Random observations, teachings and musings of a well trained cubicle superhero.

Friday, February 08, 2008

February 8. 2008

The Rise of 2

Tech Mate
techyJay, a.k.a. “The Cubicle Superhero”, is a self-professed tech junkie with a passion for music and culture Email Jay

Good evening my lovely TechMate readers. It's Jay the Cubicle Superhero here once again, to bring you a warm slice of fresh tech on a cold February night.

Small numbers bring major shifts
Today I thought I'd introduce a few new terms, like AJAX and Web2.0. Though its true meaning is debatable, in a basic sense "Web 2.0" refers to the recent wave of web services designed with a customizable, interactive user experience. The "2.0" refers to the software version system, where the first number increases with significant jumps in functionality.

Moving from standard static text websites we experienced in the 1990s, the World Wide Web is evolving to incorporate fluid, interactive components.

The nuts and bolts
Still viewable in a standard web browser, Web 2.0 pages use advanced coding techniques to load and refresh individual parts of a website on the fly.

The magic under the hood is a stew of programming acronyms that I can't even begin to understand. A wise programmer friend of mine, Kyle Campbell, made a valiant attempt to explain the complex codery that makes it all work. He quickly became concerned when I tried to relate web coding to balloon animal sculpting before I was distracted by something shiny. I found the following written on a bar napkin after he took his balloon giraffe and left.

  • HTML/XHTML is the primary language all websites are built on. It uses a series of tags that represent different layout functions. Bold and Italics are built into this layer.

  • CSS is the paint to your house. A "cascading style sheet" allows for a developer to modify the look of his HTML layout, without modifying any of the HTML structure.

  • XML is used to pass information from one interface (web server) to another interface (web browser, mobile device)

  • JavaScript allows programmers to dynamically alter both HTML and CSS. It is often used to enable dynamic drag & drop, zoom and scrolling interfaces
Social Interaction is big news
Time magazine named all of us Internet users "Person of the Year" for 2006. The contributions each of us have made to the Web, through blog and forum posts, wiki contributions and video uploads would not be possible without the websites that enabled common visitors to interact with their surfing environment.

People Powered Encyclopedia
Wikipedia, the free contributor created and user policed online encyclopedia epitomizes the Web2.0 phenomenon. The site itself was built using "copyleft" software, meaning the code of the website itself is free to be used and distributed. The content is created, edited, and policed entirely by volunteers and users of the system. Amazingly, despite differing political and ethical worldviews, the system seems to be working. For the most part I have found it to be a useful, largely accurate and factual resource I have linked to in many of the TechMates articles I have written. Of course, because the text is freely edited, there have been instances of vandalism. Like with any "facts" found on the Internet, take it with a grain of salt. I keep mine in a Snoopy cup by my monitor.

Mail 2.0
One of the best examples of the Web 2.0 AJAX experience is the new Rogers Yahoo! Mail system. Developers modeled the interface after traditional computer-based email programs, but enhanced the experience by incorporating the flexibility of the web. Creating folders and organizing your mail is ultra simple, with the new drag and drop system.

Out in Beta since September, you can read more about the new Rogers Mail system here, or watch the tour animation here.

Take a click at the free services I've been monkeying around with:

-The Hype Machine: Search for Music and Band info across blogs
-Songerize: Type and listen - Dead simple with all the web2.0 tricknology in the background
-Meebo: Web Based Instant Messaging over Yahoo!, MSN, AOL ICQ and Gtalk
-Digg: Community ranked news and information aggregator
-Rogers Yahoo! Maps: Interactive maps and directions, now with satellite, street and hybrid
-BackPack: Collaborative organization service: Put your laundry list online
-Kiko: Dynamic calendaring
-YouTube: Online Videos created and uploaded by users
-Flickr Photos which now includes Picnik integration (keep an eye out for a TechMates article on this soon)

For other examples of up and coming Web2.0 services check out the insanely comprehensive site http://www.go2web20.net/

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