Sunday, October 07, 2007

the problem of living in the present

update (10th October):
I've changed the title from the attention seeking "pity the web2.0 evangelicals" to one that better represents the real issue I want to raise, "the problem of living in the present" (thanks, Doug)

alternative titles:
  • information is not your friend
  • the delusional glitter of the new and the now in web2.0 land
  • blogging is just the tip of a rather diverse and large iceberg
"web2.0" has it's place but I pity the poor web2.0 evangelists who are trapped in their sea of information. I visited there once.

Some of them even believe that web2.0 is better than web1.0 or that reading web1.0 is old school. And they are too busy keeping up with their RSS feeds to read books. Poor blighters :-)

Here are some of the things they are forgetting about:
I assert that these things are covered better in web1.0 and books than web2.0. And to be aware of these things is to live in a totally different place to web2.0 land. No point in providing links is there - web2.0 evangelists don't read web1.0 links, why those documents are too long and old school.

I guess it's just the latest form of addiction.

update (10th October): Cross out the sneering comment about not providing links. The issue that I wanted to raise was that it hit me like a ton of bricks the other day, that I was spending much more time reading lengthy web1.0 documents and books (whilst also pruning my RSS feed). And that this more measured and reflective reading has significantly altered my point of view, world outlook. It's also true of course that the better web2.0 blogs / sites also do this so in that respect my post is "attention seeking" rather than balanced. ie. the original post (without updates) is in part (and was deliberately) a caricature of itself.


Mark Miller said...

Interesting topic. When you've talked about the obsession with web 2.0 in education it's puzzled me, because my notion as a developer of it has been technologies like AJAX and the emerging technologies that help implement what are called rich internet applications (RIAs), such as Flash from Adobe, and WPF from Microsoft. There's also Open Laszlo, and Vista Smalltalk which both run on top of Flash. In short, when us developers have talked about web 2.0, we've been talking about it from the standpoint of making web applications give the kind of responsiveness you see in GUI desktop apps. So when I heard you and others talking about the obsession with web 2.0 in schools I thought, "What could educators find so exciting about AJAX??" I mean, yes, it generally leads to a nicer tool use experience, because there's less waiting for the interface to update, not to mention less cognitive interruption on tasks.

I have also heard people use "web 2.0" in connection with the idea of blogging, and RSS. I've heard of other terms like "attention", and "gestures", but I have no idea if that's been lumped into "web 2.0". From my perspective these are just versions of other things. To me, blogging is just an extension of the stuff people were doing about 10 years ago, with creating personal web pages. It's just more formalized now. There are tools now for doing blogging activities so people don't have to come up with it by hand. It's more interactive, but it's still "This is me expressing my thoughts." RSS feeds are an extension of the idea of web services, where you don't get content in a format that's directly renderable, but rather metadata about content. I never quite understood the terms "gestures" and "attention" as it's been used in "buzzword land". They sound to me like marketing strategies.

Where I've found blogs to be more helpful than just conversational is when they educate. On Smalltalk and Learning Lisp are examples of that.

I've found that my own blog has been helpful to opening a few people's eyes (as best I can tell) to concepts or technologies that used to seem incomprehensible or "too hard". I also find people who read it who remain as confused as when they came upon it. Nevertheless I feel I've made a tiny dent.

So what is it about "web 2.0" that educators are so excited about? Is it blogging and all the stuff that goes with it?

I think blogging has some benefits. I feel it's enriched my life. I can't say I've learned that much just from reading what other bloggers post about. What I've found really valuable is what they link to. Sometimes it's some really meaty stuff that's transformational for my way of thinking. I doubt I would've been inspired to read this stuff any other way. The blogs provide a context for "why you should be interested in this".

