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SDN on a mobile device…

 

During the BOF session “Co-Innovation using SDN/BPX or ES Community. What is currently possible, what should be added …” which Mark gave in Melbourne Matt Harding showed us how SDN looked on his Motorola. While you could browse the site it was hardly usable. The biggest problem was the frame which is wrapped around every blog post and just takes up too much space.

We all discussed what you could do by using RSS feeds and other things and I offered to build a prototype. In the next few paragraphs I want to show you what is currently possible with the services SDN offers. I also want to share some things which annoyed me during the development. At last I have a look at how SDN could become more attractive for third party developers.

The mobile version

 

The iPhone shows us how nice normal websites can look on a smartphone however it is still much nicer to use an optimised version. Therefore my goals for the mobile version were:

  • Maximum width 320px (that is the standard iPhone size)
  • Only display content which matters
  • Dead simple to use
  • No large graphics to speed up download times
  • As few links as possible to improve navigation

 

The implementation

 

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Building the new site was simple. A rails application grabs the blogs RSS feed, parses it and returns a simple html view. If a user wants to see a certain blog post the application downloads the blog from SDN, removes the javascript code which automatically adds the frame and returns it to the user. I do not optimize images. Everything comes straight from SDN.

 

As mentioned before this is only a prototype. It clearly lacks some features. The biggest problem at the moment is that you can only see the last ten posts.

 

What annoyed me…

 

There were a few things which annoyed me during the development. First of all why does the feed contain additional links in the description?

 

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In my opinion a xml feed should be design and feature neutral. Not everybody wants those links. It seems that at the moment the feed is only targeted for feed readers but not for developers who want to build mashups. Fortunately you can easily remove those links with some  CSS magic.

 

When I finished working on the main feed I had the idea to make the site compatible with the feeds for all sub categories. This would have been a walk in the park if all feeds on SDN use the same format… 

image

 

It turned out that the main feed is an RSS feed and the feeds for the sub categories are ATOM feeds. So I decided to drop that feature for now. I would suggest to use one standard for all feeds. Maybe feedburner is already able to do that or offer both a RSS and a ATOM version.

 

SDN mashups?

At the moment SDN cannot be called a platform. Craig already wrote a SCN a platform? about this topic and based on the responses I am not sure if it’s worth the effort to convert SDN into one. However a fully service enabled SDN would allow the community to offer features for which the offical development team might not have the time. Its quite impressive how fast developers wrote new versions of popular websites like Flickr specifically for the iPhone (Flickr is fully service enabled). There is just no better way to leverage the community.

The right services

What I would like to have is a fully REST enabled weblog area. This means it should be possible not only to receive the latest blogs as an RSS feed but also to get a blog itself as an XML document. It should also be possible to identify authors and categories via their unique identifiers instead of strings. But the most important feature is a service enabled search. So you could easily search for weblogs while you are on a train for example (The REST api for Yahoo Search could be a workaround…).

The future

While a fully service enabled SDN would be a nice thing to have it will not happen overnight. However it should be possible to extend the current feeds with more useful data like the id of the blog author and similar identifiers. In the end the community has to decide what is important or not.

 

Try it!

If you want to have a look at my mobile version of SDN click here. Please be advised that for bandwidth reasons I cache every blog post and currently do not check for updates. So do not be surprised if comments are missing. As mentioned before it is only a prototype and I do not know how long I will host it. But if it is available feel free to use it 😉

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9 Comments

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  1. Matthias Zeller
    Thank you Thomas. I tried it with my Blackberry 8700 and it works great. I also use Google Reader on it and it always annoyed me that I could only see the summary text, but not the full postings of SDN blogs.
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  2. JayaKumar Pedapudi
    Hi Thomas,
    Excellent, I was alway wondering how my iPhone behave when accessing SDN. This looks beautiful. Hope community go for service enabling. This opens up new scope and SDN will be extended beyond.
    (0) 
  3. Mark Finnern
    … we are thinking about doing something similar for the whole sit and keep you posted.

    Add to the little wish list to somehow integrate comments, as they are the indicators for where the conversation is.

    Would be great, Mark.

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    1. Thomas Alexander Ritter Post author
      I am actually not sure if there are enough users to justify such a official site. The services I offer right now are not used by a lot of people. Maybe you should do a survey.
      Comments would be cool but I am not sure if I want  support them because it would be a big hack. But I will look into at.
      cheers Thomas
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  4. Matthew Harding
    Although I now use Twitter to receive notification about new blogs. This is still the quickest and most usable format for reading blogs on a mobile.

    Thanks and see you in vegas,
    Matt

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    1. Thomas Alexander Ritter Post author
      Hi,

      I was away for one month on vacation and did not bring a laptop with me. Unfortunately during that time the mongrel processes crashed. I restarted the processes and it works again. Sorry for the inconvinience, good to know that people use the website 🙂

      cheers
      Thomas

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