Tim O’Reilly made a few people’s heads spin with his Web 2.0 ‘internetisation of everything’ session. The O’Reilly Media founder and CEO focused on user-generated content as a key trend and described it as “harnessing collective intelligence”. He used his favourite slide on Craiglist’s popularity/staff ratio compared with the other major players. Yahoo was ranked first with 9,000 employees, Time Warner second with 85,000 and Craigslist seventh with 18. Since those stats were compiled, Craigslist has taken on 25 percent more staff. “Doesn’t that tell you that user-generated sites are doing something on the internet?”
His tips: think about how you get users to add value to what you do and his observations are fascinating:
– Asymmetric competition: Britannia didn’t see that their biggest competition would be Google. And in his own technical book publishing business: “My biggest competition isn’t other book publishers – it’s people searching on the web and finding the information for themselves.” Which, of course, goes for pretty much every business.
– Wikis: He showed a fascinating visualisation for the change log for an entry that demonstrates, amongst other things, how UGC is an important way of encouraging an audience to engage with a site.
– Self-interest: UGC can provide efficient and very useful services that people need, like apartments to rent and jobs.
– Architecture of participation: Think about services that make networking the default setting. He pointed to Flickr and Shutterfly and their ‘make it public’ setting as default – a simple but crucial way of maximising networking in any social network.
– Mash-ups: Proof of the popularity of a service and taps user creativity.
On DRM he said it’s like taking a cat to the vet: “You have to hold it loosely or it will claw you. Apple blew Sony out of the water because of its loose approach to DRM.”
– Some healthy futurizing he quoted from Ray Kurzwell: “I’m an inventor. I became interested in long-term trends because an invention has to make sense in the world in which it is finished, not the world in which it started.”
– He singled out Nature publishing in the UK for its innovative publishing, introducing innovative ways of publishing peer-reviewed work behind a payment barrier but still managing to provide search-friendly content.
– He said it helps to look back at the companies that haven’t made it. Companies, he said, are the bubbles on the wave, not the wave itself. He predicted a lot of consolidation in the industry in the next few years.
And O’Reilly said Web 3.0 has two candidates: Firstly, a more humanised central network – clever ‘mechanical turk’ applications like Google’s image labeling game, which appears to be asking players to guess who or what is featured in a picture but is actually a cunning way of tagging images. (‘Turk‘ relates to the 18th century chess-playing automaton that was actually a hoax.) “People are making computers smarter rather than computers making people smarter,” said O-Reilly. He also said we’ll see more blending of real and virtual – so more companies and conferences in Second Life, then. No doubt Rafat will sort out a mixer there too…
This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.