The Tangled Web 2.0

After listening to people (mostly geeks) wax rhapsodic about the wonders of “Web 2.0” for, oh, almost two years now… I decided to go deep and see what the fuss was about.

The reality?

Nothing much to see here. Move along. We’re just tearing down the set, getting ready for the next act.

Web 3.0 and 4.0 are getting dressed and ready to take the stage.

2.0 (or “The Tooster”, as his friends call him) is pretty much history. The term was really just a glib marketing gimmick meant to separate “today’s” Web from the bad old “bubble” Web circa 1999 and 2000. The mainstream media — clueless, as always — decided the bursting of that bubble signalled the death-blow to this “Internet-nonsense fad”, and promptly found other things to be ignorant about.

(The scariest example of just how out-of-touch mainstream culture is toward the Web is the fact almost NONE of the federal government is wired in any significant way — not the FBI, not the Supreme Court, not the politicans. True to form, just as The Tooster is fading away, those in charge are finally beginning to upgrade to DSL.)

The term “Web 2.0” is useful only as shorthand when you want to refer to the notion that — yet again — technology is changing fast. (Imagine that.) The implied secondary notion is that — yet again — these changes will affect us all in profound ways. (Ooooh, don’t be scared.)

And — yet again — the reality simply doesn’t live up to the hype.

I’ve coined a phrase that, for me, helps explain why the “experts” get so preoccupied with announcing the latest revolutionary upheaval in human development through technology.

The term is “Paleo-Tech”… and it means, simply, “ancient technology”. We are (according to Professor Carlton) in the Paleo-Tech Age, which mimics the Paleolithic age, when Man (with a capital “M”) was just beginning to use technology.

Back then, it was fire and stone and metals… and for the next ten thousand years or so, we played around with better ways to cook, melt, forge and build stuff.

Today, it’s Java script, XML and the “semantic Web”… and because the development of new technologies is so super-condensed, by the time most people catch on, it’s already ancient history.

Thus, we are living in a time when all newly-developed technology is instantly on the way out. Almost, anyway.

Paleo-Tech. It’s driving Hollywood nuts, because no matter how much they try to make the technology in their scripts brand-spanking-new, they risk looking like dorks by the time the movie comes out six months later. (I recently saw a two-year old flick that might as well have been made last century, because the meant-to-be-hip cell phones used were embarrassingly out-of-style.)

But this is what I find interesting: Entrepreneurs are almost always on the cutting edge of the newest and flashiest tech. (The military drives most of the coolest advances, but they’re trying to kill people, not earn an honest living.)

And this creates an ongoing “situation” that requires the direct intervention of grizzled old veterans like me.

The situation is this: People are easily dazzled by shiny new objects. And lots of the new online technology is VERY pretty and seductive.

But here’s the mantra I want you to repeat, often: Technology doesn’t sell stuff. Salesmanship sells stuff.

I’ve seen a LOT of sci-fi quality technology in my career. I started my advertising career in Silicon Valley back when the Internet was just a twinkle in Al Gore’s eye… I had inside connections with the Stanford Artificial Intelligence labs… played the very FIRST online games ever invented… began working on a PC (sorry, Woz) back when I had to load DOS on a 5-1/4″ floppy each time I booted up… wrote one of the very first online ads… and on and on.

I also worked on some of the very first modern infomercials, helped clients create prototypes that begat e-books, had one of the first ad-related podcasts posted to iTunes, participated in the earliest e-mail blasts ever done, and have tended this blog for a very, very long time (making good use of functions like RSS and tags before most marketers had even heard of them).

The Tooster and his application-drunk buddies 3.0 and 4.0 don’t scare me even a tiny bit.

I will make full use of every blip of technology I discover… and learn the stuff I need to learn, and pay other people to stoke the fires of the crap I suspect will soon blend into the woodwork.

Because every bit of tech that matters to entrepreneurs is just another way to communicate with other humans. From smoke signals to cuneiform tablets to the Guttenberg press to radio and TV and now the ever-wondrous Web… it’s still just one creature with a cerebral cortex talking to another one.

It’s fun. It’s like living out a sci-fi fantasy.

