September 14th, 2011

The Social Web Is What We’ve Made of It

The Internet is a communication tool. That is, the Internet is a network of computers actively sending information back and forth.  Over time, we’ve improved and progressed these connections in amazing ways: developing software, increasing bandwidth, going wireless, adding mobile devices, and so on.  As with all things, growth and evolution bring about new ideas and new realities.  The ever increasingly blurred line between reality and virtual reality integrates the web more and more with our everyday lives – a digital renaissance of sorts.

As Google famously states, “The Internet is What You Make of It.” This simple statement does more than inform viewers of cool ways to use Google’s products; it brings to light a simple question of “how are we using the web?”

Creatures of habit, we fall into tendencies and patterns in all aspects of life: the café we frequent; the walk we take each afternoon; the place we grab a pint after work; the favorite laundry detergent; the daily blog roll; the phone apps we check each day and so on.  Very rapidly, our online and offline habits are converging. You could even say that the two have developed a symbiotic relationship of sorts.  You satiate your hankering for a tasty burrito by  scouring the web for someone’s opinion on burritos.  Welcome to your Internet-integrated life.

Our new Internet reality is the ultimate blank canvas. Each day you dictate the experience. What will be shared? What should I bookmark?  Do I retweet that funny quote?  Truly, the web is what you make of it.  So, now to my ultimate question: what are you making of the web?

According to Nielsen’s Q3 2011 Social Media Report, we spend a lot of time sharing photos, commenting, liking and doing all that we do via social media.  The use of these social tools can only grow.  Each day, more and more people become part of the social revolution – signing up, logging in and providing a window into their lives.

Looking beyond the general sharing of info with our peers, the social web’s development offers even greater potential: fostering collective ideas; organizing for a cause; collecting and sharing knowledge; and these are just a few broad ideas.  The possibilities, in the most literal sense, are bound only by our imagination and, perhaps, our bandwidth.

A number of companies have begun shaping the web into a better place through the services they provide.  SOme save you money, others are just downright interesting.  These guys are taking strides to show how the web can be a beautiful place:

Groupon:

Get it, share it and enjoy it – simple concept, real fun. We’re working together to save each other money.  Oh, and Groupon also brings traffic to your local businesses – a true win-win.
http://www.groupon.com/

Mindmixer:

Share ideas with others; collectively improve upon those ideas; and work towards taking action.  Chances are, you’re not the only one with a suggestion to improve your community.  Mindmixer allows people to organize and move on these ideas – remember, there is power in numbers.

http://www.mindmixer.com/

Every Map:

Aussie map service to aggregate everything that’s important to a community: from crime to cookouts.  Google Maps is cool but it doesn’t show you info about local BBQ’s, crime rates and upcoming yard sales in one easy-to-use interface.  Not yet a major US player, you can bet your bottom dollar we’ll see something like this very soon.

http://www.everymap.com.au/main

37 Signals:

Slowly but surely making it easier and easier to move away from the traditional office-space – much to the enjoyment of the Peter Gibbons in all of us.  Easy, clean and simple collaboration make virtual work fun, not a technological headache.

http://37signals.com/

By the City / For the City:

Part of Urban Design Week 2011, BYC/FTC is a virtual bat-signal calling all designers to act on an internet-curated collection of ideas to better NYC – from public projects to beautification efforts to increasing accessibility. NYC directly tapped it’s citizen’s potential via the Internet.  Users had the ultimate decision on what direction the projects go.  Now it’s up to the designers to make it happen.

http://www.urbandesignweek.org/by-the-city/page/index/2

These examples are a infinitesimal snapshot to the actual power of the web.  As needs arise, you’ll locate the tools and you’ll make use.  Pre-2000 who would have thought we would be walking around with mobile phones surfing the web? (Bill Gates actually predicts this in his book, The Road Ahead).  Expect the unexpected, make the most of the tools and, as always, have fun with all this cool technology.

Please, share any ways that you make the Internet better in the comment section below.

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