A great overview of my talk at Xtech


Its funny to see an overview of my presentation, pipelines: plumbing for the next web in the Guardian. Its is good to confirm my talk did make sense and did make a few people stop and think.

As Ian says, APIs open the silos. APIs are application protocol interfaces and make it easy to pass data between applications and websites. Web services also have revenue models such as Amazon S3. Feeds are everywhere. Widgets and gadgets are starting to become useful. There are the Semantic Desktop projects. The most interesting data is online but it's also on your own computer, bridging the worlds of the internet and one's own computer.

Ian thought someone had to have built this, and then he discussed applications and services that came close to his idea, Touchstone/Particles, Automator and Yahoo Pipelines.

Touchstone/Particls is based on many inputs and outputs. There is only one input type: RSS. It is completely XML driven. It takes all of these RSS feeds, puts it through its own attention engine and then spits out more ordered information including flagging up really important things.

Automator makes it very simple to automate tasks. It has a powerful GUI, levels of abstraction. It plugs into the web, but it's proprietary. It's only on the Mac.

Yahoo! Pipes is the next service Ian reviews. I've used it. As a matter of fact, I used it to create a combined RSS feed of several showbiz and fashion blogs for our Lost in Showbiz blog. It is really, really easy to use, but Ian says that there is no underlying definable language. I find it slightly difficult to understand some of the operators as a non-coder. But that's probably just the limits of my own understanding.

Ian has his own idea for an application: Flow. It allows access to the local file system and anything connected to it. The Flow system has all of these things on the desktop such as applications but also a host of web services such as Twiter, Blip.TV, Technorati and Yahoo. Instead of using a traditional GUI, he suggeted using a widget.

Flow doesn't currently exist. It's not an application. It's not a service. He has partially built it. He uses RSS Bus to pull in XML files and turn it into RSS. It pulls in Jabber, Outlook, output from all kinds of applications. He then uses Apache Cocoon and Widgets. But it's not quite there. It usually crashes.

He wants Flow to be definable, graphical, standard, shareable, open and non-proprietary.

I like Ian's ideas, and I'm not just saying that because he's a friend and former colleague. I am beginning to use the web like this, although Ian is doing this on a more advanced level than I do. But as he says, novices can use other people's widgets or pipelines. This is already happening on Yahoo! Pipe. And people with little idea of programming can actually look and learn at other people's pipelines.

You can already chain together little web widgets and pipelines that do simple analysis to sift masses of information online. I wonder how useful it is for most users. Well, it's not even whether it is useful. I guess it's how much people are willing to invest in creating their own little apps.

But we are moving to a web where people aren't just creating content but also creating widgets, simple, small easily developed applications.

Quoted from the Guardian, but there's more worth reading. Also Kevin has a review of some sessions at Xtech including a video of moi on the stranger blog. I also captured some videos which plan to release on the backstage blog very soon.

Ok enough blogging from this great cafe.

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser. Can be found at cubicgarden@mas.to, cubicgarden@twit.social and cubicgarden@blacktwitter.io