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by John S.
I have spent a lot
of time thinking about the things Dave
Winer has talked about in the last few months. Just today, for no good
reason, my mind lit up like a firestorm and I think I put several of his
ideas together. At the least, I have started to describe a vision of life
where technology is so important you would be shocked. However, at the same
time the technology takes over, we are all as human as ever. We get what we
want, exactly how we want it, without ever suffering through the pain of the
Note: This is an article, but
more importantly, it is an email that I actually sent to Dave. I want him to
see that people get it. Some people, not in the technology loop, do
understand some of his ideas, and they can string them together. So, when
you see references to Dave below, that is because I really am trying to talk
to him. Enjoy!
Two Way Web and the Desktop Server
Let's talk about the
two way web. Let's first
consider that I want to read and write content using the internet. Let's also suppose that I can do everything I want through the internet, using
an easy-as-pie user interface. Or a set of tools and interfaces.
Now let's talk about
desktop web sites for a moment. Suppose that I am doing something right now using some technology (e.g., computer, cell phone, PDA) that I want to get to you.
I want to inform you of something, or persuade you in some way. Also suppose that I am interested in connecting with you on this topic.
That is, I want to have an interaction or conversation with you. I want to
trade content (e.g., code, text, images). When the desktop is a web site,
the fog lifts.
What an excellent vision!
What About People?
As you indicate, the two way web and desktop web sites are brothers, but you do not indicate what this means for people.
No fluff, what does it really mean? What do I, as the user or customer, get from this
wonderful technology? I don't care about the technology, Dave, what I care about is what it means. I want to know how
it will change my life! What is the delta from where I am at right now?
Let me take this a bit further. If we start talking about standards (RSS,
SOAP, XML), my eyes are going to glaze over. And, if we start talking about Peer-to-peer
(P2P) computing, or other technology, I'm going to yawn. These things are truly, truly important. To you. You, being a wise developer, talk in binary. When you speak, when you utter words, software is made and web pages appear like magic. For most people, this does not happen. This is not a criticism at all. In fact, I know that you understand that there are people at the ends of your
technology. You know that the P in P2P is
People. You got it covered.
An Interesting Tangent
So let's take all of these things as the start of our conversation. We have some background. Now, let me take a few steps forward with your ideas. I want to throw some usability at them, and we'll see what sticks. Sound good?
But wait a second.
Here I sit, at my computer, 10:51 P.M. EST. I just returned from Wal-Mart with wife and I starting playing some music. I think that Windows Media Player is throwing
something at my speakers. I have at least 15 windows open on my machine, and
probably about 7 applications. Life is good because I have a cable connection and 256 megabytes of RAM,
oh, and some time to relax.
I'm not thinking much about how the technology does its job. It just does. When it fails, I get pissed off, and I let people know about it. I hate failure. Things should just work. No failure. If my machine bombs 1% of the time, is that supposed to be reasonable? I resent the idea! What if 1% of
all planes crashed? What if even .001% of all babies born today were dropped?
Failure is not an option, but I digress.
Humans Are Embedded in Their
My point, at this point, is that
I am embedded in an environment. My computer, my music, my telephone, and my cat are around me. I'm living and the technology is just sort of there. The things around me are mine. I own them. They are easy to see, they are easy to touch. I wouldn't mind sharing some of these things with other people but it just ain't
that easy. Do you know how many family pictures I have on my machine
that I would like to share? Yes, I know it is easy and there are services
available. But it isn't easy enough. It should be instant! At the least, it
should seem instant. It should feel instant, it should feel now.
It is bad enough that I have to actually send email. Why can't I write
a message and have it appear to the people that want to have it. No
mysterious requests and transmissions, my content is just there for you. Readily available
without a drop of effort.
And what about my usability web site,
WebWord? I want people to just have it, when they want it, how they want it. When they are on the road, when they are on the phone, when they log in, it should just be there for them.
Just there, like they always wanted. Don't you think that is the idea? Life
when you want it, how you want it? There are kinks in this, of course, but don't you think that things should just
be there? What an idea. What magic!
