3/29/2006

Flickr and the web 2.0 - many-to-many has its day


Drop Trio with Kaoss
Originally uploaded by Ian Varley.
OK, so I'll admin it. Until recently, like, this week, I had no idea what "web 2.0" meant. I kept hearing it, but didn't have a strong concept of what "it" was. I know, once again, I'm at the back of the parade on this.

So, for those of you in the slow lane like me: "web 2.0" signifies a new wave of useful, social-oriented, hyper-usable web sites that have gotten popular in the last year or two. Flickr, LastFM, Bloglines ... there's a whole list of 'em, in fact, over here.

They all share a few things in common. They're highly participatory (i.e. the mass of people using them is part of what makes them good). They almost all have slick AJAX front-end (i.e. they're not as clunky as web sites used to be, partly because we're no longer stuck in Netscape-compatibility hell).

Most interesting, though, is the phenomenon of tagging (which, if you know anything about database design, is essentially an elegant many-to-many relationship). You can add zero or more "tags" (i.e. words or phrases) to your stuff (blogs, photos, music, etc.) that then help you find the stuff, and help others find it too. The many-to-many-ness of it is what's really brilliant. Got a photo of your cat with some fruit? "cat" + "fruit". Got a photo of a fruit bat? Bingo, "fruit" + "bat". Got a photo of your favorite baseball bat with your cat? "cat" + "bat". Couldn't be simpler, but that simplicity is a model that's actually sort of sophisticated, from the database implementation standpoint (which is probably why it's taken so long for it to occur to web site creators). It connects the way our minds work (semantic flexibility) with the power of computers. Rad.

Anyway ... Flickr is my latest find. Post your photos online - yeah, big deal. But do it in a decentralized way where you (and everyone else) can assign tags to 'em, and throw in some flashy (and fast) AJAX goodness, and you've got a winner. I'm actually writing this entry from within Flickr. How's that for mind-blowing ... ly boring? zzzz.

Anyway, if you want to see my flickr photos, here they are. That's just a start, o' course.

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