Friday, August 8, 2008

Dazzled by choice

Back to work again and I'm warming up by checking through the e-mails and clicking on interesting links. I read an interesting piece which likens Web 2.0 to a Turkish bazaar (see article by Trent Batson, "Web Bazaar: The Problem of Abundance," Campus Technology, 8/6/2008). We're used to shopping at convenient and comfortable supermarkets with clearly displayed product ranges and set prices. Web 2.0 is however rather chaotic in comparison and you have to shop your way through a confusing maze of products and services produced by a bewildering number of suppliers.

Nice comparison and it explains some of the problems of trying to explain Web 2.0 to sceptical colleagues. People shop at supermarkets because it's convenient and everything is available under one roof. Teachers who feel unsure of net-based education in general find the supermarket of the IT world daunting enough never mind venturing into the dark alleyways of the Web 2.0 bazaar, especially when you don't even speak the local language. There are some excellent applications in there but which will be the winners and how many will still be here this time next year? It's an exciting place to shop, there's infinite choice but you need to be well-versed in the field to be able to find the right solution.

I like the idea that we are beginners at handling abundance. Choice is stressful as I have no doubt written before. Wouldn't it be wonderful to get say 20 relevant hits when you Google something instead of 10 million? We're not used to dealing with having too much of everything.

How much choice can we cope with? How many different social networking tools do we need? How many video editing applications? How many platforms? How many different types of car insurance? How many different types of pizza? I've been to pizzerias with a take-away menu of over 100 pizzas to choose between. I end up choosing the same one every time because the vast range of choices leaves me like a rabbit caught in a car's headlights and so when the guy asks me what I want I just turn on the auto-pilot.

We need filters/guides/agents/brokers in order to make sensible choices in all the confusion and those who can develop these functions will be winners in the future Web 2.0 bazaar.

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