Friday, 28th September 2007
During a panel discussion on copyright issues about user-generated contents on the Web at the recent GIIS conference in Berlin, Dan Gisolfi of IBM Emerging Internet Technologies demonstrated how you can use Dapper to quickly build a web site by pulling content from anywhere on the Web, and label it as "Dan's Research Library" without attribution to all the true content contributors of the resulting Web page. The demonstration was another example of how technology continues to outpace the ability of copyright professionals to adapt. However, what got me more interested than the copyright issue was the freedom of the user to choose and assemble the information that's most relevant to his or her unique context.
As a researcher, I spend hours on a typical day pulling information from different sources, using various software applications to put the relevant pieces together to make sense out of the data, all within the specific context of my current work. Gone are times when I could rely on one desktop reference to get my job done. Imagine how convenient would it be if I could assemble the tools and data sources needed just for the project at hand on one page? The contents assembled on that one page are likely different for each project or even each phase of a project. A contact list with phone numbers needed for one project may be totally irrelevant for my next deliverable which requires mostly access to a set of multilingual patent databases and visualization tools. You see, what I'm dreaming about are small disposable or reusable toolboxes that are context-specific and situational. I know there are myriad toolboxes that have everything I need all the time. The dilemma is that it often takes a lot of time finding and shuffling between the exact pieces I need in those cluttered toolboxes.
There is hope. A follow-up with Dan Gisolfi led me enter the world of of mashups . A mashup is a Web application that allows data and widgets from more than one source to be dragged onto one web page and have them wired into a single integrated tool. While I won't say yet mashups would turn my dream into reality, the concept sounds promising. IBM has been leading the mashup adventure through the QEDWiki environment. QED stands for 'quick and easily done'. Some good places to get started to learn about mashups include the ZDnet podcast and this demo video , as well as articles like 'Making the most of the Web: Creating Great Mashups' and the QEDWiki Press . For those who are interested enough to get your hands dirty, join the Mashup Camp and test your creativity at the next Business Mashup Challenge in Dublin, November 11-12, 2007.
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