One Interface to Rule them All (part 3)

First, I’d like to thank all those readers who have left comments and given input on my prior posts (part 1 and part 2). We’re all wrestling with the problem of having application-overload, and while none of us has “the” answer, all of us together might be able to craft something that gets us closer.

After reading some of the comments, I’m wondering if I shouldn’t have called this series “One Dashboard to Rule them All”; as what we’re really talking about, I think, is a functional master dashboard. Some might misunderstand that I’m implying an approach of imposing a certain interface scheme on app developers. I’m not – I just want a tool that will display, talk to, and intelligently query all those sites and apps through APIs and what have you.

Also, referring back to the part 2 post, I should clarify that if a user selects one of the five main functions (say, View), then the viewport floods with the user-specified content related to Viewing, while the other functional areas wait in the background to be selected, perhaps via tabs, as the drawing implies. However, it might also be cool to select a continuously running horizontal or vertical “Converse” ticker so the IM/Twitter/etc. conversations are displayed in real-time.

Be that as it may, here’s the next installment. This ideal dashboard/interface would enable us to consolidate a number of me-centric functions in one up-front area (we’ll call it the MeeOMy bar – I know, dumb name, but we’re just doing rough design here!) that will then update and interact with various websites and apps. Here’s a graphic of the concept:

Using this tool, we can put our current status or location in one place, and this could be used to feed other “presence” apps such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, etc. And wouldn’t it be sweet to have one MASTER place into which, and from which, to import/export ALL of our contact info (and to have that contact database also be resident on the local computer).

The next couple of functions get into the heart and soul of why this dashboard/interface is something well above the realm of just another set of favorites on a browser, or widgets on an iGoogle/MyYahoo/Netvibes/Pageflakes page.

This app would have user-configured smart bots (let’s call them, for the time being, Intell-Agents) that would go out to the web and FIND what I’m looking for. Right now, we have to do a lot of SEARCHing. And the volume of people, information, and things on the web is exploding, which means that sorting through everything out there is a monumental task. I think that the next big thing is automated engines that will help us find what we specify.

So, for instance, I want to purchase a Bose Wave Radio, for under $125.00, and I want MetaMee to look at all auction sites, discount sites, and other shopping sites, until it finds available listings fitting my specifications. Only then does it return results – maybe days later. Intell-Agents actively go out and look for/find what we need, while we work, sleep, and go about our other activities. Extrapolate that out beyond just a purchase into the many other realms in which we search, and you’ll see how powerful this is.

The other realm of “Intell-Agents” that I’d love to see is smart Recommendations. Let’s say you subscribe to a number of people on various sites like Twitter, Plurk, FriendFeed, etc. – and you subscribe via RSS to any number of blogs with various themes. MetaMee would, via intelligent mapping of people/blogs “like mine,” make ongoing recommendations of “similars” – including people, info streams, products, etc. Think of how Amazon and other sites make recommendations, and then expand the concept to all the various areas where we’d like to find “similars.”

Search? That function is a subset of all the other functions. When I’m in “Converse” mode, I might like to Search among individual people in single or multiple platforms. When in View mode, Search is essentially Googling. In Buy/Sell mode, I’m searching across whatever multiple e-commerce sites I specify; or, if I’m using MetaMee to launch one particular site through a link or a widget, then I’m using that site’s search function for its own content.

Out of the gate, there’d be some work getting cooperation among some sites. But if there was enough demand, individual platforms would need to collaborate with the MetaMee platform or get left out.

On this front, you’ll see that I’m painting with broad strokes, because I’m speaking as an idealistic and pragmatic user, not a developer/programmer. There’s some seriously hard work under the hood here. But if these capabilities were available, even in alpha and only a subset of functions active, I’d be jumping all over it. How about you?

UPDATE – I guess somewhere in the “my” category should be a centralized way to track comments, ratings, reviews, and/or recommendations that I’ve placed elsewhere. Haven’t really thought it through…what do you think?

Next post: Data Flow: the MeeVault, Settings, and interactions with the “cloud”.

