In 1997 when Earth Online was published, the World Wide Web was an amazing network of computers bringing information in a variety of forms to the desktops of those with an Internet connection. Today, the Web has evolved into a mass media pipeline of information resources, commerce, and yes, crime. In 2004, O’Reilly Media in collaboration with Media Live International sponsored “Web 2.0″ conferences. Web 2.0 refers to a second generation of Internet-based services that emphasize collaboration and sharing. Web 2.0 innovators describe it in a number of complementary ways. Some see Web 2.0 as an evolution of the web from site containers of information to hubs of online services, i.e., online office productivity suites, online photo editing services. The highest level Web 2.0 application only exists on the Internet and derives its value from the human connection facilitated by a digital online social community like Wikipedia and MySpace. Fundamentally, this is how Tim Berners-Lee envisioned the purpose behind the WWW . He was interested in creating an environment for sharing real time information with physics colleagues to collaborate on.
You are probably familiar with several examples of Web 2.0 applications. The blog you’re reading right now is an example of a Web 2.0 service. It permits information dissemination, collaboration and commentary within an open or closed online community. The search engine company Google is transforming itself into a Web 2.0 juggernaut. Google Docs, an online word processor was used to write this blog entry. It has the advantage of storing the document on a server that is accessible from any Internet-connected computer. It is platform-independent and thus able to be used within a web browser on a number of different operating systems and computers. Documents can be shared and published on the Web for all to view. Wikipedia is another example of Web 2.0 applications. Grown to over a million entries, this collaborative reference is becoming widely used by the public. Concerns have been raised about the validity of some contributions. Webware.com can keep you up-to-date with new web-based products and services.
Web 2.0 and Geosciences
The material you’re reading right now is being delivered by one of the most ubiquitous applications of Web 2.0 technology, a weblog or blog. A weblog is a diary or journal of sorts, a record of commentary posted by the owner and readers. Many blogs simply report or synthesize information found on other sites, such as this blog does . These blogs serve as aggregators of information rather than delivering new content. I primarily use the Earth Online blog to update what was a printed text (now available in digital format ). An amazing site is Go to Ron Schott’s Geology Home Companion blog containing wonderful photos, QTVRs, and links to earth science related web resources. Academic departments use like Radford University’s Geography Department uses a blog to discuss currents, department functions, professional activities among faculty, students and staff.
Wikis are used in a variety of ways by geoscientists. In response to the ever increasing cost of textbooks, professionals are turning to wikis as a means of publishing textbooks. WikiBooks provides the structure upon which collaborating authors can write and distribute books. A fledgling book about Volcanoes has been started on the site. A major criticism of wikis is the lack of peer review. Misinformation can creep into these works either by accident or on purpose. Unbalanced discourse can creep into posting. Some wiki book projects screen and limit potential contributors to ensure quality and validity. Educators find wikis a good way to promote collaborative learning. Group research projects can be facilitated with a wiki and student contributions monitored.
Google Earth is one of the best known Web 2.0 applications available today. It is a freely downloadable virtual globe program. Satellite imagery, aerial photography and GIS data are superimposed on a 3D globe to map the Earth’s surface. Users can create fly-bys and post them to the Web for sharing. The Google Earth Blog keeps you up-to-date with news, features, tips, technology, and applications related to Google Earth.
The following has several Web 2.0 examples:
References used for this posting: