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Mashups

As web development has progressed, so has the ease of application creation. The creation of Application Program Interfaces (API) has given developers the opportunity to work more efficiently than ever before. Howstuffworks.com explains it like this: “An API is a software-to-software interface, not a user interface. With APIs, applications talk to each other without any user knowledge or intervention.” APIs basically allow the application ask for information from a source on another web server. This is called a “call.” I think that it’s amazing how simple that it is to bring these services together.

Dave Roos basically broke it down like this. There is a hunk of XML code that corresponds to functions in each of the programs that are being mashed together. He goes on to say that the company that releases the API will typically do so as apart of a larger software development kit. This is meant to make the developers job a lot easier.

Mashups can be broken into some smaller categories. The first is mapping and a huge reason for this is Google Maps. There now mashups for everything from crimes in Chicago to locations of public art to locations of concerts in a given city. Another category is the news mashup. They will borrow from a place like bbc.com or digg.com and incorporate some from of rss feed to get the content in one place. Also, there are video and picture mashups. Flickr has been a big catalyst in this, allowing people access and the ability to search photos in a variety of ways. The last is the search and shopping mashup. Google, amazon, and eBay are just a few that have made getting access to these markets infinitely easier.

Overall, I think that mashups are the natural next step of open-sourced software. The ultimate goal will be to have user friendly pieces that anyone can put together as they need. Perhaps services will arise that tailor a set of applications that do exactly what you want. For the most part, we are pretty close to that. I like to think that the iPhone is actually a very simple phone by itself, but when you add the apps that you can put on top of it; you have one of the most powerful personal electronics on the market. The ability to mix and match makes development much easier than in the past. I think as developers, we will begin to use these even more widely than they are used today.

What I think will happen in the future is that mashups will become extremely commonplace. The hurdle of integration will be a thing of the past, and the innovative developers will learn to make their money putting out the mashups as a set of tools to be used by other designers in their sites. We may even see a time where programs arise to make mashups as simple as using a word processor or presentation software. It will then lie on the skill of the developer to create the API’s that fuel these mashup programs. It will be interesting to see where these head. Maybe scripting languages will become so diverse that we implement these API’s with a few short lines of code. In short, mashups will definitely have a place in all of our futures as web designers.

Sources:

http://communication.howstuffworks.com/how-to-leverage-an-api-for-conferencing2.htm

http://www.howstuffworks.com/framed.htm?parent=how-to-leverage-an-api-for-conferencing.htm&url=http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/xml/library/x-mashups.html

I had heard of Diigo before, but had no clue what it actually was until go in and started using it. I really like how easily it integrates into Firefox. It looks like a more in depth version of Delicious at first glance. This is important for a lot of reasons. I think that this will be great for research when hard copies are not an option. The sticky notes are great as well.

In my academic career, Diigo fills a perfect gap that used to consist of printing out web pages and highlighting them. In the past the only other option was to copy and paste into word of some other word processor. As I become more web savvy, I think that the adjustment from Delicious to Diigo will be easy. I am not going to give up using Delicious, however. Both services have their uses, and both have found a place onto my browser’s toolbars.

As for my career, I think that there are a few places where this could be helpful. The ability to lay comments on top of any page is a valuable one. This, along with Google Wave, could be a big time saver in designer-client communication. Using public tags with comments about specific pieces on a page that is under development seem like it would really help with feedback. It would also be valuable for group development, where a partner and myself could share critiques. The last part that I really feel would be helpful in my career as a designer is for saving reference material while I work to stay on top of the industry. Overall, I think that Diigo is largely an academic tool. Collaborative annotations real strength lies in the ability to streamline group research projects. Diigo, and sites like it, are really better for long sites and documents, and it seems like Delicious is better for shorter pages.

First of all, I would like to start by saying that this is something I wish I would have had my first time through school. Currently there are ton of different kinds of these on the market right now. They have a variety of different bells and whistles, but are all basically an electronic tablet that allows you to read a book. As a student, I would love for my textbooks to be purchased digitally. I fear that what this does however is give publishers the opportunity to destroy the used book market and at the same time force students to pay upwards of $100 for each book sold.

The applications for my career as a web designer are far reaching if and when some promises are made by e-book makers provifing web browsing capability at 3G speeds. See this article for more information about e-book readers. What I really see happening is readers like these taking a big part of the market from net books. Just as we need to start designing “mobile friendly” versions of websites now so that they may be read on smart phones, I think that we will also have to start designing monochrome versions of sites.

There are breakdowns of these little gadgets all over the net. Here is another one that I found. It seems the prices can range pretty heavily based on what you want in a reader.

I suppose that this is also my fear as electronics makers start putting web browsers on everything that we encounter. In the past, designers had to make multiple versions of web sites to satisfy the needs of each individual browser. Now, will we have to do the same all over again even though there are things like web standards out there. Given my limited experience with actual site creation, I could be off base.

I am all for more ways for my work to be seen, but I think that it is going to come with a proportional amount of additional work.

