An application is a client that runs on the device of the user. This device can be a PC, a mobile, a game console, whatever. With an application all processing is done locally on the device and in principle no online connection is needed. Some functions do however depend on such a connection.
The support in Sandvox for creating story lines with photos is rudimentary. One can either create a Photo Album or a Photo Blog. Both are collections of Image web-pages. The Image web-page contains the photo, a text taken(!) from the photo and a title (not taken from the photo). The photo album page contains a list of thumbnails with the photos on a rectangular grid. One has also other presentation possibilities.
The difference between the Photo Album and Photo Blog seems to be the ordering of the photos. In a Photo Album the user choses his own ordering. And in the case of a Photo Blog the ordering is defined by the creation dates of the web-pages with the most recent at the top.
A change of theme does not change the way one peruse images, all themes follow the same model.
In comparison with iWeb this application misses the fancy stuff.
iWeb is Apple's application for creating web-sites. It is not an application that I use, I am a Sandvox user. I had a look at it, to see how they support story lines in photos. Using iPhoto one has the possibility to export a set of photos to iWeb, where the photos turn up as photo album.
As usual in web publishing applications the photo album in iWeb is pretty straightforward. The main web-page shows all the thumbnails in an album. Clicking on a photo opens a new page with that photo and optionally a thumbnail list of the next ten photos in the album. The user has then the possibility to click on the next (or previous) button for the next photo. Or he can click on a thumbnail to go to another photo.
The story line is that of the original sequence of imported photos. The user can re-arrange photos on the album page in order to adjust the story line.
The context of the album comes from the titles of the original photos and from text that a user can add to each web-page.
It is also possible to view the album as a slideshow. The photos are then show in turn for a short time. Each photo is shown with the title. The viewer has the ability to stop the show, select another photo or go to the next photo. This is a quite neat web implementation.
It might be possible that other web-sites themes offer other story line possibilities. I just checked the
The first application to look at, is the image/photo management application by Apple. The selection of suitable photos can be done in two ways. First the user can create a hand-picked photo album. Then the user has drag&drop each (or set of) photo onto the album icon. Secondly can create a smart album and define a rule to have photos added to that album. Such a rule can be based on the existence of a certain keyword. Drawback is that the user has to assign that keyword to each photo that needs to be included. Unfortunately there is no way to set keywords to multiple photos'.
Next the user must think about the order of the photos. In a smart album the user can not fiddle with the order of the photos. In a normal album he can. What can be done depends on the format. This implies that a smart album is no use in creating story lines.
The slideshow format is the premier way of viewing photos in iPhoto. Each photo will be shown sequentially in full screen mode. Optionally the photo title can be shown as context. It is possible to randomise the presentation on photos. An underlying audio track can be added for additional context or just atmosphere. Due to a lack of context, the slideshow does not provide much story line possibilities. A slideshow can be based on selected items in a normal and smart album. The slideshow options allows for changing the order of the photos. There are many possibilities to adapt the presentation of and transitions between photos in the show itself.
The book format within iPhoto allows the user to create a classic photo album. This looks very much like a classic photo album. How much context one can add depends on the album theme. Not all page layouts offer the possibility to add text. Unfortunately the information entered for each photo can not be used as context for the album pages.
iPhoto also has the possibility to create a calendar. This format is a pretty standard monthly flip over calendar, with on one page the monthly calendar and on the other page 1-3 photos. It does not seem possible to add context through text in all themes. however the monthly calendar does add some context. This monthly calendar can be filled through events from iCal (nice for birthdays).
There also exists a Web Gallery format, where a set of images are exported to the web. Unfortunately that requires a .Mac account, which I do not have at the moment.
iPhoto also has the possibility to export to other applications, such as iDVD and iWeb. The story line creation must be done in those applications.
Inspired by Memory Miner I started thinking about story lines in Photo Albums. How are story lines created in Photo Albums. How do we go from the big pile of digital photos to a story. I am not aware of any work in this field, so I will start looking at some applications and services and see how these can create story lines.
