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Web 2.0, online communities, and information overload

img_0050.jpgI’m a fan of Web 2.0, but as Reine led me to think about after he placed a comment discussing it, there’s a LOT of Web 2.0 sites out there, all trying to take advantage of new technology to provide a better internet experience for the millions of people that are looking to become part of a a greater community.

With all the sites that have popped up in the past year, and are still popping up (I’m on an alpha testing group for one of them at the moment), there’s so much that’s available, and so much that is available because of them, that information overload is becoming more of a problem.

However, information overload is something we can control. We’re not at the mercy of Web 2.0 sites unless we make ourselves that way. If we can’t handle the amount of information coming at us, then it’s up to us to manage what we use and what we do in order to compensate for it all.

Here’s a short list of popular Web 2.0 sites that are out there:

  • Technorati
  • Digg
  • Del.icio.us
  • Flickr
  • YouTube
  • MySpace

Many thousands, if not millions, of people use those – and many others – on a daily basis. They allow for the storing of links, information, pictures and videos.

Here’s how I use them.

Technorati – rarely. Except to claim a new blog I’ve created, so that content I post to the blog can be automatically shared via Technorati. I use it to help bring new visitors to my blogs.

Digg – rarely. I experimented with it for a period of time, and even just a couple weeks ago when Gmail released some new features, I was one of the first in the blogosphere to post to Digg about it. I got 7 or 8 ‘digs’, while someone else, who posted about the features almost a day after me and had less information than me, got almost 2,000 ‘digs’. The site favours the elite, therefore us small fry are only wasting our time with it.

Del.icio.us – rarely. And as of this year, never. It was something else I experimented with for a while, but sharing my blog pages to this site didn’t result in the traffic I expected. It was more hassle than what it’s worth. And if I want to store links, I have my browser’s bookmarks to do that, or I can subscribe to a site’s RSS feeds with my RSS reader.

Flickr – never. I used it a long time ago to explore its features, but wasn’t happy with its functionality, and never went to it again. In regards to what I wanted, Picasa is a much better computer-based photo management tool that suits my needs much better.

YouTube – never, except to view videos that my friends link me to. I’m not a user, and have not placed any videos of my own there. Nor do I search through the videos. There’s something called ‘a complete waste of time’, and browsing through the stupid videos that millions of people put there is not my idea of a good time. Yes, I did it once, and after 2 hours of wasted time that I’ll never get back, much to my regret, I’ve never done it since. There wasn’t a shred of value in it for me.

MySpace – rarely. I have a friend who has decided MySpace is the next best thing since sliced bread. I don’t agree with him. It doesn’t allow RSS subscriptions, for chrissakes! In order for me to even be notified that he’s posted to his MySpace blog I had to create a MySpace blog of my own. And then I had to subscribe to his blog within MySpace. And then I had to set up an email notification within MySpace so I can be notified when he adds a new blog post. I HATE MYSPACE for its restrictions and elitism.

This is how I look at Web 2.0 sites, features and functionality:


This is a list of Web 2.0 sites or tools that I DO use:

Bloglines. This has been an absolute Godsend, I kid you not. Most sites today, whether they’re blogs or news and information sites, use RSS. Using Bloglines, I can subscribe to all those sites that are of interest to me, and instead of having to go through my bookmarks to see which sites have been updated recently, I just visit Bloglines which shows me the latest content produced by the sites I’ve subscribed to. Instead of wasting time visiting sites in my bookmarks list, I just have Bloglines open and active, and wait for new content to come to me. What a time saver!

Blogger. It’s what I use for my blogs. It allows user interactivity, sharing of information, web 2.0 functionality, and community building. I share information with interested people, receive information from people placing comments, and have tags and sharing links. It’s Web 2.0.

Tag Cloud. This is a Web 2.0 feature that a lot of sites use – including this one. I like how a tag cloud takes the tags you assign to content and then displays those tags in accordance with the ‘weight’ of associated content. The more content of a particular tag, the larger and heavier is the tag. It helps, in my case, show the general theme of this site, and changes as new content is added.


After wracking my brain, I really can’t think of anything else I might use that’s ‘very Web 2.0’. It’s possible that some things I use have become so routine that I just take them for granted now, and don’t even really know I’m using them any more.

What’s important, however, is that what I use saves me time, and shows me – and others – what’s important to me. That’s the value of Web 2.0 for me. I know that some people use Digg and Del.icio.us to do the same thing on a much larger scale, but really, it can just get to be too much.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to these questions:

  • why are people sharing so much information on social bookmark sites?
  • why are people signing up to web 2.0 communities?
  • why are people making so many videos and putting them on YouTube?
  • why are people searching for information-sharing sites?

I think it’s because people are, mostly, lonely. They’re not searching for informatoin, they’re searching for contact. They’re sharing parts of themselves in order to be noticed, and to be liked. They’re searching for attention, for approval, and for a sense of actually being someone worthwhile. They’re hoping that they can feel worthwhile by being part of these communities.

With this in mind, I can see a major problem occurring. The more people who sign up to these sites, to share information about themselves and to seek information about others, the more sites we’re going to see to help them – and to make money from them.

The global community is not going to become smaller as a result of the internet technology, it’s going to become larger.

It used to be said that the internet made the world smaller, that it helped bring people together where they would never have had that opportunity. That’s still true, but the more it happens, the more we’re going to see people crying out for attention that they’re so starved of.

Where people exist in communities on the internet, the offline communities are going to shrink. People are going to have less physical contact over the next few years, and more online contact. Social lives are going to be defined by their activities in online communities, by how much information they can share that shows how valuable they are as a community member. The acceptance they’re seeking will be answered by the status of their online profile.

And as a result, it’s going to be even harder for people to be noticed. The larger the communities, the smaller will be the individual, and the more difficult it will be for them to create an identity for themselves. Eventually a separation of social status will occur, just like in the real world.

But instead of the rich and the poor, it will be the high-profilers and the nobody’s. The high-profilers are those who, today, make up what is considered to be the A-listers on the blogosphere. Those people who have made it to the top of the high-profile link lists, who receive hundreds of thousands or millions of hits per day, who have dozens to hundreds of people commenting on everything they do online.

And of course, those who become part of the commenters are doing it to be noticed, to be recognised as part of the glory of the A-listers, simply by having their presence recorded on the site of an A-lister. And then there’ll be the nobody’s, who can only sit and watch and be envious of the popularity of the few. Of course, there’ll be a whole lot more who don’t even know that this is going on!

It’s going to be harder to carve out an identity on the internet in the future, but everyone will want to try.

Here are some questions for you, that I’d love to hear your thoughts on.

  • How do you see the future of online communities and Web 2.0 affecting us?
  • Are you experiencing information overload yourself, or are you perfectly happy carving out your online profile by browsing and sharing information?
  • Did you meet your significant other via the internet, or in real life?
  • Have you actually met your significant other in real life yet, or is it purely an internet relationship so far?

Thanks for reading! Please add your own thoughts below.

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