I’m drinking a green tea today, with loads of honey since I’m still trying to get un-sick. Specifically, it’s a Darjeeling Young Hyson. It’s an intriguing tea because it is grown in India’s Darjeeling region, famous for their silky black Darjeeling teas. Yet it’s prepared and processed in the manner of a Chinese Young Hyson, a traditional green tea. In popular Web 2.o terms, this tea is a mashup! This realization started me thinking about the concept of mashups in general and I began to wonder if the concept could be applied outside the domain of software.
So, what is a mashup? In the most basic terms, it’s an application that creates added value by combining information from more than one source in a way that solves a particular problem. Think Google Maps and Directions for example. You want to find a coffee shop near the hotel you will be staying in. Using Google Maps and Directions, you enter the hotel address. Once you’ve found the address, you search for “coffee”, and Google provides you a list of coffee shops in proximity to your hotel. Problem solved by combining geographic data with local directory data.
What would happen if we took this concept out of the realm of software and into the physical world? To do this, you would need three items: A problem and at least two sources of data. I think we all have enough problems to choose from. Securing useful sources of data is often more of a challenge. The breakthrough point, however, is combining your data so that it creates something new. It has to add value to the situation. This, then, becomes a method of error-checking our problem solving. Do we have the right data sources to approach our problem? If we cannot combine them to create something new, then we do not.
As a problem-solving strategy, we could list our problem in list our problem on one side and list all of our data sources on the other. By examining the ways which we can combine our data, we can eliminate those things that would distract us from our problem and find solutions that we would not have otherwise been aware of. Although this would certainly be effective tool for a consultant to bring to a one-on-one session with a client, I see this as having more success as a tool for group decision-making. I envision, as an example, a project team for a non-profit meeting to discuss a problem caused by higher gasoline prices. There the problem has been identified and each member can contribute multiple sources of data.
Since the idea came to me over a cup of tea only this morning, I obviously have a lot of work to do “fleshing out” the concept of a mashup as an approach to problem solving. I’d like to hear your thoughts, either by joining the conversation here or by contacting me directly.
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Tags: Mind Mapping, Software