Way of the Monkey
November 2014
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None of Your Data Exists Sat, 25 Oct 2008 18:58:01 -0400

So, content doesn't exist? How very existential. Next time a client tells me how important their data is, I will simply remind them that it doesn't exist. And if it doesn't exist, what the hell do we even need computers for anyway? Let's look at this in a more logical light.

Content Does Exist

The 20GB of music I have on my hard disk is most certainly occupying lots of little magnetic strip space on that disk. The more I add, the less room I have to add more. Certainly seems to exist to me. Archimedes would agree. The displacement of disk space is occuring. The games and add-ons I've downloaded to my Xbox 360 are certainly there. I can play those extra maps in Halo. My game progress is saved. All the pictures I took are strewn about my drive, like the cheap amateur photographer that I am. The code I'm working on is right here. This blog entry is stored and replicated across the internet. So, Content must certainly exist, since it is everywhere. Saying content doesn't exist, is just trivializing the problem to support your own ideas, rather than altering your ideas when the problems change. Not all content is music, photos, videos, or random bits of text. And not all animals are sloths.

The Desktop is Dead

It will probably take several years for everyone to realize this, but it is true, none the less. The Desktop as a metaphor for using a computer is useless for the majority of people. It's really only useful for programmers and data entry. There are much more interesting ways to interact with a computer, than a keyboard and mouse. For some things, those two devices make sense, like programming, and data entry. For others, not so much. The problem is that we are all now so interested in Web 2.0, but it's still fit into the Desktp metaphor. It's all mostly designed around interacting through the same class web browser, stuck in some window on your desktop. And because of it, browsing the web on for example, my phone, is completely painful. The rest of the world is moving beyond the desktop. We need to jump ahead, instead of just perpetually following behind MS/Apple by trying to make the desktop shinier or whatever. A shiny desktop is still just a desktop.

Get Like Users

Trying to generalize the userbase into some single concept, which we then try to make the desktop fit into doesn't help either. Users are humans. And like other humans, they all think differently. Trying to make them all think and talk the same about design, just puts you right back where you started. Maybe an infinite number of users, typing randomly for an infinite amount of time, could create a perfect copy of Hamlet, but users aren't monkeys. We need to stop thinking in terms of Users, Developers, Designers. We are all Users, Developers and Designers. But if we keep ourselves confined to this idea of a desktop and designing it for some imaginary class of user, we will never get anywhere. We will always be stuck in the limelight, with that attitude.

The Future...

...is not your desktop. It is mobile devices. It is tablets. It is holographic displays and interfaces. It is flexible transparent screens. It is your television, your appliances, your home, your car. It is all the things we haven't even scratched the surface of, for sensible user interface design. It is networked storage, with your content being accessible wherever you are, be it in your living room, kitchen, hotel 5000 miles away, or a boat in the middle of the ocean. If we want to move into the future, and not get left behind, we need to start thinking about this, not what new shiny method of accessing a 50 year old 2D desktop is best. None of them are best.


The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher regard those who think alike than those who think differently. -- Friedrich Nietzsche




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