Mash-ups

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Mashups are applications that recombine data, or functionality from different sources. The creation of mashups is facilitated through content providers making data and functionality available through user-friendly APIs. This empowers internet users to participate in the value creation process through meaningful recombination.


Mashup explanation

Contents

History

Mashups are applications that recombine data, or functionality from different sources. The creation of mashups is facilitated through content providers making data and functionality available through user-friendly APIs. This empowers internet users to participate in the value creation process through meaningful recombination.

As mashup standards and techniques have matured, enterprise mashups have begun to gain popularity. Organizations are seeing the benefit of giving employees the tools and information that will enable employees to create value generating programs. In an enterprise setting, there is a long tail of unmet demand as only largest projects will get funding. By adopting mashups enterprises saw the opportunity of allowing employees to fill this unmet demand.

Types of Mashups

Consumer

Consumer mashups generally focus combining data from different sources to allow users to visualize data in a different manner. An example of this is the website TrendsMap that recombines Google Maps with Twitter. Consumer mashups fall within the following categories:

Mapping mashups

These mashups graphically present location sensitive information on a map.

Media mashups

Allow users to combine media from different sources and filter results based on media characteristics. Characteristics can be properties such as resolution, timestamp, or the object.

Search mashups

Aggregates search data into multiple sources. This type of mashups is common with price aggregation websites that promote comparative shopping. An example of a search mashup is ShopBot, that aggregates Canadian vendor prices and then sorts results by relevancy and price.

News mashups

aggregates news articles into a convenient website. News mashups are often genre specific to cater to a certain demographic

Data

Data mashups are not geared towards either the enterprise nor consumer market. It combines similar data into one representation.

Business

Business mashups are similar to consumer mashups but they differentiate themselves through increased security and integration with business processes. Enterprise mashups allow for increased employee ownership and collaboration as users are able to create programs that fulfill long tail demand.

Mashup Development Tools

All time most used APIs to help build mashups

Today there are many examples of interesting and useful mashups can be found all over the internet. Many of these mashups were developed using mashup development tools. Mashup development tools aim at allowing users to build mashups without writing code. By using a development tool, anyone can customize their own program without knowing the complexities of actually programming. While a user of a mashup development tool may not have to learn to write code, a mashup tool does not guarantee the process of building one will be easy.

Widget Development Mashups

Most development tools use what is called a widget. A widget is essentially a standalone application. Users select a widget, drop a widget onto a canvas, customize the widget, and specify how to connect widgets together. Essentially, when developing mashups users can create or select various pre-developed widgets and customize and integrate them with other established widgets to complete complex tasks. Some expamples of widget based development tools are as follows.

Yahoo Pipes

Yahoo Pipes is a web based application currently in beta from Yahoo! that allows users to create mashups. Pipes utilizes a graphical interface for building mashups that combine website feeds, pages, and other information. These information feeds are combined using web based applications or ‘widgets’. Yahoo Pipes users are able to have access to already published Pipes and incorporate them into their own. Any user can publish any Pipes so others may have access.

Dapper

Dapper is also a web based application that allows users to extract and use information from websites throughout the internet. Similarly to Pipes, Dapper allows users to create feeds from existing websites using pre-developed applications. These feeds can then be used to develop more applications, widgets, or a new RSS feed. The usefulness of Dapper is correlated with a users programming abilities. Users with a lot of programming knowledge are able to build sophisticated applications. Users without a large programming background are still able to use Dapper to manipulate data from the internet easily in a variety of ways including, creating a RSS feed, building a Google Maps mashup, or creating alerts to changes from websites.

Intel Mashmaker

Intel Mashup maker is a program that allows users to create ‘screen scrapers’ to extract data from internet pages and utilize the information to create mashups. Unlike Dapper and Yahoo Pipes, Mashup Maker suggests useful widgets as you’re creating your mashups. Mashup Maker also has the ability to automatically combine webpage’s into one view. Another advantage to Intel’s program is a large active community base for building different applications that provides help.

Adobe AIR

Adobe AIR is more complicated mashup development tool that is not geared towards the average user. In order to utilize AIR effectively the user needs knowledge of either HTML, Adobe Flash, Javascript, or ActionScript to develop Rich Internet Applications, or RIA’s. Using their pre-existing programming knowledge a user can user Adobe AIR to create RIAs which are basically web applications for a computers desktop.

