Don’t take me wrong – I am totally excited about this current wave of web innovation and a big believer in where it might lead us (as I wrote about it a few times – including here). What confuses me is the fanaticism with which the current tools are being promoted – and the associated “death of the old tools” predictions that go with it.
I already wrote what I felt about Business Week’s prediction that “email is so five minutes ago”. But the blogosphere is littered with other such examples. Take Basecamp – which is hailed as a “must use” web 2.0 collaboration tool for anyone that wants to be perceived as an insider of this current wave of innovation. More than once have I been dinged for using a Yahoo group for simple collaboration instead of Basecamp. But what’s so 2.0 about it?
If I have a Yahoo Group – I can email to the group – I do not have to ever log in to the Yahoo Group itself to participate. While Basecamp will also give me email notifications – I have to log in if I want to comment or post something. If I have multiple Yahoo groups that I want to send the same message to – I email it once to three email addresses and everybody gets it in their email inbox. In Basecamp I have to log in to each project and cut and paste my message. If I want a to put something in italic or bold in my Yahoo Group message – I click on the B or the I icon. In Basecamp I have to remember to put a * before and after the stuff I want to appear in Bold and an _ before and after the stuff I want in italic – not to mention that I have to add h1. or h2. before stuff that I want to appear bigger as a header (I guarantee you that very few people are using bold, italic, or headers in the projects that I run in Basecamp). In Yahoo groups I can organize my files in folders, in Basecamp I cannot. So what’s so 2.0 about this? Oh yeah – Basecamp has RSS feeds which you cannot have with private Yahoo Groups. But to me, project related work and alerts should come in my email inbox, and subscriptions should stay out of it and go into my RSS aggregator – a personal preference – I agree.
I am sure that Basecamp will improve over time – and although I am a firm believer that the wiki metaphor is a better collaboration metaphor than blogging – I am convinced that they will develop a loyal “mainstream” following over time. There are however collaboration lessons that were learned during the web 1.0 wave and the pre-web wave that will always stand in the way of group adoption. And the are remaining web 1.0 tools that are still working fine for certain applications – let’s not become too snobbish about this whole thing – because that will impede innovation.
In general, and for the web 2.0 tools to find broader acceptance, they will have to have much better UI’s, more depth, and be much more robust…
We knew how to do that before – why are we giving it up in this wave of product innovation?