

Written By

Long time blogger, Father of Jack, geek of many things, random photographer and writer of nonsense.

Doing my best to find a balance.

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Great post, and echoes what I have observed in my multiple forays into this area, both for my employers and as a volunteer on community-centric projects.

I’ve been discussing with Austin writers about the writer’s role – part of the community, or just an enabler of community? Darren Barefoot answered the question with “if it’s a small community, you’d better be in there workin'” (completely paraphrased, he’s Canadian and doesn’t talk like that!) I’m of two minds – we can either enable transparency and community by being part, or by setting up site with users motivations in mind.

I’d like to hear your take – is Web 2.0 hard because of our need to get involved, or is it hard because there’s so much difficulty in involving others?

To borrow some phrases, I believe we are the Connectors and Mavens when it comes to such Web 2.0 projects. That makes it hard for us as we have an innate desire to be involved, and because we strive to get others involved.

So yes, it’s hard for both reasons.

Web 2.0 is hard…

…the big issues that surround Web 2.0 adoption by corporations are centred around information and transparency, about being part of the conversation…

Thinking of web 2.0 as helping facilitate a conversation is a good way of looking at it. To add another quote from O’Reilly, he says web 2.0 creates a context where people can share, whereas writing creates a context where people can think.

What software will you use to create a website with web 2.0 capability for your company? Don’t you run into a problem here where content management systems and web 2.0 applications seem to need the features the other provides?

Tom we are still in the first phase (creating the website!) and whilst Joomla is the weapon of choice of our webmaster, there is no reason why we can’t pull in… well anything we need.

What does having a website with Web 2.0 really mean anyway? As long as our website has the ability to stimulate and capture conversations then I’m a happy bunny as I’d assume, over time, that sharing will follow.

Sure we’ll have comments, and a forum, and maybe even a blog, but they are just tools. The hard bit is changing the mindset of the people who will be using the website.

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