The Quick & Dirty:

  • 9+ years in the biz, 10 messing around
  • All the latest in HTML, CSS, JS & PHP (Sorry, no .net or Ruby skills yet)
  • Cross-browser compatible code from Photoshop or Illustrator files.. or napkins!
  • Custom Specialities in Wordpress theming & plugins, Twitter & jQuery
  • Subversion, server-log analysis, and blocking hack-attempts (of late).
  • Data/Project Geek. I ♥ timelines.

I’ve compiled some handy PHP functions I’ve had to whip up. More extensive code-samples are also available.

Wordpress-from-Photoshop/Illustrator

Wordpress-from-static HTML

Wordpress-from-Photoshop

Computers are anti-reflective, people are hard to predict, and maybe I have a solution

It seems that computers, without features like a global “recent documents”/history, stop us from realizing just how much time & anti-productive we’ve been. Sure we can view our browser-history & recent-documents in Word, but that’s still disparate & no one will do that. There’s really no features which allow us to analyze our activities on them. If there are, they’re lame time-trackers, which suck.

It’s not just that computers stop us from analyzing our time on them, and that adding in an interesting program like Zeitgeist would solve the problem.┬áComputers keep throwing things at us, they’re a deep, deep well, a window with “infinite zoom & pan.” They fundamentally do not allow for self-analysis. And most of us are perfectly ok with this entertainment/time-wasting mindset.

So, what would a fundamental reordering mean/do/be? It would depend on a few things:

  • Type of activities: work can be either project-oriented, recurring, one-off; play can be productive or consumptive, social or individual.
  • User-interest/ability in goal-setting
    • User-interest in re-presenting their life/activities, in contrast with what a computer can “pick up” in context.

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s my list for now.. Must.fix.OS-UI’s.

One direct (& probably bad idea) is the “agent” approach:

“What do you want to do today Bob? You’ve got a paper due in 6 days, and I don’t see any notes or drafts. Would you like to start, or waste more time on Facebook?”

This method has always failed for lack of options/creativity in the prompts. Note: there are requisites here: the need for a writing process, accurate naming/locations of drafts, or at least association of them with a goal/todo/calendar item. Even if those processes were fulfilled, people are impossible to predict.. (but the future will fix that!) ..sometimes we want to listen to familiar music, other times, new & novel music. In this field, music-genre-deciphering is becoming almost everyday. That’s good, but what of other stuff? I mean, is it a matter of stuff-collecting & presenting (RSS feeds/status updates?) or is it a matter of blank-page filling with ideas not-found-elsewhere on the computer?

And right there, I have created a limited category-set of what actions are; some people will want them more concrete: “I need Word”, others want, “I have this thought, it needs out, I don’t care where.” Sure “there’s a setting for that” ..but no one wants settings. People aren’t settings & debuggers; they’re people, they treat their computers as people; they learn computers, and are pissed when computers don’t learn their users. (Aka, something else to write on! What variables would make up a decent computer-use differential-analysis?)

Perhaps this ties back into prior thoughts on various “forms of life” which we participate in. There are forms of computer-activities too: how frequently can/should I check Facebook? What would happen if it checked for me (with a popup/slide-down panel) at slightly ever-slower frequencies?

Computers started as a number-cruncher. They rapidly became “place to store things” and “program/app runners.” The early creation of the “desktop OS” was a matter of a “supra-application” environment. And things have stopped there. We’ve got lots of places to store stuff (too many folders!) and we’ve got lots of programs. They’re analytically divided, and only Apple (and Palm back in the day!) has the sense to bring ‘em closer. Palm brought ‘em too close, and Apple is walking a thin line.

Either way, we’re still in a land of too many apps, divided out & not actually helping us in any smooth-transitions. We pull out our cell phone when we remember “Oh, I have an app for that!” And when we’re on our desktops, we are tempted by alternative options more than lead into productive, creative labor. What of an ENTIRE UI which is a matter of storing things in collection/tags on the left-hand side of the screen (with major labels up top instead of a single-row menubar) and the right-hand side being a tabbed menu for raw-creation: drop-in a document, spreadsheet-block, or that thing you wrote yesterday. This is “OneNote” on crack.

The left-hand side would be sortable by any set of tags & viewable by any format: list, slideshow.. Documents would be auto-tagged by context (because that’s how your memory works!) by the time & date, by the other things on-screen (in contrast with what was before & after!), and by keyword/content analysis.

This is one potential future solution.. and the timeline/flow of objects could be tracked like xkcd suggests. Computing shouldn’t be about filenames, but the confluence of ideas (tags) & objects (named).

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Posted in desktop theory, Gnome, Information Design, interaction design, Project Management, Software, window managers Tagged , , , , , , , , , Comments Off

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