Tim O’Reilly’s written an excellent piece attempting to define, once and for all, what the notion of “Web 2.0” means.
One very interesting illustration (click link or photo to see full-size), the Web 2.0 “meme map”, accompanies the first page of Tim’s article. It illustrates what was captured in a session on Web2.0 at the recent FooCamp conference. As Tim says, “It’s very much a work in progress, but shows the many ideas that radiate out from the Web 2.0 core.”
It is the items, or memes, as it were, on this “meme map”, that I’d like to talk about. Specifically, how EVDB as a company views each meme, and how EVDB as a technology, and Eventful as a service, embody those memes.
Let’s just go straight down the list, starting from the orange “core”, then the green memes, and finally the tan memes.
- Strategic Positioning: The Web as Platform Bottom line, this is why I founded EVDB. I was tired of not knowing about lots of events going on nearby, and I thought that a bunch of interesting technologies used on the web were maturing to the point that it was time to build an event index on top of those technologies. By having the core engine plugged directly into the web, all kinds of compelling and useful applications could be built on top of the platform: desktop, browser-based, and mobile apps included. What better way of aiding discovery of events, then to build enabling technology that gets the word out to as many people as possible through as many ways as possible?
- User Positioning: You Control Your Own Data What you do with the events you find (what calendars you store them in, for instance), is up to you. If you decide you don’t like to store them in a calendar on Eventful, then you ought to be able to move your calendar to some other service.
- Core Competencies: Services, not packaged software Everything we’re building at EVDB, including the new Eventful site, is a service. Much as we’d love to burn CDs and place them in beautifully-packaged boxes a la Apple, our core competency is to build an excellent platform, with all kinds of connectivity through our API tools, and enable others (maybe even you, dear reader) to go off and build that beautiful packaged software that helps users discover, contribute, and share events in compelling and beneficial ways.
- Core Competencies: Architecture of Participation The web is about people, not documents, or programs, or data. It’s about people. A web service serves people in the end. How do they benefit? How does the service enable discovery? Contribution? Participation? Sharing? It’s what it’s all about.
- Core Competencies: Cost-effective Scalability Commodity-cheap, fast computers running open-source stacks: Linux, Apache, MySQL/PostgreSQL, Perl/PHP. Build things from scratch with scalability right in the DNA of everything you do. After all, there are a lot of people. And a successful web service is one that a lot of people find useful. Scale, or bail.
- Core Competencies: Remixable data source and data transformations Post an event on Eventful, and you get the event in the EVDB index, plus on Eventful where people can find it, plus as an ICalendar file that you can add to your own calendars elsewhere or share with friends, plus as an RSS feed that likewise you can subscribe to or share with friends. With the API, developers can “mash up” the data and mix with other web services APIs. Our users have already created three interesting mashups: Eve, evMapper, and BlogMap. More cool mashups are coming.
- Core Competencies: Software above the level of a single device This gets back to the notion of services and platform. We’re building out the EVDB system as an open platform through which data flows back and forth to and from applications and potentially millions of other servers around the web. And the applications may be running on your mobile phone, your PDA, your desktop machine, your iPod, in your car, on an airplane… all over the place. The information needs to find you, wherever you are. And you need to be able to get the information, wherever you are.
- Core Competencies: Harnessing collective intelligence Someone out there knows the answer. Give people the tools to join in on the conversation, so everyone gets the answer. If the information’s wrong or incomplete, let people correct it, or at least call out the error and recommend a correction. If the information’s misleading or abusive, let people flag it as such. If there’s a way to help more people discover some information, let people tag the information with useful descriptors.
And now for the green bubbles…
- Flickr, del.icio.us (, Eventful!): Tagging, not taxonomy Taxonomies are actually useful. Taxonomies based on — that emerge out of — tagging are wonderful. On Eventful, everything’s taggable. Events, venues, calendars… and more to come.
