Getting Started with Web 2.0

This is a brief tutorial for students who are just getting started with Web 2.0.

What is Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is a buzzword meant to capture the remarkable changes (some say revolution) in the way the web is now starting to work. Web 2.0 refers to new websites that are more dynamic, user-driven, and interlinked (and interlinked in new and interesting ways). Associated buzzwords are social networking, tags, mashups, RSS, XML, wikis, podcasts, blogs, trackbacks, pingbacks, and Ajax. If you haven’t heard these terms yet, you soon will. Popular examples of Web 2.0 sites include:

How can Web 2.0 help you be a better student?

Those of you who have spent hours upon hours on Facebook may find this hard to believe, but when used in certain ways, Web 2.0 can actually help you:

  • be more productive
  • find higher quality and more relevant information
  • stay in touch with the most cutting edge research in any field
  • collaborate more effectively with others
  • create networks that may help you get a job or get into graduate school

The path to a better Web 2.0:

1. Switch from Internet Explorer to Firefox.

Firefox can be downloaded for free here. As demonstrated below, Firefox offers several advantages that will help you be more productive on the web.

2. Personalize Firefox with useful add-ons.

The advantage of Firefox is in its add-on capabilities. They are added by a simple click of the mouse. You can browse through the possibilities here.

3. Set up your launch pad into hyperspace: Netvibes.

At this point it might be helpful to share an image of my own Netvibes portal.


Netvibes is one of many new personalized portal services. Notice all of the boxes. Some boxes are small applications, like a notepad, calendar, and “to do” list. But most of the boxes are bringing RSS feeds to my homepage. An RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed is a way for news organizations, academic journals, book publishers, and virtually anybody who distributes information to distribute that information without any markup or formatting, so that your own browser or website can format it and make it look nice on your own page. You can add any RSS feed to a website like Netvibes. This allows you to have all of your favorite sites that are frequently updated viewable on one single page.

To add an RSS feed on Netvibes, all you do is click on the “Add content” button in the upper left-hand corner of the page. A sidebar opens up with a listing of the most popular feeds (everything from CNN to ESPN to Slashdot and Digg). This is just the beginning though. You can add any feed in the world simply by clicking on “Add my feed” and posting the address of the feed.

4. Exploit tabbed browsing by setting up multiple homepages.

Don’t stop there. You’re launch pad is still not complete. With Firefox’s tabbed browsing feature, you can actually set multiple pages as your starting point. Personally, I have set the following sites as my starting point as I like to always have them available to me while I am doing research:

5. Sign up for Diigo

Diigo is a “social bookmarking” site like that takes it up a notch and allows you to add highlights and notes on any web page. It serves the following useful purposes:

  • easily keep track of sites and articles that interest you
  • keep brief notes on each site or article
  • highlight and add stickynotes anywhere on the page
  • access your bookmarks and notes from anywhere
  • share your bookmarks with others
  • see what other people have bookmarked who have similar interests as you

The best part is that these services are *very* easy to use. Once you sign up you can then install a “diigolet” or toolbar to your Firefox toolbar. Whenever you are at a site that you would like to bookmark, just click your Diigo button and enter a few descriptive tags and notes. The more you research, the larger your library becomes.
6. Create Diigo or RSS feeds on topics that interest you.

One of the best ways to find new content is to create RSS feeds for Diigo or tags that interest you. For example, if you are interested in globalization, add the RSS feed: to your Netvibes page. The moment anybody anywhere tags a site “globalization” you will see it on your Netvibes page.
7. Realize that this is just the beginning. Check out this list or “The Best of Web 2.0″ to see what other amazing sites are currently being created and how they might help you do better research and be more productive on the web.


Associate professor of cultural anthropology. Ed Traceur. Hacker. Car-free.

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  1. October 30, 2007

    [...] For those interested in the revolution in communications, technology, and culture, Wesch has made the text of the video available here. Wesch’s students have put together about 30 videos that anthropologically explore different aspects communication via platforms like YouTube. It serves as a metaphor for interative digital communication and community. You might also like Wesch’s introduction to Web 2.0. [...]

  2. January 15, 2008

    [...] Wesch and his Digital Ethnography class at Kansas State University a couple times in the past (here, and here). His class, and especially the videos that have been produced as a result are a wonder.latest post is a wealth of information related to putting together a YouTube mash-up. There is so much good information here, and it starts with a link to a great tutorial on Web 2.0. Moregreat resources include the article Recut, Reframe, Recycle from American University’s Center for Social Media. He mentions one of my favorite tools, Video DownloadHelper, a Firefox plugin that assists you in grabbing/downloading YouTube videos (and other media!). He puts a plug in for a video conversion site called that does media conversion. I’ve used that one, but I’ll put in my vote for another site called Zamzar that performs a similar service and adds, document, image, and audio conversion as well. He also mentions using music with a Creative Commons license, and provides Jamendo as a good place to find some CC tunes. [...]

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