What does “Web 2.0” mean to you?

July 19, 2010 Leave a comment

I had a discussion recently with someone that claimed to be a “Web 2.0 expert”. First of all, I am always skeptical of anyone that declares themselves to be an expert, or a “guru”, I think it’s my job to decide if it’s warranted. Secondly, he steadfastly believes that Web 2.0 is really just a collection of technologies and software (e.g. Twitter, Flickr, Facebook etc.), displaying a decidedly social media bias.

This inspired me to re-evaluate my thoughts on what exactly I thought Web 2.0 was. It’s almost a throw-away term now, often bandied about by marketers, but is there a single answer to “What is Web 2.0?” I don’t think so. In coming up with some notes on the subject, I couldn’t narrow it down, so decided to do a series of three blogs, each addressing one aspect of what Web 2.0 means to me. This is the first in that series.

My feeling has always been that the term Web 2.0, which has really only been around about 5 years anyway, reflects a paradigm shift in the way The Internet was perceived and is now being used. Back in the days of Web 1.0, for the sake of a better term, users accessed the internet in much the same way they read a magazine. It was a very passive pursuit, and pretty much a one-way conduit. Yes, we entered information, but usually only for the benefit of the site owner, not for our benefit.

With Web 2.0, the philosophy changed. No longer were we passive observers, we were actively contributing. Our visits and habits drove search engine rankings; our videos and blogs meant that we were also providing content; our need to be engaged led to more interactive content, tailored to our needs and wants; and Social media meant that we were using the internet for our own purposes, not just as a means of driving business to online retailers. Businesses are of course harnessing social media, and people are still monetizing blogs, but at the core, they are still our tools, and represent our collective consciousness. Webmasters use web analytics to determine our every move, how we interact with their sites and services, and whether they meet our needs – but the fundamental shift is how quickly that data now leads to change. In many cases, interactive sites change content on-the-fly based on how we use the site. Perhaps more than anything else, the Web 2.0 shift means that the tail is now wagging the dog.

In response to this Web 2.0 shift, web site designers and developers have gone back to grass roots, with principles and practices that reflect a more simplistic approach (I’ll address this in more detail in the next blog in this series). No longer is design meant to show off the capabilities of the designer, or the sophistication of the platform, but it is meant to make our life easier, by allowing us to navigate, learn, and act more quickly. Granted, many of the technologies required to make our lives easier require great underlying sophistication – but that’s their problem! Internet marketers have also been forced to re-evaluate how they reach their audience. You can’t simply rely on a single medium to tell your story, or to reach your audience. Strategic plans are now required that integrate many styles and communication channels, and if you don’t unify your message across those channels, it simply won’t reach your audience – it won’t rank highly enough, and it will just be more noise.

Marketers and internet users are no longer adversaries, they are partners in the new Web 2.0 revolution, each driving the other. The last five years have been an exciting time for those of us who work in the internet industry, but much more than that, it has been a Golden Age for the user. Now, Web 3.0 ?

go directly to the next Web 2.0 blog …

World Cup Highs and Lows!

July 1, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve been pretty cynical about this world cup, but you have to admit, not without good cause!

Even before the events of the England and Mexico games, I wasn’t impressed with refereeing standards at what should be a showcase for all that is best in football. While both Germany and Argentina were deserving winners, their great performances were somewhat overshadowed by atrocious decisions. Referees in football have the hardest job in sports. Usually FIFA just hangs the refs out to dry, but perhaps this time they will get some help. We got the usual crap from Sepp Blatter right after the games last weekend, but the fact that England, being such a high-profile nation, were the victims here, could see video replay actually get a fair trial.

While all the press has been focusing on the big mistakes made by the tournament referees, lets not forget that some officials have been very good. With England out of the World Cup, the outstanding Howard Webb has a great chance at being the WC Final referee, and it would be well deserved. Webb’s odds have probably increased given the Lampard disallowed goal, as FIFA is a very politically driven organisation, and it would be a consolation gesture to the English FA if Webb was to get the gig. Howard Webb’s head also has the distinction of being the only thing at the world cup rounder than the Jabulani ball!

The Jabulani Ball

The Jabulani Ball

Less has been made of the Jabulani ball in the past few games, but it still seems as erratic as ever, and goalies are still being made to look bad. When Gianluigi Buffon and Iker Casillas, arguably the two best goalies in the world, think it’s a terrible ball, you have to listen – Cassilas famously comparing it to a “beach ball”. They are not alone though, with pretty much universal agreement that the ball is affecting player performance. Outfield players have seen crosses, shots, corners, and free-kicks balloon off into the proverbial ‘Row Z’, while the travails of the goalies is already well documented.

