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Web 2.0 and Social media for Development

Web 2.0. and social media for development“Web 2.0” - you have probably heard it and wondered what it really means. Is it a buzz word? Or could it be something important for your work? Web 2.0 refers to free or low-cost interactive web-based services that help people share information online more easily than with earlier tools. Besides, it emphasizes the possibility for many people who are not webmasters to communicate, collaborate and create useful networks amongst themselves.

Web 2.0 is primarily a social, rather than a technological evolution. Hence, user generated content and users´ collaboration are central to this social phenomenon. Web 2.0 is a term that people loosely apply to these new, easier to use web-based tools for creating content (also known as user generated content), connecting people (or social networking) and many other forms of interaction. These tools are often called “social media” because they go beyond the content itself, as these can easily be used by anyone -not just geeks- to interact and post information on the worldwide web.

Social media – Connecting People

When talking about Web 2.0 and User Generated Media, we refer to a trend on web services and applications that allows users to participate in multi-party conversations by creating their own content and sharing it with others. While traditional media provided one-way information to the public, new media gives people the chance to communicate amongst themselves and produce their own messages.

Likewise, social media makes it easy for us to work across four broad areas: a) connecting with other people via social networks b) collaborating and doing things with others c) creating and sharing content; and d) finding, using, organizing and reusing content. Therefore, social media allow organizations and communities to maintain small group communications even when they are geographically distributed as well as to have potential access to a massive, international audience. If once the human interaction was based on face-to-face relationships, now our interests and passions have become our main motivation to network.

Online Networking, a different way of engaging people

Social networking is the practice of individuals connecting and communicating around a common interest using online tools and social networking sites. The key features of online tools and social networking sites are twofold; they not only allow us to create profiles that tell others about us but also let us find people with common interests or characteristics.

Social networking sites are websites that provide the technology for social networking, including: profiles, discussions, email, social network visualization and content sharing tools e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. They serve mainly to engage as they incorporate photos, videos, audio files, and links to websites of interest besides text. Thus, social media tools not only connect us, but also help us doing things together, as by using them you can coordinate a remote work group or create a communication channel with other organizations.

Groupware – The power of online collaboration

Social media tools are sometimes called “groupware” because they are designed to help groups with specific features to: plan, carry out tasks together, share resources, communicate and create the possibility of joint actions with the focus of getting things done. Particularly in the development area, these tools turn out to be very helpful, as more and more people have to work with others who are scattered around the world.

Groupware tools -freely available open source or paid tools- provide the opportunity to groups to start collaborating after a few clicks, e.g. collaboration portal software (Drupal, Joomla) email lists (DGroups, Yahoogroups), project management tools (DotProject, Basecamp), wikis (MediaWiki, PBworks), among other tools.

Thanks to social networks, no longer are traditional media or big, well-resourced organizations the only ones who create and disseminate information. Now you and I can create and publish to the world without requiring any specialized technical skills. There are many easy ways to use content creation and sharing tools on the Internet that anyone with an Internet connection and a computer or smartphone can use.

Willing to learn more on Web 2.0?

What is social networking? (http://www.whatissocialnetworking.com/)

Social networking in plain english (http://www.commoncraft.com/video-social-networking

D.M. Boyd, N.B. Elliso, Social Network Sites: Definition, History and  Scholarship (http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/boyd.ellison.html)

OECD, Participative web:User-created content (http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/57/14/38393115.pdf)

J.Battelle, Packaged Goods Media vs. Conversational Media (http://battellemedia.com/archives/003160.php)

M. Wesch, Video: Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gmP4nk0EOE)

Vint Cerf on how the Internet changed communications (http://www.forbes.com/2005/10/19/cerf-vint-networking-internet-comm05-cx_de_1024cerfnet.html)

G.McGovern, Expert or Amateur? Both (http://www.cmswire.com/cms/web-content/expert-or-amateur-both-002534.php

Picture credit: Where is the Spider?, by Ptr Kovar.