Web 2.0 Conference Coverage
Attack of the Guys in Pajamas

by Daniel H. Steinberg

Think back to the early days of television. It was mainly radio with pictures. Over the years, programmers began to understand the medium and take true advantage of the visual nature. In a talk entitled, "Publishing 2.0," Christopher J.Alden, Rojo Networks CEO, suggested that we take a similar look back at the early days of the Web and ask where the presentation of content is heading.

Publishing 1.0

Publishing on the Internet in the mid-1990s primarily consisted of publications ported to the Web. Alden looked back at the experience he had at Red Herring when they launched their web site in 1995. Although they had many ambitious ideas, executing those ideas would have cost tens of millions of dollars. What has brought the next publishing model to our doorsteps is that the implementation of many of the technologies to support discussions, forums, and individual postings is now available at little or no cost.

Early news-based web sites were modeled on existing notions of newspapers and magazines. The vocabulary we use grew out of print publications; we talk about pages and sections. The differentiator for many online news outlets was getting a story faster than anyone else. On the other hand, feedback from readers tended to be just as slow as that in traditional print outlets. For the most part, the flow of information was unidirectional. Red Herring noticed, from feedback at conferences they hosted, that the they were missing out on an underlying dialog.

Bring in the bloggers

Former 60 Minutes executive Jonathan Klein characterized a typical blogger as "a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing." Alden says that the folks in their pajamas have big media surrounded. Mainstream media has to deal with the blogosphere and rethink the publication metaphor for the Internet.

Alden also looked at the effects of having a quick feedback loop where bloggers receive instant feedback and little filtering, as opposed to the traditional letters to the editor. Traditionally, the news cycle had been daily or weekly. CNN helped shift daily deadlines to minute deadlines, and many news outlets have followed, suffering the consequences of always trying to get the story first.

Even though a blogger can post something immediately, the reactions to a mistaken post are also immediate. And while mainstream media struggles to retain and regain trust, Alden says, "People may not trust one particular blogger, but they do trust the aggregate truth of the blogosphere." In the recent case of Dan Rather's report about President Bush's military service, Alden adds, "one guy could be wrong, and the whole thing was wrong. There is no single point in the blogosphere. There is no one person getting it wrong and the ripple effect."

If the publishing model is to change, then the way people read content on the Web must change as well. Alden suggests that the Web that is presented to most people in their browsers is optimized for static content, while RSS feeds are optimized for dynamic content. He says, "feeds are doing for reading what blogs are doing for writing." To also make this world of feeds more accessible to end users, we need to look back at the lessons from the early days of the Web when there was a booming number of web pages. The Web became more manageable with the introduction of search and directories. What will be the analogy of these for RSS feeds?

Daniel H. Steinberg is the editor for the new series of Mac Developer titles for the Pragmatic Programmers. He writes feature articles for Apple's ADC web site and is a regular contributor to Mac Devcenter. He has presented at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, MacWorld, MacHack and other Mac developer conferences.

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