I started this blog as a class assignment in my junior year of undergrad at UNC Wilmington. I would have class assigned readings and respond to them on this blog. I thought about deleting the posts, but I haven’t been brave enough revisit any of the posts yet. What am I afraid of? Probably feeling embarrassed for not proofreading one of the entires or sounding like I have no idea what I’m talking about, which happens when you are a student.
This past August, I started school as a graduate student of technical communication. I am excited to take my English undergrad degree in a different direction than I had ever thought. Upon graduation at UNCW, I found myself confused of what direction I wanted to go. A close friend and mentor introduced me to the idea of studying technical communication, and I am so glad that he did. While I’m not sure yet if manual writing is the future for me, this new opportunity as a graduate student has opened my eyes to the wide array of possibilities available to someone who has good verbal and written communication skills. I have found myself interested in learning more about training and development within companies. I am also recently engaged and looking forward to what is to come. But, that is enough about me.
To the point of this post: this blog will serve as an outlet for me to talk about life as a graduate student in technical communication. Over the next two years, I will be a full-time student, planning a wedding, and working as an intern trying to build a future career. I hope to write about my studies, experiences, and research endeavors. I’ve avoided blogging for a while because I feel like I should be posting something important and worth reading. However, I’ve come to the realization that no one may read it, which is fine because it is a space for me.
Businesses are now using web tools and services to help reach their customers and satisfy their internal communication needs. Many smaller businesses are using social networks and wikis so that their employees may communicate and share ideas more easily. Private wikis have proven useful for businesses because of their ease in content management. The wikis also allow for users to add, move and change content while tracking those changes for the wiki creator. This not only allows content to be easily modified but it also allows the creator of the site to easily change it back if need be. Another benefit of the wiki for business use is its costs. I’m sure there is a website that will take a payment for starting a wiki, however sites like wetpaint.com allow their services to be used free of charge.
The wikis also support the sharing of documents of all types including word documents, spreadsheets and even PDF files. The users within the wiki are also able to communicate privately with one another and send e-mails from within the site. I use a wiki for one of my classes and it has made accessing my class resources easier than any other class I have. I do not have to remember a long web address to the class site, search through my binder for handouts or attempt to open files through seaport. Instead, I simply visit wetpaint.com, enter my username and password and go straight to my class site which has any information or document I may be looking for. I believe the ability to access this information from any computer is beneficial to students as well as business employees. If I had a semester-long group project or ran a business that required employee collaboration I would use a wiki for quicker and more effective results.
Tonight when I got off work I was talking with some of my friends about my upcoming homework assignment. I told them I had to write a blog on “wikis.” Their response was “What is a wiki?” It made me laugh at first, because who could not know what a wiki is. But, that is when I remembered I had no idea what a wiki was or its uses before I began my senior seminar in English this semester which deals with Web 2.0 technologies. I feel lucky and grateful to be a student who knows the upcoming technology on the internet and how to use it. My first thought when hearing “wiki” like most others is Wikipedia, which may not even be the best representative of a wiki. There are multiple uses for a wiki, which allow users to collaborate with others while uploading or changing the content of the site. However, the wiki creator may create a private site and control which data will be edited. In the article “Wikis Are Now Serious Business” by Marshall Kirkpatrick outlines ten very different ways to use wikis. The idea that was most appealing to me was using a wiki as a tool to discuss public policy. I think that new web 2.0 technologies like wikis, blogs and social networking sites can help the public communicate more effectively with their government.
So far I have only used two types of wikis; one being Wikipedia and the other a class wiki. My experience thus far with wetpaint.com has been good. It is a way for the entire class to view class resources in one area, as well as add their own links or documents for all to view. Wikis have created a new outlet for people to share ideas and collaborate in one space on the web. Whether it is used to share basic or trivial pop culture information, it can also be used to aid businesses or school classes.
Blogs are an exponentially growing online tool that businesses as well as individuals are using. If anyone has used multiple blogging websites they have seen the differences in uses for each website. I have found through my readings and use that WordPress.com is the best blogging site. It is a tool that is easy to use, allowing the easy upload of photos. Fortunately, as opposed to Blogger.com, WordPress.com does not require any coding or HTML skills. I have found that many blogs require extra skills or a fee that is unnecessary. I find it hard to believe that anyone would pay to use a blogging site. I have seen that sites charge anywhere from $5 to $400 dollars to create a blog. If sites are available such as WordPress.com, then there is no need to pay a fee. There are a few extra luxuries extended to the people who pay such as no advertisements, statistics on your blog and creating your own domain. However, as we discussed in my Web 2.0 Technology class, why pay for a blog tool when other websites offer it for free, and you could just pay someone to create a website for you for the same costs some of the blogging sites offer. Unfortunately, many businesses or individuals do not know very much about blogging tools and they may find it as a requirement because they do not know any better. I think the best thing I have learned about Web 2.0 is that they are technologies or services that are offered for no price at all. Blogging sites that charge their customers to me are not credible. A good point made by a fellow student, was that blogs were created to be the simplest publication of personal thoughts. Sites attempting to make it more than it is essentially made to be could be seen as scam artists. All in all, anyone who wants a blogging tool should use something that is free. If they want something more than that, then maybe creating a website could be the better option.
Businesses and individuals are increasingly using social media to reach their customers and track conversation about their business. Twitter and Facebook are the two popular social media currently being used by small business owners, as well as corporations. The increasing use of these social networks is likely due to the new technology that companies like Apple are producing. For example, the iPhone by Apple is the new “it” gadget for tech-savvy customers. Free and paid for applications on the iPhone allow consumers to access information quicker than ever before. Twitter to most people who are not deeply involved may seem like a tool that just supplies status updates for other people to follow. However, Tweetdeck and new open API’s allow users to do much more than share status updates. The new open API’s allow users to upload files and share them, as well as photos and videos. An interesting new feature is the Twitter business card which can be sent to other Twitter users. This enables businesses as well as individuals to expand their customer base and reach other business executives that may be able to use their services. However, some businesses use status updates and that is enough for accessing their customer base. Small business owners post daily specials and have seen a significant increase in the amount of sales for their items on special. This is most likely because people check the updates before they come in. The business owners have noticed that customers come in knowing the menu and what special items they want just from the online information they access before coming in. I read one example of a man who has a pastry cart which he pushes around New York City. Since his business is on the move a lot of the time he must use updates through Facebook and Twitter to let his customers know where he will be for the day. Customers as well as the business owner find these updates as extremely useful. Many small business owners are now relying on the free advertisement of social networks.
Businesses these days must begin to utilize blogs and the blogging community. In “Blogs Will Change Your Business” it is stated that blogs can no longer be ignored. This could be because of the sheer number of blogs out there, which is around 9 million according to the article. This could also be attributed to the types of information that are being shared across blogs. Customers and consumers of businesses all over the country can bad-mouth any business that they have a bad experience with, and this could in turn cause a trickle effect for other people who have also had bad experiences. Once you get a few people drawing attention to the issues of a business’s products or services the entire reputation of the company could be ruined.
The shift from a select few or elite deciding what to publish for the masses, to each individual blogger being a publisher who can put out any information could be detrimental to businesses. Any customer/user can voice any opinion good or bad about the company. For example, Mark Jen a former Google employee began taking about his first days at the company and commenting on the benefits he received from his employer. This brought some negative attention to the Google enterprise and caused Jen to lose his job. If his initial blogging didn’t bring the heat to Google, the news of his termination did. This just goes to show how fast a small issue can blow up into a media frenzy when bloggers are involved.
Businesses are going to have to learn how to harness blogs for their benefit. That could mean scanning and reading blogs to help prepare them for what issues may arise. It could mean starting up their own blog to promote their products and receive feedback through. Either way businesses need to utilize technology to their advantage.
In the article “Mexican Government is Using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other Social Media,” by Ana Leckenby, my eyes were opened to a new way for government and public interaction. I was unaware that countries were using media such as Facebook and Twitter to keep their people up to date. I think it is a great idea, and way, to get the public involved. Currently, most citizens attend city council meetings to voice their opinions against specific projects by their government. Being able to harness the collective intelligence of the people being governed could lead to more stability within the country, as well as better programs that serve citizens in the ways that they need.
It is important to use communication methods which are popular in order to reach the maximum number of people, and social networks are a great tool. According to David Spinks’ blog on “Social Networking Demographics: Boomers Jump In, Gen Y Plateaus,” the generation known as the baby boomers has increased in using social networks by 59% and “increased reading blogs and listening to podcasts by 67 percent.” These are pretty significant gains, and it goes to show that not just the “Gen Y” generation is using technology to gain information. These statistics show that using social media may be one of the best ways to reach the citizens within a state (country).
I also believe that the credibility of the state would increase by using social media to inform citizens and gain feedback, because it establishes a “two-way communication with the public” and helps to give transparency to the actions of the government. This could in turn cause citizens to put more trust in their governments, allowing them to work more effectively for the people. Overall, I think it is a fun, interactive way to increase the integrity of government programs.
