SXSW 2007: How To Bluff Your Way in Web 2.0

First in a series of loose notes from panel sessions I’m attending at SXSW 2007. This one was kind of light starter session on how to make your web site “totally Web 2.0.” All tongue in cheek because the real message was this: Ditch this insipid terminology ASAP, because clients out there think Web 2.0 is something real, as if it were a specification or something. Nothing but disappointment can come from that, and the backlash has already started. Yet we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water, because there’s a lot that’s good in it. But the way it was presented was hilarious.

Andy Budd Creative Dir, Clearleft Ltd
Jeremy Keith Web Developer, Clearleft Ltd

Technorati Tags:

What is Web 2.0? “A startup that generates more RSS than revenue.” -Engadget

Web 2.0 is a state of mind. It’s a zen thing. The sound of one hand clapping. -Andy Budd

Conversation Starters:

What do you think of XYZ framework?

Didn’t I meet you at the techcrunch party?

I’m beta testing this great new app that will blow basecamp out of the water.

Web. 20 is so last year. I’m all about web 3.0

Design Aesthetic:

Rounded corners, childish/garish colors, really big type, lots of reflections (everything is “wet”). Lots of gradients and pastel colors.

Logos no longer look like logos – they just need to look 3D – big bold and chunky.

Fonts: Vag, Myriad Pro, Clarendon, Arial Rounded (Clarendon for landwater), Helvetica, FF Meta, DIN, Interstate

Use the Web2.0 validator (this is real!)

Use lots of those little badges that tell the world that you’re XHTML compliant, RSS friendly, etc.

Under the Hood:

Web 1.0 was all about finding what your customers wanted. Web 2.0 is all about giving A-List geeks points. You should give your developers toys: You need:

– Microformats. One or two other people with an obscure extension for Firefox can actually extract and use that data!

– Lots of RSS. If you have an unordered list, be sure to offer an RSS alternative!

– Offer lots of APIs. REST or SOAP required. If you offer one API and another site offers another, someone can do a Mashup! followed on the heels of – uses h-card – super standards compliant!

Use the Google API to determine how manny megatons of nuclear bomb would be needed to decimate a town.

Microformats give you extra geeky goodness.

Really important to put Ajax in there. NOT DHTML! It’s not about that. It’s about sliding, moving, and fading. Oh, wait…

moo.fx and Scriptaculous – nothing like DHTML in the 90s!

Don’t ever learn any code if you can help it – don’t learn Javascript. Just throw in Ajax whenever you can.

Ajax stands for “Accessibility Just Ain’t Exciting.” Blind people and their screen readers are totally Web. 1.0

You NEED Snap Previews – how could you have ever lived without windows popping up over the text you’re trying to read?

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

How to Build Your Own Web 2.0 App:

#1) Come up with a cool name. Drop the “e” – Flickr, Wankr, Twittr, Tumblr

#2) Use .us or .tv. Or break it up: Or add “get” to the frong like get.vanilla or

#3) Jaxpad, Muzu, Trimba, Zabooo,, Devtube, Yakiddo, Getwatted, Nmix, Tagvine

#4) Get a cool logo: 3D, looks like candy.

#5) Set up a mysterious homepage. Just a signup form, with no explanation.

#6) Set up a blog. Don’t tell anyone what you’re doing, just talk about how hard it is to work with service providers., – no idea what it is – just a signup form.

#7) NOW you can think of a concept for the site. Take an old idea, add a name and logo, add tagging and a social network, and bam, you’re done. You could just take an existing site and re-build it. We all need another Flickr and another YouTube, right? Just do what they’re doing. Or take two apps and put them together. Put digg and flickr together and you get dickr! Take a popular desktop add like Word or Excel and put it online, so that no one can use it when they’re not connected.

#8) Build it on the cheap. Pay a young Ruby developer in pizza and beer and stock options. Spend all the money on design. If the back-end doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter. If you get the A-List designer, people will blog all about it. Besides, you’ll sell the site before you launch, so it doesn’t matter.

#9) Big launch. Throw a party at SXSW, make postcards and t-shirts, then sit back and wait for Yahoo! or Google to call. Just go to their parties and talk in a loud voice. They’ll walk over and give you a check for $10 million.

Social Stuff:

Wisdom of Crowds. Web 2.0 throws away the underlying science of crowd wisdom and just uses the buzzword.

The greater Internet Fuckwad Theory: Take a normal person, add anonnymity, plus audience = Total Fuckwad. That’s community (i.e. a lunatic asylum).

Milk & Two: Brilliant Web 2.0 app. Sign up and tell it what you want to drink. Then when you’re ready to drink, ping the service and it will determine who’s turn it is to make the tea.

Useless Account: Fantastic(ally useless) Web 2.0 service.

Ratings: You need for your users to rate absolutely everything. Have them rate books, rate Firefox. If you have comments on your site, and you should, have users rate the comments as well!

Tagging: You need to rate and weigh everything. Amazon uses this: Trying looking for “Products tagged crap” on Amazon. On cork’d you can tag your wine. On Blinksale you can tag your invoices. How badly did you need that? Flickr solved tag overload by introducing clusters, so you can find tag combos, e.g. “evil cats.” See, absolutely essential.

Comments: “A blog without comments isn’t a blog” / “A blog without absolutist opinions isn’t a a blog. ” / “A blog without tagging, RSS, Digg this links , and add to links, add to Newsvine links… isn’t a blog.”

Wisdom of crowds: “None of us are as dumb as all of us. ”

Should we make a mashup of mashups? Absolutely. That’s why there are APIs of APIs. You can also make new buzzwords by mashing up other buzzwords. e.g. “scrumjax.” You can even farm out the job of creating buzzwords to an ad agency. Use these and we can all disappear into a singularity.

The problem with Flash is that a lot of people can use it. It gets minus points because it’s getting more accessible. But Flash is too mainstream to be Web 2.0. Not obscure or as hard to use as it needs to be.

If one or two of your visitors get it, it doesn’t matter what your boss thinks. Just get that RSS in there. You’re not making sites for real people, you’re making a site for people like us.

Question: With global warming, do you see reflections drying up? No, it’s not a fad. They’re here for good.

Serious point: The term needs to die. Now. It meant something for a while, it had a real purpose when Tim O’Reilly coined it, but … we’re going to throw the baby out with the bathwater as people tire of it. The point is to judge all techs on their own merit. If you need Ajax, you need it. If you need an API, you need it. If you need social interaction, then build it in. But drop the toxic umbrella term. It’s antagonistic to developers because it gives people the impression that it’s actually a new version of the web.

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