Chris Holmes and Architectures of Participation

My good friend Chris Holmes’s recent Tech Talk to Google is now available on Google video. Chris’s work touches on a lot of things, but you can think of it as helping to implement an open standards and open source-based infrastructure for things like Google Maps and Google Earth. You should check out his thoughts.

I get all excited when Chris talks about open standards as a cornerstone of democracy. With the web changing rapidly, we all need to remember this lesson. The web itself was based on the simple open architecture of HTTP and HTML. Analogous standards exist for geographic data. Chris’s work focuses on expanding the web platform to also support geographic data, much as my work focuses on expanding the web platform to support P2P.

I’ll write more about “architectures of participation” in the future. While “Web 2.0” is a much catchier name, I think “architectures of participation” clears up a lot of the confusion surrounding these issues. I also think it digs deeper. A lot of the Web 2.0 thinking focuses on collaboration on the level of individual web sites. I have no problem with that, and I just love collaborative projects like Wikipedia. There’s a distinct lack of discussion about how architectures of participation at the standards layer enables all of this, though, I think because more people understand web sites than the standards driving them.

Wikipedia would, of course, never exist if we didn’t have HTTP and HTML. HTTP and HTML are really quite simple protocols, but look what they’ve enabled! Imagine what could happen if we really started growing the protocol layer of the web, integrating things like geographic standards and SIP onto standard web projects. What could collaborative projects do atop a more powerful infrastructure? I’m not sure, but it’s a question we should be taking a harder look at.

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