I see several aspects to the story:
I will I add some conclusion to this post when needed.
For a while I have been pondering the relation between user application management, the application Appfresh and the service iusethis.com. It is all about the applications one is using. For a while now there was a habit of publishing the things one is using. I did as well and created a blog dedicated to this. This blog lists the apps I am using, put on my dock and have been testing. (I really should work on this blog a bit more, though)
The iusethis service does something similar. Here is my profile. This service is somewhat similar to my own blog in that it lists the apps that I am using and have docked. The interesting thing about this service is that it also shows relations between applications, so that one can discover interesting new ones.
And then there is the desktop app AppFresh. This applications scans the hard-drive for existing applications, thus creating an application list. Subsequently this list is checked against a public list in order to check application updates. If there is an update, it can be downloaded and installed. This installation process is pretty transparent. If one takes a snapshot of an app, one can always rollback to that version. This is very useful, I already got bummed on an app. The problem is that the app is a bit to transparent and one does not always know the consequences of an update.
In addition AppFresh is integrated with iusethis. This means the apps found by AppFresh can be uploaded to iusethis, and if wanted flagged.
So where is the MicroContent in all of this. I see three parts: the application, the product information and the user input. The application can not be seen as MicroContent. The product information, i.e. the information on the application, can be seen as business MicroContent. Normally this information should be provided by the maker of the product, but in this case it is gathered by users.
And finally the user information. This information can be seen as a very simple review. Already the fact that an application appears on the list in the first place, can be seen as a review. At least the user took a look at the application. The user can only add a simple 3-level rating to this information: favorite, iusethis and is_installed (appears on the list).
I have not yet decided whether I find all of this useful for myself. Att the moment it is just fun to play with. And for applications that I really use, I will detect whether there are any updates available or not.
My second post on Yep looks more closer at the tagging support in this application. The fundamental idea of this application is that it allows a user to more easily manage his PDF documents. In order to help this management the application uses tags.
These tags must be set by the user. There is an auto-tag feature, but that does not work well for me. It might change when I tagged more documents. However one can define a set of tags taken from the file location, which works nice. I see a folder structure as basic tagging, just as using categories.
The user can type his tags into the tag field. The application helps here through auto-completion and a showing a set of popular tags. I noticed that I should follow a common set of rules for setting tags: no uppercase, no plural. But this also applies to the naming of my folders. I wonder whether I can change that. Or will that trouble my backup procedure?
Using tags for discovery of Items works quite nice. In order to use this one has to set the List-pane into tags-mode. This will show all tags as a tag-clous, which is presented as a list. The size of a tag indicates the popularity of the tag. Hovering over a tag shows that tag also on relevant Items in the Items-pane, which is nice. Clicking on a tag, changes the the Items in the Items-pane to only the Items with that tag. Thus this works similar to a pre-programmed smart-list. However also the content of the list-pane changes to show only the relevant tags for the new set of documents. This is similar to the browser approach of WebnoteHappy, but I prefer the latter. Interestingly I found documents that I did not place yet in the right categories (i.e. folders).
I think I like the application. I would like to see this approach for all files, or better for all printable files. I say here printable files, as these can be presented as PDF's. So I have to use the application a bit longer.
The talk by Ajit Jaokar was really an eye-opener for me. Widgets are key.
The iPhone is usually perceived as a closed system. There is no SDK, so application developers can not add new things to it. It is true, but the question is whether this hampers the functional broadness of the device.
One might see the inclusion of the Safari web-browser as the inclusion of a widget management system. Each widget that can be accessed through the browser adds a new application to the device. And each application adds new functionality.
It is not as good as a real application, but will probably suffice for many users. I guess it will become easy to access (and save?) widgets. It will not be as good as real applications, it will less integrated, but probably will do very well for now.
