MC : That is what all in this weblog is about.
Recent comments on the iPad made me realise something: Apple is very slowly moving away from a generic file system to microcontent silo’s. I am not sure about the how and when, but I recognise the following steps.
I think it all started with the Address Book application. This standard address book already existed during the NeXT-period. This application allows a user to manage contact information about persons. For each person (or business) the application creates a card. These cards are stored in a data silo (AddressBook.data). This data silo is a closed one, i.e. I am not able to look into it, but through the AddressBook application. As other applications also like to use address information, Apple created an API in order to get access (and change) this data. So what one sees here is a closed data structure, which is only accessible through Apple created and authorised API’s. Note that in NeXTstep this silo was more open, i.e. one could see the individual cards as separate files.
With the introduction of MacOSX a more structured approach towards file organisation was chosen. We saw the introduction of standard folders for Pictures, Movies, Music and Documents. This approach is also inherited from NeXTstep, but has been extended to more file types. Naturally the corresponding application such as iTunes and iPhoto stored their data in these folders.
However there is no guarantee that users did indeed store their corresponding data in these folders. When starting iTunes for the first time, it asked the user if it should consolidate all the music files of the users. This implied that all the files iTunes could find would be copied into the iTunes music folders. And there is still a preference for making a copy of music files when importing. And iPhoto has taken a similar approach to images. In addition iTunes and iPhoto force a detailed folder structure.
In the beginning we only had open silo’s. Users could still access the individual files through the Finder. A drawback of this is that users can corrupt the database. So for iPhoto Apple closed this hole (I am not sure at what version of the app this happened). They hid the photo file structure in a package, which is not easily accessible. In the file browser a user will see just a single file for the entire library.
With the closing of the images folder structure a real data silo has been created. As images are no longer easy to access through the browser, another access method is required. For their applications, such as Pages, Apple introduced the Media Browser. Through this Media Browser window users can access the data silos of iPhoto and iTunes and the Movies folder.
Unfortunately this is only a limited access to the images and music. It could be extended to the whole pictures and music folders. Also the usage of this media browser approach seems to be limited to applications created by Apple. As a solution to this Karelia introduced the iMedia Browser. With this iMedia browser one can access the entire pictures and music folder.
The number of microcontent types which have a corresponding data silo is slowly growing. The iMedia Browser added the microcontent type links. This window pane maps the bookmark folders of various web browsers. Also iTunes added a whole series of subcategories for ‘music’ (audiobooks, movies, iTunes U, applications), which diluted the idea of the music folder. However with time the iTunes app enlarged the coverage of this data silo to other MicroContent types. I am not sure whether this is a good thing though.
In addition to these Apple data silo’s, we have also application specific silo’s. Thus an application such as MacGourmet has it’s own database for recipes, which is not sharable with other recipe applications.
With the advent of the iPhoneOs we see another closing step. No longer a file browser is available to the users. There are only application specific data silo’s. No longer the user can mess with the files. If an application would like to use another data silo, it has to go through Apple defined API’s. This access method might entail a privacy risk, which need to be closed. This security risk also exists under MacOSX, but seems less relevant because less application are installed.
It seems that Apple has created some other data silo’s, but it is unclear which without access to the developer tools. Hardcore users are able to access the folders and files on the iPhone. The usage and access to this folders is deemed illegal by Apple.
The iPad seems to extend the idea of data silo’s to any document type. The idea seems to be that each application has it’s own silo. Naturally the iPad knows the standard MicroContent types as pictures and music. But we also see YouTube Video’s and iBooks. This is a fairly logical extension. However they also use the idea for more generic document types, such as presentations. The application suite iWork for the iPad also supports a media browser, so there is a method to mix MicroContent types.
For users I guess this is all a good development. Things will become much easier. I hope however that an extra method, such as tags, of organising files will introduced. I have doubts whether the current approach is sufficient when there are lots of files (or should I say MicroContent Items?).
Techcrunch has a post about the UI conventions of the iPad. The reason for this is that Fraser Speirs has created a Flickr set with elements of the iPad UI as gathered from all marketing material on the iPad. Interesting to skimm thtough these images and read the comments.
I always wonder if it would be worthwhile to creat interface guidelines for MicroContent clients. Especially for the iPad these seems more and more relevant.
I always had the feeling that the iPhone was much more a MicroContent device than a regular PC. However I was not able to grasp why I felt this way. Thanks to this article by Dan Moren, I know now why: the iPhoen has abstracted away the idea of files. There is no longer a need for file browsers. We now only have MicroContent clients.
The iPad will extend this idea even further. Each file will be part of it’s own application. This is very similar to the idea of MicroContent. As you see I am reluctant to call this MicroContent as we are talking about large and complex content (presentations, spreadsheets or documents) if we talk about the iWork apps. One of the similarities are the visual aspect. Microcontent is visually easy to comprehend. Apple stresses always this visual aspect as well when they talk about presentations or spreadsheets.
I still have to ponder this a bit more…
An interesting article appeared in Le Monde today about web cleaners. This are Internet companies that help you remove unwanted information from Internet. Sometimes this just happens by intimidation and sometimes they are helped by the law. And it does cost a lot.
