ZuluZulu discovered Blik today. Blik (Afrikaans: view, stare, look) is a web 2.0 Afrikaans link recommendation site ala Digg. Already there is an English language South African recommendation engine called Muti.
Digg, which started off as a tech news recommendation engine, is so popular that it soon overtook that other massive tech news site Slashdot. Slashdot used to be so huge that the phrase “you have been Slashdotted” became synonymous with the surge in traffic when Slashdot put a link to your website and cause your servers to keel over.
But where Slashot had editors recommending stories and deciding their prominence, Digg took this one step further, allowing its users to submit them and deciding how popular they should be.
Sites like Digg are bad news for traditional professional media and traditional marketeers. It allows the lone blogger, filmmaker, web producer to compete with mighty media behemoths like the BBC and Naspers. It allows an interesting web service to be found, without throwing marketing money at it.
If the Digg community thinks your point of view is better, or you know something before the Guardian does, your story can experience a traffic surge.
Did you know you can “Digg” Mhambi’s stories by clicking on the link at the bottom of each story? And that increases the prominence of my story on Digg. See, six of you Digged my story on how many $100 laptops Oprah could buy South Africa.
Back to Blik. Is it a good thing to have an Afrikaans recommendation engine? Well it certainly does not suffer like Muti does in competing with Digg (who has long since moved out of being just about tech news). There are allot of South African stories on Digg.
But this brings to the fore a perennial problem Afrikaans faces. By using Afrikaans, Afrikaners can have a very unique, local, and intimate exchange of views and maintain their identity free from cultural imperialism. But its also self referential, self contained and incestuous. Often really interesting, sophisticated, open debates happen, like this Blik to a story on a farmer who’s micro credit system has helped his labourers invest happen, but nobody outside the Afrikaans community would know about it.
The Media Guardian speculated this week how traditional news media organisations like newspapers should react to the hordes of citizen reporters stalking the streets. The BBC, perhaps not unexpectedly, reckons that news media providers can make themselves felt by providing hard news. Blogs can out opinion the best of the papers op-ed pages they said. But they would say that – The BBC is uniquely resourced to do hard news and because of its public service remit, not big on opinionated pieces.
The BBC may only partially be right. Blogs will increasingly break hard news that institutions – even the mighty Beep – will not have the resources to cover. Or they simply just won’t be at the right place at the right time.
Ah, but you might say, no single blog will have those resources either. They might through serendipity get one great scoop, and that’s it. But do remember, its immaterial that the fractured blogosphere don’t belong to a single media entity. They work on a collective level and can be found through one or two interfaces.
Technology like Digg‘s link recommendation engine (user generated editing in effect), Technorati and Google’s time and Pageranked based blog search, will increasingly encourage bloggers to publish information nobody has access to and do so first. Take this review of Gmail’s mobile application for instance. All of these engines try to give users the best postings on the web, within a certain time frame. So the links they present are weighted for quality and news-worthiness.
But here is another reason why the BBC is wrong. There’s the so-called long tail and the workings of Google’s Pagerank to take into account. If your item on a particular subject is very incisive, funny, informative and gets voted for via links from blogs and sites across the web, Pagerank will like it too. And then you are pretty much guaranteed traffic long after the item’s published date. The links presented by Google search are weighted for quality as judged by other web users. This favours well written opinion pieces whose content transcends time.
The UK Guardian recently asked a number of the pioneers of so called Web 2.0 how they understand the hyped-up but little understood term. I list some of their answers.
For Jimmy Wales creator of Web encyclopedia Wikipedia its about being open to public participation and then he ads a bit ambiguously its making “the right tool for the web“.
The creator of Blogger, the web tool I use for Mhambi (my other blog), Evan Williams reckons its just “the name for the wave of stuff that is happening right now”. But is whats happening now on the Web not qualitatively different than thats gone before?
But Craig Newmark and Jim Buckmaster creators of Craigslist kindof agree with Williams, for them its being used as a marketing term more than anything else. But they add that in its technology sense, “it involves mash-ups of technology and data from different sites”.
Digg’s creator, Kevin Rose agrees with Jimmy. Its about “the level of participation of the users”.
Del.icio.us creator Joshua Schachter, comes to it from a different angle. He reckons that the barriers to entry has dropped. The difference was that it used to be the case that to build a product on the web “took a lot of engineering time, a lot of hardware and expensive bandwidth. It took serious cash. Now a great deal of what is necessary is passion.”
The brains around LastFM Martin Stiksel reckons its the old web-an-operating-system dream being realised at last, and he ads “something to do with the participation of people.”
Sounding like half a Kevin Kelly diciple with a mix of tech-bio metaphors and a dash of the old loss of control argument, Feedburners’ Dick Costollo: “It’s the philosophy that customers are in control.” For him the companies that provide the most tools and platforms for participating “in the ecosystem” will be the most successful.
And David Silfry from Technorati? “It’s a term that we use to talk about a new group of companies and a new group of ideas that understand the internet as being full of people who are doing things at a given time. I think its about participation and people and time.”
Would you like ZuluZulu‘s definition? Web 2.0 is caracterised by the increased participation of users and developers.