25 barriers to using Web 2.0 technologies and how to overcome them.

ďItís just a flash in the panĒ

Itís worth casting your mind back a decade or so ago; I can clearly remember when people said the exact same thing about the Internet itself. ĎFull of Americans and pornography, itís just a toy, itíll never lastí. Going back even further, I can remember that CD-ROM was derided as a pointless technology that wouldnít catch on. More recently, the iPhone was widely criticised for a wide variety of reasons.  The truth is that weíre living in a period of revolution, and itís very hard to say what is going to stick around, and become integral to what we use, and what isnít.

Iíd be inclined to ask people exactly what makes them think that itís a flash in the pan. Ask them to point to resources that no longer work. Itís also worth pointing out that the tool/resource itself  is less important than the activity. If Twitter closed tomorrow, that wouldnít stop people wanting to use microblogging services. MySpace isnít that important any more, but that doesnít mean that social networking is a failed experiment - it just means that people use a different tool, such as Facebook.

However, the real crux of this argument is based on a fallacy, which is that Web 2.0 is in some way an Ďití. You cannot buy Web 2.0; itís not available in a box, you canít install it onto a computer. Web 2.0 is simply a generic term for a change - not only in the way that we use the internet now, but in the tools that are available to people. I would ask people what the Ďití is that theyíre talking about. Are they talking about social networking? In which case Iíd say that Facebook has 350,000,000 users; how is that a flash in the pan? If theyíre talking about blogs, Iíd point out that thereís over 100,000,00 blogs available now. Once you start to drag people into specifics youíll often find two things - firstly that they really donít have any kind of clear idea as to what ĎWeb 2.0í is, and secondly, that if they do try and define it, itís going to be in terms of social networking.

Have your arguments and facts and figures ready! Research the current figures for Facebook, the number of weblogs. Find other organisations who are doing interesting things in this area. Point out that even HM Queen has a YouTube video channel, or that 10 Downing Street has a Twitter stream. Youíre not unusual if you are using Web 2.0 resources - youíre unusual if youíre not!

ďWe canít measure how effective this isĒ

I understand that people want to quantify their return on investment, particularly in the current financial climate. Itís worth asking how effective a webpage is. Can the effectiveness be simply measured in terms of the actual number of visitors? Yes, but only in the crudest possible way. Itís going to be impossible to measure the effect of the information on the page - for some itís going to be valueless, for others it may be life changing. The value of an advertisement is not based just on the increase in sales, which can be measured, but in keeping the brand name at the forefront of peopleís minds, which is much harder to measure.
However, measurement is quite possible. Check a pageís statistics for a couple of weeks to obtain an idea of daily views. Then tweet a reference to that page, and see if the numbers go up. If I tweet one of my blog entries as a rule of thumb it gets 4 times as many direct views in comparison to those entries that I donít reference. Itís also possible to measure the number of Twitter followers, people who join a fan page at Facebook, views of Flickr images and so on. However, in order to take that measurement, itís going to be necessary to be actually using the resource in the first instance!

Consequently I would be inclined to use a two pronged argument. Decide on the tool, such as Twitter - work out a reasonable measurement, both in terms of the number of followers, but also slightly more tangential things such as increased page views. Also make the point that some things simply cannot be measured, and then start to use the resource for a reasonable period of time. This is the Trojan horse effect, because once a resource is used, and used well, it becomes second nature and the benefits will become clear. Itís then more difficult to stop doing something, or to justify stopping it, and so the resource has effectively been introduced into the organisation.

ďWe donít have the time to do thisĒ

The line that I use at this point is rather convoluted, but it works well. ĎIf you only do what youíve always done, youíll only have what youíve already gotí. If the same argument had been used in the past the information service wouldnít be using the internet, staff wouldnít have been trained in its use and the organisation wouldnít have a website. Clearly there is only a limited amount of time available in the course of a day, and no-one wants to stop any activities. 

Once again, a two pronged approach to this issue could be considered. Firstly, itís important that professional staff have time to be professionally updated, and this isnít just limited to reading Update during the lunch hour! Time needs to be put aside for exploring resources, to enable staff to do their jobs better, quicker and more effectively. Unless staff have an opportunity to explore new resources theyíre not going to know whatís available, and their effectiveness within the organisation is going to diminish over time - sooner rather than later! Secondly, the use of various applications can actually save time. Access to bookmarks irrespective of computer by using something such as delicious means that members of staff can easily work wherever they are, not just at their desk using Ďtheirí computer. The use of an internal blog ensures that information can be quickly made available throughout the organisation in seconds, and sensibly retained over a period of time, rather than being lost in a mass of email that becomes virtually impossible to search.

The truth is that you donít have time not to implement new and more effective ways of working. Of course thereís an overhead cost, because until you try out different resources itís not always obvious which ones will work best. However, the organization doesnít explore new ways of working it will increasingly lag behind the curve. Who would employ a plumber who still used lead pipes? Same argument applies.

ďWe have to get it right first timeĒ

I fully understand this. What however is the Ďití that is being referred to? In all probability itís the results of a particular activity. I would contend that it doesnít actually matter that much how the result is obtained. If itís necessary to move a large file from one email account to another, if this canít be done traditionally, itís time to use a file storage/delivery resource. It doesnít matter that much which one you use - Iíll use a variety of them, depending on my mood and exactly what I want to achieve. If I want to create a training resource there are again dozens of different applications that I can use. The fact is that thereís never just one way of doing something now - there are dozens of ways.

In the Web 1.0 world Ďgetting it rightí was important for a variety of reasons, many related to the product. It was costly, both financially and in terms of staff training time, and had to work  in conjunction with other resources deployed by the organisation. Remember the slogan ĎNo-one ever got sacked for buying IBMí? That swiftly turned into ĎAnd no-one ever got promoted for buying IBM eitherí. Web 2.0 resources are generally free and they are designed to be picked up and used with the minimum of training. My general rule of thumb is that if you cannot use an application within 5 minutes, itís broken and not worth spending time on.

Consequently I think it depends on what you are trying to achieve, and with whom. If your goal is to put an RSS feed from your blog onto your website, use a resource that you see someone else using, or that you have identified from your research that works well. If that resource then disappears, simply use another one. The person reading the feed isnít going to care what application is being used - they are just interested in the end result. Switching from one application to another is the matter of moments. If itís a tool that is directly facing your end users, such as a fan page on Facebook they are all using it as well, so thereís no issue. If thereís a problem with Facebook itís a problem for everyone. If a different social networking takes over from Facebook (difficult to believe, but we all thought that about MySpace and look what happened to that), then people will move to the newer alternative; you should do the same.  No-one will think any the less of the organisation, because theyíre moving too!
There comes a time when you simply have to jump. The person who put off buying a computer because there was going to be a better, cheaper one in 6 months time still doesnít own a computer. The only way to ensure that you donít get it wrong is not to do it at all, and thatís even worse.

ďWhat if the application goes down?Ē
What happens if your pencil breaks, your pen runs out of ink or thereís a powercut? If you allow the possibility of failure to be your overriding concern never do anything. You canít rely on any product or resource. All that you can do is have backups. Iíll commonly use two different resources to save presentations to, just in case one is down on the day I want to use it. It doesnít take anything more than a couple of seconds to start 2 uploads instead of one. Cut and paste the details across from one to the other. If something is so important that it simply must work you can only do the best you can, and have a backup plan in place. In fact, Web 2.0 resources are an advantage here, because itís very easy to put backup plans into operation as there are multiple tools that all work in the same way.

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