Debunking the 'Web 2.0' Myth - InformationWeek

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1/30/2008
07:40 AM
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Debunking the 'Web 2.0' Myth

My thanks to our friend James Robertson for pointing to an important UK study that debunks many of the "Web 2.0" and "Google Generation" myths that currently abound. I have bit of a reputation as a cynic, but the Google Generation is something of which I have simply seen no real evidence, despite vendors and fellow analysts arguing loudly about its importance in today's workplace.

My thanks to our friend James Robertson for pointing to an important UK study that debunks many of the "Web 2.0" and "Google Generation" myths that currently abound. I have bit of a reputation as a cynic, but the Google Generation is something of which I have simply seen no real evidence, despite vendors and fellow analysts arguing loudly about its importance in today's workplace.What I mean by "no evidence" is that although I am aware that a new generation is entering the workplace - one that is used to video gaming, interactive television and text messaging at high speed - I have yet to be convinced that these are fundamentally different people - people who think and operate or in fact work in any way differently than generations before them.

I highly recommend everyone to read through this report, and to consider some of the key conclusions and how these might impact your future decisions around, and usage of, content technologies. For example, the study found no evidence that peoples' information skills had improved over the last 25 years, nor was there any evidence that today's generation lacks tolerance for delays in receiving information. Further that the vast majority are really not interested in using social networking technology for activities such as discussions. The study is a thorough one and the conclusions stark.

Rather than simply debunk myths, the study emphasizes some key things that all of us should consider:

• Only a minority of people are actually interested in information technology • A substantial proportion of people actively dislikes technology and avoids using it where possible • There is no evidence that "search" skills have improved over time • Most people have quite low levels of "information literacy"

These conclusions may seem contrary and difficult to believe, but it is important always for us to separate ourselves from hype and marketing excess. Let's also remember that we (you and me) are part of a technological and cultural elite. The lives we live - using our laptops, collaborating on projects, and generally earning good salaries - is not reflective of the vast majority of society. It is our job to use technology and exploit and test its value, but it's all too easy to become detached from the reality of the regular workplace and home. It is also sadly all too common to assume a one-size-fits-all mentality when it comes to information technologies - resulting in the majority of features and functions in modern software remaining unused.

The big takeaways for me from this study are that there is a need to simplify the user experience, that we should never assume IT or information literacy, and that information technologies should meet and match the needs of the users, not the other way around - common sense, but as I say all too often, common sense is not all that common.My thanks to our friend James Robertson for pointing to an important UK study that debunks many of the "Web 2.0" and "Google Generation" myths that currently abound. I have bit of a reputation as a cynic, but the Google Generation is something of which I have simply seen no real evidence, despite vendors and fellow analysts arguing loudly about its importance in today's workplace.

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