Friday, September 9, 2011

Web 2.0 in the Workplace: Introduction

For those readers unfamiliar with the term Web 2.0, let me borrow a definition from Wikipedia:  "The term Web 2.0 is associated with web applications that facilitate participatory information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design,[1] and collaboration on the World Wide Web."

Whereas "Web 1.0" was a mechanism by which the general public received information over the internet, much like television or radio, Web 2.0 is interactive, allowing the general public to define the contents of the internet.

Wikipedia itself is a classic example of a Web 2.0 website, which permits user contribution and editing to its entries, with certain guidelines for sourcing and contribution and a discussion page for users to debate specific contents of the entry.  While it isn't wholly reliable, it provides a good starting point for understanding...well, just about anything, these days.  To fully understand the power of Web 2.0, note that there are a total of over 19 million Wikipedia articles in approximately 270 languages, totalling over eight billion words.  (In English alone there are over 3.7 million articles with over 2 billion words.)

Other Web 2.0 sites include Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, social networking sites, and even comment sections in online newspaper publications.  All of these are soapboxes for anyone with an internet connection to announce to the world anything they like, from their stance on upcoming elections to what they had for breakfast that morning.

Another site which recently came to my attention is called "Please Fire Me", a site for disgruntled employees to complain about their jobs anonymously.

The impacts of Web 2.0 on the workplace are myriad.  Many people do not really think about who might read the materials they post.  They think of blogs as journals, and of facebook statuses as announcements to their 500 closest friends, regardless of how their privacy settings may be configured.  These issues cannot be ignored by either employers or employees.

So stay tuned for several entries to come on Web 2.0 in the Workplace:

(1)  Recruitment:  How should job-seekers manage their online image?  Should employers Google prospective employees?

(2)  Editorializing:  When can an employer discipline an employee for online posting?  Is posting about the boss, co-workers, or the workplace itself inappropriate? 

(3)  Caught red-handed:  What happens when an online post admits, expressly or impliedly, to workplace misconduct?  (The classic case is the employee who calls in sick, then posts a photo of himself at the ball game.)

(4)  Facebook@Work:  Appropriate use of work computers.


This blog is not intended to and does not provide legal advice to any person in respect of any particular legal issue, and does not create a solicitor-client relationship with any readers, but rather provides general legal information. If you have a legal issue or possible legal issue, contact a lawyer.

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