Mashup Camp fuled by Guiness

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Mashups are fun, Guiness is good, Dublin is cool – combine them all and get Mashup Camp 5 in Dublin. The highlight of the Camp was too meet a lot of smart people and talk tech. Some of the highlights:

  • Chad Dickerson from Yahoo Developer Network talked about web site performance. According to Yahoo’s experience 80-90% of the performance of a web site is in the frontend and only 10-20% in the backend. I must say that that these are suprising numbers, but as the worlds number 1 web destination Yahoo should know. So improving the front end performance has a huge impact and Yahoo are listing 13 rules to help you do so, as well as the Firefox plugin YSlow to help you analyze a sites frontend performance. YSlow is already a critical part of my web toolkit, too bad that it is very depressing seeing YSlow’s reports on my websites, I have a lot of work to do! Chad also mentioned Yahoos GUI design patterns that can come in handy for anybodyworking with web design. His slides are on http://www.slideshare.net/chaddickerson.
  • Performance was also a subject for a later discussion where John Herren and others talked about improving backend performance. The two things that really stuck in my mind was to use a PHP Accelerator to precompile PHP code (instead of doing that on the fly for every request) and to use cookies as a light weight free client side cache.
  • There was an interesting discussion about how to find Mashups, especially in a near future when there are mashups built on mashups and the users are not developers but normal mortals. The Search Engines today help us answer the question “what is”, but searching for mashups or apps is more a question of “how do I”. The options discussed covered everything from ranking mashups based on popularity and meta data to using introspection to automatically figure out what the mashups are doing. It would be interesting to have a system that could track the interactions between APIs and Mashups in a way that a developer could take a mashup apart to reuse just the parts he is interested in. Programmableweb.com is the start of such a system, but it is still only built on the basis of that the mashup developers gives the right meta data about their mashups. Since John Musser from Programmableweb was part of the discussion I am hoping to see some of this implemented there soon :)
  • Speedgeeking was as always a part of Mashup Camp, it is basically like speed dating but for demos. 5 minute intervalls to demo your stuff for a new group, and it went on for an hour this time. I built openkapow robots on request and it went pretty well. Building one REST robot to an unknown site every 5 minutes was a risk, but most of them went very well (search openkapow.com for tag “mashupcamp” to find my creations). My Kapow collegue Benjamin demoed his cool Blackberry-LinkedIn-Xing Mashup (also using openkapow). The winner of speedgeeking was the Mashup Camp veteran John Herren and 2nd place as well as the Winner of IBM’s Business Mashup Challenge was Dennis Deery (congrats to you both). Check out one of the most pointless results of the speedgeeking at LOLCatService – the most pointless web service ever.

David Berlind, one of the organisers, have written a good summary of the camp on ZDNet if you want to read more. If you understand Swedish you can also listen to an interview with me from MashupCamp at WhatsNext.se.

All in all it was a great Camp. Not a great number of participants, but the number is less important than the quality of the people. I learned a lot, met great people and came home with my head swirling with ideas. Next Camp is in Mountain View in March and I hope to see you there, if that is too far for you Mashup Camp is also coming back to Ireland next year.

Adobe Flex is on fire

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Marco Casario from italian Comtaste had a good presentation at Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin today comparing Adobe Flex to JavaFX, Lazlo, Microsoft Silverlight, AJAX and XUL (full name of the presentation is “Choosing th Final RIA Path or Choosing the Appropriate RIA Technology”). In this comparison Adobe Flex won both on the level of maturity, size of active community, small learning curve, multimedia features, usability and spread of the Flash plugin that now reaches 98% of internet users. Of course your choice of technology depends largely on the specifics of your project, but this is another indicator that Adobe Flex is on fire.

Flex & AIR
Adobe Flex is a way to easily develop Flash programs. It is based on MXML and when compiled Flex code becomes a Flash .swf file. That means that it can run in any browser that has the Flash plugin installed. What I really like with Flex is that you can write the frontend in Flex and then use whatever language you want for the backend. Using REST services in Flex is super easy, so as long as your backend can talk REST you can connect to the frontend that way. I like this idea since I would prefer PHP for the backend of whatever app I do since it is widely supported, have a very active developer community and there are lots of PHP programmers all around the world.

AIR stands for Adobe Integrated Runtime (formerly Apollo, see my “How to be cool in a Web 2.0 crowd” on tips on how to use this fact to increase your geek coolness) and it allows you to develop desktop applications using Flex or HTML/JavaScript. AIR applications can run on most platforms (Mac, Windows, Linux etc) and can access local files etc just like any other desktop app. The fact that it is now simple to write platform independant desktop applications using only HTML/JavaScript is really powerful.

