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Make a mash of information technology

Anand Parthasarathy

New tool allows you to combine information from multiple websites

San Francisco: MashMaker, MashMaker, make me a mash! Mix up ingredients from web resources and serve me a solution that works just for my needs.

If you have ever longed for useful features that you would love to have, all together, instead of having to browse dozens of websites, then MashMaker, a web tool developed by researchers at Intel might just be the answer.

It works like this: Imagine you are shopping online for the best airline offer for a holiday you have planned. There are a number of resources that consolidate the fares of multiple airlines. But can you go for the cheapest? Is there a catch? Some of these low fares might apply to seats in the aircraft that are really uncomfortable — with reduced leg room or no lean-back.

Ideally, you want to check on the seat offered — and there are websites that tell you exactly what every seat feels like, if you enter the type of aircraft. What if you could drag and drop the elements of the fare comparison page with the seat specifics, from the leg room monitor? And you would ideally like to see what other travellers say about the airline or the particular service, rather than trust the airline’s own self-serving descriptions.

MashMaker let’s you combine such elements to create a ‘mashup’ of your own. The tool, which is still evolving, can be downloaded freely from http://mashmaker.intel.com/ and allows registered users to ‘train’ the underlying mashup as you go along, refining the tool, by combining what others like you have done by way of creative combination. The product was previewed on the sidelines of Intel’s Developer Forum in San Francisco a few days ago.

Prashant Gandhi, a Santa Clara, California-based Research Engineer with Intel and a member of the MashMaker team, told The Hindu, that the idea behind the project — which is not connected with the chip company’s core business — was to improve the browsing experience of lay users and make it more personally meaningful, by leveraging the experience of others.

For example, house-hunters can combine “To let” sites with an overlay that judges each offering for its proximity to schools, bus stops, shopping malls, by scooping the information from other resources. The tool is presently available only for the Firefox browser, but Internet Explorer and Safari versions are in the pipeline.

The MashMaker project is headed by the Berkeley-based Senior Intel Researcher Robert Ennals. He says that it’s all about the Semantic Web... the name used to describe the common framework of the Internet that allows data to be seamlessly shared across applications, enterprises and user communities. There’s one difference, he suggests: Mashups allow you to enter the Semantic Web by the backdoor!

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