Heckling Adaptive Path Matt 01 Dec 2005

73 comments Latest by Larry Wall

First, go and read “Experience Attributes: Crucial DNA of Web 2.0” over at Adaptive Path.

Read it? OK, let’s take a closer look.

The industry has spent a lot of time defining Web 2.0 and mapping its DNA. But as we attempt to emulate the fast-growth success of the Web 2.0 darlings, we need to zero in on the parts of the DNA that actually create this noteworthy new value.

Uh, we do?

After the jump: What puts the ‘2’ in Web 2.0?

What puts the ‘2’ in Web 2.0?
Your instinct may tell you that some of the DNA-like attributes of Web 2.0 have been around for some time, and in truth, many have. So why didn’t we see Web 2.0 offerings popping up years ago? Because these older attributes, while significant, weren’t enough to produce viable Web 2.0 products.

Some of the attributes we associate with Web 2.0 were introduced and commercialized as early as the mid 1990s; let’s call these Foundation Attributes. The figure detail below is part of a PDF that separates these “significant but not sufficient” attributes from the more recent Experience Attributes, those that create the kind of value that’s caused the recent excitement over Web 2.0.

Has anyone ever asked “What puts the ‘2’ in Web 2.0?” And you’ve gotta check out the What puts the ‘2’ in Web 2.0? chart [PDF]. I’m totally going to blow it up to poster-size and hang it above my bed. Jason says he’s going to use it as wrapping paper for Christmas.

Also, I’m digging the idea of “frictionless commerce” mentioned in the chart. Though I wonder, can this term be replaced by “lubricated commerce”? That would truly be a penetrating buzzword.

When Experience Attributes are combined with Foundation Attributes for a Web 2.0 offering, the result can be a valuable new service with a fast-growth business model.

There’s totally a “Web 2.0 Success Formula” here: EA + FA = W2.0 = FGBM. Somebody get me a patent application.

By blurring the lines that traditionally delineate supplier, vendor, and customer, these services have pioneered new value streams that can output new types of offerings, harness new efficiencies, and produce higher levels of continuous innovation. Experience Attributes make Web 2.0 offerings fierce competitors in their respective marketplaces.

New value streams! Harnessed new efficiencies! Higher levels of continuous innovation!!! Yes!!!!* If this is Web 2.0 then why does this stuff sound so familiar?

* OK, we’re just jealous that we didn’t go to grad school.

73 comments so far (Jump to latest)

ML 01 Dec 05

Oh, and before you get your panties in a twist: I keed, I keed. If we can’t laugh at Web 2.0 then the terrorists have already won.

Matt 01 Dec 05

The pdf crashes my viewer.

What a great web 2.0 experience.

Steven Woods 01 Dec 05

The PDF crashes my viewer too… ho hum

Steven Woods 01 Dec 05

Actually can i be the first to say:

“What the flying fuck are they talking about?”

Do they just make a whole bunch of shit up to make themselves look clever in the hope of impressing PHBs enough to get work? Isn’t that what fucked companies up in ‘Web 1.0’… am I missing something here?

NathanB 01 Dec 05

I’m sick of people talking about the DNA of businesses or trends. Businesses may “evolve” and they may be exist in a market “environment”, but they certainly do not have DNA.


Rahul 01 Dec 05

Kevin Bacchus of Xbox fame once said of Xbox 360 “the 360 in the name illustrates the direction we’re moving the games industry in”. I thought that statement was the perfect illustration for misplaced trendster buzzwords like that: you’re just biting yourself in the ass and not actually getting anywhere.

Anonymous Coward 01 Dec 05

Ahh, so this is what grad school does to you.

zx 01 Dec 05

this year biggest time waster

best regards,
web 2.0

Don Wilson 01 Dec 05

I really hope we can develop an intelligent method of developing websites instead of flashy javascript apps.