I don’t think the strange movement of the new 8-panel ball is solely to blame for the goalie errors – although I don’t recall seeing as many goalies totally miss punches as I have with the Jabulani. Starting with Robert Greene and throughout the whole tournament, goalies have been treating the ball differently, preparing to catch it differently, and trying to simply block it away, or punch it, instead of catching it. The hype surrounding the ball seems to have frightened them, and many fumbles have resulted from poor technique and lack of confidence. They are expecting it to do something strange, so even when it doesn’t, they are liable to make errors.

Some goalies, however, didn’t seem to start the tournament with a lack of confidence. Schwarzer and Kingson were outstanding early on, putting in solid and confident displays that probably made Capello jealous! Eventually though, the Jabulani had its day, and they both fumbled balls that lead to goals. Some outfield players also figured out the ball, to a degree, and we have seen some outstanding strikes, sadly they seem to be fewer and farther between than in previous World Cups. If you believe the player himself, Maicon’s amazing strike from an impossible angle was intentional, and if so certainly shows that the Jabulani can be tamed. Japan scored two outstanding free kicks in one game (poor Denmark), and Tevez’s strike against Mexico was probably the pick of the bunch. There have certainly been highlights in South Africa.

Ronaldo

Ronaldo - and from the Russian judge?

Unfortunately, the highlights have been overshadowed by discussions of refereeing, the ball, and of course the dreaded Vuvuzela. I won’t say too much more on the annoying, droning plastic horns, but it is nice to see that right-minded teams and organisations worldwide have already banned them from future sporting events… if only FIFA had! On top of these low-lights, the usual suspect has reared its ugly head… no, not Tevez, diving. Some of the on-field antics of players at this world cup have beggared belief, but I have to admit, not as many refs were conned as in past tournaments. I don’t recall seeing as many refs telling players to simply “get up”, and that’s great, but where are the yellow cards? Cristiano Ronaldo, especially, seemed to be the ‘victim’ of his own press. Even when he was fouled, refs were ignoring his petulant pleas, and rightly so – the boy who cried wolf! His reputation preceded him, and for once refs acted accordingly.

Worse even than diving are the con jobs – the rolling around or grabbing your face like you were just assaulted. These unsporting behaviours are even more unsavoury because they are not just intended to con the ref, but are attempts to get your fellow professionals carded or dismissed. Sadly, some worked. Until FIFA gets serious about the diving and cheating, the reputation of the game will suffer. I would gladly give up goal-line video replay to see FIFA institute retrospective reviews that targeted cheats and divers, rescinding cards when required, and meting out punishment when warranted.

Finally, after discussing the seedier elements of the game, I think it is only fair to single out Uruguay and Mexico for their final group match. Both teams only needed a tie to advance, and the concern was that they would just collude to achieve that result, seeing them both into the knock-out stages. Far from it! This was probably the most entertaining match I’ve seen to date, and it was clear from the start that both teams were out to win. That game momentarily restored my faith, the integrity shown was a breath of fresh air – which sadly only lasted until the Brazil v Portugal game.

Whatever the outcome from here on in, the World Cup in South Africa has been newsworthy, and a financial success – and as far as FIFA are concerned, that is all that matters. I still think that Spain will win it … I would love to see Uruguay go all the way though.

Go Go - Diego!

Go Go - Diego!

Just as the World Cup was getting exciting!

June 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Finally, something happened on the pitch at the World Cup that didnt involve the Jabalani ball, or the Juvuvela, as I prefer to call it, as it is ruining the World Cup.

A couple of upsets back to back see the vaunted Spanish, and the formerly impressive Germans, humbled by lesser opposition. On top of that, the French look destined to miss qualification, along with South Africa – although the latter is not really much of a surprise, but it is disappointing.

Just when there was some buzz, other than the incessant droning of those horrible vuvuzelas, England played again. Teams like Brazil and Argentina often entertain… England rarely do. Even by England’s standards the insipid 0-0 draw with Algeria was boring. In fact, the performance was possibly the worst I can recall from an England team.

With just two points and ONE goal against mediocre opposition, England are left needing a win against Slovenia to qualify. Normally I wouldn’t be too concerned, but after that performance, and with England seemingly having no ‘Plan B’, we may not qualify – and frankly, we don’t deserve too.

The World Cup is finally here!

June 12, 2010 1 comment

Well, the World Cup 2010 is finally here, and as usual, there is plenty going on off the field too.

Four days and almost a dozen games in, the biggest talking point is the vuvuzela. Never mind that the players can’t hear anything, neither can we as fans. You can’t hear the crowd singing either. You would think you would be easily able to drown out a constant droning noise during a football match, well, the married men should be able to! It kills all atmosphere, though, and is beyond annoying. The atmosphere is as flat as the pitches.

The vaunted Jubilani ball is as big an issue. It is making goalies look stupid, and was the deciding factor in three games… so far! Even when it isn’t moving around in the air, the Jubilani is making goalies prepare differently in all situations. The ball is as big an issue for outfield players, making set-piece takers look like Sunday leaguers.

As in World Cups past, FIFA have decided to intervene and introduce another pointless “directive” to officials, this time they have targeted the scourge that is the penalty run-up. WTF? Forget the real problems in the game, let’s focus on the minutiae again… sigh.

More bitching? Why yes, as if the overly-round and light ball isn’t enough to deal with, the ridiculously high bounces are also causing issues. Pitches that are part artificial turf aren’t helping.

On the pitch, little of note, although Germany’s performance stood out. If FIFA wanted to have games decided by anything BUT talent, job done. Great disappontment so far, and since FIFA have decided to do nothing about the vuvuzela, I don’t see it improving.

Its been a long road, getting from there to here!

June 12, 2010 Leave a comment

For anyone paying attention, you’ll notice it’s been just over a month since my last blog. You’re probably expecting me to apologise, and trot out the usual excuses – “life intervened”, “too busy”, “haven’t had time” etc etc … well I’m not. I had plenty of time, just check my Raptr gaming profile, or my Twitter feed.

So why just stop for no apparent reason? Why indeed. Last night was the season finale of Stargate Universe (SGU), a show I have really enjoyed, but one of those that took a pointless mid-season break. Get it now?

I can understand the summer break in TV shows, it is all about money after all. I could even understand a short Christmas break, but a couple of months? Or longer – SGU was off the air for about 4 months here in Canada! They are just taking the piss.

Caprica

Caprica next on the block?

I don’t recall how many shows I’ve lost touch with, and just lost interest in, over the years due to day and or time changes, or just due to them taking the dreaded “hiatus”. My wife and I used to love Boston Legal, but after it took an extended break, switched times and days etc, I lost touch and didn’t even realise it was back on. Caprica looks set to become the next victim of my apathy. Nine brilliant episodes, then poof! That show was advertised, prior to its debut, for longer than it ran!

It doesn’t help that PVRs, TV on DVD, services like Hulu, and on-demand have changed the way people watch TV. Personally, I don’t watch live to air TV anymore, or very rarely. My PVR is my best friend, and I often wait for entire seasons to be done, just so I can watch them back to back. I don’t watch ads, so I doubt any TV folks care what I have to say, but I don’t believe I’m alone in my viewing habits.

Stargate Universe

Are they taking the piss?

TV on DVD has really complicated the landscape, and I am really worried that we will see more and more mid-season breaks. Why? There is big money in TV on DVD. SGU took the opportunity to release a half-season DVD set (Season 1.0) … WTF? Was it really a case of taking the opportunity, or a planned move to gouge the fans? Perhaps I’m being cynical, but I don’t like the direction in which the industry is developing it’s new model. The rest of the SGU Season 1 (called Season 1.5) is due for release July 27th – which, coincidentally, is my birthday!

Don’t get me wrong either, as I stated in previous blogs, I love TV on DVD. We are currently working our way through The Sopranos, and I’m dropping (not so) subtle hints that the Chuck Season 2 DVD set with the 3D glasses would be a great Father’s Day gift… Yvonne Strahovsky in lingerie, IN 3D… now that’s entertainment!

My concern is that the window from air to DVD is being artificially manipulated just to get the cash in more quickly. Yes, it’s a cut-throat business, and I hope someone on the inside comments on this blog. I would love to be shot down here, and have all this paranoia devalued, but sadly I don’t see that happening.

Anyway, rant over, I have to go watch SGU: Incursion Part 2 … I have it on my PVR from last night.

The Top 10 Least Plausible Sci-Fi Movie Premises

Science Fiction, in most cases, requires some suspension of disbelief, but there are always those that push the envelope, and some that just shred it.

10. The Day After Tomorrow
I’m no Al Gore, and I don’t think I’ve ever even met a climatologist, but something about an ice age that creeps up in a few years, and not over a much longer timespan, seems very off to me. The cartoon Ice Age is probably more scientifically accurate.

