Wednesday, June 23

Going Somewhere: Why Bhakdi's Web 3.0 Feels Like Web 2.1


Johannes Bhakdi, chef knowledge architect of sophotec.com, published an interesting little book earlier this year that has gone largely unnoticed. There many be some good reasons for that.

The book comes across as a fleshed out PowerPoint. The price point is high. And for all his experience working with companies like McDonald's, MasterCard, Microsoft, Siemens, and Unilever for BBDO and J. Walter Thompson, Bhakdi isn't necessarily established in the social media mix where this book might be appreciated (despite the price point).

Like many creative strategists, he tends to be less visible despite his contributions. And with the exception of Slideshare and perhaps a slow loading Klatcher site, his social media presence doesn't seem especially established. There may even be an irony in that Bhakdi wanted to implement his book using a model in the book, which suggests success provided the marketing is right. Unfortunately, I'm not convinced the marketing is right.

Web 3.0 User-Generated Business • and why everyone becomes a media entrepreneur

But where Bhakdi is at the moment hardly matters within the context of the book. The real question is whether or not there is any real value inside the pages of Web 3.0 - User-Generated Business. There is some.

The Historic Context. The opening chapters present a quick history of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. They are interesting enough for any newcomers to the Web, with an underlying emphasis on why Web 2.0 was a disaster. Specifically, the average online author earns about 25 cents per hour. Yep. That's a disaster for anyone except hobbyists.

The Theoretical Sidebar. One of my favorite portions of Web 3.0 has little to do with the Internet. What Bhakdi does very clearly is define the two faces of capitalism against socialism. The latter, he says, tends to organize people in working for the common good but falls short because then people are less inclined to contribute anything useful.

As for capitalism, he discusses how one facet can be destructive and exploitive, driven by ruthless people looking to earn quick profits for as little value as possible. And he stresses that it doesn't have to be that way. Most business people have a more transformative view of capitalism and add positive value on their terms and then change the world with a win-win construct. It's eloquently explained, certainly worth a follow-up post here someday.

The Visionary Construct. Personally, I was never very fond of the assumption that everybody would become a media entrepreneur, but I've always been comfortable that "anybody" could be. This one word makes a big difference.

Otherwise, I've never understood this ever-present assumption that people want to be media entrepreneurs. From everybody I've spoken with online and off for the last ten years, most people can't be bothered. Sure, some like to create and share content, but most just want to connect with friends, play games, and read the news.

Still, even for that small percentage of people who do want to create content, Bhakdi raises one good point. The current Web 2.0 structure allows platform providers to generate income from content creators who work for free. Ergo, Twitter would be nothing without the flurry of moderately visible pros who put up content and contribute daily.

However, Bhakdi's solution to fix this doesn't necessarily add up as much as he would like. Eventually, he sees Web 3.0 as a place where content is assigned value. In other words, quality content would receive higher compensation over the shareable silliness that tends to drive Web 2.0.

As much as I agree with the idea, I'm not sure it's pragmatic. Intellectual property has variable values that are largely based on perception.

The Blueprint. Bhakdi does a solid job at outlining a social media content business model in the last chapter. For me, I wish it came much earlier. Reading 150 pages of anecdotal conversation when the real content starts on page 151 is troublesome. It's the primary reason I read so few social media books.

By the time you arrive at the last chapter, Bhakdi outlines Web 3.0 into three parts: outreach (social networks), core media assets (a site or blog), and opportunities for monetization (Zazzle, Ad Sense, Lulu.) There is nothing wrong with that except that it's what exists now. So unless I missed something, the blueprint is not so unprecedented.

Final Thoughts About Web 3.0 User-Generated Business

Web 3.0 User-Generated Business has some high points, but it's difficult to consider it a book. It's a PowerPoint conversion with added conversation. There are a few high points and novices might find it worthwhile. But anybody beyond the entry level of monetization concepts will find it anti-climactic.

Simply put, if you are among the relatively small audience who is already dabbling in becoming a media entrepreneur, you aren't likely to find a breakthrough in this book. However, if you are a blogger who is just considering monetization, then Bhakdi's book may help you get up to speed, assuming you haven't connected with people who write about this stuff daily.

Otherwise, Web 3.0 User-Generated Business comes across as what I call a "business card book," which is indicative of most books being introduced in the field. I don't get it. Most social media books are long on attempting to demonstrate thought leadership by sharing what a healthy percentage already know with the shrinking pool of people who don't know anything.

Further, in using his own social media assets as examples, the book seems to miss out on a viable purpose. If the book, using its own blueprint, aims at being the revenue generator, then more care might have been taken to ensure it didn't pitch platforms owned by the author. That said, the book seems less interesting than the impossibly slow-loading Klatcher (the first time anyway) or Bhakdi's posts and presentations. Get to know him in those places first.
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