Cooperation, Reputation, and Web Services: The Disruptive Web

Cooperation, Reputation, and Web Services: The Disruptive Web. I knew that manually copying the ISBN from one browser to another wouldn't satisfy most people. But I blogged that solution anyway because it was an interesting partial result that would provoke the blog hive mind to suggest how to take the next step. And it promptly did. Jenny Levine noted that my local library uses the same system as hers and that the system's vendor serves more than a thousand libraries. Another blogger, Scott Reynan, reminded me that bookmarklets, which are JavaScript snippets embedded in HTML links, can be installed in browsers' toolbars. A bookmarklet, when clicked, could inspect the current page's URL (say, at, capture the ISBN, form a library search URL incorporating the ISBN, and invoke that search in a new window.

One problem remained: How would I configure the bookmarklet for a given library? Reynan suggested a geographical method: Request (or discover) the user's postal code and map from it to the nearest library on the vendor's list. That was plausible, but the mapping wasn't readily available. Then a laughably simple solution presented itself: Generate a list of bookmarklets, one per library, and blog it. A user who visits that blog page and finds a local library there can drag its link to the toolbar to install the bookmarklet.

Thus a new service, potentially useful to millions of people, was deployed by blogging a Web page containing 900 links. The meme spread quickly in the petri dish that is the interconnected blog network. My published RSS feed spread the news to my subscribers, who passed it along to their subscribers, and soon the blog indexes picked it up and spread it even more widely. By the end of the day, the technique was verified to work with many libraries in the United States. What's more, it had mutated. Reports came in from around the world about adaptations that worked with library systems from other vendors. These mutations, packaged as HTML links, propagated through the blog network. People from Syracuse, N.Y., to Sweden found links in their RSS readers that could be installed and used immediately. [Smart Mobs]

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