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Webactions, information overload and art

on Thu, 04/19/2012 - 16:59

Catching up on some of the things that have been codefied as 'theory' in web development. 

Starting off with the concept of Web Actions - the things that a website would like you to do with their content. This seems so simple but it speaks to this idea that content is meant to be used and shared - in a commercial setting. Which is to say, we create websites and content to make something happen. I can't decide if that's 'making money' or 'sharing ideas' or 'making money and sharing ideas'. 

At the same time, I'm also thinking about information overload. What happens when we combine the ideas of The Information Diet with the premise of webactions as a design principle? 

Tantek talks about this as part of The Acceleration of Addictiveness vs Willpower, Productivity and Flow (and here I am thinking about this idea of the stress of focus). Granted, this is much more of an essay around the challenges of saying no to things in our environment, making a concious choice to remove yourself from a world of distraction, but this conversation about 'lonely willpower' idea struck a chord with me. 

What if we thought about making a user experience that brought a gentle nudge of focus to what the meat of the piece was? Does that concept of a focused web action goes very much against the premise of 'content is build to benefit the creator'? 

When we do this intentionally, does this cross into the experience of art? I think both things are possible, but I get the sense that the first person who tries to build the web interface that clarifies this will not be taken seriously. In that - it is lonely. It is not blazing with 'look at all the things you could be doing!' It doesn't have the same sort of neon to it that we currently think about 'sharing on the web'. I'm struggling to define it in my own mind because - and this is the killer - it feels like a step backwards. It feels like a bare naked page with only content  - and that's really not what I'm going for. 

I want the ability to take a piece exactly as it is, archive it in a way of my choosing that isn't a 'strict bookmark' of annotations. I also want the ability to express what it is that I found valuable in that moment about it, without limiting what I will find in the future. In short, the ability to take a snapshot of where my thinking was. 

As I'm trying to get past the 'perfect being the enemy of good', I threw a quick Android-based sketch of what I was thinking about together. 

Your thoughts welcome.


Aaron's picture

Interesting... I think I see where you're going with this. But after you save the item into one of your collections of thoughts and intents... what's next? Where does it go? Are these collections public? Private? A mixture? What might happen after you fill these buckets?

Tantek's picture

Kudos for throwing together quick sketches of what you're thinking. It's that kind of thinking-in-public that helps things evolve.

Regarding the first sketch - have you considered starting with your own site? That is, what could you simplify about your own site (look at all those sidebar links, the multi-field comment form etc.) to achieve these goals?

And regarding the second sketch - I disagree with forcing the cognitive load of choosing current/longterm/collection collating of a save at the moment of saving. From a GTD perspective, all saving should do is "collect" that thing into your inbox (whatever mechanism you use for that). Only later during the "processing" phase where you go thru your inbox should you be deciding which project something goes into, what's the next action, or is it just a some-day maybe thing.

Keep up the brainstorming!

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