Web 2.0 is just beginning

November 3rd, 2008 by bruno boutot

Why are so many people suddenly entertaining the thought of the imminent death of Web 2.0? As I understand it, Web 2.0 is just beginning to be used by mass media and businesses: their managers are curious about it, they are giving contracts to explore how it could work for them. The light of dawn is appearing on the horizon, but the landscape is still bathed in Web 1.0 darkness.

So many of us are interconnected that I am sure we can find people proclaiming the end of Web 2.0 as soon as Tim O’Reilly coined the idea in 2004. A good overview of the present “crisis” is given by Scott Loganbill in monkey_bites.

It really comes down to what meaning you give to Web 2.0. In 2005, when Tim himself gave a very thorough and complex explanation, I had the idea of copyrighting a very simple one: “Web 2.0 is about people”. I was working at the time on an urban community project with Sylvain Carle, now CTO of Praized. When I told him my copyrighting idea, he just typed the words in Google and, with his usual laid back attitude, turned toward me his laptop screen. There weren’t 1690 results as there are today, but certainly a hundred.

Too bad for my (flawed) idea of owning this definition, but it is still the most simple, clear and useful one today: “Web 2.0 is about people“: Web 1.0 is the Web of broadcasting sites, of one to many, of push. Web 2.0 is the Web where you interact with real people, one by one, whom you can identify, welcome, respect and memorize.

Web 1.0 is based on messages.
Web 2.0 is based on one person at a time.

Web 1.0 is the Web of products.
Web 2.0 is the Web of relationships.

Web 2.0 is not a trend, a fashion, a gimmick, a moment in time.
The Web is here to stay and more people are on the Web every day.
Opening real one to one relationships with readers and consumers is the revolution that is shaking all mass media and the whole marketing universe.

Mass media and marketing know how to push.
They are just beginning to learn how to welcome.

Web 2.0 is just beginning.

Listening to the networked intelligence

August 10th, 2008 by bruno boutot

David Carr:

How much more powerful is (…) networked intelligence than a reporter with a phone, a Rolodex and the space between his or her ears?

As the former newspaperman and Web evangelist Jeff Jarvis (…) has been saying since before broadband, the Web is not just a way to shout, it is a way to listen, one that can lead to deeper, more effective journalism.

Another batch of out of context cites I like

August 8th, 2008 by bruno boutot

Iain M. Banks:

Part of the training of a Special Circumstances agent was learning a) that the rules were supposed to be broken sometimes, b) just how to go about breaking the rules, and c) how to get away with it, whether the rule-breaking had led to a successful outcome or not. Matter

Kevin Kelly:

Payment is
1) A way of connecting.
2) A sign of approval.
3) A vote.
4) It indicates an allegiance with the maker.
5) It feels good to the payer, to support.
People buy stuff, but what we all crave are relationships. Payment is an elemental type of relationship.

Jeff Jarvis

Connectivity is a platform for society.

Paul Bradshaw:

Now I’m not peddling that old cliché that “everyone is a journalist” – but rather arguing that the process of journalism itself is increasingly open to deconstruction: the tools of researching, recording, publishing and distribution can now be broken up and distributed between teams of organised readers.

W.L. Gore (via Jean Fahmy):

3. Everyone can lead
Without rank, it gives every employee the opportunity to be a leader.

Boing Boing’s new policies become an instant reference

June 22nd, 2008 by bruno boutot

As could be expected from the Boing Boing gang, they have come up with a new set of policies that we all can use as a model. Cory says:

Our insurance company asked us to come up with a bunch of policies — DMCA takedowns, privacy, etc — and set us off on a quest for some legalese that didn’t make us want to wash our eyes out with acid afterwards, but still passed muster with the lawyers. We worked long and hard and came up with some language we’re pretty happy with. Check it out.

if you run a non-commercial site, you can even copy these policies since they are under a Creative Common non-commercial license.
They also mention TRUSTe as a resource.

Grab bag: out of context but spot on cites

June 3rd, 2008 by bruno boutot

Mitch Joel:

Think about it – what if everything we knew about Marketing and Advertising until now really was just an anomaly, and the new ways that are spurting up as we Blog is the way things were meant to be?
Human beings are often great at being able to adapt as situations unfold, but I think there is an opportunity now to be magnificent. To really embrace a new way in which Consumers and Producers blur all the lines and write new rules together. And who knows, maybe what we’re really seeing with Social Media and Web 2.0 is how Marketing, Advertising and Communications was really meant to work… even as traditional agencies continue to clamp on to business as usual.


I have yet to find a book that describes the rest of it– why user profiles are good to have, why you want to make user feedback very easy, why you want people to have a way to see how useful or popular their contributions are, strategies for handling moderation and user disagreements. I would pay for a digital or paper book version of essays such as these.

