Mashup Camp 2 Day 1: Wrap party

End of the first day of Mashup Camp 2, and boy, is my brain tired! It was a great day of new ideas, debating opinions, seeing new cool stuff, and meeting new and old friends. After some wrapup comments, we moved on to the after-party, and also had a chance to see the exhibits at the Computer History Museum (which I skipped because I had seen them in February, and because the conversations upstairs were too interesting to leave).

I ran into Stephen O’Grady of Redmonk, with whom I’ve exchanged email and blog comments but didn’t realize that he was here until he introduced himself when he stood up to make a comment in the main session. I guess that I wasn’t reading his blog at the time of Mashup Camp 1 (which he also attended, but at which I didn’t meet him), and I’m so behind in my blog reading now that I didn’t see any of his current Mashup Camp posts. I really need to review that Who’s Coming list more closely.

I also met Cameron Jones, a Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who is studying web mashups as his research. He contacted me and other Mashup Camp attendees a few weeks ago by email to get connected with the idea of interviewing members of the mash-up community for his research. Who knew that you could do a Ph.D. thesis on mashups?

I had a chance to chat with lots of other people who I met at Mashup Camp 1, although my memory for names is shockingly bad so I had to do a lot of discrete reading of name tags. There’s a much greater sense of community now than at the first camp, and a continued sense of excitement. Also, as I noticed in the session on “mashdowns“, some shifting of focus to business/enterprise mashups, which is really what I’m here for.

Mashup Camp 2 Day 1: Client-side customization

Like the profile data aggregation session, I didn’t know what I’d get out of this session on client-side customization, but found it interesting nonetheless.

We had a discussion on the different types of customization:

  • Change the style sheet of a page/site to provide a specific theme or look and feel.
  • Add/remove/rearrange existing content, e.g., via Greasemonkey or Platypus.
  • Bookmarklets to add other functionality through browser bookmarks.
  • Cookies.
  • Create custom aggregation of data from multiple sources, e.g. NetVibes and other portals; most mashups fall into this category.
  • Create new data or services.

This led to a discussion of the spectrum of tailoring activities that could be done: customizing (transformation of existing data), integrating (aggregating data from multiple sources), and developing code (creating new data/services). We also touched on the difficulties caused by tailoring, such as cross-platform incompatibilities, but also the end-user support problem when all end users can potentially have environments that look and act differently from each other and from the people who are supposed to be supporting them.

A key issue raised from this is what the current generation of customizable software (e.g., Firefox) does with respect to raising the expectations of what should be customizable and how difficult should it be. This general expectation-raising of Web 2.0 and related technologies has a big impact on enterprises as their internal users and external customers start to expect that the organization’s software will be just as flexible in terms of customizing the user experience.

We finished up by talking about how customizations are shared between people, and potentially become common usage within a larger group. This is less about client-side customization than user experience customization, and the ability to share an experience that you create: the web equivalent of redecorating your apartment, then inviting your friends over to check it out. Like (personal) blogging and sharing playlists on iTunes, it’s a way to put a bit of yourself out there for your friends — or complete strangers — to experience.

Mashup Camp 2 Day 1: Aggregating profile data

Sarah Harmer’s done, and I’m on to President Alien. It really is getting late, I swear that this is my last post for the day. Or maybe my second last.

Following the speed geeking, we had the breakout third session, and I attended the one on aggregating profile data. Although this was hijacked slightly at the end by the OpenID attendees, it was an interesting discussion on a number of profile/identity-related subjects:

  • Making yourself available and findable. How do you create an identity that others can easily find on any given social networking system?
  • Finding others. How do you find others on a social networking system? (through a directly tranmitted URL or reference, by email, by common screen name, etc.). How can you create a common identity view of someone that you know? Is the onus on the person being found or the person doing the finding to create that view? Being able to track changes on another person’s profile. Being alerted about events in their life, e.g., birthdays.
  • Using different profiles for different purposes, namely the compartmentalization of different parts of life. Choosing what to share (photos, blogs, contact info) with which people (family, friends, work colleagues). Intentionally creating non-correlatable profiles, e.g., Superman/Clark Kent, work/play. The different levels of intimacy, e.g., comparing the Flickr friends and family categories with the concept of an IM buddy, and what information might be shared with acquaintances of different levels of closeness.
  • Exchanging profile data between social networking systems. Open standards for profile data exchange.The concept of a People Service for social networking group/profile management, which also came up in the People Aggregator mashup during speed geeking.

