14 September 2003

The way we use computers is changing, and right now it’s changing in more exciting ways than at any time in my life, really. Right now, I’m sitting in a living room, listening to the second Bent album, writing on my Powerbook which is wired over my shoulder into cable broadband. If I was at home, it could be wireless. I have this single window containing Moveable Type and everything else has been shunted out the way, into a dock at the left or into menulets. Tabbed windows; I mean, hell, if I’d had that five years ago when is sixteen…

Thing is, there’s such an established base of software out there we get used to doing things in a way, even if it’s a stupid way. Would you go back from tabs? So why won’t Microsoft pick up on it? GUIs impose a fixed interpretation of UI on users with little room for manoeuvre – and when they do manouevre, it’s often handled so lazily that you wish for something normal. Change has to be handled very carefully.

The move at the moment, especially if like me, you’re a user of OSX, is into little individual, simple programs that do little, individual tasks – take a look at Konfabulator for this taken to its logical shiny conclusion.

Blah, blah, everyone’s said this better than me before. It just all came out again when I noticed Matt Webb describing some ideas and his working process for what’s essentially a non-verbal IM client: Glancing. I can’t wait to see the finished or beta version. It’s a really… exciting use of very simple technology. The desktop metaphor is being extended further into an office metaphor, and it’s clearly a very awkward metaphor to get just right. Which is something Matt’s clearly realised is quite important for Glancing to succeed. Metaphor fails, software fails. It’ll be interesting to see how it develops. Also, if you’re interested in this kind of thing, Matt’s notes make for interesting reading (and they’re also further clues in that elusive puzzle of anyone trying to work out how the hell his brain works.