Would the Real WWW Please Stand Up

20 years.

It’s been 20 whole years since my hero, Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote a paper that would change the world.

Now here we are, in the midst of an information, communication and conversation revolution. It’s so exciting that sometimes I can’t sleep. The way we do business, make friends, shop, eat and work has changed exponentially within just a few short years. The Internet is and continues to be the buzzword of the century.

Here we all are; chatting, connecting, communicating, networking, personally branding, and marketing to each other. We’re meeting and sharing and creating and celebrating with each other. And it’s great.

So why am I getting so sick of hearing about it?

Here’s a little moment of truth for you. I’m getting really, really tired of social media. I’m getting tired of the fishbowl and the echo chamber. I’m tired of Twitter, of blogs, of conferences, of gurus and experts. I’m tired of listening to the same stories over and over, and of listening to continuous chatter and seeing little evidence of any real work being done.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that there isn’t anything valuable or relevant going on in social media. There are still lots of people providing value and being extremely relevant. Mitch and Chris are still doing it. Though if you read their stuff you’ll see quickly that they are not really talking about social media, but they’re actually talking about marketing and communicating well. What they are saying is absolutely worth listening to.

At the end of the day, I think many people are missing the point of all this World Wide Web stuff. The Web isn’t about following, or leading, or fauxlebrity, or who is hanging out with who at which fancy conference. But these kinds of popularity contests are becoming more and more common, especially as services like Twitter start to hit the mainstream. The value is getting lost in the hype, and people are getting caught up in the wrong kind of attention.

I’m ready to start having a different kind of conversation now. Enough with the following, the auto-replies, the selfish expectations and the politics already! Let’s start talking about what we actually want to DO with this tool that Sir Tim gave us.

Let’s start talking about how information is going to be distributed and linked together and marketed in the future. Let’s start talking about semantics, and linked data, and how information is actually going to start to become meaningful in this space.

We’ve come a long way in a few short years. What’s most important is now, we’ve got each other. We can learn and explore and share and experience and invent together. We’re so fortunate to be in the position we are, because we’re already here. We have a voice. We can help shape the future of information.

It’s time to step out of the fishbowl and start doing some real work.

Who’s in?

Category:semantic web
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  • March 16, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Welcome to where I was a couple of months ago. I would however, like to start talking more about the semantic web and linked data. I’m always fascinated when things can truly be relevant enough to move things forward. Social media is just a communications tool. It’s like talking about the phone endlessly. If one were to do so you would sound like an endless bore.

    The “experts” and the “gurus” will go away when you stop paying attention to them. If you don’t follow them or acknowledge them then over time they become irrelevant. Eventually people will get the hint that we are all individually experts and gurus.

    Damien Basile’s last blog post..Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-03-15

  • March 16, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Wow. Really well said. I think what we’re seeing is the social envelope being push by early adopters and influencers around the idea that “we” now “are the media”. This is an important idea, and one that should be thoroughly explored. But we mustn’t assume that this is what social media is for, or all it can do. The mainstream users isn’t so interested in becoming a human brand. They want nothing more than to use these social tools to manage, capture and preserve their real lives. Because the social web lacks the semantic capacity to reflect real life, it’s making virtual lives seem bigger and more important than they really are. Once we have the capacity to manage relationships, activities and personal data to mirror the lives we really lead, then the new “personal brand” can take a more suitable and healthy place alongside.

  • March 16, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    If you’re going to complain about the echo chamber in context of the WWW, at least stop calling it the World Wide Web.

    In light of some educational videos I posted on my blog today, the WWW has a new abbreviation: Whatever, Whenever, Wherever.

    Learn it, live it, be it.

    Ari Herzog’s last blog post..5 Videos on the Pending Death of Education

  • March 17, 2009 at 7:09 am

    Oh Suze, you and your musings… always there to brighten my day.

    The echo chamber is what really gets me. It feeds the sense of elitism that makes it harder to be taken seriously when you actually try to debate the merits of some of these tools with skeptics. There’s a real sense of us vs. them with social media – those who ‘get it’ vs those that don’t – and I think too many advocates feed it by jumping all over every foible by a new player or latching on to every missive or insight by some of the SM heavy hitters.

    Is there room for more people in these circles? Of course! The more viewpoints we can welcome into our little circle the better. But it’s silly to cast aspersions on every Fortune 500 company that doesn’t have a twitter feed.

    Joe Boughner’s last blog post..Social media for fun and (non-)profits

  • March 17, 2009 at 7:36 am

    Well, at least I know that you do more than live completely in that echo chamber you refer to!

    I don’t consider myself more than someone who uses all of this stuff as part of my overall marketing and socializing plan – it is all a big playset of tools for me. I do occasionally find myself trying to explain things to those who are totally oblivious to anything beyond email, and that does get painful at times.