I attended this out of general interest; although I had hopes that it might be useful in enteprise profile management, I’m not so sure but still found it interesting.

Mashup Camp 2 Day 1: Speed geeking

We started the afternoon with speed geeking, where each mashup developer set up on a table, and the rest of us circulated around spending 5 minutes at each table for a quick demo. There were 21 tables but only 10 timeslots, which made for a quick triage before I started out. We’re having another speed geeking session tomorrow so I’ll have time to catch any that I missed before I hand out my wooden nickel — the token that each of us were given at registration to use for voting for our favourite mashup. First prize is $5000 of geek-ware of some sort, so this is a pretty big deal.

Tons of ideas here: wedding registry finder, cell phone as shopping cart, news aggregator, train schedules to SMS, backend storage, music videos, Bungee Labs mega-mashup, restaurant reviews, auto-tagging Flickr photos by event, Frappr, pricing, travel data….

Because I was moving tables every five minutes, all my notes about the speed geeking are on paper but I’ll post more details after tomorrow’s speed geeking session. My faves so far:

  • ChunkLove, a gift registry finder
  • TrainCheck, which sends the next three BART times at any stop to your mobile via SMS or email
  • PhoTiger, which matches up your Flickr photos with your Eventful events to help auto-tag (and eventually auto-name and geocode) the photos based on the event data
  • MileGuru, which aggregates all your frequent flyer and frequent stayer (hotel) points and other data into a single place

Mashup Camp 2 Day 1: AJAX design patterns

Veneer was great, but short, so I’m on to Sarah Harmer’s You Were Here. I’m starting to slow down — it’s was a long day of travel yesterday and a long day of idea generation today — so may not finish up all my posts today.

The next session for me was AJAX design patterns, which was good although focussed a bit too much on security issues for what I was looking for. Some great stuff on UI and performance issues. The wiki page has all the technical details, includes references to further JSON reading, so I’ll just touch on some of the things that stuck in my mind during the session about AJAX UI design:

  • Action of the back button: was the last user activity a navigation or an action? Can it be “undone” by navigating back, or is it appropriate to return to a higher level/home page?
  • Action of the refresh button.
  • URL and permalinks: appended # arguments that don’t hit the server but are pure client processes to make the AJAX calls. Implications for search engines (agents can’t index pages directly and would require an alternative representation to be referenced by robots.txt, but doesn’t handle issues of relevancy through links), emailing permalink references.
  • Tradeoffs between user experience and technical issues.
  • Some actions need to be synchronous (e.g., “buy it” and other transactions), requires forcing synchronicity in AJAX or breaking out of AJAX for that part of the transaction.

Mashup Camp 2 Day 1: Mashdowns

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had to do all my blogging today offline because of the spotty wifi in the Computer History Museum, and I have to say that Windows Notepad makes a pretty sucky offline blogging tool. However, I’m relaxing back in my room listening to the newly-downloaded and extremely enjoyable Veneer (just available on iTunes, after I couldn’t buy the CD after a month of trying on, cleaning up the blog posts and paper notes from today.

Following the kickoff session, we headed off to breakout sessions proposed by anyone and everyone during the kickoff. Each session was supposed to update the wiki with notes from anyone at the session, and you can find the grid of sessions here with links to the wiki pages with the notes. I’ll link to the notes for each of the sessions that I attended.

The first one that I headed to was “Mashdowns: mashing for competitive advantage in rich client/enterprise applications”, led by Mike Fisher and Ben Widhelm from ElephantDrive. They see this as a second generation of mashups: more tightly integrated into desktop or enterprise applications, and more focussed on “doing” rather than “consuming” — which seems pretty much aligned with my ideas about BPM and mashups. I hate their term “mashdown”, however, preferring the more-commonly used “enterprise mashup”. Really, the distinction between first and second generation mashups is primarily between consumer mashups and business/enterprise mashups.

