The community 2.0 conference has been a real mind bending experience for me. I’ve been amazed at the level of participation, and the general notion that this was a kick-ass conference. This conference got off to the right start immediately when I got inside the Las Vegas airport looking for ground 0, attempting to find a shuttle to the Red Rock Resort. I met another co-conferencer that was walking around in circles, also looking for the shuttle. We immediately began chatting, and it didn’t take long to determine we both had a passion for the topic of communities. That’s been true of everyone at the conference – there is just a really great energy in the air, and people are excited about the potential of building strong communities. As humans, it is instinctual for us to collaborate, and the tools that technology is making available to us has introduced a plethora of new communication methods.
I was introduced to a new technology at this conference, and I’m almost embarrassed to admit it. You’d think that as a technologist, and as someone who considers himself tech savvy, that I would have already learned about tagging and tag clouds. The truth is, until now, I never really understood the potential for tags, and how they might change the Internet. Granted, tags are used everywhere – HTML is full of them. Specifically, I’m talking about the content classification and categorization tags that have been implemented on many web 2.0 websites. I fell off of the blogging bandwagon about 2 years ago, after I ran fresh out of ideas. Since then, I haven’t followed the progression of community technologies, and more importantly, I haven’t really taken the time to plug into new social networking sites like MySpace. During my absence from the Internet’s social community, tags were introduced, which allow you to create content, link it together by cross-referencing it with similar tags, and then create spiders that pull like-tagged information together from around the Internet (such as Technorati).
To exercise this new technology, I created this blog at the beginning of the Community2.0 conference to begin ramping up on community technologies. The sponsor of the conference said, “mark all of your uploaded content with ‘community2.0′, and we will aggregate it together, and display it in once place.” I thought to myself, what in the hell is this guy talking about? Tag it — aggregate — pull — consolidate — one place? IMPOSSIBLE. Certainly, the conference will need to run its own website with photo uploading, an editorial uploading capabilities, a linking system, etc. NOPE! TAGS. Just use the tools on the Internet that already exist. This need not be hard folks!
Over the coarse of two days, I finally figured out what the sponsor was talking about. It’s amazing what you can learn by visiting your friend — WikiPedia. If I tag my content, then I can create an RSS feed from various sources that pulls ALL of the information together from disconnected websites that are hosted across domains and continents. I was so excited about this, I almost fell over.
This is exactly why you are seeing a listing of Community2.0 links on the right side of my blog, with links to content that is syndicated from sources all over the Internet. I used the technorati search engine to search the tag ‘community2.0′, and then I created a right-side navigation item that pulls in that feed. This is basically the same principal as reading Associated Press new articles on Google News and Yahoo News. It is generally the same news, it just happens to be syndicated from the same remote source. In this case, I can syndicate text, links, pictures, and anything else my heart desires.
I began documenting the entire conference using docs.google.com (the coolest technology ever), which allows me to publish directly to my blog using back end RPC web-service technology. If that sounds like a bunch of techno junk, and it is, basically it means I can push a document I create in Google docs directly to my blog with the click of a button. I tagged my google docs as ‘community2.0′, and therefore those documents ended up in the collective consciousness that is represented under the community2.0 tag. People, this is drop dead amazing.
This technology is HOT, and it has completely opened up my mind to a world of new ideas. For example … what if a person could create a “social profile” that was represented by the collective data that they have inputted into various systems across the Internet? How, you ask? Lets say that I start tagging my pictures, my ideas, my blogs, and my profiles and OpenIDs as “bmiller”. Then, I use an aggregator, like Technorati, to search on ‘bmiller’, and import that collection of data into a virtual profile page that dynamically adjusts as the data grows and changes from the remote data sources. Suddenly, I have a profile that can span the entire Internet — and collectively represent me, as a digital identity, it my totality.
Why on earth would anyone want to do this? This technology would allow each industry to focus on the tools that are key to that industry. It would allow the user to pick and choose the tools across the entire span of the Internet, and build an identity for themselves that represents a collection of tools and services from a large selection of disconnected data providers. At the same time, companies get free advertisement syndication, because as this data is aggregated and pulled onto sites around the Internet, you are effectively planting billboards, and getting free real-estate. How many times have you seen the fine print ‘flickr’ logo on someones profile page? Isn’t that effectively an online billboard?
Okay, so there are huge holes in the technology as it exists today that would prevent this from happening just yet. Who is to prevent someone else from tagging their content as ‘bmiller’? Nothing — and that would lead to identity pollution. Instead of identity theft, we would have a new model of ‘identity hostile takeover’. There is a huge amount of potential here, and it is only a matter of time before this becomes a very real technology. In the meantime, we can still take away from this, because companies and organizations need to learn how to create tools for the web that will lend to the collective experience as a whole. More on this in another life … perhaps web 2.1