Thoughts on Structured/Unstructured and Shared Information Management using Wiki and other emerging technologies
Friday, November 18, 2005
Structured Blogging vs. Google Base

The post from Niki Scevak
- Open letter to Google Base Product Manager highlights Structured Blogging as a better approach for aggregating structured content.

One of my focus being workflows around this concept (what I called Folkflows in my previous post), it will be interesting to see how this will progress. But the focus of this article is the very first application of Google Base (or for that matter, structured blogging): Simple match making. Like in classifieds.

Let us take a very simple use case: In my organization we have community newsgroups. People keep asking information about "recommend a doctor" or "where is a good restaurent in this location.". The information is amenable for google base: We will probably put up an interface to directly add the questions as well as results to google base. Both updates + search will be done using RSS or tab-separated file uploads, while giving some nice UI for standard shortcuts.

So what is the role of Google here?

But we forget one more requirement: Be able to notify the people involved, and community. This is not exactly an atom feed problem: One can't subscribe to all individual feeds. For that matter, what is entry point of the feed is itself a question. Should I subscribe to a feed related "Anyone asking about anything in Pune, India"?

In some cases, it makes sense -for e.g. if I am tracking lowest prices of a particular product; but in most cases, we should realize that we are more attached to communities, and we will be ready to supply information to this closed community more easily than open-ended communities. This is a standard social fact.

This means, the feed that we subscribe to should be aggregation of all structured information at group/community level. It can't be a global feed based on item, given off by Google Base.

This model plays out very well when you add a simple Structured Data handling plugin to standard blog tools such as wordpress. And that is I would put Structured Blogging approach, integrated with standard feed servers is going to be important, and co-exist with Google Base. (We also note that group mailing list creation and management tools are also provided by google and yahoo, and they will obviously be integrated/enhanced to offer structured blogging.) We can assume that it is going to take some time to settle.

And folk-workflows will have to wait for attention till all this settle down.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Google Base will lead to "FolksFlows"

Finally long awaited Google Base has been released.

The interesting thing is: There is no separate API required to use it. Because:

And labels act as schemas. Even though there is a lot of "control" - for e.g. can't specify a lot of words, there is enough power already. It is essentially a web-oriented database and it is going to make it easy for any application which fundamentally involves public data (such as looking for specific movies).

One question is: Would this database model result in Google making any inroads into enterprises over the time? For that matter, any other markets which are not driven by advertisements and end-consumers? For example, can small businesses hope to have applications hosted with this google database backend one day?

The answer seems to be "Yes, it will happen one day". The model opens up what I call "FolksFlows" - Workflows for general folks. What does this mean? Assume you want to set up a simple workflow. You have set of 10 sales people and you want to track sales on daily basis by these guys. Usual process is to get a guy to create a decent-sized application and worrying about things like how sales folks can update the data from field. But Google model will turn that upside down. We can now expect, with appropriate interfaces, a model where anyone can cookup a schema, use a wiki front end for UI, use google backend to store private data (this is tricky), and use Atom and other Web 2.0 approaches to provide interfaces. It can at most take about 2-3 hours by a common-sense oriented manager.

So the core of the problem is to use google database for private data. IMHO, it is actually easy part; I am sure Google will come out with a model for it as soon as Google base stabilizes. The second core of problem is: Ajaxi'fied Wiki front end that will use google base - and this is already in market by Dojo guys. And ISPs will follow suit as soon as someone targes one of the available open source wikis for this market (integrating, for e.g. Dojo toolkit for ajax-enabled widgets.)

Such apps can still use their own backend while using Google-provided standardized Schema. But Google Base will end up providing most easy way to integrate the app with other apps, and Integration is most difficult problem in these markets ...

So future is indeed exciting. Let us all hope FolksFlows will very soon become a reality!


About this blog
All realms of collaboration:
  • Wiki. Weblogs
  • New Integration Platforms for combined structured and unstructured information: Wiki, Portals, Email Clients,
  • Collaborative Document editing, Collaborative knowledge building
  • Email Interfaces to collaborative shares
  • Information organization, management, Publishing: In context of organizations, individuals, Opensource projects etc.
About me:
Name:Vinod Kulkarni

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