Friday, September 21, 2007

Google's mashup editor is still for developers

I've been playing around with Google's Mashup Editor, trying to see if it is a reasonable tool for business mashers. It didn't take me long to know the answer: No, it isn't.

It is certainly an improvement over the old way of building Google Map mashups. That involved writing javaScript inside HTML pages and deploying to a handy web server. This wasn't a problem for me because I've been coding for many years, and I happen to have a web server on my machine. A business masher, someone with subject-matter expertise but not deep technical knowledge, wouldn't want to write the HTML or javaScript, and likely wouldn't have a web server on hand to which they have deployment access.

Is Mashup Editor any better than than browser-side mashing? In some ways yes, in many ways no. Google allows mashers to deploy mashups to Google's server, which is definitely an improvement for business mashers. Deploying to the cloud is likely the only way a business analyst will get his or her mashup published. IT isn't going to be able to spend time deploying mashups to internal servers. Certainly not when the mashups will probably need to be deployed several times before they are 'right.'

So Google is definitely on the right track, but Mashup Editor is still for developers, not for business mashers. Mashup Editor requires mashers to write code. It doesn't matter that the 'code' is in the form of an XML document. It is still code. For me it is a great tool because I can include feeds as easily as maps within the mashup. No more jumping between Yahoo pipes and Google Maps. I can also use existing HTML, including style sheets, and add data and map elements from Google's expanded tag list.

I would never, however, put Mashup Editor in front of a business analyst to build business mashups. Even though there is no longer a need to write javaScript for browser-side content mashing, mashers still have to use HTML, and XML tags are still programming.

If you want to combine visual and data elements in a mashup, you are comfortable with HTML, style sheets and XML tags and you don't care about process, go ahead and use Mashup Editor.

Is it a tool for business mashers?


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