If you are thinking about talking to me about Web 2.0, please don’t

I hate the term Web 2.0 (almost as much as I hate the term "War for Talent"). I see it as a way for some people to not only communicate what the thing is (web innovations) but also tell you how you should feel about it (it's hot, it's new...just like we though the dotcoms were...hmm) and how you should feel about the person saying it (I'm cool and if you don't know what Web 2.0, I'm cooler than you!).

Often, I think that people use Web 2.0 to be intentionally vague to mask the fact that they 1) don't know what they are talking about, 2) don't want to take the time to tell you about what they are talking about specifically or 3) they want you to nod and go along with whatever it is they are saying. You wouldn't dare question them and let the world know that you have no clue what this Web 2.0 business is anyway. It's a rhetorical tool often employed by the lazy, impatient or the superior. Some people may be using it because it's "trendy"...we forgive you , but please stop using this term.

When I hear someone say "Web 2.0", I first look at their facial expression to determine if they are kidding (were bunny ears used?). Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't. Then I evaluate whether they are intentionally trying to talk down to someone (again, sometimes yes, sometimes no) or if they are selling something (oh so frequently). If none of these are the case, I try to investigate whether a lack of depth is the culprit. And just for fun, I may ask: "when you say 'web 2.0' , what are you referring to exactly...can you be more specific?".

I'm not saying that the people that use the phrase aren't good people. I am just asking them to stop. The worst is when someone in the staffing industry uses "web 2.0" and the "war for talent" together at the same time. When they do this, I can guarantee that they are trying to sell me something (something that is all web 2.0, naturally). And why would I want to buy it? Because there's a "War for Talent" and I should be very afraid. Way to assume your customer is dumb. Selling with fear...that's so hot.

You know that Staples easy button? I want a "cheesy button" so every time someone says "web 2.0" I can buzz them.

Comments (26)

  1. Lauren Smith says:

    Too funny. I remember some years back when you guys were trying to get some traction for .Net, but no one seemed to be able to explain just what it was. Oh, it’ll bring together all the computers in simultaneous harmonic convergence. But it’ll also steal all your passwords with Hailstorm. And programmers won’t have jobs anymore because the computer will automatically program themselves. And so on. (I’m not even sure everyone internally understood what it was all about.)

    Technology is a funny thing. We try to put easy to grasp labels and analogies onto things that are difficult to understand and explain simply. But then you end up with something more like a truck which you just load a bunch of stuff on rather than a series of tubes which, you know, can be filled up.

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    I have to admit that I would not have been able to explain .Net way back in the day. I would have come up with something like: "it’s a platform, based on Microsoft programs, that allows you to build web services".

    Would I have even been close?

    Yeah, good transition back to the tubes/truck thing. The key is knowing when not to talk…and a lot of people that are blathering on about web 2.0 probably couldn’t explain it if they had to. I’d like them to try.

  3. Kdbertel says:

    I use "Web 2.0" because it’s faster than saying "next-generation AJAX-based dynamically loading and updating webpage interfaces usually with a focus towards user-created content", and because I haven’t encountered a better short term for it yet.

    But I will agree that a lot of people are tossing it around without really being able to explain what it is. A lot of people also misuse the word "irony". That doesn’t mean we should strike it from the dictionary.

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    I don’t know…I like how you explained it. I think most of the people that talk about it don’t have the foggiest clue about AJAX. They just know that they don’t like to wait for pages to load. I  just feel like the term is too vague in it’s usage to bear any meaning for most people 9and some people take advantage of that). "Irony" is often used incorrectly. Different situation, in my opinion. But I do wish people would stop using it incorrectly…literally.

  5. daisychain says:

    I feel the same way when people talk about "SOA" 🙂

  6. Brian H. says:

    Hearing "Web 2.0" makes me throw up a little in my mouth. Not only is the term is a joke to begin with because the web is a continuum, but it’s most frequently used by people who consider themselves "in" because they read one BusinessWeek article about MySpace or flickr. You should re-title this article, "If you are thinking about talking to me about Web 2.0, please make sure you get me liquored up first."

  7. HeatherLeigh says:

    Brian H-you’re hilarious. Can I offer you a breath mint? : )

    HR Guy-that is scary!

