Well, my first Mashup University came to a close today, not without resisting the urge to rollup my sleeves and sling some code competing in the futureBoston project. While, overall I ejoyed the [un]conference, attendance did appeare to suffer abit from a cold snap that hit Boston the first day. Mashup University is an extension to Mashup Camp, (which I’ll be writing about soon) whereas API providers/vendors provide classroom style instruction to developers. The format was good, as this was my first Mashup event, i was a little unsure what to expect. These first two days covered presentations from MIT, AOL, Microsoft, Adobe, Sun, AutoDesk, as well as eventful.com, lignup.com, and kapow technologies.
As I expected, the majority of mashups concentrated on maps, as they’re bar-none the easiest to mash. I confirmed this observation by writing several [map] mashups myself while listening to the speakers. I must admit, while not having created an offical “mashup” prior to the conference, i was shocked at how easily the map providers have made it. Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have each made their APIs extremely easy to use/consume, each with good documentation, samples and cross-platform support. AutoDesk also deserves a nod, however, their implementation appeared slightly more complicated.
I found several of the presentations both interesting and educational, being a moderate follower of mashups to date. While the concept of APIs have obviously been around a while, mashups present a new opportunity. While most “mashups” still lack true real-world value, the excitement within the community is sure to continue to push the envelope until more developers take notice. Each year Mashup Camp holds a competition for the best mashup, vote upon by the attendees, and it appears this years contenders have set out to test new waters moving away from the traditional geolocation or spatial data rendering. More on that soon.
A few quick notes on the presentors, firstly, i thought John Herren did a great job to get things kicked off. He touched briefly on the machup tenents, XML, JSON, YAML, SOAP, XML-RPC, REST, AJAX and of course RSS. He went on to discuss some of the pain points, which included:
- – API Abuse/Metering
- – API Versioning
- – IP Copyright
- – Reliability& TOS
- – Monetization
- – Privacy/Security
John then finished up with his take on the future of mashups, which included: mobile mashups, more AI, increased use of microformats and openID. The guys over at Lignup.com had an intersting demo in the converged communications space, with several APIs available for immediate use. Eventful.com also offered some details of their API and showcased their new “By Eventful Demand” feature that looks quite promising.
Another interested presentation was by Adobe, which featured their Flex and Apollo technologies. The highlight of the show, in my opinion however, was Open Kapow. Open Kapow offers a tool called RoboMaker, which is a visual scripting tool that allows for an easy point and click interface to mashup anything on the web that has a URL. Seriously. Andreas Krohn did a great, fully functional demo, wrapping an API around whois.org – not-scraping, but actually programmatically interfacing with the website that had no public API. The toolkit looks almost infinantly extendable and in my humble opinion just upped the mashability ante. It essentially makes any site/service mashable and in his words makes “HTML the worlds most common API”!
Whew, lots of new stuff in just two [long] days. I myself thouroughly enjoyed the [un]conference, specifically the people, it was a pleasure meeting and learning from the many talented developers and their technologies of choice. One of the coolest aspects is that the conference almost intentionally represents an open-source type community, while sure there were .net and java folks there, they didnt dominate discussions, in fact quite the opposite. I had an opportunity to conversate with fluent ruby, perl, python, – even lisp connousouers. The event helped introduce me to some new things and I look forward to MashCamp the next couple days.
For those of you just getting started with mashups, or APIs for that matter, here are a few links to get you started: