Ok - so I've been posting about Popfly a lot lately.  Why am I so excited about Popfly?  It's simple, actually.  Popfly is more than a mashup maker.  And it's more than a Mashout tool (for sharing mashups) -- though it is that, too.  What makes Popfly so exciting is the business scenarios.  I promised in one of my earlier posts to get to this -- so here we are.  I hope it's not spoiling too much to say up front I'm NOT talking about Popfly in a SharePoint web part!  (Not that there's anything wrong with that... Open-mouthed  )

Perhaps at this point you're thinking that I fell down and hit my head... after all, it's a toy!  No?  Yes.  And No.  Got it?  It's both toy and business tool!  Bear with me.  I'll explain, but first a quick review of just the context needed to understand the business scenarios here (there's a lot more on the Popfly Team Blog):

Popfly has data aggregation capabilities.  Bring two lists of objects together and make them one.  Yes, there's filtering and other stuff.  But in a nutshell, it's first basic capability is putting lists of objects together.  Notice I didn't say lists of text or numbers or feeds -- it can be list of any kind of object.  The only restriction is that it must be displayable to make sense of it.  We often talk about pics because they're pretty.  It could be videos.  It could be rss feeds, of course.  It could be events -- basically any object. 

That brings me to the second core capability of Popfly -- display capability.  That's the spinning carousel, the virtual earth map, the photo tile, etc.  While aggregation can be done by  technology neophytes simply by dragging and dropping blocks, they must be connected to display block to be visualized.  And connecting existing display blocks is an easy drag and drop experience, too.  The Popfly team has built a number of them, and so have a lot of other people.  In fact, you have some development skills, you can build your own display block. 

If you have a just little more development skill, you can make your display block interactive.  Yep. The carousel I mentioned above is interactive -- it turns at different speeds, different directions, stops spinning, and enlarges pictures, depending on your mouse movements.  Here's another example idea (not yet built) that's both fun and practical-- I call it the Gift-O-Matic:

Imagine that it's almost the Holiday season and you're starting to think about giving presents for your co-workers, family, friends, whoever.  Perhaps you realize that there are a lot of folks you'd like to buy a present for, but you don't have that much cash.  Uh oh.  Who gets a gift, and who gets the shaft?  It's so hard to decide.  Well, now there's a solution. 

Simply grab pics of your friends from Spaces, Flickr, FaceBook, etc., and aggregate them together into a list of Photo objects.  Then, hook them up to the Carousel display block.  Now, you've got a list of photos in a carousel -- just like the one I showed in a few of my other posts on Popfly.  But in this case, that's not going to help you -- you need to add something special.   

So rip the carousel block and use it as a starting point for your own block that still spins but adds a slot machine handle.  When you click and drag the handle down, fire an event that spins the carousel for some random amount of turns.  Whichever pic is front and center when the carousel stops, well, that lucky person gets a present this year! 

Or maybe they don't.  Whatever you want. 

And that's the real point.  You can rip these displays, add logic, and make them do just about whatever you want (subject to the laws of Silverlight). 

One of the more interactive "out of the box" display blocks that you can see in the Dan Fernandez video (here) is basically a wack-a-mole game, so you can click on the pics rising out of the holes and wack your friends on the head.   Good stuff.  Smile

I realize this doesn't sound like a business scenario yet.  But put the pieces together -- aggregate data, display it, interact with it, share it -- both by sending to others, and by bringing it with you so others can see it when they visit you anywhere and everywhere you hang out on the web.  Now, if you're a consumer-focused company, you have everything you need for a consumer-engaging, personalized, branded, loyalty enhancing, viral marketing campaign. 

For example, if you're a retailer like Target, Best Buy, or [insert retailer] you could take the Gift-O-Matic described above and turn it into an awesome way to differentiate, build brand, loyalty, and mind share during the holiday season in a few easy steps:

  1. Add some of your [insert retailer] branding to the display block
  2. Create a [insert retailer].com "wish list" data block that outputs wished-for items for a specified user. 
  3. Create a data block that retrieves a picture and link to each item on [insert retailer].com. 
  4. Simply connect the three blocks to mashup the wish list data block with the pictures and links of wished for items, and display them in the [insert retailer] Gift-O-Matic display block. 
  5. Do this for a fictional user, and host it on [insert retailer].com to attract consumer attention. 
  6. Let them tweak the display block so they can filter on their own name and wish list. 
  7. Remind them to use the 1-click publishing to add their personalized Gift-O-Matic to their Windows Live Spaces page... or two-click publishing to their FaceBook page... or to embed the html code into any blog or website they want... or email their personal Gift-O-Matic to their friends. 

Now, [insert retailer] has given their consumers something fun, personal, and also practical -- everyone who visits their Spaces page or FaceBook page can see what they want for the holidays.  And they can have fun spinning the carousel to see what gift ideas come up. 

The retailer, for their part, gets consumers voluntarily placing their [insert retailer] branded content on their sites.  Even better, each picture links back to a the page for actually making a purchase.  Think of it like the nirvana of display ads -- it's free, it's perfectly targeted by definition, and people want to click on it.  Maybe best of all, people who see it can grab it and put in on their own sites, so it's viral, too. 

So that's a retail scenario.  There are many others -- any company that has or wants a relationship with their consumers has a play here.  

One of my favorite scenarios involves social networking sites, because Popfly is an easy, fun, engaging way for users to create durable, meaningful, personal links between the numerous disparate social communities they belong to.  I can have my Spaces pictures in FaceBook, and I can have my friends FaceBook pictures in my blog.  And my friends FaceBook status' in my Spaces page.  Of course, scenarios are not limited to FaceBook and Spaces -- I call them out for two reasons:

  1. These two communities have already made it especially easy to mashup and mashout.  The reality is you can grab info from almost any place on the Internet, mash it up, and share it anywhere you can put an iFrame or with anyone who has an email address. 
  2. People often think of FaceBook as a "walled garden", and Popfly transcends walls -- both coming in and going out -- in a user-centric, empowering way. 

Pretty cool.  Not just geeky-cool -- but honest-to-goodness cool on multiple levels.  It goes way beyond what anyone else is doing, and represents a new way for businesses and consumers to engage with each other.  If there's anything close, it's FaceBook with their FaceBook applications -- but those only work on FaceBook -- and Popfly works on FaceBook and virtually everywhere else, too.   

So I gave you a couple of my ideas (not done yet, btw) -- what do you want to do with Popfly?