  8. Neal says:

    I don’t know – it seems like it’s become extremely – hate to use bunny ears but so be it – "chic" – to not like the use of some terms.  I personally find that it helps me weed out people who I would and wouldn’t want to engage with in the future.

  9. Simone says:

    I completely disagree. There is a Web 2.0. AJAX is so widespread now that it should count for something. Technology comes in waves and this is something we all need to accept. You are likely turned off by the collective "Web 2.0" branding (I’m in marketing). Yes, it does sound a tad silly, but there is in fact a Web 2.0. If there weren’t one then people would stop referring to it as such. This is my counterpoint to all who say "nay". Long live Web 2.0 and long live the startup that requires my services.

  10. HeatherLeigh says:

    Neal- how so? You won’t talk to people that don’t use the buzzword? Trust me, this blog ain’t about "chic" (are you kidding me? Did you read about my swollen feet?). Just my little old opinion…am I cool now that my opinion is chic? I am? Sweet! The phrase bugs me, that’s all.

    Simone- I never said there wasn’t such a thing. I just object to the use of the phrase to describe the state of the web. I mean, that is what we are talking about right? I just re-read my post. I’m still not seeing where I said that the "Ajax enabled internet" (or whatever you want to call it…Ajax is just a part of it) doesn’t exist.

    I find any marketing that uses web 2.0 to reach me condescending. Just my opinion as a customer of that marketing. It makes me understand where people are coming from when they don’t like our dinosaur ads.

  11. Simone says:

    Herein lies the problem- What you find to be condescending and distasteful is not not the same thing to people outside of the industry. You likely can’t see the big picture on this one because you work for the borg. When customers see "Web 2.0", most almost immediately conjure up the full possibilties of the web that were first sold to them 7 years ago. We’re making up for the con that was the dotcom boom.

    To insiders it looks trite and offensive. To real customers it looks like a fresh start. I’ve been in tech marketing for 10 yrs so my opinions may seem harsh.

  12. I couldn’t agree more Heather.  I could rant on that term along with all the other buzz turds…umm words out there.  But I won’t…you did a much better job than I could have.

  13. Ben says:

    Whaddya got against "War For Talent"?   😉

  14. Amen. It won’t be long before the trend shifts back towards smart clients anyway. The whole "web 2.0" fad is wearing itself out.

    Wagalu! Zippidydooda! Smoochbee! Rounded corners! Tag it! HA!

  15. HeatherLeigh says:

    Simone-Let’s be clear. I am expressing my own opinion (one that a number of people here agree with if you read the comments). You can dismiss it because I work for “the borg”, if you like. On the flip side, “When customers see ‘Web 2.0’, most almost immediately conjure up the full possibilties of the web that were first sold to them 7 years ago”…that just sounds like marketing fluff to me…sorry, I don’t go for that kind of marketing.  To use your logic, maybe you can’t see the big picture because you are in marketing. It works both ways (of course, I see it as a difference of opinion, not that one or the other of us has to be wrong). When “most people” see web 2.0, they still don’t know what people are talking about. You have your opinion, I have mine. That doesn’t make mine wrong. PS: I am a “real customer” to some of these companies that are marketing “web 2.0”.


    Ben- 1) it implies ridiculous statements like “all’s fair” 2) when has the market for the best talent not been competitive? 3) it invokes fear 4) it’s overly dramatic 5) the most over-exposed people in the staffing industry use it ad nauseum 6) you can’t have a war over people with free will…I could go on. Now I just looked at your blog and noticed the war metaphor all over the place….yowza! Nothing personal. I just don’t like it as a literary device (and I was not referring to you in #5, by the way) ; ) I think you’ll find a number of other people in our industry that feel the same way, but I don’t think anyone holds against you that you are beating us over the heads with it (I kid!). I know a number of people that will groan audibly if they hear someone refer to it. It makes me tune out. But I know you have good things to say.

    Josh-yeah, what you said.