9. The Core
So, the Earth is about to blow up or somesuch… again, and a MANNED drill/tunnel machine to the center of the Earth is the best option we have. I want the guy who pitched that idea and got it funding selling my used car.

8. Wanted
During my over-education, I actually took a graduate level course on “Naive Theories of Physics”. It was full of cognitive psychologists and philosophy students, and was a really interesting course. It is amazing how naive people are about the way the world works. Anyway, bottom line, if you don’t want to ask the scientists, ask The Mythbusters – you can’t bend bullets, Kari said so. Next.

7. Fantastic Voyage (and Innerspace)
… as well as tons of other rip-offs, including a very good Phineas & Ferb episode. Shrink someone down so they can travel inside the body???

6. Starship Troopers
A fun space-Marine romp, but the science behind those giant bugs is beyond suspect, they simply couldn’t support their own weight.

5. Avatar
Unobtanium. Really? Really?

4. The Fly
Genetic manipulation? Okay. Teleportation? Why not. The two combining to modify him into a part-fly abomination? Er, no. No less plausible than Spiderman as well, I suppose.

3. Zombies!
Okay, not a single movie, but movies like the brilliant 28 Days Later, plus Resident Evil, Shaun of the Dead, and Zombieland are some of my favourites. I love Zombies. Lets face it though, no matter how mad a cow becomes, it’s pretty unlikely it will start eating other cows, then pass that disease onto humans. What’s next, a strain of Bird Flu that mutates and passes to humans, giving us the ability to fly?

2. Terminator 5: The Governator
After failing to kill John Connor by military means, Skynet gets sneaky and sends a T-1000 back in time to infiltrate the political hierarchy. The Terminator becomes Governor of California, then draws john Connor to him with a series of ads promoting the state. Then the Governator breaks his will with punitive laws against Humvees, cigars, dirt bikes, skate boards, and rock music. It was a movie, right?

1. Armageddon
I can’t stop watching Armageddon. I’ve stayed up until 1 or 2 in the morning on a work night because I simply can’t compel myself to turn it off, it’s like suspension of disbelief porn… although Liv Tyler may have something to do with it too! It’s hard to even know where to start with Armageddon … shuttles taking off side by side, exploding space stations, the shuttles approaching the comet, the ridiculous ‘moon buggies’, the actual drilling sequences, or Ben Affleck in a decent movie other than Good Will Hunting. It all beggars belief!

Don’t get me wrong, as I’ve pointed out, some of my favourite movies are in this blog. Perhaps if an idea is so outlandish it becomes more plausible, there is some social psychology behind that somewhere, I’m sure. Anyway, I’m also sure I’ve missed some other less than plausible plot lines and movie premises – what are your favourites?

The Avatar Blues – Sex and the Single Alien

April 30, 2010 Leave a comment

This blog brought to you by the letter ‘B’ and the colour ‘Blue’.

It’s been about a week since I picked up my copy of Avatar on Blu-ray, and a few related things have influenced this blog over the last week. I was not a huge fan of Avatar when it came out in the theater. It was a good movie, but way over-hyped in my opinion. It has to be said though, Avatar is stunning on Blu-ray. It looks and sounds amazing, and to top it off, the Blu-ray + DVD combo pack was only $20 at Best Buy! There are no special features though, and many people seem to be waiting for the special editions that will be coming out … and you know that there will be several of them, to cash in as much as possible.

Matriarch Benezia

Matriarch Benezia

One topic I have seen talked about at length is whether there will be any Na’vi sex scene in the special editions, or discussion of Na’vi sexuality. I don’t get the big deal. If you want some good blue alien sex, get Mass Effect! I just finished my 2nd play through of the game recently, and one thing I did finally figure out was getting the Paramour Achievement, which basically means you got to sleep with one of the female characters (or the male character if you play as a female). To make it more interesting, BioWare even created a little love triangle between the human characters and the Asari scientist, Liara, who is of course blue. Even Liara’s mother, Matriarch Benezia, gets the sexy blue treatment. She wears the dress shown above, revealing her true biotic, er, talents.

If you play the game right, you even get once scene where the two women confront you, forcing you to choose between them. Commander Shepard, with a glint in his eye, even asks about the chance of a threesome, but gets shot down by the human… the blue alien seemed up for it! Choose the Asari, disappointing Chief Ashley Williams in the process, and you will end up with a VERY steamy sex scene involving Shepard and Liara (well, steamy for a video game – see it below), complete with bare blue buttocks and a hint of much more!