Archive for May, 2012

Chinese Social Media

May 24, 2012

QZone is one of China's biggest online social networks

One of the interesting aspects of research for the book was finding out more about how social media is used outside the West. In particular, there is a huge, and mainly homegrown, Web 2.0 environment in China. Services such as QZone, RenRen and CyWorld dominate their home market and have hundreds of millions of users.

I was reminded of this a couple of days ago whilst reading about the Facebook IPO. The Guardian published an analysis by technology editor, Charles Arthur, which included the following quote from Ed Barton, a digital media specialist:

“Facebook depends on advertising, and I would highlight that the fastest-growing internet media markets are China and the Far East, India and Brazil. Facebook’s potential is nowhere near as strong in those as it has been in the US. And in those markets there are often a number of locally oriented social networks already in place.”

With billions in the bank from its IPO, the normal route to expansion for Facebook might be a major purchase in one of these emerging markets. But things are never that simple in one-party-state China. The IPO may have run into local difficulties in the last few days, but the battle for Chinese users is a longer term strategic challenge for the company.

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Web 2.0 and Beyond is published

May 18, 2012

A couple of years ago I was approached by an American publisher about the possibility of writing a general reference/textbook that covered Web 2.0 and Social Media. It followed on from the success of a report I wrote for JISC in 2007, which was written for both technical and non-technical readers, and the publishers wanted something similar, but more of it.

Well yesterday a friend rang to ask if I knew that the ‘buy’ link had been activated on Amazon, so I guess I can say that my book, Web 2.0 and Beyond (published by Chapman & Hall/CRC, a computer science imprint of Taylor & Francis), is well and truly published.

The remit was challenging – CRC were developing a new series, aimed at reinventing the textbook format. Their point was that, increasingly, it is students from business studies, economics, law, media studies, psychology etc. who want to understand what CompSci is up to but who don’t necessarily have the deep technical knowledge to really understand how the technology came to be or what the implications of it are. However, as CRC is primarily a computer science imprint they also didn’t want to compromise on the requirements of their primary audience.

I was particularly interested in this idea because studying social media is increasingly becoming an interdisciplinary melting pot. Also, having taught computer science I was keen for students to have a well-rounded sense of the discipline – that they should have a sense of context rather than just learn how to write code. I could also see parallels with Web Science, the study of the Web as the world’s largest and most complex engineered environment (which at the time was only just starting to emerge), and I thought that if ever there was going to be a moment when it was possible to bring all this together in one book, it would be now.

The tricky thing, of course, was getting it all to come together. With the help of some extremely skilful editing I think what we’ve done is to obey three golden rules: only tell readers what they need to know at that point in time; use narrative techniques that engage the reader and allow them to read through the filter of their own discipline; and to keep highly specialised information (hard-core technical information, overviews of research etc.) in separate sections and chapters.

The framework for all of this is the ‘iceberg model’, which tackles Web 2.0 using a layered approach. The premise of the book is that if you understand the iceberg model you will be better equipped to understand how the Web is likely to evolve in the future. There are, of course, a few pointers as to what that might look like.

In the spirit of Web 2.0 there are also various information sources associated with the book. There’s a YouTube channel where I post information about relevant videos, and you can find out about these if you subscribe to the book’s Twitter feed (@web2andbeyond) where I also post other snippets of relevant information that help to keep the book fresh. More detailed information is on the book’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/web2andbeyond), which also includes notes and excerpts to give a taste of the narrative style of writing I mentioned earlier.

It has been a while in the making and part of me still can’t believe that it’s actually here, but it is, so now all I need is for people to buy it. Hint hint.

Bubble 2.0?

May 2, 2012

My new book on Web 2.0, which comes out later this month, concludes with a brief review of the prospects of us entering a second Internet stocks bubble. Although somewhat forgotten now (eight years is an eon in computing), the original concept of Web 2.0 emerged out of the dot-com crash that followed the Internet bubble of the late 1990s. With the Facebook flotation and recent purchase of Instagram this has become a topical issue, and I was interested to read a piece on GigaOm which reviews the evidence for and against.