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January 04, 2003

Today's thoughts

The work in progress thoughts from the last hour or two:

-the vain early attempts at personal websites have finally found a purpose: the always on, always available repository for you. It is an advertisement to attract new people into your life as well as a "yearly Christmas letter to family and friends" but updated oh-so-more frequently and in-depth.

-Software is ever so complex these days, and will only get worse as things become more integrated in the backend with web services. Good software will be transparent software- it will give its users an idea of what is happening on the backend. For how can a critical eye be cast over existing things and innovation occur if anyone and everyone doesn't know what software is doing. This is equally applicable to home users and enterprise software users. Levels of detail are extremely important with transparency, because sometimes the big picture is good enough ("processing transaction"), sometimes you don't care, and sometimes you need more info ("validating credit card", "checking stock", "assigning tracking number")

-As always, I would love to be able to google only websites that I have already read. That extra piece of information can make all of the difference when searching for something. There's a big difference between searching the entire web for "wisconsin community environment" and searching only pages and sites that I have already read for a search term as vague as that.

[addendum 1/5/03: Microsoft Research's MyLifeBits is a similar idea and also touches upon other ideas in this post. Here are some quotes: "many have recognized that having to file objects into a single hierarchy is too constraining"; "For instance, you see a photo. It is some people you remember working with in a previous job, but that’s all you can recall. Now, if the system has kept the date the photo was taken, it may help a little. “8/20/1993”– now you know it was the end of summer. If the system has tracked the usage of the photo, that may also help: it was opened 18 times and emailed to 11 people. Well, it must have been considered one of the “good” photos. If the user has annotated the photo, even a little, its value jumps immensely."]

[addendum 1/6/03: CNet is running an interview with one of the main guys on the MyLifeBits project.]

[addendum 1/6/03: Window's upcoming SQL Based filesystem vs. Mac's in-progress Media Based Interface. The platform's UI metaphors diverge since their inception!]

Right now, the browser cache is only useful to the machine. It's time to put our cheap, spacious hard disks to use and put people first- the Browser cache. Perhaps another browser toolbar button would facilitate this, the "Keep" toggleable button. It would save all web pages while it was depressed; say "Kept" for pages that it has already saved; and remove kept pages if the kept button was untoggled.

-Speaking of managing data better, there's always talk every now and again about metadata file systems. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to search my computer for cartoony images of doctors? Now what if I use that picture on my web site? Wouldn't it be nice if my web site editing software pinged back to my filesystem telling it to add some metadata that that image is being used on my website (by using some metadata service provided by my filesystem)? Perhaps not, but at least now it's cross-referenced for later. But now we've got a whole new problem- how do I, as a user, know if my web site editing software is making use of this service or not? If it's not transparent software, I will have to be a detective and look for clues as to how my software is operating, instead of my software being up front about it and letting me know.

Man, this complexity issue is going to be a real big problem.

-My hosted web site gives me quite a bit of disk quota, but sometimes you need more- especially if you want to make things from your Browser cache available. In this case, it would be useful if my desktop periodically pinged my hosted web site so that my hosted web site could show that the pictures and movies on my desktop machine were available for download. (perhaps by showing those links in green instead of red.)

Posted by tbailen at January 4, 2003 11:57 PM
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