Friday, October 10, 2008

One Web, Many Cultures - Reaching Out

I'm not entirely sure where this post is going, nor do i have any conclusions in mind. I have simpy been thinking about this for some years and feel like writing it down. I'm not sure what tone it will have for the person reading, but it is intended to ask some questions rather than make any kind of statement! Let me first say that i am from Scotland and have live in England, Italy, Canada and Chile in the last 15 years - i wrote books and used the web constantly in each.

I listened to Kevin Marks interview with Jemima Kiss at the Guardian and other than Kevin sounding incredibly similar to a friend of mind, the part that jumped out of me was his comments that many of the big social networks have done well out of users they just didn't expect. US technology companies growing "execpectedly" from string user bases in Russia, Brazil, China and so on - in other words from users NOT in North America.

So, I wrote on Twitter :

"that was an interesting interview Kevin. Given the cultural luck many networks
have do you think we need to put more work in involving other cultures right
from the start rather than once the technology is ready?"

Kevin Marks of Google made the point to me on Twitter that :

"the technology is ready, and has been for a while. Finding people to
bridge app ideas to other cultures and language is still hard."

My wording wasn't great (140 characters isn't much!) so this is what i meant....

Much of the technology driving the web is coming from specific locations in the US - mostly California - there is some input from the rest of us through discussion groups and so on, but primarily it is driven offline. This is understandable on many points due to the huge concentration of top people over there who are much like myself - driven and excited by the potential of the web as a platform that can fit into the daily life of everyone on the planet - in the many different ways people will use it. Also, at the moment virtual working groups are still a work in progress.

Now, oftentimes i get frustrated that i'm not amongst it - i had hoped to some years back startig with OpenID - (every week on twitter there is another cool event somewhere in the US where all the guys and gals get together to push these things forward). However, something that must be more frustrating is little involvement other cultures in the rest of the world must feel - at least i speak (bad) English and can follow in the forums and blog posts (and every so often post in the forums). What if you speak Chinese and want to use oAuth? Or Spanish? Say you want to add to it or suggest a change? There are a few involved, but this is very much the exception and if you check the board membership for most of these initiatives you can see they are based in the US and often (but not always) part U.S. web companies.

I think it is a problem waiting for a solution - the problem is how to integrate other languages and cultures so that the open web can be something that fits for everyone. If Orkut surprisingly managed to get a dominant user base in Brazil, was there something different to what other social networks were offering which made this happen? Does anyone know? In Africa it is suggested the uptake of mobile phones will continue to be huge - how do these efforts fit into their plans for a social web?

There are many of these folks who do a lot of evangelizing for these efforts so perhaps they can get to know active people who could get involved in the core specifications from Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and so on. It's worth remembering this IS one web, but has many cultures and what fits one may not fit all.

No comments: