Web 2.0 - or how to dump money down the toilet, again

· by Steve · Read in about 3 min · (549 Words)

Clearly a colossal stock market crash can’t keep the arm-waving, tragically vague but ever so enthusiastic ‘paradigm shift surfers’ away for ever. The same kind of bullshit that caused multitudes of lemming investors to leap off a financial precipice 5 years ago is back, and somehow there are people that are still buying it, in the vain hope that they’ll hit on the next Google perhaps.

What is Web 2.0? I don’t think anyone actually knows for sure - but it’s all about ‘creating platforms via collaboration’ - basically think about connecting blogs, wikis, forums etc into some kind of ‘system’. Now, for one thing I don’t think anyone actually knows what this system would be for, but secondly there is a finite number of types of application this sort of free-for-all, collaborative effort is useful for. I’m fortunate enough to have a steering role in quite a large, helpful community so I know this can work, but it rests on there being a clear purpose, a set of ground rules, and identifying and promoting responsible & capable people into moderator / reviewer roles to maintain quality. We’re also lucky that being a programmer’s site, we tend to get people with at least a moderate level of intelligence and good sense in most cases.

The web in general is not like that. There are some very nice people, but there are also a very large number of complete assholes. Left unchecked these people will pollute, corrupt, sidetrack, insult and generally spoil the whole thing for everyone else. It takes a fair amount of effort to just keep these people at bay. And even excluding those who are not malicious, there are an awful lot of people out there filling the web with utterly useless noise. Who knows, you might think this blog is one of them 😀

Secondly, systems built by consensus by people unskilled in systems design are inevitably flaky. Unfortunately the kind of people promoting Web 2.0 tend to be web designers and other front-end kind of people who haven’t the slightest idea how to build a large, robust system of the kind they’re implying they can create. Ad-hoc, randomly created systems just don’t scale up that way - like a home-made go-kart fitted with a jet engine, they just shake themselves apart under the strain. The very idea that you can just connect all these disparate community systems together with hacks to form a large system is simply ludicrous. But, it’s the sort of thing we can expect from people who have no engineering experience but plenty of whiz-bang marketing bias.

I seriously hope investors remember what happens when you listen to these sorts of people without really seeing what’s under the surface. Make them prove their concepts properly before throwing money at them, don’t just look at their flash websites. But, who can tell.

The web is evolving on it’s own, it doesn’t need a vacuous new label or over-excited web designers claiming there’s a whole new world there worth $10m in funding to explore. These people are all talk and no trousers - note that all the successful internet companies have a very solid engineering basis (take Google as a case in point), and have a foot planted firmly in reality rather than hyperbole.