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Mashing Information for Business Value

Author: Mark Dixon
Wednesday, October 4, 2006
2:27 am

For some reason, whenever I hear the term “Mashup,” I think of mashed potatoes. Must be my Idaho upbringing or the delicious garlic mashed potatoes I ate at the Three Forks restaurant in Dallas last night.

Yesterday, I was discussing mashups – the Web 2.0 kind – with my my colleagues. Some of us prefer to use the more sophisticated term: Composite Applications.

My colleague Joe Palastro pointed me to the programmableweb mashup matrix, which currently catalogs 1035 mashups in a matrix that shows the intersection between services that have been mashed together (e.g. 23 mashups integrate Google Maps and Flickr services).

Mashups using Google Maps are the most popular. WeatherBonk is an interesting example of mashing weather information onto a Google map. It did a good job in Mesa, Arizona, but alas, had no significant information for Erdenet, Mongolia, where my son currently resides.

I found the Mobiledia Cell Phone Reception and Tower Search somewhat more interesting. This site features “searchable databases of over 121,000 cell phone tower locations registered with the FCC, and over 27,000 cell phone carrier comments submitted voluntarily from real customers using their service all over the U.S.” It will show cell tower location on Google Maps. I now know why my kids’ T-Mobile phones get such poor reception at our house.

The Yard Sale Map in the Bowling Green, Kentucky, Daily News is a quaint little example of how to monetize a mashup. If you buy a two-day classified ad for your yard sale, rather than one day standard ad, they will put you on the map. Did you know (or care to know) that you can find this stuff at 248 ASHTON CT? “Hidden River Cherry Table w/6 chairs-$300; sofa table- $150; Kinkade table w/4 chairs- $200; Basset Full or Queen bed for $200. Good condition! Call 799-2440.” Or just follow the map.

The trouble with these examples and several more that I poked at is that I find them to be intellectual curiosities with limited commercial value. I think the basic mashup business challenge is how to provide a juxtaposition of services in such a compelling way that someone is willing to pay for the composite service. Here are some ideas of little mashups that would be useful to me:

  • Medical service providers authorized by my health insurance plan shown on a local map.
  • Book or article suggestions based on articles I read
  • Restaurant, entertainment and ATM locations based on my current business travel itinerary and hotel location – available on my PDA.
  • Map yellow pages search results onto a local map.

But the mashup I really need? Provide me a composite view of each of the customers for which I am responsible, including Wall Street Journal details, corporate locations/addresses, news reports, products we have sold to the company, sales opportunites and forecasts, potential/active/completed projects and technical support cases. All this information comes from different sources within and without Sun Microsystems. Mashing this information together in an interactive, easy to use composite application would really make my working life much simpler. Simpler translates to business value, which should translate to money.

Just one more mapping mashup suggestion. Please show me potato crop yields, acreage under cultivation, processing plant capacity and current potato prices everywhere potatoes are grown and mashed. (It’s an Idaho thing.)

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