I am currently participating in a cool exercise in prognostication on emerging technologies and learning and one of my votes/pleas for a disruptive technology in the academy is “mashups” (which I realize aren’t properly a specific “technology” so much as a technique, but whatever.)
So it was with great pleasure that I stumbled on Jenny Levine’s post on the Talis Library Mashup competition. The full list of entries is here, and while it feels a bit tame, it is definitely a start. The library seems definitely like one of the potential on-campus sources to be mashed up. What are the others? Well, to serve as the basis for a mashup, on my read at least, you need to be providing 2 things; some data and a way to get at it (an API, web service/XML feeds, screenscraping, or other mechanism for access, the more public the better). And there’s the rub, it seems. While more and more Web2.0 companies (holy cow – 291 on this list) are offering APIs that are being mashed up (arguably often with a still-unknown value proposition) is your IS department publishing the API for your SIS on your campus website? You CMS? Why would they do this? Well, that’s the other side of the mashup phenomenom – often-times the companies making their data available don’t yet know all the ways it could be used, but appear to be correct in the belief that if you publish it, it will get used, often in unexpected or improved ways.
It’s likely the sources on campus that will serve mashups anytime soon aren’t the “enterprise” systems but departmental or discipline-based ones (various GIS-based systems seem ripe to combine the Google and Yahoo maps of the world; text collections with things like Yahoo’s term extraction service, etc). And I don’t want to trivialize the challenges to security and privacy in accessing some of the enterprise data. But right now it feels like a brick wall – ask and you’ll get a strong ‘No’; not a considered one but the idea just rejected out of hand. But you know the trick; keep asking, eventually you’ll wear them down (or they’ll retire 😉 – SWL