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July 18, 2007

Web 2.0: good or bad?

Posted by Tricia Duryee at 1:08 PM

The Wall Street Journal today hosted a debate between two experts -- one who argued that the Web has become a noisy place that's hard to understand. The other argued that the so-called Web 2.0 revolution enables the noise to be filtered out, so that more information can be found and understood.

The conversation between Andrew Keen, who wrote "The Cult of the Amateur" (and the one who thinks the Web is cluttered), and David Weinberger, author of "Everything is Miscellaneous," is definitely an academic look at the still-emerging medium, but I think has some interesting points worth pondering.

Keen starts the debate:

Yes, the people have finally spoken. And spoken. And spoken. Now they won't shut up. The problem is that YOU! have forgotten how to listen, how to read, how to watch....

A flattened media is a personalized, chaotic media without that essential epistemological anchor of truth. The impartiality of the authoritative, accountable expert is replaced by murkiness of the anonymous amateur. When everyone claims to be an author, there can be no art, no reliable information, no audience.

Weinberger responds:

So, Andrew, you join a long list of those who predict the decline of civilization and pin the blame on the latest popular medium, except this time it's not comic books, TV, or shock jock radio. It's the Web.

This time, of course, you might be right ... especially since you and I seem to agree that the Web isn't yet another medium. Something important and different is going on....

The Web is far better understood as providing more of everything: More slander, more honor. More porn, more love. More ideas, more distractions. More lies, more truth. More experts, more professionals. The Web is abundance, while the old media are premised -- in their model of knowledge as well as in their economics -- on scarcity..."

For more, check out the article.

I tried to relate this back to the many Web 2.0 companies being started in Seattle. What ones are providing information and which ones are providing clutter?

Is a company like Avvo, which provides information on lawyers, or Zillow, which provides information on houses, clogging the system? Are social networking companies like Facebook, which provide a person's thoughts or photos, or even Amazon.com, which has thousands of amateur reviews, helpful or necessary? Or are they distractions?

Should we care?

If a company falls into one bucket or another, does that influence its fate as to whether it will succeed or not?

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Tricia Duryee
Tricia Duryee
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Angel Gonzalez
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Kristi Heim
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