Open Thread: Top Web Worker Innovations

Danforth Coffee ShopTechnology propels society forward, and web workers are more keenly aware of that than anyone. In just the last five years we have made leaps and bounds in terms of how connected we can be, how quickly we can receive and disperse information and how we communicate with each other. It has been an exhilarating ride as we have embraced all of the new technology innovations.

I began thinking about what has had the biggest impact on my ability to be an effective web worker when I heard about a PBS “Nightly Business Report” feature: 30 Most Important Innovations from Last 30 Years. This list will be announced on the show tonight.

It got me thinking about the specific technologies that make what I do possible. Using the same criteria, I made a list of some of my own most valuable innovations for the web worker.

Here are the criteria used by “Nightly Business Report” (in conjunction with Knowledge@Wharton, the online research and business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania) in making their list:

1. Did it have a direct and/or material effect on quality of life?
2. Did it address a compelling need? Did it solve a compelling problem?
3. Was it a fresh, new breakthrough? Was there a “WOW” factor?
4. Did it change the way business is conducted?
5. Did it increase the efficiency of how resources are used?
6. Did it spark an ongoing stream of new innovations on top of the original innovation?
7. Did it lead to the creation of a vast, new industry?

So given that, here are my Most Valuable Innovations for the Web Worker.

Gmail – Sure, email existed before Gmail, but the massive adoption of the ubiquitous service by web workers shows they got it right. A web-based platform with powerful search capabilities allows us to harness the massive amounts of information that flows through our email.

Skype – The distributed nature of web working means we need an easy and inexpensive way to talk with clients and colleagues. VoIP solutions like Skype offer us the ability to communicate from just about anywhere. I love it when it works.

RSS – For the publisher it offers the ability to syndicate and distribute content to the masses. For the consumer, it enables aggregation and the ability to retrieve the content more efficiently and view it on demand.

Wi-Fi/Wireless Broadband – Allows us to lose the wires and lets us work anywhere. Along with the widespread adoption of the laptop computer it turned any place in to our work place. I still maintain an office but it’s great to know I can connect from anywhere and get things done. Would the coffee shop industry really be sustainable without wireless connectivity and the web worker?

Digital Media/Streaming Music – We web workers sure do love our music. The transition from physical media to digital formats lets us take our music with us anywhere, or listen online to streaming radio services like Pandora or Slacker. I know I work better with music playing.

I know this list is incomplete, and intentionally so. It demonstrates what I think is the most important benefit to all of these innovations — the power of collaboration. It is now so easy for us to work together to create and share, I thought we could finish the list together. I’ll be watching the “Nightly Business Report” on PBS to see how many of the innovations on their list are also on this one.

What would you add and why? Let us know in the comments.

(photo via Wayne Lee)

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