Apr 24

Rael Dornfest

Rael Dornfest

Websourcing Process

At O'Reilly we're very interested, as you've no doubt noticed, in the Web 2.0 application. We tend to focus primarily on the development and data side. There are also countless "less interesting" apps to which we trust much of our business and personal process and workflow orchestration that we don't think to mention. Evan Williams's post of a few days ago about running his new company, Odeo, on web apps inspired me to inventory the veritable cornucopia of web-based applications on which I run my day.

  • .Mac: Apple's none-too-exciting-yet-functional service is always running in the background, backing up my various Macs, iSync'ing Address Book contacts, iCal calendars between them, hosting our distributed family photo album, and handling my personal email.
  • Having run an ISP, I know the hassles involved in maintaining DNS, dealing with MX records, and the like. Now in sysadmin recovery, I rely upon as my domain registrar, custom DNS handler, family and personal email management interface, outbound email server (.Mac won't allow me to send email using my own personal email address@domain), and occasionally even for temporarily mapping a hostname to a transitory IP address.
  • Yahoo! Groups: I run inter-company project-, private, and public topic-related mailing lists, not to mention the bunch to which I am subscribed.
  • Jotspot: (I'm only just getting my toes wet here.) Jot's "come for the wiki, stay for the environment" service is intriguing. I'm getting my feet wet fiddling with pre-built apps, enjoying the lightweight metadata model for collaborative database building, and trying to break the cycle of passing blasted Excel spreadsheets about by email.
  • Basecamp: We've been using 37 Signals's Basecamp on some O'Reilly projects involving distributed teams and ad hoc contributors.
  • Ta-da Lists: While I've not quite settled into keeping my lists online (I actually get a good deal done offline ;-), I am drawn to the simplicity of this 37 Signals exemplar app (I have more to say on exemplar-based development...).
  • Evite: While I have to admit I rarely think of using Evite these days, quite a few of the "civilians" I know use it to invite me to things.
  • Bloglines: I spend a good deal of my offline time (read: when I'm out of Wifi range) reading online content through an on-board RSS reader. There are a few feeds, however, that I read while waiting in queues at the airport via my mobile device du jour and Bloglines.
  • is my permanent (and shared) cache of bookmarks (I still use the bookmarks feature of my browser for those moments when I'm 10s of tabs in and want to save context in case of a crash). The O'Reilly Radar makes use of as a linkblog, weaving in one-liners with longer posts through some MT-Feeds plugin magic involving tagging entries meant for the blog as "radar."
  • Flickr: The O'Reilly Radar site sports photos drawn from our individual Flickr accounts thanks to some nifty JavaScript and a closed "radar" group to which we push pictures to be featured in the top bar.
  • AIM: Not a traditional web app, I grant you that, but a large part of my daily dealings take place on AOL's/AIM's messaging platform.
  • RSS: Countless RSS subscriptions keep tabs on groups, discussions, bookmarks, and sites I would otherwise forget to frequent.
  • Gmail: I don't partake of Gmail's mail functionality on a regular basis but do use it for a quick backup of work in progress while on the run.
  • Google/Yahoo! Local: Enough said.
  • Amazon keeps track of my must haves and passing fancies, delivering more of the former than the latter to my doorstep thanks to customer reviews and recommendations.
  • IT Conversations: Doug Kaye's fabulous service keeps me in hot-and-cold running audio content for those in-between moments when I'm not in front of a screen.
  • BBC Radio: BBC's outstanding live radio service provides the soundtrack for much of my day.

I'm sure to have left something off the list, but then that's how it is with that class of web app you weave into your day: there's that initial "Aha!" moment, afterwhich you don't tend to think about just how much you rely upon them until A) someone asks, "What on earth's that?" or B) it breaks.

Thankfully, the lion's share are fall into the A camp.

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Comments: 1

  Hadley Stern [04.27.05 04:11 PM]

Of course I'm showing my tremendous bias here! But iTunes is another web app (if the definition is an application that uses the internet as a driving force) that I use daily.

As an aside I also think the list wanders a little. For example Basecamp is, in my mind, a great definition of a web application. It is hosted elsewhere, and requires no client side software to run. AOL IM (as wonderful as it is), simply uses the internet in a non-web way and it requires a client.

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