Mashup Camp has become THE meeting place for mashup artists and companies coveting their skills. I visited on the last day of Mashup Camp 4 just in time to meet the Best Mashup contest winners. In a large room at the Computer H

istory Museum in Mountain View, several dozen attendees are hanging out for the informal award ceremony. After two days of discussions and easy-going conferences, it is time to see which mashups have captured the heart of the attendees.

“Competitors have five minutes to explain their mashup to the other developers. Then each person votes using wooden nickels. We call it speed geeking,” explains Doug Gold, a former Comdex executive who has been organizing the Mashup Camp for the last two years with partner David Berlind who is also executive editor at ZDNet.

The event itself is designed to break with the old trade show model. “Traditional conferences are no longer viable and relevant. Using blogs, wikis and social networking sites, you can design a program that better reflects reality. We use the open space model where attendees come up and talk. They determine what is relevant,” explains Doug Gold.

And they vote for their favorite mashup. This time, the winner is, a recently-launched site which brings together videos from 10 video-sharing sites including YouTube, Google Videos and Metacafe. “The problem with YouTube is that you have to go back and look for something else once the video is done. On, the videos are back to back and you are not interrupted,” explains Taylor McKnight, the 24-year old developer who co-designed the site with partner and fellow Floridian Chirag Mehta, 26.

Photo: Event organizer David Berlind, creators Taylor McKnight and Chirag Mehta.

Interestingly enough, McKnight already won the Best Mashup contest at Mashup Camp 3 this past February with a site called “This one mashes up concert listings in American cities based on with a database of our own MP3 files. I go to a lot of concerts and this was my first mashup. I did it to get something I wanted,” says McKnight.

Both McKnight and Mehta have day jobs, the former as a UI designer for Hype Machine, a music discovery site, and the latter as an IT manager. “We each put in probably about 1 500 hours into We did not do it to win a contest or to make money. We just wanted to organize the video content on the Internet and help people give up TV,” says Chirag Mehta who had never done a mashup before he met McKnight online. “There was a couple of VC here asking us if we needed money. But that’s not why we are doing this,” concludes McKnight.

As part of the Business Mashup Challenge, other mashups were recognized with prizes from IBM, Strike Iron and Dapper, three of the event’s many sponsors. One of the business mashups would allow a company using CRM package to send SMS to its client base to bring them back into a store after a given length of time without a purchase. Another takes a list of prospects and searches Google News for news items relevant to their company in order to jump start sales calls.

“If the industry is a rock concert, Mashup Camp is like going backstage,” describes Dan Gisolfi, executive IT architect for emerging Internet technology at IBM who was in attendance. “This is a growing industry. We are here because we have software products that we want to incubate with these guys. The most amazing thing is that some of those mashups could be used by companies within a couple hours.”

“The power is in the API [application programming interface]. Development that used to be hard can now be done in a couple hours. Consumers are adopting mashups, so now businesses are getting hip to it. There was much more involvement from the business community this year,” noticed Doug Gold who is already busy planning the next Mashup Camp in Dublin, Ireland for September.

Isabelle Boucq

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