We gathered a number of ideas about the difference between first and second generation mashups:

  • First generation mashups are about the “what”, and are primarily about aggregating/joining/federating data. They’re generally seen as useful by users (consumers), and because they’re focussed on the consumer market, they tend to be public, and developed rapidly and a bit loosely. The revenue model is usually based on ad revenues, since few end-users pay for the mashups.
  • Second generation mashups are about the “how”, and are about aggregating external and internal (enterprise) services. They’re useful to business for all the usual business ROI reasons: improving process efficiency, reducing IT costs and increasing business agility; like any other plan that reduces technology capital investment, they also tend to level the playing field for smaller companies since they can use the same technology as the big guys but not have to build it or buy it outright. Unlike the consumer mashups, however, they have to be industrial-strength, private and secure. Equally importantly, they have to be supported by some sort of service level agreement backed by appropriate high availability and disaster recovery scenarios, which most of the current API vendors are not willing to provide.

The key difference for me is that second generation mashups are about integrating into the business processes. This breakout was a significant conversation since it’s the first one that I’ve heard at either Mashup Camp where business processes were a major focus. I’m feeling very positive about BPM and Web 2.0 today.

We had a conversation about one of the main problems of enterprise mashups, which is their current lack of acceptance by IT. Part of this is IT attitudes: not trusting the external APIs, either in terms of data integrity or in terms of reliability, plus the NIH problem. An equally important part is the relatively lack of readiness of the APIs themselves in terms of SLAs, authentication and other indutrial-grade issues that would have external APIs be on equal footing alongside internal ones. Even with internal-only mashups, that use lighter-weight mashup techniques on internal APIs, there’s resistance to a new way of doing things. That really comes back to the question of the the difference between a mashup and any other web services orchestration, especially as lightweight (non-WS-*) integration methods are used for faster application assembly internally.

This was a great session for focussing my thoughts on how to talk to my enterprise customers about mashups.

Michael Scherotter was also there from Mindjet, distributing copies of their application on flashdrives. Haven’t had a chance to install and try it out yet.

Mashup Camp 2 kickoff

David Berlind started Mashup Camp 2 a bit after 9am (which is great for us east coasters, but probably early for the locals) with the logistics and agenda framework for the day. As with Mashup Camp 1, and any other unconference, there is no real agenda, just time slots and rooms where anyone who has a topic of interest can faciliate a session. Kudos to David for getting this off the ground successfully — again! — and attracting almost 400 people here for the two days.

This was followed by all of the API/technology providers giving their 30-second spiel on what they do: EVDB, Yahoo Local (maps), AOL (mashup hosting, OpenAIM API, MapQuest, MusicNow), Microsoft Live, Commendo, Good Storm, Webalo, HotOrNot, Intel, Amazon, Plaxo, StrikeIron, OpenID, IBM, eBay (he introduced his company as “a small internet auction company”), Zazzle, Mindjet, O’Reilly, 411sync, Mobido, and at least one other that I missed. I don’t recall anyone from Google up there, but they have a strong enough presence here that that’s probably not required.

After that, the interesting part started: anyone interested in leading a session or making a presentation wrote their idea on a page, announced it into the microphone and stuck it on the schedule, with developers having first dibs on the time and space. There are a ton of interesting sessions proposed for the next two days: voting (as in political), data mining, PHP, user retention, music/movies, API versioning/backwards compatibility, using mashups for prototyping, mashups for non-geeks/small businesses, Google Checkout/AdWords mashup, client-side customization, incorporating mashups into desktop/enterprise environments (“mashdowns”), Ruby on Rails hands-on mashup development, wikis as a mashup platform (specifically twiki), social networking, API pricing models and licensing, content taxonomies, microformats and standardization for APIs, monetization of mashups, access control/authentication for feeds, security and identity, API developer programs, email mashups, aggregating profile data from different web sources, multimedia mashups, business-oriented mashups, mapping mashups (from the guy who developed Frappr), user-centricity, Google Gadgets, mobile mashups, open source social entrepreneurship and more.

I have no idea how I’m going to see all the things that I want to see. I do know that the wifi in the museum is spotty, and I’m having a hard time staying connected, so all this blogging will pile up for the end of the day.

Back at Mashup Camp

Or is that Mashup Camp 2.0? I’m back at the delightfully quirky Hotel Avante again, meeting up with some people who I met back at the original Mashup Camp in February, and starting to meet a bunch of new people. We’ll all be off to the Computer History Museum in the morning for the official start; tonight was a party by the pool (unfortunately I arrived a bit late and missed most of the action) and some great demos to a lot of people in a tiny room.

I had the Air Canada experience from hell getting here, which probably deserves a post of its own about total lack of good customer service as well as a web user interface that doesn’t bother to tell you when you just paid $855 for a ticket but don’t actually have a reserved seat on the plane…