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Posts Tagged ‘mashup’

Firefly

December 1st, 2008

fireflyI have just stumbled on an interesting annotation technology called “firefly.” I’ve installed it on my blog, so you can see it in action here on this home page. It allows you to enter comments anywhere on my site. It scratches the surface of what is possible in terms of adding interactive features on any site on the Internet:

1. You install it by dropping in two small tags into your site (e.g., it requires very limited technical abilities)
2. You can authenticate and administer your site on their site

However, I am somewhat doubtful that this service will take off in its present form, mostly because of user interface issues. You can’t see the comments with clicking on the box on the bottom. The comments are more like graffiti than conversation.

I see several interesting possibilities for the future of this kind of technology. It would be nice to have a complimentary toolbar implementation, like reframeit.com, so that users could leave comments on any site. (This service lets any user leave on particular sites.) It could be integrated with services like facebook connect to create conversations among friends. And of course, the model could be used for a wide range of possible interactive features that go beyond the current widgets and toolbars that are available and widely used currently.

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Rent vs. Buy

June 17th, 2008

Here’s a great site that computes the median sales price/monthly rental price by town or county and plots it on a map. As you can see in the screenshot below, my town of Menlo Park is an expensive place to buy: the ratio of sales/rent is over 20x compared. In contrast, Newark/Fremont in the east bay are near the national average of 14x. You can check out your current or prospective neighborhood(s).

2008-06-18_092059.png

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Travel Mashup

September 17th, 2007

What is a mashup? Consider the trip to Greece that my wife Maria and I put together this past summer. We stayed in 4 different cities, took 5 flights on 4 different airlines, rented cars in multiple cities and took a ferry. We planned everything ourselves with web research, online booking and emails. We had transportation, maps, restaurant bookings, sightseeing and activities information. Lots of related information (e.g., stuff in the same city) and lots of similarities in each piece of information (e.g., confirmation codes, names, times, phone numbers), but nothing completely standardized. So, the spreadsheet organized by dates across the top and function (e.g., transportation, hotel, etc.) down the side. It worked, and we pulled it off! (Although Maria might argue that driving in Santorini was a BIG mistake.)

Well, the travel mashup site called TripIt are entering the fray to make this kind of planning activity much easier. After registering, you just forward all your confirmation emails to plans@tripit.com and they automatically compile your itinerary for you. You can see an example of my upcoming trip to Brussels here. It adds local weather, maps and directions for you. 60 degrees and a good chance of rain – ugh!

The home page of TripIt.com

(I plan to write several more posts about various mashup sites, and hopefully a more analytical piece that gives some insight into what’s going on here. But for your sake, gentle reader, and mine, I think I’ll start off with a few of these more descriptive posts first.)

My experience was reasonably good. The airline confirmation emails worked fine. I didn’t have an email confirmation from my hotel, and I don’t think that they can automatically process most hotels anyway, so I had to add that information myself. I got some weird mapping results. First, it gave me driving directions from London to Belgium. One click and I deleted that bit of extraneous information, although I wouldn’t have guessed its only four hours to drive! Second, it gave me driving directions fom some airport in France that shares the code ‘BRU’ with brussels. It was a bit of hassle to figure out an alternative airport code that would trick google maps into giving me the directions I really wanted. (Thank you, wikipedia for the answer.) It was also clunky to add the new directions to the itinerary.

There are features that I didn’t use for this trip, but might come in handy. For example, they promote the idea of including web clips. That might have come in handy for my greece trip, if I wanted to add things like ferry schedules, sight seeing info, etc. They also automatically link to SeatGuru that has recommendations about plane seats that could be useful if I had an choice of seat to begin with. (The flights I’m on are oversold.)

In the end though, I think that Expedia doesn’t have too much to worry about. I love the way they keep track of your frequent flier miles and itineraries. And they don’t have to resort to processing emails or “screenscraping” web sites to gather the right information. Perhaps the $5 surcharge isn’t so bad after all.

Next, TripIt has to integrate with TripAdvisor and other sites that have comments by travelers. Perhaps someone would have warned us not to rent the car in Santorini! Now, that would have been helpful.

(By the way, the picture of the sunset at the top of Weiksner.com is from our hotel in Santorini.)

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