The book is chock full of good examples. Even if you’re an experienced developer of mashups that involve Flickr, del.icio.us, Eventful, and the various mapping services, you’ll learn helpful strategies for using these services individually and in combination.
What we wound up mostly talking about, though, is the vast space of information that’s not currently available to be mashed up. That might be because the information isn’t online at all, or because it isn’t online in a form that’s tractable.
As a kind of social experiment I’ve been tackling this problem in my local community, with particular emphasis on calendar information. In this week’s interview, Raymond talks about tackling the same kind of problem with emphasis on geographic information. Both cases can exemplify a pattern that I’m calling shared responsibility.
Consider, for example, the public library. It hosts a variety of events, some of which are its own (children’s story hour) and some of which aren’t (an AA meeting). Who’s responsible for putting these events onto the library’s public calendar?
Clearly the library should publish its own events. But it needn’t necessarily feel obliged to publish other organizations’ events. In the case of AA meetings, for example, the library is only one of about a dozen venues around town. Shouldn’t AA publish its events to those venues?
We have the tools and services now to enable this kind of small-pieces-loosely-joined approach. In this case, acting as a proxy for AA, I published its regular meetings to Eventful. One of those meetings happens at the public library. So now when you visit the combined calendar, events at the library show up from multiple sources. One is clearly identified with the library itself, others are identified with the various groups using the library.
Of course nothing prevents the library from choosing to authoritatively publish all of the events that it hosts. But it’s useful to show how that can be a choice, not an obligation. If we take a decentralized, small-pieces-loosely-joined approach, information management chores that look insurmountable can turn out not to be.