I don't know if online video has been lumped into "web 2.0" as well, but it's one of the things that has been transformational for me. It's the main reason I found out about Alan Kay. I had heard his name off and on--rarely--in the technology media since I got interested in computers in the 1980s. About 10 years ago I was flipping channels and I came upon an interview with him (unknowingly), and I found what he was talking about intensely interesting. I picked up my remote and recorded it on my VCR. I had no idea who he was though. I had come to it in the middle of the interview, and at no point after that did the show say who he was. It wasn't until I saw the videos of his speeches online that I finally connected a name with the face, and I learned a lot more about his ideas and accomplishments. It's been because of his influence that I've made an effort to get back to reading books, and whatever powerful ideas I can find on the internet in connection with himself and those he's talked about.

So I don't think the problem is with "web 2.0" itself in terms of the technology, but rather the "cargo cult" around it. I assume this is what you're getting as well.

Mark Miller said...

"I assume this is what you're getting as well."

Meant to say:

"I assume this is what you're getting at as well."

Wara said...

Hi Bill
First I would say that evangelism of any sort needs to be treated with caution.

Second, long is not good and I agree that there is a place for more static reference type materials.

Third, yes there is huge amounts of garbage being produced and my inbox and RSS feeds have many many unread messages. What I am appreciating in this though is that I get to look at the things that I do end up reading from different angles and in byte [excuse poor humour] sized chunks that my aging brain can cope with.

alexanderhayes said...

Precisely what I was thinking Bill...your not on my RSS feed list but you seem to keep popping in somehow into my peripheral vision.

Are we prostituting ourselves ?

How much am I now worth now that I'm blogging in Blackboard, building wiki's in Secondlife and riding silly cow's around in World of Warcraft ?

It's all a circus and the performers are just getting more interesting now that the humans.

alexanderhayes said...

It's all a circus and the performers are just getting more interesting now that the humans.....have left it should have read.

Funny which bits get cut off.

lucychili said...

i am interested in the idea that people can learn skills for negotiation in free spaces and that this will reduce our reliance on restriction, both as a signal to noise filter and as a means of securing value. effective participation in free space is the foundation for me.

for me it feels like it is tangentially in those big ideas Bill.

i can see people trying on the internet.
i am not able to see that scale of effort without that flow of data coming past. i dont mind mess if its people having a go.

i feel less concerned by the beginnings of our clumsy conversations than i am by the structural corruption of world economics as it stands.

there is hope for me in the fact that people are thinking and asking questions. i am trying to do useful things.

sometimes it is noisy and there is a kind of peace in working quietly on something we can craft ourselves.
reading a book or narrowing the focus.

sometimes it is nice to stop.
i think we need the different phases

Bill Kerr said...

Managing the Infostream is a good example of the contradiction b/w "web2.0" twitch speed culture and the approach of slow deep, thinking endorsed by Neil Postman. I left this comment on Doug's blog:

"What struck me as most interesting was the internal contrast within your post b/w twitch speed management of your RSS feed and the slow, deep thinking approach implied in the link to the Postman article . I would see the latter as far more important - reading Postman changes the whole way we look at the world. But “web2.0″ culture, by its own internal logic, is more inclined towards the former - speed.

ie. I wonder, of those who read this post, how many will pick up on your speed management techniques cf. how many will actually click, read and reflect on the Postman article? And then even for those who do the latter - how many will permanently change their outlook, cf. being drawn back into the hurly burly of “web2.0″ attention seeking culture. ie. to really grasp Postman you probably ought to read his book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death” and spend some time thinking about it.

What are the inbuilt, hard to resist prejudices of “web2.0″ cf. the reflective thinking that Postman stands for?"

Leigh Blackall said...

is there something contradictory going on here Bill? There's this post with the View From Space post, and Postman's Info Death seems to me to be intensly contradictory in itself.. could it be that he (or is it me) confuse information with communication? I think they are different. A while back you said you hadn't read Illich yet. I'm keen to read an update on that if you have by now Bill. Especially Deschooling or anything that Artichoke points to. Lastly, although it reinforces your criticism about being all too present, what do you make of Harris' Universe and other programing projects drawing from socially networked data? Here he is demo-ing on TEDtalks

Leigh Blackall said...

in support of your arguments.. I think. Eben Moglen's attack on Oreilly that is.. the video.