Going where no mashup has gone before

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So Michael Arrington posted about BillMonk, a hella cool service that lets you keep track of outstanding debts between you and your friends… part of something they refer to as “Social Money“.

Now the first thing me and Tara thought of (before really taking a look) was — hey cool, but wouldn’t it be better if you could be at restaurant or something and SMS your debt to the service… which, duh, it does (okay, we’ll read more closely before jumping to feature ideas next time)!

But the second idea we came up with really has some legs… and will probably make the Attention Trust folks go all squishy in the knees: perhaps the next frontier in mashable services will be the nexus between your cell phone/SMS/remote devices and the range of services previously-reffered-to-as-Web-Two-Dot-Oh that you access through http-type connections (yeah, like the one that your browser made to this blog).

What huh?

Ok, in English 1.0: Behind the scenes, all these services which currently provide some utility separately really start to become incrementally indispensible when you can mash them together to form aggregate services of your own design. But now add in a Firefox-extensions-like model as personal in-betweener web service… kind of like Suprglu meets 43* meets .Mac meets Ning (conceptually). Ok ok, that still doesn’t make it much clearer.

I mean, here’s how it works now: I check in with some friends on Dodgeball somewhere… who cares where, but for example’s sake, let’s say Tantek‘s Lair (aka Crepes on Cole). At some point in the evening, we determine who’s paying for what… split the bill, etc., and if there’s any discrepancy (oops, Chris is out of cash again!) we ping BillMonk with the amount that I owe to so-and-so. Simple, but Dodgeball and BillMonk don’t know jack about each other. So while I’ve just created a checkin and an IOU, I can’t go back in my history of Dodgeball checkins and see where I incurred said IOU. Similarly, I can’t go to BillMonk and see where the IOU originated from. Sure, I can add a description to the IOU, but should I really have to when Dodgeball already knows where I am? See what I’m getting at here?

So let’s see how that fabled Web-Two-Oh open-API-goodness that we’ve all become accustomed with could make both services more valuable… Hell, let’s throw a little Plazes cell-phone action in there too for fun… And let’s see what kind of cake we can bake with the following: 

  • a service to notify friends where you are (Dodgeball)
  • a way to record IOUs (BillMonk)
  • a location-service for identifying and recording where you’ve been (Plazes)

Now, let’s say we merge in some kind of attention stream aggreagator and — presto! — we’ve got a view of where you’ve been, who you’ve told about your whereabouts, and where, with whom and when you incurred (or became the benefactor of a friend’s) debt.

And that’s of course, only the beginning. Toss in some mapping APIs (which Plazes and Dodgeball already support) and you can see watch your debt-accrue as you travel the globe! In fact, you could map your friends’ whereabouts to the same map and play your own mini debt arms race. Fun while watching all your friends go bankrupt! 

Yeh, anyway.

While this is all good and smaht, etc., you’re likely to start throbbing with, “ooo, yay, convergence!”

Okay, eff convergence.

I don’t want one service to collect all this data. I’m not a privacy maven, but even if it were possible to do the one-stop-shop thing, don’t do it, don’t try it, don’t even think about it coz I won’t use it. Nope, I don’t wanna be boxed in and so-help-me-Ford, I won’t let you. You and your proprietary megaservice can kiss my RSS.

BUT, I do however, want an external agnostic service aggregator (which I control and plug stuff into of my own choosing) to help me make sense of all this data… one API/feed at a time. Avoiding convergence allows me choice of services, allows each provider to innovate in their particular domain, and also gives me the freedom to experiment with different combinations of services as they are released and/or improved. Maybe I want to switch from TextPayMe to BillMonk without losing my history of transactions. This proposed third-party service aggregator would allow me to do this smoothly and seemlessly coz the data would be out there and tracked, yet neither BillMonk or TextPayMe would need to know about my prior service history. That’s data for my eyes and my eyes alone.

Sucks to be a service provider with open APIs you say? Puts them at the mercy of the whims of fickle “consumers”?

No, I don’t think so. Indeed, if you don’t open up, the open source community (or your competitors) will build something that does the same thing as your service and then they’ll open it up and give it away for free. So hey, I’d pay a couple cents per hundred transactions if you’re innovating and providing a really nice user experience… that also spits out data that I can plug in elsewhere, invisible to you (what do you care anyway?). Put your customers in the driver’s seat and I can pretty much guarentee you’ll not only get long term investment from them in what you’re doing, but heck, you might even get new Plazes, Dodgeball and BillMonk buddies with lots of friends who haven’t yet found out about you… and are eager to use whatever it is their friends are using.

Mashing up social networks: oh yeah, now there’s the next killer app. Gimme a way to cross-polinate, cross-aggregate, mix up, re-use, recombine or reinterpret and reshare and you’ve done something interesting.
Something I’ll use, and yes, probably tell my friends about. This is where mashups are going. And I can hardly wait…!

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Author: Chris Messina

Head of West Coast Business Development at Republic. Ever-curious product designer and technologist. Hashtag inventor. Previously: Molly.com (YC W18), Uber, Google.

8 thoughts on “Going where no mashup has gone before”

  1. “Social Money”

    I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the idea of my money being social.

    I mean seriously, how uncool would it be for my money to have a better social life than me? I’d rather not be reminded of that pain.

  2. Yay, that was a fun read!

    Ryan, sorry about the pain of “social money.” We’ll be sure to lock it in the closet and make sure it doesn’t have any fun.

    *Ahem* For what it’s worth, BillMonk has plan to offer web services in the future, so mashups-o-plenty are a real possibility.

  3. I think I owe you a beer. Like I think I mentioned it six or eight months ago for some idea you had come up with or some way in which you had described something that rang crystal clear to me. Unfortunatley, every time I’m in Palo Alto, my tab’s being picked up by Flock, so my purchasing a beer for you is really meaningless, as I’m on Flock’s tab and it’s actually Flock buying you a beer if we even bother to go through the motions. So maybe when I’m there in a week, we’ll find time to go out and get a beer not on Flock’s dime (I’ll subtract the cost of one or two beers, at least) and maybe talk about philosophy or non-web-books or something we’ve read in common or something human and not all cyborgy because Jesus Fucking Christ, Chris, do you ever think about anything that’s not web.x.oh? Finding out whether or not you’re human and have non-web thoughts would be well worth the cost of even a fine imported beer (or seven) to me. You’re an innovative, smart guy, but there has to be more to life than the web. 🙂

  4. Ah, see Daryl, that’s where you’ve got me wrong… all this web stuff is about human relationships… humanizing technology and whatnot. I’m connected to so many people — and made so much more human through these connections. I can imagine it’s hard to see when your primary interactions with me are digital, but the irony there is that you’re missing the best humanmost parts of me that people offline in the area get to experience.

    Dude, sure, I’m crazy into this technology stuff but it’s a means to an end. The next revolution, after this shit gets made easier, is about reducing our reliance on it.

    You’re kidding me, after all the work we’re doing on this, that after all we’re not going to minimize the time we spend with technology? Hell, that’s my plan.

    if I ever have kids, (emphasis on if) I’ll be spending a fraction of my time dealing directly with technology and the majority enabled by it because of the work we do on it now. I’m not a robot and nor are you. And the point is to avoid and curtail the inevitability of all this turning us humans away from being humans. It might be hard to see now, but long term, that’s absolutely where this (and all my work) is going.

  5. Yup, yup. I guess ours is a work relationship, after all, so it stands to reason that that’s the side of you I’d have the most exposure to.

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