TECH TALK: The PubSubWeb: The Information Ecosystem

In all the focus on weblogs, one of the important aspects about the mass-market publishing revolution is being missed out. The real value lies in the RSS being produced that the actual blogs. Blogs are just one form of publishing information which happen to be focused on an individual or a community. There is a lot of other information out there which needs publishing and distribution. That is still hard, and this is what the PubSubWeb makes easy.

Consider the information ecosystem to consist of information producers and information consumers. The producers would like tools to make publishing and distribution easier, while the consumers would like to have tools which make receiving and subscribing to information easier. Currently, producers put up information on websites and then use email for notification, or search engine advertising and optimisation to attract users. Similarly, consumers either have bookmarks of specific websites they visit often or subscribe to mailing lists or newsletters from sites to know what is new, or use search engines to locate information.

This ad hoc approach is not scalable, with the result that most people restrict their website visitations to a handful of websites. Even for these sites, one has to visit most of these sites periodically for finding out what is new. There has to be a better way to distribute and access information.

There is a class of information that has the following four attributes:

  • It is frequently updated (as opposed to being static)
  • It needs to be repeatedly distributed to a continuously interested set of entities (as opposed to one-off, need-based access)
  • Access to it is incremental (as opposed to getting a complete web page)
  • There is a need for push – near-real-time delivery or notification (as opposed to demand-driven pull)

    Weblogs are a good example of content that satisfies all the four criteria. There is a lot of other information that can be seen to satisfy these criteria it is only that we havent thought of information like that because we did not have the capabilities to meet these needs. Examples of this type of information include stock quotes, cricket (or other sports) scores, flight arrival and departure information, weather, news headlines. Within the enterprise too, there is a lot of such information inventory levels and sales status are two examples. On a personal level too, there is plenty of such information for example, alerts for meetings, and events taking place in my neighbourhood (discount offers from shops, seminars).

    In fact, much of the information overload problem comes in because we end up getting information that we dont really need to get if only we could be guaranteed that when exceptional events happen, we can be notified near instantaneously. In essence, there is a gap between the information producers and consumers for information that meets the four criteria mentioned above. The solution is to establish an information stream between the information producer (publisher) and the information consumer (subscriber). This is at the heart of the PubSubWeb.

    Tomorrow: Microcontent and Events

    TECH TALK PubSubWeb+T

  • Published by

    Rajesh Jain

    An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.