A few lucky people have already seen the progress I’ve made in reworking Geon into Silverlight but as I won’t be making too much progress on it for a while (enjoying the sun and surf on Turtle Island ) I thought I would share the progress I’ve made over the past month or so. It’s a completely different idea to the original where you were only able to monitor a single location at a time. The whole thing is more “Web 2.0″ with it being a rich web application that is for all intents and purposes running locally on your machine. This not only means that I can do a heck of a lot more it also helps so if Geon gets popular my poor little server under my desk doesn’t die under the strain of more than 10 users trying to use it at once!
You can check it out now here, however you might want to read on for a quick tutorial of how to use it.
The first thing you’ll notice is the giant map in the center of the screen. If you checked out my previous Silverlight work (a basic translation of Geon from ASP.NET into Silverlight) you’ll be familiar with this. It functions just like Google Maps however this is Microsoft’s Virtual Earth control for Silverlight. Mouse wheel zooms you in and left clicking moves the map around. Pretty simple and intuitive.
On the left is a column of buttons with some familiar terms on them. Clicking any one of them will set them off pulsing to show you that you’ve selected them and clicking on the map would drop that control on the map. For now I’d recommend zooming in to about the 50~100km scale and then selecting the Location button, finding somewhere you’d like to see information about and click on it. You’ll get a circle that’s about 50km in diameter centered on where you clicked and this will be the anchor for the other controls.
Now the only other control implemented at the moment is the Twitter one, so click on it and click somewhere close to the location circle you placed earlier. You’ll notice a big sqaure pop up with the Twitter icon at the top. After a couple seconds or so it should start populating itself with all the tweets from that area, and you can click the blue names to jump to the tweet itself.
You can do this multiple times all over the map, and the tweets will continue to update for as long as you have the app open. If you’re feeling adventurous try clicking the Twitter button again and clicking near the location circle. You’ll notice that it automatically places them around the circle for you. It works well up to about 5 and then the placement starts to get a little weird but it’s at least usable.
On the right hand side you’ll notice a list of things appearing. That’s a list of every “Geon” (piece of information tagged with some form of geo information) and will eventually be a little more usable than it is now. It’s supposed to be a list that you can browse if you have say, 20 different locations tracked and can’t look at them all at once. It will also have a bit more to it when the request/respond part of Geon gets developed, but that’s still a little way off.
You don’t have to use the location field to plop down one of the info controls but since they’re, you know, massive, they kind of cover up the entire area you’re looking at. I’ll also have some options in a future release for the location field so you can refine your area down to a smaller area or filter for a specific term.
So there you have it, Geon 2.0 alpha. Have a fiddle, tell me what you’d like to see, what you hate and anything else you’d like to say
Mention the words “Web 2.0″ to me and you’ll usually be greeted with a slight snarl and maybe a comment or two about how the web doesn’t really have version numbers. Sure I can appreciate the idea that after the dot com bust companies shifted their focus from just having a web presence to truly leveraging the Internet but it still never sits right in my head. However with my recent foraying into rich web application development I’ve come to realise that if I try to describe what I’m doing using any other term I usually get blank stares from those supposedly “in the know”, so I’ve relegated myself to using the term. At least just in general terms to describe something that’s on the web but feels like a desktop application.
With all this angst that I had built up for Web 2.0 applications it was nice then to see an example of a something I would deem Web 2.0-ish that added value to my browsing experience rather than trying to do nothing but make money off it:
Basically there was a term I didn’t understand (it was Latin after all) in an article so I decided to highlight it and copy it into Google so I could find out what it was. Imagine my surprise when a little question mark popped up and upon clicking it, a definition of the word popped up. For me as a user of this site it’s quite handy, since I can just highlight and click. For the content provider it is doubly advantageous as I don’t leave their web page to go hunting around for a dictionary defintion, and I also give them another page view which helps with their revenue. Overall it’s a win-win situation for everyone and has helped to soften my harsh view on the whole Web 2.0 scene.
The problem I initially had with many Web 2.0 oriented companies was that their only selling point was that the application looked flashy and was driven to generate as much revenue as possible off the user’s experience. For most end users this was all transparent and I can’t deny that the business model has worked for a few of the current web giants. As an IT professional however the lack of value that could be derived from using this applications only served to make me look like an Internet Luddite, wishing for the good old times when pages rendered fast and I didn’t need to download flash to run 90% of sites on the web. With the Web 2.0 crowd now having to mature their business models in order to survive in an increasingly harsh and competitive environment we’re now starting to see some applications with true value enhancing experiences for the end user, something that I felt had been lacking up until now.
This idea is what has been driving force behind me developing Geon and hopefully with the way things are going I won’t be too far off providing some added value to the information its bringing in. Of course since this is a bit of a side project for me the plans to try and monetize it are a bit far off (and indeed, I have little experience in dealing with advertisers) so it’s not a grab for cash yet, so hopefully I won’t be alienating people like myself right off the bat.
As with all new technology there comes a time when the platform matures to the point where the fact that something is built on it or uses it is no longer novel, and that’s the point when the true innovation can begin. The next few years will bring out some truly amazing stuff which I, for one, can’t wait to see.
Tune in five years from now to see me ranting about Web 3.0