Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mashing it up with dbQwikSite

What is a Mashup? For me it conjures up images of a bunch of cooks, all mashing away at a pot of boiled potatoes. But in the world of web development it means piecing together discreet units of available web functionality into a single integrated application.

Wikipedia defines a mash up as:

Mashup (web application hybrid)
In technology, a mashup is a web application that combines data from more than one source into a single integrated tool; an example is the use of cartographic data from Google Maps to add location information to real-estate data, thereby creating a new and distinct web service that was not originally provided by either source.

Before I say anything more let me show you are screen shot of something I was playing with in dbQwikSite before I looked up the term in Wikipedia.

What you are looking at is a dbQwikSite page that I have in our Real Estate test project in which I added a Windows® Live Map. I had created, almost verbatim, the Wikipedia definition of a MashUp. The listing data is all in the dbQwikSite Real Estate database, but the Map is pulled in from Microsoft. After copying sample code from the Live Maps interactive SDK and fiddling with the custom code a bit, miracles of miracles I made a MashUp in about 15 minutes.

Well that’s not all, check this out. I made this over two months ago, when I was testing Developer Edition. This page uses Google Charts APIs to produce graphs of a data page generated by dbQwikSite.

Here’s another graph… ok, so it’s not a “true” MashUp by definitions. It is using Microsoft’s Siverlight 2 technology which is not a web service, but I didn’t have to know anything about coding graphs, just enough to call the JavaScripts and pass the right parameters. It’s just so pretty, I could not resist showing it off.

So today, it dawned on me, I was creating MashUps and I didn’t even know it. At first I said to myself “Naw, it can’t be that easy, MashUps are the realm of web gurus. I must be missing something.” So off to Wikipedia I went, to delve into the real meaning of MashUps. I stopped reading after I read the example I quoted earlier. “Wow! This is cool!” I thought to myself. There’s something big going on here, code generation plus MashUps what an awesome, powerful combination.

By themselves these web services like Google Charts and Windows Maps are interesting. But they only become valuable when placed within a meaningful context. Let’s face it you are much more interested in a map to the new house you are going to buy than just “a map”. And you are likely much more interested in a plot of your sales than a graph of data that is not yours.

What MashUp developers do is take all these nice “gadgets” and knit them into an application to enhance their applications. These guys are the guys writing the back end processing, digging data out of their databases and integrating these fantastic web services to enrich their web applications. But, wait a minute; dbQwikSite users know that they don’t have to code the back end. The code generator of dbQwikSite does that for you. So we just made the job of creating MashUp web sites magnitudes easier. Let dbQwikSite churn out the back end code and a basic interface then add a few lines of custom code to call web services and we are making MashUps in the blink of an eye.

While I still think that MashUp is a funny term, I do agree that the concept is valid and very powerful. Even more powerful is when you marry that technology to the dbQwikSite code generation technology to web services technology in MashUps. You can produce some pretty advanced websites at lighting speeds by “Mashing it Up” with dbQwikSite.

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