In my last entry, I wrote:
We need a system that is optimized toward slotting in new pieces as they become available, not as an after-thought or an add-on, but as a fundamental characteristic of the system.
That sounds cool and all in the abstract, but what does it mean? What is missing in today’s LMS’s, which all claim to be extensible and standards-compliant? To get an idea of what can happen with a system that is truly designed to integrate with other applications, let’s consider the case of Google Maps.OK, so Google has a tool that generates maps and directions, just like Yahoo! Maps and Mapquest. What’s the big deal?
The big deal is that Google has written its maps program to make it easy for developers to integrate it with their own applications. People have taken advantage of this capability to create all kinds of new, innovative applications very quickly. Here are a few examples of what you can do using extensions to Google Maps that various people have created:
- See a map of the cell phone towers in the United States, so you can see where you’re likely to get reception.
- Find out the blast radius of an atomic bomb of the kilotonnage you select on your city.
- Map out a walking route and find out how far you’ll be walking.
- See a map of video webloggers around the world.
- Find the locations of Craigslist housing rentals and sublets.
- See a map of all the HotOrNot.com web site babes in the San Francisco area.
- Look up the latest crimes in the city of Chicago by zip code.
- See the traffic jams and construction problems on your route to work
- See the latest Flickr photos in the context of where the photographers are on the globe.
- See a map of the movies playing in your area, by theater or movie.
- Look up all the kosher restaurants in your metropolitan area.
- Track the space shuttle and space station.
- See all the places where people have spotted SR-71 Blackbird aircraft recently.
These are just a few examples of applications that people have cooked up, many of which were programmed in just days or even hours. It’s a fair bet that Google didn’t envision most of these applications. They just made their application easy to integrate and let people have at it.