Mashups, Maps, and More
Build your own Web feed, poll friends and strangers, and find your way with these tools.
If you haven't already discovered the world of mashups, Microsoft's Popfly is a good place to start. Mashups combine multiple Web-based sites or applications to produce all sorts of useful things, such as an overlay of traffic information over Google Maps. With Popfly, you can create your own mashups--and you don't have to know a lick of code to do it. Just drag prefab building blocks, connect them, and you have an instant mashup that you can add to an existing Web page or turn into its own site. For example, you can easily produce a mashup that grabs pictures from a site like Flickr and then displays them in a rotating cube.
Like Popfly, Yahoo Pipes lets you create your own mashups or "pipes." As with Popfly, you drag and drop prebuilt modules, and then create connections between them. But Yahoo Pipes is much harder to use than Popfly, and the way to go about building your own mashup isn't always obvious. But if you're willing to do some digging and learning, you can build very useful stuff, such as a mashup that uses Yahoo maps to show the locations of all apartments for rent in a certain neighborhood.
Are foreign movies better watched with subtitles or with dubbed dialog? Is it okay to cry at work? Who is the best center fielder of all time--Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, or Ken Griffey, Jr.?
If these are the kinds of issues that keep you awake at night, we have a Web site for you. BuzzDash lets you participate in, comment on, and see the results of numerous quick opinion polls. The polls are organized by topic, such as movies, football, and politicians; and if you have a burning question you want answered, you can create your own survey.
If you're obsessed with cartography, wander over to Wayfaring.com. Here you can easily create personalized maps for a walking tour of London, say, or a wine-tasting trip through Napa or a pub crawl through Seattle. The site provides the tools you'll need to build annotated maps--complete with descriptions, Web links, and photos of your favorite stops--and then post them for others to view and discuss. It's fun to check out the maps other users have created. One of my favorites: a map of shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, including links to Web sites that discuss each wreck.
Anyone who has ever tried to organize an event--or to get a group of people to respond to a simple question like "Who can drive the kids to Little League this week?"--knows how tough it is to filter and organize the answers into coherent, usable form. That's where CircleUp comes in handy. Use this site to send an e-mail or instant message to a group of people; then wait for it to return a consolidated summary of responses to you. It's simple, it's free, and it will liberate you from the recurring feeling that you're herding cats whenever you try to coordinate an activity involving more than two people.