This week I was in the bay area on a business trip. Like the last one it was a strangely serendipitous thing that the latest Mashup Camp in Mountain View was scheduled the same days I was visiting the area. Not sure exactly why but it seems most of these unconferences tend to happen out west more often. I was only able to squeeze in one day’s visit to the event. Better than missing it altogether.
Recognized many faces from the previous one, which was my first visit to a Mashup Camp. Given that most of my past conference visits have been limited to the types of JavaOne, EclipseCon, i find this unconferences quite refreshing even though I probably would not spend the air+hotel to fly out across the country just to attend one of these unless I have something to pitch. Most of the attendees for this event seemed to be from around town. I wish more of these would happen in my neck of the woods here in the east coast.
When I wandered in on Tuesday morning, David Berlind was leading a panel discussion on “Making the case for Mashups for Business“. The panelists were Dan Woods from Evolved Media, Hart Rossman from SAIC, and John Musser of the very cool Programmable Web. the discussion was around how all these WEB technologies might be affecting the attitude of the corporate IT culture. I think the main underlying question here was whether “user” created mashups will be welcome into the corporate IT environment. The users in question here are of course are the employees of the corporation. I did not really hear much new except a few interesting (talking) points
Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants
Dan Woods used these expression to describe the folks like me that are coming into this space with our past IT baggage, versus the new generation of developers and future IT managers growing up with a “WEB is everything” spoon in their mouth and how they might be more open to new ideas and concepts than the current generation when it comes to determining what is acceptable in a business environment. Chances are by the time these kids get to our age there will be something new to challenge them.
Working with Mashup technology as the next level of IT integration skills
Hart Rossman mentioned that this mashup technology of composing WEB 2.0 applications out of disparate sources of data may indeed be one way to view the next step of evolution in the IT integration space. Enterprise IT is all about a saga of never ending integration. So in that sense it makes sense. I am not an expert on mashups and I know different views exist on what exactly is a mashup. In my humble opinion mashup seems to be all about building web based applications that combine services published as a “web” service, preferably one based on REST type of architecture as opposed to SOAP etc. Businesses are already building web apps for their internal and external users and they are using AJAX principles to build those even though they generally confine the web services to their own intranet with the exception of using things like Google Maps. So there is some level mashing already going on even though some of these don’t have the eye candy effect people immediately think of when they hear the word mashup! So I think this idea of mashup as next level of IT integration skills is indeed here and already happening.
Applications with their own embedded mashup enabled services
Another suggestion from Hart Rossman about business applications like MS Office etc, coming with their mashup enabling service APIs. He based it on the fact that many applications already come with embedded web servers. May be they can come with a web service too for business users to easily craft their own business mashups. Probably an interesting suggestion given that we are seeing a trend for Business applications to move from the desktop to the SaaS model, and into the coud. SaaS applications can very easily provide that feature of course. Whether there is still a case for such feature in desktop only app is somewhat questionable. But on the other hand most big enterprises still like to keep their software in house. But instead of being on their employers’ desktops the applications may be sitting in their own clouds inside their firewalls.
In the end I don’t know how many employees in a corporation will spend time building their own mashups. But there will always be the driven and motivated ones who will do interesting proof of concepts. Smart companies should host labs and test environments for that creativity to foster and let the rest of its employees decide which of these are really ready for prime time. Savvy IT departments should then pick up on those for larger adoption within the organization. I have seen that happen.
This time around I missed all the Mashup contests. But Thomas Tague‘s presentation on Open Calais was very interesting. Semantic web continues to fascinate me, probably more so because of the enormity of the work involved to get to where Sir Tim Berners Lee wants us to be.