How much widget management this browser will offer is also interesting to see. Can widgets be cached? Can I create bookmarks for each widget? Can I create an app icon for each widget promoting it to app level? Many interesting questions.
Manton Reece describes how they are implementing the sharing of book information and notes between Book MicroContent Clients. They use Simple Sharing Extensions (SSE) for this. It is the first time I see SSE actually used. I am curious to see the application once it is finished. And I hope that other MicroContent Clients will add this as well.
[Inspiration Brent Simmons]
Last Friday the News Channel on the Wii was launched. This is a very interesting application from a MicroContent point of view, so I will discuss it in some more detail. It is a fresh approach to MicroContent Clients.
First of all the News itself. News can be seen as MicroContent. Each Item consists of a title, the text, optionally an image, a category and a location. One could discern more fields, but the Wii does not really do something with it, such as the date or the origin of the news (mostly Associated Press). The interesting thing here is a location, which is made explicit in a news Item as the opening words of the text.
The View-pane consists of two parts: on the left the news item and on the right part of the globe with a circle indicating the place of the Item. The Item shows the title, the originator of the Item, the location of the Item and the text. If there is no location available for an Item the part with the globe is not visible and the Item fills the entire screen. With the plus and minus buttons on the Wiimote the user can increase or decrease the font size of the Item. A nice touch is that one sees each word moving and finding a new place on the screen depending on its new place on a line. Very nice. Scrolling works by pushing B and moving the Wiimote up and down. If there is an image attached to an Item it shows in the top right corner of the text part. Clicking on the image shows it full screen.
The 'Items-pane', i.e. the screens where one has a overview of a set of Items exists in two modes: a tabular mode and a geographic mode. The tabular mode shows the titles of the Items as rows and one can scroll through the Items. Clicking on a title will reveal the Item as discussed before. If an images is associated with an Item, it shows up as small thumbnail on the Item line.
However the geographic is much more interesting. It offers a new approach to news. One can select what one wants to see by geography. Each Item shows up on the globe as small icon and in the case of an associated image, one sees the image as thumbnail. One can zoom in and out on the globe. Zooming in will spread the Items over the globe, depending on the location information. Zooming out will stack the Items in a single location. I did not figure out what the algorithm behind it. Naturally one can turn the globe to find other Items. One can also tilt the globe in order to see the news in perspective.
All the Items are categorised into Lists such as International News, Regional News, Local News, Sports, etc. This seems a hierarchical system, i.e. an Item can only live in a single category (have to check that better). This is 'list-pane' is also the opening screen of the Wii News application.
Finally there is a Show-mode. In this mode the titles of a selected category are shown in combination with the location of the Item on the globe. Nice if one wants to see the news flash by.
I have a mixed experience with the news itself. What one sees depends a lot of the language set in the Wii. The English setting offers a lot more news than the French setting, which offers a lot more news than the Dutch setting. The news seems to be limited to news from Associated Press. I am not sure how ell they cover the earth and publish in multiple languages. I still have to play with this. The locations of the Items seem to focus on the larger cities, although I did see some very small places. Looks like they still need to act together on this.
All in all a very interesting MicroContent Client. A totally other way to look and play with the news. Still have to wait a few months to figure out whether it is also useful in practice.
When we talk about MicroContent we usually assume the PC as the environment for interacting with it. Naturally this is slowly moving into MP3-players with audio and video, and also on mobile phones. Naturally also the television in the living must be seen as such an environment. And with the browser on the Wii my interest in this environment has started, again.
The last time I looked at this environment in combination with the Internet was many years ago with a web-browser on the Sega Saturn, on Philips CDi, the WebTV terminal and other devices. I never got enthusiastic about this and stopped pursuing it. And I must say the web-browser on the Wii does help. The Web on a television screen is still a lousy combination. The lack of resolution, screen space and viewing distance make reading a standard web-page very hard. This can only be solved by creating television screen specific style sheets. I have no idea whether any advances have been made here. Aren't there any special pages for web-tv?
