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Web 2.0—Looking toward the Future or Reviving the Past?

If somehow you’ve been able to avoid encountering it until now, the popular buzzword Web 2.0 denotes a new participatory era for the World Wide Web, enabled by a handful of related technologies, such as wikis, blogs, syndication, social bookmarking, and open APIs (some of which were discussed in Queue’s November 2005 issue). These technologies and the applications deriving from them aren’t necessarily new and/or leading edge, but generally they help people create and share information in new ways. Tech publishing maven and trendsetter Tim O’Reilly calls Web 2.0 an “architecture of participation.”

If the buzz surrounding O’Reilly’s recent Web 2.0 conference is any indication, what people are really participating in is a renewed collective enthusiasm for the Web and its potential for connecting people and their information. Sound familiar? It therefore comes as no surprise that some conference attendees posted blog entries describing how it felt like 1998 again. Other bloggers questioned whether 2.0 underestimates the technological maturity of the Web (aren’t we at least at version 3.0 or 4.0?). As such, Web 2.0 might be more about this reprisal of excitement about the Web than about its underlying technologies per se. Which is to ask: Is Bubble 2.0 on the horizon?

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Easy Come, Easy Splog

Adherents to Web 2.0’s gospel of participation frequently point out how popular technologies such as blogging allow users to create and share content easily. What’s sometimes forgotten is that it can be a double-edged sword: if it’s easy for users with good intentions to create content, then it’s also easy for ill-intentioned users to create content.

Case in point, the growing problem of blog spam, or splog, infecting today’s blog sites [Editor’s note: apparently another manifestation of Web 2.0 is the coining of second-generation hybrid words]. Sploggers use automated tools to create bogus blog entries, enabled by the open, easy-to-use APIs of blogging sites such as Google’s Blogger. The splog entries often use content mined from real blogs to appear in blog search engines and trick RSS readers into displaying the bogus content. The fake blogs inevitably contain links to the usual suspects—gambling sites, cheap Viagra, and discount software. The apparent hope is that the sites will gain enough accidental hits to score high in search engine rankings.

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Carpal Tunnel Is So Nineties!

For years cubicle drones have complained of stiffness in their joints from using keyboards with poor ergonomics for extended periods of time. While many experience only occasional discomfort, some keyboard jockeys develop full-blown carpal tunnel syndrome, an affliction marked by extreme pain, weakness, or numbness in the hands and wrist. It’s not uncommon for carpal tunnel sufferers to reevaluate their career goals, as tapping away at a keyboard serves only to aggravate the problem.

For those among you who’ve managed to trade life behind a keyboard for life on the road, don’t think you’re in the clear just yet. All those e-mails and SMS messages you’ve been sending on your PDA could be slowly wreaking havoc with your digits, in particular, your thumbs. An increasingly common affliction, often called “Blackberry Thumb,” involves pain and fatigue in the thumb joint, caused by the repetitive motion of thumb-typing, the input method of choice for many PDA users. The most popular PDA models offer mini-QWERTY keyboards.

The Blackberry Thumb affliction brings to light two possibilities: either we need to find better, more ergonomic PDA interfaces that enable people to work for longer periods of time on their mobile devices, or we need to accept that these devices were never designed for prolonged use and save some of that work for the office.



Originally published in Queue vol. 3, no. 10
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