Links to the entire One Interface to Rule them All series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

plus…The Ideal Social Media Interface

Related post: Share Media vs. Tell Media

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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

16 Responses to One Interface to Rule them All (part 3)

  1. Karen Swim says:

    Steve, not only would I jump all over it but that is a dashboard I may be willing to pay a monthly fee to support. The organization of divergent data streams would be an incredible time saver. I also think of the myriad of possibilities when you facilitate conversation streams by unifying them on one platform. I am not a programmer either but I would love to see smart developers collaborating rather than trying to best another app. Anyone out there willing to take this on?

  2. Steve,

    I love the concept.

    As a matter of fact, if I understand your “dream dashboard” correctly, it reminds me of my Squidoo dashboard…kind of.

    If you have a Squidoo lens, or better yet several lenses, this dashboard concept is at the fingertips of every Squidoo lensmaster (thanks, Seth!)

    While the Squidoo dashboard pertains to only your Squidoo lenses and not the web in aggregate, the dashboard concept is incredibly powerful.

    It pulls together every piece of information about your lenses (pages) and you can instantly see what’s happening to them and quickly take action to modify any lens right from the dashboard. Cool.

    Something to simplify my 2.0 life?

    Where do I sign up?

  3. Jason Falls says:

    Build this now. (Could use some better colors. I’m partial to black and red with a little bourbony brown mixed in. Heh.)

    I want it. I want two. (Two’s my limit, though.)

    We just need to ensure that it’s not just pull but push. And if it’s push, where do we draw the line? Isn’t updating the same status to multiple socnets in essence email blasting? Is that spam?

    I spent a week using Ping.fm to update Twitter and Plurk, then decided I was ignoring the conversations in Plurk and just posting updates there. That’s not fair to that community. Are responses to Tweets blasted everywhere?

    The problem, aside from too much information, is too many channels. You consolidate a lot, but there are still bumps in the road.

    I’ll still take two.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Interesting idea and certainly a long time coming.

    What I want though, is something that will overlay information on my existing social media contacts. I use Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook as ways to meet new people and expand my network.

    It would be REALLY helpful on LinkedIn if I could remember where/how I met them.

    On Twitter, I’d love an overlay that let’s me categorize folks. For instance, I’d love to be able to see what company somewhere works for, or where they live along size every tweet they make. I’m only following about 800 people now, but that’s way too many for me to keep everyone straight.

    So can you please add that in? Then I will both pay for access and help you pimp it.

  5. Cam Beck says:

    I know you’re looking for a dashboard… but I wonder if most of this could be handled in the context of browser tools and the 2.0 tools that are currently available (either as browser add-ons or as bookmarks and/or feeds).

    If it can be done, it would take a power user to set it up.

    Hm. I’ll have to experiment a bit.

  6. @Jason: One of the functions I’d want to see, when publishing status/updates/anything, is user selection at every point as to where anything goes. For instance, if I maintained a Flickr repository and one other photo site as well, I can simul-publish to both, but can also send to just one. Same with Tweets, etc.
    @Cam: I don’t think the current tools and platforms have to horsepower or underpinnings to pull off this level of consolidated functionality (and the other levels that I’ll post on next week). FriendFeed, TweetDeck, and other tools are a step in the right direction, but I’m thinking much more broadly.
    @Jennifer: Agreed. A more robust way to categorize people and meta-tag so that there is a richer information store would be fabulous. And, to have someone’s Tweet or blog post tied-in to my master contact list with a single click, or better, with a pop-up box – magnifique!

  7. I’m not a big fan of terms like Web 2.0 or 3.0, etc, because they morph in meaning so fast that you can’t even define them. However, let’s think of this as Web 4.0 or WebNext, possessing the following key characteristics:

    – Consolidation of interaction (instead of fragmentation) via a flexible, personalized dashboard & widgets
    – Personalized, secure layering/categorizing of information/contacts
    – Transparent, hybrid off-line/on-line/mobile (& cross-platform) access
    – Combined and intelligent push/pull seeking and finding
    – What else…?? (add your ideas)

  8. Karen Swim says:

    Hmm, wonderful ideas! I would also love to add in IM features such as the ability to view and control visibility but without limitation to FB, Yahoo etc, across multiple platforms enabling me to interact in real time. A group chat that enabled you to message and chat with users on multiple platforms would be heaven.

