Mar

18th

Mashups: A Web2.0 Technique to Harness Outside Content to Work for You!

Blogging | Software | Web Marketing | Website Development


Summary: This article is one more in a series explaining and advocating for web2.0 technology, and how that technology is helpful in interacting meaningfully with customers and clients over the web. This article is the latest in a series of essays about the various facets of web2.0 technology, including Programming Web Content with Web2.0 and XML: A Key Powerful Software Technology to Grow Your Business and Engage Your Customers. As professional designers and providers of web services we know that our clients have a much higher and better quality of response from sites which strive to offer a better caliber of interaction with their customers. Web2.0 is an essential technology and component of that effort.

There are several distinct types of mashups – consumer and enterprise. Enterprise mashups usually occur over secure networks, and are processed on a server, while consumer mashups are more forgiving, and accomplished on the users’ desktops. Web-based mashups usually use the clients web-browser to do the combining and reformatting of data. The various data streams must be sent to the client device as individual data streams so that they can be processed. Server-based mashups will do the analysis and reformatting of the data on the server side and send the data to the client as a single data stream.

Early mashups were created manually by programmers. As with many programming break-throughs, they were first done by enthusiastic programmers just to see if it could be done. As mashups became more popular, there arose a market for tools to simplify and speed up the creation of mashups. Software companies responded by creating tools that allow designers to construct mashups in a visual environment. All the potential components of a mashup are presented in this visual environment and can be connected to create the desired mashup. While mashup editors have made the process of creating mashups much simpler, they have not done a lot to create new ways of accessing the data to be combined. Mashup Enablers address this problem by adding new types of data that can be added to a mashup. A mashup enabler is defined as “the service and tool providers that make mashups possible”.

This type of technology was impossible until recently because of the speed of the average consumer internet communication. The number of http requests needed to ‘feed’ one page of data necessitates a high speed connection to the internet. And the very nature of the requests makes pre-made dataset presentations unfeasible. Associated technologies such as XML, SOAP, JSON and evolutions in Javascript capabilities have also facilitated adoption of slick representations of this and other Web2.0 applications.

Here’s a mashup created using Yahoo pipes. Yahoo pipes is a graphic interface which allows querying, filtering, sorting manipulating and formatting output from sources across the internet. This particular one taps several RSS feeds using technology from Yahoo and Delicious. The combines them into a single feed which is sorted by dates so that the most recent articles appear at the head of the list. If left to its own devices, the pipe would return hundreds of thousands of articles! But for our purposes, we limited it to the 15 most current articles.
(add references to other Paladin articles above)

However, with the advent of readily available high speed processing on the desktop and high speed communications, this mashup technology is beginning now to come into its own. Web pages that before were static and ‘dusty’ and were outmoded before they were published are now beginning to give way to dynamic conversations between the provider and user. Mashups are one way of delivering custom tailored content to a hungry consumer with an ever shortening attention span and an ever expanding demand for information.

For the business owner, it is also a boon. Here is an excellent way to provide up to the minute content which can be tailored to the needs and desires of an interested customer – kind of like an MIRV missile (multiple independently-targeted re-entry vehicle). This is very powerful magic from a marketing and business development point of view. And even more exciting is that after the relatively small initial setup cost, the business owner can have his website updated and fresh, targeted to any individual customer or prospect by piggybacking on the technology of someone else!

Here’s a mashup using Flickr.com and Flickriver.com. Flickr is the repository of data containing the photographs, and Flickriver provides the technology that produces a randomly ordered list of up to 500 separate images from a pool of Flickr files. The list is different every day, so this blog article will show a different crop of images every day -automatically!

No, this is not plagiarism. It is perfectly legal and respectable. The providing companies expose their API (application programming interface) to the public exactly for that reason: they are anxious for other sites to share their technology because it establishes themselves as an industry standard, and makes it more likely that they will get a larger share of the business generated by the downstream customers .

If you feel that your company might benefit from such an enhancement to your web site and marketing program, please feel free to contact us. Additionally, we welcome comments on our articles in the space provided below.

