Friday, 25 January 2013

Just because the future has happened doesn't mean we can't live in the past....

Yesterday one of the Pentacle crew sent me an image called ‘progress’ which made me laugh out loud. Some people might say good design wins out in the end but I fear it goes deeper than that

In the 90's I recall being really 'angry' and upset as I watched the world, in my eyes, miss an opportunity. The original opportunity and concept of hyperlinking was to enable links from any object to any other object. Availability of software such as FrontPage gave us the possibility of redefining each person as a website and therefore allowing an organsation to have true connected access to all its information easily and in a more human way. But the old ideas of 'structure’ persisted. ‘Experts’ looked at the unfolding interdependent complex connections with a mind looking for things it recognised and understood and concluded that the new way was wrong. From then on there was a movement to reinforce the Old World (see World before Midnight) strict hierarchy in software menus which got longer and longer (and had to be programmed to hide less frequently used commands). And then these Old World ideas spread to websites. Early websites were fluid. Many were designed along a question answer basis - a bit like FAQ's are today, so if you knew the question you could retrieve the data which would provide the answer and from this information you could act. My definition of information is that it is the answer to the question asked; data on the other hand is the sea from which you select the answer. But the Old World intervened. Today most mainstream websites are structured linearly with hierarchical menus, and even though we have search engines (or perhaps because of their structures we need search engines) you are channeled down a route irrespective of the questions you want answered.  I have tried, in spite of lots of pressure to "build a proper website like everybody else", to keep the Pentacle website a maze- see our sitemap, best navigated by tile icons - rather like AOL 1996 :-).  Word-to-word hyperlinks only stay popular on sites like Wikipedia. So what could have enabled direct connections was submerged below a hierarchical classification structure. In websites, this quickly became the norm and now we have to turn to Big Data to crunch through the sea of data not in search of answers to questions but in search of patterns Which might lead to insights which might lead to questions which then lead to more data crunching.  < Click here for link to XKCD cartoon>

And with this spirit of progress and change I share with you a picture of me and my brand new o-pad maxi.

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