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What is Web 2 O

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A You Tube Video Explaining the term and how the Internet has changed



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Web 2.0 Resources








What Is Web 2.0 Anyway?

Indispensable tools your nonprofit should know about


By: Alexandra Krasne

December 22, 2005

Editor's note:  This article was compiled with the help of Michael Janofsky using information from the Web 2.0 online event, held from October 24 to 28, 2005, in TechSoup's Emerging Technologies forum. Additional content provided by Ruby Sinreich.

Web developers, designers, bloggers, and even major media outlets have been abuzz with talk of "Web 2.0" this year. Though the term bears the familiar version number so often attached to software products, it doesn't actually refer to any one technology. Rather, Web 2.0 is the moniker for an emerging set of Internet-based tools and an emerging philosophy on how to use them.

The technologies encompassed by Web 2.0 include, but are by no means limited to, blogs, tags, RSS, social bookmarking, and AJAX. The philosophy focuses on the idea that the people who consume media, access the Internet, and use the Web shouldn't passively absorb what's available -- rather, they should be active contributors, helping customize media and technology for their own purposes, as well as those of their communities.

This philosophy contrasts sharply with the old "Web 1.0" methodology, in which news was provided by a handful of large corporations, Web pages were static and rarely updated, and only the tech-savvy could contribute to the development of the World Wide Web.

Of course, it may seem premature for nonprofits to be thinking about Web 2.0 when many haven't yet mastered Web 1.0, but Web 2.0 isn't just the latest new toy for geeks or the bleeding edge so beloved by entrepreneurs. It's the beginning of a new era in technology -- one that promises to help nonprofits operate more efficiently, generate more funding, and affect more lives.


Every nonprofit has stories to tell, and yours is no exception -- whether the stories are about people who receive services from your programs, volunteer experiences, or ways others are impacted by your work. One way to get those stories out to the world is to publish them on a blog.

Short for "Web logs," blogs are online journals created by an individual or an organization and cover topics ranging from human rights to fashion -- and everything in between.

Blogs are a great example of how emerging voices are not only being heard but amplified. By reading and discussing each other's posts, bloggers form a massive network that is able to exert pressure on national media and, increasingly, on policy makers as well.

Blog postings, typically updated daily, can include images, photos, links, video, audio, or simple text. The postings are archived by date and sometimes by category or by author. Permanent links, or "permalinks," allow other bloggers and Web site owners to link directly to a specific post on your blog and encourage inter-blog dialog. Read more about permalinks and starting your own blog in TechSoup's Ready to Start Blogging?

Many nonprofits use blogs to keep constituents and volunteers up-to-date on projects and goals. For instance, the American Cancer Society's (ACS) experimental blog FISpace launched in August 2002 to discuss new technologies, new science, new communication tools, social change, fundraising trends, and volunteerism.

"At the time [we launched FISpace], the almost universal question was, 'What's a blog?'" said David Collins, Director of Organizational Learning at ACS. "There was organizational anxiety, as many companies have, that someone might say something in the blog that would reflect badly on the Society. That hasn't happened."

On the contrary, the site has been successful and has grown significantly since it launched: It now has 10 regular contributors and volunteers helping with content.

"In the past year, the 10 authors on the blog have become more of a community and all participate in keeping the discussion going," noted Collins. "FISpace has led to a lot of discussion of blogs and other new communication tools and more experimentation. It's open to the world, but it has mainly a limited audience of people interested in the ACS and its future. That's success in my book."

To find blogs on a specific subject, use Technorati, a real-time search engine for tagged blog postings. (More on tags below.)


Imagine having the latest headlines and updates from your favorite Web sites delivered to your desktop without even having to open your Web browser or visit any Web sites. Better yet, imagine having the latest information from your Web site delivered to your supporters and constituents without having to send an e-mail or a newsletter. With Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds, this is easy to do -- and it won't cost you a thing.

To start receiving feeds from your favorite sites, simply download an aggregator, the software that delivers the content to your desktop. By customizing your RSS to search for content on specific keywords or information, you can receive content that's tailored to your tastes.

Moving Ideas, an organization providing background for citizen activism, offers resources for many current issues, including foreign policy and national security, education, and civil liberties. Moving Ideas' own RSS section lists more than 27 feeds that you can subscribe to -- including feeds to the organization's own information on the latest public policy reports, action alerts, and commentary.

To find out more about setting up an RSS reader or creating a feed for your own site, read TechSoup's RSS for Nonprofits.

Tagging and Social Bookmarking

If you have trouble finding good information on the Internet, you're not alone. Portals and publications don't always classify information in the same way their readers would.

But what if you could tag any information you put on the Internet -- or any information that you find on the Internet -- with simple keywords, so that you could find it again? And what if you could search for information that other people had tagged with the same keyword? That's where tagging comes in handy.

Tags can help you organize and find URLs (with the help of social bookmarking tools like del.icio.us), photos (with applications like flickr), and ideas or projects (like on the 43 things Web site). Tags can also be a great way to draw attention to your posts and bring others to your blog or Web site.

