Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Lexicon of the Interactive Web

As a champion for social networking and next generation web functionality, I'm often in meetings with folks who are not sure what I mean by Twittering, Facebooking, or Texting. Here's a lexicon of the interactive web, assembled by my colleague, Dr. Michael Parker. Feel free to share it with anyone who has not yet joined the overly connected set!

Web 2.0 � A somewhat loosely defined idea, rather than a reference to any specific technology. It generally refers to use of the web in participatory, collaborative ways where users shape the content. The ability for users to contribute and/or interact is one of the features distinguishing Web 2.0 from the model of viewing static web pages. Web services that fall under this umbrella include social networking sites, video sharing sites, wikis, blogs, and folksonomies (each of which is described briefly below).

Social networking sites � These web sites allow users to form online communities, which can be further organized around specific topics (work or recreational). In general, these sites allow users to maintain profiles with information about themselves and to make connections to other users. Examples include MySpace and Facebook, among many others. More focused examples include LinkedIn and Epernicus.

Video sharing sites � These are sites that allow uploading of video clips for others to view. Probably the most popular example is YouTube.

Wikis � Web pages or web sites that allow people to contribute to and/or edit existing material. Whereas blogs are cumulative, with little if anything being subtracted or modified over time, wikis are iterative in that users continually modify and build upon existing content. Wikipedia is probably the most well-known example of a wiki.

Collaborative document creation � Software that allows multiple users to co-author a document. Web-based versions can maintain multiple backup versions of documents, allow simultaneous editing by multiple users, enable email notification of document changes, among other features. Examples of such software include Buzzword by Adobe and Google documents.

You can also subscribe via RSS (see link at bottom of page when you visit the document) to receive notifications of document changes via programs like Google Reader (see RSS below).

Blogs � A blog is a web site, usually of an individual (although sometimes representing an organization), that has chronological entries of text and sometimes multimedia. Entries are usually shown in reverse chronological order, with most recent entries shown first. Blogs form cumulative records with �posts� (blog owner�s entries) and viewer comments accumulated over time.

RSS � Sites that offer RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds allow users to be notified of new or changed content by receiving e-mails or by subscribing via �Reader� technology (like Google Reader). Blog readers are one example, although RSS technology is not limited to blogs.

Folksonomies � A folksonomy may be thought of as a collective of user-defined tags (simple, often single word, descriptions) on web objects (pictures, web pages, documents, etc.). This is different than an expert-defined taxonomy (e.g. MESH terms) in that users are free to come up with their own terms. A folksonomy may facilitate interesting methods of search and exploration, particularly if association is maintained between a user, his or her tags, and the objects being tagged. For example, user #1 could observe that user #2 has tagged a web page with terms that make sense to user #1; user #1 could then look at the rest of the items user #2 has tagged with those terms. The site Delicious is a good example of such tagging and association.

Tags � Simple, often single word, descriptions that users assign to web objects (eg photographs or web pages). These are often free-form, in other words, users can come up with their own terms rather than being constrained to choose from pre-existing terms. Although tagging is often performed for one�s own personal retrieval of information, there may be power in making use of the collective set of tags assigned by many users (see Folksonomy).

Instant messaging � Refers to synchronous or near-synchronous interaction via short text-based messages over the internet. It is basically a text-based conversation in real time. AOL (with AOL Instant Messenger or �AIM�), Yahoo!, and Microsoft (MSN Messenger) are some of the more popular technologies in this category.

Chat � This tends to refer to multi-user instant messaging applications, and is also called synchronous conferencing.

Text messaging (aka �texting� or SMSing) � Refers to sending short text messages, usually from cell phones. SMS stands for �Short Message Service.� This is a phone-based version of instant messaging, although it has a broad range of applications other than conversational (for example, polling or surveys can be conducted this way).

Voice over IP (VoIP) � Software that allows users to make telephone calls (real time audio communication) over the internet. In many such calls, there are no phones involved, and users are talking/listening via microphones/speakers connected to their computers. Skype is a good example of such a service. These services often also include text-based features like chat.

Web conferencing � Software that allows users to conduct meetings over the web. Common features include screen sharing, text chat, voice over IP, and virtual whiteboard. Examples of software in this category include Adobe Acrobat ConnectNow, GoToMeeting, WebEx, and Elluminate.

Project management software � Applications for managing multi-person projects; may have a variety of features, such as to-do lists, timelines, document version control, multi-person document editing, email notifications of document updates, etc. BaseCamp is one web-based example of such software.

Recommendation engines � Algorithms, like on Amazon or NetFlix, that analyze your shopping/browsing/renting habits and those of others like you and make recommendations as to what you might like.

As a member of the overly connected, you'll find me at:
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