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The Trouble with Web 2.0 28 October, 2006

Posted by paralleldivergence in Brad & Phil, education, ICT in Education, Political Correctness, Web 2.0.

Once upon a time, publishing webpages was solely the domain of a relatively select few. Those who had the ability to code in HTML, who knew how to use FTP to upload files and who had access to space on a webserver connected to the Internet. A decade ago, GeoCities was one of the first sites to offer free webspace for the general public to post their own pages. Many, many bad pages were produced, mainly because you still needed technical skills and ultimately, it was a sea of static pages providing one-way communication. And just because you had technical skills, it didn’t mean you also had writing and layout skills.

Web 2.0

Skip forward to late-2004 when the term Web 2.0 was first used. A new wave of dynamic and totally interactive websites was introduced and the previous travellers of the information superhighway could all suddenly become consultants to and constructors of it. Wikipedia introduced the concept of a free on-line encyclopedia with hundreds of thousands of contributors and reviewers. MySpace offers social networking with an interactive, user-submitted network of friends, personal profiles, blogs, photos, music, videos and groups. Sites like del.icio.us are a social bookmarking phenomenon and have the power to direct large numbers of visitors to websites through a quick and simple recommendation system. Sites and services like these are increasing the generation of content on the web exponentially, simply by giving everyone the ability to easily contribute.

The trouble with Web 2.0 is that many new contributors have little consideration of laws and ethics and the governance of many nations has no comprehension of the implications of Web 2.0. For example, a few years ago, the band Metallica came down very heavily on peer-to-peer sharing networks like Napster for illegal distribution of their music. In the scheme of things, Napster users were a drop in the bucket compared to YouTube. This free site contains videos contributed by anyone and viewable by everyone, and many of Metallica’s video clips and live performances are neatly catalogued. While their Terms of Use specifically state that the uploading of copyrighted material is not permitted, the worse thing that will happen is the video will be removed as soon as it’s identified. Problem is, with 65,000 videos being posted each day, finding them all is not a simple task. So YouTube is presently a minefield of copyrighted videos – but even that didn’t stop Google from paying US$1.65B to acquire the company. Worse still, it’s a place where kids can post their pranks, shot with their mobile phone cameras. You like to destroy displays in a supermarket? Get your mates to video it, post it on YouTube and you’ve not only got a worldwide audience, but a host of mimickers to idolize and emulate your feats across the globe. Sadly, there are also videos of school playground bashings and fights.

Social networking sites like MySpace and Bebo are aimed directly at younger people and often at children. While it’s great that children can express themselves and have a voice in front of a wide audience, it’s the more mature concepts of privacy, decency and respect that are often lacking in their posts. Further, it’s the legal concepts of copyright infringement, defamation and incitement that are easy to forget in the world of Web 2.0. Why is it possible to so easily and publicly identify, defame and slander a man on a site like Don’t Date Him Girl! without any evidence to back it up? Why can students edit Wikipedia and Bebo entries about their school to include disparaging comments about teachers and other students?

The most common way that schools around the world are managing this problem is by filtering (blocking) access to many Web 2.0 sites at school. OK, that keeps the problem out of the school (assuming the children haven’t worked out how to circumvent the filters), but it does nothing to stop the problem at home. Laws are also ill-equipped to manage the problems of Web 2.0. What if the poster is a minor? What if the service is hosted in another country? What lesson will be learnt if the only repercussions are that the offending post will be removed – sometime after it has been found and reported?

So what’s needed? I think governments, schools and parents need to be more open-minded about the social-networking phenomenon for a start. We need to stop managing the posts and start managing the people who post. We need to update the age-old difference between right and wrong to mould it into a Web 2.0 environment. It’s not about exclusion, it’s about teaching respect and consideration and responsible self-publishing. It’s about teaching people to think critically in all aspects of life and it all needs to be backed up with appropriate, enforceable guidelines and laws.

Finally, yes, I accept the irony of writing about the Problems of Web 2.0 by using a Web 2.0 application. 🙂 And there’s always the problem of what people might add to the comments section! 😉

Brad & Phil #006

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1. mark - 28 October, 2006

right on the money stu

the money spent trying to intercept, block, & filter the communications of our youth would (imo) be better spent on instruction in citizenship, ethics, personal responsibility, law, (even dissent) etc.