Mar

3rd

Programming Web Content with Web2.0

Software | Web Marketing | Website Development


Summary: Recent advances in telecommunications, net technology and consumer expectations have brought about concomitant advances in the demand for more rich and sophisticated languages, content, and interaction on the web between the providers and users of the web.  These new abilities are loosely referred to as web2.0 technology.  Web2.0 allows a more engaging interaction between the producer and consumer, and allow a new depth of communication and interaction that even just a few years ago was impossible.  Sophisticated techniques and languages such as javascript, AJAX, embedded video, and other technologies make this possible.  This article provides an introduction to those technologies, which are affordable, elegant, and becoming more and more of a requirement in the web competition of today. Read the rest of this entry »

Jan

4th

Using Database and Software Technology to Improve Your Business

Software | Website Development


Summary: This article is about using database and software to model and extract meaningful information from your business.  Many companies miss opportunities in communicating with their clients, and gathering valuable information from their business that can importantly advance the prospects of their business in a very cost effective manner.  The adoption of enlightened information technology using database technology and custom software in a business levels the playing field, and enables smaller companies to neutralize advantages enjoyed by their larger and more established competitors. Read the rest of this entry »

Dec

22nd

An Emerging Shed of Twitter Power Tools

Software | Web Marketing


A week or so ago, I wrote an article about mining research/marketing information in a new way from Twitter,. That site, Listimonkey, will monitor lists for you, and watch for key words.  When it finds your designated key words in your list, it’ll send you an email, designating the tweeter and the tweet, until you tell it to stop.

Eugene MandelShortly after my article was published, I got a tweet, from Eugene Mandel, who invited me to discuss the whole concept of data mining on Twitter.  That tweet led to a very collegial telephone conversation between us, in which we exchanged ideas which will provide the basis for this article.

Eugene is a very engaging young entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, who has been involved with a number of startups.  His current plans integrate very nicely with my concept of Twitter data mining.  My prediction is that his newest venture, mustexist.com, is destined to become an important tool for Twitter users.  He recently started the company with his pal and co-founder, Alex Sherstinsky, a Ph.D. from MIT.  These guys are very serious players.

Mustexist’s current product is called list tags. It allows one to take a twitter name, and creates a ‘cloud’ of lists in which that Twitter name appears, roughly signifying the importance of keywords in that person’s list audience by the size of the type in the cloud.

GlennbeckcloudHere’s a copy of Glenn Beck’s tag cloud.  I shrunk it down to accommodate the page size, and its contextual importance in this article.  Beck is on some 3800 lists.  Politics, News, and political head the parade, but further down the list are lists named things like ‘nutcase’, and other less desirable things to be associated with.  Mandel goes through the Twitter API, and finds all the lists on which Glenn Beck is mentioned.  Then, he queries those lists and finds the most popular keywords in their title.  Then he ranks those keywords by their frequency of appearance in Beck’s universe of lists, and performs a simple statistical conversion to interpolate the list keyword frequency to the type size in the cloud.

Pretty neat trick, eh?

But there’s more: list_tags enumerates some of the lists on which the Twitter member appears.  Here’s a picture of the TopLists for “Politics” in which Glenn Beck appears.  Now think, for a moment how valuable this Toplistsbeckinformation can be.  Many of these “top” lists contain 400–500 members.  These are lists for the top topic which have the largest number of members – regardless of whether or not the subject appears on those lists.  That’s valuable information for marketers, or for researchers and even job seekers.  But more than that– everyone who is maintaining such a list is someone who has enough interest in your subject to go to the trouble of maintaining a list of people who he/she considers are the leaders in the field.  And if that’s not enough, the lists editors is another valuable source of fertile relationships to cultivate.

The second. longer list is a list of which Glenn is a member.  So, in the case of a celebrity, it will not be unlikely that the same names will be on both lists.  I’ll not reproduce the Lists for ‘politics’ because it is too long – and because in appearance it strongly resembles in format the ‘Top List’.

So the stage is set now with a resource now to empower Twitter users with access to many lists.  A little resourcefulness will enable you to harvest those lists, and, by extension, to knowledge of all of their membership.  This will give you first hand access to communicating with the most well-regarded people in any given field!  And with the LIstimonkey resource, you can monitor the conversations of those experts for keywords.  With a little software jiggering and less than an hour’s effort, using our Glenn Beck example, we could identify, harvest and communicate with thousands of political junkies.

