Module-based personal publishing

On my personal blog, I’m experimenting with module-based publishing. As I adopt new services across the Web, I’m finding that much of the information I generate is blog worthy for the people that are interested in my personal life. On my blog, I have:

  • Pictures from Flickr
  • Reviews from Yelp
  • Bookmarks from Yahoo! MyWeb
  • Radio stations from Pandora

I could manually incorporate this data into the blog using HTML, but that’s a lot of work and hard to keep current. With modules, all of this information is automatically updated every time someone visits the site. And the content lives where it is displayed best, in the vertical.

I expect that as more and more people get involved in contributing content online, this will become the value exchange with site owners. You want me to contribute data to your product? You have to give me easy access to it.

Some other things I’d like to incorporate on my page:

  • Products I’ve reviewed on Amazon
  • My recent ratings from Netflix
  • My videos from YouTube
  • My search history (edited)
  • Messages I’ve contributed to online discussions boards and other people’s blogs
  • Airfares for places I (and my friends) want to travel to
  • Transaction data from American Express (kidding)

The sites I used to generate the modules on my page make it very easy to generate and customize the modules, including selecting what content I want to display, background colors and other information. Getting all of the modules on my page, on the other hand, is another matter. At a minimum, it requires copying and pasting HTML code from the various sites. If modules are going to take off, users should never see the HTML.

Once I’ve configured and generated my module, I should be able to click to add the module to the publishing platform of my choice, whether it be a blogging platform or a page generation tool like Google Page Creator. Once the module is on my page, I should be able to drag and drop it to where I want it. Ideally, I’d be able to change the configuration as well.

AIM Pages comes closest to the vision. You can add modules to the page, drag and drop and reconfigure the modules. Other developers can create modules. You can also create a module and embed HTML from badges that other sites create. This functionality is still a bit buggy; I wasn’t able to get the flickr HTML module, Pandora module or MyWeb modules to work.

With Google Page Creator, I was able to get the modules on the page using the HTML source view, but this is hardly user friendly. Even within HTML view, I have to be very careful how I edit to make sure I don’t delete code essential for the module. The page isn’t even editable in Firefox. The publishing platforms should treat such modules as placeholders.

The other challenge with modules as they are currently implemented is access controls. If you are on my Flickr Contacts list and you visit my personal blog, you won’t see pictures in the module that I have set to show only to my Contacts, because the module doesn’t know who you are. The modules should carry through authentication.


About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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