Kevin Kelly:

Answering real FAQs is smart for several reasons:
* It forces you to face the problem.
* It forces you to face your answer.
* It’s an opportunity to sell (yes).
* It projects your character and brand.
* You can control the answer.

Cheryl Barre:

If you think about the fact that industry sales are down this year, year to date, and when you think about fewer people being in- market, digital is even more important to be able to talk to those consumers who are in market.

Jeff Jarvis:

Do I trust you? The key is to make sure that I have control over my data.

Clay Shirky (via Jeff Atwood):

What we’ve got is a network that is natively good at group forming. In fact, this isn’t just a fifth revolution. It holds the contents of the previous revolutions, which is to say we can now distribute music and movies and conversations all in this medium. But the other thing it does is move us into a world of two-way groups. Thirty years from now, when I’m presenting this book, if I had to describe it in one bullet point — this is what the bullet point would say: Group Action Just Got Easier.

Roger Hobbs:

The Internet is not a separate place a person can go to from the real world. The Internet is the real world. Only faster.

Stephane Lagrange talks about my work

June 1st, 2008 by bruno boutot

In his new blog, Steph Lagrange reports a conversation we had last April about my work:

Proximity (i.e. “always available”) is another key concept to Bruno. Whereas in traditional media the distance between the ad and the store can be miles and/or days away, on the Web the distance has narrowed down to a mere hyperlink (i.e. URL). The call to action and the ability to take action are instantaneous, almost real time.

And this is exactly where most media companies miss the point. Too focused on page views and unique visitors to measure their online ad display revenue, media corporations miss the conversion to action stage.

To get your customer engaged enough to act upon an ad with the intent of following through, remains the biggest conversion whatever the media. And then, what happens?

Stephane is really impressive: there was a lot distractions around when we talked but he didn’t miss a beat and he summarizes this whole concept beautifully. Thanks!

Makes me wonder if I shouldn’t do like McLuhan: rather than spending months (years!) writing a book, I could just talk and collect the notes of people I am speaking with. :-)

Moderating is a real job

April 29th, 2008 by bruno boutot

People often ask me to describe the job of a moderator. Luckily for us, MetaFilter member SpacemanStix asked this question:

Dear mathowie, jessamyn, and cortex: how many hours do you commit to keeping MeFi afloat? Is it a huge time commitment, not a big deal, or somewhere in the middle? It seems like a lot to juggle between three people. True? And if so, what takes up most of your time?

The result is fantastic: a unique look at the work of moderators of one of the best and best managed communities on the Web. You can read the whole thread but I have excerpted here their main answers. I could have edited quotes and organized them by topic, but I think it’s great as is, an opportunity to learn how moderating works on a day to day basis.

mathowie is Matthew Haughey, creator of MetaFilter (or Mefi).
jessamyn is Jessamyn West, moderator of MetaFilter since 2005, especially in charge of Ask MetaFilter, or Askme.
cortex is Josh Millard, part-time moderator of MetaFilter since 2007.
pb is Paul Bausch, part-time Web developer for MetaFilter.
MetaTalk, or MeTa, is the part of MetaFilter where members and moderators talk about issues concerning the site.
MeMail is short for MetaFilter Mail, a messaging service for members.

I look at the website during all waking hours. I probably spend half my waking hours doing admin/mod stuff like checking new posts for spamminess, emailing people their forgotten usernames, tending the flag pile, etc.

A “flag” is the way members alert moderators of any problem or rule breaking. It’s the essential tool of moderation for any community. The “flag pile” or “flag queue” is the list of flags that appears on a moderator’s dashboard.

I’ve heard Matt and Jess describe the job as great because you only have to work like ten or fifteen minutes out of the hour—but that goes for every waking hour of the day. Which is a pretty solid description.

Really, it’s pretty uneven. Some days I check in once every hour or half-hour or so and there’s just nothing to worry about — no new flags, metatalk is quiet, not much email coming in. Some days it’s heavier than heck and we end up deleting four threads and cleaning up after a pile of different messes in the green and the blue and fielding complaints or inquiries via the contact form and explaining admin reasoning over here. There’s no Normal Day, really, and what takes up most of my time is really a shifting aggregate.

Spammer patrol tends to manifest in brief, bright flashes of pain: we spend ten or twenty minutes (give or take, depending on the cleverness of the spammer) digging to establish a connection, and then it’s delete and ban (or, sometimes, if things seem to check out despite pushing some buttons, shrug and keep an eye on).