  9. Lewis Green says:

    Steve,

    You have discovered the next big idea. Don’t sit on it; do it!

  10. Hey Steve, this is really coming along – this “Intell-Agent” concept is especially interesting. This kind of app certainly exists out there on its own (i.e. constant monitors that “alert” you when a match occurs), so I don’t think you are in Star Trek territory yet. That is, unless you are about to propose that the “Intell-Agent” can transport you to another universe. :-)

    We’ll see. Look forward to the next installment!

    Terry

  11. @Terry, @Lewis, @Karen, thanks for putting in your thoughts. Much – most – of what I’m proposing is not original in and of itself, of course. These various capabilities and functions exist scattered about in many places. Now we just need them…not scattered about in many places!

  12. Hi Steve,
    The 3 prong approach is nice and convenient, but in many ways it would take a mammoth organization to do all this and charge for it. They’d have to constantly monitor code changes to other companies web configurations. If something breaks, users are temporarily let down. And that’s a loss of service (even if it affects just a subset of results). I’m not saying it’s impossible, but if you start small and graudually expand like how some of the web2 browser applications do (with a specific purpose), then it’s viable. I think you should check out Digsby. It consodlidates my instant messaging services and gives little email notifications, which I can quickly delete, open, mark as spam, etc.

  13. Hi Steve,

    Yes… this is indeed an interesting quest.

    I kinda agree with Jason, though… “The problem, aside from too much information, is too many channels. You consolidate a lot, but there are still bumps in the road.” – Also like the way he points a warning to “pushing” danger (like tools to update your status on several platforms (Plurk + Twitter + else) like : Helloxt.com.

    This said, there are attempts to integrate a lot into a browser which are nice in a way, because they regroup many social networks in one place… did you ever try : Flock.com ? You’ll find Twitter, Facebook, Pownce… then Flickr, YouTube, for direct visual search… last but not least some RSS and research features. Quite a nice interface as it is.

    Thanks for raising the question… because I think there is still a lot to be done in that direction -and by “that” I mean “selecting and managing information in a smart way”.

    PS : Talking about “details”… did anyone ever tell you that mini-micro-cute-smiley at the bottom of your blog page REALLY makes the difference? Just love details like this. ; )

  14. annhandley says:

    Hi Steve — I’ve been following these posts with interest and I’m loving the advancing conversation. It’s interesting that everyone is about ready to cry Uncle on social platform overload… and we all need a simpler, more effective way to manage… stuff.

    The so-called Intell-Agents is an interesting idea, but only if it’s completely user-directed. (Can you imagine “Your MacBook Pro believes you need a shower. Here’s the nearest washroom facility including, because you are between paychecks and just HAD to have the plasma, the closest YMCA. Granted, you did get a good deal on it….)

    Luc mentions Hellotxt above — anyone got a review? http://hellotxt.com/ (OK, a “rview,” since they do that cutesy leaving out of the vowel…..lol…)

  15. @Ann – I see the Intell-Agents as the biggest technical challenge to this whole endeavor. They are user-directed – I tell my bots what I’m looking for, and I also give parameters, etc. – but they are also intelligent, in that they “learn” preferences by making recommendations, processing my ratings and conclusions, looking at “similars,” and thus, narrowing their behaviors to better precision.

  16. Will Burrus says:

    Hey Steve,

    Great idea! Actually, the bot portion is not as much of a technical challenge as you might think. It currently exists in some of these Semantic apps like Twine by Radar Networks. I’m not sure if this logic is exposed yet in a way that could be consumed and used by your “dashboard” but I am sure this isn’t far behind. You should check that out.

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