UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

The Web: From Childhood to Early Adolescence

Posted by Brian Kelly on 2 Mar 2007

We are now seeing the Web developing from its childhood to a, sometimes troublesome, adolescent in our institutions. In its infant years IT service departments took responsibility for helped to nurture and develop the baby (they read the Apache manuals, learnt Perl programming and developed some simple rules so the Web wouldn’t get into too much mischief). And when the Web was old enough to be let out into public the PR and marketing departments took charge, and made sure it was dressed properly before being let out into public.

But all of a sudden the Web has turned into a teenager. It doesn’t want to do as its told. It wants to wear whatever it wants, and not the nice suit and tie we’ve bought for it. Sometimes it swears. And it wants its own identity. “I’m not Web, any more” it tells us “I’m Web 2.0 – and I can do what I want!

And maybe we’ve been too over-protective. Perhaps we should give it more responsibility, even though this may be painful. And if it want to call itself “Web 2.0”, then that’s OK (even though it will always be Web 1.0 to its parents).

It makes me smile, sometimes, when I remember when I was a similar age. I was into ‘punk’ and annoyed my parents by dressing strangely. So maybe when it says it wants to ‘mashup a YouTube video’ (I think that’s what it says; I don’t really understand – I just know it sounds like something I should ban) this is similar to what we tried to do when we were young.

Now I wonder what it will be like when it reaches its early adulthood? And when did I suddenly become middle-aged? I’ll be voting Conservative next (only joking, I’m New Labour through and through, me.)

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11 Responses to “The Web: From Childhood to Early Adolescence”

  1. > I was into ‘punk’ and annoyed my parents by dressing strangely.

    We demand pictures!

    > I’m New Labour through and through, me.

    So you’ll be voting Conservative, then :-)

  2. Hi John – a very speedy response (you’ve obviously noticed the 8 am publication cycle). You’re the first to crack the obvious joke – but I suddenly wondered whether this post might be misinterpreted as autobiographical. So for those who may be ironically-challenged, there is an implied <humour> tag associated with the tag (or perhaps <humour rating=”poor> if you wish to be cruel”) – so no photos of me in strange clothes, I’m afraid – unless you explore carefully Wikipedia’s rapper sword dancing and related pages :-)

  3. silversprite said

    > Hi John – a very speedy response (you’ve obviously noticed the 8 am publication cycle).

    RSS feeds scanned every 15 minutes, hence quick in. There’s a reason:

    I’m lobbying for the use of Norwegian-style tunnels in major future Scottish transportation projects. Various news media put stories online where comments can be added. But if it’s a few hours old, by the time I get a comment up, it’ll be e.g. comment number 53, so no-one finds it to read or e.g. follow a link to more information on tunnels.

  4. ajcann said

    Leaving aside the depressing fact that the distance from 2007 to punk is greater than the distance from punk to WWII…

    Maybe we need University 2.0:
    http://nogoodreason.typepad.co.uk/no_good_reason/2007/03/web_20_course_d.html

    BTW, just found this, so I can use it on all the luddites:
    http://www.baekdal.com/web2rss/

  5. But the truly great thing about the Web is that, from toddler to adolescent, it goes on behaving exactly the same way. ;-)

  6. Matt said

    Hopefully Snap preview pop-ups are something the Web will grow out of. :)

    http://technology.guardian.co.uk/weekly/story/0,,2017953,00.html

  7. Hi Matt – I think we need a metaphor. Are Snap previews a dodgy band, dress sense, or what? Note, BTW, the the MD of Snap wrote a letter to the Guardian, and he thought Snap previews were cool :-)

  8. Nigel Ford said

    At least we have an authoritative and completely accurate arbiter as to whether a particular site is Web 2.0 [http://web2.0validator.com/]. In keeping with Web 2.0, it behaves like a teenager. If you try to validate the validator is says “Don’t taunt me”, and it acknowledges that the definition it uses to make decisions “changes on a daily basis”. Even more like a teenager.

    You pose the question “How should its parents respond?”. I guess we need a Web equivalent of “tidy your bedroom”. I have a vague feeling that the answer may lie in metadata and Yahoo pipes… But the postmodernist in me says that equally it may not.

  9. Mike McConnell said

    If you’re speaking about the Web at large and not just in HEIs, I’m not sure I agree with your analogy, Brian. Doubt that ‘we’ the IT folk had much control to begin with. Would also dispute that “PR and marketing departments dressed it up in a nice uniform and made sure that it looked presentable and behaved itself”.

    Web demographics will demonstrate what REALLY happened pre-Web 2.0: the balance of web content provision shifted from the original small, non-profit/interested parties to large commercial ones. The nature of information on the web changed accordingly, to the top-down model.

    Web 2.0 is ostensibly to some extent a return to the 1st generation explosion – the chaotic, democratising free-for-all, aspects. The critical difference is that the commercial guys are hip to it now and nurturing it. Why? Perhaps your question should not be how the parents can control the kids, but how we, the kids, can stop the parents controlling us. We’re the flowers in their dustbin.

    Punks not dead, oh no.

  10. Hi Nigel – I thought the dialogue normally went “Tidy your bedroom” (said in hopeful tone); “Shan’t!” (defiantly); “Well don;t expect me to” (recognising a lost battle).
    And I’d suggest that Bill Haley and His Comets have arrived and there’s no going back (don’t forget, tenagers are a post war phenomenum).
    So the way to response, from this perspective, is to appropriate the forms of rebellion and institutionalise them. get your VC to blog and release a YouTube video – that’ll make it dull, boring and non-threatening!

  11. Hi Mike – I was referring to the Web in HEIs in the posting and the tensions across different groups within our institutions – pretty much based on my experiences and observations dating back to 1993.

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