Google Wave

Google has managed to combine a streaming chat conversation and email into one place. I have watched the video that Google has posted for developers, and it seems like for a web designer, it’s a dream come true. I know that a very important part of being a web designer is communication with the client. What I really think that a technology like this will do is allow web designers to have an easier time staying in touch with the client throughout the entire design process. This will ultimately be a huge money-saver for customers. Freeing up time will allow designers to take on additional clients with the design process shortened by fewer reworks.

On top of everything else, Google decided to make it open-sourced. Let’s just add that to the list of reasons why we think that Google will overtake “a company that will not be named out of Washington.” I love that people will be able to take this technology like Google maps, and incorporate it into their websites. There will be mash-ups galore I am sure.

Wave is like a live bulletin board on steroids. Personally I think that it is amazing. I hope that as more comes out we will see what can be done with it. I really feel that this kind of live feedback, incorporated within the traditional website message board structure, will be a huge asset to companies who want to know what their customers are thinking. I would also like to point out that the current build is done through a web browser. I would be interested to see if there will be a stand alone version, or extra features that come from using Wave through Google’s browser Chrome.

As a side note, Google is proposing a change to the HTML 5 standard to incorporate drag and drop technology into Wave. They went on to show how waves could be embedded into blogs so that now blogs could become live. Blogs can now be updated in a Wave client and vice-versa.

A great point was made by the developer. People with Wave accounts will be able to travel around the internet and aggregate conversations that they are participating in into one place. As a developer who will be relying on the internet for changes in the industry, this will be just as valuable as any content aggregator.

XHTML and CSS

What I wanted to do with this post is talk about why web standards are important as it applies to XHTML and CSS. Having no coding background, I really did not know where to start. More importantly, I do not think that I would know how do identify what was actually meaningful. Well here goes…

The only place I could think to do was to go broad and go to about.com. They basically put fourth the first steps to using web standards. Towards the end of the article, they gave a very useful link for validating web documents for compliance. You can find it here. You basically insert the URL and the site spits back where you comlpy and where you do not.

John Vann put out an article that was simply entitled Why Web Standards are Important that put it in very plain english. He set out a few bullet points that I think are helpful for anyone to know. They are as follows:

  • Your site will flow smoothly
  • Ability to use stock material
  • Multiple designers can work on the same content
  • Easier updates

It makes a lot of sense that pushing for a set of rules streamlines work on both the programming and content ends of designing sites. As I continue my search, I came across the Web Standards Group. I think that this would be a very valuable asset for all of us as designers. I went through the site some and I found that the forums has posts on a myriad of topics that I think we could all find applicable in some capacity or another. I personally would not go there unless you are looking for something specific.

Podcasting

This is another topic that I have no experience creating. What I have found is that they are easy to subscribe to, but way more difficult to make. The place that I started was a Beginners Guide to Podcasting. What I loved about this site is that it took a hold-your-hand approach to saying what you want to say. So much so that they break down a ten minute podcast into what is the best way to deliver content. I liked it so much that I thought I’d show you all below:

Here’s a rule of thumb you can follow in creating a ten-minute podcast:

  • 10 seconds: Intro music or audio
  • 20 seconds: Introduce the podcast. State the title, your name(s), and the purpose of the podcast. Also state the URL where your podcast and the show notes can be found. Introduce your guests, if any.
  • 10 seconds: If you have any sponsors, mention them now!
  • 20 seconds: Provide a brief outline of your show, if you have a script; if not, state here what you plan to talk about.
  • 9 minutes: The main body or discussion
  • 20 seconds: Wrap up the discussion, outlining your main points. If you have guests, take this time to thank and acknowledge them.
  • 10 seconds: If you have sponsors you’d like to mention again, now’s the time!
  • 20 seconds: Introduce the podcast once more. State the title, your name, and the URL of the podcast and show notes.
  • 10 seconds: outro music.
  • Optional: 3 to 5 minutes: Podcast-safe song or piece from an independent band or artist at the end of your show

What really made this site valuable to me was the list of podcast publication sites that they listed at the bottom of the article. I’ll lay those out for you all to lazy to actually read it.

www.podcast.net, www.podcastalley.com, www.ipodder.org, and www.podcastdirectory.com (Yahoo! has a great list of podcast directories)

On scribd.com, I found a document that goes into more detail about what it takes to do video podcasts. You can read all about it here. Again in this article, they have another list of great communities for podcast promotion. To add a couple more to the list consider checking out Blubrry, Podcast Pickle, and the Miro Guide (Miro specializes in video podcasts).

The last place I came across was a British website that had an article about an economics professor that used podcasting to deliver short 3-minute clips of his lectures to students via mp3. This is an old article, but I thought that it conveyed an important point for university education. Dr. Johnes pointed out how the short length of the podcasts forced him to focus only on what it important from his lectures. This would contrast sharply with his contemporaries who would like to droll on and force their students to frantically decipher what they would need to know from their lectures. I thought that this was a great early example of a way to give students the information they need to be successful without weighing them down with a lot of extra rhetoric. It makes me wish that I had the same luxury to listen to my professors lectures while on the treadmill or while walking my dog or even in the car on the way back from school. I guess the biggest problem with that is most college professors probably want to treat their lectures as proprietary, and digitizing them would make it very easy to distribute illegally. Let’s hope the mindset changes with the times.

