It's always great when the author of one of the blogs you read daily writes back in the comments. In this case, it was Kathy Sierra, author of the excellent blog Creating Passionate Users, who responded to yesterday's article titled “Web 2.0” and the Great Grunge Hoax, which in turn was a response to her article, Why Web 2.0 is more than a buzzword.
I'd like to thank Kathy for taking the article (and especially my parody of the excellent graphs that are her stock in trade) in the spirit in which it was intended. It's always tricky using smart-assery in one's writing style while not becoming a techno-vulgarian. I'm also glad she noticed that I can disagree with her without “losing faith in humanity” like Dare Obasanjo did.
In her comment, Kathy writes:
But I disagree (obviously and strongly) with your comparison between the grunge hoax and my post. People have all sorts of notions about why Tim talks about Web 2.0… but the worst characterizations always seems to be from people who don't actually *know* Tim as a personal friend.
I wonder how many people would feel the same way if they knew and trusted Tim as a human being. That doesn't preclude some of his friends from saying to him, “d00d…the concept is sound, but teh whole version number thing was lame.”
I do understand Kathy's concerns about animosity towards Tim. The recent kerfuffle over the Web 2.0 service mark has been the source of friction between Tim and a number of geeks. There's the strange observation in Paul Graham's piece on Web 2.0:
Even Tim O'Reilly was wearing a suit, a sight so alien I couldn't parse it at first. I saw him walk by and said to one of the O'Reilly people “that guy looks just like Tim.”
“Oh, that's Tim. He bought a suit.”
Coming from the DemoCamp brain trust, a bunch of nerds who are also snappy dressers often seen in blazers and dress shirts, Graham's aside about Tim's suits feels like a desperate grab in order to add to a list of his faults. “Look! He's well dressed! NOT…ONE…OF…US!”
I bear no ill will towards Tim. It's been a while since we “swung on the flippity flop”, but we do get along:
I met him at a Peer-to-Peer software meeting at Microsoft in early 2001, and he invited me to play accordion at the closing keynote of the first O'Reilly Peer-to-Peer conference, the con that eventually morphed into ETCon and then ETech.
Simply put: we cool, we cool.
My beef with “Web 2.0” is that on the buzzword-jargon spectrum, it falls closer to the buzzword side. As George wrote in his comment:
Web 2.0 is carries so much water for so many terms, it's basically meaningless. It's the opposite of what jargon should be. Perhaps it most closely resembles the stuff that crosses over from being jargon and turns into poorly-understood mainstream language that newly-minted MBAs use (think “risk management” or “value add”).
And that's the point I was trying to make: not that the term “Web 2.0” was a hoax being pulled on us by Tim and company, but that it's got a slight whiff of fakeness to it. Just as the made-up “harsh realm” found a real use, “Web 2.0” is promotional term that got clumsily repurposed into a technical one.