On Using Mashups as an Information Professional

Crosspost from the SLA Listserv
** I posted this in response to a query regarding mashups on the Special Libraries Association Listserv and it generated a little bit of interest.**
I usually have used mashups to shorten my own workflow, for instance working with English or History students when I’m unfamiliar with the specific texts, I can pull up an electronic copy from Google Books or the Gutenberg Project by searching for the title from my desktop.
For public sources, tweaked Google or Yahoo searches work really well. If the subject is complex I run a number of the search RSS feeds through Yahoo Pipes, remove the duplicates and use the geo or time tagging tools as appropriate. Google Custom Search can also work really well by whitelisting a number of websites so you cut down on the clutter. For instance, I’ve made a Google Custom search that searches Bloomberg and the WSJ for any mention of a company name, grabbed the RSS feed for that search and embedded the first four items on that feed in my desktop. This allows me to do an hourly search for any information on this company simply by minimizing any application and glancing at my desktop. I can extend it by combining multiple searches with yahoo pipes.
 I find that I use these kind of mashups only for my own personal workflow. Since I built them I know how to fix them if something goes wrong. My mashups are not enterprise ready, and it helps to know how to do the searches and the correlation the long way before you get the computer to mash everything together.  I build them to remove some of the busywork in searching public sources and to automate recurring searches. 
If your using public sources or public systems like Yahoo Pipes to create your mashups one of the more interesting ways that you can sanitize and present the information is through Serious Samurize. I use it to embed system monitoring for my computer, a number of custom Google news searches and a full text ebook search mashup I put together via Yahoo Pipes in the desktop of my computer and in a toolbar at the bottom of the screen. It turns my desktop from a pretty picture into a custom information display.

Samurize accepts just about any input via a web page or an RSS feed, so you can customize to your hearts content. It can even authenticate websites, so if you can generate a RSS feed or a custom webpage that is updated regularly you can display the desired information automatically without having to log in. There is a bit of a learning curve, but the Samurize forums are extremely helpful. 
Here’s some links to the tools I use when I’m putting mashups together.
Enjoy! I really like mashups because they force me to think through every step of my searches while I’m building the tool. Building them has really helped my search skills and my ability to explain what I’m doing for my clients.

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