Web 2.0: It’s made of people

Stuart Butterfield of Flickr/Yahoo just quoted Ross Mayfield who quoted Soylent Green:

Web 2.0 is made of people.

So was Web 1.0, only they didn’t get it yet. But the truth is, they still don’t get it.

Yesterday, I’d had it with hearing content moguls talk about how all the value is in content and how they plan to use “user-generated content.” That means means they’re using users. That’s us.

So I got to the mic and said what many have said on blogs: that the phrase “user-generated content” makes our spines twist. We call it sharing. We call it conversation. They call it content. And they call us users.

It’s made of people.

This morning, I had a conference call with people about companies using blogs and making communities and I started singing the blog Internationale again.

And just now, John Heileman interviewed Vinod Khosla, the brilliant Kleiner VC, who said that the model “of top-down content is no longer relevant.” I wanted to cheer. He said he listens to the wisdom of the crowd in IMDB more than any one review. “I trust IMDB more.” He says that trust is central: “eBay has done a great job productizing trust by ratings sellers. I think that needs to happen more broadly.”

So I take to the mic again and ask where most of the value in what we now call media will be in five or 10 years: top-down or bottoms-up; content or distribution or trust. He says the future is not in controlling content but in “maintaining and growing audience…. in aggregating audiences in interesting ways.” He said the companies that will win will be “the most adaptable, not the biggest or the one with the most content.” He also said search hasn’t yet explored collaboration enough.

I’ll say it again (and again and again): Who wants to own content?

: Or see Web 2.1 whose new slogan is: “The point is people.”

  • Larry Faria

    I can see why the MSM still talks content over people. It’s what they know and fits their business model for making money. Talking about people, sharing and trust sounds like so much touchy-feely to them. Basically, you’re discussing philosophy in French to English speaking shopkeepers. They’ll never get it until somebody gives them a business model that can make money. Then they’ll catch on quick.

  • Speaking for MSN, some of us do get it. We’re not going to shift models overnight, but we get that the interactions between users generate artifacts and that those artifacts can be aggregated and great user experiences generated from them. We don’t want to “own” user generated content, we just want to get a handle on it and build cool features on top of it. This is the same model as flickr.

    MSN, AOL, and Yahoo! have obviously invested a lot of money and resources in the past in buying and creating content. We’ll still do that to some extent but you’ll see us using technology and software to expose user generated content also. Both types of content have value.

  • Ian, you sound like a machine.

    I’m sure you’re making sense, but I do wish you’d put that commercial pepper canister you like sprinkling over your conversation (user interactions … aggregating artifacts … exposing user generated content) back on the shelf where it belongs and show us your human side. : )

  • Thanks Jeff – Vinod Khosla and your good self just saved the Web2.0 conference for me. I’ve been sitting at the back seething as speaker after speaker stood up and talked of monetising users – their contend and their communities. It was as if there’s a gold mine of other people’s creativity waiting to be mined (pillaged?)

    The Web (1.0, 2.0, whatever) isn’t just people; it’s about the most open, democratic media space humankind has yet developed – a shared space that enables collective and individual human participation, expression and representation.

    Enable people to express themselves, and share their collective wisdom, and you might make a buck – hell, sort our a reputation system that isn’t tied to a commercial transaction and you’ll hit pay dirt.

    But try to monetise their stuff – our stuff – my stuff… and you’re toast.

    Mind you, making a buck isn’t the only game in town. Making money isn’t the reason why people create stuff on the web. It isn’t indeed the reason most people start creating *any* form of media, despite what that old hippy said on stage yesterday.

  • Who’s “they”? (As in “they don’t get it”.)

  • This is a really tough subject. I’m an artist. I give my stuff away. I’m the author of the world’s first novel written for podcasting. I’d happily (and do so) release it to everyone on the planet for nothing. Web 2.0 is real and excites me. Jeff’s take on it is powerful and intelligent. However, it’s not the only opinion worth noting, nor is the mantra he chants, the complete solution.
    This is an evolving phenomenon. I agree that the old business models surrounding content will soon be crippled and that we should rejoice the power shift. But I’d like to ask you a genuine question; born not from a position of preconception but in the hope of finding a practical way forward.
    If it takes me a year to write a novel and it takes someone else a year to build a bridge, how will I make a living from my efforts in line with the creator of physical things? Given that it has taken me fifteen years of writing novels to get to this point it is too easy to say that I should do it for love or someone else will. I do indeed do it for love; but if an artist cannot feed a family, the source (of hard-won quality) will dry.
    While there will always be a thousand people willing to do something for nothing and the occasional genius will shine through no matter what, this does not address the other 99% of artistic content we all thrive on.
    We have to find a model that will accommodate this new paradigm. What is it? It is not a conversation no matter how much I like and admire Jeff’s stance.
    I will continue to do what I’m doing – I’m privileged to do so. But let’s not blinker ourselves into thinking that there is no value in content even if we all agree that the old model is dying and all want to shovel the dirt on top of it.


  • Stuart: My big, old media colleagues do. (And you gave a great spiel.)

  • The reason the Big Old Media folks aren’t getting it is that NONE of them talk to the people they are talking about.

    When conferences can be amazingly costly, and the only way a “citizen journalist” or just plain old “people” can get into one is by volunteering or begging and pleading, THEY are never going to know what WE think. Nobody’s paying our expenses and few of us have the time to take off for conferences.

    I was at We Media. It was closer than anything in CA. But, who knows…maybe by next year I’ll have a paid expense account, too.

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  • “Trust” is like fad and fashion, it is fickle and basically has no intrinsic value. It certainly has no lasting value. Today’s trust is tomorrow’s fading memory.

    I vaguely recall a line in the I Ching that goes something to the effect, “Woe unto those who seek the trust of others, for their fortunes will rise and fall with those others’ opinions.”

    Sorry, as it is and always has been and always will be, Content is King. People want to read a good story or watch an interesting event, they don’t want to listen to people talking about the books they read or the events the saw, or even worse, listen to people talk about who has the best opinions on books or events.

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  • cluetrain manifesto, 1991 = “we are not eyeballs…..” etc. as a recovering member of msm, i live these issues every day. amazing fodder for comic relief.

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