Here at ProgrammableWeb, we're huge advocates of API mash-ups and the hackathons which often encourage their development. Earlier this month at Hack the Midwest, the "Best in Show" award went to Qup (pronounced "kyoo-up"), a web application which combines Netflix, Rotten Tomatoes, and e-mail into a handy notification service for movie buffs.
There's not much to the Qup interface, but that's good, because it means easy setup for new users and less to get in the way of what they really want: the content. Qup uses the Netflix API to scan for new streaming titles, then formats that information into an e-mail and sends notifications with imbedded controls to add a movie to your Netflix queue, rate it, see more details, or play it immediately. Service customizations include how often e-mails are sent (from "as they happen" to "weekly"), and filtering by Netflix rating, Rotten Tomatoes rating, or genre.
Michael Bleigh of Intridea created the first version of Qup in 24 hours, and he recounted the experience in a blog post titled "Five Tips for Hackathon Participants." He also detailed the technical implementation of the service in "Under the Covers: Qup.tv's Technology Stack" on the Qup blog. Though the latter post reveals fairly complex innards, one of Bleigh's five tips in the former post is "Style First, Substance Later:"
[T]he landing page is the first impression of your app that any judge will get, and if it doesn't impress them then you're already fighting an uphill battle... Integrate design and style as you go because when there's 45 minutes left you're always going to choose fixing a bug over polishing the interface.
That's good advice, since jaded Internet users can be even harsher critics of new sites than hackathon judges. The most useful app in the world will never be great if nobody wants to use it. Fortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case with Qup. Check it out at: Qup.tv
(Hat tip: Mashery)