This beckons the question of what is unwanted or illegal information and whether you can or should do something against it. What is illegal in one country is not illegal in another country. The ‘Right to be Forgotten’ exists in one country, but not in another (cf). And does this imply that this information is removed from archives as well? Or only by online access? Aren’t we rewriting/forging history then?
historic information is often unwanted, as it has repercussions for the present. Your new employer finds your kinky pictures on Facebook. Your present employer finds your CV on the Internet and fires you for disloyalty. And probably you are unable to prevent want is published on the Internet. So cleaning is just not possible. One needs to find another tactic.
The tactic I prefer is to take one’s reputation in one’s own hands. Create a blog, show who you are, get involved. Your information will drown any defamation present on the Internet. Make sure that the top 100 answers in Google are really about you and under your control. And hopefully people do not search any deeper.
And if you want to publish filth, use an alias that can not be tracked to you. This might need some education and is maybe a business opportunity.
But most of all, employers, journalists, governments, etc, must be educated on the use of data they find on the Internet and learn to put things in perspective. Or we will just end up with grey, boring people in important positions.
@jurijlotman asked me to have a look at #googlewave (should have a look at microsyntax as well). So I had a look at the video. For the moment that is the only thing we have access to. It looks like a very interesting approach to communication and interaction. We are really talking realtime Internet here. Slowly the real time Internet is for me becoming the Web3.0 subject. But have a look at the video for yourself.
The question is however the relation between MicroContent (the drops) and Google Wave. And I am inclined to concluded that there is no relation at all. The most important aspect of MicroContent, the permalink, seems to be missing in Google Wave. Google Waves is all about creating, sharing, editing and extending waves. These waves seems to be very large documents, which can be distributed to multiple readers and authors. It was not clear from me whether I could use parts of a wave in another one. This would imply referencibility and an important MicroContent aspect.
The other aspect is structure. Out of the box there does not seem to be any, although one can add it later on (example with forms in the video). However a piece of text can be split and be edited by multiple persons, so each piece of text could be seen as a piece of MicroContent. One can also add links, images and videos to the text to create rich text. The editing by multiple persons reminds of a Wiki, which did not have much to do with MicroContent either.
The examples of Twitter integration show that #googlewave can support MicroContent and add new levels to create mashups and threading. In order to be a good MicroContent environment also importing and exporting should be supported, which seems to be already partially done through the api’s. So for a final assessment we have to wait. It looks very interesting and can give a new idea to documents and wiki’s.
Today a new Twitter client arrived on the Mac: Tweetie. So time to check out the state of Twitter clients.
Since a long time I am a user of Twitterific. It is a simple client that seemed a nice fit to Twitter. You get a small icon in the menu bar, which changes colour once a new tweet arrives. Clicking on that icon unhides a special window, with a sequential list of the latest tweets. Each tweet shows an icon, the name of the author and the tweet itself. Authors and url’s have a different colour and link to the Twitter-site. Each tweet can be acted upon, such as a reply tweet, etc. Twitterific also interacts with Growl, so that each new tweet is presented on the screen for a short time.
Twitterific is really a downsized MicroContent Client. The new Twitter clients however show that a real full-sized client for Twitter has its rightful place on the Mac.
The first Client is Tweetie. The first thing that stands out is the sidebar with four options. With this the user can select his timeline, reply, direct messages and search. Very nice if you want to zoom in. I think I will like the search option. C licking on a tag will create a new tab with a corresponding search. Thus the tabs will show your history. The same happens if you click on a @username. This client also supports multiple Twitter accounts. It is also very easy to post images.
And then there is Nambu, which brings Twitter in the real MicroContent Client age. This Client has a real sidebar (list view pane) with categories (Twitter, Links, Nambu, Search). The Links category shows all tweets with url’s that I have recieved and sent. The Nambu category seems to be related to a Nambu url shortener and picture uploader.
The search category has a standard list with the most used words in tweets (current/today/this week). I do not know how long ‘current’ is. But Susan Boyle is on top in all three trend periods. The most important category is naturally the Twitter category with standard subcategories: home, mentions, direct, sent, favorites, people and groups.
Tweets are shown in standard inverse time order with the user icon, twittername/full name, tweet time and the tweet itself. One can easily reply, retweet or private tweet. (and can I recognize other Nambu user tweets?). Nambu indicates which tweets are unread. As all tweets seemed too be stored locally, it is possible to delete all tweets, read tweets, set all as read, etc. It also easy to follow/unfollow. Very nice is the possibility to translate tweets easily. It did work well for japanes and korean tweets.
A tweet is parsed such that hashtags, links and users are found. Clicking on a hashtag creates a search list for that hashtag (sweet). Clicking on a username opens a new window with the tweets for that user. It is then easy to follow or block that user. Interestingly shortened urls are expanded, so that you can see where they point to.
The people category can show information of your social network (followers and following) on an image grid. Hovering over an icon shows the information on that person. Groups allows you to define a group of people from the ones you are following, so that you are no longer overwhelmed. This again shows feed. (I guess people should be moved to a separate category).
