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The Unfinished Revolution: 10/18/07
The Unfinished Revolution begins with the same thesis statement as The Humane Interface: computers and applications are too complicated. I agree but only to a point: operating systems are often too complicated for the average user to debug or modify but the basic ways in which computers are used on a day to day basis are fairly straightforward.
The Unfinished Revolution proposes to fix this unwanted complexity through a combination of voice activated software, XML tags and collaboration. With the hundreds of languages spoken in the world and the thousands of dialects, it is impossible to expect voice activated programs to work efficiently or intuitively. Take for instance how frustrating the few voice operated phone tree systems some companies use to direct calls. Nothing gets me swearing at my phone faster than one of those voice operated trees!
XML is certainly a powerful and flexible language and it is making the internet more flexible through things like RSS and for the way database results are presented on dynamically generated pages (Amazon's catalogue and BookCrossing are prime examples).
But XML and tags (the blog model) are not the catch-all answer to all of complexity to using computers. Amazon.com's new tag cloud for recommendations, their new "plog" which I can't figure out how to turn off, and their insistance on having reviewers tag their reviews are new "blog features" about Amazon that I absolutely hate. Amazon.com is not a blog; it is a vendor. It sells books, music and a whole bunch of other stuff. It isn't a blog. I don't want to go there to read blog entries.
Finally that brings up the problem of collaboration. Yes, there are times when people have to collaborate over distances for work, education, and what-not. But that doesn't mean I always want to go to my friends or family first for recommendations on things. My friends and family have very different tastes than I do on a number of things. They aren't necessarily unbiased enough to give me the pros and cons when I'm searching for information. On the flip side, I'm not sure I want my computer searched without my knowledge!
So far I've yet to read a book that seems to see computers the same way I do. I don't often find myself wasting my time Ñ certainly not on email or searching the internet. Spam filters are wonderful devices when programmed correctly and Boolean logic makes searching a snap if the information exists on the internet. When the internet fails, there is always the library!