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February 12 2007

The Web 2.0 We Weave

Steve Poland


Neat video by Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Kansas State University.

The video presents a broad overview of the difference between 10+ years ago on the web and the social web of today (”Web 2.0″) — focusing on how HTML was used for defining structure and stylistic characteristics (”form”), whereas XML has separated form and content, facilitating data exchange for all kinds of mash-ups.

We’re seeing today with the “widgetizing” of the web that all kinds of content is being made available to be plugged-in to webpages — allowing for wider distribution of content.

Michael’s video asks the question of who will organize all this data — and tells us that we will. He brings to light that with every link we click and webpage we visit — we are teaching the machine.

It makes me think of the movie “I, Robot” or “The Matrix” — humans not working for “the man,” but rather working for “the machine.” In the movie “I, Robot,” robots eventually start learning how to feel, react, and eventually take us over.

I don’t know the current status of artificial intelligence (AI), but I do know that there are over 2mm blogs created every month — most of which are people spewing about life in a wide-open journal format. Eventually, I would think AI will be able to sift through all this information and methodically sort it, understand it, learn from it, and possess their own thoughts and feelings — possibly even take us over!

I’m sure there’s data to back me up on this, but today compared to 10 years ago — people are way more comfortable with the Internet and have less privacy concerns. Or at least the younger generations that have grown up with the Internet aren’t as concerned with privacy — and spew what’s on their mind to the entire world via the web.

Maybe someone will be smart enough to learn / organize people’s thoughts / ideas / feelings and search will revolutionize from the poor “search results” experience we are complacent with (and have come to expect) — and instead we will each be empowered with the exact answers / information we are seeking at any given moment (using the collective information mass on the web).

Editor’s Note: This post was written by guest contributor Steve Poland, whose blog Techquila Shots brainstorms web start-up ideas.

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  1. Andrew Katz

    Awesome Video!

  2. ...some Drifter


    after reading this article, and watching that clip - what was all this generic info about, not to mention how dry it was?

    this is more fit for the mainstream america audience, not the TC crowd

  3. Robert Dewey

    I like how people think that their opinion represents all (or the majority) of the TC “crowd”… I liked the video and am very capable of generating my own opinion.

  4. Andy Panora

    Seriously dry stuff, perhaps a slow news day?

    Marshall, can you *please* post about some new 2.0’s? I think most people would enjoy that more.


  5. RBA

    What is yet to see is whether these younger generations will still be less concerned about privacy as they get older…

    I don’t think they’ll be like us baby boomers, but we also had our “thing” when we were youngsters too. And some of our parents wore flowers in their heads and dreamed of a make-love/peace-for-all word and so on…

  6. savvix

    You know since the beginning of the year deadpool entries have sorta dried up. I guess the Web2.0 “doom” predictions have been premature. LOL.

  7. Chris O'Neal

    Also goes to show how our schools and classrooms should be taking advantage of Web 2.0, etc. and using it in educational ways also so classrooms can at least somewhat reflect “the real world.”

  8. Morgan

    “whereas XML has separated form and content, facilitating data exchange for all kinds of mash-ups.”

    This is much less true than people like to think. Have a look at the source of the XHTML sites out there, it’s as full of layout hacks as tables ever were, and much more complicated to use. Just read the variety of ‘techniques’ on something like alistapart, it’s ridiculous.

    The data for mashups rarely if ever comes from this separation, but from totally separate feeds specifically for data exchange. They are two totally different things. It’s not as if Amazon just applies a stylesheet to ECS and that’s their catalog.

  9. Jesper Rønn-Jensen

    As a further collaborative experiment, I actually did a transcript of Professor Wesch’s movie.


    Using Web 2.0 tools like google docs, it was actually super fast, efficient and fun to collaboratively jot the text down. When 2 people adds to the same document simultaneously, there is a great motivation factor and joy in working that way.

  10. Frank Gruber

    You might want to check this article out about the web 2.0 video that Steve just mentioned above: http://insidehi.../2007/02/07/web
    It chronicles the viral circulation of Michael Wusch’s wonderful video.

  11. Mark

    Nice video. But it’s nice more through the way it presents itself than it is in presenting information. Typical American drama, boasting about something that isn’t even there.
    Web 2.0, yeah right. I am myself 2.0, because I now know how to do my own laundry. What ever.

  12. Nik Cubrilovic

    aha! finally caught the guy who has been replacing good wikipedia pages with crazy web philosophy

  13. Neil

    Steve, I think that you’re in a great position to know about the current development of AI - just take a look at all the startups, such as, that are trying to find meaning on the Web. If we can prove ’strong AI’, then we’ll probably do it first through an application on the web.

    Once people have all the information available as soon as their brain needs it, we reach a point where only new and unanswered questions will be voiced and heard. This would make life very different. This is why I think the mobile web, in combination with an empowering mobile interface, will be a tipping point.

    Just take a look at the FAQ sections in discussion forums - repeat one of those questions in a sub-forum and you’ll be sorry. Communities ask questions and then answer them, and they want don’t the same question to be repeated.

  14. Jordan

    “Maybe someone will be smart enough to learn / organize people’s thoughts / ideas / feelings and search will revolutionize from the poor “search results” experience we are complacent with (and have come to expect)”

    I don’t think it’s someONE, I think it’s US.

    Search engines organize content with machines, devoid of any emotion or behavior, and rank results by a small percentage of the Web’s users (the “popular” users that vote with their links).

    What if ALL OF US were the crawlers/spiders, and what if the content was indexed by our behaviors and interests?

    I really liked the video. I also like the new implementation of the Snap thing — much less intrusive.

  15. met

    Seriously… is that what you got from the video? AI would be devoid of “us” in a sense (atleast thats the idealization).
    The message here I suppose was that “we” constitute the system. “We” develop the system to make it what it is today.

    Its no different from looking at a work of art and saying that art has an existence because of the artist’s work. Except that in this case the artist is a collaborative work by all of “us”.

    I’m sure that there was more to it than I could understand, but its NOT about AI.

  16. Greg

    I think my favorite part of that was that the guy made typos on some of the text. It just makes it seem that much more authentic.

  17. andre

    I liked the video…

    if there’s one thing they forgot.. it’s the one true constant of social media
    … non stop sarcasm.


  18. Jen

    According to Michael Wesch, this terrific video is still in draft form. He’s soliticing feedback through an online annotation tool on and calls it “an exciting experiment in ‘Video 2.0′”.

    You can see it and even add your own comments at:

  19. sam


    let me get this straight. the huge amount of blog posting is good, and maybe we can sort through it, and some machine might learn from it… and then do what…

    immediately commit suicide, kill all the people who created this crap, what exactly would this higher power do… i’m sorry, forgive me. it wouldn’t be a higher power.. if it learned/grew based on the blog stuff as a whole, the new intelligence would have an IQ of what.. 38???

    it would be a blathering piece of protoplasm!!!

    good lord… how old is this steve guy????


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