Can Web 2.0 Change Behavior?

April 15, 2008

The mark of a truly great technology is that it changes the way mainstream consumers live their lives. I am a big believer in social media, but I wonder how long it will be before its utility reaches beyond the young and early adopters.

I can think of a lot of consumer devices that have done that. PCs, cell phones, Blackberries, iPods, and digital cameras are all devices that have crept into our lives over the last 15-20 years and now they are ubiquitous. Today, just about every teenager I see has a cell phone in hand and if they are walking alone, chances are they are texting a friend.

Certain web-based applications have had that kind of an impact, too. Email and eCommerce are the two that jump to mind. I have a college friend who is resolutely resisting email, and I can honestly say that he is the only adult I know that is not accessible via email. And eCommerce. When was the last time you called an airline to make a reservation?

Web 2.0 is still young and there are more people on the outside looking in than there are people who are living their lives differently as a result. Yes, many are blogging, though according to Forrester fewer than 5% of adults blog. And many of us are using RSS readers to personalize our information feeds, yet despite the power and simplicity that Google, Yahoo! and others have provided, it’s still a fringe phenomenon. LinkedIn is certainly making a mark, and more and more adults are experimenting with platforms like Facebook and Digg, but when will they change the way mainstream consumers live their lives?

I have a point of view, but would love to hear what you think.

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We’re Off and Running

April 3, 2008

Today we launched our v1.0 site, integrating a ton of feedback from friends and users of our alpha site. We hope to simplify the lives of busy parents by providing a one-stop-shop for everything they need to know and want to discuss with the parents and teachers involved with their children’s schools.

Having spent a lot of time on other community sites, I think our approach is genuinely different. Our hypothesis is that we can bring the 45 million parents of school-aged kids together with an application that delivers real utility.

  • We are interested in helping people in their real (offline) lives
  • We will consolidate information and conversations in one place
  • We organize around existing communities (vs. virtual communities)
  • The site does not require technical skills to navigate

This is all about moving offline communities online. The communities we are looking at — roughly 100,000 schools in the US — are vibrant and committed to the schools that are educating their kids. If we do it right, we can help our users stay up to date on what’s happening in those schools while increasing the level of parental involvement. Research shows that schools with higher levels of involvement tend to perform better, and wouldn’t it be great if we could actually contribute to the education of our children.

If you are a parent, I’m curious to know which resources you rely on to organize your busy life. Are there websites you use? Have you seen others that are doing this well?

I would appreciate your feedback and ideas, and I will provide regular updates on our progress.  Visit the site here.