Dumbing-down Mashups. A Good Thing?

I’ve been heads-down on some projects lately, and if I still didn’t manage to peek up and check some of my favorite sites, I might have missed this news about Dapper via ReadWriteWeb. <embarrassment>I had no idea Dapper had been acquired by Yahoo last week</embarrassment>

They were one of the original “do-it-yourself” API tools a few years back before switching their model to contextual advertising. I wasn’t thrilled to see the change in focus, but at least they kept Dapper up and running.

 Marshall Kirkpatrick has written an excellent article about discovering Dapper, and the effect it had on him. He barely mentions “mashups”, but you get a great sense of how empowering the technology was for him.

He also mentions NeedleBase in passing, a free hosted tool that I admit I haven’t used much. In practice, it sounds very similar to Connotate, a commercial mashup product whose “Intelligent Agents” learn what to scrape by example. Alas, NeedleBase is a product of ITA Software, a travel search/software firm that was acquired by Google back in July. The product is still available, but Google doesn’t exactly have a good track record in the mashup space.

I see a clear trend away from “mashups”, and towards “data harvesting”.  Marshall’s uses of Dapper are clearly in the “Harvest” category, and NeedleBase describes itself as “a revolutionary platform for acquiring, integrating, cleansing, analyzing and publishing data on the web”. Even venerable Kapow Technologies no longer mentions the word “mashup” on their homepage, but you can read plenty about acquiring data from the web.  

What does it mean? Marshall makes a good argument how about technology that is too innovative for the current marketplace often doesn’t gain the traction it needs to succeed. I think we are seeing a slight “dumbing down” of mashup technology/terminology to a few simple use cases that people can easily grasp. Once they understand how these tools can give them easy access to a wealth of new information, they will start combining the various pieces and “mashups” will finally gain broad acceptance as a solution paradigm.

But that’s just the path for the teeming masses. If you’re reading this, you’re probably ahead of the curve and looking beyond scraping to mashups’ more powerful capabilities. Most firms have barely (if that!) begun to exploit the potential of mashups, and I see that as a chance to gain a competitive advantage. You can wait until mashups are mainstream (again) or you can use this time to build an enterprise app store, create propreitary information streams, and make your IT department more productive. Will you wait until your peers seize this opportunity, or will you use this time to jump ahead of them?

2 Responses to “Dumbing-down Mashups. A Good Thing?”

  • Michael,

    Reading your comments has really reinforced some of my own thoughts after working with mashups now for more than a year.

    As an aside, Dapper was fundamental in building my first real business mashup, one which we still use today. I’d be disappointed if Yahoo discontinued it.

    Mashups still seem to be so poorly understood and much of the industry “chatter” seems to have refocussed on social media and e2.0 and the true potential of mashups and the attendant apps still hasn’t reached the right ears.

    A quote from an interview with Oscar Berg commenting mainly about intranets seems entirely applicable here: “Perhaps the new role of IT is work with the business to bring out the magic that technology makes possible.”

    I think we need to show the business the “magic of mashups” and the potential they offer.

    I also believe the greatest future opportunity lies in the use of mashups and apps for Business Intelligence. Unfortunately, the greatest impediment at the moment seems to be a lack of “digestible data” that’s easy for business users to grab, mash, and display in dashboards.

    I am still completely won over by the opportunities for mashups. I only wish I could dedicate more time to promoting the “magic”.

    Thanks for your thoughts.
    Innes

  • […] popular and tens of thousands of these tasks have been created by the community. As I wrote in my post, “Dumbing-down Mashups: A Good Thing?” the spread of simpler mashup products like ifttt is […]

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