Understanding why Web 2.0 works.

There were ten of us in the room.

I gave the other nine people pieces of paper. Each got one 12″ by 12″ piece of fancy paper, the kind that you see in scrapbooks. Each got several pieces of smaller plain yellow or slightly fancy blue paper, the kind that will stick to other paper.

I asked them to take one of the small pieces of paper and write a few words. I said, “In a few words, write what you think social media is.”

I waited. This is a group that has heard the phrase, most of them. It is also a group that doesn’t understand the phrase. They’ve never, most of them, really talked about it. That’s why I’m here.

Then I said, “Put that on your scrapbook page. Now, give me a few examples of social media.”

Then I said, “Answer this question: Have you ever created a web page?”

Each person had three small pieces of paper on a larger one.

I walked over to the head of the group. “Read your first note.”

He did.

I looked across the circle to the junior member of the group. “What do you think about his definition?”

“Great!”, she said.

“Write that on a little piece of paper and sign it.” She did. I carried it across the room and stuck it on the bottom of his definition.

I looked for a person who I knew understood social media. “What do you think of that definition?”, I said.

“I’d add this,” he said.

“Write it down,” I said. He did. I carried it back and attached it to the first two notes.

While he was writing, however, the junior staff member said, “Can I add to mine?”

“Write on another one,” I said. She did. I stuck it on the end of the list.

I looked at the person next to the guy who got it. “What do you think of his addition?” “It’s good,” she said. “Write it down.” She did.

Then I told them a story. It is a good story.

To help me explain the story, I handed them a color copy of a scrapbook page I had created. It looked sharp, bright, almost professional.

After the story, I picked up the color copy of a page I handed out.

“This is a traditional webpage. It looks great.” I picked up the page with sloppy list of notes stuck on it. “This looks awful compared to mine. But it is yours. You created it. You created the conversation. You can add to the conversation.”

I pointed to a picture on my page.

“If my friend wanted to look at this picture and tell me he likes it, there is no way for him to add to the page. He would just have to use a Sharpie on his computer screen. On the other hand, on your page, you could have a picture and someone could talk about it and someone else could and someone else could.”

A copy of a scrapbook page or a scrapbook page that can involve lots of people. Underneath the technology, creating a conversation makes sense.

The technology isn’t the why, it’s the how.

I think they got it, by the way.

19 responses to “Understanding why Web 2.0 works.

  1. Jon,

    As someone on the older end of the ‘digital native’ spectrum, I sometimes have a hard time explaining Web 2.0 because it is so natural to me. This is far and away the best explanation I have ever heard. To truly ‘get’ social media you just have to jump in and do it – this is an awesome first step.

  2. And I’m a really old digital naturalized citizen. And you are right. It just takes jumping in.

  3. What a great teaching example. I’m sure all of the group will remember the basics of a web page and being able to add to the conversation.

  4. thanks Paul. We’ll find out.

  5. Your trip to JoAnn’s was VERY effective!!🙂

  6. Of COURSE they got it.

    I’m going to use it and I’m not even going to say “My internet friend, Jon says…” I’ll just call you Jon.

  7. The greatest example of practically illustrating social media. Congratulations! I will definitely use the technique. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Great visual. Not being from the tech world, the thought of Web 2.0 is enough to get your heart racing. This example is clean and simple illustrating how easy (and beneficial) it is to just have a conversation. Excellent idea.

  9. Bookmarked and being shared! Perchance the next time you do this could you get a video. Perhaps put it up on youtube. Visually it’d be fun to see. Thanks for taking the time to do it and to post the story.

  10. I love this example I can see this being a wonderful tool to help my tech challenged clients.
    Thanks a million!

  11. Marcus Schaller

    Great way to demonstrate how this all works. It illustrates the reason why so many people have difficulty with the technology…because they are focusing on the technology. We’re comfortable with phones and televisions and postal mail because we don’t get too caught up with “why it works.” We just use it. With the Web, it can be too easy to get stuck on the tech, and forget that the quality of the conversation is what makes it matter to begin with.

  12. I’m so glad that Zena Weist told me about you. Like Amanda and others mentioned, this is the most memorable explanation of web 2.0 I’ve heard.

  13. Marcus, good comparison to the rest of those communication technologies. Of course, i’m guessing that early on in each of those, there were people who were just as tech, just as nervous.

  14. thanks all. Now, use this…and make your own images for outside the fishbowl.

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  16. Love this illustration! What a great way to connect our off-line experiences with the on-line world. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Really like this explanation. My favorite part:
    The technology isn’t the why, it’s the how.

  18. This is a brilliant way to explain it!