After playing a bit with the web-browser on the Wii, I see some possibilities of MicroContent on TV's. The first MicroContent Types that come to mind are news in the form of blogs, video (naturally), audio, images and weather. This can be in the form of dedicated applications or services. Just look at the Wii weather channel. And I am anxiously awaiting the dedicated news channel. Naturally also a standard web-browser could be used, but there must be large change in page design to make it suitable for a television screen. I looked for a while at the last.tv service on a Wii and that works pretty well. This service streams video clips from Youtube based on your last.fm profile. And this works on a television screen. One can imagine similar services for images (slide shows) and audio. A did not see a text-based service yet that works well on television screens (however think teletext here).
A problem with MicroContent is that one needs a way to select Items, whether they be movies, audio tracks, DVD's, streams, channels, games or whatever. Probably Items will be made accessible with very hierarchical folder/file browsers such as FrontRow or MediaCentral. The Wii by the way has an approach to this that is not very scalable.
One might see other file browser approaches with an increase in television resolution. With HD-ready (1280x760) and HD (1920x1080) resolution we have something that compares to computer screens, which allows much more detail even at larger viewing distances.
A television has never been seen as computer systems. Televisions only had analogue tuners incorporated or could be used as screens for DVD players or video recorders. In the future a television will become more like a computer, which is now added with add-ons such as a game consoles. These should be networked televisions that must be able to pull MicroContent from PC's in the home or from the Internet using wireless naturally. It should incorporate streaming and downloading MicroContent to the television. I have the impression that the consumer electronics companies do not make much progress here. Only consoles, such as Wii, Playstation 3, Xbox seem to open televisions to Internet. Or we have to wait for Microsoft and Apple to create interconnecting boxes. So there is still a hardware gap to fill.
Then we need an operating system for the TV, such as the Wii interface or FrontRow. This operating system must be intelligent enough to pull MicroContent from all kinds of places. And finally we need services, which can be RSS-feeds connected to the browser, specific hybrid apps or generic web-browser apps.
All in all this still a large spectrum to be filled in. Time for the television to open up and no longer be a closed garden.
Thankfully I turn out to be a minority. On Read/WriteWeb some 92% preferred Browser-based apps over Webified Desktop Apps. I wonder why people do prefer browser-based apps. For me the quality, performance and interface of those apps is much smaller than desktop apps. And when one looks at the functionality the situation on the desktop is even better.
Naturally there is a place for the browser-based apps. Especially when one looks at social functionality, but with the right API's I see a strong role for desktop-apps.
A problem that I have with the usage of tags on services, is the lack of traversing possibilities. In order to show the tags that are used, they are use presented in a list format: an alphabetical list of tags. Not really useful if you have hundreds or even thousands of tags. The other presentation method is the tag cloud, where the size of the tag indicates it's popularity. Not very useful either, just eye candy.
Tags are related and as a user I want to see the relations between tags. And I want to see which items are available for a set of tags. I think this was marvellously solved in WebNoteHappy by Luis de la Rosa. This application allows a user to manage his bookmarks. One of the (optional) panes of this application is a tag browser.
This tag browser shows multiple interdependent column (like the column's view in Apple's Finder window). The first column initially shows all tags for all items in the application. The user can the scroll down this list and select a tag. What happens then is that the second column will show all tags that are related to the selected tag in the first column. Naturally this is a smaller list and allows the user to focus quickly on the items that a user looks for.
If required the user can select a tag in the second column to show up related tags in the third column. And this can go on until the available tags are exhausted.
A great way browse through your bookmarks. I created a XBEL output for my weblog, which I then imported into WebNoteHappy. Then search and tag-browsing is a great help. One of the lessons is that I would like to have such a tag browser for any MicroContent Client. Second lesson is that MarsEdit lacks a history view, at some stage older Items are deleted. I have to checkout what Ecto does here.