Wow. Yesterday, Berkman Center fellow David Isenberg publicized his request for a mashup that allows the public to create its own coverage map for the cellular services. He posted it on the Mashups We Want page over at the Mashup Camp web site. Let's just say that the coverage maps publish by the cellcos are a little, how shall we say it, um, optimistic. Anyway, now, less than 24 hours later, at least two mashups exist thanks to Rod Edwards of BlockRocker (he just added a category to his classified ad mapping app) and Yoz Grahame at Ning (one of Marc Andreesen's startups). Whereas, Isenberg posted his request at 10:05 AM EST, Edwards responded first with a quick and dirty soution at 3:38 PM and Grahame wasn't far behind at 5:12 PM. That's two responses/solutions in 7 hours. Grahame is calling his mashup Zero Bars - track and share cellular dead zones. Last week, as a part of my treatise on why the mashup ecosystem is poised to explode, I wrote:
Finally, why might this ecosystem snowball the way none before it has (not to say that the ones before it haven't been unbelievably successful)? Because, with mashups, fewer technical skills are needed to become a developer than ever. Not only that, the simplest ones can be done in 10 or 15 minutes. Before, you had to be a pretty decent code jockey with languages like C++ or Visual Basic to turn your creativity into innovation. With mashups, much the same way blogging systems put Web publishing into the hands of millions of ordinary non-technical people, the barrier to developing applications and turning creativity into innovation is so low that there's a vacuum into which an entire new class of developers will be sucked. It's already happening.
In pointing out certain mashup enablers that are making childs play out of mashup development, I've mentioned Andrew Bidochko's mapbuilder.net. Says mapbuilder's headline, "MapBuilder lets you tag locations on a map and publish it on your own site. Mapping is now easier than ever. It's free." Ning is another one of those mashup enablers that's turning mashup development into child's play. In the case of Zero Bars, Ning's Grahame simply took an existing Ning-based mashup (Review It!), cloned it (using Ning's "Clone this App" feature), made a few changes, and in five minutes (according to Grahame), voila. Is Ning's process perfect? No. As TechCrunch's Mike Arrington fairly points out, if you're not cloning an existing mashup, building one from scratch on Ning's platform may require skills that most people don't have. But on the other hand, tools like this have to start somewhere. Also, be sure to read Ning CEO Gina Bianchini's response to Arrington's criticisms. In writing:
Ning is an online platform for effortlessly creating social web apps for free. Without any coding experience, you can take any of the thousands of active social web applications on Ning today and make them your own in a few easy clicks. You can’t do this anywhere else on the Internet today...As a developer who does know how to code, there is no easier place to create and run your own web app, social or otherwise, as there are no downloads required, no databases to manage, and no sysadmin headaches. 95% of what you’d have to do to build a web app is already done....We support external web services from, as Michael mentioned, from Google Maps, Amazon, Yahoo Maps, Flickr, Yahoo Search, and Gmail.
Bianchini cuts to the chase of why enablers such as Ning and Mapbuilder.net will result in a whole new class of software developers (ordinary people). Especially as the tools improve (which they no doubt will). Even more interesting may be the community that grows everytime a user with an itch to scratch like David Isenberg makes a request and other developers from around the world deliver competing solutions before the day is over. Forget RFPs. This is something entirely different? (a Rapid Application Request?). The conception, response time from developers (right on the Mashups We Want page no less), application gestation, and birth of two solutions (in Isenberg's case) in seven hours is the proof that may have just given outsourcing a whole new name.