8.2.2 Some Observations of Web 2.0 in Use
We concentrate here on a few, but essential observations that help to understand how Web 2.0 and SOA can generate the desired results for an enterprise. There are many more trends and certainly not yet widely accepted uses and patterns of dealing with and via the Internet that we cannot include in this book. The Internet medium enables the very fast development of new ideas. Known items become obsolete, and with a generally dynamic development, any claim for comprehensiveness in a book quickly becomes outdated.
Therefore, we select a few key observations using well-known examples of today's Internet business world to exemplify how the idea of service-orientation as a platform for the agile business can be applied with today's tools, concepts, and existing services. In the following, we regard three established Internet-based business and community services: Wikipedia, Google, and YouTube. These three examples demonstrate how Web 2.0 elements become the key success factors for these endeavors to start and gain importance, acting as role models for other companies, start-ups, and even for established players in a certain market. More than that, these initiatives and the innovations they bring to the market change the way we do certain things.
8.2.3 User Contribution
The example of Wikipedia.org demonstrates the factor user contribution and adds the aspect of starting and operating successfully a nonprofit organization on the World Wide Web. This wiki-based free encyclopedia allows everybody to contribute and edit the content. Before Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org), encyclopedias were the work of a closed circle of experts, each of them being a prominent luminary in a well-defined scientific area.
Wikis are a way to quickly and informally allow possibly large communities to collaborate on authoring content.
Now the wiki technologies opened it up for a large number of "experts," who all contribute their bit of knowledge and expertise to grow Wikipedia to a global matter. Wikipedia, an artificial word created from wiki-wiki (Hawaiian for quick) and encyclopedia, is a website launched in 2001 for hosting multinational, multilingual, web-based encyclopedias. The content and formatting are created by everybody who wants to contribute.
The Wikipedia community meanwhile has created an immense amount of useful information, not just in English. Today, the Wikipedia site shows articles in more than 200 languages, of which English has grown to more than 2 million articles, followed by the German (700,000+ articles) and the French (600,000+ articles) section. Among the languages, you also find extinct ones like Latin (10,000+ articles), and artificial languages like Esperanto (10,000+ articles), and languages spoken by small minorities like Pennsilfaanisch-Deitsch (1,000+ articles). Almost every language is represented, and thanks to the underlying database technology for many articles in one language, you find a direct link to the same item in one or more other languages.
One can assume that mere users of such sites outnumber the contributors at large degree, probably in the range of 99:1 or close to that. Exact survey results have not been available at time of writing this book, though.
Wikipedia shows impressively the public use of bidirectional information services. Concerns about incorrectness, errors, and malicious contents are countered by the control of the masses. The same model as for Linux applies, where a large community with many more eyes, specialized knowledge, and experiences monitors and contributes to a reliable instrument coming close to and with regard to agility and speed of change outperforming the classic model of the encyclopedia.
The trustworthiness became so evident that many people today seriously refer to Wikipedia as their source of wisdom. If one does not know something, the first check is Wikipedia instead of opening a printed version of Encyclopedia Britannica or its regional equivalent. This is a strong change that was triggered by IT functionalities on the Internet.
In a company, this example of user contribution can result in an encyclopedia of the company's internal terms and items not found or not allowed outside the premises (or better, outside the internal network). It might also be a repository, as described in Chapter 5, "Leveraging Reusable Assets."