The Innovation Competition held at this year’s IWMW 2008 event probably differentiates itself from other mashup events, hackfests, etc. in welcoming not only examples of technical innovations, but also submissions which do not require technical expertise. So it was pleasing that the most popular submission was the IWMW theme song, performed by Debbie Nicholson (University of Essex), Claire Gibbons (University of Bradford), Miles Banbery (University of Kent) and David White (Sheffield Hallam University), which received 117 votes on the electronic voting system (and is available on YouTube).
However although this submission (entitled A collaborative cross-institutional user-generated interactive mashup thing) may have been a clear crowd-pleaser a number of the more technical submissions could have more significant impact on the sector.
The Live Train Departures info submission by Dawn Petherick, University of Birmingham gathered 92 votes for, I think, two main reasons: it is user-focussed (we all have an interest in knowing when the trains we are planning to catch will arrive) and Debbie stated that the code used to develop this service can be freely used by others. I am sure, incidentally, that Debbie’s comment that it was her birthday did not influence the voting :-) An image of the interface within the University of Birmingham portal is shown. You can also view the full portal page, a more complete view of train information, and a diagram of the technical architecture of the service.
The first submission to the contest, Mashing Points of Interest for your Institutionreceived 87 votes. This submission, by David Mackland, University of Abertay display points of interest on a Google map without the need for any HTML or coding knowledge and allows the management of multiple maps for various audiences from a single source. This submission was popular with Mike McConnell, one of the local organisers for IWMW 2008, as he had used the service to support the IWMW 2008 event – a clear example of a mashup service developed for the use of one institution which provided a valuable service to another.
Tony Hirst’s submission: Steps towards a media release tracking/effectiveness dashboard widget received 84 votes. As Tony has described in his blog post, this application uses Yahoo Pipes and the Yahoo Search term extractor to explore the impact of institutional press releases, with a visualisation of the output being provided using a Dipty timeline. And in response to a question from Paul Walk, this demonstrator only took about a couple of hours to produce (the additional time taken in cleaning the data and learning the tools traditional doesn’t count in a developer’s man month :-)
Finally I should mention Mike Ellis’s StudentViews submission which received 72 votes. The Studentviews application is based on the premise that students (in fact most users) aren’t likely to be particularly interested in “the corporate, preened and sanitised view of an HE institution. Instead, peer viewpoints, reviews, alumni pictures, video and Facebook comments are likely to be the first port of call for most freshers when considering which HE institution to apply for.” The StudentViews application aimed to mash HE data with Flickr pictures of the institution and surrounding area within a quick, intuitive interface. Because the build involves the gathering of institution data which should be freely and easily available to all, this data will also be exposed via a simple Web API. However Mike’s plans were thwarted by the University of Aberdeen firewall which restricted access to devices on the WiFi network. But Mike did successfully build a very simple “API” which lets you query institution name (see example) with queryable RSS output. In addition Mike also produced a KML file of locations of UK HEIs (for use with the Google Earth application), a simple IM (Instant messaging) application for accessing institutional information and finally a Google Custom Search Engine which spiders all 190 UK HE sites.