What’s really happening online? Is this age of Web2.0 really egalitarian?

I’ve been reading a few articles lately on the nature of the changes in business with the slow embrace of Web2.0 oriented technologies. It’s taken a good long while for the value of these technologies to finally be acknowledged in a commercial context and I’m still not sure it’s widely understood. But part of the problem is that those who have been evangelising about these new technologies have simply missed the point about why these technologies actually matter. I had lunch with a colleague I very much respect the other day and whilst we shared a passion for the technologies and both were waxing lyrically about the commercial opportunities arising in the technology consultancy marketplace, he said “you know there are very few people actually out there in the commercial sector who actually get this”.

He’s right. There are very few out there who understand the implications of these technologies.

I’ve included below an example of same. Tony Hung over at Deep Jive Interests has a post which argues that the world of blogging isn’t the egalitarian ideal expressed by the aristocracy of the Web 2.0 culture who wrote The ClueTrain Manifesto. He argues that the currency of attention naturally favours the incumbents and network stars of the Web 2.0 community. What he fails to realise though, is that this isn’t the value or the point of the technologies. Chris Anderson’s Long Tail philosophy isn’t about celebrity status. Just because some blogs are more popular than others this doesn’t affect business practice. Hung argues that popular blogs – often written by network stars who advocate or are employed by existing businesses – are not laughing at traditional business practice at all.

Well, no, they aren’t. And more importantly The ClueTrain Manifesto never suggested that this would be the result of the diffusion of these technologies.

What the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto instead suggested was that the conversations facilitated by these technologies were going to be more effective in capturing tacit knowledge among workers. They recognised that strategic competitive advantage was now only possible through the use of dominantly free, open source technologies which captured conversations and permitted the kind of informal communication that has always characterised business on some level, but which now has penetrated to all levels of business practice and which is demanded by a more informed consumer base.

The problem with the anarchist theory propounded by some commentators who are writing about Web2.0 technologies is that it simply isn’t supported, and never was the idea articulated by the designers of the technologies. Those technology pundits always expected that these technology solutions would solve communication and process problems. That doesn’t make them anarchistic. It tends to make the act of communicating efficient. And that’s why they work as much for business as they appear to revolutionise business practice.

Other links which are useful today include:
* The Ten Most Important Attributes of Corporate Websites
* The Ten Golden Rules of Using Open Source
* The Forrester method for measuring blogging effectiveness
* Ten things they never told you about blogging

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