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Mashups and Shopping By Color

At the TDWI Executive Summit I talked about the web mashups, BI and the blurring between the two. One of the mashups I showed was ColorPickr, a nifty app that pulls images from photo site Flickr based on your choice of color from a palette.

I use this as an example because the typical reaction from the IT audience is "Neat. But it's not really useful for anything." You can come up with a half dozen right off the top of your head if you've worked on a web web site, for example finding images that match the site color scheme.

I use a more compelling example to emphasize that you're focusing on the wrong thing if you see mashups as useless. Think of the last time you shopped online for clothing. What if you want a blue shirt?

One of the features of all shopping sites is what the web folks call "faceted search" allowing you to narrow choice based on product features. In data warehouse terms you can think of this as a constraint on attributes in the product dimension.

Yet none of the shopping sites I'm familiar with take advantage of presentation opportunities the web offers. They still merchandise online in the same way they lay out shelves in a store. So you filter by type of clothing, style, gender and size. No way to search by color. That would be a crazy way to organize shelves in a store, but there's no reason you can't do this online. It can even make the experience more fun.

Today Yahoo! introduced a new "shop by color" feature on the Yahoo! Shopping site. Exactly the sort of thing I was talking about.

The problem most people have is one of perspective. Many online mashups and the ideas behind them are useful well beyond the original concept. One of the things I like about mashups is that they evolve from a sense of play as much as from a specific goal. This is a creative element that's been lacking in many IT shops. The web 2.0 crowd bring some of the fun back to working in IT.

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Web 2.0 Moves into IT, Goodbye RIA as a Name

There are tons of web 2.0 companies out there who were trying to either create consumer sites or provide technology to other consumer/business facing sites. I expected them to begin shifting focus as they run out of places to sell to, the market becomes overburdened by web 2.0 technology providers, and companies starve for cash.

One of the areas with a lot of vendors is the user interface arena, generally categorized as Rich Internet Application (RIA). I'm already seeing signs of repositioning in this overcrowded market. There's only so much money to be had before the need to sell to traditional IT. What usually happens is companies try to re-market into IT and discover their tools aren't sufficient. I suspect next year will be a great year for acquisitions and shutdowns of RIA companies.

I've spotted a few who changed colors from "RIA" to mashups. Jackbe is a good example, but they at least started out as "Rich Enterprise Application" provider aimed at IT instead of a more typical RIA play. Check out their site from last year, then look at this year, and you see the same products with different labels attached. I've talked to a few other companies in this space making the same shift in marketing. I think the other guys will have more trouble because they didn't start with the goal of selling into IT, and that's a different beast from VC, word of mouth and wishful thinking.

Time to say hello to "enterprise mashups". With major vendors plowing money into this space (Microsoft, Adobe, Google, IBM, BEA) you can expect the marketing around mashups and trying to link them to SOA to be one of the marketing pitches you'll be subjectd to in the coming year.


Data warehousing, business intelligence, IT strategy and architecture, and occasional interesting bits.

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