A post a few days ago, The Dawn of the Mashup World: Part Ia: What is a Mashup, generated a heated discussion on the Skype Mashup Group Chat. Also a few comments. Glad to get some feedback onto Skype Journal; thanks Don and Thomas. (And congratulations to Don Kennedy for having MyToGo selected by ProgrammableWeb.com as August’s Best New Mashup.)
Having monitored the discussion and been involved as a judge in the Skype Mashup competition, my criteria for a mashup are:
- An solution to a user or business problem that
- Marries two or more otherwise independent technology platforms or technology services and
- Makes use of both the technology craftsperson’s unique toolkit mix and his/her experience
- To satisfy an otherwise unfulfilled user or business process need.
In the course of this exercise I took the opportunity to ask a few developers what they used for delivering their solution. For instance, the iotum team combined the Facebook API’s, Ruby on Rails, the Active MQ framework and an interface to the conference bridge to create their Free Conference Call mashup for Facebook.
In judging the Skype mashup contest I also learned a lot about the wide experience range of mashup developers. Many have excellent experience and development process skills while others forgot some basics such as testing their install and registration procedures and/or their software in a user environment. Some looked at the business or user need while others failed to realize that the world does not need another social networking platform. Ideally mashups are an opportunity to leverage the large user base of a Skype, eBay or Facebook! in meeting an unfulfilled niche user need.
The PamConsult team created PamFax to solve the problem of providing a very simple process (especially relative to the somewhat cumbersome WinFax) of using the Internet to easily fax an MS Office document anywhere worldwide. The primary Skype feature here has nothing to do with voice; they used the Skype Extras publishing platform not only to install the application but also as a transaction processor for collecting revenues for the service using Skype credits. Skype Chat is used to send notifications re a fax’s delivery. In addition they developed a web-based portal to manage and archive your use of the service. The application can be launched from the Skype Extras menu or from within MS Excel or MS Word. A link to Google Maps will also show roughly where the fax is being sent (to within an Area Code).
PamConsult married the Google Maps API’s, Microsoft Office COM objects and a backend fax API with their long term experience using the Skype API’s. They started a year ago this summer with development of specifications; coding commenced in January with an initial version available in May. After a beta testing program in July, PamFax was released as a Skype Extra in the second week of August.
In the course of this process their CTO attended the Skype Developer Conference in Boston in June where there were several sessions on the Skype Extras program, including one on the Skype Extras publishing platform. And it was developed during a period when PamConsult was also developing and releasing new versions of Pamela, Skype for Salesforce.com and some eBay utilities.
Perhaps the most amazing aspect to me was the simplicity of the process. For years I fought with WinFax to have a means to send faxes from a PC (although many new Internet technologies have in the interim reduced the need for faxing). As an initial test I sent myself a fax via PamFax and was somewhat surprised that (i) I had completed the process in so few steps and (ii) I did not need the overhead of installing a printer driver to make it work. Find or create the document, insert the fax number, select a cover page and enter any cover page message, arrange payment and the fax is delivered. Serves a niche need within a small mashup application marrying multiple technology platforms. From the PamFax website:
Simple to use:
- Fully integrated with Skype
- User friendly wizard makes sending a fax a breeze
- Send faxes from Word/Excel 2003/2007
- Easy payment with your Skype Credit
- No upfront payments, no subscriptions, no additional cost, no registration
That last line is one example of why mashups can be so readily accepted; it’s there when you need it but you have no ongoing commitment to use it with any regularity.
Well, last night at the Skype Developer Evening in Prague, Czech Republic, PamFax received the award as the best European Skype mashup. In a Skype chat interview this morning with Dick Schiferli, Founder and CEO of PamConsult, he stated:
“We are very excited to be the winner with PamFax. Using PamFax to fax with Skype is a great solution because you can pay with your Skype credit. And its very easy to use. We enjoy working with Skype and plan to further expand our solution suite.”
You can download PamFax via the Skype Extras [Tools | Do More | Get Extras | Business], the Skype Extras website and also at the PamFax website. Give it a try; the first fax sent is on Pamela.
Tags: Skype, PamFax, PamConsult, Skype Extras, Pamela, Skype for Salesforce.com, PamBot, Skype Developer Program, iotum, mashups, Skype Mashup Competition, Dick Schiferli
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