The magic of mash-ups

by Jay Cross on May 13, 2008

My wife broke her wrist playing tennis this morning. Friends who drove her to the hospital called me to come to her side and to rescue her car from the parking garage. I decided to take the bus. It was my first local bus ride in years.

I went on line to check the bus schedule. The transit agency pointed me to a site called Google Transit that combined a local street map, bus routes, and a bus schedule. This was a mash-up: a consolidation of data from several sources.

Upon entering my home address and the name of the hospital, I received a personalized itinerary that suggested what bus to catch and when, where to transfer to another bus and how long the wait would be, a map of the route, and instructions for the 3-minute walk to the hospital emergency room.

Until recently, it would not have been possible to pull this information together on the fly. Now even non-programmers can assemble a mash-up because APIs, or Application Program Interfaces, enable the data sets to speak a common language.

My automated bus itinerary saved me time and hassle. It saved me an unnecessary taxi ride.

Whenever I see workers trying to coordinate information from different sources, I wonder how much wasted effort a mash-up might eliminate.

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