An introduction to mashups for health librarians

Cho, A
Cho, A
J Can Health Libr Assoc
Citations range: 



An introduction to mashups for health librarians
Allan Cho



This paper discusses mashups, medical mashups for health librarians, specifically. Mashups bring together two or more Web applications to produce a completely new information service. Put another way, a mashup is a hybrid that takes two information sources and merges them to create a third, more useful tool. A good example of a widely used mashup is Google Maps ( maps), which combines Google Earth data with telephone directory information to create a useful satellite road map. Although they are part of Web 2.0 and share Web 2.0's openness, participation, and collaborative aspects, mashups build on a technological base dating back to the earliest days of the Web. By utilizing publicly available and open source code, mashups draw on current awareness tools like Web feeds, really simple syndication (RSS) or Atom, and JavaScript. While still experimental, mashups are worthy of close examination by health librarians interested in exploring new, creative methods of information delivery.

goals. Social software has moved the Web from a "readonly" technology to an open platform where users can "read­write­and­participate" [2]. Health librarians have written about several Web 2.0 services, such as blogs, RSS feeds, tagging, and podcasting [3­ 5]. Mashups, however, have not appeared in the health library literature (one American health librarian [6] has announced on her blog that her paper on mashups will be published in a forthcoming issue of Medical Reference Services Quarterly). This paper examines mashups and explores some representative examples as a means of evaluating the technology for health librarians.

The evolution of mashup technology is the next stage of Web 2.0. Originally a term used in pop music by artists and disc jockeys when two songs were remixed and played at the same time, Web experts have borrowed the term when two or more software tools are merged. The resulting new tool provides an enriched Web experience for end-users. Like other social software, mashups are freely accessible. Prior to the social software movement, only programming experts with training in C++ or Visual Basic could publish complex Web sites. In contrast, a simple mashup can be created for free in less than 15 min; expert technical skills are not required [7]. While mashups have put Web publishing into the hands of nontechnical users, they require some creativity on the part of developers as the following examples illustrate. Mashups for health libraries While the number of mashups is increasing, estimated at 2.63 per day [7], there is only a handful of applications in health and medicine (Table 1). Many of these mashups use Google maps, because the visual aspect of Web navigation is critical in Web 2.0. With only a few health mashups available, however, these simple but representative examples offer the health librarian some possibilities of where the technology is heading. Vimo Considered the first health care products and services mashup, Vimo ( is an integrated comparison-shopping portal released in January 2006. It allows US businesses and consumers to research, rate, and purchase health insurance and health savings accounts, and selects physician profiles from across the US. Vimo brings together

What is Web 2.0?
To understand mashups as a feature of Web 2.0, Tim O'Reilly's definition [1] may serve as a useful starting point for our discussion:
Web 2.0 is the [Web] as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software as a continually-updated service that gets better the more people use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others, creating network effects through an "architecture of participation", and going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences.

Simply put, Web 2.0 applications utilize social software technologies. They encourage group interaction in a space where individuals can participate, socialize, and set social norms. Web 2.0 is characterized by online and real-time conversations with individuals who share similar interests and
A. Cho. School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, University of British Columbia, Suite 301, 6190 Agronomy Road, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3, Canada (e-mail:; blog:
JCHLA / JABSC 28: 19­22 (2007)

Login or register to tag items