On Thursday 16th April, various public sector web types converged upon the Scotsman Hotel on Edinburgh’s North Bridge for a Web 2.0 event, hosted by The Gate.
The day was an interesting and varied one, mixing high-level summaries of web 2.0 technologies with plenty of real-world examples and discussions of the opportunities, and challenges, presented by this brave new(ish) world.
The presentations from the day can be found at http://nondev.com/web_seminar – below is just a brief summary…
Dr Jim Hamill – Web 2.0, an overview
The morning kicked off with an overview of the world of Web 2.0 by Jim Hamill. Jim describes Web 2.0 as a fundamental, revolutionary change. As with all revolutions, there are winners and losers, and the winners will only be those who engage with it.
It represents a shift from information ‘push’ to information ‘pull’ – where the user decides what they want to see and generates their own content. People are cynical about brands; the ‘about us’ website; and the traditional ‘push’ form of marketing. In Web 2.0, the brand becomes the customer’s experience of the brand – and the customer is in control.
Jim ends with a wonderfully appropriate quote from Bob Dylan, highlighting that the times are, indeed, a-changin’:
Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And don’t criticise
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’
Nicola Webber – Web 2.0 in action
Next up, Nicola tells us that the way in which we use the web has changed, on both a micro and macro level. A look at the world’s top ten websites highlights the overwhelming popularity of Web 2.0.
Nicola points out that Web 2.0 is all about ‘you’, the user. The my.barackobama site, for example, puts the emphasis on the citizen and what they want to achieve.
Other examples of putting the customer at the heart of the story include Amazon (feedback), chicagocrime.org (reporting crime) and Nike Bootcamp (a personal training programme letting you compete with others).
Alan Stevenson – Tools and examples
Alan covers a wide array of examples – too many to list here – but some of the more interesting ones included:
- They Work For You – keep tabs on elected and unelected representatives
- What Do They Know – access information under FOI
- Fix My Street – report local problems
- Write To Them – contact your Councillors, MP, MEPs etc
- Patient Opinion – share experiences of health care
Pete Martin – Web 2.0 principles, issues and challenges
Finally, Pete goes over some of the more practical issues. He likens Web 2.0 to a treadmill – easy to get started, but hard to get off (and likely to keep accelerating!).
And he reminds us that success in Web 2.0 must be earned – it can’t just be bought.
Following lunch, where the conversations continued apace, the afternoon session opened up the discussion to the floor and there were many interesting points raised.
A colleague from Friends of the Earth raised her concerns about the risks of entering a dialogue with those who are against us and liable to post negative comments, although it was suggested that this is exactly the audience with whom we should be engaging. Also, it could be hoped that those in the ‘pro’ camp would speak up with just as much volume to provide a balanced argument.
Other discussions revolved around the varying quality of the discussions going on, and how to filter the ‘noise’ that comes along with that, as well as the difficulties in measuring the success of Web 2.0 initiatives and the need to rethink traditional Key Performance Indicators.