Web Services Browser and Tree-like Data

A related theme at the Intel IDF was “mobilised software initiative” or occassioanlly-connected computing. This is more true in countries like India where bandwidth is still quite expensive, as also for people who on the move (though as WiFi hotspots become more widespread, this will be less of an issue for the road warriors).

Adam Bosworth thinks further on how a web services browser could make a difference in these situations:

[The web services browser] would traverse a cached data model. One can think of the data model as a simple tree. It would have a starting point, a trunk if you will, called google news. It would have a set of branches for each type of article which I’d mark as Business, Sci/Tech, and so on. Each branch could use a web service to fetch articles of that type. Each would return a set of articles, each of which would contain a one-line summary, a picture (if appr), the story, the byline, and a URL to the raw HTML. On my Blackberry I’d subscribe to the URL for google news. I’d immediately see my choices (e.g. the articles I could delve into) and as I scrolled the wheel over each, below, a short one-liner for each article. Scroll below to the one-liners for each article and click on one and, hey preto, details and story. Perhaps the article is abbreviated and I have to traverse through the URL to the HTML for the raw story. OK, then I can decide from the precis. Now my user experience will be much better. Today, I tend to turn on my Blackberry as the plane lands and then catch up on my mail on the rental bus. Tomorrow, I’d wait for the plane to take off and then catch up on the latest news. In essence, instead of going to a URL, I’m subscribing to one, but with navigation and presentation capabilities designed for me.

All I need is a way for each URL to specify a tree whose branches are words that make sense to me (like business, sci/tech, world or MSFT,ORCL,BEAS) and then tell me which web service will return relevant information and how to display both a summary and a detail view. (More on this in a later entry). When GPRS returns or I sit down with my Laptop in the airport/hotel/Starbucks, then I’ll catch up. But the key point is that I can access things I care about even when I’m not connected. The model has to know which branches I want it to be pre-emptive about fetching. Remember, I don’t want sports or entertainment cluttering up my machine. It should even know my priorities since I can lose connectiity at any time. And if the list of entries is too big I want what google news does today, namely to just give me a few and make me get the rest. But I’d like to control how many. So each branch should have prefetch meta-data. It should also have how stale the data can be before it should throw it out. I don’t want stories more than 2 days old, for example. So I should be able to mark each branch in terms of how old the data is before I throw it out.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.