Filed under: Interface | Tags: data visualization, Facebook, flickr, open source, Ruby on Rails, social media
Recently I spoke with the creators of two very different projects, Daytum and Abecedarium:NYC. Daytum, a sleek but friendly data visualization platform, helps users to track and communicate daily routines, say the number of espressos you drink, or the percentage of weekdays you wear yellow versus black. Abecedarium:NYC, an online interface that holds 26 films of New York City each based on a letter of the alphabet, is hosted by the New York Public Library and includes the work of a number of well-known filmmakers.
What is striking about Daytum and Abecedarium:NYC is that despite their differences they both make use of open source and social media technologies created by others – to the extent that neither project would have been possible without them. Daytum was built with the open source tools Ruby on Rails and Open Street Map and interfaces with Twitter. The Abecedarium:NYC creators used Google Docs and iChat to collaborate remotely, and WordPress, delicious, Google Maps, Facebook, Youtube, etc. in the project itself.
Recently, I have been amazed by what I would call “middle platforms”. These applications – many of which Daytum and Abecedarium:NYC make use of – boost online content presentation by providing users, usually for free (or with the option of a paid higher tier of service), with the basic elements to build blogs (WordPress, posterous), websites (indexhibit), and content management systems (Drupal); to aggregate links, video, or news feeds (Miro 2.0); to present photos (Vuvox), videos (Vimeo), and even magazine layouts (issuu).
What is so revolutionary about these platforms-in-the-middle is that they help detach content creation from its presentation. With them we need not be both media content creators & web geniuses to share our work and thoughts. It is as if we come online to pre-built musuem and gallery spaces, customizable to our liking. Maybe success in presenting creative work well online is increasingly less about knowing how to build things from scratch, and more about knowing how to stitch together applications built by others?
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