Second Life 2.0

Many of the early posts on this blog chronicle my exploration of Second Life, the 3D virtual world that was started a little over 5 years ago. QU Prof. Alex Halavais introduced his students to it so that we could hold a class meeting there when he was in Australia attending a conference. There were about half a million registered users at that time; they stopped counting after 10 million. Now they say that over a million have logged in in the past 60 days, and about 50,000 are usually “online now.”

Second Life was hyped as the future of the Web – and I happily promoted that hype. It grew out of control and a backlash – along with infrastructure issues – has pushed it off the front pages (literally).

I still evangelize SL and I still believe it is where the Web is headed in the mid term. I’ll write more about it soon.

how many web services can one person use?

This was a posting on the NYT Bits Blog that caught my attention; a report from the Web 2.0 Expo (which I wanted to attend but couldn’t)

How many more new social networking or micro-blogging or video-sharing site can one person use? Most of us don’t have time to respond to voice mail and e-mail every day, let alone check our Twitter updates and Facebook accounts and Flickr friends. And even if we have the time, do we need another site that helps us share and connect and network?

This problem is just under the surface at the Web 2.0 Expo in New York this week. Just a few years ago, it was easy for start-ups that provide Web services to attract early adopters — the tech geeks who are the first to use new technologies. The challenge was attracting mainstream users. But now, even the early adopters are stretched thin.

“The biggest chasm is no longer between early adopters and mainstream users. It is about finding and retaining the early adopters to begin with,” said Fraser Kelton, director of business development at AdaptiveBlue, who talked about the problem at a conference presentation called “The Real, Long-lasting (and Negative) Impact of Web 2.0 on Technology Adoption.”

The comments are well worth reading, and the question about retaining the early adopters is right on.

sociopolitical networking

In the search for what’s next in Web communication I certainly could not overlook the incredible online environment created by the Obama campaign. Building on what the Dean gang had done, the Obama site (I believe one of the founders of Facebook helped build it) is truly immersive. You go from watching an embedded YouTube video to being asked to contribute to the campaign to being thanked for your contribution and recruited as a volunteer. The social networking is compelling too: you can find other supporters in your area, local groups, and events. The whole experience is very empowering, and I suspect the John McCain site is replicating as much as it can.

PRINT Magazine ran this insightful appreciation of the Obama site. And in an earlier QU paper I wrote in 2006 (I just love the way grad students can cite their own stuff!), I described however ineptly a site that might bring people together around popular consensus:

Online collaborative sites that endeavor to harness the collective intelligence of users constitute an emerging form of Computer Mediated Communication (CMC). They join earlier generations of newsgroups, bulletin boards, and other vehicles for sharing, collecting, and organizing information among large and disparate groups on the Web.

At the same time, increasing customization and personalization of online information is beginning to deliver on the promise of an experience unique to each user. The many “My” services now available unquestionably make it easy to shop and access news of interest. But as Cass Sunstein warned in “Democracy and Filtering,” this process poses risks of polarization and cyberbalkanization.

Having millions of citizens self-absorbed in “The Daily Me” may be better for democracy than a hierarchical public sphere dominated by the mass media (Benkler; Platon and Deuze). But what happens to MyYahoo! expectations in the political realm, where rather than a multitude of choices at the shallow end of the Long Tail, we face a two-party system that gains power precisely by “the tyranny of the lowest-common-denominator” (Anderson)?

Fortunately, even Sunstein acknowledges that “emerging technologies, including the Internet, are hardly an enemy here. They hold out at least as much promise as risk.” If CMC enables MySpace, perhaps it can also aid in the creation of OurSpace-a virtual arena in which highly niched audiences can come together and build consensus toward concerted action.

publishing 2.0

People who know me know I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a decade or more, having come out of two decades of print publishing. As I troll (and I don’t mean I’m a troll) the Net for relevant discussions, I keep coming back to Scott Karp’s Publishing 2.0.

The current discussion about Drudge vs. NY Times particularly resonated with me as I had a similar passage in my paper for this summer’s course in mobile tech:

When I first used the BlackBerry browser to Go To, it prompted me to try the mobile edition. Eventually, I figured out how to add the “T” shortcut to my BlackBerry home page, so I begin my daily browsing by clicking on that. I read the top stories but often find they are several hours old. I have often read them the night before and there is very little new / news here.

WaPo also offers a Blackberry shortcut. I click that, then usually skip directly to the political news and read one or two stories.

I soon give up searching the traditional media and head straight for The Drudge Report, which is updated throughout the day. Interestingly, I was never much of a fan of this site in my pre-BlackBerry days. But I now understand the importance of having all those links in close proximity. When you are essentially “using your thumb” to consume information, the less scrolling and typing the better. Also, because it is text-based with only a couple of images, Drudge loads FAST. Using Drudge as my base, I quickly jump to my other main sources of information.

I will also scan The Huffington Post on occasion. As with Drudge, this was never a site I visited much via computer, but I see now that its bite-sized posts are easy to digest and scroll through quickly. In other words, Drudge and HuffPo appear optimized for consumption on mobile device, which may explain why they are popular with the BlackBerry business class.

social networking now #1 use of Internet

From MobileContentToday:

Reuters is reporting that social networking sites are officially the top attraction on the Internet, dethroning pornography and highlighting a major change in how people communicate, according to one researcher.

Bill Tancer, the general manager of global research at analytics firm Hitwise, said in the article that analyzing web searches did not just reflect what was happening online but gave a wider picture of society and people’s behavior.

“There are some patterns to our Internet use that we tend to repeat very specifically and predictably, from diet searches, to prom dresses, to what we do around the holidays,” said Tancer, whose new book, “Click: What Millions of People are Doing Online and Why It Matters,” was released a few weeks ago.

social gaming

I’ll talk about social networks in a later post but wanted to get this on the board: I see social gaming (as exemplified by the Scrabulous craze on Facebook) as possibly the next level. There’s even a Social Gaming Network.

Independent Study – Fall 08

It’s time to crank this blog back up, to document this semester’s Independent Study course with Prof. Phillip Simon. Here are the basics:

Is There Effective Communication in the Era Web Based Social Networking?

In the post-Web 2.0 era, social networks like MySpace, LinkedIn and Facebook
have created “connectivity” but often lack the structured content that
connects people. Now that I have hundreds or thousands of “friends,” what do
I talk about? What do I DO?

This Independent Study for Fall 2008 will research whether there is a place
for structured interactive conversations connecting people online around the

Leveraging the work I have done in ICM courses – I intend to research,
outline, and write a paper answering the important question of what’s next
for social networking.

I will present a historical perspective of early Internet offerings up to
present day. I will examine what the World Wide Web might have to offer to a
50-year-old professional like me, and ponder the future for social
networking in an effort to propose a new mode of social networking that will
engage people in a meaningful exchange of ideas.

12/8 for final draft
11/17 for first draft
10/13 outline
Literature review starting now embed test

The Daily Heller

Also I was gratified to finally launch another pet project this week, The Daily Heller, an automated email that pulls from Steve Heller’s weekday blog postings on the PRINT magazine site. It’s compelling sponsored content – and we can now replicate this low-cost profitable model across all F+W brands.

in-text ad experiment

i finally got to try out my low-impact solution. check it out on the Popular Woodworking site

For example, when you’re reading this article on Varnish, you’ll see the double green underline that links the keyword “projects” (we picked about a dozen such generic keywords) to relevant products in the F+W store.

Now let’s see what the site visitors make of all this.