Adobe MAX
About a month I was at the Adobe MAX conference in Chicago. Since that is where all Adobe-fanboys gather there were quite a few Hallelujha moments, and maybe I am somewhat influenced by that. One thing was clear from MAX though, Adobe are pushing Flex and AIR with all it’s marketing might. After having an almost 100% market share on software for web designers (Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver etc) they are now really focusing on the web developers. They are doing a great job making powerful tools that makes development a charm, their Eclipse based Flex Builder is one of the best IDE’s I have used.

Mashups & Flex
Building Mashups in Flex is easy since the REST support is really good. I had a presentation at Adobe MAX dealing with the need for mashups and webscraping in general and combining Kapow Mashup Server and Adobe Flex in particular…

Enterprise Mashup Infrastructure – my Web 2.0 Expo presentation

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Right now I am in Berlin at the Web 2.0 Expo. The sessions here are brilliant but the general organisation and the exposition hall are not impressive (but I promise not to rant more about that). More about the sessions in later posts.

Yesterday I had a presentation about Enterprise Mashup Infrastructure that you might find interesting. It deals with Mashups in general, mostly from a perspective of improving the productivity of knowledge workers. I also list the 4 types of mashup projects as well as some real-life customers that use Mashups in these ways:

  • Opportunistic Applications (Audi)
  • Repurposing (Deusche Post)
  • Web Automation (GMX)
  • Data Collection (SimplyHired)

Explaining Enterprise Mashups

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The last few days I have been doing a lot of thinking around Enterprise Mashups, what they are and what they are good for. A problem that I have keept running into is to explain mashups to business users and system architects stuck in a SOA and integration world. It is not easy making mashups sound like anything else than a Google Map hype, but now I have come up with some methaphores that might do the trick

Excel is today arguably one of the most popular programs inside Enterprises, and the question is why this is. I think it is because:

  • It allows business users to look at data they way they want to
  • It gives business users the powerful ability to build mini-applications as needed without support from a central IT-department. What I mean by mini-apps here are everything from a set of advanced formulas to Visual Basic code.

At the same time integration and SOA is extremely important for Enterprises because:

  • It allows sharing data between systems which increases the overall value of that data
  • Together several systems can solve more problems than the systems can individually (the sum is bigger than the parts)

The great thing with Mashups is that it combines all these advantages. It allows users build their mini-applications (“opportunistic applications” or “situational applications”) to automate manual procedures in order to look and work with data in the way they want. Mashups and the light-weight technology it is bsed on (REST, AJAX, RSS, Atom etc) also makes it easy to make systems integrate with each other.

Mashups are not a silver bullet that solves all problems, but it has huge potential to put more power into the hands of business user which in turn makes them more productive.

Enterprise Mashup Infrastructure & Where are all the APIs and Web Services?

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After some work the titles and descriptions for my presentations on the Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin and the Mashup Camp in Dublin during the coming weeks are now set, now it is just the small work of doing the acctual content left…

Enterprise Mashup Infrastructure: How Web 2.0 technologies are used inside Enterprises today
This is the Web 2.0 Expo presentation and it will be about how Mashups enable companies to solve problems quickly and efficiently, and also deal with problems that are impossible to figure out using traditional technologies. I will cover the basics of mashups and the technology behind them, real-life examples of how mashups are used within enterprises today and what the mashup infrastructure looks like.

In an enterprise environment, mashups can be seen as an extension and a compliment to SOA, and not just as simple Google Maps applications that are viewed on the web. This approach enables self-service IT that lets business users build the situational applications they need to solve the problems at hand. A key problem in enterprise mashup building is how to get access to abundance of unstructured data both inside and outside the company firewall. And, this is a problem that can now be solved in minutes rather than hours or days. How this is done will be shown in a short demonstration.

Where are all the APIs and Web Services? Build APIs to any web site in minutes using Kapow Mashup Server.
In this Mashup Camp presentation I will zoom in on one of the most forgotten parts of Mashups. There are many great tools available to build the user interface on a Mashup, but were are all the APIs and Web Services needed to feed the Mashup? These APIs will not appear magically and even if more APIs are created every day it is going quite slow. Using the Kapow Mashup Server and openkapow.com you can build an API to almost any web site in a matter of minutes. Suddenly you can use the whole internet as a structured data source to feed your mashups.

See you there!
If this is anything you like to hear about and happen to come to Berlin or Dublin then please drop by and hear me speak.