I’m starting to really think it is working. The “it” I am referring to is the adoption of not just web 2.0 tools, but web 2.0 philosophies. I have been professing the notion of the “conversation” since I re-read the Cluetrain Manifesto a handful of years ago. I say re-read, because the first time I tried it just blew past me like the wind. When I read it the second time I was starting to have success re-imagining my life with a blog, using del.icio.us, sharing on Flickr, and started discovering all the other people out there who were doing the same. I quickly started to understood that the web was a platform and we were the nodes — not the machines themselves, but the people … we are the nodes on a knowledge network that the platform empowers to connect. Once I got it, I was hooked on the idea that we can participate in a global conversation — even if the people we are talking to are two doors down.
At the start of it all, I thought it was about the tools but then it started to click that under all the tools were these basic tenets that were driving some really smart people to create them. From what I can tell they are openness, sharing, connections, and empowerment. To me, these are the basic underpinnings that drive the tools. The developers got it before we did and that strikes me as odd only because our traditional view of developers is that they work alone. Clearly, that is folklore and not the way the new economy pushes us to think. These early pioneers knew something was missing with the web and that was the opportunity to engage. Here I sit several years later — perhaps a good 10 years later — and can see we are all getting it.
So much has been going on that proves it is happening to me. My trip to Harvard for Berkman at 10 showed me tangible evidence that people can study this stuff in a practical and pragmatic fashion. My participation in the global Twitter conversation has proven to me that my local community is brilliant and willing to step up to the challenge of showing that off. My continued blogging has opened new doors and created new relationships that are more meaningful than most can comprehend. The Learning Design Summer Camp was the most recent piece of evidence that the notion of participatory culture is alive in a huge way right here on my own campus. These things are all local examples — and by local I mean happening to me. These are things that have opened my eyes to the power of the philosophies of web 2.0 … the tools are great, but seeing the people take over from the tools and rise up in a real sense has been stunning.
If I think back to the way I was thinking around the time I was leading the Online IST project in 1999 or so. I can say I had a totally different perspective. I was closed. I wasn’t interested in sharing experiences and I certainly willing to participate outside of my group. I believed we were the smartest people and there wasn’t anything anyone could tell me to prove me wrong. I was naive and immature to believe there wasn’t so much to learn out there. In the years that followed it took quite a bit to get me to see the power and intelligence in the community — admittedly my eyes started to open only as I began to discover other smart people at other Institutions exploring the social web. I was still turning a blind eye to my local community however. It took time for me to see it emerge here … and I use the word emerge to mean that I began to pay attention to the things around me. Again, admittedly it took technology to get me to pay attention — and maturity.
Now I am more excited when I see my RSS reader light up with posts from PSU people than anywhere else. I love seeing the triple digits of PSU Tweeters following each other, and I can’t say how proud I am of watching our community grow. I now know much of it is my own movement away from being close minded and taking notice … I also know that I am excited by the affordances the adoption of not just the tools but the philosophies will provide us all going forward. If I could go back to the early days of all this I would tell myself to stop trying to hoard the ideas, stop trying to know the most, and most importantly to embrace the power in an open and engage community. I can’t go back, but I am certainly excited about the movement forward. It is nice to be part of it. Thanks.