What can Bioinformatics learn from YouTube?

Caught Matt’s talk this morning at the weekly informatics group meetings

There were general murmurings of agreement amongst the audience but nobody asking the probing questions I’d hope for as a measure of interestedness.

Matt touched upon microformats in all but name – I was really expecting a sell of http://bioformats.org/ , websites as APIs and RESTful web services in particular.

Whilst I’m inclined to agree that standardised, discoverable, reusable web services are largely the way forward (especially as it keeps me in work) I’m not wholly convinced they remove the problems associated with, for example, database connections, database-engine specific SQL, hostnames, ports, accounts etc.

My feeling is that all the problems associated with keeping track of your database credentials are replaced by a different set of problems, albeit more standardised in terms of network protocols in HTTP and REST/CRUD. We now run the risk that what’s fixed in terms of network protocols is pushed higher up the stack and manifests as myriad web services, all different. All these new websites and services use different XML structures and different URL schemes. The XML structures are analogous to database table schema and the URL schemes akin to table or object names.

At least these entities are now discoverable by the end user/developer simply by using the web application – and there’s the big win – transparency and discoverability. There’s also the whole microformat affair – once these really start to take off there’ll be all sorts of arguments about what goes into them, especially in domains like Bio and Chem, not covered by core formats like hCard. But that’s something for another day.

More over at Green Is Good