Is Web 2.0 to 2008 What Dot-Com was to 1998?

October 28, 2008 at 10:01 am Leave a comment

I received an email survey today from a major association who many have held for some time as the best example of professional communities of practice.  Though I’m not a practitioner in their particular field, I did join this association community a year ago just to have a closer look.  I must admit, the space well-designed and pretty cool by association standards.

However, in reading between the lines of this particular survey invitation, with statements like “we are looking to make these communities more valuable to you”, I can’t help but wonder if the expectations of staff and leadership might be as disappointed as Chicago Cubs fans earlier this Fall. 

As aspiring association pioneers, we have been basking in the promising glow of Web 2.0 for a few years now working toward opening those magical gates for the certain masses to spill through into our mall of participation.  However, is the practice and application of Web 2.0 living up to its revolutionary hype with big returns for associations? 

To me, the answer to this question is affirmatively…well… pretty inconsequential here on October 28, 2008 if we all, in fact, learned the lessons of the dot-com crash in the late 1990s.   However, in many ways I believe many are approaching the Web 2.0 “rush” in the same way we are charged toward dot-com mania.  There are a number of intriguing parallels betwen these two interent eras, the most significant of which is the notion that the peverbial “carts” have been set far up the road ahead of the “horses”. 

It takes me back to my theory of evolutionary vs. revolutionary change.  The dot-com era was a time of revolutionary action where many smart people lost their long-term perspective and paid a miserable price in many cases.  It’s not that dot-coms and online commerce were poor business concepts as we have learned, rather they drowned in unrealistic expectations and flawed short-term money-hungry business models in an infantile marketplace where users/consumers, aka the “horses”, had not comfortably caught up with the rest of the insider world.  Put another way, it was like the ultimate get-rich quick scheme with an entirely undeveloped consumer audience which was still a couple of years away from reaching critical mass, trust and high speed connectivity.

So, with these thoughts in mind, let’s turn our attention to Web 2.0 and the social web.  Here we are, perhaps partying a bit like its 1999, prematurely celebrating the next big chapter in the history of the internet before it has ripened for mass consumption.  In other words, while I strongly believe the opportunity of Web 2.0 is very real for our associations, I think we are still somewhere in the early-to-mid phases of its evolution which explains what might be a slow and perhaps sluggish growth curve.  But fear not, this is a long-term strategy and the early adopters and developers are beginning to make room for the masses.  We must be patient in managing expectations and projected growth within our associations and throughout our leadership.  Further, we must not lose our minds and move our headquarters into Second Life overnight.  We must be willing to experiment and cultivate particiaption within our audiences.  Finally, we must calculate and adjust our risks as we take steps toward reaching critical mass.  

The day will come and let’s make sure we are all around to celebrate the richness of our interactive online worlds of participation, otherwise, we risk writing the history of the great Web 2.0 crash.  SM    


Entry filed under: Innovation, Managing Change, participation, Social Media, Web 2.0 and Beyond, Web Me.0.

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