First Tuesday – 3 April 2007

We attended the First Tuesday breakfast event at the Wanderers Club this morning. The event was packed with a variety of business people ranging from entrepreneurs to corporate-types. The speakers included Vincent Maher, Heather Ford and Mike Stopforth. The theme of this event was “Web 2.0” and there were quite a few people who were new to the idea of social media and who came away from the event with a little more information about the social media revolution.

The first speaker was Vincent who spoke about some of the myths about Web 2.0 and dispelling them. The main focus was the philosophy behind Web 2.0. Vincent said the first issue is a definition issue. He said Web 2.0 is a cultural issue, a style.

“In short, it is networked interoperability between people”

As he pointed out, this is really just the beginning because with the shift to the Semantic Web, we will see a more radical shift. Getting back to Web 2.0, the starting point is blogging which is the equivalent of a printing press in everyone’s backyard. Vincent then introduced Amatomu to the attendees together with Muti and Digg which, he told them, is driven by the users acting as editors.

Vincent’s tips included starting a blog (and he spoke briefly about Stormhoek), sharing expertise, publishing videos on YouTube, publishing photos on Flickr and releasing APIs to enable other people to build their applications on top of your own platform.

Mike spoke next and he started with the statement “I am a geek!”. The first screenshot was of a site called Afrigator which looks like a tag driven site. While the screenshot was up, Mike recounted the Dell incident (aka the free Dell offer that turned out to be an error a little while ago). The interesting thing about this error was how Dell would respond to the conversation about the mistake and the cheap computers that seemed to be on offer. He made a good point about how companies don’t apologise anymore and tell the truth. Dell should have apologised for the mistake and invited the bloggers around to chat about the mistake. The opportunity was there to embrace the bloggers and create evangelists. The important thing is to remember that we are all human and not to forget the human touch.

When it comes to company intranets there are opportunities to share knowledge and make more of an intranet than a glorified (and very expensive phonebook). Intranets are valuable opportunities to cultivate an internal conversation with your employees and to achieve that you use similar tools to the tools you would use on the Web and you can use them very effectively. was introduced to the attendees as not just a web-based bookmarking platform but also as a shared service so other people can see what you are reading on the web. When you bring in the network feature you start building a network of trusted knowledge workers. To add to all of this you also have the option of subscribing to terms and phrases to keep tabs on what other users are reading (Mike quoted a figure of around 3 million users).

Heather was next up to speak about “how new approaches to copyright are driving alternative business models”. This is a topic I am becoming really passionate about and it is always a pleasure to hear from Heather. She introduced Creative Commons as a middle point between public domain works and works under full copyright and used Creative Commons to separate out a number of rights that can be granted or denied. The two main questions are whether to allow commercial use and derivatives. A range of sharing possibilities open through combinations of the licensing elements including collaboration, shared wealth and more. The Diet Coke-Mentos experiment went down pretty well as an example of a shared content model which made video sharing site, Revver, a bit of money from advertising revenue. The bottom line of Creative Commons is that it is democratising innovation both in South Africa and abroad.

A panel discussion followed after the talks which was moderated by Angus Robinson.

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