The real value in tagging is that a community of like-minded people is helping to sort and classify information. Tagging projects are constantly emerging to help gather information and share knowledge. For instance, the nonprofit technology community created its own NPTech tag on del.icio.us to share knowledge among people in the field.

To get started, just pick a keyword to represent your organization or issue, start tagging URLs that you come across with that keyword (using del.icio.us or a tool of your choice), and let your supporters know that they can use the tag themselves when marking content on the Web.

Be sure to use something that will be unique and memorable. For example, whereas "kids" might be too vague, "healthykids" is better; it's less likely to be used randomly by people who don't share your goals, and you can really own it.

"By allowing people to share information effectively, tags create and support a growing number of online communities. And by bringing communities together around common interests, tags add value to the information those communities gather," stated Alexandra Samuel in a Toronto Star article about the Web 2.0 tool.

If you're still unclear on how to tag, read Emily's World's; How Nonprofits Can Use Social Bookmarking and Blogs for step-by-step instructions.

Social Bookmarking Meets RSS

It's very expensive to create original content on a regular basis, but setting up a series of RSS feeds on a particular topic can pump useful content onto your organization's Web site for free.

For example, an organization that advocates for women with HIV might create an RSS-driven news section on its Web site that pulls relevant Web resources from del.icio.us, photos from Flickr, and blog posts from Technorati (the trick is to set up the search as a "watchlist" on Technorati, and then subscribe to the RSS feed for the watchlist.)

Another great way to take advantage of social bookmarking is to create a media monitoring tool for your organization's internal use as a way to keep track of the issues that are important -- and help keep other members of your staff up-to-date. Something as simple as a Bloglines account can become a clearinghouse for information that helps with your work.

Bloglines is an online tool that allows you to share your feeds with others -- something an RSS desktop aggregator cannot do. Bloglines can track RSS feeds from Google or Yahoo news on particular search terms; del.icio.us feeds for resources related to your work; or news feeds for major publications in your field.

Other ideas for feeds you can set up in your RSS reader include:

  • Searches of major news feeds (try Google News or Yahoo News) for the name of your organization, acronym (if any), major sub-brands or projects, or the name of your organization's president or director.
  • Searches of major news feeds for keywords on the issues you need to track. Play with the search terms until you get the right volume of news; if you're an organization that works on a major policy area, like healthcare, you may need to narrow down your search until it gives you a manageable amount of news, such as "healthcare policy (Congress or President)".
  • Searches of blogs (via Technorati) for references to both your organization and key players in it.

Don't forget that del.icio.us lets you set up feeds that are narrowed down by using multiple tags, for instance heathcare+policy.

Widgets and AJAX Applications

The centerpiece of the Web 2.0 transformation is AJAX, a group of Web page coding technologies that allows pages to respond to a user's input without processing or reloading the page.

Specifically, AJAX (an acronym for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML ) is a term that refers to JavaScript, XML, HTML, and CSS used in conjunction to develop interactive Web applications. AJAX does not change the Web itself, but rather how programmers present the data to users.

With traditional Web applications, when a user clicks something, the action triggers a request to a Web server, which renders the page in the user's browser. The user must then wait for the page to load while an hourglass or a blank Web page indicates that the request is being processed. Each action a user performs results in lag time. In an AJAX-driven Web application, when a user performs an action -- say, clicking a map -- the results are immediate, so there's virtually no waiting time.

One of AJAX's most popular applications is Google Maps, where you can drag the map around on the screen seamlessly and add and remove flags without having to wait for Google's server to send you an updated Web page.

Another example of an organization taking advantage of AJAX is the New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH) , which uses the Google Maps Application Programming Interface (API) to help the organization network, recruit, and schedule volunteers.

Developers readily admit that they are only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using AJAX to create powerful Web applications that operate with extreme speed and efficiency. Tomorrow's applications are likely to build on the ones developed today, the way NYCCAH's tool builds on Google Maps. That's the power of Web 2.0: individuals and organizations can build, reorganize, and extend tools and information in ways never before possible.

What Does this Mean for Me?

Web 2.0 tools are important, but their impact goes much deeper than their gadget-y novelty might suggest. Individuals and organizations alike are finding new and increasingly effective ways of connecting through Web 2.0 technology. This is the human side of this technical transformation.

Even the smallest organization has a story to share and voices to amplify. Web 2.0 can help you be heard. This new Web of connections is already allowing nonprofit supporters to build movements for social, environmental, economic, and political change. Don't let your movement leave you behind.

Additional Resources:

Visit TechSoup's Web 2.0 toolkit for our complete list of articles on the topic.

Designed to chart the next phase of nonprofit Web innovation, TechSoup is helping to find ways to eliminate barriers to freedom of expression. If you'd like to help, visit NetSquared 's site and become a part of the community, join the discussions, or add a case study.

Tim O'Reilly's What is Web 2.0 provides an additional explanation of how various Web 2.0 tools work.

Infoworld's Putting AJAX to Workexplores some of AJAX's higher-end uses.

Michael Stein's Nonprofit Technology Blog's Introduction to Tagging.

Educause's Seven Things You Should Know About Social Bookmarking (PDF).

If you're a blogger, Technorati's tag tool plugin can make it easier to tag your posts.


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