Friday, October 17, 2003

Just read this article called "E-mail's special power" which intends, nay PROVES that we have reached full circle, and that we are doomed to repeat our technological progress ad infinitum: "There are other ways to publish newsletters, send automated alerts, transfer files, and hold long-running discussions. If we can relieve e-mail of some of these burdens, it will be easier to heal its wounds."

Yes, and thankfully all of these ways were thought up right around the same time as e-mail was (i.e. BCNS, before common networked society), and hence the proliferation of ftp, nntp, http, gopher, et al. Now that a limited selection has reached the large, but not particularly technical giddy heights of the mainstream, all the functionality we can think of is being hacked around to fit into a paradigm or two originally designed for another medium. E-Mail is great for discussion, and crap for the large files that now get sent round. The web is great for reading, but so limiting in terms of data entry and organisation (sorry Phil ;) - the only reason we have this state of affairs is because these interfaces are now "the norm", and any other way of thinking about the problem stands little chance of adoption apart from geeks.

The chances that we'll see a completely new approach adopted, a revolutionary widespread take-up of something fresh? Nada. The chances that we'll end up with hacked-together interfaces atop a small variety of delivery mechanisms originally unintended for the job? Probably somewhat high.

Meanwhile, on the other hand...

1. E-Mail's simplicity is far too much taken for granted. The idea, essentially, of linked lists as the primary contact, and the abstraction of the e-mail address (i.e. you don't need a separate mechanism for mailing lists - just one simple address gets forwarded to many others) make it so usable and so .. simplistically perfect. Linked lists should be some kind of standard, I think.

2. I want a new look at aggregation. A way above and beyond (Outlook|Evolution)'s "Summary" page that actively ties together web pages, e-mails, blog entries, news stories et al. The problem therein is merging "genericisation" of content (e.g. replying to an e-mail could be the same as commenting on a blog-entry) while maintaining a customisable interface, ideally being able to choose a particular client for a particular job. Just a dreamy thought, anyway.

Meanwhile, in the news...

Barclays CEO said he did not use credit cards from his own subsidiary, Barclaycard, because it was simply too expensive. What strikes me about this is firstly that there seems to be some ideology that says the head (or indeed, any employee) of a company must think that their product is the best they can do - so if I find a market for tacky toy cars, and start producing them, then I'm in the wrong because I hate tacky toy cars? - and secondly, that people don't know that credit cards are so arsig expensive in the first place. Helloooo.

Wow, big rant today.

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