Why Mainframe Folk Should Care About Web 2.0

(Originally posted 2007-07-05.)

I presented a set of (someone else’s) foils on Web 2.0 to my team meeting last week. (Interestingly, being 6 months old they were already way out of date – what with Twitter and all.) Remember I’m in a mainframe crowd of effectively “gurus”. 🙂 So why should they be interested in new-fangled webby stuff? So I got to thinking… Dear reader, why should you care about Web 2.0?

The minimal answer is “because it’s going to happen anyway, whether you like it or not, and you and your organisation are going to be left in the dust if you don’t embrace it”. I think that’s a fair answer but really there is positive stuff in there for us.

But rather than quote from The Long Tail or The Wisdom of Crowds (Read it and reading it, respectively) I think it better to point out some examples of Web 2.0 you may well already be using…

  • developerWorks blogs (like this one).
  • Wikipedia wiki (where those two book references above were from)
  • Flickr photo sharing site
  • Twitter microblogging

What these sites have in common is that they get better the more people use them. Both in adding content and also in rating and ranking material (or editing it in the case of wikis). As such they’re marking a shift away from static websites to ones where users have more control and the sites themselves just become enablers. And that leads onto changes in the web that we need to take notice of.

The other element of note is the idea of a “mashup“. This is where content from one site is mashed together with that of another to create (usually) a third site. Good examples of this would be the whole host of mashups built around Google Maps. Now they’ve been smart as they publish an API that web developers and mashup creators can use. The lesson here is that if you build your website so that it can be mashed up with others then your website will be used in such mashups and it will attract many more visitors.

A good analogy might be an insurance company that makes it hard for an insurance quoting website to garner quotes… That insurance company isn’t going to get so many quote requests as one that does.

Now, how does that affect the mainframe? It doesn’t directly but it does lead to a driving up of traffic and an ever higher reliance on good response times. So our old friends scalability and performance come into play. And we play well in those terms. And it does keep the focus on availability as well.

And how does it affect mainframers? My answer would be that we can really use a lot of these new technologies in our day jobs. And if we don’t we risk letting other platforms have all the fun. 🙂

So I’d encourage people to dive into Web 2.0. And that’s what I told my team last week.

Published by Martin Packer

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