Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Programmable Webs

This week's foray into programmable webs was interesting to say the least; I had no idea that is so common for people to be combining visual maps and information for so many different purposes. I knew of programs that could locate stores, etc. near a location but it was interesting to see how various people are making use of the technology to create webs based on their interests.

I reviewed several of the programmable webs from the 'popular recent mashups' category to see what was getting people's attention. I found a relatively wide variety of 'services' that these programs offered. Here's my feedback on a few:

Flowser is designed as a visual Amazon browser. The intention is for potential customers to type in their search term and be able to navigate the search results in the form of a web rather than the traditional listed results that Amazon searches currently give. While the novelty may attract some, I would rather type in search to Amazon and receive clear results. Flowser's results were not enjoyable to navigate; only a few fit on the screen and clicking the screen to move it around to browse all the results became tedious. The traditional Amazon search results are much easier to maneuver. Also, an entire section of the search results web had nothing to do with my search for 'Boer War,' listing a palm pilot, a wireless router, and other electronics.

Rentometre seems much more useful. It allows viewers to enter information about their rent; i.e. location and rent and compares it to other rentals in the area. Although there are other ways of comparing rent they are generally more labour intensive, i.e. searching listings for similar locations and accommodation or require access to realtors' databases. This site is a great example of how technology can be used as a tool to make things easier.

The Top 10 Highest Paid Business Women in America site was also interesting, though less useful due to the information is presented. The site plotted the location of the ten highest paid business women in America. As an aside, I think it is interesting that all but one (who is listed in New Jersey) of the women are located in California or New York. Though the site was clean and clear the information it was presenting was relatively simple, perhaps too simple to need a map to explain.

Blue Okapi was an interesting but not especially unique idea; it has a map of the globe with icons in areas where pictures were taken. As with Flowser, I found too little or poorly explained directions, making it difficult to benefit from all the functions the site offered. I don't really see the relevance of the site. Perhaps it could be improved by making sub-sites that focused on certain topics that would allow people around the world who shared an interest to communicate or meet. For example, several of the photos are of cats, maybe a site for cat-lovers to exchange information, photos...would give the site more focus and usefulness. Similarly, I think that this concept could be great as a travel site. Viewers could select places they would like to visit and see photos, advice, etc. from people who had been there.

As with many internet technologies, the programmable webs seem more linked to expressions of personality that creating useful systems for general consumption. This is logical; these webs likely take a great deal of time and effort that people are generally only likely to expend if they're interested in their project or getting paid. Rentometre was a good example of how these webs can be designed to be useful to a larger audience. I think programmable webs have a great potential for education. In history, webs could be used to make learning more interactive by having students use or create webs based on areas of historical interest to them.

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