Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Liz McMillan, Zakia Bouachraoui, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Maria C. Horton

Related Topics: Agile Computing, Machine Learning

Agile Computing: Article

Web 2.0 and the Five Walls of Confusion

How Can the Average Person Sort Out What's Really Happening?

I was reading the coverage of MashupCamp on Tech.Memeorandum today and I came across Adam Greene's coverage of one of the sessions.  He was complaining a bit about the cognitive dissonance he was encountering trying to comprehend the data flows in Edgeio, Michael Arrington's prominently covered new Web 2.0 startup.  Specifically, his concern was that the average person would almost never be able to sort out what was really happening, even though Edgeio is specifically designed for the "blog garden" of relatively average users.

Unfortunately, I know this is a situation that's all too common.  The Internet, the Web, and the blogosphere have accelerated the pace of change and elongated the envelope of technological advancement so much that only the fastest learners and most avid followers understand what's happening at the place the bulge is most pronounced.  Adam calls this the wall of confusion.  And I agree that finding straightforward ways for folks to catch on and giving them simple, comprehendable explanations and examples will help enormously.  This is particularly true of the examples.  I find these to be far more illustrative of Web 2.0 than whiteboard sketches or my well-known visualizations. And in fact, this was what they used when they originally tried to identify what was happening with Web 2.0.





Along these lines, I've identified five conceptual walls of confusion that seem to trip up folks (or turn them off) most when trying to understand Web 2.0.  A particularly good example of the obtuseness that happens is a recent post in Wired that seemingly tried to explain Web 2.0 a bit, but only succeeded in confusing.  Perhaps this will help:


Web 2.0 and the Five Walls of Confusion


  • The Wall of Buzzwords: AJAX, The Long Tail, Mashups, Memes, SaaS, and many more buzzwords and acronyms put up an impenetrable wall for the uninitiated.  Yes, Web 2.0 describes dozens of interlocking design patterns and some good business models for online software.  But in our zeal, we forget how far out in the envelope we are.  Simple terms like online software, software in the browser, and the two-way Web are so much more approachable.  It's not too late, we can explain Web 2.0 in kinder, simpler terms. And we should.
  • The Wall of Hype:  This seems to have calmed down a bit but it also might just be moving around.  Web 2.0 hype does seem to have diminished in the face of some withering anti-hype and the hype cycle has moved more to Web 2.0-related developments like mashups and the latest round of Web 2.0 startups.  Nevertheless, Web 2.0 promotion continues unabated in certain circles along with the anti-hype and if you're not following closely, you don't know what to believe: whether Web 2.0 is the next generation of the Web, or if it's snake oil; if it's the future of software, or just a marketing gimmick.  I will give you my point of view one last time: Web 2.0 is real.  And for that good reason, and some not-so-good ones, there is a lot of hype surrounding it.
  • The Wall of Complexity:  If you look at the Wired post above it has a particularly complex diagram in it.  I actually drew that in order to create a pretty compehensive view of most of the moving parts in Web 2.0.  There are a lot and it's hard to figure out where to start as a user, much less a software designer.  The good news is that the good exemplars (Flickr and del.icio.us) and some of our approaches (like AJAX), actually make it pretty obvious what you're supposed to do.  But it's still very hard and what's still not conveyed very well is the sense of balance and proportion required.  In other words, you're not supposed to pile every single one of these Web 2.0 ingredients into the cake, bake it, and sell it to the nearest Web software giant.  It doesn't work that way. There is a constant feedback loop with your users on the Web that guide you in a close collaboration to add/remove features and capabilities while dynamically shaping and reshaping the product into what it needs to be at any given time.
  • The Wall of Significance.  Is Web 2.0 a major new revolution in the way software is created and used?  Probably.  But there's a lot of stuff to learn, especially about the softer aspects of online systems like collaboration and social software.  A lot of software developers, architects, and designers, more comfortable with the precise, exact parts that comprise software, are often pretty unhappy about this.  Unfortunately for them, these aspects are probably here to stay, but they aren't sure.  The competition for users, attention, and marketshare means you have to increasingly dangle the most effective engagement mechanisms or people will go elsewhere.  And because we're human, there are few more powerful draws that building a sense of ownership and community.  But in these early days, it's hard to tell if there really is a fundamental shift in first-order software design, or just a passing wave of faddish affectation.  Those of you who read this blog know where I stand, but it's hard for everyone to appreciate the significance of all this yet.
  • The Wall of Ignorance.  I find that most people in the real world (as in not-the-blogosphere) have no real idea what a blog is yet, much less a wiki.  If I sample my local IT shop, I'll get better answers but surprisingly not much better.  The real danger is in constructing such an advanced world that it alienates those that encounter it.  This is almost like the buzzword problem above but it's even more insular.  Fortunately, the very best Web 2.0 software blows past such problems and just lets people do their thing and not worry about what it's called.  I talked for a bit with Debbie Landa of Under The Radar at the TechCrunch BBQ over the weekend and she summed it up best (and I'm paraphrasing): "If I can't figure it out in a minute or two, I know it doesn't have it."  The bottom line is that great software will appeal to everyone and require no special knowledge, but all too many online software apps require all of that knowledge and will forever be relegated to users who are in the very tip of the progress envelope.  A pity indeed.