Communities of Practice

I really did not know where to start for this one. I found this video on youtube and this actually managed to clear up a lot about what a community of practice was on a very basic level. I had some trouble with Etienne’s accent in some parts, but overall he clears up everything from a bird’s eye view. After watching the video, I was trying to think of a place in my life where I engage in communities of practice. There are actually a couple of videos on youtube about communities of practice that are a great place to start.

As it turns out I have been doing this for a long time and had no idea. There are forums out there like penciljack.com that cater to artists who like to draw as a hobby, but are looking for guidance on where to take their art to the next level. You post what you create, or just look at what other people make and comment. It is all very constructive criticism and when I was first trying to get a handle on figure drawing, it was a great asset.

I know that I have gotten somewhat off topic, but another great place to go what the edutech wiki. They have an article devoted to communites of practice and it was extremely informative on a much  more scholarly level. You can find the site here.

http://erevolution.jiscinvolve.org/2009/08/13/education-as-a-community-of-practice/

Blog post on education as a community of practice. Follow the link to the article to get more information on it.

Cloud Computing

I did not understand the breadth and width of what exactly cloud computing was until I started doing to research on it. I suppose that it was the natural next step for computing as a whole. I can see a time where individual hard drives become useless. The first site that I found was an explanation of cloud computing as a whole. You can read more in the first link below. The model makes so much sense for a variety of reasons. For one, it will make costs more manageable for the consumer. Another is that development and distribution are made material-less.

Lee Gomes at Forbes.com of all places had an interesting insight into cloud computing being more of a misnomer. He points out that it is really an outdated buzzword that needs to change. The last article I found was actually a youtube video that had series of web industry leaders explain what they thought that cloud computing was in their own words. It makes computing a more social action. The whole google suite of applications is a great example of this. Dan Ferber, editor and chief of CNet, makes a great point about users never caring about how they get what they need as long as they get exactly what they need when they need it. The only part of this that scares me is the security question that is raised when you store data somewhere other than locally.

I was having trouble getting the hyperlinks to work, so here are the pages I found in order of mention:

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/what-is-cloud-computing-and-how-do-i-use-it-1896368.html

http://www.forbes.com/2010/01/31/internet-google-salesforce-business-intelligence-cloud-computing.html

http://www.information-management.com/news/defining-cloud-computing-10017154-1.html

Social Bookmarking

I’ll admit that social bookmarking did not make a lot of sense to me before we really got it explained to us in class. In looking for information on it, I found a great video that explains it further in very plain english. You can see the video here. I loved how he uses cut paper to convey his point. It makes more sense when you watch it.

The next thing I found was Google is coming out with a new service that will integrate in Gmail called Google Buzz. This is actually a service that I will consider using. The idea is it will integrate all of the social media that you use on the internet and funnel through your Gmail. Google Buzz is like a combination of a blog and Twitter. Google’s official blog is here. The other provocative part is the iPhone integration that looks simple enough. Looking more into it, Google Buzz really looks like a less chaotic version of Twitter.

Another review of Google Buzz puts it like this, “As we all know it’s very difficult to filter good piece of information when there are thousands of friends in our social community. Now Google Buzz attempts to take on the challenge of filtering only the “good stuff” in your inbox and everything else hidden away until if you want to find it.” I can think of a few ways that this really makes Gmail that much better. Google already has a host of apps that can be used with in Gmail and have added another great one. The link to the review is here.

Understanding Blogging

I have been looking aroung the internet to see if there are site specifically devoted to helping bloggers be heard. I actually found a blog about blogging (here). I suppose that blogging is a trade like anything else, and there is a blog about almost anything you can think of. While looking through Liz Strauss’ site, I came across Posterus. I’m not sure how many of you are familliar with Posterus, but it is a way to post to multiple social networking sites at once, all via email (f.y.i. – wordpress is included in the group that it works with). You can read more about it here.

Another site that I came across was a great article that was focused more on deciding what makes a good blog. I think that it’s something that gets glazed over with the huge number of blogs out there. I suppose that it should come as no surprise that many of the things that we discussed in class were also covered in the article. Towards the articles close, she hits a few don’ts that I found particularly engaging.

Brady’s big blogging mistakes are:

  1. Infrequent blog posts. Perhaps one post a month when six a week is ideal and once a week a minimum. Get into a rhythm of posting and keep to it.
  2. No imagery. You can use graphics, screen shots and photographs. Optimize image captions with target keywords and they can bring traffic and liven up a post.
  3. No podcasts or videos. Go beyond text and still images and use sound and video.
  4. Too many 2,000 word essays. Our most successful blog posts are short and punchy ones. Then once in a while a longer one can give more detail.

You can read the rest of her article here