Being embedded is
crucial to this vision. I'll touch on this idea in other ways below. If you
are confused at all, hang on!
Good. Thanks for hanging in there for me. Now I'll summarize
all of the ideas in this one paragraph. First, the two way web
to me is about having easy interfaces available to write and publish content. It should be easy
for me to read too! Very easy. Second, the idea of the desktop web site is
that we can push things to my ever-more-powerful desktop. Use the power in
my technology, because it isn't being utilized. Third, maybe I
am turned off by technology itself. Sure, I want what it offers. I want the benefits, but not the hassles. Technology for the sake of technology must be avoided. Usability is critical!
Fourth, I live in an embedded environment. Life is around me, it does not reside on a server in Nebraska.
I am here, I am now. Further, when my own life is at my fingertips, I am
happy. A related idea, perhaps the fifth idea, is that I want life to be available when I want it available. If I am using it, I want
it (whatever "it" might be at that moment); it should right there. I want it now. I want it easy.
And, to keep that slate clean, if I am not using it, I want it to go away.
If is out of my thoughts, then it should run away from me like a scared child until I need it again. Life should be simple this way, and so should my technology.
My Ghost is Everywhere
These ideas, when I threw them together, forced me to generate a very simple question.
Why doesn't the entire internet rest inside all of the things around me? Huh? Did I really say that? Well, yes, I did. Why isn't everything about everything right at my fingertips, when I want it, how I want it?
Quick aside: When I say everything, I mean everything that I
could or would ever care about. I am not talking about the entire universe.
The universe is basically infinite. However, I am talking about everything
that is everything that I care about, which is finite. Technology
can handle finite things. This will be important later on.
It is possible, you know.
It is possible to capture just about everything I care about. If you can
turn it into bits, then it can be all around me, at any time. The ghost
can follow me around. The idea is crazy at first, but you have to love it. It gives us a reason to embrace
Law. It also gives us a reason to love people who develop technology and to love people focused on usability. We are both in the clear; we are not obsolete.
Our lives are safe, and our work is meaningful.
Right. Now it is time to be more concrete. I'm going to seriously scale down my idea, so that we can really talk, but please don't lose the idea. It is
About Life Important to Me Are Always Around Me.
Here is the first grain of an idea for
The Ghost that could be built. I think you are working on parts of it, but
not the whole thing. In any event, here are the requirements:
I want my desktop machine,
The Ghost, to be a very powerful server. And more!
It isn't just
a server and a client, it is a super fat server and super fat
I can reach My
Ghost using any device I currently own.
I can reach My
Ghost through my cell phone, computer, or car radio.
everyone having a Ghost. Dave, it has to scale.
My Ghost is
everywhere and nowhere.
It is extremely secure.
Totally. 100% secure.
Other people can reach
My Ghost, with permission.
They can use any technology they want to reach it.
It is fast. Very, very, very fast. Instant.
Fat pipe enabled. Broadband mania!
It holds nearly unlimited information.
Think storage. Think vast storage.
As I live my life,
The Ghost records my activity. Figure this out!
My Ghost is always looking for information that I might want.
My Ghost is almost too easy to use.
It extends my
reach. Perhaps literally? (My Ghost could be a surgeon?)
It extends my
ideas, and let's others extend their ideas to me.
It is friendly and helpful to other people, but firm.
It is a presence.
My Ghost can talk with other
Ghosts. They are all friends.
the technology, the standards? All done behind the scenes.
Believe it or
not, without my My Ghost, I can still enjoy pizza and beer.
Do you see how this is
much more than P2P, the two way web, XML, and even the desktop web site? It
is about people. It is about technology. It is life.
(Did I capture
your ideas correctly? Did extend your thoughts? Did I do right by you. Was I
These are first bricks are in the foundation. We have a long way to go...
John S. Rhodes
WebWord.com -- Industrial Strength Usability
p.s. I couldn't have done it without
scripting.com and DaveNet.
crazy about usability. I hope you see how focusing on people, and psychology, balances your technology madness. I
also hope this is the start of a good conversation. I want to work with you on the vision. I hope I have opened the door.
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