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Mashups Inspire Creative IT Outbursts

None of the shopping sites with which I'm familiar truly take advantage of the presentation opportunities of the Web. They merchandise online the same way they lay out shelves in a store. You filter by type of clothing, style, gender and size... I recently gave a presentation about Web mashups, BI and the blurring between the two. I showed ColorPickr, a nifty app that pulls images from photo site Flickr based on your choice of color from a palette.
None of the shopping sites with which I'm familiar truly take advantage of the presentation opportunities offered by the Web. 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.

Speaking at the recent TDWI Executive Summit, I talked about 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." If you've worked on a Web site, you can probably come up with a half dozen uses right off the top of your head - for example, how about 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 this mashup as useless. Think of the last time you shopped online for clothing. What if you want a blue shirt?

One of the features of many shopping sites is what the Web folks call "faceted search," which lets you 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 there's usually 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.

This week, Yahoo! introduced a 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 is bringing some of the fun back to working in IT.

Mark Madsen is president of Third Nature, a consulting and research firm focused on business intelligence, data integration and data management. He is a principal author of Clickstream Data Warehousing and speaks about data warehousing and emerging technology. Write him at [email protected].None of the shopping sites with which I'm familiar truly take advantage of the presentation opportunities of the Web. They merchandise online the same way they lay out shelves in a store. You filter by type of clothing, style, gender and size... I recently gave a presentation about Web mashups, BI and the blurring between the two. I showed ColorPickr, a nifty app that pulls images from photo site Flickr based on your choice of color from a palette.