- Gmail, Google Maps, and AJAX: Rich User Experiences The “wealth” of a user experience comes not from the shininess of the chrome, or the novelty of the interface, but from how readily the system gets people communicating: discovering, contributing, and sharing information. In our case, discovering, contributing, and sharing events. The Eventful web site uses AJAX techniques all over the place. But we try not to make a big deal about it. We don’t believe the reason to use Eventful is to admire its use of AJAX. That would be like admiring iTunes because of its use of Objective-C. I guess I’m old-fashioned, and believe that the best user interface is one that is invisible because the user is focused on the task at hand; the information is readily available; and there’s a sense that there are people everywhere and you’re not alone. It all boils down to success: when you use a system, are you successful? Are you able to do what you set out to do? Are you able to find what you set out to find? Did you discover relevant and interesting things you didn’t expect to discover? That’s a rich user experience. If AJAX helps bring it about, fine.
- PageRank, eBay reputation, Amazon reviews: user as contributor For participation to flourish, a system needs to the trust of the community: is what I’m seeing legit? How do I get recognized for my contributions? How does a system evaluate my contributions in such a way as to enable me to rise in the community as a thought-leader and expert? We want to do more here as our Eventful user community grows.
- Blogs: Participation, not publishing Funnily enough, the original EVDB service was envisioned as a blog of events, not, as Tim thinks, as a huge calendar of events. Today’s Eventful service is still at its core, a big huge blog of events. Each event is a blog post. Each post has a title, a time stamp, and author (i.e., contributor), a set of tags, plus optional comments, trackbacks, and even shared bookmarks. It’s a blog of events all right. In fact if you go to your own blog and post something about an event on Eventful, and you reference the Eventful URL for that event, as long as your blog software knows how to track back (and most apps do), we’ll get “pinged” and we’ll mark up the event as having been mentioned on your blog.
- Wikipedia: Radical Trust I think it’s a myth that Wikipedia is completely open. Ever tried posting something there? Ever had the Wikisquads pop out of the woodwork and shoot down your contribution before you’ve even finished typing it? My personal opinion is that Wikipedia is more about “radical” than “trust,” and that there is still too much control. Control is okay if you make it clear to the contributors how things will work, and what the workflow will be. Right now on Wikipedia it’s all a surprise, at least, that’s been my experience. Now. All that said, the concept of “radical trust” is right on. It’s a necessary ingredient to making things work on a large scale: getting lots and lots of people to buy into an idea and starting to use it to the point of relying on it. Events are a special case: unlike Wikipedia which is about encyclopedia articles designed to become part of the ongoing culture and history, events come and go like the blink of an eye. The potential for abuse is huge with events. Abuse in the sense of misleading people about the who, what, when, and where details of an event. In Eventful, people can build SmartCalendars that let you be notified of events that haven’t even come on the radar yet — events that match your search criteria and that you want to know about as soon as they’re announced. Well, what happens if those events contain intentionally false information? We need to build a system that trusts the community, but offers safeguards so that people can safely rely on the information they’re getting from the community.
- BitTorrent: Radical Decentralization We think this is a key for events to really take off on the web. Take off in the sense of being discoverable by everyone. A little museum in Tierra del Fuego ought to be able to publish its events and make them just as readily discoverable as the Smithsonian or the Louvre. To me, the Web2.0-ification (eek!) of events means not building a proprietary index of event data and then building walls around it (sounds very web1.0 to me) but rather, enabling anyone who has events to share to have tools to get those events out and onto the radars of everyone and anyone who cares. The blog world offers lots of inspiration for how events can become more discoverable: look at how blog posts have become discoverable thanks to RSS, and ping servers, and services like Technorati. The same can work in the event world.
And finally, the tan bubbles:
- “An attitude, not a technology” I prefer the term “mindset” to “attitude,” but that’s just me. In my opinion, the mindset is this: you have to give to receive, and for a long while you may be giving before you start receiving at all. You have to build a place that people will feel comfortable participating in. You have to build a place that you, most of all, want to spend a lot of time in. You have to build a service, I believe, that you want to be the first user of, contributor to, participant in. It all boils down to a people mindset: build your service for people, make it as useful and beneficial for people as possible, enable individuals and groups to form relationships through your system. And, in the end, the links you make are equal to the links you take.