These walls are the biggest barriers to appreciating Web 2.0 and are holding it back from whatever fame and greatness it may be destined for. Not that it won't get there eventually.  But it's a giant world out there, even on the Web these days, and any message takes a while to transmit.  One thing is for sure though, it's been a fairly promising year.

What other walls of confusion does Web 2.0 face?

posted Tuesday, 21 February 2006

More Stories By RIA News Desk

Ever since Google popularized a smarter, more responsive and interactive Web experience by using AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript + XML) for its Google Maps & Gmail applications, SYS-CON's RIA News Desk has been covering every aspect of Rich Internet Applications and those creating and deploying them. If you have breaking RIA news, please send it to [email protected] to share your product and company news coverage with AJAXWorld readers.

Comments (2)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


IoT & Smart Cities Stories
The platform combines the strengths of Singtel's extensive, intelligent network capabilities with Microsoft's cloud expertise to create a unique solution that sets new standards for IoT applications," said Mr Diomedes Kastanis, Head of IoT at Singtel. "Our solution provides speed, transparency and flexibility, paving the way for a more pervasive use of IoT to accelerate enterprises' digitalisation efforts. AI-powered intelligent connectivity over Microsoft Azure will be the fastest connected pat...
There are many examples of disruption in consumer space – Uber disrupting the cab industry, Airbnb disrupting the hospitality industry and so on; but have you wondered who is disrupting support and operations? AISERA helps make businesses and customers successful by offering consumer-like user experience for support and operations. We have built the world’s first AI-driven IT / HR / Cloud / Customer Support and Operations solution.
Codete accelerates their clients growth through technological expertise and experience. Codite team works with organizations to meet the challenges that digitalization presents. Their clients include digital start-ups as well as established enterprises in the IT industry. To stay competitive in a highly innovative IT industry, strong R&D departments and bold spin-off initiatives is a must. Codete Data Science and Software Architects teams help corporate clients to stay up to date with the mod...
At CloudEXPO Silicon Valley, June 24-26, 2019, Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with expanded DevOpsSUMMIT and FinTechEXPO programs within the DXWorldEXPO agenda. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of business. Only 12% still survive. Similar percentages are found throug...
Druva is the global leader in Cloud Data Protection and Management, delivering the industry's first data management-as-a-service solution that aggregates data from endpoints, servers and cloud applications and leverages the public cloud to offer a single pane of glass to enable data protection, governance and intelligence-dramatically increasing the availability and visibility of business critical information, while reducing the risk, cost and complexity of managing and protecting it. Druva's...
BMC has unmatched experience in IT management, supporting 92 of the Forbes Global 100, and earning recognition as an ITSM Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader for five years running. Our solutions offer speed, agility, and efficiency to tackle business challenges in the areas of service management, automation, operations, and the mainframe.
The Jevons Paradox suggests that when technological advances increase efficiency of a resource, it results in an overall increase in consumption. Writing on the increased use of coal as a result of technological improvements, 19th-century economist William Stanley Jevons found that these improvements led to the development of new ways to utilize coal. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Thiele, Chief Strategy Officer for Apcera, compared the Jevons Paradox to modern-day enterprise IT, examin...
With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, @CloudEXPO and DXWorldEXPO have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors! In this blog post, we provide 7 tips on how, as part of our world-class faculty, you can deliver one of the most popular sessions at our events. But before reading...
DSR is a supplier of project management, consultancy services and IT solutions that increase effectiveness of a company's operations in the production sector. The company combines in-depth knowledge of international companies with expert knowledge utilising IT tools that support manufacturing and distribution processes. DSR ensures optimization and integration of internal processes which is necessary for companies to grow rapidly. The rapid growth is possible thanks, to specialized services an...
At CloudEXPO Silicon Valley, June 24-26, 2019, Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with expanded DevOpsSUMMIT and FinTechEXPO programs within the DXWorldEXPO agenda. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive over the long term. A total of 88% of Fortune 500 companies from a generation ago are now out of business. Only 12% still survive. Similar percentages are found throug...