Thursday, 21 August 2008

When wikis go wrong. Why salsa deserves better.

Why wikis are sometimes not the answer

A site calling itself is just asking for review. Is it nirvana for a salsero? The site is based on the premise of making a wiki for people interested in finding information about salsa around the world.

It's in format, very similar to Searching for London, I get directly to the London page. Unfortunately, it currently has only 1 company listed - LondonSalsa. If you try and find it the old fashioned way, you have to navigate through 3 pages just to get there. Very inefficient. I'll admit it's primarily for those in San Diego, or Texas - if you live there, you will be in luck.

It is a little disconcerting to have a .com site for what is being marketed as a Copyleft site, with wiki intentions. Whilst I know MediaWiki, and it's one of the few systems around currently, I pine for Snow Leopard's wii system to go Internet, rather than just stay intranet.

My feeling is that salsanirvana is barking up the wrong tree. But this is all terribly web 1.0. Where's the mashup? Where's the simplicity hiding harnessed power? is one example of something a little better: It splits listings into weekly clubs/classes, special events, news, chat room (forum), then submission/modification sections for these.

For my money - a Google map mashup may be part of the answer. Why navigate 3 pages, when you can just pop your desired location in, and not only find out classes and events locally, but also see what's happening nearby, and have a great way to get traffic, picture, navigation information. Beyond that, by actually making a salsa "overlay" for want of a better word, you can then link each event or class to reviews, and also video, pictures and more.

An (iPhone) web app

Whilst a fully blown app would be great, A web app would still work within any browser, on Macs and PCs. The premise could get ported over, and features added, but it would demo and showcase the concept.

Concept 1: An iPhone web app showing a map locasting salsa classes & events.

Start with up to date information about salsa classes. The UK and the US would be more than enough to get started with. Possible uses in conjunction with a current up to date database, or from scratch. Depending on web scraping/copyright, it could be a relatively quick thing to do.

Convert this into a KML form. I'd imagine that it would be better to have 1 database, and then give the classes a day of the week tag, and hopefully have a 1 time period only tag for events.

This in my naive mind, seems to run into the problem that KML and Google maps mashups don't really push the possible uses for geotagging calendar events either recurring or non-recurring. I'd imagine digging into this would probably find this was not entirely accurate.

The end result wanted is a search function: You type in London. You get a view, you pick a day or date you want to salsa. You then zoom in, and see what's happening. If you're interested in an event, click on the pin, get the address, zip/post code, contact telephone. So you can call them, or add them into your phone, or Outlook etc.

Why Google? Proprietary styles just seem to be awful
The other is that you could add review information on the back of this.

The bad news is that of all the web sites i've contacted ( etc) they've all not replied, or not really had an appetite to change any of this.

The good news is that there is a market for this. It's not too hard coding really - in the raw form, it's linking an updating KML file to a web app that shows this. Not rocket science, but not ABC ObjC.

Even better news is that there seems to be a desire for this, and people are wanting to try things to see what works. Maybe using a wiki in this particular way is a false start, but for many other functions, it could work. There are a lot of people who would say yes to trying salsa, given a nudge and the right encouragement. There are a lot looking to see what's on, what they could try. For my money, the salsa scene, like many others, hasn't yet quite caught on to the possibilities of the new media that popped out in the last few weeks :)

But there is progress: Ritmo Bello and the salsa meet up group for their salsa, Anthony Persaud's HD video podcasts - with linked youtube streams, for very easy on the go access for referral, catch up and review.

I wish Apple would get their act together for video - and youtube upload would be a scream, and create big opportunities and developments. The flip camcorder is the nearest thing currently, with rivals popping up. But with the iPhone coming from the fully fledged PC side, i'd hope the 2 sides - video recording and a computer that fits in your pocket, that also does calls - can meet up soon.

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