    When I talk to artists who are still working with their hands, like I do, on a daily basis, or parents who really are so busy with other things, it reminds me that as much as the internet can play a huge roll in some lives, in many it is not that important. That’s what adds texture and fun to my world!

    I think balance is maybe what we need to find – and balance means light and dark, physical and mental stimulation, all of it contrasting in order to bring appreciation 🙂

    Halyma’s last blog post..DNEF – BellySurfing #3

  • March 17, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Today is the day for semantic web. I am reading it everywhere and am really excited. I just signed up for Twine and am pretty interested in how that will go.

    I have a more methodical use of social media. I watch Twitter for the latest updates in whatever I feel like learning that day. I try to follow “important” people and see what they are talking about, so I can stay up to speed on what’s happening. Now I have the opportunity to say something to these people (whether they listen or not doesn’t matter) about any subject that I want.

    I think this gives us more power than we ever had. I mean, everyone has a Twitter account and I can send them a message. For me, this has amazing potential.

    Jim Gaudet’s last blog post..The Obama Deception (Conspiracy Theory)

  • March 17, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Timely views, Suze. This weekend’s SxSWi is a perfect example – almost everyone talking about the same thing and the same people. It loses any impact it had and makes us less interested, not more.

    Show how the connectors are making the connections work; how the leaders are making actual leads. That’s where the true info lies.

    Danny Brown’s last blog post..What’s In A Name?

  • March 17, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Wow – echo chamber. I love that.

    I hear a buzz word bounce a time or two, so I shall add that buzz word to my vocabulary. Maybe I will bounce it loud enough and hard enough so that I might just get it to go out of this lovely chamber. Once it is out of the chamber, maybe, just maybe, I will make a few bucks before it completely disappears because it was rubbish to being with.

    What it comes down to, is how we start using these tools to solve problems – in business, in communities, in education and in government.

    Awesome post, very thought provoking!

    Bill’s last blog post..The Rules Of Social Media

  • March 17, 2009 at 11:13 am

    As a start-up I certainly use these new media tools as part of my marketing/advertising campaign to make new connections and grow my business. So from that perspective I see a lot of value in them however it’s only part of what I use to grow my business.

    On the flip side as a new media consultant and trainer I see that there is a lot of fear and suspicion about these tools by the TV demographic. The online demographic don’t have the awareness of personal branding or privacy. These two generations seem to clash.

    I do find that you can talk about the concepts, terms and mechanics of these tools however if the individuals don’t participate then they don’t see the point of it all. If there is some level of participation then the discussion gets gets very interesting and they begin to see the possibilities.

    I have noticed a significant change in attitudes of corporations since Obama’s success with these tools in November last year.

  • March 18, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Suze. The fishbowl is inevitable. However, I don’t look at it like a glass fishbowl, but a membrane that allows the fish to swim in and out. I am in full agreement with you that social media has become a lot about EGO. That’s too bad really and is probably another blog post all together.

    In the five minutes reading this, I think it would probably suit everyone if I extended a pingback and wrote about it on my blog as well, but I have a few feelings here that I will express.

    Many of us catapulted to the “Micro-celebrity” status because we were doing really exceptional and cool things. There are a lot of haters out there who will say we only do it for ourselves (Jealousy). Maybe thats true in some cases, but I have always approached social media from the standpoint of “How can I be of value & is it fun for me”

    Also, I am seeing a boat load of the early adopters (and you are one of them) that are having trouble scaling. The social media space is no longer a playground for all of us, but rather the coolest most interactive office ever. Problem is, the kids on the playground are getting pissed and calling us hypocrites. Look, I try to answer every email, dm, and note that comes my way. It is still my intention to serve, but this is no longer jut fun, it’s my bread and butter.

    Suze, don’t burn out. We love you and you have many supporters. I spoke on a panel this past week at SXSW and one of the questions posed to us was, “What if i meet resistance from my boss”;The answer was “Just keep plugging away, your guaranteed to meet resistance, but when the wins start coming they build up momentum”

    We’ll all figure thi out and when some of the other kids come off the playground to meet us at the office they’ll begin to understand the difference between PLAY and REAL WORK.

  • March 18, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    I had a discussion with a friend recently that I’m not sure that I’m proud of. The gist was that there was at least one reason to be happy about the economic downturn — it will skim the froth that has appeared in the past couple of years.

    The innovation of the most recent cycle has created an ecosystem that has enabled microcelebrities to thrive. I have no issue with this. My issue is that we have increasingly given too much weight to the input of these individuals. Lots of navel gazing has happened as a result.

    Let’s get back to making incredible technology that enables incredible experiences for people.

    Fraser’s last blog post..Fraser: Foursquare Scores Despite Its Flaws: http://bit.ly/ZMYSg [TechCrunch] "But my desire to unlock more badges never waned." Me: Agree.

  • March 19, 2009 at 7:59 am

    […] I’m super excited by the number of responses I’m getting on my last two posts (here and here, if you want to catch up) about making meaning out of the Web. I’ve already […]



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