[Attention conservation notice: long self-induldgent post composed late at night while tired discussing things I don’t know enough about. The usual then.]
Matt Webb’s at it again. Read about his experiments with conversational interfaces.
I think he’s spot-on with his points about the failings of Activebuddy, and the avoidance of trying to build a better penknife. I have a couple of complementary ideas around this area – but keep having doubts to the mainstream application of conversational interfaces.
These are tempered however when I think of the resurgence of popularity of what amounts to the command-line interface, especially amongst younger people, due to SMS and instant messenging.
Talked about this before. Dare me to think. Dare me play with language, symbols, understanding. Actually I’ll invent my own thanks. Stop mediating my experiences – I’d rather have them myself and then share them with peers, not watch them played back to me by you.I like it in here. Let’s play. Maybe it’s a revolution in the making.
The next passage where the is from Neal Stephenson’s “In the beginning was the command-line” – it’s very hard to quote out of context, so maybe better to go and read the whole thing here. It’s incredibly rewarding and aside from the interesting dissection of operating systems and culture, the points he makes on geopolitical and cultural issues are pretty thought-provoking too, right now.
“Contemporary culture is a two-tiered system, like the Morlocks and the Eloi in H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, except that it’s been turned upside down. In The Time Machine the Eloi were an effete upper class, supported by lots of subterranean Morlocks who kept the technological wheels turning. But in our world it’s the other way round.
The Morlocks are in the minority, and they are running the show, because they understand how everything works. The much more numerous Eloi learn everything they know from being steeped from birth in electronic media directed and controlled by book-reading Morlocks. So many ignorant people could be dangerous if they got pointed in the wrong direction, and so we’ve evolved a popular culture that is (a) almost unbelievably infectious and (b) neuters every person who gets infected by it, by rendering them unwilling to make judgments and incapable of taking stands.
Morlocks, who have the energy and intelligence to comprehend details, go out and master complex subjects and produce Disney-like Sensorial Interfaces so that Eloi can get the gist without having to strain their minds or endure boredom. Those Morlocks will go to India and tediously explore a hundred ruins, then come home and built sanitary bug-free versions: highlight films, as it were. This costs a lot, because Morlocks insist on good coffee and first-class airline tickets, but that’s no problem because Eloi like to be dazzled and will gladly pay for it all.”
Take a look at http://www.de-construct.com/ (careful – It’s Flash-only and it spawns a browser window that fills your whole screen) It got a great debate on the LondonUsability email group started, with the majority of correspondents slating the interface, and a vocal few defending it for trying something different.
I was one of those who gave a qualified defence, as IMHO, the site does try the right thing at the wrong time… >ahem< wrongly… Using a command-line as a primary interface to a marketing site seems a little daft, and the experience of using it can be frustrating, as the feedback mechanism operates on a controlled list of questions you can ask based upon the first let you type. Kind of like the worst exesses of predictive text features on cell-phones (something I don’t have time to write about, but is definately closely-knit with this thread of throught)
However, a small bouquet with all the brickbats to them for TRYING it. Does anyone know of more considered applications of this sort of way-new command-line-interface anywhere? If not, then why not. Information scientists and Info-science-focussed-IAs (!) with their knowledge of creating controlled vocabularies could really contribute to a new generation of easy and fun to use command-line interfaces…
Vive le retro-revolution!