Making 2.0 tick

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What makes Web 2.0 tick? Sample this:

As I’ve said in previous posts, it’s their direct contact with the users that makes 2.0′s so much greater than the “old school” way of taking care of users. I know that as their user base increases that won’t be so easy for them, but their blogs and forums are another way for users to interact with them and with each other, and help each other along.

Another user wrote:

This kind of touch is exactly what more tech companies should have, regardless of specialty. I understand, yes, busy people can’t respond to all their email, but even getting back to some—especially if it’s on an external blog and wasn’t sent in directly—is really warm and sends more good vibrations than 100 clones of Brian Wilson in a marching band on a midspring’s dusk.

Usually, we have seen companies respond by saying, “We’ll get back as soon as possible”. At least in the 2.0 days, “As soon as possible” is measured in hours, not days. I’ll be damned if I post a query and don’t get a reply in a few hours, either in a forum, or a comment in a blog. After all, the user could be working on a presentation at the office a few hours away and requires to embed a chart. It would blow up everything if the application doesn’t respond or gets buggy; worse than that, you report the problem at the company’s forum or blog and they don’t get back soon.

Usually at Zoho forums, we reply queries and work on bug-fixing within hours. However, at times, things to go wrong (as Zoho Writer had log-in problems recently). Worse, it might happen on a weekend or a holiday (as it did), so that it might not possible to receive user feedback immediately. At times like those, we hope the users bear with us. Ofcourse, the solution lies in embracing more stable technology and we soon expect to do the same. Oh yes, unlike “Old-school”, it’ll be really soon. ;)

Battle of Media

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The age old argument of Blogs Vs. Traditional Media. Only this time it’s from Kottke. Head over here. The fight is between Blogs/ Citizen media/ “Traditional” media and NY times. Clear winner in 6 out of 8 trials: Blogs.
Couple of days back, I remember discussing with a friend about Wikipedia. “It’s a sort of an everyday affair, looking up things in Wikipedia; traditional encyclopedia or reference material is now synonymous with dusty yellowed books in bookshelves that no one bothers to look at”. Although the argument that Kottke bothered to verify is old, it is relevant now, considering the significant increase of blogs in the blogosphere.

Approximately three years ago, when I started blogging, it was an obscure thing to do. Probably the number of blogs could be counted – or listed by a blog directory. I had to painfully explain what it was to people, who wished to know what made me sit in front of the computer always. “It’s a sort of an online journal. You can put in any content you want”. They’d then curiously ask, “But who would read it? What use is it to people?”. That is not the case anymore. Many traditional media now cite blog references – Digit, a monthly tech magazine carries the best of tech blog references. And after the Tsunami help blog and (more recently) Hurricane Katrina help blogs that were widely publicized, people do consider them seriously.

That is a healthy trend because, far from being “an online journal” where one can write about how they cleaned the cage of their pet rabbit, blogs now carry stories that appear in papers only after a couple of days. It’s become rather habitual to see someone quote from the morning paper, a story of a turtle that befriended a hippopotamus and reply with a smug look on the face, “Oh that! That appeared in ‘Boing Boing’ a couple of days back”. There is variety, and there is little room for mis-information. Most bloggers double and triple check their facts before posting them, because in the present days of what I call “Superior Search Engine Technology”, it’s impossible to lie or deliberately provide wrong information. Blog readers, clever as they are, tend to check for accuracy of the information. I was once told by a reader of mine that she thought I’d got my facts wrong and correct me. She searched prior to correcting me, and found that it was not so. Several other times, I’ve not been so lucky. People bother to find factual inaccuracies or gaping voids in arguments. I read several comments regularly where blog readers conspire to trash some poorly written posts or posts which lack content, but nevertheless are widely read.

Newspapers aren’t ready to let go easily, too. They have enabled RSS feeds for their editorials. One newspaper recently went to the extent of creating a new position – that of an “Ombudsman” whose responsibility is to try to enhance the credibility among its readership and maintain the high ethical standards involved with traditional media. However space constraints and Pointy Haired Bosses restrict the depth and the width of editorials; and so, to get an unbiased opinion of what the journalist thinks, people resort to their blogs instead – which is “Free Press” in the truest sense.

Having said those, I don’t think Blogs will “replace” traditional media altogether. Nor will they be called “alternate media” anymore. Traditional media’s reach is enviable. Several people still swear by editorials that appear in the print form. Blogs can never reach to that level. There may be a day when people start to rely upon blogs for their source of news or gossip. Then too, I don’t think people will stop their subscription of the daily paper. Even if it gets dusty and yellowed over time.

Web-Applications: The Second coming of Web

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A person can’t expect every web-applications developer (or someone who wants to be that) to be a rocket scientist. Or for that matter, to know to code in High Level languages. Assuming that a lot of people who progress to the level of wanting to develop web applications will be comfortable and familiar with a fair bit of coding, but given that nearly 99% of the population using Internet wants to create web applications, it is only logical that the process be made simple. With the complexity of web-apps increasing, the amount of coding that goes into creating it is humongous. (Let alone the fact that even many rocket scientists may not know Java or HTML)

I was introduced (or sent an invite) to Zoho Creator. I haven’t created any web-apps before. The last time I learnt about Database and SQL was nearly four years back in school and having no memory whatsoever of one, I had to try and figure out their significance before creating one. After becoming fairly familiar, I created a proper application. My first one on the web – a movie Database! It works fairly simple:

  • Created a form called YOMDb – Your Own Movie Database – having heads like “Title”, “Year”, “Genre”, “Your Ratings” etc.
  • Made a couple of fields mandatory – “Title”, for instance, without which it’d make no sense.
  • Started adding the titles I had in mind.

What started out as a sample title got converted into a full fledged catalogue of all the films I’d seen (and remembered). Complete with my ratings. 43 titles in all.I could sort them based on my ratings, the year of release, alphabetical order or the genre. And as I was scrolling down to the bottom most part of the list, I realized that I’d made a typo. And when I hit edit – the edit field options appeared right there, instead of making me scroll up by approximately forty lines. It reminded me of Gmail – upon hitting “Reply”, the field opens immediately below, instead of letting you scroll up. People who lack that feather touch when it comes to handling the mouse – and hence spoiling the scroll wheel to the extent of it being non-functional will associate with that previous sentence.

I would have been absolutely satisfied if there was some ease when it came to linking other web-sites. As such, I tried using the anchor tag, which it didn’t recognize. I wouldn’t want to leave a lengthy permalink which points to, say (as in my case), a critic’s review, for it spoils the otherwise chic look of the web-app. (There’s an e-mail field, though)
Rocket scientists or not, it is time to rejoice, for, the web is heading in the right direction. Which means a lot of such web technologies will let users of the web to think on a higher level (such as the relevance of the application they’ve created or regarding the loop holes) and not worry whether they’ve got the syntax for a particular code right.