Mandel, however, is talking about taking Mustexist to a whole other level.  Using the database he has assembled for the list-tag project, he is planning to offer in the near future an interactive, iterative way of ‘surfing’ the tweetstream of these lists, in much the same was that Google lets you surf for articles.  He made the analogy of a newspaper in our conversation.  Each newspaper has several sections: sport, business, local, etc.  If you accept the proposition that a list’s tweetstream is like a newspaper, then it would be very productive to skim through the newspaper, looking only for articles that interested you.  You could skip the car ads, and dating club ads, and focus on baseball, or international news.

Similarly, over a period of time, a list’s tweetstream will have a lot of chaff: someone’s opinion of last night’s American Idol, inclement weather, mother-in-law coming for a visit…  But what if you could adopt a list, or amalgam of similar interest lists?  What if you could in real time and on an ad hoc basis query the stream for stuff like: climategate?  cap and trade?  world health organization?  BTU content of coal?  And how powerful would it be if you could pursue your line of inquiry immediately, based on feedback you got from the previous question?

I think that MustExist is on the verge of somthing quite important that will add a new dimension of empowerment to the serious Twitter user.  There are currently some 23 million Twitter users, 75% of which are either classified as ‘addicts’ or ‘regulars’.  That’s a reliable 18 million pairs of eyeballs scanning and interacting with Twitter several times a week – sometimes several times a day.  Any tool that can reliably and easily segment relevant portions of that population and then address them is bound to be very successful.

Please add your comments.  It is helpful to hear the opinions of our readers!

Dec

10th

Panning for Gold in the Twitterstream

Software | Web Marketing | Website Development


Just about everybody has used their website and blog to promote their businesses, and, in the past few years, have supplemented those efforts with the use of other social media outlets such as Facebook, and Twitter.  In the case of the blog and website, these efforts may be categorized as passive in the sense that the business owner sits back and waits until clients are attracted through his website, and make contact, and ultimately, business.

SalahibidenFacebook and Twitter were innovative at the time, and helped businesses form a relationship with clients with a more personal approach, allowing a subtle transition from a purely passive approach to their prospective clients to a more pro-active and personal one.  A lot of folks missed the point of Twitter and Twitter and came late to the party.  The same can be said for the late adopters of Facebook, who didn’t understand their kids’ fascination with the social aspects of Facebook.  College kids live on facebook.  Andif you had any doubt about the centrality of Facebook to the zeitgheist of our society, one need look no further than Michaele and Tarek Salahi’s crashing the Whitehouse state dinner late last month.  Pictures of them and Obama and them and Biden were on their Facebook page before dawn.

I wish I had a nickle for everyone who commented on my embracing the Twitter idiom with a snide comment like, ‘What do I care what people had for breakfast.’  A lot of folks are missing the point of both of these social sites:  they provide a way to form quasi social relationships, and so called weak friendships.  Their point is that people are more apt to do business with people with whom they have some sort of connection.  If you’re looking for someone to re-do your kitchen, you’re much more likely to choose someone from your church, or even someone who is friendly with the butcher whom you lilke.  I am not a big Facebook user because it is too time intensive, but I have met quite a few friends, professional colleagues, and business partners on Twitter.

But Twitter is still a quasi passive platform, though the lines are blurry.  I do know that the easiest way to turn someone off on Twitter is to come onto him with a hard sell:  ‘I’ve made $15,000 this month on Twitter, and I can show you how to do it, too!!!!!’

But thee are now on the horizon two very important developments which promise to significantly enhance the power of using Twitter.

But first a small diversion.  Earlier this year, an enterprising your Australian named Chris Duell developed a site called Twitterhawk.  Now the idea of Twitterhawk is that the site sifts through the Twitterstream looking for key words that you set that occur near a geographic location that you specify.  So if you were a carpenter in Peoria, you might set up a search that looks for kitchen remodeling in Peoria.  Twitterhawk would return to you a list of those tweets,  And, for a few cents a tweet, Twitterhawk would send a series of rotating tweets to those whose tweets you designated as appropriate targets.