But the foundations are still the same as they were back when our ancestors were incinerating each other trying to find new uses for fire.

Humans want to get the basics of suvival settled… so they can use new technology to entertain themselves, kill each other… and buy shit.

As a business owner or entrepreneur… you want to sell shit for other people to buy. So you need to separate out the hyped tech that is mostly about entertainment (and for God’s sake, keep your hands off the evil lethal stuff).

And learn the simple secrets of using all new technology as a way to channel your salesmanship.

The technology, all by itself, will not magically generate profits for you. (In the still-current Paleo-Tech Age model, the only people who are supposed to get rich from new tech are the creators and share-holders. As Google proved with its profit-murdering “slap” at sites trying to use pay-per-click to build lists, entrepreneurs are seen as suspicious usurpers of technology, and must be thwarted whenever possible.)

I know people who are ecstatic about getting massive numbers of hits for their funny video on YouTube… who spend days figuring out how to use Slingbox to catch TV shows on their cell phones while they travel… and who prefer texting to talking.

Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that.

But a million hits for your video of Farquar falling off his skateboard won’t put a nickel into your pocket.

And why are you still wasting so much time watching TV? There’s a brave new world spinning out there, wondering when you’re gonna show up.

If you’re gonna be an effective entrepreneur, you gotta brush the stars out of your eyes and see all the technology tumbling down the chute ONLY in terms of how you can use it in conjunction with your salesmanship skills.

I’ll post more on this soon.

It’s fun, I gotta admit. I LOVE all the new tech gadgetry. The X-Box bored me, mostly (it really was just a small step up from playing Pac-Man drunk in a loud bar), but I’m excited about the Wii’s potential for truly gnarly gaming.

And all the career adventures I’d craved in my youth are now available again, thanks to technology advancing faster than The Man can censor it. (I can now have my own pirate radio station, publish and distribute my own books, and produce any type of late-night-quality TV show I like… all from my cluttered little office, digitally, online. I get shivers just considering all the possibilities.)

I’ve got some pretty valuable insights to share with you, too.

But I’m tired. I wanna surf the Web a bit, buy some more oldies on iTunes, enjoy a microbrew (another modern invention courtesy of the harnessing of fire long ago), and get a good night’s sleep on my Tempurpedic. (Space-age sleeping technology!)

Let’s pick this up later.

Stay frosty.

John Carlton

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  • Troy Lynch says:

    Thanks for the audio teleseminar on Web 2. It was very interesting. I liked the emphasis, as in your message above, on salesmanship.

    I suppose in its generic form copywriting is salesmanship. That is, it ought to be a focus on how to sell – with the use of words as a medium; and as you and your colleagues rightly state, technology is merely a vehicle. Selling is selling and has been since Adam was a boy!

    I like a reference I read recently in Roy Durstine’s “Making Advertisements and Making them Pay” (1920): “Advertising came into the world because men were too impatient to wait for Mrs. Jones to tell Mrs. Smith that Brown’s pickles were good to eat. Brown discovered that he could tell two million Mrs. Smiths and Mrs. Joneses about his pickles and he could sell a lot more pickles that way than by waiting for the news to leak out by itself (page 3).” Interesting. The point here is that advertising replaces word of mouth referral and is not akin to Kennedy’s “Salesmanship in Print” notion. Perhaps Kennedy’s “Salesmanship in Print” idea more accurately describes the art of copywriting – the mechanics of doing advertising or selling via the written word.

  • Darryl Hold says:

    Damn.. sometimes John Carlton says it so well there seems to be nothing that I can add! But I’ll try..the deep wellspring of creativity that is hidden from so many of us is due to the old cliche..not seeing the forest for the trees. As John waxes so eloquently in his down-to-earth way…all this techno stuff is about talking to each other. Is it truly that the more high tech we get ..Web 12.0 coming soon to a computer near you..the more desperately we seek real connections? Ultimately that is the power of John’s blog..we all feel that he is sharing his wisdom with us over a cup of java at the local coffee house. Ohh..John, make mine decaf.

