Friday, October 23, 2009

Welcome to the brave new world of social media

Originally posted in July of 2009 Many of us have been drawn into the new world of social media. It’s been a very organic process. For most of us the first step was email in the early 1990s. With email it became easy to communicate written messages electronically, instantly, and for free--or at least with zero incremental cost. Never before was such a thing possible. People quickly got an email address and changed how they communicated with others. 

When the World Wide Web took off in the mid 1990s additional avenues of communications proliferated. Today, many of us use various forms of social media as part of our daily routine. Let’s consider the term itself. After all, what is “social media?” It is a very broad term that encompasses many different things. The best definition I've seen: "Social media is online content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies." How did you find this posting? Email, Twitter, Facebook? Are you a regular visitor to this web page? All of these are different types of social media. It's very important to emphasize that if you use email, if you're even reading this page, you are a user of social media. You need not join the Facebook masses or the Twitterers--those are just two new, and potent, applications in this new world of communications. 

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, is social media. Wikipedia is not just an encyclopedia, it is also an online community of volunteer editors that created the largest encyclopedia in human history. Today, Wikipedia contains 13,000,000 articles in more than 260 languages. It didn’t exist ten years ago. There are advantages and disadvantages to social media. It's currenlty getting a lot of buzz because it describes a whole new mosaic of possibilities in the realm of communications. Take some time to better understand it. 

Read the Wikipedia article on social media to get a  comprehensive overview of the term. This article is the result of many Wikipedia editors collaborating from around the world. I don't present it as the ultimate definition of this new term, though I do offer it as an excellent start--one of the best I've seen. This is part of the genius of Wikipedia, it is ever changing. Wikipedia is criticized because anybody, literally anybody, can edit it, but the end result is often articles that are extremely well written.