d.construct, Web Services: Fuelling Innovation & Entrepreneurship

A presentation by Jeff Barr, “Web Services Evangelist” for Amazon.

Jeff’s presentation went into some depth about the range of web services available from Amazon. There’s an enormous range, mainly concerned with:

  • E-Commerce (Amazon E-Commerce; Historical Pricing)
  • Infrastructure (Simple Queue Service (SQS); Simple Storage Service (S3); Elastic Compute Cloud)
  • Web (Alexa Web Information Service; Alexa Top Sites; Alexa Site Thumbnail; Alexa Web Search Platform)
  • Workforce/Workflow (Amazon Mechanical Turk)

[here’s Jeff, doing his stuff]

Business Models

The AWS offerings have various business models. The free one is the basic Amazon eCommerce API. Some of the ones I found most exciting were where developers had taken the Amazon catalogue and presented the data in really original ways:

liveplasma is a search and “discovery” engine which relates music of similar types. It has a fab flashy-feel interface and is quite off the wall in design – but still eminently usable. Go and have a play!

[liveplasma’s view of interconnectedness, for the Rolling Stones]

hivegroup help you filter the myriad of technology available out there in a very graphical and interactive way. Follow the steps at their website and you’ll see what I mean. Here are a couple of screenshots:

[basic search for digital cameras brings back a colourful display, grouped by manufacturer. The text filter at the bottom can whittle things down further]

[mouse-over a product and a summary panel about the item pops up]

Fixed Monthly Fee service was the Historical Pricing (Amazon Marketplace sellers can find this useful for realistic pricing of their goods for sale).

Usage/Resource-based pricing is used for the resource-heavy services such as S3, Simple Queue Service, Amazon Mechanical Turk.

Mechanical Turk

Mechanical What? It’s basically a web service API for computers to integrate “artificial artificial intelligence” directly into their processing by making requests of humans. It generates a HIT – Human Intelligencd Task. The worker gets paid per task completed; you get the data you require. Such as – does the photograph I show you contain a human being? Most people would be able to say yay or nay in under a second – but a machine would take much longer and probably not always arrive at an answer.

Mechanical Sheep

So, OK, you have access to this service. What should you use it for? Well one guy asked people to draw a sheep, facing left. Why? Why not?! He collected 10,000 sheep at a rate of just over 11 per hour. You can see them all
at The Sheep Market. Here’s a screenshot of my favourite woollyback:

[baaaaaaa! Sheep #10,000 is a black sheep, of course]

There are some thoughts on d.Construct’s first presentation. I’ll add some more soon.

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