October 13, 2006
@ 04:32 PM

Stephen O'Grady has a blog post entitled What is Office 2.0? where he writes

As some of you know having spoken with me on the subject, I have little patience for philosophical discussions of what Web 2.0 really means. When pressed on the subject, I usually just point to properties like del.icio.us and say, "That is Web 2.0." Likewise, I'm not terribly concerned with creating strict textual definitions of what Office 2.0 is, as long as I can credibly cite examples that exhibit the tendencies of a "next generation" office platform. As this show amply demonstrates, that part's easy. Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Joyent, Zoho, and so on? Very Office 2.0. Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org? Office 1.0. Q.E.D.

While the question of what Office 2.0 is doesn't really keep me up at night, however, what it means absolutely does. We have a unique view on the technologies, because we're not merely covering analysts but avid users. And what's obvious to me, both as an analyst and a user, is that Office 2.0 has strengths for every weakness, and weaknesses for every strength.

The trend of talking about things without defining them and then revelling in the fact that they are ill-defined really makes me wonder for the future of discourse in the software industry. I thought all the discussions about SOA were bad but "Web 2.0" and "Office 2.0" puts all that to shame. I'm especially disappointed to see people who call themselves "analysts" like Stephen O'Grady join in this nonsense.

The problem with his del.icio.us example is that when I look at del.icio.us I see a bunch of things, I see a site that has

  • tagging/folksonomies
  • open APIs
  • user generated "content"
  • supports syndication via RSS feeds
  • a relatively small amount of users and is likely to stay a niche service
  • nothing of interest that will ever draw me in as a regular user

The problem with lumping all these things together is that the impact of each of the main bullet points is difference. The impact of the trend of more websites filled with user generated content from blogs to podcasts is different from the impact of the trend towards open APIs and "the Web as a platform".

Similarly when it comes to "Office 2.0" the impact of anywhere access to my business data from any thin client (aka browser) is completely different different from the promise of Web-scale collaboration in business environments that some of the products Stephen O' Grady mentions portend. Lumping all these things together then failing to articulate them makes it difficult to discuss, analyze and consider the importance [or lack thereof] of what's going on on the Web today.

Please, stop it. Think of the children.