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6/1/2007
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How To Get Started With Web 2.0

From wikis to blogs and beyond, here are 10 tips culled from the experts to help you get started building a more dynamic Web site and jumping into Web 2.0.

3
Pick a Web-friendly database server

Most of the Web 2.0 technologies involve getting better access, reports, and front-end query interfaces from existing corporate databases. So the best place to start is to choose lightweight projects that can quickly take this information and put it online. "Dabble DB is very Web 2.0 friendly," says Bob Matsuoka, the founder of RunTime Technologies in New York City. "It's a generic object database that works with simple data types, and is very easy to use." You can upload your data in a spreadsheet in a matter of minutes and build a simple application that can cost a few dollars a month to host on their servers, or create a public application for free, according to information on the site.

You don't need to webify every client/server database, but consider what kinds of databases would benefit if your user had the tools to search the data and create his or her own ad hoc reports. Also consider a mix of public and proprietary data that would benefit your business operations, and how users currently use this data to do their jobs. "One of the things we are dealing with is lowering the barrier of entry -- there is still a lot of custom database and Web programming involved," says Matsuoka. "We act as the glue to connect internal and external data. We also do a lot of development for output to XML, iCal, and other output streams that can be manipulated from our content."

"You need to consider platforms that will support content that doesn't require IT to be involved in every single part of the site," says Raarup. "As you move to more dynamic content, people are looking for a more personalized experience. Then people feel there is a reason to go to your Web site."

"The point is all large software companies are moving too slowly," says Matusoka. "The smaller companies, such as ourselves, are doing database integration at the SQL level and creating better front ends for applications and providing links to the back-end databases." He mentions one project where they created Web pages that have an attractive display of a publication's database for one academic client, and they also create the RSS feeds so staffers can more easily keep track of who wrote which papers.

4
Learn some Web programming interfaces

It makes sense to study the leading Web vendors programming tools, such as those freely available from Amazon, Google, and Yahoo, just to name the obvious candidates. These and other places make it easy to start building applications quickly and with minimal cost and effort. They also can be used to combine public data with your private data for what are called mashups.

"Google Apps are so much easier to use than the equivalent desktop Office products from Microsoft," says Matsuoka. "And once you start using them, you begin to think how you can integrate Google Docs into your corporate workflow. That's their real power: taking private information, using freely available technologies, and providing a repository for this data. For example, a lot of users want to integrate information that they maintain on their desktop calendars or PDAs. So we use iCal feeds to integrate different sets of data."

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