02 February 2006

The Mesh Behind the Mash

Great article by Jack Schofield on mashups. The journalistic detail it brought to this amorphous and currently very trendy Web 2.0 idea helped me understand something that I'd vaguely realised before, but hadn't fully been able to articulate.

The reason that so many mashups use Google Earth (aside from the fact it's a clever application and freely available) is that to bring together information from different sources you need something in common - a kind of peg on which to hang the data. Location is a very natural peg to choose, since everybody carries around in their heads a representation of the physical world, which they use to navigate through it. Moreover, we instinctively use it for our own mashups - the experiences and knowledge of life that are tied to locations. Google Earth therefore provides a convenient and very natural mesh for mashed-up online data.

In fact, it's hard to think of any other mesh that combines such fine granularity with this ease of comprehension. Perhaps something similar could be done with time (which, anyway, is simply the fourth dimension, and very similar to space) or Wikipedia entries (or subsets of them), since the latter are effectively a mesh for the non-physical world of ideas.

Update: I've now come across this interesting matrix of mashups. It shows that Google Maps is indeed the most popular mesh; others include Amazon, Del.icio.us, Flickr and Technorati.

2 comments:

Charles said...

I have seen a slider button display for how a Wiki entry changed over time - but I think it was one particular entry, rather than being generic to them all. (Metallica? Something like that.)

.. ah, here you go: linked at
http://mail.wikipedia.org/pipermail/wikitech-l/2005-June/030309.html

glyn moody said...

Very nice idea - thanks.