The days of static web pages and traditional publisher – subscriber models are long dead. Everyone wants to collaborate, participate, and share information; myself, I spend as much time wading through comments and discussions as I do on actual content. I’m a sucker for delving deep in comment threads for a certain slate.com or jezebel.com article, or scrolling through pages of entertaining youtube comments. However, we still haven’t yet reached fully operational Web 2.0.
Problem: Barriers to entry
To comment on youtube, I need a Google account. My facebook account is linked to slate and many other news sites. If I want to discuss an obscure 90s game, I have to hunt down that fan page and sign up on their forum. Maybe I want an anonymous account to troll on 4chan, and perhaps I only want to discuss with my friends a certain new music clip on soundcloud. The multiple login issue is solved: new websites that want collaborative content use existing facebook/google APIs to login. And this is great. However, we need a way to include older and more obscure websites into the fold. In addition, websites should never have a ‘register’ button – just sign in with any existing account.
Problem: Interruption of the web experience
I want to consume my structured content and share unstructured collaboration at the same time. I want to discuss my soda addiction with other enthusiasts immediately on drpepper.com, and anonymously discuss my piano fetish (for example) on youtube. Like wikipedia’s ‘Talk’ page, we need the collaboration layer of the web easily accessible. A full minority report solution would allow us to see all types of content at the same time, on different screens. The html standards of the future will allow us to easily separate our content streams: official static content, author/user interaction, and user/user interaction, and the device will decide how to display them. Dual monitors? No problem, your news article on the main screen and comments on the other. Google glass? Article in the middle, comments in the periphery. Minority report? Swipe and switch content streams at will.
For obscure topics, give me everything. Less than 100 comments? No problem. Sort them by date or upvotes, and show ‘em all. But when a page has more content than I want to consume directly, what do I really want to see? Youtube thinks I want the most recent comment. Most news sites think I want only approved comments or popular comments first. Maybe I only want to interact with like-minded people who share my views, or perhaps I want a healthy debate with someone who shares the exact opposite. Maybe I only want popular comments, or perhaps I want the most downvoted threads. The user should be the one who decides how to organize collaborative content. Don’t decide on your sorting algorithms yourself. Have a default, sure, but let me participate how I want.
The web is glomming together into a few silos. Facebook, Google, and a few other players now have all of our data, and they will solve these problems very soon. We should be wary of how the content we create is focused, and not allow tradeoffs in privacy and security for usability…