Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ajax & Mash(potato)ups: what's the link?

Every profession has terminology that has to be embraced, understood, and used. Cybrarians, as information professionals need to stay on top of an ever-changing Information environment. Here we go with some new terms, so that when you hear them you wont' feel ignorant. Even if you don't fully understand, you'll catch half of it.

Ajax and mashed potatoes should actually never be mixed--but Ajax and Mashups are mixed everyday in Web 2.0 applications. Ajax is a form of programming a web page so that only "pieces" of the page (what web developers call real estate) have to reload for new information. (Asynchronous Javascript & XML)

Most baby boomers and GenXer's will likely remember when webpages had to reload for every new piece of data that would change. The whole page would slowly reload from top to bottom in a painful procedure that would make you want to throw your shoe at it. ( was the worst...) Ajax programming techniques changed that so that the page, or real estate was parceled into footprints that could be independently loaded. Thus we now see the evolution of dancing ladies in advertisements.

Now mashups were the next step in webpage evolution. Behind the scenes, data is being collected, synchronized, queried and reloaded onto your page. You have a good idea something is going on to provide you all these advertisements, or queried keywords, but you aren't exactly sure what that is. (That's called "data mining".) Ajax delivered it to the webpage, but mashups will enable you to interact with these little queries. Mashups collect data from more than one source, mix it and use it to create a new product. That product could be a map with information, a hitlist of keyword matches from federated databases, a map with superimposed data, and/or many other formats.

SOA Magazine stated it like this, "Mashups usually have a face and that face is a widget." * I like that analogy. Now mashups not only have a face, but a footprint also. They have their little place to stand on a webpage, show you their face, and ask you to interact with it somehow. Actually, mashups are as varied as people are. There are "micro mashups" (when very little info is aggregated and delivered), and there are interactive mashups such as widgets.

I like to think of a widget as a visual hyperlink with power. A widget is a tool that uses mashup technology to interact with the visitor. This is the beginning of Web 3.0 ! Widgets, mashups, pop-ups, aggregators, and interactive sites are transforming the web from 2.0 empire to 3.0
Publishers are already starting to create widgets (mashups) that users can embed on their webpages for interactive use. Look for advertisements from Rosen and Gale this Spring touting the revolutionary Epublishing to a new height. Teachers will be able to embed "pages" (widgets) onto their education sites to provide students tools without a search. These widgets are "alive" or linked to the source for further info and browsing. Interactive with a touch of a mouse.
The web 3.0, however, is not dependent upon a widget. Web 3.0 collects data from a few different sources and combine those to form a new product they deliver to a website that you are visiting--based on data you place on the page. And, all this happens often invisibly to you, behind the scenes. Sometimes the user is in control, and sometimes your information is known before you even consiously give them info. Have you experienced a website that "reacts" to your keywords? Suddenly there are commercials on the page, related to the search terms you typed. Mashups, asynchronous data collection. Voila!
Popular examples of Web 3.0 mashups are listed below:
Maps: Once again Google is at the head-of-the-pack for developing the "semantic web" or web3.o0 mashups. GoogleMaps will look for traffic, restaurant reviews, for any location.
References:* Enterprise Mashups Part I: Bringing SOA to the People by John Crupi and Chris Warner Published: May 16, 2008 (SOA Magazine Issue XVIII: May 2008)
__________________________________________________________________ (Video Mashup... not to be confused with webpage mashups--same thought, different venue--Aggregated data compiled into different product).

1 comment:

  1. Woah! Web 3.0 already?! Thanks for the AJAX info, Paige---that was a new term for me. Are you teaching the ed. tech. class for U-Albany again this Spring?