Person of the Year: You

Time’s cover uses a print gimmick: sleek, shiny metalic print – emulating a mirror like surface and reflecting you – the reader.

Time has decided to give its person of the Year award to you. And you and you. All of those those millions of people who are the powerhouse behind what is commonly referred to as ‘Web 2.0′. Web 2.0 is a leap in technology and a leap in terms of the way that users like you and me relate, create and co-create content. The notion of DIY webstuff, the non-famous, non-celebrity, man and woman on the street as author, film-maker, designer is not a new notion, but possibly has seen a definitive peak in 2006.

Phil Korbel, director of Regen Radio – says its too much ‘me, me, me’ out there. Well, after all the word media starts with a me and now the technology actually allows me to quickly, easily publishin to a global audience. The notion of brands as conversations is neither new – brands, besides their logotypes, products etc, exist primarily in the minds and conversations of individuals – the word of mouth (or now blogs) propagates it. Myths, rituals, stories position the brands firmly in our mindsets. Horror stories from our neighbour can make it fall off our mental map.

And then there was the Cluetrain Manifesto as old as 2000 which spoke of powerful global conversations, initiated and created by you and me. If you haven’t read it yet – its worth a visit and read. The core message: markets are conversations. And in the cyberspace – as much as in real life, culture is conversation too – not just words, but pictures, sounds and moving images. Which we co-create.

Mashup Man

By day Amit Gupta is a busy, mild mannered (my guess) IT manager of a Fortune 100 corporation. In his spare time Amit transforms into a super mashupman – ideator and coder of the E41St that has won him a xBox 360 and jury’s acclaim – a place in the annals of the Adobe Flex and of course praise and the big ‘wow’ from users (and bibliophiles) like me.

When looking for my RSA library books over the internet, or my audio books on Audible, my search reveals a long list. Sometimes I am looking for a specific book and often I am looking for a surprise discovery. A few new titles are interesting, or authors I have heard of – and so to check out what other readers are saying, I head off to two more browser windows and internet sites: amazon.co.uk and amazon.com

This is what countless others do as well – the difference being that Amit decided to put his skills to good use and combine all info in one place. There was a challenge in form of the Adobe Flex Developer Derby, a carrot in form of the xBox 360 and the love of books. In 30 days the E41St was up, built in Adobe Flex (Amit’s first brush with Flex). However he commends Adobe for “keeping the ActionScript syntax similar to C/C++/C#/JavaScript/etc and providing samples & documentation. Surely, a seasoned Flash/Flex developer could have designed the app’s internals better than me, but for my purposes, the desired outcome was achieved quickly”. Flex could well be called the next Gen of Flash – delivering RIA – Rich Internet Applications and experiences.

E41St is named after NewYork’s Library Street and the site marries the online catalogue of your own library with user reviews from Amazon. A true mash-up since the richness of the site does not lie in it’s database – but in its dexterity to combine and communicate two distinctive, but useful sets of information. And save your choices in your virtual online bookshelf. The site is work-in-progress, changes are being incorporated everday (my request to add RSA London is one of the many).

The site is clean and simple, incorporates AJAX elements and is quite intuitive to use (I shall not go into a detailed discussion here). The clear hierarchy of categories and sub-categories leads to the right panel with a visual display of title pages. A great treat for many designers. And you can keep searching for more. Its like a search along the x and y axis – with some interesting surprises along the way. Then there is your own bookshelf and if you are in the USA, you may find your own library there as well. E41St is worth a visit – and I am sure your comments and feedback will help Amit make his site better – or simply incorporate your library.

Its interesting that users like you, me and Amit can create or contribute to creating sites that can match brands and corporations in terms of size, reach or usefulness – a true media democracy. Marx would have been a happy man for the tools of production have been truly claimed by the workers themselves.

For more details about AJAX, RIA and Flex just run down to the list of the tech links on the right column.

Bending Light

A magazine, a website and more importantly an inspiration, Bending Light draws upon submissions (around a theme) from enthusiasts and professionals and compiles its periodical flashzine. Though its not a DIY site like Flickr, the website is indeed a testament to media democratisation – the non-professional’s opportunity to showcase their talents. Sunrise over the Pagodas in Bagan, Burma, by German Geophysicist David Haberlah is one of the many interesting takes on our rich, diverse world. The flash mag itself is an excellent example of clean, uncluttered design with thoughtful functionality. The site necessiates a visit (and a bookmark) – and I must let the pictures do the talking. After all a picture is worth a thousand word.