Way of the Monkey
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Emblems, Tags, and Change Wed, 11 Jun 2008 13:24:40 -0400

Decade of Decadent Desktops

With all this talk about change, I wonder if anyone is really getting the bigger picture. One particular thing in Andy's post about the decadence of GNOME stood out among the rest to me. His comments on input methods and the types of hardware we're using. It's not GNOME that is falling away due to some missing lack of innovation. It's the Desktop PC concept in general. Over the last 10 years, there have been leaps and bounds in terms of technology growth. The wireless internet. Camera phones. PDA and phone integration. Tablet PCs. The world is moving away from the desktop. It's really only a fitting metaphor for programmers, and data entry roles in an office, any more. And GNOME, being a desktop, doesn't fit the new methodologies. Nor do Windows Vista or Mac OS X. They might have pretty shiny panels, or 3d zoom effects, but in the end, they are still desktops. Windows Mobile is still even very similar to the desktop version of the OS. It's got a panel, start menu, and feels like you're stuck in it's convoluted world. We need to do more than just make a shiny panel, and pretty effects, to "break free from the decadence." We need to work on ways to empower the user, rather than trap them into our metaphors.

Back to Reality

One very common issue that has come up in my eyes more, as I go back into cleaning up gnome-icon-theme to remove old icons, and prepare it to be relicensed to LGPLv2.1+, is that we have a lot of useless emblems. The original idea of using emblems for metadata searching in the Eazel Nautilus was indeed a noble one, but I think they went ahead on the implementation a little too headstrong. Emblems have two distinct uses in the current implementation. You can set some as custom tags on a file or folder, and some are hidden from the user choices, and only presented to display certain properties of files or folders to the user. The former, I think, should be considered to be tags and not emblems. As tags are more specifically the same as categories, it would probably be best to pull category icons and let the user choose from them, and allow the user to set custom tag/category icons as well. As for emblems, these would be the latter type of usage, and the icon theme could provide all the necessary emblems to represent properties of files and folders. This would give us the clear separation we need, and allow the themes to be metter maintained and handled.

Currently, I am working on removing a number of these emblems as we speak. A large number of them either duplicate other emblems or categories, or they just make no sense to have, such as the "distinguished" emblem. What exactly is it distinguishing? I thought all the emblems were to be used for that.

Ninja Monkey icon based on face-monkey icon from The Tango Project