Mashups lost their appeal? How about using them for good?

I just arrived in the Silicon Valley to work here for a month and synced up with the local colleagues to compare our notes on how we organize developer days, unconferences and our general outreach to universities and partner companies. One of the things I had already expected but didn't get confirmed is that there is a mashup fatigue.

I've felt that, too, and wondered what to do about it. In a blog post I wrote some time ago I was asking if it is time to use mashups to solve real life issues and the feedback was amazing!

I worked with some charities that deal with inclusive design and learned from them which kind of barriers keep people from using things we take for granted on the web: Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and so on. In a lot of cases there are only a few small details that keep out blind, mobility impaired or sensory impaired users.

Asking the maintainers of web sites to change these is quite an uphill battle - everybody is busy - it is a rule in our job. However, a lot of companies offer APIs, data feeds and other means of accessing and remixing their data.

Taking some of the information gathered in user testing by the partner charities I took the YouTube API to build an easy interface to YouTube and the Flickr data feeds to build an easy interface to Flickr (complete with step-by-step instructions).

I've shown these on several developer evenings and also at Mashed08 - an open hack day in London, England. There I created a similar hack to access presentation transcripts of SlideShare and asked the audience if a hack day for good - removing accessibility barriers with mashups - would be of interest.

I had several people show interest and actually impressed the Judges enough that Channel4 - a UK TV Channel - sponsored me to start an event like that.

And now it is on - Scripting Enabled is a free two day event in London, England in September where we'll have one day of learning about inclusion barriers and a second day of mashing up data and build alternative interfaces. If you are in the area and want to come, make sure to book your tickets.

I am planning to take this show on the road and include hacks created outside the event. All the presentations will be available as Creative Commons licensed information and the hacks as Open Source. So far I got several sponsors, but I am still looking for support.

Over here, I might have one Bay Area University tempted to host something similar and some people in Seattle to follow-up a Scripting Enabled session there later in the year.

What do you think? Mashups and hacking are an amazing positive force, and with the right information we can use them to make the web more inviting to everybody, regardless of physical ability. Good plan?

Christian Heilmann
Yahoo Developer Network