Back to those new Twitter innovations.  The first was the implemenjtation of lists on Twitter.  Now you can create lists of folks on Twitter that you follow.  And you can categorize them with common traits, for example software architects (like Paladin Consultants, LLC ), or economists, or photographers.  It helps you keep track of people, especially when you have lots of followers.  You can see the Twitterstreams of these lists, and even get an RSS feed of them.  Better still, in most cases everyone has access to virtually all of everybody else’s lists!

And where can you find and mine these lists?  Listorius is one of the first resources dedicated to managing the new feature.  Mashable also has a growing arsenal of Twitter Lists.  Unless I miss my guess, new sites dedicated to this new tool will be popping up like mushrooms after a spring rain!

The second innovation comes from a site called Listimonkey, a site designed by a very clever young Belgian expatriate named Xavier Damman, now living in the Bay Area.  He has also managed to secure a domain name in his own name!  Anyway, his wrinkle on Twitter is that if you send Listimonkey the name of a twitter list, a key word or phrase, and your email, Listimonkey will email you with a set periodicity the tweets from members of that list contain your key word or phrase!  Now, although there is some SEO juice and pride in having a large list, this is not necessary to work with Listimonkey.  In fact, you can use anybody’s public list!  (Most lists are public.)

Now think about that.  If you are a real estate agent in Chicago, you might watch somebody’s Chicago list for the key word ‘moving’.  If you were a photographer in Atlanta, you’d watch somebody’s Atlanta list for the keyword ‘wedding’ or ‘getting married’.  And, Listimonkey allows you to create as many of these list/keyword combinations as you like!  Very powerful, and a dimensional abstract improvment on Twitterhawk’s idea!

But Listimonkey is good not only for finding new customers and clients.  It’s great for finding out about new products, techniques, people, trends- wealth of information from one site that harnesses the communal information it mines from the Twitterstream!

I’m afraid Xavier’s innovation will spell bad news for Chris Duell and Twitterhawk.  It’s a shame, but the market marches on.  One can only wish Chris Duell luck, and hope that he has another great idea.  But with talent like he’s shown, I am sure that his next idea is right around the corner.

But getting back to Listimonkey, as those emails come rolling in from Listimonkey, it would be pretty easy for a good software developer to come up with a program which would parse those emails as they came in, and then tweet appropriate messages to the originators of those tweets mentioning the keyword(s).  Xavier has such a good idea, that I predict will soon overrun his mailserver.  But that will be an happy problem for him to solve!

Please leave a comment, so we know whether or not we are on target!  It helps us find out what our readers think.

May

31st

How to Destroy Incentive, Initiative, and Cripple our Economy for Years to Come Part1

Economics


A few days ago I wrote an article tracing the origin of the credit collapse our country and the rest of the world experienced over the past six months. As the owner of a small business, which specializes in information technology and software development, a good understanding of the economic climate and, in particular, the apatite for capital investment is essential in predicting prospects for business and profits for our company and others like us in the years to come. Read the rest of this entry »

May

29th

Here’s Another Nice Mess You’ve Gotten me Into…

Economics


For the past 20 years, my company has been designing mission critical software for some of the most recognized brand-name companies in this country.  During that time, I have been privy to hundreds of business plans, and have seen many examples of ventures, and can identify prominent features that were common to the plans which succeeded, and other features which were common to the ones which ultimately failed.  Prior to founding the company, I have held very visible economic posts in leading Wall Street investment banks, and as commodity economist for one of the nation’s leading producers of consumer goods.  So I am considered well experienced and well qualified to comment on our current economic situation. Read the rest of this entry »

May

3rd

The Honey Dance

Software


At Paladin Consultants, we develop software – database applications, web services, and custom software ranging from interfaces to off-the-shelf commercial software, to complicated stand alone one-of-a-kind programs whose application is unique to a particular business, or industry.  We take as an article of faith the strength of the concepts of communal intelligence.  The growth in prosperity and productivity of Americen industry since the ’80s, in our opinion has been directly attributable to up to now a friendly climate for capital investment, and the productivity advances brought on by this shared communal intelligence in technology from the Internet, Microsoft, Unix, and Open Source programming models.  Although capital investment incentives have been crushed by the economic downturn, and by ‘social experiments’ brought on by the new administration, the forces and structures of communal intelligence and largely still operative.

Read the rest of this entry »