A Bookmark is a MicroContent structure, which allows users to point to a resource on Internet. This can be a static file or a dynamically produced web-page.
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?).
With the introduction of the lasted release of Firefox 3, a new approach to managing bookmarks has been introduced. In order to test this feature I imported my 3000 some bookmarks from WebNoteHappy. This did not make Firefox very happy, I had a crash, but in the end I could access these bookmarks. Unfortunately all this bookmarks were added to my Bookmarks Menu. This really brought Firefox to a temporary halt when I accessed the bookmarks menu item. I missed the cross-application exchange of folders and tags from WebNoteHappy (a lack of standards?).
The Items-pane shows the bookmarks of a selected list in table format. The user can determine which fields must be shown. In addition to the bookmark fields, the user can also show the visit date, the visit count, the added date or the last visited date.
The most interesting part is the Lists-pane, as this is not totally compatible with other MicroContent Clients. The History-list is a folder with the recent browsing behaviour, so not really a bookmark thing. The Tags-List is really a group that contains preprogrammed smart folders for each tag. Each tag-folder contains the bookmarks that have been tagged as such. The All Bookmarks group is really the entire library of bookmarks. This group contains three other lists/groups: the Bookmarks Toolbar group, the Bookmarks Menu group and the Unsorted Bookmarks group. These three groups are fixed and one can not add other groups on this level.
When adding a bookmark one can chose on of these groups or any folder in these groups. One can also drag&drop bookmarks from one group to another. The Bookmarks Menu group has two predefined Smart Lists: Recently Bookmarked and Recent Tags. I assume that ‘recent’ means the last 10. These Lists can be d&d’d to other groups.
The Bookmarks Toolbar group has smart lists for Most Visited and Latest Headlines. It is again unclear what Most Visited means. Latest Headlines refer to Items in a RSS-feed. This seems to be part of the Live Bookmarks feature of Firefox.
All in all a pretty reasonable implementation of a MicroContent Client, but it is not match for WebNoteHappy. The tag-feature is nice, but the approach will break down with hundred of tags. I miss XBEL-support. And I can not create my own smart lists. And it is just to slow for many bookmarks.
On the other hand the integration with the browsers allows to create smart folders such as ‘most visited’. I do not like the split between Toolbar, Menu and the rest. In this way there is no entire library. I understand why it was done in this way, it seems simpler. The integration of the URI-bar with the bookmarks library is very nice. This allows to make very clever URL-suggestions and can indicate whether the URL has been bookmarked yet.
Thanks to some other services, I happened upon Pownce again. I already signed up, but I never had a deeper look at it.
At first it just looks like another micro-blog. The structure of an Item consist of just one field: the title. And I use Pownce in this way, as I post to 4 micro-blog services simultaneously. An Item (called a note) has a corresponding permalink, where one can also see the comment thread.
However Pownce is not limited to a micro-blog structure, it is possible to add more fields to a pst/item. The ‘link’ structure adds a field for a URL.
The ‘file’ structure allows you to add any file. If I add an image it will be shown in the note. A file can only be posted to friends.
And finally one can create an event. This structure consists of a title, a place, date/time and a real note. There is a corresponding ics-file for easy importing. Interestingly you can reply to such a post to indicate you will attend.
I get the impression that I can not edit a note. I already needed that feature a few times. I am also annoyed that I can not edit the recipients. I already made several errors due to that. I miss a RSS-feed, at least I do not see it.
Pownce is a bit more a communication service, as one can send a note to just a single friend, all friends or the public. I like the approach of Pownce to struture.: if you want more, just add a field. It is much more like wild MicroContent.
I do not think that I will use Pownce though. I only view MicroContent through feeds in NetNewsWire. Although I will continue publishing to Pownce. My usage will depend on the feeds and integration with my desktop;
For my Wiki I am trying to define the various MicroContent Types I encountered in terms of the fields of a MicroContent Type.
Thus a Bookmark Type consists of an URI, a Title and a Description. This is however very close to a Review Type. A Review Type consists of a Title, a Review and an Identifier. It is possible to add other fields to either MicroContent Type, but that does not change the things fundamentally.
If one reviews a web-page, then the two Types become identical. Only the actual content might distinguish the two. And in case of a review, the Identifier might point to a web-page where one can find the product. One sees this a lot for reviews of books, where the Identifier points to a web-page at Amazon.
This leads to the conclusion that one should see a Bookmarks as some sort of Review. One could see a Bookmark as a minimal Review. The user has taken the time to create the Bookmark and has thus recorded his attention for the web-page. This recording is already a review: it was worthwhile to save the web-page.
And one can even go a step further by rating a bookmark as some services and applications do. The rating makes the appreciation even more visible. The same is true for rating a review. In that case one could even leave the description/review away, as is done in iTunes for instance.
I see the line Bookmarks -> Ratings and Reviews -> Rated Reviews appear. Each Type adds a new Field. The essential element of a Review is that it has an independent Identifier and not just a URI.
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.
I started using my MicroContent Client checklist, with a look at a bookmarking service (not named as it is still in alpha). The service in question gets only 17 points out of 87 points. This implies that many functions that client users take for granted do not exit in the service world.
However I need to extend the checklist for service specific things, so things might grow better. I am pessimistic however.
Is does not seem to offer something for me, which will make me switch. In fact I miss the API. It is time these kind of services will accept bookmarks in a feed-format. I do not want to submit my bookmarks to all those site. Well, I imported my delicious bookmarks into the service (at least I think, they have not yet turned up). The interface is nice, but uses to much space for one bookmark. And the bookmark thumbnail is plainly wrong. I like the short link: a permalink for a bookmark! Is the rating useful? I am not sure about the social thing. There are already to many of those and I surely get my daily info-shot already.
When looking at various bookmark client manager, I realised that they use different approaches to the referenced web-page. For me a bookmark is foremost a reminder of something interesting out there. I might add some comments why I found it interesting and some tags so that I can find it back.
Some Clients offer the possibility to view the web-page that is bookmarked. And one notices a problem right away. The original page is gone. In that case the value of creating a bookmark is not high. I should have archived the web-page. And indeed there are Clients that do this. I guess that is a good option in the case one values the information on the web-page.
Sometimes however one creates a bookmark for remembering the site. The site is then the bookmarked object. And then the user should have the option to open the site in a browser. Even then an archive of the web-page might be useful for quick reference. And maybe thumbnails of the archived web-page are useful.
One should however take care in not mixing the functionality of a bookmark manager and a web-browser. A bookmark manager can manage much more than just web-page bookmarks. One can think of any MicroContent Object here. But maybe I am too puristic here.
This service provides another way to look at bookmarks: stickies. When visiting a website a user can create a sticky with a description and tags. This information is then stored at the service. This is just like bookmarks. What I find interesting however is that when one revisits the site, one sees the stickies one has created. Thus ones memory is refreshed. I like this feedback.
WebNoteHappy, created by Luis de la Rosa, allows a user to manage his bookmarks. It features a three pane interface with View-, Items- and Lists-pane. A bookmark Item is called a webnote and it consists of fields like title, description, tags, source and date. The application has smart and handpicked lists.
The application can import from Safari, del.icio.us and xbel. And the application can export to xbel and a bookmark file. Through a global hotkey a user can enter new Items from a web-browser or NetNewsWire.
I was subsequently able to import these bookmarks into WebnoteHappy. So I have now another way of saving my bookmarks.
I did not check very extensively, but I would like to add tags into xbel in some standard way (if there is any). At the moment I use the metadata-tag of xbel.
By the way I could have generated a standard (Netscape) bookmark list for ex- and importing as well. But that will be next experiment.
I had a look at the ClipMark service. It allows users to create bookmarks for pieces of web-pages (the clips). Each clip is copied with the created bookmark.
I played a bit around with it and especially with the Clip It function that the Firefox extension offered. This extension allows a user to recognise parts of a web-page such as images and and paragraphs. Interestingly it also recognises div-elemenst on a page. Thus I was able to point to an entire MicroContent Item on my web-page and clip the whole thing. Even more interesting was the fact that it attached the corresponding permalink to that clip. How did it do that? It was the right thing to do. So in some sense this service allows to clip MicroContent Items. That would be a great service.
[Inspiration Om Malik]
Browseback is a client (on the Mac), which allows a user to browse the history files of his web-browsers. The application supports the most important browsers on the Mac.
The most interesting thing is however how the list of url's in the history files are presented. Each link is presented as a fairly large thumbnail. The thumbnails are show on the screen as a stack, where each item in the stack is slightly shifted. When one puts the mouse over an item, the thumbnail is shown with it's related data.
A nice new way to present and browse a list of MicroContent Items. Naturally one must be able to present these items as images. Also nice to see that this application acknowledges the Items in the history list as MicroContent. In this sense these Items can be compared to bookmarks.
A funny name, but yet another product bookmarking service. The Shoposphere itself is a search service where a user can search into the picklists created by users of Yahoo. A picklist is a list of products selected by a user. A user can add a comment to a product, but no tags. It is easy to copy (reblog) a product to your own list. The nice thing about this is the fact that it can be used for any product-url in the Yahoo comparison shopping service.
The user can create multiple lists (categories), such as the wish list, the owned list, etc. Any list can be published to other Yahoo users and thus turning it into a pick list (my example (stupid URL by the way)). Any picklist is also available as RSS-feed. Viewers of a picklist can add a comment to the list. And a picklist can be rated (yes/no) as well by other users.
I see Items on a Yahoo list as a bookmarks. The user can only supply a description per Item and the rest (product-url, date, author) is done by Yahoo. The various lists can be seen as categories, which limit the scope of the bookmarks on a list. The picklist itself seems to be a MicroContent Item as well. One can add comment and simple ratings to it.
[Inspiration Richard McManus]