In my previous post we looked at some aspects of the sharing economy, made possible by Web 2.0 technology. This time we’ll look at new words connected with the sharing of data and content between users who are not trying to sell anything – or at least don’t appear to be. This type of sharing is sometimes called P2P, or peer-to-peer, although strictly speaking P2P involves a specific type of relationship between computers on a network, rather than using a central server.
At a simple level, this involves pooling resources. For example, if two people live and work near each other, it makes sense for them to find each other through a car-sharing app so that they can save on fuel and effort at the same time as reducing traffic congestion.
Working together to build something for our mutual benefit is another way of sharing. A wiki is a type of website that allows users to add, delete, and edit the contents of web pages. It’s used extensively in website and software development to make sure all the members of a team are communicating properly, and that all necessary tasks are completed. Wikipedia is another type of wiki, thought to be the world’s largest with more than 280,000 articles, all written by enthusiastic volunteers. Citizen science uses similar techniques to bring together large amounts of scientific data contributed by ordinary people; and open-source software uses freely contributed development work to benefit its users.
But even though no buying or selling takes place, there may still be an economic impact. With so much content available online at no cost to the user, traditional publishers face something of a dilemma. One solution is for them to make their content available free too: the Cambridge Dictionaries Online website is an example of just this. When academic content, for example from scientific journals, is made freely available online, this is called open-access:
The BMJ is an open-access journal devoted to medical research.
The costs of such publishing are met in various ways, for example by the writer’s institution or employer, or from advertising, so that it can be offered free to the end user.
Sharing, of course, is not just something you do online. A newer use of sharing is found in the domains of psychology and business, referring specifically to sharing information or feelings:
Chris, would you like to share your impressions with the rest of the team?
Sometimes this can lead to oversharing, when people tell you too much personal information about themselves:
She has a tendency to overshare on Facebook.
The response to oversharing – used when you want to tell someone that what he or she said is embarrassing, and should be kept private – should be “Too much information!”