Web 1.0 was the Web in its infancy, its first developmental stage. “Web 2.0” was coined by O’Reilly Media in 2004. You can think of it as the Web in its adolescence, full of energy and ambition with real meaning and purpose to its life but this month we have seen the formation when adolescence reaches puberty. A lot of changes happen as you grow up, especially as you reach puberty, the name for the time when your body begins to develop and change. I believe we are witnessing that time in Web 2.0. This is certainly not quite the stage, maturation, or evolution of the Web to be called 3.0 yet.
But it’s important to make a (somewhat artificial) distinction between Puberty and Adolescence. Most of us think of puberty as the development of adult sexual characteristics. These are certainly the most visible signs of impending adulthood, but kids who are showing physical changes (between the ages of 8 and 14 or so) can also be going through a bunch of changes that aren’t readily seen from the outside. Web 2.0 is a slightly early bloomer compared to humans but these are the changes of adolescence.
Joking aside of the names in the title, the birth of the Apple iPad and Google Buzz are both very significant changes to the Internet. These tools both are built on the early foundation of where Web 2.0 began, social networks and the iPhone, but are intended to transform these concepts into new disruptive change. They are Strategic Moves for both companies even if they both have a rocky starts as we are seeing with the initial backlash. But I have faith that they will both grow up to be major new players in a year’s time.
The iPad may very well change the way we do things from a Hardware perspective. We may soon be using these on the Couch, in the Classroom and in Meetings. Many people struggle with their need today but I’m sure we won’t question the use of a Tablet 5 years from now.
Google Buzz may have seemed a bit underwhelming today as well but it too is extremely significant, it could be the first major Social Media Platform from an established company that does much more than Social Networking. Google Wave was an attempt to experiment with a Proof of Concept but putting Buzz inside of GMail means that Google is serious now. Yes, Yahoo has attempted to do this inside of Yahoo Mail but I believe that Google’s design has a better chance of being used. I admit that I am primarily a Yahoo Email user based on the fact that I have owned the account for so long but, in general, GMail users tend to be early adopters. Then there is the Android users, this is a utility that allows Google to excel where Yahoo couldn’t: Native Mobile Apps.
Unlocking the “Douchbag” Badge
Yes, just as in adolescence, there is still room to mature. The Foursquare “Douchbag” Badge says it all, Google and Apple would never have used those words as a reward and that’s a good thing! These companies will help add maturity and be sensitive to those who don’t get the joke that many may find offensive. The problem here is a fundamental one: Web 2.0 companies need to grow up if they want to play in the lucrative marketplace of business and corporate America. Insulting people isn’t the way to grow your business or fan base, whether it’s supposed to be light-hearted or not. Apple and Google understand this and won’t risk being too edgy! I usually am against Apple’s iPhone App Approval Process but it’s an example of maturity. Up until now, there wasn’t enough grown-ups with the kids.
What’s A Parent To Do? When HR & IT are your Mom & Dad
Keeping with the theme, I’m going to switch gears to focus on the view between Company and Employer as it’s equally important for these tools to grow. Many kids announce the onset of adolescence with a dramatic change in behavior around their parents. They’re starting to separate from Mom and Dad and to become more independent. Kids often start “trying on” different looks and identities which can result in episodes of distress and conflict with parents. I think many companies try to treat their employees like their children.
No surprise, there will be resistance to disruptive technology inside large companies. They still are struggling with change, they know they want to monetize from these tools but they are also afraid of letting their employees from using them. As we have seen this week with Forrester’s stance on controlling blogs and the news around the need to remove a LinkedIn Profile, companies just are afraid of insiders using these tools both for information leaks but also the threat of strong Personal Brands.
What Companies don’t realize is that grounding your children for no reason will not solve a problem. Employees will likely act unhappy with the tight boundaries that their parents place on them, especially when it something that they do after-hours such as Blogging or building a Personal Brand. Unnecessary strict parenting may cause them to run away from home. However, give them some room and they usually understand and need to know that their Employees care enough about them to expect certain things such as acceptable behavior and adherence to the rules of the house. If parents have appropriate expectations, teens will likely try to meet them.
Companies really need to look closely at how much room you give your employees to be an individual and ask yourself questions such as: “Am I a controlling parent?” or “Do I allow my child’s opinions and tastes to differ from my own?”.
Respecting your Kid’s Privacy and Embracing Their Tools of Choice
Companies, understandably, have a very hard time with this one. They may feel that anything their kids do or use is their business. Using tools that weren’t issued within the walls of the corporation is a tough thing for HR and IT units to embrace. As a Chief Architect, I see and understand this struggle but I also see how long it takes organizations to get their internal tools up to date sometimes due to budget constraints and many other factors. Many companies will resist the use of iPads and other Tablets because every PC and SmartPhone is issued through them. Many companies still resist the use of Personal Email Accounts within their firewalls, let alone Facebook or Twitter. But if you allowed them to track your employees every move through access logs and GPS tracking devices, they’d be all for it.
My personal view, treat your employees like Adults. Let them use these tools to get their job done. Let them Blog with the understanding of what they can\can’t represent or talk about by creating reasonable Social Media Policies. If you notice warning signs of trouble, then you can invade your employee’s privacy until you get to the heart of the problem. But otherwise, it’s a good idea to back off and just treat them like adults.