  16. Ben says:

    1) Anyone who buys into "all’s fair" as it relates to recruiting is delusional. 2) Here’s one example, about 5 years ago, the company I was with was pretty much the last telecom-related company in town hiring marketing and sales professionals while the rest of the industry was imploding.  Hiring the best talent was like shooting fish in a barrel (another over-used cliche for ya!).  It was short lived, but it’s reflective of how demand for even top talent can be reflective on market-conditions. 3) In my mind, it’s a call-to-action, a point-of-emphasis, nothing to do with fear. 4) OK, it IS overly dramatic. 5) Those of us who use it do so for reason’s 3 and 4. 6) Companies can have a war over what they will DO to attract each other’s top talent.  Just take a look at what your company and Google have done lately… 7) It can’t be that bad, it’s linked to the reason I picked the name of my blog!  If it’s that offensive, I just may need to change the name of my blog to something, like, oh, how about "One Louder than Heather"  Hehehe…

  17. Michael says:

    Heather, I think this is part of a larger discussion (one which I’m sure you’d enjoy having) — what is a real, useful, EFFECTIVE product, and what is just marketing?  It’s my opinion that "Web 2.0" can be both.  Unfortunately, there are dozens of examples where "Web 2.0" seems like it’s just marketing and not enough of a real, useful, effective, and, ultimately for the company and it’s employees, profitable product.

    You also ask above "when has the market for the best talent not been competitive?"  That is probably true.  The absolute best, top-echelon talent will almost always (if not always) be in demand and well compensated.  What I’m seeing right now though is that there a ton of competition for one or two or even three tiers of talent below that — the great to above average performers.  That’s where the companies that have a keen understanding of the competitive landscape and the tools needed to compete will ultimately meet their hiring goals and, yes, "win" great to above average people.  Sure, "war for talent" is a great, great sales technique.  But I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the reality of the current hiring market.

  18. HeatherLeigh says:

    Ben-very funny! You have to work very, very hard to be one louder than me ; ) You know I am wondering if part of the issue is gender-based or cultural. War has a negative connotation for me. It’s bloody and someone gets hurt or killed. That’s not how I see recruiting.

    I find it funny that you refer to what is happening between Microsoft and google. Does competing for someone make it a "war"? I don’t think so. You each offer the candidate something and the candidate decides. It’s a market, not a war. I joined Microsoft in 1999…it was much tougher to recruit then than now. Much.

    Michael- I’m not dismissing the reality of the current hiring market. I’m not sure how I did that (where?). I just suggest that "war for talent" is not the way to describe it. I’ve been doing this for 12 years. You’ve always had to compete for good talent.

  19. David Armano says:

    I used to get annoyed when I people used to use words/phrases like "synergy" and "ROI" and "Seamless".  I’m over it now.  I use "2.0" in a variety of way from time to time—and it’s a convenient way to reference the shift from one thing to another.  People are part of cultures and cultures include language, slang etc.  Go to any urban neighborhood and you’ll hear slang and jargon too.

    Business jargon will always exist.  We can keep it under control, but sometimes when we speak to others who speak the same language—it’s just a convenient way to have a conversation.

  20. Heather:  Spot on!  

    Reminds me of the late 90’s with all those buzzwords, (except now its been condensed into one).

    I think Bill Gates said it best when he stated that you’ll know when the internet has arrived, when no one notices it anymore.

    The fact that people are still setting off our "BS meters" with this stuff is evidence that the internet still hasn’t mainstreamed as much as we’d like to think.


  21. Paul says:

    I’m all for categories and meaningful pigeon-holes that simplify my life by telling me how I should evaluate something, but meaningless blather like Web 2.0 should be outlawed.  It does have one useful purpose though, in identifying those individuals who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a marketing or communication function.  Just think, a real Web 2.0 application!

  22. Lauren Smith says:

    I was thinking about this some more and wonder if there isn’t some merit in having a term like "2.0". Leaving aside trucks and pipes (knowing too little about the topic), and leaving out snakes on a plane (marginalization (cubby-holing) because of too much familiarity with the topic), there exists a point where having a common vocabulary becomes essential.

    Let’s say I work for a company that does some cool Web 2.0-ish stuff. We would be hard pressed to explain the technology without words like "AJAX" and client-side scripting. However because these words exist and have a generally acknowledged meaning, we can then use them as a baseline from which we can differentiate our products.

  23. HeatherLeigh says:

    Lauren, I’d agree with one caveat: that the jargon is meaning-bearing to the audience that is receiving it. Unfortch, "web 2.0" may refer to a certain set of technologies to a technical audience but to the rest of us, not so much. I can’t get past the feeling that people who are using it are trying to sell me something.

  24. --Lisa says:

    Heather, you must go check today’s (7/31) User Friendly at http://www.userfriendly.org.

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