Collaboration Under SOA: The Human Aspects

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8.2.7 Technical Terms of Importance

From the technical perspective, most Web 2.0 sites have APIs for use by developers of mashup applications. Typically, Web 2.0 user interfaces apply the Ajax technology to achieve more responsive UIs. What Is Ajax?

In the context of Web 2.0, Ajax stands for Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. The term was introduced in 2005 by Jesse James Garrett. The purpose for this development technique is to create more dynamic and responsive web pages, as well as to build web clients in an SOA that can connect to any kind of server: J2EE, PHP, ASP.NET, Ruby on Rails, and so on.

It draws upon existing technologies and standards, including JavaScript and XML. Generally, it follows the operation pattern that a page view displayed in a web browser retrieves data or markup fragments from a service and refreshes just a part of the page. Different from some easy-to-use end-user tools for mashups, AJAX is nontrivial. It requires deep and broad skills in Web development, but the benefits to be gained can be huge compared to classic web applications that are programmed in the traditional way. Ajax enables major improvements in responsiveness and performance of web applications. (For instance, it is used at Yahoo! Mail, Google Maps,, and others.) What Is REST?

REST stands for Representational State Transfer. It is the architectural model on which the World Wide Web is based. The term was introduced in the year 2000 in a Ph.D. dissertation by Roy Fielding.

Principles of REST include the following:

  • Resource-centric approach.

  • All relevant resources are addressable via Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs).

  • Uniform access via HTTP: GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE.

  • Content type negotiation enables retrieval of alternative representations from the same URI.

  • REST style services are easy to access from code running in Web browsers, any other client, or servers, which is popular in the context of Ajax.

  • Takes full advantage of the WWW caching infrastructure.

  • Serves multiple representations of the same resource.

In short, these network architecture principles allow a seamless appearance of the websites to the users. Due to REST, the Internet is a dynamic network, not just point-to-point connections that could be based on remote procedure call (RPC) technology. What Is RSS?

Another technical term that is important in this context is RSS. It stands for Really Simple Syndication, which describes a family of so-called Web feeds, ways to put information by independent users onto common platforms and enable a close to real-time representation of the updated content to its users subscribed to such a feed. This technique allows for updating one's websites in an automated manner, instead of manually editing them. Therefore, it is often used for blog sites, news headlines, sports tickers, and podcasts.

The history of RSS goes back to 1995, when Ramanathan Guha and his team at Apple Computer's Advanced Technology Group developed their first approach to syndication on the Web, called Meta Content Framework (MCF). Delivered by the RSS Advisory Board in 2002 under the name of RSS 2.0, it found initial acceptance as a standard. However, it still took a few more years before RSS gained broad acceptance in the IT industry. One can say RSS became the standard when finally, in 2006, all usual web browsers incorporated RSS readers.

8.2.8 Everybody Knows Everything

The idea behind Web 2.0 is that everybody knows everything. In a way, the individual participant connected to the Internet becomes more involved and more empowered than ever before when dealing with technologies, especially with IT.

Self-help groups often emerge and become serious businesses, such as when a hobbyist platform on the Internet run by a photographer turns into a leading stock photography provider relying on thousands of hobby or semiprofessional photographers who sell millions of images to millions of customers at lower prices than any established vendor or broker. In this case, stock photographs become affordable to a larger clientele.

8.2.9 New Models

In other words, the market has been turned over. Everybody can offer everything to everybody else; one just needs to be connected by the Internet and using a platform for communication, which involves mainly advertising, searching, selling, and recommending. This means that new social models, technologies, and businesses will arise:

  • New social models in which user-generated content can be as valuable as traditional media, where social networks form and grow with tremendous speed, where truly global audiences can be reached more easily, and where rich media from photos to videos become a part of everyday life online. Here community mechanisms play a role similar to the essential one they had historically under rural or small-town conditions. The difference is now the participants no longer meet in one real place in town to discuss the issues and to develop new ideas; instead, they meet "virtually" all over the network at any time.

  • New technology models let software become a service. The Internet becomes the development platform, where online services and data are mixed and matched, and syndication of content becomes the glue across the network that is based on reliable high-speed, ubiquitous access as the norm. Tools are developing that allow every user to arrange IT as it is needed in any current situation.

  • New business models that are facilitated by changes in infrastructure costs, allowing companies to reach the "long tail" as defined by Chris Anderson (2006), which describes the large number of rather individual websites versus a small number of heavily accessed sites. Analyzing the resulting Pareto distribution, it shows that the sum of all visitors to the individual sites is as high as the ones on the favorite sites; in certain cases, it outnumbers the mainstream.

    Pareto distribution: That is, a mathematical term for a type of distribution curves that shows a heavy head of many users (hits in Internet speech) for a few number of sites, but a very large number of other sites with fewer users, which is called the "long tail." The sum of users in the long tail may easily outnumber the impressive number of users at the few strongly visited sites. In other words, the niches are larger in sum than the mainstream.

This makes companies turn to viral network-driven marketing, pay attention to the individuals, and gain from new advertising-based revenue opportunities. Based on these new technologies, a market for software as services and new ways to drive innovation by the customers emerges and quickly becomes the normal way to do the business.

These changes happen simultaneously for all three models.

8.2.10 Web 2.0 and the Service-Oriented Enterprise

You've already read in this chapter some Web 2.0 business concepts. Now take a look at the following list of principles that should be of interest to businesses, especially those enterprises that adhere to the philosophy of SOA:

  • Self-establishing communities are collaborating around topics of common business interest.

  • User contribution is a norm and requires treating users as coauthors and leveraging their skills.

  • Accumulation of user knowledge is used to make applications smarter the more people use them.

  • Users are enabled to add value by adding meta data (for example, rate, tag, bookmark, comment).

  • Users take control, and contribute to make applications most useful to them.

  • User interface are separated from services to make services more reusable.

  • Fine-grained access to data that supports mashups.

  • The general use of mashups allows combining existing services into new, useful applications and joining information from various sources.

  • Situational applications are developed by line of business users on the spot and help to make businesses more agile.

  • The general use of Ajax allows to enable rich, interactive, highly responsive web UIs.

  • Use of semantic tags and microformats enables dynamic augmentation with contextual menus or information.

This list is not and will never be complete. After all, new ideas are continually being conceived and propagated, and then after having been accepted by the masses of Internet users they are finally turned into business innovations. However, from insight we have gained to the present, we can derive valuable guidelines to build the SOA collaborative environment.

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