It doesn’t usually take a whole lot of time to deal with the askme flag queue; barring a real mess of a question (hardly rare, but not a ten-a-day M-F occurrence), cleanup is usually quick enough. We need to check in often, though, and on a heavy week when everyone and their uncle is having a fuckaround on the green it can be a real pain in the ass to keep up with, but overall they’re still fairly self-contained make-it-better issues: you fix it and it’s done and that’s that. Unless someone posts a…

Metatalk thread. And a thread keeps going, and is explicitly interactive in a way that most admin stuff isn’t, and is really visible to boot, so it tends to require more attention over the long haul and require more patience to deal with folks being kind of publicly antagonistic — to us, to other users, etc — in a way that eats up a lot more energy and diplomatic capacity than discrete decide-and-fix stuff behind the scenes. Even email, where upset people sometimes are a lot more free with their invective or assertions than even an angry metatalk callout, are in a way a lot less trouble and stress because at least it’s just between us and whoever is writing, without a big audience along for the ride.

So…yeah. I love it to death, I think it’s a vital part of what makes Metafilter work, but I kind of have to agree with Jessamyn that Metatalk is also (if partly by necessity) kind of the daddy of administrative time/energy drains on a busy week.

Those really long MeTa threads that happen? We read every comment. Around about comment 800 when someone says “Hey mods, what about THIS edge case?” we usually reply. AskMe is usually quick but constant, exactly like cortex said, and a lot of the rest of it is just sort of vigilance, being around to keep an eye on stuff that looks sketchy, investigate a self-linky looking thing and giving the other mods a heads up when stuff looks weird. We also do a lot of prosaic link/post/comment/typo correction and back and forth email/MeMail with users about various topics, to say nothing of just interacting with the site as regular old folk, to the extent that we can do that. People contact me via email, MeMail, chat, facebook, phone (rarely) and regular old f2f. We don’t have any form letters (except when we were doing the backtagging project) everything’s real communication.

Often the weirdest time-consumers are people who email and say “hey can you delete my comment in the tiger thread? I’ve rethought my position.” or something and then we have to track down who the user is by their email address, find out wtf thread they’re talking about and then what comment and then delete it, if we even can by that point. No real hassle, but multiply it by four or five in a busy day and there’s 20 minutes gone right there.

I know that I personally take a lot of responsibility for AskMe, so I try to at least read all the questions and also the comments in any thread that has a lot of activity or a lot of flags. I also post a lot of the sidebar mentions, keep track of favorite stuff for podcasts, and listen to Every Single Music Track. The podcast alone is a fair chunk of work, an hour or two to record and then mathowie spends some serious time editing and polishing it. I make sure the faq is up to date. We all beta test new feature ideas [usually] and bump bugs over to pb to wrassle with and there’s a lot of back and forth that happens doing this, like figuring out why some people were still getting the MeFi “massage” message well after the site was back up, or debugging the image uploader issues, post-upgrade.

We all spend a goodly amount of time also bringing each other up to date on what we’ve been up to. We can sort of follow each other’s admin trail but if something needs communicating we have a little back channel email about who is going to be offline when (outside of normal offline times) and what may need looking after if we’re tagging someone else in. I don’t know if I’d call it exactly a “huge” time commitment because with few exceptions we can fit it around other fun things and I think of huge committments as things that squeeze out what you’d rather be doing. I like doing this.

Now is as good a time as any to mention something I’ve been wanting to say for a while. Because I work here, with my odd flexible schedule, and this huge crowd of bright and shiny nerds [and the rest of youse] it also lets me do the other things I do in my life like helping the little libraries of Central Vermont with their tech support issues, teaching email to old people, and travelling around the world teaching librarians why they shouldn’t be afraid of computers. This would literally be impossible if I had a “straight” job and unaffordable otherwise.

Add to this that I think AskMe is one of the best proof of concept reference-via-hive-mind sites out there and a terrific living, breathing example of how to expand our idea of “what a library does” to “what people can do, given some structure and guidance and community” and I just wake up pleased about it pretty much every day. We should all be so lucky. Matt really took all the risks and the early slogging to get this all going — at the ROFLcon panel someone asked him how long he did the site himself before it started making a profit and he was like “um, six years” and everyone laughed like hell because what sort of a business model is THAT — and cortex and I both feel enriched (if overtired sometimes) getting to help out and, with pb, helping shape the site moving forward.

Readers should be half of the newsroom

April 22nd, 2008 by bruno boutot

All mass media would benefit from a community of their readers and most are strategically well placed to create one but most of them don’t seem to see why they should do it.

Jeff Jarvis writes today about Rupert Murdoch’s strategy to attack the New-York Times’ brand. Independently from the Times’ situation, Jarvis’ diagnostic could be applied to any mass media:

I think the Times has to decide on radical reinvention, a new architecture. You can guess my starting points: a networked structure, a distributed strategy, a community plan.

Jarvis also refers to suggestions he made last month to the Times, using a quote from Fred Wilson:

The Times should create and sell quality collaborative networks and expand the brand around its value: reporting. (…) And it has to become the product of collaboration with networks and independent professionals and its audience.