2. Jason - 28 October, 2006

Teenagers has always pushed the envelope in social norms, and this is just another outlet. And so what if schools are criticised…or is criticism banned now? Not a lot of kids like school (when they are there), yes I know it’s hard to believe! 😉 Some will cross the line, but does it really matter? The vast majority of kids use sites like Bebo and Myspace to communicate with friends, show how popular they are, make new friends…so get over it! Leave governments out of the equation…they are bad enough with their “just” war crap…we don’t need to give them more excuses for social control. Oh and defamation laws are for the rich and famous, not Joe and Jane Average…ask a lawyer.

3. stuhasic - 28 October, 2006

Don’t get me wrong Jason, I have no problem with the concept of MySpace or Bebo, and the vast majority of users may well be using them in a responsible way to great effect. But as you say, some will cross the line. The point of the article is that we have processes for handling youth that abuse the trust given to them after they gain a driver’s license. We can deal appropriately with students that cheat on an exam. But how would you as a parent for example take it if a student posted a page about your daughter including personal contact details and false information? Innocent lives have been ruined by such actions. How would a teacher like it to see a hate page about himself created anonymously by one of his students? My point is, there is no process to handle this and what little is done shows the student that it’s easy to do AND that they’ll get away with it.

4. Ash - 28 October, 2006

While I think you are right on the education concept, I don’t think it has anything to do with ‘web 2.0’. All web 2.0 allows people to do is put there thoughts online. Remembering when I went to school, all this happened in the playround anyway, there were bullies, people saying things about teachers and kids spreading rumours about other kids. This isn’t something new, it is only the medium that is new(ish).

I think blocking things like MySpace and Bebo at schools only fuels the fire, while I can see the arguement for it, rather than restricting access, why not embrace it, i.e. I remember our school writing emails backwards and forwards with a sister school in Japan, wouldn’t MySpace be a great solution to build that relationship?

5. stuhasic - 28 October, 2006

You are right, I agree that educational authorities should not block these collaborative sites as there is much educational value in them. The reason it’s a Web 2.0 issue though is that it makes it possible for bullying and rumour-mongering to extend way beyond the school’s boundary fence. You don’t need any special skills to post to a Web 2.0-based site, you just need access to a computer. But again, I believe the solution lies in education systems joining us in the 21st century.

6. stuhasic - 29 October, 2006

Here’s a really interesting article on the problems of MySpace and teens:


7. arick - 13 November, 2006

I’m not sure I can agree with everything stated in this article. I do think that schools should not try to block out Web 2.0 apps, however I’m not sure about the idea of “teaching” students “proper” use of these apps. My belief is that the web is open for everybody in order for everybody to voice their ideas. Whether people read those ideas or not doesn’t matter. But I, for example, write articles on my blog for the sake of writing. And I admit that I have outcries against authority on my blog. And I must say that I feel that “teaching” “proper” use of the internet sounds more like brainwashing the youth. If adults are allowed to voice their opinions freely and openly, why shouldn’t the youth? One may argue that youth “do not know” what they are writing about and write knee-jerk reactions without considering consequences. However, I have read many student blogs and honestly, I have encountered very few that can be described thus. I guess one bad blog spoils it for everyone.

8. bjohnson58 - 13 November, 2006

I find Web 2.0 overwhelming. It seems to be the way to network these days. If they taught in the schools then students would know how to use this great tool.

9. Rachael Ray - 7 December, 2006

on line encyclopedia

Interesting post. I came across this blog by accident, but it was a good accident. I have now bookmarked your blog for future use. Best wishes. Rachael Ray.

10. paralleldivergence - 4 February, 2007

Here is an absolutely amazing video that encapsulates what Web 2.0 is and what impact it will have for the whole world. Changes are going to have to be made in all areas of life:

11. mark - 1 April, 2007


An interview worth listening to. The darkside of blogging. Its an interview with Kathy Sierra re cyberbullying.
[audio src="http://a.abclocal.go.com/three/kgo/032907_cyber_talk.mp3" /]

12. mark - 23 April, 2007

Robert Fisk, no less, is in agreement with you here.

13. 21st Century Skills - 23 May, 2007

Are Schools Losing the Game… (the power play)

A final point. Wes, when speaking to teachers a a recent conference states:

I heard several teachers relate stories of “technology out of control” in their schools, where part-time teacher-aides (responsible for staffing school computer labs) …

14. Why Teachers and Schools Should be Blogging « Parallel Divergence - 12 April, 2008

[…] to the outside world and bringing the outside world into the classroom. Have a read of “The Trouble with Web 2.0” for […]

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