Quality in the Web 2.0 World

I took a road trip to NASA’s Independent Validation and Verification (IV&V) Facility this week.  It is nestled in the rolling hills of Fairmont, West Virginia.  Other than an unfortunate encounter with one of my Directorate’s Associate Directors, Carl Johnson … the van he was driving … and an unfortunate bunny rabbit … it was an inspiring and successful journey.

The mission of NASA’s IV&V Facility is to provide services that help provide increased assurance that software will operate dependently and reliably.  The Director of the Facility, Dr. Butch Caffall, took me on a marvelous journey with his pen and a legal-size yellow pad on how injecting quality processes and doing the right verifications in the right point in the software project lifecycle, can result in successful missions, lives saved, and reduced risk for catastrophic failures.  The work that Butch and his organization perform helped me understand NASA’s commitment to quality.   But, he got me thinking about quality in a Web 2.0 context.

Quality is something that many folks are struggling with.  But, what exactly is quality? 

“… quality cannot be defined. If we do define it we are defining something less than Quality itself”. – Robert M. Pirsig

I spend a lot of time thinking about this as a writer of a blog and as a CIO. As a CIO, I wonder about how we define quality in the Web 2.0 world? For example, how do I judge the quality of my blog?

Is it the number of visits? Well, not really.  In the nearly 3-hour drive to Fairmont, West Virginia from Greenbelt, Maryland, there was a lot of road kill along the way.  Just because this silly girl looked at every yucky thing on the side of the road, doesn’t mean it was interesting and worthwhile.

Is it the number of comments? I’m not really sure about that.  This seems to be more a function of controversy.  Is there life on Mars? Is that why we are emailing Mars?   I got the most comments in my post Email to MARS.  But, most of the comments had nothing to do with the content of the blog! This led me to doubt that number of comments were relevant.  Two other posts, IT Governance in Government and The Goddard CIO Blog: One Year Later probably drew the most “offline” comments (Twitter, Facebook, email, etc) – yet they both had zero comments.  Not quite sure what that means.  

Is it how often it gets quoted, or re-posted, or re-purposed? I think not.  This is what I call the “Joe-the-Plumber” effect.  Just because everyone is talking about you, doesn’t mean you’re worth talking about.

Alexander Wolfe, in his article, In A Web 2.0 World, Quality Is Irrelevant, notes that the best bloggers know nothing about the qualities of good journalism.  Yet, they create quality blogs.

Using Twitter, the goal is brevity, telling a story in 140 characters.  Here’s an example of poetry, in 140 characters or less in the poetic styling of Pam Baker in The Poetry of Changing Presidents.  Federal Computer Week ran a contest to create a 140-character job description in Rewrite Your Job Description as a Tweet (listen up HR Specialists!).

Crowdsourcing suggests quality is derived from collaboration and collective wisdom of the crowds.  It suggests that we can derive innovation from amateurs or volunteers as opposed to a team of experts.  This may be counterintuitive, but there seems to be evidence that this is true – Wikis are an excellent example.

Wolfe goes on to say that in the Web 2.0 world “…quality is now measured out more in engagement — videos, pictures, short and pithy commentary — than in llooooooonng, boring blocks of dense text. Which nobody reads anyway!”

Does this mean that quality in a Web 2.0 doesn’t really exist? I think quality exists, but it’s in the corner of your eye. If you look right at it, it goes away.  It exists in the periphery.   

Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center


8 thoughts on “Quality in the Web 2.0 World”

  1. Oh No, this Blog post wont draw zero (0) comments. I for ONE won’t let that happen. YOU make a GREAT POINT, when you say that Software must operate dependantly and more important (especially for NASA) Reliably. So many times the Big Corps. Like Microsoft, and Google, Dell, H.P, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, yes even Mac,Apple, are in such a hurry to get the latest, and greatest new developement out into the market, that they don’t do the necessary foot work, to make sure the product is RELIABLE. They constantly push for productivity to insure Profits. And when THEY can get Agentcies, such as NASA to indorse and use those products, without the proper testing, then THAT is when LIVES are on the LINE. Quality Control has seemed to take a back seat to output of Quantity and Profits.

    As far as Quality of WEB 2.0, there again lies the question of Reliablity. So many programs are under the actual scrutinization of, is it in the Favor of the Government or is it better for the Public Sector? One of the Promise’s of the New Administration was to make make all government and agentcies Transparent. But yet all Software is lagging behind. Not a very profitable accusition. Costing the taxpayer more money than what the ROI seems to be offering.

    Don’t get me wrong I will read between the lines of this Blog. I just wanted to have MY say, on Dependibility, and Reliablity.

