The New York Times website is hosting an interesting data mashup based on rental data from NetFlix.
Mashup fans will appreciate the elegant visualization. Mouse over the map to see the most popular titles for each zip code. Adjust the slider if you want to see beyond the top ten.
You can also choose a specific movie using the "Previous" and "Next" buttons. (Or use the Alphabetical slider). The title is displayed to the left along with thumbnail graphic and synopsis. The popularity of the selected movie is displayed as a heat map, with red spots being where lots of Netflix members have added this title to their queues.
They've cleverly integrated a link in the synopsis to point to movie reviews on their NYT website. And the NYT site has some nice Web2.0 features, like adding comments, sharing, etc. They've also improved their friendliness to casual visitors, as I was not prompted to login as the NYT site frequently did in the past.
There's clearly a massive amount of data behind this mashup, but rather than being overwhelmed, the UI allows us to make sense of it. That's a hallmark of a good data mashup, so we can all learn from their example.
So what else can we do with it? If you happen to live in one of the twelve available cities (or have lived there in the past), you can check out your neighborhood or old haunts by looking up your zip code(s). You might be reminded of some movie titles you missed in the theatres and might be tempted to see on DVD (great for Netflix). Maybe you'll check out a review or participate the NYT web community (great for NYT, particularly if new patrons are moved to register an account).
Getting back to the business side of things, Netflix could use this data to improve the efficiency of their internal operations, although they probably have a lot more data and a different mashup is probably better suited to this end.
As we move into 2010 and beyond, I think we will see well-crafted mashups pop up in more places. As they become commonplace, mashups may lose some of the novelty, but that's a good thing. Whipping out my flip phone in 2010 impresses few people, but it was not so long ago that such actions were the sole domain of Captain Kirk and his intrepid band of adventurers.
IBM jStart Emerging Technologies Development