Thoughts of Boot Camp conjure up dark images from Stanley Kubrick’s classic film “Full Metal Jacket” where reluctant trainees are shipped off to the cold desert in the middle of the night armed only with a green duffle, a birth certificate and pencil in their back pocket – not to mention the impending trepidation of a stringent Drill Sergeant greeting them with hair clippers and a chip on his shoulder.
My recent boot camp experience was slightly different … armed with a extra large coffee, a $16 parking receipt and my laptop strapped to my back, I entered the 14th floor of a downtown Chicago high-rise on a luminous spring morning ready to take on the juggernaut that is Web 2.0. While my Drill Sergeant was also a bit different, after being greeted with a blueberry muffin and a firm handshake, we dove right in to what is affectionately dubbed ‘The Web 2.0 Boot Camp.’
What I learned first was this: the phenomenon that is Web 2.0, isn’t really a phenomenon at all, the conventional ideas of network effects, sharing and harnessing collective intelligence were the original thoughts of Sir Tim Berners-Lee nearly 20 years ago but the lack of broadband connections mixed with a few preposterous ideas caused the bubble burst and delayed some enormous potential. So what is Web 2.0? And how can we as PR professionals utilize this as a new growing medium for our clients? This is what I was here to find out. Tim O’Reilly defines it as “Networked applications that explicitly leverage network effects.”
What I came to learn is that this simply means the unvarying revolving door of consuming and more importantly sharing. The Web used to be a force-feeding relationship but as it evolves users are finding themselves pulling content that is important to them abandoning the original Web 1.0 ‘push’ model. The Web is no longer about Institutions but rather communities – institutions force control, while communities tout growth. Blogs, Wiki, RSS and Tagging are all tools of the sharing community, allowing us all to communicate this collective intelligence.
The core principle of what I learned was how we harness this collective intelligence. My instructor offered an example that nearly knocked me out of my seat. When Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans millions were asking if loved ones were homeless, relocated or even alive. The Red Cross was bombarded by calls from loved ones all over the world — survivors quickly emerged and announced their whereabouts via blogging. People watching the Web’s syndication “ecosystem” noticed the reports and a small group harnessed these reports out of the blogosphere and centralized the listing of over 50,000 survivor reports in the first 3 days after the disaster.
Community and relationships are some of the core principles of Public Relations and these are the foundations of Web 2.0. There isn’t nearly enough space to go over what I learned at boot camp but what we have in front of us from a public relations perspective is a brand new medium that could define our client’s audience forever — its extremely exhilarating and a little terrifying all at the same time …