Chris Renner 01 Dec 05

I love sarcastic SvN

SH 01 Dec 05

Look, I’m just as annoyed and bored with AP’s self-righeous bullshit “essays” about stupid Web 2.0, but the little school-girl nitpicking you guys throw around about it is annoying as well. I understand you’re kidding, it’s very clear, but seriously what is the point? So you don’t like it. So you roll your eyes at it. So what? If I recall correctly, you just shut down comments on your site because of all the “negativity” being spewed and here you are basically teasing a competitor like a group of spoiled children picking on the new kid in school.

I get it, it’s your site, but seriously. Grow up. Let AP serve their audience and you serve yours.

Britt 01 Dec 05

Reading that made me want to output my breakfast in a new chunky stream.

Anonymous Coward 01 Dec 05

SH I believe their point is that this stuff needs to be called out (and my does it ever!). They’re calling Bullshit on AP on this one. AP is a leader in this field and they’re spewing this crap. Someone needs to say HALT! Decide for yourself if you agree.

Somehow I can’t imagine Jeff Veen would approve of this essay.

Nick Wilson 01 Dec 05

Well well well, we really are overstretching the buzzword thing here a bit aren’t we. I generally have a pretty healthy respect for those guys, but that’s just drivel — wait for steve rubel to get hold of it, he’ll wet his pants with excitement…

Anonymous Coward 01 Dec 05

Give the guy a break, he’s just out of school and fresh on the job. This is his first post grad project.

Anonymous Coward 01 Dec 05

A break? “He has nearly a decade of experience developing new products, services, and user experiences on the Web, handhelds, and beyond.” Fresh outta school?

Jennie Robinson 01 Dec 05

I have to believe it’s a joke.

Jeff 01 Dec 05

Best. Post. Ever.

dusoft 01 Dec 05

That PDF is somehow broken - misaligned images etc.

The essay could full of bullshit, but the graph inside the PDF looks OK mapping the historical points.

Ryan 01 Dec 05

I’m trying to start a company like AP but I can’t find staff that are attractive enough to post high-res images of their faces on our blog.

I might just download some images from getty-one. Should do the job. Let just hope we never have to speak any any confrences…

iain 01 Dec 05

But.. Who puts the ‘.’ in Web2.0?

Jamie 01 Dec 05

Jeff: Best. Comment. Ever.

coudal 01 Dec 05

So that was written by a ‘Senior Practitioner?’ God forbid that the AP underclassmen ever get to post.

Don Wilson 01 Dec 05

Who’s limiting someone to post? We’re just making comments on the article, not saying that he shouldn’t post crap like this.

Christopher Fahey 01 Dec 05

Based on that URL it looks like Paul Graham is up to Web TWENTY!

Mr eel 01 Dec 05

Puffed up nonsense like this needs to be mocked. Really what the hell did all that mean? Experience attributes? Buh?

I’m guessing that there are some useful points buried within that article, but I think you could have said it more quickly and clearly if it was put in plain language.

“So why didn�t we see Web 2.0 offerings popping up years ago? Because these older attributes, while significant, weren�t enough to produce viable Web 2.0 products.”

What attributes?! Why weren’t they enough? *weeps*

Darrel 01 Dec 05

This is all Bush’s fault.

Jack 01 Dec 05

What we really should be asking is where are the Web 3.0 attributes and what can we do to recognise them NOW? Why are we wasting our lives yammering on about 2.0 when people are already out there inventing 3.0?!

I want to be the next Flickr.

Mike D. 01 Dec 05

Hmmm, seems like a bit of an over-reaction to something that seems no more nonsensical than 95% of the “web 2.0 position statements” I read these days. Is it that you really think what Brandon wrote is nonsense? Or is it just that it’s below what you expect from Adaptive Path?

If it’s the second, then ok… they’ve set the bar pretty high so maybe this isn’t an Essay of The Year candidate for them… but if it’s the first, I don’t know… it doesn’t seem worthy of public ridicule from what should be a professional colleague.

