Mash-up hero !!

This is a great story from the mySociety blog, Michael Houlsby from East Hampshire council has built an API to the councils database to allow users of the fix my street application to post issues directly into the councils own operational database.

I can only imagine how hard this was to achieve not from a technical point of view, but from this bottom up approach to delivering a IT system, which goes completely against the usual philosophy of delivering IT systems in government.

Many people view mash-ups only as a way of publishing information, but really mash-ups are just about providing open interfaces to your online services, so it brilliant to see such an approach used in the UK to contribute information, which in turn potentially improves the quality of life for the lucky residents of East Hants !

Kudos to Michael, an example of the value to web 2.0 I will be using from now on..

Written and submitted from home, using my home 802.11 network.

3 comments

  1. Gary F

    Michael – yes, definitely a hero. It’s unheard of for a council to allow the public to submit data via a public website that they don’t control and import automatically into their internal database. Does his manager know about? 😉

    Ed, how come you use the term “web 2.0” quite a lot? It’s technically a meaningless term without reference to any specifications or technology. Even the great TBL (Sir Tim) said it’s meaningless. It makes no reference to any date in time or era. If it’s supposed to refer to something that uses AJAX then that could date back 9 years ago when IE first implemented the asynchronous javascript request, or dynamic loading of new data which was do-able in 1997 with IE4 (in iframes). Or if it means something using an interactive map with stuff plotted on it then I did that 10 years ago using Flash. What about content that changes dynamically? Yeah, did that in 1995 with Netscape 2.0. None of that was thought of as web 2.0 because the phrase wasn’t invented until the next decade. It was simply called “cool new stuff” – a continuous progression of advancements.

    I’ve concluded “web 2.0” was just a marketing term coined by Tim O’Reilly to help him sell books. 🙂

    Ed, I love your blog and insight, so please don’t think I’m having a dig, just curious to hear your thoughts on it. Is there a milestone where someone can say “this is when web 2.0 started”? (When Google Maps was launched! 😉

  2. Ed

    Morning Gary,

    Thanks for your comments..

    Yes I think there is something in what you say about the term Web 2.0, but it is a useful handle to describe a real changes that has happened over the past few years, which have resulted in a range of new online applications and changed the way people use the web.

    There is an element of technology change here, AJAX, the use of lost cost LAMPS server infrastructures and widespread broadband has had an impact. At the same time there is the recognition in the value represented by the users of an application, initially this was exploited to provide comments, and product reviews but now sites like you tube, and in our world openstreetmap are nothing without user generated content.

    Certainly the launch of the Google Maps API was a milestone in the development of mash-ups but I would argue web 2.0 is more than just mash-ups, the real web 2.o thing started with the first O’Reilly Web 2.0 conference when as many VC people turned up as developers. Of course Tim is really the source so you should read his explanation which I think is still valid at http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html

    So for me a useful handle for the sort of thing that mySociety does and generally big commercial organisations and government agencies don’t.

  3. Gary F

    Hi Ed. I read pages 1, 2 and 5 of Tim’s explanation for the term “web 2.0”. A term that takes 5 pages to explain and justify shouldn’t be allowed to exist! 😉

    I think your own definition (last paragraph) is the best one of all as it’s draws a clean line between web 1 and web 2 and is only a few words long! 🙂

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