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Category: hci

Scoble Erased: If only there were some kind of data Bank

Robert Scoble complains about being erased. Or rather the data and content that he put on Facebook ceased to exist to the extend that he no longer had access to or control over it. We can talk all we want about how our attention data, social graph, personal data and created content is ours and we should have absolute and continuous access to it; in addition, we should be able to move it and leverage it in other contexts. This ignores the economics of the capture and storing of that data. The cost is not zero. If it were we could do it for ourselves.

And that I suppose is the point. We trade that data for a service, value traded for value. If Scoble doesn’t want to be erased, why not record a copy of everything he puts into a commercial website? He could keep it on a local hard drive or a network storage service. Or perhaps in some kind of gesture bank, where he could trade its value for goods and services.

Scoble needs to remember that it’s not really his, unless he invests in making it his.

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The End of the Mechanical Keyboard: KVM begins its Transformation

There have been a couple of stories about this recent Apple patent filing on a new keyboard. It’s great to see some innovation on such a basic input device. The keyboard has been static for much too long. Most folks are pointing to Art Lebedev’s Optimus Maximus keyboard as a source. The demo is quite impressive. Apple is in a unique position to make some progress in this area, just as they were able to move the ball on the innovations developed at Xerox Parc. This is the beginning of the end of the mechanical keyboard. Once the keyboard becomes software and the screen becomes multi-touch, a whole new era of human-computer interaction is enabled. KVM begins its historic transformation.


The Open and the Closed: Closed is the new Open

Open Door

A closed system can be a portal to openness through the network. This is a fundamental change in where the opportunities for software application development will be located in the future.

In the era of the desktop computer, an executable program needed to reside on the local computer hard drive and take advantage of the tools offered by the operating system. Access to APIs and documentation defined how open a system was. Ability to alter, or improve the system, to better support an application was a further sign of openness.

This same paradigm has been used to think about the coming age of the teleputer. Pundits and hackers cry out for access that is analogous to the desktop OS development environment. They don’t seriously attend to the possibility of a radical shift away from the hard drive to the cloud. This idea is a riff off of Steve Gillmor’s recent post.

A Short Interlude:

Upgrading software and maintaining compatibility through multiple versions on a desktop computer is one of the top usability problems of the desktop environment. The installed executable application model creates infinite complexity at the point of least understanding and ability to cope. Think about what happens when you move that complexity back into the cloud and give responsibility for managing it to the application developers. A “computer” becomes simple for the user, and as complex as the business model and developers of the application can support.

Tim O’Reilly, in his NY Times Op Ed piece, asks Verizon to open their platform in the same way that the computer is open— either on the desktop or the server. Although he coined the term “Web 2.0” for his conference, he doesn’t seem to really understand the implications. The new path to openness is laid down by Steve Gillmor when he writes about the “hard drive” vs. “the cache.” With HTML/Ajax, Flash and Silverlight, small runtimes can be present anywhere and everywhere. The future of application development is against these small runtimes in the browser and single purpose network connected applications that make use of a subset of browser capability.

It’s an avenue to much greater user acceptance and uptake; and it removes an element of complexity from the local machine. This is how you dramatically reduce the hours of work required to maintain a computer / handheld device. Those who demand access to your computer and teleputer so they can load it up with the code they’ve written are not necessarily doing you a favor. They are probably just setting you up for a future moment when your phone will crash beyond your ability to repair it.

Resist the forces of complexity that wear the guise of “openness.” Closed systems can support both simplicity and openness via the network. Open systems support potential complexity at the device level and openness via the network. Open systems like Linux will enable closed system CloudBooks that will achieve simplicity, reliability and openness through the network.

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Web As Industrial Design: Painting with Code

Juicer Prototype

 If you happen to be passing through Terminal 3 of the San Francisco Airport any time soon, check out: Prototype to Product: 33 Projects from the Bay Area Design Community. Rushing through the Terminal to my gate, I didn’t have enough time to spend with each of the pieces. The exhibit features preliminary sketches, detailed illustrations, models, prototypes and the finished product. Every time I see this kind of approach to design I think that Web design should be done in the same way.

Designers of Web sites need to take the materials, the DOM, the semantic HTML, the CSS, the javascript, the images and links into account when they design something for a person to use for a particular purpose. Industrial designers need to know and understand their materials. Will there be a new generation of Web artists and designers who can paint in code?

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