Recently, we launched a Google Maps ‘mashup’. It displays the classmates of the logged in user on a map with a photo and link to their NetCommunity profile. Steve MacLaughlin covered it in his blog so I’ll spare you the details, he’s better at talking about what we do than I am anyway.
This brings up a good topic for my blog though, the power of mashups. So what is a mashup? Usually people think of some custom map when they think of a mashup but basically a mashup is the integration of one or more ‘services’ from various vendor’s via some type of API to deliver a creative and unique product to your end user.
To put it simply, why would you try to create a photo gallery application when you can consume Flickr and Picasa’s API? Those guys are in the business of photo galleries and it would be stupid re-create the wheel they have perfected. Just use the API to integrate their functionality inside NetCommunity.
Google, Microsoft and Yahoo know their maps and they have built some very serious APIs and developer resources around their products. If that wasn’t reason enough it’s important to note that many of these companies have a very non-profit friendly pricing model, usually free, that makes the decision easy.
In the case of our mashup that Steve covered we actually used Google Maps, Microsoft MapPoint & the NetCommunity API to geoCode, build and populate a map of the classmates of the logged in user. This hybrid solution enabled us to deliver a very unique service to our alumni using data that only we have. We used APIs from 3 services and integrated them to promote our mission and we did it for next to no money and less than 20 hours worth of manpower.
Social networking services are another area where mashups are growing. It’s still early but in the future I see a situation where NetCommunity/Facebook/MySpace and other OpenSocial apps will be tightly integrated with each other creating a mega-social network where people can connect via their social networking medium of choice
So before you embark on a project check to see what’s out there. It’s very possible that there is some mashup solution that’ll help.
That’s it for this post…let me know if you have a topic you’d like me to discuss.