A Spreadsheet-like Construct for Streamlining and Reusing Mashups

Wang, G; Yang, S; Han, Y
Wang, G
Yang, S
Han, Y
Young Computer Scientists, 2008. ICYCS 2008. The 9th
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It is challenging to provide end users an easy-to-use problem-solving tool to combine data from different sources and reuse the results. Inspired by spreadsheets, we argue that spreadsheet-like programming paradigm can help to reduce the complexity and to improve user experience in building mashups. In this paper, we propose a spreadsheet-like construct as the basis of this mashup building paradigm. The construct includes a data model, a "nested table" view structure and a set of carefully chosen mashup operators. Data from a variety of sources is structured like a spreadsheet, and end-users are not necessarily aware of the underlining data flow. SpiderCharlotte, a tool to help end users to build situational applications for their daily uses, was developed to demonstrate the characteristics of this construct. Keywords: Situational applications, mashups, nested table, end-user programming sources directly by business users (usually end users) without any involvement of IT developers in a "just-intime" way. At the same time, we note that there has recently been lots of interest in so called "mashup" and "mashup editor" where a mashup is a web application that combines data from more than one source into a single integrated application, and a mashup editor is a WYSIWYG tool providing a visual interface to build mashups [2]. Situational applications are, in fact, kind of mashup applications except that they might combine data not only from the Web but also from enterprise sources, such as back-end databases and internal information systems. Today, more and more mashup editors are becoming available. Probably the best-known mashup editor is Yahoo Pipes [3], which helps users to create flows of services and RSS feeds, and generate new feeds for sharing. Besides Yahoo Pipes, applications like Microsoft Popfly [4], IBM Damia [5], Intel MashMaker [6] and CMU Marmite [7] are all such mashup editors. The new breed of mashup editors demonstrated that simple approaches such as RSS feeds, RESTful services and AJAX technologies can lower the barrier of building situational applications. However, it is still very difficult for average end users to combine and integrate data from a variety of sources, especially when facing some specific but ad-hoc goals. On the one hand, mashup editors need to be powerful enough because combining data from different sources involves both modeling and computation tasks. On the other hand, mashup editors need to be easy-to-use, for the target users include a large number of users who may only have little programming skills. However, most mashup editors have not achieved a good balance between "powerfulness" and "easiness-for-use". It may demand a lot of time and skill for end users to create service (or data) flows using mashup editors like Yahoo Pipes, IBM Damia and Marmite. Furthermore,

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