Friday, March 03, 2006

"Web 2.0" and "Web Pi" -- Reject Reality and Substitute Your Own!

In one of his best statements on the fabulous Mythbusters television show, when as often happens (which is the real beauty of the series) one of the experiments doesn't turn out as expected, co-host Adam Savage says: "I reject your reality and substitute my own." Maybe they're moving into computer programming -- lots of myths there -- you can also see them here with "father of Java" James Gosling.

This could be a useful approach to adopt with the currently much-hyped "Web 2.0"with all the articles being written about it, all the claims being made by all and sundry, all the AJAX toolkits appearing out of the woodwork, and the lack of any real agreement about exactly what it all means. Mix that in with the "acronym soup" that we're faced with these days -- SOAP, WSDL, SOA and ESB, WSDL, BPEL, and a myriad others -- and it would be a brave person who claimed to understand what it all means.

CIOs and other IT management therefore have a really tough time ahead of them to make sense of it all and decide which parts of the jumble should be used to further the success of their organizations. An interesting recent article by Edward Cone at Ziff Davis' CIO Insight magazine discusses this: Web 2.0 Reality Check

I encourage you to read the entire article, but a few points made in it are:



  • CIOs in the services era will face their share of problems not only on the technology side but, just as importantly, in dealing with the cultural changes these services will bring to every organization.
  • The whole lengthy cycle of software projects is now on Internet time, and woe to the CIO who fails to keep up.
  • Of all the issues raised by the anticipated service wave ... none are more pressing than the changes in culture necessitated by the new regime.
  • Meeting this demand requires a new way of managing tech projects
  • A danger in this situation is that IT can lose its relationship with the business.
  • IT definitely needs to think differently, because the users want more with services. But if the users think they can do it without IT, they're crazy.
  • One of the biggest headaches with applications on demand is integration with other programs.
  • Tying everything together right also has implications for security, especially identity management.
  • Offline capability is still very important for users. They want productivity maintained if services go down. ... And go down they do.
Much food for thought here.

Joel Spolsky comments in his inimitable fashion that the Architecture Astronauts Are Back with their "meaningless stringing-together of new economy buzzwords in an attempt to sound erudite" and "The term Web 2.0 particularly bugs me. It's not a real concept. It has no meaning. It's a big, vague, nebulous cloud of pure architectural nothingness."

Today's environment is certainly a far cry from the overnight batch runs, fed by punched cards and generating boxes and boxes of printouts, which was still in vogue when I started with IBM in 1970. New-fangled IBM 3270 CRT "green screens" were starting to be introduced in early-adopter mainframe customer accounts, offering direct data entry and immediate display of results and being seen as the wave of the future. We didn't realize it then, but life really was simple in the good old days.

I've read opinion articles predicting "Web 3.0" -- even "Web 2.5" -- and ever onwards to "Web 4.0" and beyond.

I reckon that it's all actually heading asymptotically towards "Web Pi" or "Web π" -- you know,
Pi, the transcendental and irrational number (with a value of roughly 3.14159 26536 to a mere ten decimal places).

We're on our merry way towards "Web Pi in the sky" you could say! The decimal places go on endlessly -- which is what seems to be happening with all of the opinionating and soothsaying about the future of the Web and where information technology is heading. We'll never ever reach our target, but this will provide more opportunity for the technobabble to pour forth and inundate us all.

And if all the word traffic about "Web 2.0" isn't enough, there's another plethora of gobbledegook related to Web Services Architecture ... So many standards have arisen that they need to be referred to generically as WS-* (where the asterisk presumably represents an infinite number)!

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STYLE NOTE: the above diatribe was inspired by the British TV series "Grumpy Old Men". I'm actually pretty positive about it all, at the broad level, but the nitty-gritty details get pretty painful at times. I see that the inventor of the Internet seems to be pretty happy where it's all heading too.
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UPDATE [30 May 2006]:
Richard MacManus in his Read/WriteWeb weblog has recently commented about the Top Ten Underserved Web 2.0 Markets and in that article points out the following Web 2.0 catalogs: eConsultant's Web 2.0 Directory and Sacred Cow Dung - All Things Web 2.0 -- but nobody yet seems to have started on a Web 3.0 catalog, how bitterly disappointing!

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