Posts Tagged ‘social networking’

Beyond Web 2.0

November 7, 2011

It has been an awfully long time since my last blog posting.

For those who don’t Twitter me, I’ve been writing a book. It’s called Web 2.0 and beyond: principles and technologies and it’s going to be published in May by CRC Press, the computer science imprint of Taylor & Francis.

I should say that it’s not your usual comp. sci. textbook. My brief was to ‘reinvent the textbook format’ and while that’s quite an exciting thing to do, it’s been a huge undertaking. The underlying premise is that understanding the Web is too big a job for computer scientists alone, and the book looks at where understanding the technical infrastructure behind Web 2.0 intersects a range of other subject areas such as business studies, economics, information science, law, media studies, psychology, social informatics and sociology.

This was not my idea. It was first put forward by Tim Berners-Lee and Nigel Shadbolt in an article for Scientific American in 2008. Since then Web Science, a new, interdisciplinary research area, has emerged. However, using this as a template for a textbook has been hard work: as well as linking to aspects of many different subject areas I’ve had to write the book so that non-engineers can not only understand it, but also find it interesting. So I’ve included some of the history of the Web, both for colour and context, and on the basis that a picture paints a thousand words I’ve developed and refined my ‘iceberg’ model of Web 2.0 (read the original description of the iceberg model in a 2007 JISC TSW report).

Finally, of course, there’s a section on the future (the beyond bit) – or rather, potential futures. By the time the reader gets to this part of the book they should have learned enough to be able to form their own ideas about Web 2.0 and to have an informed opinion on what might come next.

So, a huge undertaking. I’m still a bit dazed – can’t quite get used to the idea that when I get up I have a choice of what to do – but I have it on the highest authority that there is life beyond Web 2.0. All I can say is that there’d better be some pretty good lunches.

Web 2.0 keeps you busy

March 6, 2008

I said at the beginning of the year that social networks and other Web 2.0 activities might start to tail off, partly because of the considerable amount of time involved in keeping everything up-to-date and tracking all of your friends’ content. Well, it looks like I’ve been backed up by Liberal Democrat MP, Steve Webb, who told the Empowering Citizens symposium the other day:

“Anyone who thinks they can do Web 2.0 in their spare time can forget it. If you go down this avenue be prepared to spend some time on it, or pay someone to spend time on it.”

Sadly, not all of us can get our hands on public funds in order to keep our Facebook accounts spick and span.

Social networking eats time and bandwidth (allegedly)

January 23, 2008

Last week I predicted that social networking would narrow, but deepen, as the faddish nature of it started to wear off. There may be another reason why the vast numbers of people involved may start to drop: employers are waking up to the productivity implications of the use of social networking tools in the workplace.

A poll of office workers conducted by Global Secure Systems (GSS) (in association with the organisers of the Infosecurity Europe 2008 conference) seems to indicate that large amounts of company time and network bandwidth are taken up by staff’s social networking activities.
 
According to the results, 41% of the sample admitted to visiting these kinds of sites at work and the pollsters calculated that they were spending “at least 30 minutes a day” on this activity. Two respondents even admitted to spending three hours a day on these services. Global Secure Systems then carried out a kind of ‘back of a fag packet’ calculation to arrive at the conclusion that social networking was “costing UK corporations close to £6.5 billion annually in lost productivity”. The calculation involved multiplying the average time spent on social sites by the number of office workers who have Internet access at work and their average salary. All this was duly picked up by the Times Online with the lurid headline: “Facebook and MySpace a threat to Britain’s competitiveness?”
 
There is an important message here, but I reckon such figures need to be taken with some degree of caution. Firstly, the poll information contained in the actual GSS press release doesn’t provide any detail of how the sample (of only 776 people – a little on the low side) was obtained (for example, what types of employees were polled and when and where). Secondly, the assumption is that all social networking is non-work related, but these technologies are in part altering the way people work. A journalist or a sales manager, for example, might quite legitimately be spending part of their working day on Facebook as this is where people with a particular interest can be found. 

Nor did the final calculation of the billions being wasted take account of the fact that not all employers actually allow the company Internet access to be used for non-business related activity. I know from conversations I have had with friends and acquaintances that many corporate companies severely restrict Internet access to a number of industry-related websites or, even more punitively, only allow access to the corporate intranet. 

Whether the calculation and its attendant headlines are strictly accurate or not, it is clear that there is the perception of a growing problem. GSS go on to point out that in a recent round table meeting of 20 chief information officers held by Infosecurity Europe 2008, one of the biggest concerns was how to manage social networking at work. There were estimates, for example, that as much as 30% of company network bandwidth was being taken up with Facebook.

So maybe the whole thing will just be turned off by large FTSE 500 companies who want some ‘real’ work to be done in company time. Ironically, this might happen just as some useful work-related ways of using the tools are being discovered.