Thursday, 10 April 2008

Web 2.0 is an important spread medium; it is not just for geeks!

The real "geeks" are talking about Web 3.0 so let's just stick now to Web 2.0. The term loosely refers to a category of internet tools that enable users to actively participate with content on the web. This is so much more than just participating in a chat group. It is about being able to customise your interactions, join up two different programs, make the web a very personal space for yourself right from how it looks through to how it performs for you. Web 2.0 users operate from a personal and community perspective and use the technologies available to them to bypass organisational and social walls.

Both formal and informal organisations that remain stuck in the Web 1.0 world of passive web systems, of the "come and get our information" or "network only within our boundaries" will soon find themselves with a generation of deskilled staff and a customer / client base who drop out sight. If the organisation holds a monopoly for their service, like many public services, then the incentive to invest in Web 2.0 is often limited as the customer has no option. The loss here is the reduction in staff skills and the inability for the gains in knowledge sharing, community building and the sharing of good practice that Web 2.0 can bring with it.

So what can Web 2.0 are some of the benefits of Web 2.0 for spreading good practice, or just sharing good ideas round communities - how can it help?

Publishing and sharing information widely over the internet
a) Use blogs (this is a blog..); personal information is important and can have an impact. If you're really scared then anonymous blogs are possible and could even spark a bit of fun
b) Tag; basically this is booking your favourite sites and then sharing your favourites with others in your social or work circle. Think about the possibilities.
b) RSS Feeds; these allow you to subscribe to places on the web so the infomration is delivered to you when the site / page is updated. Incredibly useful as you don't have to remember to go looking. It shocks me how many important healthcare websites do not have an RSS Feed facility.

Networking and collaborating with others
a) Social networking sites are ten-a-penny. Each has its own flavour. Check out which ones your staff are using now and why. By limiting your organisation to only organisation-wide ones you may be limiting their network and community. My favourite is Linkedin.
b) Whenere does the real news come from? To spread good ideas do we send out newsletters or allow the citizen journalists to use the architecture of participation we have put in place to share their videos and stories?
c) Wikis are ways to allow the we-think teams to create and work together and produce output. This is about dissemination through to adoption (in our spread terms) all in one go and not as a linear process.

Sharing and showing messages and information
a) Photos; there are many different websites with a variety of functions to allow sharing with comunity functions.
b) Podcasts; not just to deliver information, but also to provide ways to manage the downloads and streamline the way that the receivers then use their time more effectively (no more email and paperwork)
c) Videos; U-tube has stolen the market maybe, though this is one of the most succesful methods to get a message across and is almost compulsory. Think citizen journalism though. In web 2.0 the citizen create and share the content.
d) Mashups; this is where information from different places is combined, like putting submitted videos onto a Google map so you can see the location of where entries for a competition are coming from.

I think using Web 2.0 is not so much as using a set of technology tools as engaging with a different mindset about how we do business. It's like not "how do I use MS Outlook", it's "how do I best use the concept of email to carry out my tasks and build relationships", or not "how do I use the @stdev function in MS Excel" but rather "are there some useful functions in MS Excel that may help me in my role as a quality improver"? So Web 2.0 is not "how do I blog" but rather "what can we get from the concept"? or ""how can we mash-up" but "what mash-ups will add to our business value and further spread good practice?"

The technical boffins will always be around to help us do the techie stuff. The strategic and tactical business thoughts and discussions around Web 2.0 need to take place for them to be able to implement and reveal their talents.

(c) 2008, Sarah Fraser

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