Microsoft Popfly (defunct)

Microsoft Popfly was a web based application that allowed its users to create webpage’s integrated with mashups and other programming. Popfly provided users with their own Microsoft Silverlight RIA’s and a set of online tools to help develop mashups and web pages. Unfortunately Microsoft Popfly never moved beyond its beta stage and was discounted by the company on August 24th, 2009.

Enterprise Mashups

Consumer mashup use among the technically savvy has been more common than the prevalence of use in businesses. Much like social networking and other web 2.0 trends, consumers have been first to adopt with businesses following shortly behind. Small to medium businesses, like consumers however are beginning to adopt web-based mashups through Software as a Service (SaaS) and exploring how mashups can help their business. Because mashups allow so much customization of how information can be organized and put together, they offer an almost unlimited number of possibilities, many of which can offer benefits to a business. Mashups can benefit a business by bringing together information or services, improving productivity, flexibility, efficiency, accuracy and decision making. They are highly adaptable and modifiable and consequently can be used in virtually any industry by almost any department within an enterprise. Mashups can be used as a bottom-up form of IT system development within an organization or successful mashup models can be saved as easily modifiable platforms to gather changing information. The primary use of mashups however, is for integrating business and data services. A business can quickly and easily integrate an internal service like an internal customer database with external or customized information feeds.

Common Enterprise Mashups

While enterprises of all sizes find uses for mashups that best suit their needs, the following examples illustrate some of the most common uses seen in industries today.

Data visualization

his generally means leveraging geographical information with other data feeds. Google Maps, is the most popular API used in mashups. For example, Google Maps can be combined with a realtor’s feed of multiple listings in her market, combined with school district borders and educational rankings.

Credit card processing

A popular mashup with online retailers is mashing up external credit card processing from the banks with internal e-commerce orders.

Call center applications

his generally means leveraging geographical information with other data feeds. Google Maps, is the most popular API used in mashups. For example, Google Maps can be combined with a realtor’s feed of multiple listings in her market, combined with school district borders and educational rankings.


Boeing Mashup Example

These common everyday applications for mashups can be built by a department manager or the end users as opposed to having to be created externally and imposed on the user. Apart from everyday uses for mashups, enterprises also take advantage of the flexibility of mashups when unexpected events occur. Mashups can work as a platform for resource management in the wake of a natural disaster or an unexpected world event. Because a mashup can be modified and specified to respond to any event so quickly, it offers a huge advantage over traditional IT development. To get a better idea of how an enterprise might use a mashup in the case of a natural disaster David Barnes explains in the video below, how Boeing created a mashup through the IBM Mashup Centre for emergency response.


Boeing along with other organizations that require quick information shifting in times of disasters, have been able to take advantage of the flexibility that mashups offer. Disaster relief organizations, both formal and informal have come together to help coordinate various relief efforts in disaster areas like earthquake-stricken Haiti.

Mashups as Internal IT Development

Enterprises often have an IT department within their organization or an external IT provider. IT departments and providers can be slow to respond to quickly changing needs and may not understand the needs as thoroughly and closely as the end user. Online SaaS mashup programs with user friendly web-based interfaces are, cheap and accessible to more business team members than just those in IT. Businesses are finding they want more control of their IT needs and want to limit their dependence, especially on external IT firms. End users are finding they can create a mashup that suits their needs quickly while waiting for a perfected version from an IT department or simply as a final product. These mashup creations can lead IT departments to new directions for system improvements and in that sense work as a bottom-up form of IT system development. They can increase the understanding of what the end user requires while reducing the wait time for a finished IT product and giving the user an applicable program in the meantime.

Platforms Specialized for Enterprise Use

Mashup platforms specifically designed for use by businesses and enterprises offer additional features that consumer-oriented mashup platforms don’t offer. They advertise themselves specifically to businesses by highlighting their data models and the extra security features they offer. Because business mashups often have a high level of integration with internal business computing environments they therefore require more security, access, administration and control features to protect the sensitive information of the enterprise. Mashup platforms such as JackBe and StrikeIron, to name a couple are among the list of mashup platform providers that cater specifically to the needs of businesses and enterprises.

Mashup Analysis

In this following section, an analysis is performed to determine the benefits that mashup can bring to consumer and business users. Besides benefits, there are also limitations to what mashup can do; which will then be discussed. To wrap up, an analysis are provided to see whether it is worth to develop a mashup for both types of users, followed by some possible ways of utilizing mashup.