It’s certainly a more useful read in my RSS Aggregator than this string of chum from Tuesday’s SVN feed: 1) a post about a 37s seminar (fine), 2) An update saying that the seminar is 25% sold out, 3) Another update saying it’s 50% sold out, 4) Another update saying it’s sold out, and then 5) A entirely separate post dedicated to communicating how quickly the seminar sold out.

I don’t mean to flame here, but it begins to smack of Tony Robbins meets QVC after awhile…


Mike D.

ryanH 01 Dec 05

“Let’s be respectful of one another. Thank you.”


JF 01 Dec 05

Mike, I think it’s healthy for the industry to call Bullshit on itself once in a while. Colleagues certainly enjoying calling Bullshit on us. And that’s cool and it’s good. A bunch of Yes men only pushes mediocrity forward.

I personally felt that what Brandon wrote was pretty close to nonsense, yes. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying so. I find it difficult to read that essay and make any practical sense of it (and I’m smack dab in the middle of this stuff).

I do expect more from an Adaptive Path essay. I have great respect for the folks over there (we happily refer clients their way now that we’re not doing client work). We don’t always see eye to eye, but we don’t have to. But when they publish something that reads like that we’re going to call them on it (and have a good time doing so). Did we go over the line? Maybe, but sometimes that’s how you make a point.

We called bullshit on the logo, naming, and tagline industry in 2000 with eNormicom. We’re calling bullshit on “New value streams, harnessed new efficiencies, foundation attributes, experience attributes, 2.0 DNA, and higher levels of continuous innovation” today. That’s all.

“Let’s be respectful of one another. Thank you.”

We added this *after* we posted this message ;) Nah, really, we’re just having some fun. I think AP can see that and can take it.

Mike D. 02 Dec 05

Jason: Fair enough, and I of course agree that the industry calling bullshit on itself can be a good thing. I guess I just get more out of it when it’s in broad provocative strokes rather than rapid-fire paintballs.

The Paul Graham essay is a perfect example of how to shoot down the Web 2.0 hype without attacking anyone and extract the kernel of importance that *so* wants to be extracted. That’s what makes the guy such a great writer and influencer. Zeldman shares this same gift, and it’s definitely something everyone should work on for themselves. I don’t know about you but I get the temptation to call bullshit on *something* every single day of my life. But man, if I ever decide to do it online in front of the world, it’s usually because I was either personally insulted by something or the person I’m calling bullshit on has no credibility with me.

Otherwise, I usually just shut up about it and thank my lucky stars that this industry has enough morons in it to make even you and I look good occasionally. :)

JF 02 Dec 05

Mike, you’re right, there are more tactful ways to criticize. We try to go there as often as we can, but sometimes we get blunt and let it all hang out. Sometimes that’s what it takes to cut through the fog. And then sometimes the subject matter hangs there like a big fat frilly pinata and we can’t help but take a big swing and bust it wide open.

Andy Duncan 02 Dec 05

I just laughed so hard I peed a little.

Anonymous Coward 02 Dec 05

The ten years of experience was before grad school. Brandon graduated in May this year. Like I said, give the guy a break.

Chris 02 Dec 05

Looks like we need a few new words added to the Web 2.0 drinking game. Best phrase of the article? Hotly contested, but mash-up ecologies is the winner for me.

Vinny 02 Dec 05

Razorfish 2.0!

Steven Woods 02 Dec 05

The main problem I have with this article is the fact that I assumed we as professionals were meant to be making the internet seem less scary to our clients, while still remaining professional.

Seems to me this entire article is a case of someone trying to make themselves look very clever, but crashing and burning in front of the very audience they’re trying to appeal to - the clients.

I mean come off it … you can’t seriously tell me Adaptive Path talk this way in any of their seminars.. you’d fall asleep in a second.

Less buzzwords, more clarification - thats my definition of Web 2.0, you can’t hide behind nerdy terms any more people want business results and they want to be able to understand it without getting burnt by some high-flying post-graduates like they did in the late 1990’s - people have learned.