Nambu is a very interesting Twitter client. I will continue using it.
Nambu should work on its menu bar. That is now totally beyond logic. There is also a secondary tool bar. This tool bar is different for each list. I get however the impression that it could be part of the main toolbar.
While looking for persons on the web, I came across a new service profile aggregators. Examples of these are Retaggr and Profilactic. These service allow a user to combine all the profiles he has on the various services. So you will get a single place, where all your profiles on services such as twitter, facebook, last.fm, etc. are registered. These two services seems to compete on the number of services they support, profilactic has some 190 social sites.
This is a great service if you want to get rid of disambiguation. each service offers a profile page. This is basically a page with links to your profiles elsewhere. Each service also offers badges with this info. I prefer the Retaggr badges here, nicer styled.
Find my profile on Profilactic here. Now I have to signup and checkout all these services.
A new application for tagging on MacOSX is introduced: Tags by Gravity Apps. This allows a user to add tags to files, music, web-pages etc. Any application that supports AppleScript in the right way is supported (OmniWeb: fail, MarsEdit: fail). One can use Spotlight are the tags application to find tagged files. Tags has a simple tags browser (could be improved).
This is a very interesting application. I do not understand why they use the weird interface, let me at least select another, standard one.
I have a feeling that the standard way of finding files, the Finder, is slowly morphing into something else with all these addon’s and applications. Time for Apple to step forward here.
There are many conclusions that can be drawn from the few sites that I looked at. The main conclusion is that we are not here yet, it could and should be much better. Especially the disambiguation should be solved. For the moment PeekYou has the lead here. The search scope of most services is still limited. Information from more social network sites should be included. A person should be able to claim his personal search result and should be able to annotate/edit the results and he should be able to add information. This information could be used to improve the search results.
But a user should also create a good presence on the web. The key in all these services is having a unique name. If you do not have a unique name, create on through a unique middle name for instance. Also use unique usernames across the various social networks. And when publishing something: use your unique name/username, so that it can be found.
Pipl is a people search engine that is supposed to search the deep web.
A search for me gives the following results:
So all in all this service gives very good results. It is a bit geared towards the US. More social networks could be added.
Unfortunately if you search for someone who does not have a unique name, you are in trouble. There is no way to split the results into multiple persons.
The whozat service seems to be newest service. It is still (partly) in beta. The service searches still(?) a limited number of social networks. They also can not find me on YouTube. Interestingly one can indicate whether a results is relevant, but I did not seen any effects. I will try with somebody else. Also this service seems to be a Intelius-frontend, but at least they add something new.
The service allows you to refine a query based on ages, locations and gender found. Refining by concepts found seemed to focus the web-results. But can we get rid of the irrelevant Intelius-results?
All in all, the service is just not good enough. It would like to see a more extended profile of a person. And I would be able to really zoom in and suppress erroneous results. It does not seem to work now.
There are many other people search services out there, but most of them are just ad pushers, so I will not reveal their name. Be careful with them!
Wieowie is a dutch people search service. Searching is done by supplying the first name and last name.
A search for a person leads to results in several categories:
The user can create an account on wieowie. This allows him to specify a social network like information profile. And this is shown in addition to the public search results. One can also add profile pages, which one might have on some social network sites. They could add more here, now it only supports linkin, schoolbank and hyves. There does not seem to any integration between search and profile. Seems a missed chance.
Also in this service there is no way to remove ambiguity for persons with a non-unique name.
The 123People search seems to be at least a bit more Europe oriented. The search interface is very simple: just indicate the full name and the search realm.
Search for myself does give good results. The pictures found are fairly correct, they are of me, published by me or my name appears on the web-page of the image (worst results). No email addresses of phone numbers of me or found, the service could improve here. There are on results from Amazon, which could be better as well (look in the books).
The weblinks are correct, although not always relevant. There should be a difference between profile pages and general web-pages. The blogs section is not very good. What is the difference with a generic web-page? And what is a biography-page? It does not give good results. I like the tag-cloud, although it could be better (the ‘tinyurl’ tag is now very large). A list of my profiles on social network is complete and shows some doubles. It should add other networks as well. No video’s can be found by me, nor my Twitter account. The list of documents found is correct
All in all this service could be smarter, it should use the usernames found on the web. I like the categorization of information found. Things however remain a black box. It is unclear where some information comes from, nor can one add other information sources. It should be an intelligent mix of information provided by me and found on the web.
A problem appears when you search for someone, who does not have a unique name. How should I zoom in?
Peekyou is one of the new kind of people search services. It allows you to search people either by name (first and last) or username. One can indicate the search realm. It is also possible to add tags to a search query. The query result is presented either as a list, a grid or as a map. One can also refine the query by ###, age or location. I like this presentation a lot.
The results of a query are very US oriented, so it has limited appeal to me. Also here one finds integration with the Intelius-service.
Clicking on my name one can zoom in a bit further and see some (11) services, where I have registered. Also links to web-pages (6), where I am mentioned ar listed.
I tried to sign up for the service in order to correct some information, but never managed to get signed up. I gave up, a pity.