UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

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What If We’re Right?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 23 Jun 2008

Back in April I gave an online presentation to the JISC-Emerge community entitled What If We’re Wrong? in which I described some of the concerns which have been expressed related to use of Web 2.0 services (e.g. sustainability of the service, privacy issues, etc.) and suggested some approaches for dealing with concerns (e.g. risk assessment and risk management strategies.

Following some Twitter discussions Martin Weller wrote a post entitled Web 2.0 – even if we’re wrong, we’re right in which he argued that even if some services aren’t sustainable, we won’t go back to the way things were and we can’t unlearn our experiences and expectations.

As I described in my response “Even If We’re Wrong, We’re Right” Martin’s post gave me a fresh insight into these issues. But what, I wonder, are the implications if we’re right? Perhaps it’s now timely to ask ourselves:

  • What if externally-hosted services do turn out to be sustainable?
  • What if technologies such as AJAX, coupled with ARIA support, provide usable and accessible services and define the type of user experiences which our users will expect in the services they use?
  • What if an’edupunk‘ approach succeeds in implementing change, leaving behind the more formal approaches to IT development?

Now many of the pragmatic Web 2.0 users and developers are addressing the potential problems they could face with their risk strategies. But are the Web 2.0 sceptics assessing the risks hat they may be wrong? What about the risks that students will abandon institutional services (as, it seems, they are starting to do with email)? What about:

  • The risks that graduates will find it difficult to get jobs if they have little experience of popular Web 2.0 technologies, having spent 3 years using elearning tools which aren’t known outside the HE/FE environment?
  • The institutions which fail to attract new students, researchers or staff as they aren’t making use of popular social networking services?
  • The researchers who continue to work just small groups, using email and accessing papers on institutional repositories but don’t follow discussions which their peers are having in the blogosphere?
  • And finally what about the risks that IT development programmes ignore the benefits of lightweight solutions, preferring to develop more sophisticated services which aim to solve every possible contingency – and then nobody uses the service as it’s too complex for most?

The question needs to be asked: what if we’re right?

7 Responses to “What If We’re Right?”

  1. “What about the risks that students will abandon institutional services (as, it seems, they are starting to do with email)?”

    Surely this has already happened? When I was at University, we barely ever used our Uni e-mail addresses, apart from checking them occassionally to read all-student e-mails.

    In fact, one of the first things our Department did when new students joined was to collect their ‘real’ e-mail addresses…

  2. It’s not just academic institution email addresses that are going.

    It’s becoming increasingly obvious that many new corporate hires find the idea of using an “internal email system” with, say, 50M storage limits as faintly ridiculous compared to the 6G+ storage on their gmail accounts.

    Once banning Webmail became anachronistic, floodgates opened. I see more *relevant* mail on my webmail, and more corporate briefing on my internal mail. Oh, and the filtering is better on my gmail.

    Contractual/customer email has to stay internal – but for the rest of it?

  3. Matt said

    Another aspect, what if the frustration of trying to implement modern web solutions in a retrograde environment drives away talented technical staff?

  4. Paul Walk said

    “Now many of the pragmatic Web 2.0 users and developers are addressing the potential problems they could face with their risk strategies. But are the Web 2.0 sceptics assessing the risks hat they may be wrong?”

    This is an interesting juxtaposition, setting ‘pragmatists’ against ‘sceptics’…..

    I consider myself to be sceptical pragmatist ;-)

  5. Even if we’re right, we’re wrong…

    I can’t quite resist this post to join in the series of comments on the use of Web 2.0 in HE, started by Brian Kelly with his presentation to the JISC-Emerge community: “What if we’re wrong?”…

  6. […] then asked What If We’re Right? and asked what would be the implications of adopting an over-cautious approach to Web 2.0 in which […]

  7. […] gave on What If We’re Wrong? and my follow-up posts on Even If We’re Wrong, We’re Right and What If We’re Right? we can see this in action. Now this reflecting on other”s views and adding new insights is, […]

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