  • Darwin says:

    Hoorah John, Just boils down to, humans love bells and whistles but deep down inside we all need the human touch.

  • Buddy says:

    Somehow you managed to answer my question, slap the dorks, and entertain the fook outta me in one round turn. You are one half clever bastard, sir. Someday I hope to write that well.

  • Buddy says:

    BTW John, I was reading some old martial arts mags looking for swipe file material. I found an ad from an old Black Belt. It is the “Vicious Russian ‘Top Secret’ Spec Op…” Sound familiar?

  • ken oneill says:

    I am 28 i read regular books, Get my news off the web and for the most part i play text based games. Advancement in technology are only interesting to be ..when i can afford to get them and the gadget is usefull not just new.

    thought there are secors who buy new stuff for competitive reasons. a good chunk of people buy stuff they had use for .. would the ipod have been as big 5 years agos when it could have only held a tenth the number of songs and had batterry life for a few hours . probably not.

    what the web has done on a basic level .. is shift society from a bland mass market stage .. to a hot niche culture . The more popular something is the less likely it is to make a pofit for long. because on a basic level we are all similarly entertained by stupid crap we wouldn’t pay much money to see or take part in. But we are a lot more tribal when it comes to stuff we will pay lots of money for.

  • Howie says:

    Is the mp3 recording available from John’s call on Web2.0 ?

    I am interesting in listening


  • Frank Kern says:

    Dude that’s funny. I just came over to your blog after sending the following rant to my long suffering and often abused list. (I wanted to make sure I spelled the web address right. Naturaly, I checked it AFTER I sent the peice.)

    Anyway – check it out. I included some nice words about you since you bought me some beer in Oz:

    I know I’m supposed to be sending Holiday greetings right
    now like all the other guys but I think this will help you more:


    Here’s what I mean.

    I’m sure you’ve gotten a few dozen emails about WEB 2.0
    and how you’d better “be ready” for it or whatever.


    Now you need to hear this so pay close attention.

    Are you ready?


    …And it was a job well done. I’ll give ’em that.

    Anyway, here’s the real story.

    “Web 2.0” is pretty much a bunch of marketing hype right now.

    Sure, there’s some validity to a LITTLE bit of the hype …but it’s
    mostly fluff.

    Yeah, I know YouTube sold for a billion dollars … but who cares?

    What are we supposed to do about it? Dump a ton of money
    into some new “Social Networking Site” like everyone else
    is doing?

    Listen. I want to make your life easier right now and save you some
    money in the process:


    That’s how money is made. When people BUY STUFF.

    That’s how it’s always been made and that’s how it always
    WILL be made.

    Oh – and if it pisses you off to hear me go against the grain
    like this, you should see the reaction I got out of my CPA.

    I’m leaving a ton of money on the table right now by not
    endorsing some “Web 2.0 Secrets” system …but the fact is,
    I’d feel like an asshole if I tried to peddle that to you.


    Because nobody really knows what the hell they’re
    talking about.

    …At least not in our circle. Not what I’ve seen anyway, and
    I’m on the same lists you are.

    Think about it, have any of the “Buy My Web 2.0 Stuff” guys
    …like …actually DONE any of this Web 2.0 stuff they’re trying to get you
    to buy?

    Sure – if the dude from or came out
    with a product, I’d listen.

    OK – I’m rambling a little but I’m typing this on the fly.

    You get my point though…

    For the time being,


    …And NOT buy any “secrets” for using Web 2.0.

    …And NOT try to build some new Social Networking site.

    If you want to make a ton of money, learn how to get
    people to buy stuff.

    It worked for me …and continues to make me huge piles
    of cash like clockwork.

    So much, in fact, that I received over $40,000.00 in the mail
    the other day …THAT I’D FORGOTTEN ABOUT!

    I kid you not. Nice surprise though…


    …Ain’t gonna happen. Not today. Got nothin’ to pitch.

    I just wanted to let you know about my opinion on the whole
    Web 2.0 thing …and hopefully insulate you from the hype
    that surrounds it.

