Those of you who read this space regularly may recall some referencesI've made to a project underway in my organization called QEDWiki. Unfortunately, I've not been able to say much about it because therehasn't been much made public (internally or externally) for me toreference. But that's beginning to change now and hopefully soon I'llbe able to provide links to places where you can play with andlearn more about our little toy. But in the mean time, here's apointer to a short interview of my VP and IBM Fellow, Rod Smith on QEDWiki, situational applications and programming for the masses. Here's my favorite quote:
"It's hard for me to say 'end-user programming' without cracking a smile. It's been overhyped and overpromised,"
WithQED, we've got a chance of actually getting it right. Watch thisspace for announcements and news regarding QED as it occurs.
Companies are not going to feel comfortable using Google's services for corporate documents of any sort.
Istill think Zimbra and others still have the correct answer here inoffering both a free, or low cost public hosted service along with apurchaseable, enterprise installable product that companies can putbehind their corporate firewall. Unfortunately, I think Google's stuffwill by definition be very popular and most typical web users will notrealize the sensitivity of using Google's services for their work.
ZDNet blog colleague Joe McKendrick beat me to the punch earlier this week with an excellent analysis of the fascinating ramifications of IBM's recent statementsat the New York PHP Conference aimed mainstreaming mashup and Web 2.0technologies. If IBM is getting seriously involved in this, there mustbe something to it, and certainly Rod Smith's comments are receiving considerable attention.
Check out the "considerable attention" link above. Rodseems to have really gotten the media's attention this time and thereviews seem to be pretty consistent that IBM has landed on somethingreally good here.
It gives a nicely concise description of Situational Applications: "Situational applications are a way for people with domain expertise to create applications in a very short time. Many IT shops have a backlog of small little projects that their customers want. If it takes 3 weeks to get to a project, the need is gone before the developer even starts coding. We want to give knowledge workers the tools to solve their own problems."
Dan Gisolfi provided some interesting thoughts about how IT departments retain control over the available library of widgets available, thereby acting as "the gatekeeper" rather than "the gardener". I like the analogy.
Dion Hinchcliffe asserts in this post that enterprise mashupsare becoming increasingly important to IT organizations and thebusiness they support. However tools to enable the creation ofenterprise mashups are few and far between. In fact, while he notes "Not sure about any of this? IBM has clearly identified mashups as a key enterprise trend as well", he only cites one tool that meets all his criteria:
"However,I've recently come across one product that clearly shows almost thefull potential of enterprise mashups in a single package, despite a fewrough edges.
I recently came across Applibase's impressive DataMashups.com site,and more than any other product I've seen so far, it clearlydemonstrates the possibilities and potential of enterprise mashupsguided by end-users and shared amongst co-workers. The site has anexcellent service previewthat lets you quickly start assembling mashups visually, right online,using a rich palette of pre-existing widgets, feeds, data from localand remote SQL databases, and much more."
Looks likeI've got a new lunchtime research project for the week. The company responsible for DataMashups.com is Applibase, Inc. On their site they have some additional background material on their offerings and what they are trying to accomplish. Anyone outthere messed with this site? If so, please comment and let me knowwhat you think.
I've not blogged for a while, but it's time to get started agains. I've been given the opportunity to represent IBM at mashup camp and universitythis week, so I'll be blogging from here with interesting tidbits alongthe way. Sam Thompson and I are here to show off QEDWiki and todiscuss mashup and situational application technologies.
So farthis first session this monring is just a review of mashup-relatedtechnologies. Not much new, except a curious new phrase. Whendiscribing the various ways to say JSON, John Herron, the speaker,described the correct pronounciation as being dependent on "where inthe Net you're from". I've never thought about locale applying theinternet -- afterall, on the web, everything is everywhere and everyonehas access to everything. But I guess from a technology or interestgroup perspective, locale might well apply in that fashion. Interesting to think about anyway.
Just found out Kapow Technologies will be doing a session here atmashup camp. I'm quite jazzed by their technology. They do dataextraction from web sites that can then be returned via an Atom or RSSfeed. Once in that form, that data is easily used in situational appsoftware such as QEDWiki. They do really good stuff. You can checkout a free version of their latest release at OpenKapow.com.
There are a collection of folks here from MIT who are involved in a project called "Future Boston",which is tasked with building tools to facilitate the upcomingchallanges facing the city. In particular the MIT Department of UrbanStudies and Planning and Boston.com are sponsoring contests to see who can build the best mashups in the following areas:
Innovation Landscape: Plots geospatialboundaries of a fast innovating hub
Visualize the ""Innovation Landscape"
Show change over time
Identify key trends and exceptions
Model Maker: Detects the development capacity ofa region
Interpret "live on the ground" of ScienceCity using rich, parcel level data and multiple data sources
Talent Scout: Maps newly-admitted degreecandidates to companies
Investor:Matches dollars to opportunityTap administrative data ad publicdatasets about landuse, ownership, infrastructure, buildings, etc.
Sothe challange is to build mashups using open interoperable OGCprotocols (WMS and WFS) and visualization tools to prototype ways of:
Engaging public in deeper understanding of urban fabric and urban futures
Envisioninglife along MassAveCity (now and in the future) from the point of viewof students, employers, universities, investors, etc.
The goals of the challange are:
Technical: Push the boundaries of web mappingand information visualization
Educational: Use technology to tell a storyabout life in Boston, MA,and the country and visualize how it could be different.
If you're interested, you've got between now and Thursday Night. Check out MIT site and download the data. The award is $500 for each winner. Time to get started!
