Web 2.0 note conversation

On: November 12, 2007
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About Esther Weltevrede
Esther Weltevrede is a second year Media Studies Research Master student at the University of Amsterdam. Before studying New Media she attended the School of Arts in Breda where she received a Bachelor degree in Graphic Design. She is involved as researcher and coordinator in the recently founded Digital Methods Initiative at the University of Amsterdam. DMI is dedicated to developing tools and methods for researching the ‘natively digital.’ Since this summer she is a member of GovComOrg, a foundation dedicated to creating and hosting political tools on the Web. Currently she is a part-time teacher Information Visualization at Master Editorial Design, Utrecht School of Art, and part-time teacher Public Design at Interactive Media, Hogeschool van Amsterdam.


A few moths back @ PICNIC hackerscamp Timo Arnall told me he was working on super secret technology he couldn’t tell specifics about. A few weeks back @ recalling RFID he still was very mysterious about his super secret technology and I got really curious. I told him I set a Google Alert for “Timo super secret technology’ so that I would find out as soon as he made his technology public. This initiated a conversation 2.0 style publicly on the Web via tags, notes and alerts.

Web 2.0 applications encourage that more and more semi-private conversations take place publicly on the Web. Instead of sending someone an email, comments on blogs and Flickr photo’s, messages in Last.fm’s shoutbox are the way to let friends know you are following what they are doing. These conversations don’t seem to be limited to one specific application, but often take place across multiple platforms. One such conversation 2.0 is taken as an example in this post to address how conversations are shaped by the the technical specificity of the applications where these conversations take place.

Google alert supersecret technology

Google Alert time lapse
On November 5, finally, the alert went of! When I opened my mail I was really exited to find “Google Alert – timo super secret technology” among all my other mail. When I clicked the link I was directed to a Flickr supersecret technology picture of a Nokia phone and an RFID tag. On mouse over, it showed the picture was covered with notes from Timo and his colleagues Einar and Jorn. One of the notes read “timo supersecret technology… invisible?.” The picture was also tagged with the magic phrase “timo super secret technology” making it possible for Google to index and send me an alert. The first thing that struck me about this conversation 2.0 is that the title of the picture reads “25 October, 15.08” while my Google Alert went off on Nov 5, 2007 12:08 PM. The time Google needs to index pages created a time lapse of ten days in the conversation. Google optimistically signs its alert mail with “This as-it-happens Google Alert is brought to you by Google.” “As-it-happens” is however defined according to Web 1.0 standards.

Google alert supersecret technology 2

Note conversation
This time lapse is one thing that drastically shapes the conversation. The moment I first saw the Flickr image, the conversation Timo, Einar and Jorn had on Flickr was old news. Furthermore, I couldn’t tell time wise which note was attached before the other. Not only the time lapse created by Google, but also the lack of timestamps in the notes make that conversations take a certain form.

Supersecret technology note conversation

Conversations are chaotic and more organized spatially than linear in time. The notes I placed myself are placed in a certain order. For instance, “so supersecret.. where is it?” is followed by “here?.” Time-wise it is not possible to distill this order. Also spatially it is not always possible to discover the order. The convention of reading from left to right for instance isn’t applicable to reading a note conversation since the location of the notes is highly dependent on previous notes and what is represented in the image. The only linear order that can be distilled is when notes react to specific other notes and form a trail. As an example, “timo supersecret technology…. invisible?” is followed by the attached note “Shhh…”, which is followed by the attached note “so supersecret.. where is it?.” By discovering the first in the trail the order of notes can be distilled by their spatial organization.

Web 2.0 conversations are chaotic conversations but that is also part of their charm. These conversations take place across multiple platforms in different Web times and with multiple participants, opening up new ways for shaping conversations.

4 Responses to “Web 2.0 note conversation”
  • November 12, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    A wonderful story of the dispersed (secret) conversations going on online.

    I think (and hope) it is just a matter of time before Flickr will add time stamps to its notes. Notes are becoming more and more a new form of conversation on Flickr and most conversations online are timestamped. This would be very easy to implement because in the backend notes are already timestamped.

    The owner of the photo (Timo) can see who added which note and when. Flickr offers the option to see “Recent activity on your photos” and notes are added in descending order with a timeframe attached to it:

    XX added a new note
    XX added a note: “http://www.iedereenisdesigner.nl/designyourownlife/” Added 2 weeks ago
    XY added a new note
    XY added a note: “Invisible giant ;)” Added 2 weeks ago

    Keeping track of conversations in web2.0 is still very problematic as the flawed commenting system in the blogosphere also points out.

  • November 13, 2007 at 12:10 am

    The flawed commenting system in the blogosphere is a great post anne!

    I agree with you that Flickr should timestamp notes if they want to develop this conversation side of the application. And also provide the option to subscribe to a note conversation (like the comment subscription). Especially if Flickr wants to be part of the larger Web 2.0 conversations. Timestamps are one thing, keeping track of all conversations is another. Can’t keep up without alerts or some other notification system to keep track of distributed conversations. These systems make conversations fresh, manageable and fun again.

    Pieter-Paul today had a nice addition in mom-class on how alert systems shape conversations. He said it is important to mention the people you are talking about/to, or want a conversation with in your post using well chosen phrases. Keeping in mind that they’ll have their alerts set as well. In his case it worked superbly well and I think this has much to do with the fact that bloggers have internalized the workings of alert and notification tools. Much like web users in general keep in mind Google’s algorithm to get a higher ranking when publishing: linking, getting links, using well chosen keywords in the title etc.

    Conversation 2.0 is definitely something to keep track of :)

  • November 27, 2007 at 4:50 am

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  • January 8, 2008 at 4:30 pm

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