Friday, January 26, 2007

Mashups? Does this have anything to do with potatoes?

In 1995, I was working in a research lab and we were working on state of the art Pentium computers. Bye-bye 486! (*smile*) A couple of my lab-mates and I stumbled across a piece of software called PointCast. Do you remember this software? Basically, it was a client that ran on a computer that had interesting stuff ‘pushed’ to it from a central server. Stuff like news, weather and sports. It was a like a 'super-newspaper' that combined together information from different news services and sent it right to our computer desktop… and all of this updated frequently, in the background, without us doing anything. The idea was cool but the utility of this service quickly faded away because all the time-slices it was stealing from our computer made our Pentiums feel like 486s again. We had said goodbye to the slow processor speeds of the 486 and we wanted our fast Pentiums back. So PointCast went out the window.

Ok, so why the story? And how does it relate to the title of this posting? Well, back in 1995 if you would have asked me about the word ‘mashup’, visions of dancing potatoes in the kitchen would have popped into my head. I have a real weakness for yummy mashed potatoes (*smile*). Today the word ‘mashup’ has a much different denotation. I realize now that PointCast in 1995 was a rudimentary type of mashup: a collection of information from other web services that are integrated together into one web page. (See 'mashup' in Wikipedia for more information.) With the creation of more diverse web services, like podcasts, online games,, flickr, rss feeds, YouTube, etc., a mashup can be so much more useful than the model of a news-focused PointCast mashup of 1995.

I was at a talk a couple of weeks ago where mashups were being discussed and someone threw out a website: It’s a service where you can create you own web page that is a mashup of almost any user customizable web material that you want. I’ve been using it for about a week now and I really like it. I set it as my homepage in Firefox and it’s a kind of ‘one stop shop’ for the things on the web I tend to look for on a daily, or weekly, basis. The pageflakes development crew is actively working to make the user experience better by adding new types of mashup items as well as refining those that are already available.

Do you want to see my personal Pageflakes homepage? You can get a quick idea of how a mashup might be interesting to you by visiting mine here.

What do you think about mashups and pageflakes? Thumbs up or thumbs down? Leave a 'comment' below.


Anonymous said...

Hi Eric,

I have viewed you mashup, it looks very interesting. I can think of a way I can utilize this thingy. I think it's also very useful for the students. So exciting. Have a nice day.


JPS said...

Seems pretty cool; although I use something quite similar. I wouldnt call it 'better' but definately different. Since I have a gmail account (email through google, which is another story in itself!) it allows me to create a customized page which will stay that way each time I visit it. It allows me to toss in 'gadgets' as opposed to flakes. The main difference is that they are highly interactive. for example: I have a currency exchanger built into mine. It does eactly what it's titled. Thats only the start however. On mine I have a .gif of a portuguese flag, a calander, a satelite tracking motion picture, and more. you should check it out. whould you need a gmail account, you ahve to be invited fro the gmail community let me know if you are interested or want an invite. ciao for now!

Karim said...

Hi Eric,

I have set up my own Pageflakes --wow, so cool. This can be very useful tool for me, just like one-stop center. I have added a flake (actually Top Link) and renamed it Top Blog, and guess what -- your blog is top in the list.

Thanks again Eric!

Eric said...

Glad you enjoy it Karim. I love PageFlakes!