Where Is Dial Tone Going Next?

by Bruce Stewart

Tim O'Reilly has just written an intriguing post over on the O'Reilly Radar about the metaphor of dial tone in the Web publishing space.

Tim relays how a recent conversation he had with O'Reilly's new head of online publishing about building our web publishing tools around the model of delivering dial tone got him thinking about this metaphor in terms of other technology, like what we've been calling Web 2.0. As Tim points out, the original concept of dial tone was essentially to do away with the need for an army of telephone exchange operators to connect calls.

The principle of dial tone is to create a situation where users can do something for themselves that once required the intervention of an operator.

This applies nicely to one aspect of Web 2.0 that Tim has written about before in The Architecture of Participation, namely the power of harnessing user-created data. Or as Tim notes, this could also be described as the "design of systems that leverage customer self-service."

Once you frame the problem in this way, you understand that one of the challenges for IT departments and companies used to the IT mindset is to get the operators out of the way, and to build new processes that let users do the work for themselves. You also can ask yourself, where is dial tone going next?

I'll stop paraphrasing and quoting Tim's post now, but I highly recommend clicking over to Radar and giving it a read - as usual, there's lots of good food for thought there.