The Zen of 2.0
2 min read

The Zen of 2.0

There’s more inevitable debate over “social” software, Web 2.0, and 2.0ness in general. Is it really new? Is it a passing fad? Is it just for geeks? Does it help us get things done? Does it improve our lives? Has it jumped the shark? (Great commentary from Mathew Ingram, Kent Newsome, Stowe Boyd, Rob Hyndman, Mark Evans, Ryan Carson and, of course, Nick.)

I have been a critic of 2.0, and yet the title of this blog suggests that I do believe that 2.0 represents a real evolution — even if the 2.0 appendage itself has gotten overhyped and out of hand.

I think the evolution we are seeing at the convergence of media and technology can be described as shift from Western constructs to more Eastern constructs. It’s a Zen thing — the Zen of 2.0.

Berners-Lee is right that what we’re now calling Web 1.0 was already a meaningful step in the evolution towards Web 2.0. But the Zen of 2.0 is best understood as a shift from pre-Web, pre-network ways of thinking – in fact, the evolution of 2.0 began with the development of networks.

1.0 was about one-way communication, siloed media and content, proprietary applications, isolated actions, and centralized control.

The Zen of 2.0 is about networks — and the connectivity, interoperatbility, and “network effects” that networks enable. No medium, unit of content, individual, application, action, or unit of data exists in isolation. Every action has a ripple effect throughout the network. The term “social” as applied to Web 2.0 is really about networks.

It seems like we’re just quibbling over terms. Karl Martino is right that the Web IS social. Web = Network = Social = 2.0 = Zen.

The Zen of 2.0 is a different way of thinking about media, software, content, commerce, etc. that is in many ways completely counterintuitive to the 1.0 way of thinking. Just think about how counterintuitive Google’s success is from the perspective of 1.0 ways of thinking that governed media and technology 15 years ago — a company that produces no content and sells no products makes billions of dollars in advertising and dramatically increases the efficiency of content and commerce, all by leveraging the intelligence of the network and activity of millions of users. You couldn’t have even described it 15 years ago.

As to the issue of whether 2.0 is for everyone, as Ross Mayfield explained in The Power Law of Participation, not everyone will contribute to the network at the same level. And some social software and Web 2.0 advocates and companies do overestimate how steep the curve will be across the whole population of online/network users. But the reality of the Web is that everything we do, even at the level of clicking links and loading web pages, is contributing to the network.

Understanding how participation in the network enhances the value of the network is the Zen of 2.0.