Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Doing Web 2.0 Right

Today is the kick-off to the Web 2.0 Expo. It looks to be another outstanding event, if  the pre-session meet-ups are any indication.  I will be live blogging throughout the event so much of this comment will be "shoot from the hip" impressions of the content.
I  decided to sit in on the Web 2.0 Best Practices session given by Niall Kennedy. Nice starting video to capture people's attention - Chemical Brothers - Star Guitar.
Web 2.0 as a term is four years old and yet it keeps morphing. Web 2.0 is the changing, participatory web. Web 2.0 is not static but is rooted in the past but we have to keep looking to the future.
Boy, a trip down memory lane back to the days of the 1990's and NCSA Mosaic. Oh, the memories! Do you remember when LiveScript was imported in to Sun's Java and became JavaScript in 1997.
The new era of the web was kicked off with XHTML and styling through CSS.
  • Use XHTML strict in compliance mode - this enables pages to be rendered more quickly than in "Quirks" mode.
  • With placeholders include height and width for your images and video includes. It allows the page to render faster.
  • Google Webmaster tools - It allows you to see your site the way Google's search bots see it.
Microformats are one of the great new developments on the web. Microformats enable specialized content to be interpreted by search engines and bots but the content is still readable by we humans.
  • hCard - For people
  • hCalendar - For events
  • hReview - For evaluations
Microformats is moving from bleeding edge to leading or cutting edge. It is moving out of the geek world in to an implementation phase.
This is the world of news readers, feeds and APIs. Syndication is increasingly including multimedia. We are seeing the convergence of the TV and the Computer. dlna certification will drive this trend and ensure compatibility across all your home equipment.
Multimedia should use chapter information and add extra data to RSS 2.0 feeds to enable indexing and monetization of your output. Check out Yahoo Media RSS or Apple RSS. To compare these feed mechanisms check out a comparison at W3C  here
The big development is in APIs. For example Twitter generates more traffic through ATOM feeds than through their web site. Remember you can use an established API and enrich the content for your own purposes. 
JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) is increasing in popularity and has been adopted as a standard. It is a lightweight data interchange format. It is important to parse JSON to avoid malicious code insertion.
  • If you use feedburner for your feed distribution then use a custom domain for your feed so that you get a full view of your traffic. eg.when measured by Comscore, Hitwise or other traffic measurement services. 
The links used in this talk are at:
What is a widget? It is an optimized distribution endpoint. We control the endpoint and hence the rendering of the content.
This part of  the session will be on del.icio.us
US Traffic - Hitwise in February 2008:
Google 5.45%
MySpace 4.29%
Facebook 0.85%
MyYahoo 0.39%
Widgets allow you to tap in to this audience. An alternative is "Fan" driven distribution.
Moving to a widget world requires you to think about how your web pages might be de-constructed in to elements that can be torn off and used elsewhere. Widgets are all powered by feeds. You use the standard distribution mechanisms to refresh content.
Widgets include targeting for mobile. That can impose constraints. What is important to remember is that you don't build a web facade that doesn't let your users get at the detail content behind your web page. Bank of America's custom iPhone page was cited as an example. of this. A neat app but it did not let you get at your transaction data. This can ultimately frustrate your users.
A look at the user base on Facebook proved fascinating. Approximately 20% of the UK population has a Facebook account. The advantage of delivering widgets on social network platforms is that you can get a deeper insight in to the audience you are delivering content to.
The Social Graph
Niall just dipped lightly in to this subject. The Social Graph is about mapping links between contacts. 
The New York Times was cited as an example of leveraging Facebook. The NYT has over 14,000 fans on Facebook and can update these fans when a big news story hits.
ShinDig is an Apache Foundation development that provides a social platform that you can run on your own servers.
With JavaScript it is possible to listen to the page content in which the widget is embedded and adapt your content to the information being referenced on the page.