Mashup Camp #6

Kartik Mithal is the director of the Sofware User Experience group at Sun.

I attended 2 days of the Mashup Camp in Mountain View. Registration was free and included breakfast and lunch on both days plus drinks and munchies after the days session on the first day. The camp was run as an ‘unconference’ which is designed to promote the equivalent of hallway conversations and networking. It was like 2 days of non-stop networking. These notes are a series of observations, and in that they are somewhat like an ‘unconference’.

Note their logo emphasizes the jigsaw puzzle aspect of mashups

There is a lot of energy in the mashup space. Lots of companies and lots of developers see this as a major source of applications going forward.

Company sponsors for Mashup Camp

Ages were an interesting mix; some younger folks, but lots of middleaged folks (mid 40s and above). I expected to find mostly young people, but was surprised to find older folks.

There was discussion about consumer masuhps, enterprise mashups vs consumer mashups, and desktop vs mobile mashups.

Map based mashups were the most popular, e.g. locating people, and telling people about the location they were in. Some driven by the location data available from cell towers, and some on cell phones with built in GPS’s.

Because mashups are ill defined, and because they are a hot topic, and because they are web based, they’ve become the catch all for anything to do with the web. For example, in one of the sessions we got into a long discussion about the javascript capabilities of different browsers on different phones.

Speed Geeking

Modeled on speed dating, mashup developers had 3 minutes to tell us what their mashup was. There were 20 mashups and we were split into 20 groups (mine had 2 people). My group started at table 4. The developers had 3 minutes to tell us what they’d built, then we went to the next table. The developers got better at their pitches, so after about the 3rd table, the pitch was much smoother. It all got mentally very intense, and after a while everything blurred.

The conference schedule was pulled together on the first day. Anyone who had a topic to discuss or had a question to ask was a session lead.

Session leads lined up at the front of the room and were given 2 sentences to describe who they were and what they wanted to talk about. They had a facilitator who kept them honest. There was only one female session lead out of about 30 sessions.

I went to a session where the description included the term ‘user centered’ but it was more about identity issues and users being in control of their info rather than about user centered mashups. A couple of efforts in the digital identity space are:

  • Cardspace (MS framework to manage digital identities)
  • Higgins project (Identity management in Eclipse)

There was a fair level of concern among people at the session about the security of individuals’ data and the content that individuals create (e.g. photographs). Perhaps DRM should be used by individuals on their personal data and the media they create. There was also some belief that if phishing gets out of control, it could kill the web

Silverlight / flash light brought up and discussed as alternates to the browser for mashups. Java wasn't discussed much.

Access is a Japanese company that has ported browsers to mobile phones, smart phones, PDAs, copiers, printers, home apppliances, IP phones, Multifunction phones, video game consoles, musical instruments, TVs, GPSes, set top boxes and business terminals. They partially view the browser as a UI toolkit, and use it to implement applications on different devices. The idea is that if they get the browser running on the device, then its a well understood platform for implementing UIs. They use GCC, linux and sometimes use Java.

Mashups tend to combine data from two or more websites. Some websites have published APIs which the mashup developers use. If a website has useful data (e.g. for stock prices) but no API, then the mashup developers use screen scraping (navigate the DOM to figure out what data the application needs.)

Kapow’s tool for point and click (and programmatic) web scraping.

There are a lot of location based mashups, and they fall into two categories (with many variations in between): mashups that tell you where you or your group are, to mashups that tell you about the a location, or the location you are.

Some examples:

Location based mashup about specific location: “Bobby’s Bio dventure” mashup that tells you what EPA superfund sites are close to any address.

Location based mashup: “Metrosphere for Andriod” provides info about the location you are at, e.g. restaurants, movies etc...

Group Location Mashup: tells you where the people in our group are based on cell phone location (tower triangulation).

Location based Mashup: Map-and-go: info about a location.

You can find more of the photos from the mashup camp here on Facebook


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