This weekend I managed to set aside some space to look into three areas in more depth: Web 2.0/3.0, Yahoo Pipes, and Pandora. It should come as no surprise that all three are linked and provide massive, oooh-hate-that-word-but-must-use-it, leverage (yuk) for PR.
- Micropersuasion argues that even though Web 2.0 appears to be in the hands of a few players – Google, Yahoo, IAC, etc – it’s far from a monopoly in this era and nothing to be concerned about.
- New Media in the Land of Manana showcases a fascinating video in which Eric Schmidt (Google CEO) gives us his thoughts on how a Web 3.0 movement might further alter the online universe. His view is that the future of media is in content aggregation and community, and will be built using these types of viral applications.
- Rough Type offers a brilliant discourse on different ideas of what Web 3.0 – and beyond – could be. The Googleplex approach could be ‘Web 3.0: web as universal computing grid replacing PC operating system and hard drive’, while the semantic approach is ‘Web 3.0: web as machines talking to machines’. His consolidation of both viewpoints is: ‘Web 3.0 involves the disintegration of digital data and software into modular components that, through the use of simple tools, can be reintegrated into new applications or functions on the fly by either machines or people.’ He concludes: ‘Stick that in your Yahoo Pipe and smoke it.’
It was the last comment that made me sit up and take notice because Yahoo Pipes was going to be one of my projects this weekend. To take the ISO model, I’ve always believed Web 2.0 is the online delivery of the application layer, and it strikes me that Yahoo Pipes perfectly encapsulates the ideal of people being able to build their own online apps in the Web 3.0 environment.
So, let’s look more closely at Yahoo Pipes, which I came across when looking into feed filtering recently. This enables you to create your own feeds, and how. Not just merging but filtering too, and taking the output from one feed and mapping it to another. So for example a simple pipe could bring together several disparate feeds, filter in/out, and produce an output that you can in turn subscribe to. More complex examples can take news items and attach Flickr images to them: a photo editor’s dream. I have a strong suspicion the Google Report I recently came across could be built using similar technology.
So Yahoo Pipes offers a way to zero in on the web-as-personalisation and web-as-machine-communication. So might Pandora, the online radio service. It takes the results of the Music Genome Project, in which the musical characteristics such as pitch, harmony and rhythm of thousands of tracks have been analysed to provide a ‘DNA’ for a track. This means you can specify an artist – say, Flaming Lips if you have any taste – and Pandora will come up with ‘similar’ music. You can give tracks the thumbs up or down if you like or dislike them – very Digg-like – and you end up with your own station, essentially by matching your own DNA to that of music. The results are astonishing.
Now, this is where it all comes together. I see Pandora as a serious exercise in tagging: adding extremely sophisticated meta-data to characterise content. Now, I know there are bazillions of people tagging content in a massive exercise in Folksonomy right now, but wouldn’t it be great if somehow online documents could be automatically tagged to a similar degree of sophistication? Not just sentimenting, but semanticising (is that a word?). This would be the blueprint for a cool search engine which I’ve discussed previously.
So, get this. Imagine you could take feeds and do the same with them – thumb up or down and increase the useful hits from them. Slowly, a ‘DNA’ profile of the news you’re interested in is built up and matched to the DNA of items floating around. You could then link or subscribe to other sources with similar profiles – other blogs, forums, groups, wikis. It would be an incredible vertical search engine, and if you could then route that through Yahoo Pipes for extra tweaking, and you’ve got yourself a great news engine. Surely this is exactly what a PR practitioner needs? In fact, there seem to be pipes that already do this and I’m busily setting some up for myself right now.
But where’s the serendipity? How do you come across great ideas out of the blue? Well, Pandora for one is offering me entire new areas of related music to find out about, so it would work the same with other content types. And don’t forget, for PR, you could always read the newspapers in the traditional fashion or even just surf the web (remember that?).
There you go: from Web 2.0, to Web 3.0, to Yahoo Pipes, to Pandora, and back to Life 1.0. Don’t ask me about Life 2.0. I may be a ghost but I’m not quite there yet.
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