Monday, 10 September 2007

Your website is not your product

One the most interesting presentations at Dconstruct07 for someone from my background was ironically at the end. Tom Coates talked about Designing for a Web of Data. It doesn't seem that the podcasts of the presentations are up yet, and I am sure I will get much more when I listen to them. However apart from his obvious enthusiasm and taking us through a world where the absolute location of everyone is potentially available online, the biggest message I came away with is that your website is not your product.

Firstly that fact that the audience general expectations and experiences allowed Tom to present this as possibly surprising, tells us a little. A maker of fine cheese, no matter how good his website and how it enables his worldwide market is never likely to consider that his product is anything but cheese for example. It is though easy to see why many people would naturally consider otherwise, and when I presented this casually as a thought from the conference to a few at work today there were a variety of responses.

Take Twitter, a prime example, the service this website offers is enabled via the network but most of the data people generate is viewed by others on other sites, on other devices (mobile phones for example), presumably via the magic of RSS and API. The data is the product not the web pages at

Increasingly I view the things I am interested in other places than the website they may located on. With RSS feeds I can read blog posts and comments and forum posts etc. on Netvibes or Google Reader. A Chinese learning site I use has written a Facebook application so I can listen to and monitor the lessons in my own personal list of interests without leaving Facebook.

The place where I work is in academic publishing. Once our products were physical journals and magazines and books. What are they now, hmmmm they are not cheese that is for sure, it will require a great leap of technology before I can get my cheese directly via broadband, but in the end our products are words, and pictures and they like individual twits (the output of twitter? I find it hard to keep up) will go down the wires just fine. Already it starts, xml gateways enabling federated search etc. etc.

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