Personal publishing via web services

Jon Tan and Jon Gibbons recently launched a website for Denna Jones. It’s a great-looking site, and it makes no use of a (single, local) content management system. Rather, the content is pulled from several web services, such as Flickr and Magnolia.

This is an interesting idea, but I’m on the fence about the approach. While the site is a coherent whole, it’s an *automatically generated* coherent whole; the author herself may not even be aware of the state of her site at any given moment in time. In effect, it seems to me to be a very well-designed, well thought-out feed aggregator. A fan of Jeremy Keith‘s approach, I’ve always tended to see these services as *extras*, at most supplemental bits of not-necessarily-related content.

On the other hand, this isn’t a bad thing. If the aggregated web services are often used by the author, then it’s most likely no chore for her to log in to four or five sites instead of one CMS: one to add photos, one to add bookmarks, another to blog, etc. While I’m so busy doing other things that I don’t have time to attend to this site [I haven’t even really *designed* the thing yet], Denna is creating bits of *microcontent* which are combined into something bigger, perhaps more meaningful in surprising ways. Her site is updated as she tweets. That seems quite effortless.

Perhaps I need to get over the fear of the fragility of web services, the idea that they can and sometimes do hiccup, burp, vomit or completely self-destruct. The *dependency* on these sites. Maybe it’s a matter of choosing the services owned by the big players, just to play it safe. But wait! We want *control*. Our own favorite content management system, tweaked just so. Argh.

Web 2.0 is about reusing information, and Web 3.0 will be about making information more meaningful by defining and discovering relationships between all these bits of information. The Jons are onto something with Denna’s site. There’s a transition here. And now others will follow.

It’s such a logical, natural approach. It’s the gorilla on the table. I like it. I think.

4 thoughts on “Personal publishing via web services

  1. Hi Stephen. Yours is a good analysis. I too am a fan of Jeremy’s approach, as you can see, but you’re right to say there are potential issues with Denna’s model that require careful handling: Storing and caching the API output is essential to mitigate any web service burps. It serves two purposes: If the service is cancelled or declines the data can be switched to another service easily, therefore removing any risk. Denna also has an historical archive of her output that she controls and owns. Of course, the model only works if it’s a natural fit with the behaviour of the author. In Denna’s case it was. Glad you liked it, thanks for the comment.

  2. Unfortunately seems to be down at the moment so I cannot comment on that website, but I agree that what Jeremy Keith has done is pretty cool.

    While these kind of services are indeed some kind of extra, some people tend to publish a lot of content on them and they therefore tell lots about who we are and what we are doing. Having all those applications at different sites makes it hard to be followed or follow other people’s whereabouts, especially when these applications should meet each other.

    Online identiy aggregation will get more important than it is now. And when you are hosting the aggregation platform yourself, you don’t need to worry about privacy…

  3. I don’t know about the mechanics of web design to comment on specifics, I can only comment on my experience with web designers and Jon and Jon were my third web designers. The previous two were just unable (unwilling?) to create a site that allowed me any freedom. The latter of the two created the site but all fresh content had to go through him. Once my site was created, I was off his radar. I had to beg to get content upload. It was a horrible experience. I have nothing but praise for Jon and Jon’s design for my site. Yes, I have to rely on other sites, but its’ a “risk” worth taking. So far, so good. The site is as fresh as I make it. Since the site launched I’ve been consistent with flickr, and infrequent with the others. I plan to improve my uploads (ie Tumblr), but in the meantime, the site freels fresh to me because I am methodical about the masthead images, and ensure that they link to current work. As far as I’m concerned, Jon and Jon are creative and management geniuses.

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