11 January 2006

What is the (new) Matrix?

What does it say about how much time I have on my hands when I end up pulling a Diesel Sweeties reading marathon?  All almost 1400 strips – I’m beginning to see things all…pixelly…Add to that the fact that I pitched in a transcribed a bunch of them, as per Emperor r. stevens’ edict, and I’m a virtual font of DS knowledge!  Heck, I even felt the need to edit the wikipedia entry for the site!  (How could they not include the venerable Shockwave in the list of guest characters?!?)

On another tangent, I’m all for this Web 2.0 thing everyone is clamoring about.  I have no idea what’s going on, but I’m excited!  What I’ve managed to distill out of the various references to said phenomenon is that Web 2.0 is about information convergence and interconnectedness.  The importance of Web 1.0 (if we can call it such) was information access and openness.  All of a sudden, with the public explosion of internet access, the world all of a sudden (relatively speaking, of course – Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the LoC wasn’t digitized overnight) the world had nearly every piece of information at their fingertips.  The Dot Com days (or, what could be called Web 1.5) gave people interaction with that information.  Not only could you see Domino’s menu, but you could order a pizza to boot!

But all the information in the world is a useless distraction if you have no meaningful way to interpret it.  The true meaning of a piece of information relies on its interconnections and relations, and being able to see and understand those connections.  To see what I mean, try a little experiment in learning.  Go to wikipedia and pull up any random article until you come up with something you have no familiarity with – the more obtuse the better (it shouldn’t be difficult, there’s a large amount of very in depth and technical content there).  Start surfing back through the reference links in the article, again especially the obscure ones, and eventually you will find an article that fits within your frame of reference.  Once you’ve read up on that subject, you’ll be able to make your way back to the previous topic with your comprehension thus expanded.  Continue this process ad nausea (or ad completion – whatever the Latin is for that) and eventually you will have an understanding of the original subject.  

Now, what does that mean for Web 2.0?  Well, it’s about being able to form those frame of reference expanding links, but about any piece of data you can put your hands on and finding out what else you can accomplish with it.  Upload a photo to flickr, tag it with a keyword, use those tags to find similar images, which in turn link to a blog, which links to a service, which sells copies of that very piece of sculpture or art you photographed in the first place.  Now this sounds like a lot of work, but the real breakthroughs behind Web 2.0 is not the links themselves, but how they are engineered and created.  Web technologies such as web syndication, open source communications protocols, and AJAX have opened up new means for web-based groups to provide access.  Previously access to certain types of information was limited to what you could read in a browser or download via a specialized program to pull and process specialized information from the internet .  More and more that functionality is being made available on webpages.  A case in point would be web-based email.  Early incarnations were little more than a series of text boxes, where a user could only punch in plaintext email, and maybe upload a file to attach.  Later versions allowed users to use HTML tags to spruce up their email or add links.  Now, webmail programs such as gmail put that functionality directly into a point and click interface, making typing a richly-formatted email nearly as simple as using a word processor.

So, before I continue to ramble on incoherently, that’s my take on Web 2.0.  Enjoy!

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