Archive for March, 2012

Innovation in assembly, one of the core component patterns in the shift to web 2.0 is all about offering platforms as online services.  There is a slow but certain transition from desktop computer and hardware components delivering applications to online resources powering applications through an external vendor.  An online service or software as a service (SaaS) is the idea of offering application platforms to an end user from a service provider over a network, in most cases the internet (Search Cloud Computing, March 2006).

       

Figure 1.
Anton Blotskiy, Softheme. February 16th, 2011

The root of this movement is through the use of open standards and free licensed sources which foresees the transformation from strict desktop platforms delivered from a vendor and powered by hardware, to online services. This means eventually the need for hardware power and expensive licensed software such as Microsoft Office and virus software will no longer be in demand.

Innovations of third party applications sourced from vendors are being made available through the concept of an application programming interface (API) and dynamic web services.  This is the idea of moving from static unchangeable web pages with standard Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) designs with basic request and response protocols, to web services, or API’s (Nicholas Quaine, 2001).

From this movement to web 2.0 with API’s comes database driven, stateless and dynamic web services using Representational State Transfer (REST) Communications architecture. API’s allow for multiple REST style web services to be interchangeable and programmable to communicate with each other using a standard of code-based language such as XML (Russell Kay, 2007), thus becoming an application service.

A related example of this movement is Amazon’s S3 (Simple Storage Service) which allows for developers to source their resources from Amazon’s hardware infrastructure, and provide a web platform to their customer. The users of the S3 platform pay a certain monthly fee (“pay as you go”) for storage, or what they call a “Bucket” and are free to use the space for whatever they desire to provide third party applications to an end user. This can include a source of media files, backup storage or web developed applications as part of a business or for a customer.

Figure 2. Amazon Simple Storage Service Developer Guide (API Version 2006-03-01)

To elaborate on the concept and give an example of the above picture, Amazon provide the open space data storage, database engine and backbone resources to a customer to build an API based platform. The third party provider then delivers its API platform to the end user using cloud computing services.

All parties benefit from the innovative movement in its architectural structure, all Amazon, The third party vendor and the end user.  API’s open the door for everyday developers to express their skills in creating something new out of existing services. For example the Apple App store. Developers take an existing application and transform it into a useful application, for example taking Twitter and using it specifically for an external use such as Cricket Australia’s website, which as a section that takes posts from Cricketer’s twitter accounts and displays them in a live feed on the web site’s page.

A specific example to the topic discussed is how Amazon builds a level of trust with the users of its S3 architecture and opens the door for easy innovation of third party API’s.  The third party developers benefit from using cheap, existing resources to develop their web services to the end user rather than building their own infrastructure. The end user benefits from the ease of use through API developed applications. Finally Amazon benefit from both the trust built with its reliable services to users paying money, and oversees how its services are used for future growth.

Such innovative technologies can also have their drawbacks however.  There are clear disadvantages of third party vendors hosting their applications on an external source rather than their own infrastructure, creating huge risks and potential disaster.

Amazon for example state in their service level agreement (SLA) that they have an uptime of 99.9% per month. This equates to 40 odd minutes of down time (Amazon S3 Service Level Agreement, 2007).  This down time can cause major disruptions for third party vendors that may require intense resources at the point of an outage. Although Amazon offers a compromise if this service level agreement isn’t met, offering credits in accordance to extra down time, this could be the difference between a successful API and the failure of one, potentially putting a business at risk.

Another interesting note to point out about the service level agreement is the fact that there is only one requirement Amazon strives to achieve and that’s uptime.  The only agreement stated in amazon’s SLA is that 99.9 percent uptime must be met per month, any other figure below this and the user will be funded with credits (Amazon S3 Service Level Agreement, 2007).  In the SLA statement, Amazon strictly state it will take no responsibility for any negative impact on users due to any technology not sourced by Amazon itself.

It is clear that innovation in assembly is pushing the web into a new era of less and less software and hardware components.  It is clear to see that in the near future, user’s at home will not have the need to purchase expensive licensed software to install on their PC.  Rather every user will have an online desktop, powered by resources from an external vendor.  The need for personal computers will become obsolete as the push for innovative online services becomes greater, more reliable, faster and easier to develop and use.

References:

  1. Software as a Service, Search Cloud Computing. March 2006. http://searchcloudcomputing.techtarget.com/definition/Software-as-a-Service,
  2.  Figure 1. Anton Blotskiy, Marketing Consultant, Softheme  February 16th, 2011. Is SaaS Office Safe? http://blog.softheme.com/is-saas-office-safe/
  3.  SOAP Basics, Nicholas Quaine, 2001. http://www.soapuser.com/basics1.html
  4.  Russell Kay, August 6, 2007. http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/297424/Representational_State_Transfer_REST_
  5. Browser-Based Uploads Using POST, Amazon Simple Storage Service Developer Guide. API Version 2006-03-01. http://docs.amazonwebservices.com/AmazonS3/latest/dev/UsingHTTPPOST.html
  6. Amazon S3 Service Level Agreement. Effective Date: October 1, 2007. http://aws.amazon.com/s3-sla/
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Data and data structure is one of the most important aspects of web 2.0 but how to control it but let it grow freely? Who owns it and who decides what to do with it? Data is the next topic of patterns discussed in relation to web 2.0.  Data in web 2.0 is a key aspect in an internet platform’s success and has many benefits as well as draw backs and controversy seen in privacy issues.  Here will be a look inside on what data is inside web 2.0, how it is structured and controlled, manipulated and made profitable in web 2.0 platforms.