    Now for the aspect of 2.0 web, Credability (Twitter?) Yeah, Truly? I think it’s a bunch of GARBAGE. (One Line) What are you Doing? (Well right now I’m picking my nose). (I could have said scratching my A@@) but I doubt if you would have allowed the post). No, it has no meaning and has no context. MySpace, (great for Music posting, to let someone know how you are feeling musicly about them). (Oh also good for uploading Mental Imagage’s). Facebook? (I think it’s up in stock) but really people, it’s just a compromise from real connections and communications.

    I actually believe that Alexsander Wolf is wrong, (mis-spelling on Purpose), Quality is RELIVANT. Quality of YOU, Ms.Cureton, is not determined by the amount of comments posted to your blog, but by the Quality within the context that you have maintained throughout this past year. The Quality of comments that are posted are not within your total control, (YET) You have not backed away from even posting the one’s that might have brought you a little heartache. The Quality that you Excemptlify, and your Professionalism, in keeping within the Boundries, that NASA expects of you as a CIO, is applauding (clap,clap,clap).

    If only we, could get all of the major corporations and agentcies to have the true transparentcies and aspirations that you show, then what a better America we would be.

  2. In the “real” world, I think the quality of something is defined by it’s ability to do the job it is intended to do. If a paintbrush puts a nice smooth coat of paint on the wall with the minimal amount of fuss, it’s doing it’s job and consequently makes the user happy. If a paintbrush won’t put a nice smooth coat of paint on the wall no matter what you do, it’s not really serving it’s intended purpose and the user isn’t going to be very happy with it.

    You can quantify quality by user satisfaction. If you find yourself frustrated or annoyed or disappointed with a product or service, you’re likely to say that it’s “low quality”. If you’re extremely satisfied, you’ll say that it’s “high quality”. That said, the quality of a product is likely to vary from user to user. Some will be happy with it, some will hate it.

    The maker of any product could ascertain the level of quality of their product but quantifying the quality of the product for each user and basing the overall “quality” on the consensus of it’s users. This is why companies conduct user surveys. If they conduct a survey and get an overwhelmingly positive response, then they’ll call their product “high quality”. If the users all say that they hate it, they’d better figure out how to fix it to make their users like it.

    With a website or blog, you can get a rough idea of customer satisfaction by analysis of your visitors. If you have a pretty consistent number of users, you can assume you have a base of users who think your website is “good quality”. They wouldn’t keep coming back if they hated it. “High quality” can be indicated by visitor growth. If your website traffic grows over time, you likely have something that lots of people find to be “good quality” and tell their friends about it, who also find it “good quality” and so on.

    So I guess to summarize, quality is in the eye of the beholder.

  3. I never comment, but I have read all of your blogs and encourage others to read it too. You and Wayne Hale are must reads.

  4. Interesting post. I think quality comes down to how the individual perceives the information. If you were looking for a particular answer to something and got it within the first sentence, that can be quality. Your blogger comment about people who know nothing about journalism writing quality content is true because of the type of audience they attract.

    Like beauty, quality is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to written content. Even in movies this is true. An can be seen as quality to some people and garbage to others. So does quality exists? Like you said, it does, but in the corner of your eyes… but I think it depends on who's eye it is.

  5. :
    Extraordinary experience, I am jealous and want to like you. hopefully you get the goal that you want, and God bless always successful.


  6. Hi there, I dont know how but I accidently bumped into your blog, it was a nice post which gave me some few food for thought. Well Web 2.0 has evolved and changed many lives, Some people might categories Web 2.0 as a change in technology of internet, i would say it is rather the behaviour of how people use the internet…it gives people the opportunity to share and interect all over the world. Just imagine the changes we face today myspace, bebo, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other.. Google has been very good with that. I would imagine 10 to 15 years from now how would it be.
    The quality of Web 2.0 will depend on the expectation of the end user(s), I look at the quality but another aspect of it is the availability and timing of information from Web 2.0 these can sometimes outweigh the quality aspect… BTW who gave the idea of

  7. I think quality in web 2.0 is all those things and a little more. Yes, engagement is a huge factor. But I'd think it matters more if you're engaging many people…not just one person…so # of visits and # of comments is a good measure. But then I've seen hundreds of stupid childish comments on stupid childish blogs. Some people are content with low quality and some are engaged by higher quality. Look at sites. Some have the same old boring quotes you've seen 100 times and people love them. Other sites have slightly better quotes that you've never seen before, yet those sites aren't always noticed.

    In the end, if you're meeting needs with content that people are searching for or that they're attracted to naturally, all the factors you mention should come together synergistically.

  8. Thank you. In many aspects of life, true quality is more a function of inspiration and vision than of the details.

    Powerful Dreams Inspire Powerful Action.
    When you can taste, smell, and touch your dreams, you can enroll the world.

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