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Innovation

The utility of Ubiquity

It's a bit of a stretch to pigeon hole something coming out of Mozilla labs as appropriate to the start-up genre that Alley espouses but Ubiquity is such a useful Firefox add-in that I believe it is well worth attention on these pages.There's plenty of debate around mashups but many of the available tools remain firmly in the hands of geeks.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor on

It's a bit of a stretch to pigeon hole something coming out of Mozilla labs as appropriate to the start-up genre that Alley espouses but Ubiquity is such a useful Firefox add-in that I believe it is well worth attention on these pages.

There's plenty of debate around mashups but many of the available tools remain firmly in the hands of geeks. Ubiquity is offering a really simple way for non-geeks to take advantage of mashup style services that will speed up their work in many ways.

The above video provides a clutch of easy to understand use cases but the ones that really caught my attention was the ability to embed all sorts of 'stuff' in email like maps and Wikipedia entries (OK, just GMail right now) and the means of easily adding events to my calendar. If I had a dollar for every time I've missed an event because I didn't add it to my calendar through the otherwise multi-click clunky method I currently employ then I'd be a very wealthy person.

I gave the service a workout and found that I only need know a handful of commands to get value from the service. For instance, when in an email: Select text, Ctrl-C, Alt-Space (to bring up Ubiquity,) then 'add-to-calendar' Ctrl-V, return and I'm done with slotting in an appointment.

Does it work well? Kind of. This is a prototype; a 0.1 release. While it makes excellent use of APIs to access Google services and Wikipedia on web pages plus the reversing necessary to get content into email, Ubiquity sometimes comes up with oddball suggestions that require a complete browser relaunch to purge its memory. Let's not be churlish though. There is much to admire about the thinking that has gone into getting this far. Providing what is pretty much seamless access to services that can be mashed up is genuine end user goodness. I wish more developers thought this way when it comes to end user needs.

Hat tip to Simon Wardley for pointing up this service. If you've never listened to Simon, he's well worth the entry fee. His genius is to make the horrifically complex seem simple and therefore suck a lot less to lesser mortals like me.

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