Sadly companies like Adaptive Path come across like sleazy salesmen (not unlike the people at my last job) who can talk til the cows come home about subjects like this using crazy buzzwords (Ajax, 2.0 DNA, Founder Attributes, wtf?), which serve only to make yourselves look more important than you really are. Once clients wise to this, be warned and research into some recent history.

*patiently awaiting the latest Web 2.0 bubble to burst so we can reflect on how cheesy and sickening this whole thing is*

P.S. The timeline thing? It’s been done. We know.

Niklas 02 Dec 05

“I�m totally going to blow it up to poster-size and hang it above my bed. Jason says he�s going to use it as wrapping paper for Christmas.”


Jon Vaughan 02 Dec 05

Just goes to prove the power of the buzzword though doesnt it? An empty concept it may be, but Web 2.0 has got everyone talking.

Steven Woods 02 Dec 05

lol - its got everyone talking about how much of a buzzword it is … its not like we didn’t talk about any of the concepts it claims to represent before it was coined.

Anonymous Coward 02 Dec 05


“The ultimate target is Microsoft. What a bang that balloon is going to make when someone pops it by offering a free web-based alternative to MS Office. [5] Who will? Google? They seem to be taking their time. I suspect the pin will be wielded by a couple of 20 year old hackers who are too naive to be intimidated by the idea. (How hard can it be?)”

from: http://www.paulgraham.com/web20.html

Please let this is the next 37s project…

John 02 Dec 05

I believe the AP article is satire.

Rob Sanheim 02 Dec 05

John: It would truly be a fine piece of satire if that is true.

Ryan 02 Dec 05

I can confirm (through experience) that that is how you’re taught to write in grad school.

Brandon Cox 02 Dec 05

I prefer “Web II: this time, it’s personal”.

Ara Pehlivanian 02 Dec 05

You know, this is exactly what happens when there’s nothing new going on. Everyone gets on a rehash/buzzwordification trip and lo’ and behold we’ve got Web 2.0, Ajax, and Experience Attributes.

Guys, we’re still using HTTP, HTML, JavaScript and well, nobody’s re-invented the wheel since last I checked.

Of course, you could always unify the indemnificatory procedural texturizer and sprinkle in a little value-added consumerized portal plugins and wow, there’s your streamlined, frictionless, lubricated Web 3.01 Experience. Oh and mind the AJAX, ‘cuz now it comes with BLEACH and too much of that can ruin your colors.

Alex Cabrera 02 Dec 05

I better everything would have been cool if they would have peppered “less” every other sentence.

Pot. Kettle. I’d like both of you to meet black.

Alex Cabrera 02 Dec 05

*edit* How bet became better in my previous comment, I’ll never know.

secretstar 02 Dec 05

count the gradients!

Travis Schmeisser 02 Dec 05

Man, I’m glad I saw this post because I was feeling slightly retarded for not understanding a damn word of those confusing terms and jargon.

evan 02 Dec 05

i wish we could all go back to web 0.2

Ara Pehlivanian 02 Dec 05

Web 0.2… hah! Classic.

Anonymous Coward 02 Dec 05

Wouldn’t it be Web 2.0 of Adaptive Path to monitor RSS feeds and respond to this post here in the comments thread? Or are they too busy churning out the next buzzword?

Dan Saffer 02 Dec 05

Hey, it’s not easy churning out buzzwords. You should see the Ajax (tm) application we had to build to help create them! Chock full of Crucial Web 2.0 DNA (tm) and somewhere in the middle of the Web 2.0 Experience Continuum (tm)!

Seriously, I personally appreciate the critiques and commentary, although I’m also glad they aren’t directed at me. I had nothing to do with this essay, but I think my colleague Brandon was trying to explain a new way of looking at what’s going on, and that’s not an easy thing to do. The essay does has a good idea at its core: that a bunch of the stuff that’s getting called Web 2.0 like The Long Tail has really been around a while, but when combined with the new(er) stuff like co-creation of content, you can get some interesting business models. Admittedly, it took me some time to piece it together myself, and I did go to grad school. :) It might not be as clearly presented as it could be, but it’s not nonsense either.

