Nov 26, 2008

Mashup Camp: loved it

My friend Nancy Tubbs (founder of Full Calendar) let me know about the November 2008 Mashup Camp in at the Computer History Museum. It was a highly intellectually satisfying 3-day event. The chief cat herder, Information Week's David Berlind, did a great job -- kudos to him.

I'm a semantic web enthusiast so was delighted to learn that the huge company, Thomson Reuters, has a tool, OpenCalais, that conducts semantic searches of unstructured text to extract names, addresses (many other terms) and provides more information about them... using Thomson-Reuters' proprietary database, then marks up the text using RDF. The results are exportable as XML. Great way to find patterns and enhance market research, for relationship mapping and other ways to mine unstructured content.

Here's OpenCalais's page for what it can do for bloggers using WordPress or Drupal (not Google's blog tool, Blogger with a capital B)

I am so proud to have voted for the top winning mashup named "Empowerment." It was written by Dean Mao over a 12-hour period. His mashup is a Firefox extention that does three things:
  1. searches for key words on any web page, email message, blog...
  2. runs them through OpenCalais for resources which can be text, images... and displays those resources in a 'pop-up' when you hover over a highlighted term
  3. you can add your notes to the resources, and others can see your comments.
You can download Dean's Firefox extension, Empowerment, at and also access Dean's contact information.

The second highlight of the Mashup Camp is the talk by Tim O'Reilly. I believe he's the guy who coined the term "Web 2.o." Below are a the 'take-aways' that I noted:
  • Read the O'Reilly book, "Web 2.0, A Strategy Guide"
  • "Data is the value unit" and Tim cited several very creative forms of data such as the sequence of gene bases (amino acids) are unique name spaces as are Twitter hash tags. The value-add is to derive meaning from data sets.
Several mashups scared me. One did the following: instead of updating one's resume from one's memory or experience, why not do continuous updates using one's web citations? Another mashup will search the web and create a tag cloud for a given term. So you can search the web for yourself, and present your tag cloud as your resume.

All those callow people who've trustingly laid out in numerous social networking or other web presences (e.g., Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, Plaxo, SecondLife, blogposts, comments to blogs...) all their half-baked political rants, not carefully thought-through venting, intimate and casual activities... all that information can be aggregated to form their online social graph (a Facebook term). Even the pattern of one's cell phone and credit card usage can reveal one's movements and choices.

The other wonderful thing about Mashup Camp is its web site. There were real-time tweets, blogs, pictures and lots and lots more information. If you missed the camp, you can still get so much information from the web site. Make sure to check out the "Mashup Backchannel."

This blogpost is getting too long. I'll write a second post about people I met, other mashups that I loved...


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