I am possibly moving to Dallas, Texas, in the next couple of months, and I have been looking around at the real estate market on that side. I’ve been really impressed by quite a few APIs, applications and search engines that have sprung around the real estate market. It seems to be a very exciting area in terms of APIs, visualizations and software, I suspect because the data has always been there and has been captured and analyzed to death, now its time to rework the interface.

Anyway, I came across this very interesting visualization called Hindsite by an real estate search engine called Trulia. It is based on public property assessor records for properties in Trulia’s database and typically includes the date that a house was built. Check out this amazing visualization of the Dallas/Fort Worth area, specifically Plano. It is certainely making searching for a house a whole lot more interesting.

Real Estate information and mapping are ideal partners for a mashup, and besides using Microsoft Virtual Earth for Hindsight, Trulia has a very strong integration with Google Maps for their search engine. All around a very nice application. And they even have an API.

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Poseidongroove

June 13, 2007

I’ve been getting into Poseidongroove‘s posts lately. I think his comment on the Context of Use for Dynamic Languages pretty much sums up how I feel about software.

“… These days it’s not that hard to find something that almost meets your business needs. If you’re coding over 30% of the functionality, I think that’s bad !!! …”

Yesterday eBay made a series of announcements regarding new APIs and developer tools, calling for the company to rebuild the technical guts of its eBay.com site as a series of modular services, rather than a single, unified application. Today, David Berlind chipped in with an interesting analysis of web based APIs from Google, Amazon, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL and eBay becoming the new platform providers in the way that in the desktop era it was the operating systems of Windows, Mac and Unix that provided the primary platforms for applications.

In a sense what he is saying is that if we compare the API providers to Windows, or Mac, then the next step in application development is the user interfaces that are being built on top of those APIs. Microsoftware.

the Holy Grail for companies like Salesforce, eBay, Amazon, Yahoo, Google, et alia: to be in the infrastructure business but to let developers be the ones that drive adoption through innovation. Sure, if you’re one of those or other API providers, it helps to provide prototypes or something that’s minimally functional to get new users started. But when I look at where Google is going with Google Apps (of which Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets are only a part), my sense is that there are innovators out there that will come along and build user interfaces on top of Google’s APIs that are far more compelling than Google’s native interfaces.

So where does that leave the nonprofit looking to leverage current trends and forthcoming trends? For a second stop thinking of the organisation as single unfied organisation based on a single platform. Start thinking of it as a technological enabler for a cause. The tools to enable that cause are developed and then the constituents are given these tools to develop their own version of the tools on top of them. In the way that Excel allows you to develop your own spreadsheets, rather than in the way that eBay releases a new API. If your constituents are savvy enough, you can always give them an API as well.

btw if you read through to the end of David Berlind’s article one can not help but think that he is arguing that the business to be in is the business of creating a better UI. I think Joel may agree.

Haven’t had much of a chance to look at this in depth, but what I have seen looks really promising. Etelos CRM Developer Edition allows developers to create customized CRM modules that cater to the specific needs of a business. Its designed to rapidly accelerate the time-to-market development and distribution of a CRM application and/or other add-on modules.

A very nice example of how the microsoftware approach can be utilized on an enterprise level. Developers who sign up for the program receive a solution for customizing, repackaging and deploying their application to a niche vertical or industry. A developer can also create add on modules that can then be marketed through the Etelos Store and distributed through Google Gadget Catalog, Netvibes and Pageflakes. I don’t think they will be attacking Salesforce anytime soon, but a really interesting model that takes software distribution off the shoulders of ISVs.

Microsoftware

June 2, 2007

Micrsoftware, nothing to do with Microsoft, refers to small discrete bits of software that rely on an established piece of software or an API. A classic example of this is Joel Spolsky’s copilot project. Its a small discrete piece of software that uses the open source VNC project as its core. A piece of software that uses an established API can also be seen as microsoftware like Agent Earth which allows users to browse real-estate data by location in Google Earth. Even TubeMogule which allows users to track online video analytics across online video sites including Google Video, MetaCafe, MySpace, Revver and YouTube can be seen as microsoftware.

Developing microsoftware ensures that you have a ready audience for your product. It also often means that the heavy work is already done by the parent product and that your microsoftware is adding value via either a different interface, a mashing of two or more data sources, simplifying an existing process, adding a new process or creating new data based on the parent product. Plugins, software dependent on APIs, toolbars, widgets and software that gives the parent product a new UI can also be seen as microsoftware.

Givezilla Giveness is a social network that allows users to create an Amazon storefront and donate 100% of profits to a nonprofit of choice. It really illustrates nicely two really important aspects of the web 2.0 world, the first is give control of your cause to your users, empower them to create their own channels with their own voice – in this case via allowing them to easily create an Amazon storefront.

Secondly it illustrates the value of a good API, without freeing up their interface and their data Amazon would no have customer built storefronts, by allowing users access to their database of products Amazon has created a legion of developers, activists and customer evangelists who are creating their own content and mashing up the Amazon data to suit their own purposes.

Social networks are the IT buzzword at the moment and at the core of their philosophy is the ability to easily govern and control your space and your voice. Giving up control is essential if you are going to take control of the wisdom of the crowd.