Sheldon Kotyk 02 Dec 05


Any idea if someone could come up with an English version? Thanks.

Tom Dolan 03 Dec 05

As a fan (and customer) of the work done by both 37S and Adaptive Path, and as someone who’s referred clients to both of them, I think this “critique” is a bit unfortunate, but it maybe seems harsher then intended with the piling on comments.

I think with a little (perhaps a little too much) effort, it’s not too hard to get past the editorial style the pretty straight-forward thesis. Is it an appropriate editorial style? Is it counter-productive? That’s a question that’s solely determined by who the target audience is — and I’d have to imagine the most important audience for AP is potential clients. Perhaps those potential clients are young, agressive business school types who respond positively to this writing style. Perhaps the closed circle of jaded webdev pro’s who troll SvN and ALA is not who this essay is for.

I work with a bunch of architects (not info architects, but we build buildings architects). Do they love to talk in self-importance grandiose terms? Yes. Is it personally off-putting to me? Often. Does it help them maintain an aura of importance and respect with the powerful people who are often their clients? Surprisingly so. Do they recognize that their business voice is a calculated marketing tool? Definitely. As does 37S and AP.

Anonymous Coward 03 Dec 05

Tom, I think the problem is that AP has a *very* mixed voice. Go back and read their other essays. Go read their books. Attend their workshops. Talk to them in person. This essay is *not* the voice of AP.

If I hire AP, which AP do I get? How do I know who AP is? Do I get to pick who I want to work with, or am I assigned someone? Cause if I like how Veen or Becker talks, but I get Schauer, I’m going to be disappointed.

Great companies selling a focused service have a unified voice. Yes, when GE sells aircraft engines they speak differently than when they sell lightbulbs, but AP’s services are focused yet their voice isn’t.

Tom Dolan 03 Dec 05

AC, maybe. I don’t find the essay’s voice *that* disjunctive from the chorus of voices at AP, who all have their own not-too-well-submergered personality. I’d say AP is very straight-forward in presenting themselves as a band of consultants who are free to sometimes disagree with each other (PeterMe and JJG did a presentation in Boston where they staged a seemingly heartfelt unresolved debate at the AIGA National Design conference), sort of like the NN Group —- strong individual voices all. What I get out of this thread is just distaste for the style in general. Perhaps well-deserved, but perhaps beside the point.

Mike D. 03 Dec 05

I don’t know, Coward, I’m with Tom Dolan on this one. You say Adaptive Path has a very mixed voice but this person is not part of that voice? The mere fact that Brandon works there and is “allowed” to post things on behalf of the company indicates that he certainly is part of that voice.

There is plenty of room for “easy to digest” essays and “difficult to digest” essays at a company like Adaptive Path and if this one fits in the second category, then so be it. Maybe it’s not the sort of essay the company would hand out to a prospective client with no web experience, but there’s certainly a time and a place where it serves its purpose… even if that purpose, as Tom says, is to create an “aura of importance”. It’s not a bad thing if your clients think you know more than they do. You’re *supposed* to know more. The key test is whether, after working with you, they feel smarter than they did before. If yes, then you’ve likely done a pretty good job.

I think the key disagreement I see here between the two camps in this post (and comments) is really *not* whether Brandon’s post is *bullshit*. It’s not bullshit, and if you think it is, let’s see your own “Web 2.0 paper”. The key disagreement, instead, is whether academically toned essays about Web 2.0 have run their course.

In other words, is anyone even benefitting anymore from hearing yet another high-level opinion about Web 2.0?

Some people might say Tim O’Reilly wrote the only high-level piece you need to know, and I don’t entirely disagree with that.

richard 03 Dec 05

Who put the two
In the web two point oh?

Who put the bomp
In the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?
Who put the ram
In the rama lama ding dong?
Who put the bop
In the bop shoo bop shoo bop?
Who put the dip
In the dip da dip da dip?
Who was that man?
I’d like to shake his hand
He made my baby
Fall in love with me

Alexandre Roche 03 Dec 05

Honestly…. If these guys spent less time writing essays and more time doing great work… welll…. they’d actually be worth talking about.

So they’re smart? So what? Can they do great work instead of just talking about it? Talk is cheap.
I really dislike them.

Rob B. 04 Dec 05

I actually read the AP essay a couple of days ago and I have to admit, I was impressed with the fancy talk even if it did take several read-throughs before I understood its basic premise. It wasn’t until I read this critique that I realized it shouldn’t have been so hard to understand.

The AP piece has some interesting and valid points but they could have been made with half the text and in plainer speak.

So for me, this entry on SvN has been valuable for putting the AP essay into perspective. I agree with Mike D. and others that it is perhaps over the top in its criticism but, hey, it made *me* pay attention. The folks at Adaptive Path should take note rather than be insulted.

Alexandre, I believe Adaptive Path does great work. Their essays are meant for the benefit of all of us who work on the web and are given out freely. The point of this entry was to call bullshit on that particular essay, not the whole organization.

Sam Ryan 04 Dec 05

I’ve noticed that a lot of the things you can do with Web 2.0 technology are very cool: Flickr, 43things, Writeboard, rollyo, and all the rest deserve their mad props.
What I don’t understand is the need to classify the unification of Javascript, HTML, Flash, and XMLHTTwhatchamacallit as a revolution in design.
It seems to me that a lot of the Internet is still laboring under Web 0.5. Sites like Google, MySpace, and Hotmail - the most popular and most visited by *normal* people - still fail basic HTML validation tests. The standards revolution of a few years ago still hasn’t taken root for a lot of people - are we calling XHTML/CSS sites Web 1.0 and ignoring that which came before?
If I were a design firm, which I’m not, I would steer well clear of talking about web “version numbers” and simply tell people, “I make web sites. Look at this one.”
In my opinion, the greatest minds of the Internet (that’s you lot) should focus all energy on making it a better place, not bickering over what to call your process for it. As Paul Graham said, it’s a bad idea to have a special word for doing something correctly.

Joeseph Malik 06 Dec 05

While we are at it, can we get rid of the term “solutions” on websites?

It makes me want to Ralph Wiggum after awhile when I see that word.

You have solutions? HA!

Ken Rossi 08 Dec 05

hahahhaa…I was scrolling down past all the BS just to write this and Joe beat me to it… but I will say it anyway.

We have got the e-solution of all solutions for you!!!

Anonymous Coward 09 Dec 05

Chris Fahey: “Based on that URL it looks like Paul Graham is up to Web TWENTY!”

Web Twenty, of course, will introduce real life macros to the web experience, and will render HTTP little more than a protocol for passing Lisp around.

Sammy 09 Dec 05

Chris Fahey: “Based on that URL it looks like Paul Graham is up to Web TWENTY!”

Web Twenty, of course, will introduce real life macros to the web experience, and will render HTTP little more than a protocol for passing Lisp around.

Squig 12 Dec 05

I started to go off AP a few months ago after receiving one of their regular newsletters.

For a company of web usability experts, they sure managed to make it as difficult as possible for me to follow a simple link to a PDF they’d plugged. I’m no web newbie but I had to go back and forth between 2 or 3 pages on their site several times before I spotted the “small” print which told me to enter my _existing_ details into a section clearly marked “Sign Up”!

Pedram 17 Dec 05

Wow a lot of posts here… I just wanted to join in…
I can’t read crap like that with a straight face,
when do we go from technologists and diagnosticians to
ribonucleic web 2.0 genetic marker makers, this has got
to be the most bs packed in a venture capital cry for help
i’ve seen this side of the dot com crash…

ringmaster 03 Feb 06

Hold on, a guy with gratuitous product titles like the below is cappin on adaptivepath for their metaphors? What, are ya lookin to wire, the cub scouts?!?

37signals products:
Basecamp project management

Backpack information manager

Campfire group business chat

Larry Wall 15 Apr 06

Here is an idea of what what Adaptive Path is all about.