Podcast Interview with Alexander Kirk (Blummy, Bandnews)

This 47-minute podcast is a discussion with Alexander Kirk, creator of the recently released Blummy (which I mentioned last week) and also Bandnews.

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A few things we discussed:

  • The design behind Blummy. (Interestingly, I was incorrect to guess it uses XHR – basically, the Blummy is like a Greasemonkey script – it uses DOM manipulation to alter the page you’re on, building up the container of all the Blummlets, and interacts with other sites using standard HTTP requests.)
  • Plans for Blummy, its use of Lazy Registration, security issues.
  • Developing for cross-browser compatibility.
  • Passing data from another domain with JSON.
  • The design behind Bandnews. Most band websites don’t bother with RSS, so Bandnews creates its own RSS feed, which is what the browser script reads.
  • Why some Ajax apps are slow and what can be done about it.
  • Libraries mentioned: dojotoolkit, prototype.

Blummy: The Mother of All Bookmarklets

Check out Alexander Kirk’s new website: Blummy. A blummy is a kind of bookmarklet that opens up a kind of pop-up portal, giving you access to various web services. Just like a portal is made up of Portlets, a Blummy is made of Blummlets, which essentially do the kind of things bookmarklets do. e.g. A blummlet can let you subscribe to this page with Bloglines, change the browser location, or show an image. Where the blummlet is interactive, the action takes place within the popup as a Live Form.

Here’s a few interesting things about the site:

  • Because the Blummlet lives in a bookmarklet, XMLHttpRequest can access any domain. Scott Isaacs recently suggested it would be worth the risk for browsers to drop the same-domain policy, though it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. A bookmarklet, I’m guessing, gets around that constraint.
  • The site lets users share Blummlets, which might lead to Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attacks like the now-famous myspace effort. Alexander’s well aware of this risk, which is why there’s a “Report Concern” checkbutton. It will be interesting to see how this kind of moderation works out. I still think users might need something stricter, like a whitelist approach, where Blummlets have to be explicitly approved by “the community”, i.e. guilty until proven innocent. (This is still vulnerable, but I think it’s a better trade-off overall.)
  • There are shades of yubnub here, as well as the widget/gadget/startlet idea seen on start.com. Leading to a repository of Blummlets. I mentioned to Alexander it would be nice to see an RSS feed, where users could somehow drag or a Blummlet into their existing Blummy.
  • Speaking of gadgets/widgets, the popup feels something like Dashboard and Konfabulator. Another example of tha Ajax Desktop, and a pretty useful one in this case. There are various popup bookmarklets like JSCalc, which offer one particular function. They are convenient , but there’s no central management point, and a lot of duplication and inconsistency in how the manage the popup experience. So Blummy does to the browser what Dashboard does the windows system: provide a common structure for individual applets. I haven’t looked into the programming model, but there’s probably good scope for a JS util library to further facilitate Blummlet development.