I'm at the Web 2.0 Conference here in San Francisco, my second year attending. Last year felt very entrepreneurial and this year feels a little more serious and corporate. A lot of the products are starting to shift from a focus on the end user to enterprise deployments. Still no one from education here. Even though under 20 are the early adopters and most adventurous users of many of the technology, no one puts that together with what they do in school.
What are the trends this year?
Social networking and social media (of course), but the people here are not talking about using it, they are talking about how to connect it. You may have noticed that you are creating more and more profiles on the web these days. Everyone of those profiles seems to ask you for the same information. Microformats, OpenSocial, and OpenID are some attempts to create trust and standardization so that you can create your profile in one place and share it with other places that you trust.
More flexible, shareable data I think this has real implications for our schools. What if students had a common data format for learning information that they could collect and manage themselves and then share with others when appropriate? Another question, I have, can we get better at just giving students back more of the data we collect about them and maybe using some basic analytics to give them a little context for their data?
Cloud computing, mesh, and beautiful seams. I've heard a number of different speakers talk about bringing the pieces together, not just between sites but between devices. The president of the Mozilla Foundation talked about how Mobile was a bad metaphor for the phone device. The person is mobile, the phone is only valuable when it is with the person. Microsoft announced a Microsoft Mesh, a system for connecting and syncing devices together in a ring (others use a cloud metaphor for this). Two great speakers from dopplr and fireeagle gave a wonderful talk about how design needs to be "polite, pertinent, and pretty." A key point: we don't want seamless, we want "beautiful seams". Seams that are easy to navigate and understand but that we are aware of so that we can manage our own privacy and sharing.
Polite, comfortable, fun, playful. These are all words I heard at different times about design, content, and social interactions online. Many people are talking about how we can be nicer to each other, more pleasant and make each other feel more comfortable. I keep hearing talk about showing that technology comes from people and is used by people. We don't want to feel like we are relating to a machine, we want to have an emotional, relationship connection with what we are doing. Computing has become extremely personal.
Some thoughts for now...