Mike Daconta | Before you leap to Web 2.0, try Web 1.0

Reality Check

Mike Daconta

Web 2.0 is all the rage. Evangelists will show you rich Web interfaces'like panning inside a Google map'that update without the constant page refreshes typical of Web 1.0 sites. Others rave about mashups and Really Simple Syndication feeds. And finally, some will have you salivating over social Web sites.

With all these developments, you may feel the urge to upgrade to Web 2.0 today. But before you make that leap, there is a more important question: Have you really even implemented Web 1.0?

How, you may be wondering, do we do that? As in most things related to the Web, it is good practice to look to what the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) does in this regard. They are the vanguard, having evolved the Web in practice and technology. This is only natural since the inventor of the Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, is the director of W3C.

In his book, Weaving the Web, Berners-Lee discusses what I consider the crux of Web 1.0 when he states, 'At the consortium today, no one can mention a document in a meeting unless they can give a URI for it. Our policy is, 'If it isn't on the Web, it doesn't exist.' '

So, here we have a policy of transparency and an acid test (the Meeting Test) for its implementation. I contend that such transparency is the cornerstone of effective information management within your organization. It also attempts to move us from squirreling our knowledge away on isolated hard drives and toward opening it up.

In fact, Web 2.0 is all about interactivity and collaboration within a community that participates in collective work. Simply put, if it is not accessible, you cannot collaborate on it. Thus, the key to Web 1.0 is to expose, identify and share all information produced in your organization. Everything gets a 'Web space,' ranging from team space to division space to enterprise space to public space.

People tend to worry about exposing half-baked things to their colleagues. While you could provide a local 'shoe-box' for such activity, I would urge against such exceptions. Half-baked is not expected to be perfect'and if done right, exposing unfinished work can improve it, reduce it or even hold it up as a shining example.
So, how do we implement such transparency?

First, you should implement transparency for both your assets and your business processes. While you can make physical assets transparent via descriptive metadata, let's focus on such virtual (or information technology) assets as applications, services and data assets. In information management, we are mostly concerned with data assets. A data asset is a managed container'like a relational database or a content management system'of information important enough to value just as you do physical assets. All data assets can be exposed either directly (for unstructured data) or via Web-based technologies like the Extensible Markup Language and Web services (for structured data).

Finally, both humans and machines should benefit from this transparency. In other words, every item you want to make transparent should have a human-readable Web page and an interface for direct manipulation by other IT systems, typically via a Web-service interface. So, before you jump on the Web 2.0 bandwagon, be sure you have successfully implemented Web 1.0 transparency in your organization. Our battle cry is, 'If it is not accessible, it does not exist!'

Michael Daconta, former metadata program manager for the Homeland Security Department, is Chief of Enterprise Data Management for Oberon Associates Inc.

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