Consumer Users

One of the most important benefits of mashup for consumer users is that development does not necessarily involve extensive information technology (IT) skills. This means that anyone with basic computer coding knowledge will be able to create a mashup, since mashups are mainly created by a computer language called API. This is particularly true for websites, blogs, and social media mashups, with the existence of mashup maker tools like Yahoo! Pipes and Page2RSS. Another benefit of mashup is that it reuses existing applications and data. This gives consumers the ability to keep any existing systems' functions and benefits, while bringing in new and more functions and benefits. Since most consumers do not have the money and time to develop another system such as Google Map and Wikipedia, mashup gives users the control of selecting and incorporating content that they cannot develop by themselves. On the other hand, there are limitations to what mashups can do. Although users are able to incorporate data or content that they cannot develop to a mashup, they might have little or no control over the quality and features of the data or content incorporated. For example, there is no guarantee that the owner of the mashup content or data will continue to provide support or valuable content or data. Scalability is another issue. This means that the content source established could be reliable at the time of creation of the mashup; however, what is being incorporated might not be able to support the traffic of the mashup in a couple of years. The integrity of the content also cannot be guaranteed, which affects the credibility of the mashup being created. All of the above limitations are specified to the content of mashup. There are more limitations besides content. For example, only web browser accessed software can be included in a mashup. This implies that installed desktop or mobile applications cannot be easily integrated in a mashup. With regard to design aspect of mashup, it is rather difficult since there are no standards for any mashups.

Business Users

The benefits and limitations of business users are quite similar to the consumer level. For the same reasons (reuses existing application, does not involve extensive IT skills, and incorporate content that were unable to be self-developed), mashup reduces application development costs. Mashup also allows rapid application development, which could be a crucial feature to companies who might have insufficient fund or time to develop one. In the design aspect, customization is fully controlled by the user. As for implementation, businesses may effectively leverage on globalization distribution of the application. Mashup's market presence is not very visible at all compared to Web 2.0 that was developed after mashup (will further discuss this in later sections), so business user who develops a mashup can be considered a first mover; Hence, means higher risks. As for mashup limitations for business users, it is also quite similar to consumer level's limitations. The control, reliability, integrity, and scalability relies on the content source. Likewise, the integration and design aspect makes mashup difficult to be developed. What is a more important concern for business users; however, is security. Particularly with companies with very sensitive data, such companies must ensure that the contents incorporated from other sources do not pose a security threat in any way. It is possible that contents being mashed contain virus, which might corrupt any important files, or trojan, leak important information.

Analysis Conclusion

In conclusion, there is a trade-off between "development cost and speed" versus "content security and quality". For consumer users, mashup can make the users online experience much more convenient by mashing up all the news that the user want to follow, including social media feeds. Mashup is also a great method for consumers users who wants to learn more about computer languages and programming, due to the fact that simple mashups can be easily created. For business users, mashup can benefit different sizes of businesses. Smaller companies are benefited by granted the ability to develop their application without needing to spend a lot of money. Medium or larger companies could be benefited if there is an urgent need for an application, because mashup can rapidly be developed. The following are examples or possible ways of how mashup can benefit consumers: • Mashing a news with a map, so that current events happening are shown directly on the map with the exact location; this could be great for learning purposes (geography) and makes news more interesting • Mashing coupon sites (like Groupon) to a map, allowing users to download available coupons at nearby shops And for businesses and organizations: • Mashup emergency phone call data with a map to show which area has a high crime rate. • Businesses may mashup different branches' dashboards with the warehouses' to better coordinate between stores and warehouses • Business people may mashup statistic datas with maps or other tools to create a better visual presentation of boring data • Retails such as car dealerships may mashup sales data to see what kind of products are best sold at whichever location

Future of Mashups

Mashup Adpotion Lifecycle
According to a prediction made by Holt Adams, Executive IT architect at IBM, two years ago about the prevalence of the use of mashups, he placed mashup use as past the early adopter stage and reaching the point of exponential growth. That would place mashup use in the mainstream area today. While its current placement on the technology adoption lifecycle is debatable, as always, there is a general consensus that mashups have not yet reached mainstream use. In fact there is some debate as to whether they ever will. Despite the fact that mashup technology is much more accessible to the general population it still requires a certain amount of technology knowledge or interest at minimum. A large proportion of technology user today are end users and don’t have an interest in being involved in the manipulation and creation of their technology. This may change as the demographic changes and mashups may see more popularity with a higher number of upcoming tech-savvy youths.
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