    And now that I’ve blasted just about everyone who’s ever used to
    term “Web 2.0” in a marketing piece, let me now tell you who you
    SHOULD listen to:

    1. Brad Fallon and Andy Jenkins. These guys have actually DONE
    “Web 2.0” stuff and they make a ton of money from it …in a market
    that’s NOT marketing. Several markets, actually.

    They don’t have anything for sale at the moment but you can get some
    killer free stuff from them here:

    (Check out the videos at the top of the page and on the left.)

    2. John Carlton. Remember when I told you that the real key to getting
    rich was learning how to get people to buy stuff? Well, Carlton’s the
    the king of just that. He taught me and …well, I got sorta rich. Twice.

    (If I didn’t blow so much money on cars and beach houses, I wouldn’t
    have to use the word “sorta” …but that’s more of a money management
    problem than a money-getting problem.)

    …And if you DO decide to one day build you one of them big fancy
    “Web 2.0” sites and you end up getting a gazillion people to come to
    it, well …you’d probably make more money if you knew how to sell
    ’em stuff.

    Tons of great free stuff by John Carlton here:

    3. Ed Dale. Ed Dale actually lives in the Big Fancy Internet Business World.
    He’s started and sold websites for millions on several occasions …and his first
    company (which he sold for three million) was pretty much 100% Web 2.0
    …but this was before anyone thought to come up with that term.

    Also, Ed consults with HUGE companies. And by huge, I mean, you know

    As in “you see their ads on TV every five minutes” types of companies.

    And, well, one of these companies is one of the ones you see on the news
    all the time.

    (Ed’s all weird about letting people know who he consults for and that’s
    why I’m being sort of cagey about it.)

    Anyway – free stuff from Ed is here:

    4. John Reese. John has been on the cutting edge since he was an evil
    little computer hacker in the 8th grade.

    (Bet you didn’t know that about John did you? I have other dirt on him too,
    but I’ll save that for a later date.)

    Anyway – the entire internet marketing community is routinely being shaped
    and influenced by John Reese.

    The guy’s accomplishements are too many to name, and you already know
    what a bad ass he is so I won’t go into it.

    One thing you might not know yet is he’s got a really cool new site
    with tons of free stuff on it (and more to come).

    It’s at

    If you talk to him, please be sure to make fun of the movie you see on that

    Okay – that just about wraps it up. I usually like to send out some cool content
    for everyone this time of year, but I’ve been working like hell lately and I haven’t
    had time to make anything new.


    If you just go to the sites I gave you and soak up all their free know-how,
    it’ll be about the same as me sending you a Big Expensive Marketing Course
    in the mail.


    Talk soon,

    P.S. I know I probably forgot to mention someone in that list above. It happens.

    P.P.S. I’ve worked something out where you can learn Niche Marketing, Copywriting, Email Marketing, and Launch Strategy from me for FREE.

    I’m serious. I’ll give you more details later. The heat isn’t on in my office and I’m freezing my ass off. So I gotta go.

  • John,

    You hit it on the head! Technology will always be there for us to burn up money! Your post is hilarious and I agree, forget about web 2.0 garbage.

    Free Articles | Article Submission

  • I’m pretty sure John wasn’t saying “forget about web 2.0 garbage.”

    If I read correctly, his big point was not to forget what all these shiny objects we get distracted by are supposed to do – or not.

    That is sell something. Communicate your message. Use the tools that come along but don’t get caught up in the hype to the point that you are putting videos on YouTube just for the traffic without a plan to sell that traffic something.

    (Unless you are actually trying to win a popularity contest, which most video uploaders on YT aren’t even doing either. They are just playing with shiny objects!)

    Whatever people are calling it, the suite of new communication tools is being used to market and reach consumers in a new way.

    But if we get caught up in the how, we lose track of the why.

  • Ain Tohvri says:

    Point well made. Before going all technical we should realize what it’s for and if it’s the best way to go. It of course depends on the goal. So that has to be clarified as well.

    I think it is fairly safe to say that a lot of applications on the web would serve the goal much better if they were not using all the way fancy web 2 interfaces. In most cases the target audience is not on the web to drag and drop.

    I think there’s too much fuss about Web 2 that leaves a whole spectre of important things aside.

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