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Since the phrase “Web 2.0” was coined, its premise has been to allow users to dynamically interact with content and to interact with each other about content.

Although more users have joined the social media parade, applications for dynamic engagement with content are probably only in pre-adolescence. But as the social community matures, new services are emerging to help businesses derive explicit practical value from the core Web 2.0 service base.

A survey of the Web 2.o Next landscape reveals two principal directions in the forthcoming evolutionary cycle — one towards value-added business service and the other supporting more fluid online collaboration by community groups and work teams.

This post provides a quick rundown of emerging businesses (in and adjacent to scholarly publishing), which are gearing up to generate better service and more collaborative utilities based on social platforms:

Leveraging Social Data

There’s a host of new services delivering value-added layers atop data from some of the most popular Web 2.0 platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr. Aggregated tweets, for example, can be used to follow a global or discrete public conversation stream in real time — for purposes that range from emergency notification and reporting to gathering customer intelligence and popularity trends.

An example featured recently on ReadWriteWeb:

What Ellerdale is now doing with Twitter’s 50 million tweets per day is definitely interesting – the service uses an intelligent data-parsing engine to analyze the context of tweets and the links they contain and combines that with other data sources like RSS feeds and Wikipedia to create a real-time search engine and trends tracker that provides more than just a list of tweets – it provides an understanding of the world’s conversations.

And another on RRW, Twazzup Insights:

The new analytics service is still in private alpha testing, but a couple of teaser reports on the site already show the application’s potential. Besides displaying the number of tweets and retweets about a given keyword per hour, the service also highlights the top links about this topic, as well as a list of the top influencers, as well as the most often used hashtags and other keywords in these tweets. In addition, Twazzup Insights also performs a basic sentiment analysis on these tweets.

Social Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Social CRM companies have set their sights on making traditional business services — in the areas of Support-Promotion-Innovation-Analytics — more efficient through the use of social communication channels. Lithium.com is a leading gaming cum social CRM enterprise that promises to help businesses identify and mobilize their superusers — the one percent of customers who have the greatest community impact — using a “fine-tuned rank and role structure to incent and drive social web behavior.”

Lithium’s solutions will identify, engage, and cater to Superuser, the 1% representing your strongest brand advocates, which will drive 40-50% of your user-generated content.

With the Lithium’s recent acquisition of Scout Labs, the company is seeking to accelerate the pace at which they can provide companies with a community view of their customer activity that is decidedly data-centric and promises better ROI through social communication.

Using  Semantics to Track Customer Preferences

Competing with Facebook’s “Like” function — and similar to Pandora — Glue collects individual users’ likes and dislikes and uses preference-based filters as an engine for recommending products and media across broader categories. Glue loads new movie,  music, and book release information and provides up-to-the moment suggestions and highlights to users, based on their previous preferences.

Glue has recently upped the ante in its competition with Facebook by adding more power to its social recommendation tool set. What’s new is the capability to gather user preferences more dynamically, while users search the Web. Glue is also providing  ‘chiclets’ on Glue-enabled websites that highlight featured terms and topics and provide semantically generated contextual information.

Social E-Reading and Publishing

Copia is a new entrant in the device-enabled (and device-agnostic) reading and discussion realm. Currently available in beta and positioned as “the first social eReading experience” Copia’s emphasis is on the life cycle of sharing written materials:

We read to learn, to discover and to entertain, passing along bits and pieces as we go. Sometimes we pass thoughts, stories or behaviors. Other times it’s the whole book, or just an excerpt. Regardless of what we pass or how, when the cycle of reading, learning and sharing begins, it keeps on going.

Many in the publishing community are already familiar with Scribd. In brief, what flickr provides for image sharing, Scribd seeks to deliver for documents — plus an ecommerce layer for paid content and contentlets (micro-content). From an article on TechCrunch:

On Scribd, you can easily turn any file — such as PDF, Word and PowerPoint — into a web document and immediately connect with passionate readers and information-seekers on our thriving community, through connected sites such as Facebook or Twitter and search engines such as Google. Scribd users have shared tens of millions of free and for-purchase documents and books ranging from vampire fan fiction to research reports and business presentations.

The big news recently from Scribd is their recent decision to migrate the platform content to the HTML5 format, which will reduce their dependence on Flash and make them friendly to a broader range of devices.

Community Project Spaces

In direct competition with Microsoft’s SharePoint, Google Wave is a cloud-based environment that provides an environment for people to discuss projects and work collaboratively with text, photos, videos, maps.

Use-case examples from the Wave blog:

  • Education: Students and professors use waves for translations, research projects, and team development efforts.
  • Creative/Design: Virtual art classes and review and critique multimedia content, including images and videos.
  • Organizations/Conferences: Track speaker sessions and help panelists collaborate.

Also appearing in the collaborative space are new tools for delivering civic benefit through crowdsourcing. Among the Innovative Tech for Civic Good sessions at the recent Gov 2.0 conference:

Ushahidi, a open-source disaster response platform, was used after the earthquake Haiti and has been deployed by citizens in the Gulf Coast to track the oil spill.

And, in the non-existent realm, here’s an excerpt from Fiction Matters “The History of Publishing 2010-2020, Part 3:

The largest technical advance, however, wasn’t the embedding of content inside a text book, but rather in the ability for users to leave comments on an abstract layer outside of a book . . . a crowdsourcing of the study group.

The original cmmtr was a technology that sat on top of a digital text and pushed updates anonymously through a variety of digital routes both to and from the book … “kind of the hybrid child of BitTorrent and RSS.” A few lines of code in the start of a digital text book, and a small application installed on a tablet computer turned most eBooks into independent, distributed social networks – a global, real time, persistent, study group.

[The] work gained popularity with several developers around the world and quickly gained an impressive feature set, expanding well beyond anonymous text comments to include pictures, video, and the ability to link to other cmmtr-enabled books and passages.

While “cmmtr” isn’t real this fictional view of the near-future of publishing seems increasingly plausible.

As Michael Clarke’s recent post aptly noted, publishers–and not just trade publishers–have a pressing need to:

  • communicate with and receive feedback from consumers
  • assess their requirements and priorities
  • provide direct, engaged customer service
  • build direct brand-to-user relationships
  • do all this efficiently, maximizing ROI

Given the shifting consumer and technology landscapes, traditional practices are costly and non-agile mechanisms for creating and sustaining this type of engagement. Although publishers may not be fluent in Web 2.0 yet, they may have more reason than ever to explore new applications, technological capacities, and vendor services.

Content sharing and direct-to-user communication tools will increasingly replace outmoded services that fail to connect publishers/brands with their ultimate consumers of content.

Web 2.0 services, if used effectively, have the capacity to make content the nucleus of an engaged discussion or work process and to foster two-way communication with key constituents. Publishers who can effectively incorporate Web 2.0 in their programs may be able to reduce their reliance on intermediaries–and will stand apart by harnessing the power of their consumer audiences.

(The SSP 2010 Annual Meeting in San Francisco will include a social media round table lunch this Thursday; registration is available on site.)

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2 Thoughts on "Web 2.0 Next: Companies Place Bets on Consumer Relationships and Collaboration"

Dave Pell on the concept of “social reading”:

Twitter CEO Evan Williams recently tweeted, “The future of book reading is clearly collaborative.”

I’d have to agree that the future of reading should be collaborative. But only if you are under four years old. From then on, reading should be done alone.

He goes on from there to talk about the potential for privacy invasion, and the possible negative effects of such systems on both reading and authorship. Definitely an interesting counterpoint.

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