February 20, 2009

Web 2.0?

What is Web 2.0? What does it mean to you? Can you even remember your life before the likes of Wikipedia, YouTube, Twitter, or even before you interacted with blogs? Can you remember the internet before this?

Whenever I try to think about life before Wikipedia and YouTube I get visions of dinosaurs in my head. Web 2.0 has truly created a gap in my mind that almost makes 'Web 1.0" into an entirely separate entity. I am shocked to realize this, as I think most people, myself included, imagine the web as a constantly evolving entity, one which never ceases and has no endpoint. This reminds me of the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland. She must continue running only so she can stay in the same spot, let alone move forward. The internet must continually evolve and adapt to the latest trends and technology.

Can you imagine life without Twitter? Some people will tweet up 20-50 times a day. Congressmen have gotten in trouble for tweeting their location while on a trip in Iraq and Afghanistan. What was your life like before everyone had to know what you were feeling, doing, and thinking 24/7?

I'm really trying to get at the total paradigm shift that has happened since Web 2.0 'happened'. The internet was merely a collection of information. It was like a computer based CNN, newspaper, and encyclopedia all wrapped up in this 'network' of sites. Quite frankly, the internet was just another place to read stuff. There were forums and newsgroups, however these were designed for niche applications, and were not especially easy to find, use, or set up. Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, and a plethora of other social networking sites changed all that.

Facebook is still exponentially growing and shows no signs of stopping. The concept of interacting over the internet, in a medium more complex than a simple text chat has revolutionized the general view of the internet. Not only do people use the internet as a resource now, they contribute to make it a better resource.

Wikipedia is a wonderful example of collaborative improvement on the internet. Never before have experts in almost every field imaginable combined to create a vast database of knowledge compared to be as accurate as a traditional encyclopedia. Companies that produce the Encyclopedia Britannica or Microsoft Encarta often have a team of 30-40 editors, and several hundred contributors. Wikipedia has thousands upon thousands of contributors and editors. If you are reading an entry on Wikipedia, and you notice a typo, you click a button, correct the error, and hit save. In a traditional encyclopedia, good luck getting through to the editor, let along convincing them they have made a mistake, and finally waiting another 10 years for the next edition of the encyclopedia.

The collaborative and creative spirit of Web 2.0 has spawned thousands of internet memes. Things ranging from a crying pitiful defense of Brittney Spears on YouTube, to a viral playing of a terrible Rick Astley song, Web 2.0 can often be seen on morning news programs as the 'latest trend'. Gone are the days of needing a network news crew to record a sporting event. Look on YouTube for a famous sports play happening in the past few years and you'll find countless cell phone and digital camera recordings of the event.

Web 2.0 has ushered in a new era of interactivity on the internet and you shouldn't miss the boat. The web is changing from a static resource, to something, and even arguably some place that people can come together to connect, collaborate, and create.

February 16, 2009

Facebook Addiction?

Can you get addicted to Facebook? I do not usually spend a lot of time on the site, but I know people who do. It seems like it takes them over an hour to do even simple homework assignments because they are alternating doing their assignment with chatting and surfing around Facebook. I often wonder what compels them to spend so much time on Facebook wasting at least half of their time to do productive things over the course of the day.

A few weeks ago, several of my friends and I took most of a Sunday afternoon to work on homework. We probably worked for at least 8 hours on various assignments. I probably had a legitimate 6 hours of homework, while the rest of them had significantly less, however they were also on Facebook for most of the time, which significantly lowered their productivity. I actually ended up finishing my homework before they did.

What causes someone to go on Facebook every five minutes and check to see if someone has commented on their status? Even when doing homework, something that requires a very specific focus, people will interrupt it simply to check their wall. Some psychologists believe it to be 'intermittent reinforcement'. Anticipating getting poked by someone, or getting an unexpected bumper sticker from someone can create a psychological high, just like gambling.

This sort of random reward, and more importantly, the possibility of such a high, seems to be hurting productivity. According to an Inc.com article:

"For some, Facebook is gobbling up more of that time. A recent survey of more than 700 office workers in the United Kingdom found that employees spent at least 30 minutes on either Facebook or MySpace on a typical work day -- with two respondents saying they spent as much as three hours a day on the sites. Global Secure Systems, a U.K.-based IT security firm that conducted the survey, estimates these daily visits are costing employers several billion dollars a year in lost productivity."

It seems clear that Facebook has both addictive properties and negative effects on productivity. These links agree with my initial story about homework on a Sunday afternoon. I am glad that I haven't fallen victim to the trap of Facebook, only going on regularly, and usually only to keep in touch with friends who aren't on campus.

I remember hearing about a couple in Korea leaving their child at home for over a day to go play World of Warcraft and upon returning noticed their child was dead. How can you actually forget about your child for over 24 hours and not expect something bad to happen? This really goes to show the pull of the internet though. If you can leave and forget about your child for an entire day because you're playing an online game, then there has to be a serious attraction to that game. I get the same sense from Facebook too, however it just pulls a different demographic. I think Facebook tends to attract many more females than males, especially in the high school and college age demographics. I also think the Pew demographics we went over in class bear this claim out. While guys might spend an entire weekend playing Halo 3 on Xbox Live, girls might spend 50 minutes out of every hour on Facebook over 10 or 12 hours of 'doing homework' on any particular weekend day.

If there's one thing I've learned with multi-tasking and homework it's that it can't be done. You cannot be checking out other people's profiles, updating your status, and writing a term paper or studying for a test. If you change just one thing about your Facebook usage, stop pretending to multi-task with it, you can't, and your enjoyment of its use will be tainted by doing homework while using it, and the quality of your homework, as well as your interactions on Facebook will suffer.

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