Posts Tagged ‘Web 2.0’

Social Media for authors

March 9, 2016

I spent the afternoon at the University of Nottingham’s Horizon centre helping a researcher on the CREATe project explore how authors use social media.

This was a fascinating workshop with lots of discussion of the pitfalls and problems of using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest when you are writer trying to reach an audience. Issues up for debate included privacy, keeping work and social stuff separated, dealing with unwanted comments and postings, how to stream different types of updates and coping with the perpetual beta.

Oh, and how to get any writing done when there is social media available.

And, fans of this blog will be pleased to know, there was a decent lunch. It’s been a long time since I had a free lunch.

IMG_1712

Advertisements

First review of the book

September 17, 2012

“Web 2.0 and beyond: Principles and technologies explains Web 2.0 and its wider context in an accessible and engaging style, helping readers, especially beginners, understand every aspect of Web 2.0 without difficulty.”

The first formal review of my new book has been published in the highly respected Internet journal, First Monday. The author, Yijun Gao, an Assistant Professor in library and information science studies, paints a generally very favourable view of the book, particularly emphasising its suitability for undergraduates with little formal academic knowledge of Web 2.0 and social media.

You can read the full review at First Monday’s September issue: http://www.firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4227/3314

Nottingham’s new Literary Festival

September 10, 2012

On Wednesday evening I’ll be at Antenna media centre in Nottingham, doing a quick spot at the official launch of the inaugural Nottingham Festival of Words. It’s a taster for my full session, which takes place in February 2013, where I will be talking about the new science of the Web and exploring some of the stuff there wasn’t space for in Web 2.0 and Beyond. Unfortunately I gather that there are no tickets left, so I can’t invite anyone, but I’ll post a summary later this week.

Exploiting the Social Graph

July 3, 2012

The Web is now a subject of academic study outside the confines of computer science. It is informing, and being informed by, a range of different disciplines as diverse as law, economics and media studies. However, because of the huge data sets about individuals and their social ties that are being collected, the potential for social science and computing is especially strong.

As Cameron Marlow, in-house sociologist at Facebook, recently told MIT Review:

“The biggest challenges Facebook has to solve are the same challenges that social science has…”

Up until fairly recently, social science was essentially restricted by the difficulty of obtaining data from large numbers of people, such as accurate details of their friendship links. Web 2.0 services can now provide that data easily as millions of us have happily uploaded and shared details of our private lives, creating what are known as social graphs, studied formally by graph theory.

Back in September 2010 when I was writing my book I came across the philosopher Pierre Lévy speaking to the Royal Society to the effect that: “Graph theory will be one of the main bases of the future of the human sciences”. At the time I thought Lévy was taking things too far, but it is now clear that social media, the exploration of complex networks and the scale of data being collected have opened new and fruitful horizons for the humanities. Added to the drive and ambition of the companies involved, he might not be far wrong.

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.

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.

2012: meme or mayan?

January 11, 2012

The turning of the year is always a time for foresight, but 2012 has been imbued with special significance thanks to the Mayan Long Count calendar. Despite our impending doom, on the Web there’s the usual slew of new year prediction stuff: a proper Apple TV – to be or not to be; will cloud computing continue to storm; can Windows 8 save Nokia, or even Microsoft; how long will e-mail last as a form of communication. However, amongst the low-hanging fruit there was a handful of more interesting and thought provoking predictions so here goes (in no particular order):

On the Web 2.0 front, entrepreneur Elad Gil has predicted that 2012 will be the year of what he calls ‘social curation’ – with services such as Pinterest and Storify showing the way. Fast Company predict a significant new player will emerge in online social networks in 2012 whilst Gartner are arguing that by the end of 2014, at least one social network provider will become an insurance sales channel.

In the wider technology arena, Intel predicts that 2012 will be the year that ultra-books – razor-thin laptops which use very little battery power – will come to dominate the PC market, whilst Vivek Wadhwa at the UC Berkeley blog argues that it’s ultra-cheap tablet computers that will become all the rage. Silicon Republic predict that the London Olympics will be the key event to kick-start serious interest in electric wallets using Near Field Communications (NFC) as an enabler of mobile commerce.

Finally, the television looks set to become an important technology battleground in the coming year. As well as the plans for Apple to enter the TV market, Google has announced various developments in this area. However, something that hasn’t received the attention it’s due (and which we were trying to get people to think about back in 2007) has been highlighted by MSNBC: 2012 will be the most significant year in TV display technology since 1997, thanks to the introduction of super-high definition OLEDs, a technology that uses a lot less energy than LCD.

All this assumes, of course, that we make it to the end of the year without galactic alignment, geomagnetic reversal, or alien invasion.

Curating Scholar

November 30, 2011

Thanks to a heads up from Brian Kelly, I’ve been having a look at the latest improvements to Google Scholar, a search engine for academic papers that served me well whilst writing the Web 2.0 book. The thing that caught my eye was that the site now allows authors to curate a collection of their papers and calculate the number of citations each one has had.

The citation figures for my authorial output follow the classic ‘long tail’ distribution in which one or two papers receive a large or moderately large number of citations and the rest each receive a handful. I was pleased (and a little surprised) to see that the Web 2.0 report I wrote for JISC back in 2006 has received almost 600 citations in the intervening years. I knew that the report had consistently been the most downloaded document on the website (over 100,000 in the first three years), but I’d assumed that a lot of this traffic was due to students preparing course work, particularly as the stats rose during term times. However, it seems researchers have also picked up on some of the ideas, which is rather reassuring as when I was writing the book I had to fight my corner to get a detailed look at the state-of-the-art in research included. Let’s hope this bodes well for sales.

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.