There’s quite a lot of buzz around Ubiquity at the moment, which is probably most simply described as an attempt by Mozilla to take the mashup out of the domain of the web developer and into the hands of the user. The product allows a user to create their own mashups without having to be fluent in web scripting and coding; all they need to do is install the appropriate client on their browser (currently Firefox only) and then type in what they want to do.
The applications demonstrated in the demo are fairly simple at this stage but it’s easy to see how they could have quite a lot of use in education to help take the drudge out of some common tasks and to open up what we’re doing about combining services. So, as an ex social scientist I seemed to spend quite a lot of time combining stats together and then displaying them on a map; it would be great if a I had a ‘widget’ that would do that for me and take some of the spadework out. That then frees me up to do a bit more of the interesting research that I really want to do.
Add a little more and it’s a tool that could become extremely useful. It’s all built on an open source license so there is potential for Grease Monkey type extensions that allow further extensions. We are slowly and painfully seeing the freeing up of data under Open Access and a revival in the citizen scientist as a result (see here) . Then we have tools and standards such as OAuth and OpenSocial that are allowing us to selectively release data about us and permissions to help these services do something for us.
Ultimately, I think it’s worth watching what Ubiquity is doing over at Mozilla Labs because it could start opening up some mainstream avenues for really useful mashup tools that save the researcher and educationalist a lot of time and let them get on with what they’d like to do.