January 3, 2008

My first prediction is that SCL members are in for a bumper year. Even if your stocking was not filled with all that you hoped, I am sure that SCL will more than make up for the fact that the feverishly anticipated wii turned out to be socks. With lots of plans afoot for a fuller embrace by SCL of Web 2.0, you should see even more content being made available to you, principally electronically. The moves to make the Conference available were very warmly welcomed and there has been a marked increase in the use of the other electronic resources such as online webinars so SCL will certainly be building on that success. But there is no denying the force of face-to-face exchanges, so 2008 will see Lawrence Lessig’s Lecture, which is sure to be thought-provoking and make us all think outside our safe areas, another exciting SCL Conference and lots of useful and fascinating seminars, webinars and group meetings. You lucky people!

For the more speculative predictions, I am not on such firm ground. I do believe that the distinctions currently drawn as to various content forms will get harder and harder to justify. That applies to narrow classifications like ‘what is a wiki’ and ‘this is a blog not a web site’ but it applies too to the broader convergence of content forms where ‘pressing the red button’ or browsing on the mobile phone just seem ordinary. 2008 is the year for everyone to realise that data is just data. I just hope someone comes up with a name for it that is obviously singular.

The ongoing love affair with user generated content will see more disillusioning rows. The realisation that some devious and unscrupulous marketing departments are writing their own product reviews on user sites (not so much warts and all as ‘we had better mention a wart for the sake of credibility’) will be followed by a broader realisation of just how easily YouTube and other viral marketing vehicles can be manipulated. We have a long way to go before the love affair ends though – and quite right too. The cheap shots at Wikipedia earlier this year rather overlook the fact that few of us have Encyclopaedia Britannica on our bookshelves or can ring the real experts at will.

The first person to challenge a wi-fi piggybacking/leeching prosecution in the Court of Appeal will be successful and the handful already convicted will be released from their cyberchains.

Trading standards departments will actually try and enforce the existing legislation in relation to trading online and not pretend that it somehow beyond them or just rely on trade organisations to arrange dawn raids for them. I originally offered this tongue-in-cheek (or half despairing) but the most recent moves by the FSA on financial services Web sites make me believe it could happen. The public will continue to trade with anyone offering a better price, notwithstanding all evidence that 20% of the people making best offers are crooks living abroad and daily alarmist TV and newspaper reports of Internet rip-offs.

All the members of the Legal Software Suppliers Association will, by March 2008, be merged into or acquired by larger rivals until we are left with just one vast unit, which is itself bought in October by a consortium headed by Sir Richard Branson and Vin Murria. This was meant to be my joke prediction but, having had the benefit of seeing Charles Christian’s predictions (see p 14), I am not so sure it is sufficiently daft.

I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2008.