Designing for the Web of Data

Tom Coates is designing for a web of data. He works for Brickhouse, a Yahoo! experimental unit. He explores the challenges of helping users navigate paths through the web of data, which he defines as data connected through APIs. The human facing web and the data behind the scenes are getting closer and closer together, he says.
Websites are now only part of your product – Twitter is available on various platforms and 90% of all activities is through its APIs. The product is everywhere the network goes.

Therefore it is important to design for recombination. It should “play well with others”. Why? Because it will drive people to your service, people will pay for them, to put yourself in the middle of an ecosystem and because you can become better for less work. In short it’s the network effect.

He talks about Fireeagle (a code name). It’s a service about location – it allows people to capture their location and share with their friends and with software. They have an API which will allow other software to use the information to provide local information and services.

Owing or maintaining a data source is a really good source of competitive advantage – more so that building services, he argues. The important thing is that you need metadata – any kind of metadata. He thinks you can’t have too much.

He is a second speaker to urge the use of visual hierarchies to reflect importance.

Soundbite: “Twitter is a way of accessing error messages on the web – it’s more than that: it’s a way of accessing error messages on IM.”

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