I agree with Fred Wilson here: “I’d make the NY Times all about their audience. Let the people who read the paper have a much larger role in the content that gets published, both online and offline. The best thing about the NY Times is their readers. The only way they can fix their problems is by leveraging them as the other half of their newsroom.”

The tone may sound apocalyptic, but creating a community is not such a gigantic enterprise: MetaFilter, for example, generates 9.9 millions page views per month and is managed by 4 people. In fact, considering the hardship of mass media on the Web, the cost of creating a community is minimal.

It looks like the cultural shift is all that is paralyzing our mass media.

Real communities are already out there

March 25th, 2008 by bruno boutot

It’s high season for community building.
People are asking “Build me a community” like they would ask “Draw me a lamb” or “Cook me a tuna casserole”.

But communities are not things that you can build away from people and then give away like a mass media or a chocolate bar.

Communities are not things, they are people who have a life and are members of a lot of communities at work, at play or according to their pleasure or their passion.

Brian Oberkirch talks about it in LikeItMatters:

Serve communities, don’t build them.

Find existing groups and add value to what they are trying to do. Participate. Host, if you must, but I bet groups are already helping themselves.

We don’t create communities on the Web: we welcome communities that already exist but don’t have yet a place to meet on the Internet. We can give them the magic of memory and asynchronism. They do the rest.

Only communities will survive

March 10th, 2008 by bruno boutot

The always brilliant Mark Pesce just published That Business Conversation, the text of his latest speech.

The conclusion should be on the screen of every business leader.

The balance of power has shifted decisively into the hands of the networked public.

… unless you embrace conversation as the essential business practice of the 21st century, you will find someone else, more flexible and more open, stealing your business away.

Moderation is the soul of communities

March 7th, 2008 by bruno boutot

Chris Wilson gives in Slate a good introduction to the importance of moderation in online communities: The Wisdom of the Chaperones: Digg, Wikipedia, and the myth of Web 2.0 democracy.

His title is a reference to the famous James Surowiecki’s book, The Wisdom of Crowds. And yes, communities don’t work by magic: they are created, managed and moderated by “admins” and “mods”, people who are the citizens of this site.

Wilson explains the moderators’ role with examples from Wikipedia and Digg. More importantly, he cites Slashdot’s moderation system, which I believe to be the most sophisticated and efficient system ever made. Slashdot is not for everyone, but its moderation system is the model that we must all study and keep as an inspiration.

It’s a model made by a brilliant programmer to solve a problem in his own community: he didn’t stop to work on it until he had reached his goal. It’s certainly one of the web’s treasures, a little like the voting system of Worth1000 created by Avi Muchnick.

Every community doesn’t need this kind of systems. But the admins and moderators are as crucial for communities as editors in chief are for print media.

In communities, admins and mods don’t create information: they welcome it. By highlighting content and authors that fit with the community’s goals, they give it its soul and its appeal.

How to use social networks for your community

March 5th, 2008 by bruno boutot

Social networks allows every organization or business to start up the participation of their community at very low cost, as the Brooklyn Museum does it so well.

On its Network page the Museum invites visitors to contribute through facebook, flickr, MySpace, blip.tv and twitter.

Moreover if they write about the Museum in their blog, they just have to send the link of their entry to have it published on the Blogs page.

This process gives discreetly to the museum a control on the content they publish on their site. It is also used for videos.

For photos, flckr members just have to post their pictures on the Museum Group to have them published at the same time on the Museum photo page.

With very little investment, the Museum is able show on its site the participation of its members and thus, to make them part of the Museum community.

via Miko – MetaFilter

Goodbye to Newspapers?

August 7th, 2007 by bruno boutot

In the last issue of The New York Review of Books, Russell Baker draws a dark portrait of the state of newspapers. It’s a fascinating read, if a little depressing:

“The American press has the blues. Too many authorities have assured it that its days are numbered, too many good newspapers are in ruins. It has lost too much public respect.”

It’s so well written, with all the facts and a great history of the newspapers business and journalism over the past decade. Nevertheless, I think this is much ado about nothing:

– The readership trends don’t look good, but newspapers still make tons of money and are not yet in any kind of danger.

– One important question that Baker barely asks is “what is the state of the news” (rather than “what is the state of newspapers?”). Personally, I have never read so many news about so many topics from so many sources. Overall, we are very well informed, with or without newspapers.

– Sure, most newspapers have no idea what to do with the community of their readers. And mostly, they don’t know how to make money on the Web. Both go hand in hand: if you don’t know how to use the Web with your readers, you won’t know how to use it to generate revenues. But they will learn, eventually.

(Thanks Pierre G. from Houston for the link.)