OK, so I've now heard the fourth different term for what I think is essentially the very samething. IBM tends to use the term Widgets of course to describe blocksof functionality used in different ways. WidgetBox, microformats.organd others use the term Widgets as well. Google has their Gadgets andthe general population of web users seem to use the term Gadgets most often. AOL uses the term Modules, perhaps due to their ModuleT specand the term Components seems to pop up in general conversation aswell. Someday, someone has got to drive the industry to at least cometo concensus on what each of these things are and how they aredifferent -- if at all. My impression is that except for someconceptual differences, we're all rowing in the same direction, we'rejust putting a slightly different spin on it.
I've spent a good amount of time talking with Kevin Lawver from AOL. He is also the author of lots of stuff on Microformats. We're on the same page on this stuff. Perhaps there is an opportunityto help standardize this stuff a bit through microformat definitionsfor these things. He's easily the most interesting person I've met here so far.
I attended a Mashup Camp session this morning on mashup development tools. Itstarted just as you might expect. The moderator asked us to list offtools that we were familiar with, which solicited a long collection ofprogramming languages, libraries, IDEs, etc. QEDWiki was listed as one ofthem. But the next issue was how those tools get access to anduse/display data. This gave rise to the traditional Model ViewController discussion and about the apparent disparity in how access tovarious data sources was achieved. After all, if you're a hard-coreprogrammer, writing code to interact with Joe's Web service is easy. But if you're not, unless it's a simple feed, you're stuck. What'sneeded of course is a widget standard that allows the data provider toallow his data to be used in a variety of mashup platforms. Someoneprotested that the various framework providers would be unlikely to support such a standard, but Iasserted that it was the content providers who had a vested interest inpursuing such a standard. The group seemed to agree. The group alsoseemed to understand the need for a standard interface between thewidgets and the frameworks that support them. Sounds good, right?
Well,maybe not. This morning I proposed leading a discussion on whatstandards might be needed to facilitate the lifecycle of and interactionsbetween widgets. The person passing the microphone around basically took the microphone from me while I wastalking and said to me "You're talking about standards? It will be amiracle if anyone shows up for that!" Also, I've spoken to a couple other folks who have said much thesame thing. This group may not yet be interested in talking standards,even if it is in their interest. A few folks get it. The StrikeIronguys do. So do the Kapow guys. But of course they are both contentproviders. The AOL guys seem to get it too based on their microformatwork. I'll be participating in a session with them on microformatstomorrow morning. And in fact, microformats are of course a form ofstandard. Maybe it's best to just stay away from the term "standard". I need to think about how I might better state things for thisaudience. Anyway, it will be interesting to see who shows up to mysession this afternoon. I'll let you know.
Established technology providers, which sell to businesses, arecourting mashup developers, some of whom may be working at start-ups orjust working on their own. Microsoft, Intel, IBM, Yahoo, Autodesk andAOL are among the sponsors of this year's event.
IBM, for example, has a tool called QEDwiki,which is designed to let businesspeople pull together data fromdifferent sources, such as weather information and product shippinginformation, to create a perhaps temporary application.
I will append additional articles to this post as new ones roll in.
"..users have always had development tools they could use and understand, particularly the ubiquitous corporate spreadsheet. If we could only provide mashup tools as easy to use as the spreadsheet with automatic enterprise development best practices, along with access to all the services and content in the enterprise and on the Web, users might indeed use them to solve their business problems and not have to ask IT departments to deliver these solutions using older, (much) more expensive methods."
Interestingly, the documentation is very clear that IBM understands dynamic software ecosystems, viral propagation, and triggering application adoption via network effects.These are very modern concepts from the consumer Web, where the networks and audiences are so large and informal. It's both encouraging and fascinating to see these ideas moving into the enterprise.
In any case, though it's clearly an ambitious project, QEDWiki still has a few rough edges that one would expect by trying to do so muchinside the browser, however what IBM has provided so far is extremely compelling and does much to show the promise of this new application development model.
It's worth nothing that almost all of the elements that I believe are essential in enterprise mashup tools are present in QEDWiki including vital enterprise context such as security as well as a rich pallete of pre-defined widgets and services for users to work from. QEDWiki is open and extensible and supports plug-ins, SOAs, and much more. It'll be fascinating to watch this mashup platform evolve, particularly how it compares with the raft of other products aiming for this space coming to market very soon. Because whoever hits on the right model for user-generated software might just well do for end-user computing what Dan Bricklin did with VisiCalc all those years ago.
Well stated if I do say so myself. Thanks for reading, John Gerken
David Barnes does a great job explaining QEDWiki on this YouTube video. For anyone interested in QEDWiki, this video is a must-see, especially for the demo of data mashup using a StrikeIron web service to do SMS text messaging. I also liked how he dragged the EditGrid online spreadsheet directly from ProgrammableWeb into QEDWiki.
Article in Feb. 21, 2007 Raleigh News & Observer, page 3D (althoughaccessing the article requires registration. I prefer the policyof the New York Times which is to permit access to today's news withoutregistration). Paul is based in Raleigh. When I read aboutemerging technology in the local paper, I am persuaded that it hasmoved from bleeding to leading principally for early adopters and now ready forwide-spread consideration.
In this article, he describes a technique or emerging capability forData Harvesting and summarrizes nicely the value of RSS (Really SimpleSyndication) feeds. His subject is Yahoo Pipes (pipes.yahoo.com) andhow it permits aggregation and sorting of these feeds by keywords such as author, date,and topics. Not too keen on the Pipes's interface, henonetheless praises it for "pointing to a direction that the Net istakiing, one that changes the game by giving the user more control overits vast and changing resources.' Here is the url if you can getto it without registration: http://www.newsobserver.com/1447/story/545355.html
Our team's project to develop a Mash-Uptoolkit that can reliably access enterprise data offers a demo of its usefulness with Yahoo Pipes. Can be found on IBM's AlphaWorks site at: http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/qedwiki/