Oscar Is Time Magazine's Person of the Year?!?

This is a bit of an old story by now but Time magazine recently named “You” as their “Person of the Year”.  Many people reacted to the decision negatively saying it was a cop-out and the ultimate gimmick to sell magazines from a magazine that arguably hadn't chosen the proper newsmaker of the year since 2001 when they picked Rudy Guliani over Osama Bin-Laden.  That was my first reaction to me, but then, the more I thought about it, the more I realised this was a fitting, sensible choice, just as timely as picking “The Computer” in 1982 or “The Endangered Earth” in 1988.  (The full list of previous winners is on Wikipedia.) 

By “you”, doesn't mean anyone standing in line at Safeway looking at the magazine rack.  They mean anyone who is contributing to Internet content and if you're reading this (or especially if you're commenting), you're part of that group. (So belated congrats on the award – hope you've put “Time Magazine's 2006 Person of the Year” on your resume. )

Why is it a good pick?  I think of it this way – two or three years ago, when I wanted to find out about something using the Internet, I went to one place – a search engine.  Today, when I want to find out about something, I have numerous options – a search engine is still a possibility but now, I can also go to Wikipedia.  I can search Flickr for photos or YouTube for video clips related to the topic whether it is a person, place or thing.  I can use a blog search engine like Technorati or Bloglines to see what other people are saying about the topic.  I can read comments about the topic on community-based message boards like MetaFilter and Digg (and “message boards” completely under-represents what these sites offer.)  And this is only the tip of the iceberg of the unlimited amount of information that can be found on various web sites across the Internet – from LibraryThing for tracking book collections to Facebook for keeping up with friends to E-bay and Amazon for not only shopping but finding out about all kinds of products – from the unique to the ubiquitous. 

The common link?  All of these sites rely on user-generated content to give them their value (even Google's database is an archive of sites that other people have created.) 

Just as people don't like the choice of “You” as Person of the Year, they also react against the term “Web 2.0” which is now commonly used to define this new interactive web.  Instead of being a method of retrieval (Web 1.0), the new web is about interactivity.  (Some people are going so far as to use Web 3.0 to define the next step which includes the user-submitted content of Web 2.0 but makes it easier to find/use via things such as tagging, advanced computer algorithms and the sheer volume of people contributing to the content.)

If you accept that definition of Web 3.0, a prime example is the plan of Wikipedia to launch a search engine to compete with Google that will rely on volunteers, just as with their encyclopedia site,  but which will bring a level of  currency and accuracy that computers, no matter how advanced the algorithm, can match yet.  (And if you're seeing library jargon in that list of advantages, you'll also realise why so many library schools are now “library and information” schools.)

So, what is the point of all this Web 1.0/2.0/3.0 rambling?

Here's Oscar making his contribution to the Web 2.0 world via a video clip that we've put on YouTube.  This is my mom (also a nurse) using a Doppler device to find Oscar's heartbeat – it's clearest around the 32 second mark – on Christmas Day at the Indian Head Hospital.  (My best present ever by the way!  Sometime I'll write about our very disappointing first Doppler in London.)

It absolutely and completely boggles the mind to think how far computers have come since 1985 when I first started using them (Commodore 64 – those were the days!) and what the future may bring as the pace of technological advance continues to increase. 

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