- The Long Tail When it comes to events, EVDB and our Eventful service are all about enabling discovery of the whole long tail of events: not just the 100,000+ crowds at the U2 concert, but the fourteen fans who show up at a tiny independent bookstore to see their favorite mystery novelist read and sign from her latest book. As for the term “Long Tail,” it’s all been said. These days I prefer Paul Kedrosky’s term: the dark matter of the internet — information yet to be discovered and to date, unreachable through a browser. The dark matter of the event universe is incredibly vast: not even Google is going to be able to index it, because most of it is not online to index. Nor is it even in print in a library. It’s floating around the SMS-sphere. It’s stuck on the bulletin board next to the elevator in the Engineering department of the university. It’s on the whiteboard in the lunchroom at work. It’s all over.
- Data as the “Intel Inside” Tim posits, in italics even, that “the race is on to own certain classes of core data“. He lists several of these “certain classes”: “location, identity, calendaring of public events, product identifiers and namespaces.” The “E” in EVDB means “Events” and the “V” in EVDB means “Venues” as in “locations”. Tim then even mentions us, saying, “In the area of calendaring, EVDB is an attempt to build the world’s largest shared calendar via a wiki-style architecture of participation.” Two main comments. First, I disagree with the notion of data being the “Intel Inside”. Data is the “Micron Technology inside”. In a web2.0 world, it’s not the data, it’s the engine that operates on that data. Intel is the engine, the CPU. Not the data, the RAM. How good is your engine? How smart is it? How hackable is it? How customizable is it? How ubiquitous is it? Example: In the world of web mapping, we’ve all seen the ubiquitous “Navteq” copyright notices on maps, even on Google’s maps. That’s the data. Navteq is the leader in mapping data. But it’s not the engine. No, the engine is Telcontar. Never heard of ’em? Well, they’re the engine that operates on the Navteq data and they’re a major component of Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, MapQuest… (hmm, I sense a pattern there). Second, EVDB is not “an attempt to build the world’s largest shared calendar,” at least, not how Tim’s thinking.
On the contrary: EVDB is an attempt to turn the web into the world’s largest shared calendar. There’s a difference.
- Hackability Three letters: API. Hack away. Build something useful. Let everyone know.
- The Perpetual beta Is there any other way? A system that’s responding to its user community, and that gets to the point where the user community is the system, is one that is in a constant, permanent state of flux.
- The Right to Remix: “Some rights reserved” API, RSS, iCalendar. Remix away.
- Software that gets better the more people use it Indeed. This is the benefit of an architecture of participation. And hopefully, people get smarter because more people use the software. In the sense that they’re more aware of what’s going on, right in their backyards, right down the street, somewhere right in town. All kinds of interesting things going on. Enjoy life. Go to events more often.
- Emergent User behavior not predetermined One good reason for “perpetual beta”: you never know what users will want next, and in my book The User Is Always Right. So a Web2.0 system is in a constant state of flux. Some features may come and go, but the core will keep getting better, to support the shifting and growing needs of the user community.
- Play Any technology system that enables people to interact and communicate is only as good as its ability to let people be people.
- Granular Addressability of content In the EVDB architecture, every event, every venue, and every calendar has a unique identifier, a UPC code, if you will. And every piece of data about the event, venue, or calendar, is individually addressable through our API.
- Rich User Experience Already addressed above.
- Small pieces Loosely Joined Actually, some big pieces too, among the many small pieces. In the world of EVDB, what are the small and big pieces? The small pieces are the events and calendars of events that reside all over the web: not just within the EVDB index, or on the Eventful website, but on your website, and yours, and yours over there. The big pieces are servers: not just EVDB’s, but all kinds of servers all over the web, all with open connectivity, all able to share and exchange event data with other servers. This is only in its infancy on the web right now. We aim to change that.
- Trust your users After all, they’re trusting you by showing up and participating. We do our best to listen and respond as fast as we can. We can always do better. We need to build a system that makes the community feel at home: this is a place we can hang out. This is a place where interesting people come. This is a place where I can find out all kinds of interesting things!. This is a place where it’s fun to share my own findings with others. That’s what we’re building.