Users of Web 2.0 technologies have become increasingly important in the development of business models for new and upcoming websites. Users add value in a number of ways. First, users add value by simply using the site. For example, Shuen explains how Flickr is able to harness the actions of all users to create a better and adaptable service. Amy Shuen, author of “Web 2.0: A Strategy Guide,” explains how “the more users, traffic, and aggregated feedback” can enable the site to perform better for all users. The ability of users to tag or cluster photos makes it easier for everyone to search through the database of photos. Without users adding value by using tags, navigating the site would be extremely difficult. Flickr also uses filters and rankings to make searches easier. Many users may think they do not add to the sites, however “they still passively provide clickstream feedback that can be indexed and quantified for advertisers, marketers…” and other service providers. Even if you are not tagging your photos and giving feedback, by simply navigating the site users are continually adding value. Shuen used an interesting comparison to show just how users can create better searches through use of the site. She uses the example of borrowing a friend’s book to study, and when you open the book there is highlighting and notes all over the page. This can often times be extremely useful and actually help guide the study process, saving you time. She equates this to users adding metadata to sites through comments, tags, and customer feedback. (Metadata within the schoolbook would be the highlighting and notes.) The metadata added by one user on the site thus allows for an easier search for the next user of the site. What was most interesting is that individual users who add the most value, or use the site the most often are being taken into account by these large sites when calculating company value. I found it interesting that just a few users can make such a big difference for a company that may have over 1 million users. Shuen states that “the lifetime value of an active and influential user should be higher, both in tangible collective user value and in contributions back into the user community.” She also talks about how these users add “value and quality” in turn making the entire site better, which eventually leads to the acquisition of more users. Overall, I think it is great that Web 2.0 companies are involving users as far as they have. It has enabled service providers to profit, as well as the users.
Interview with Tim O’Reilly
“Web 2.0 for Designers” by Richard MacManus and Joshua Porter outlines the six main themes in Web 2.0 design. The two most useful and valuable aspects of the new design patterns are:
- Providing Web Services
- Remixing Content
The first aspect of design is providing web services. MacManus and Porter describe the change from the 1990’s web pages as “places” on the web to visit, to web pages that allow you to use them as a service. With new XML technologies, web services are available to the masses. For example, sites like Amazon and EBay are not sites you visit occasionally and view. People use these sites as a tool and to provide services. These sites are often used as a means of obtaining goods, or using their information to gain knowledge on specific products or users. XML has allowed “content to be shareable and transferrable.” Visual design is no longer an aspect of design that is highly emphasized; instead web services are a valuable characteristic.
The second important part of Web 2.0 design is the remixing of content. MacManus and Porter put it best, saying it is now about what the content is and when it was put there, as opposed to who put it there and why. Web 2.0 sites are now building “event-driven experience” as opposed to purely attractive sites. Designers are now being forced to figure out how to “brand their content” because the web through RSS feeds is now remixing and distributing content through aggregators. Users are now subscribing to pages through RSS feeds and wanting to know the new information (the what) and when it was put there (the when). For example, you can get stock, sports, Twitter, and Facebook updates sent to your e-mail or phone. When you receive these updates no one is worrying about who updated it and why, but they are purely concerned about what the new content simply is.
Cooperation is the key to all Web 2.0 technologies that are being used today. Cooperation between all websites and different servers allows for pages and content to be linked, or “mashed” together. This enables users to surf the web and find what they need easier and faster, which is the sole mindset of people in America these days. For example, Delicious allows its users to organize their personal websites by keywords, making to easier and ten times faster to search through your “favorites” or do a research paper.
Now that the internet and software is “delivered as a service, not as a product,” users are becoming more important. The relationship between the provider and user has changed drastically. According to O’Reilly, “Users must be treated as co-developers.” Computer software is no longer a static program to be used, but a program that can be changed and updated hourly by the provider and by the users. The ability for these programs to be changed and become more user-friendly is allowing people to get the most out of their searches and online endeavors. Without the cooperation of users and providers this development would have never come to be.
Another way users and providers have worked together to develop more sophisticated technology is by allowing the public to display their input. One of O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 design patterns is that “users add value.” For example, on a site such as EBay or Amazon the users create credibility for the site. They do this by posting user profiles, so that people know who and where they are buying from. They also do this by leaving feedback after completing transactions with other users, or the site itself. According to O’Reilly this is the key to a competitive advantage.
Some may call it cooperation, while others call it harnessing collective intelligence. Either way, users and providers are working together to create new and exciting technologies. These technologies are working to provide an easier way of accessing information and collaborating with others. I believe businesses, as well as academic classes will benefit from the new and always-evolving Web 2.0 technologies.
Harnessing Collective Intelligence Link Below