Data is the key in web 2.0. Without growing data from user input a platform remains static with no room for change and expanding capabilities. Much like Amazon’s growing catalogue database, Google’s search engine and Wikipedia’s articles.

Opportunities in data control exist in two extremes. The control and creation of data on one extreme, and the way it is manipulated on the other. For example on one extreme you have NAVTEQ’s enormous map database created from scratch, and on the other Google manipulate it in a way that’s useful to user’s.

Using an example that fits this pattern will be used for further explanation. The technology used in this example is Google maps and mashups technologies.  A ‘mashup’ is a service that combines pre-existing platforms and combines them together to create a new service; taking data from two or more external services and ‘mashing’ them together at the user’s discretion to create one superior service.

For example, a mashup service used by the New South Wales government has been used taking existing map data from Google maps as the lower end of the internet stack, and combining it with live update services from the top of the internet stack to create a mashup service. This mashup shows the live traffic incidents and flooded roads of New South Wales.

http://livetraffic.rta.nsw.gov.au/desktop.html, NSW Government; www.nsw.gov.au

Each web 2.0 platform will incorporate a certain strategy to control its data, these strategies can be one of the following:

  • Creation Strategies
  • Control Strategies
  • Framework Strategies
  • Access Strategies
  • Data Infrastructure Strategies

Mashup technologies line up with the Access strategies area. This is because of its use of gathering and combining data and information from other sources to create access to one superior service. This type of service does not require any new framework or data like platforms using the other strategies listed, but simply utilizes existing framework and existing data sources to provide users with a new service created by the users.

The advantage of the mashup technology is the freedom to utilize existing framework already provided by other services.

The different services that user’s “mash” together benefit from user input and exercise trust to improve the services. For example the use of Google maps and places; in which a user will search for a place or landmark they desire and will find reviews and ratings other people have submitted previously. Also present will be the company or organisation’s website to entice users to visit.

Google Maps

To summarise this topic; simply having the data or being in control of the data is not enough to succeed in a web 2.0 environment. An organisation needs to let the data it possesses or manipulates be free for user’s to control in order to grow into something unique and hard to replicate. Following a data strategy that aligns with the desired outcome will help establish what core practices are required for the application to succeed, and therefore the benefits from users is  realised.

Web 2.0 Harnessing Collective Intelligence

Harnessing collective intelligence, one of the core patterns of web 2.0, is the concept of employing, branching, adapting and evolving a web 2.0 platform into a user driven product to create or evolve it into something beneficial to all who use it.  Allowing for a more user driven application is the key to a competitive advantage; harnessing the intelligence provided by the user population and using it to transform the product into something better.

Being a user driven concept, the idea is that the web 2.0 platform changes and adapts to what its population is using the tool for. Whether that is its main purpose, or a by-product of what the application was originally ideal for. Harnessing this concept allows for a more beneficial and better practice application for its end users; and rewarding them for their input of intelligence.  For example the more user’s input into the platform, the more rewarded they become; this will allow the application to evolve into something more beneficial.

A good example of a web 2.0 technology that uses the harnessing collective intelligence technique well is amazon.com. Amazon.com, launched in 1995 is a multi-million dollar e-commerce web platform which started off as an online book store, but gradually began selling other materials including DVD’s, furniture, software etc. e-commerce is the concept of buying and selling goods online.

Amazon.com is the largest e-commerce site in existence, offering customers with a wide range of buying and selling capabilities with ever-expanding growth and evolvement.  It is purely a customer based technology, its growth thriving on customer usage and participation, offering a personalized experience for each user.

Of course amazon existed before the concept of web 2.0, but has used the harnessing collective intelligence pattern for its user base to transform into a web 2.0 platform.  What’s made amazon a web 2.0 application was the ability for it to evolve into a more user-centric platform. Allowing personalized shopping for each user.  Every user is different, so Amazon collectively gathers individual user’s shopping habits and making recommendations and offers specialized to each user; and the user is then rewarded for their participation.

Harnessing collective intelligence is all about user participation and what the user can do, to help evolve the technology. Amazon makes good use of user participation which is the key driver in evolvement of a web 2.0 technology; employing both explicit and implicit participation a user will undertake. These techniques ensure a user driven platform.

A user will buy or sell and communicate with sellers explicitly, add items to their personalized ‘wish list’ or sell and also review their purchases as a form of participation. Users are rewarded with their participation, much like eBay’s seller and buyer rating.

Each user will also play an implicit role, the harnessing intelligence pattern is used where information is stored about each user, tracking what a user buys, sells or adds to their wish list. Amazon will then suggest products, retailers or sellers based on where the user was. Thus offering a personalized shopping experience for each user and rewarding them for using the application. The user is confronted with what other user’s are buying and looking at, related to what is being puchased, and also tracks the pattern of what a user is shopping for, such as watches in the screen take below.

Example of Amazon.comAmazon is designed to improve as it has become more popular; which is a good practice of web 2.0 and collective intelligence. Being a user driven platform, the more users involved and actively participating, and the more services it can provide. Patterns can be drawn from user habits and therefore the software can be tailored to meet user demand. In recent years it is seen Amazon take up other web 2.0 applications such as Software As A Service, offering cloud capabilities, as well as the ever expanding online store, now with MP3’s and the Kindle Touch electronic book.  These can all be derived from the roots of user participation.

User participation is the key to harnessing collective intelligence; without a strong foundation with user freedom, a web 2.0 application will simply fail to attract a population. Amazon has taken upon this technique discussed and provided a very user-based technology offering very personalized services to each user; rewarding and helping them for their active participation.

Reference: