The end of Apps, next stop: context and information centered design

Apps like you would see on your iPhone, iPad and computer are not here to stay. They were however a necessary step to make to truly build a way to show, edit, make, share information in an optimal way.

Websites were made to show, make and share information. It’s seen as the transparent non platform to do stuff online with information. With the coming of mobile, the development of technologies and computing power went to slow to get an optimized way to share, make via websites on a mobile platform. That’s why App’s were the savior for mobile information, just like applications were on PC’s. Apps and applications are an optimized way to get right to the core of the business or information, be it either editing, viewing, sharing, consuming text, video, audio, social links or images.

Apps philosophy is inside out

The Apps philosophy is however inside out, the wrong way. An App works like a doorway to a real small set of information, or just one view on information with a tiny swiss army knife to do stuff with the information (share, edit, etc). Some developers made Apps with a combined set of actions like twitter. It can make photo’s and tweet them together with text and it does so in a very convenient way for certain contexts. But if you strip away the Apps from the actions and information, you are left with just that: actions and information.

“I’d like to call Robbert”, is one of the use cases of a phone. As it’s designed to make calls, you just have to select Robbert and press Call. With many other applications on the phone we now have to choose the tool and then select the piece of information we like to apply the tool on.

Information as the core

If we’d take the ‘call Robbert’- use case in a wider view, it makes more sense to select the subject first (Robbert) and then select what you’d like to do with it: “I’d like to contact Robbert”. There might be a bunch of ways to contact Robbert, but it’s Robbert I’d like to contact. In this case it makes more sense to logically present information like ‘contacts’ and select context driven tools to edit, share  and -in this case- interact with the information.

The Web-OS by Palm and more recently the Microsoft Metro interface are interesting ways to make a information centered interface. It gives you combined, aggregated and some times a curated information view on your social context, news and other information.

Context driven information actions

That thought of “I’m in this context, I need this information to do this for me” is the core of information centered operation. It’s basically: making it possible for information to be  made available in a fluent and transparent way, dependent on the context. The user can decide to either presented in a certain way, being edited, added, called whatever it needs by changing the context.


Someone should track the Terms and Conditions

How many times have you glossed over or read the following or similar sentence:

The Terms and Conditions have changed. Please read and accept to continue accessing the site.

Dear companies, please explain what has changed instead of ‘expecting’ that we’ll just give up on the 19 pages of legal gibberish.

The proposal:

  • Some one please make a online service that archives and tracks all ‘Terms and Conditions’ and ‘Terms of Service’ of most online services as an independent consumer rights service.
  • Explain your Terms in a clear format.
  • Explain and visualize changes in the Terms in a clear format
  • Agreement reversal: people should be able to have second thoughts about them agreeing on the ‘terms’, and temporary suspend the company ability to use the data of that particular account.

The Terms Archive

Archive the Terms. Such an archive would look like a ‘social’ press release website. An archive per company of all past and current ‘Terms’. In such an archive people can find their own service/ website/ shop and both archive new, re-read and compare the various Terms and Conditions. Comparing terms would be of the most important features. This will give the consumer insight into the changes and be part of the change.

Explain Terms

Message to all online services: if you value your users (being online value equity, or actual customers) you should help them through the Terms and Conditions and Terms of Service! There are several formats for that. One would be an indexed video with some one explaining the terms in a modular way without any redirect to other pieces of information, so no caveats. One should be able to ‘get’ each part of the terms. Other way’s is a ‘layman’ version of the document, explaining the consequences of each of the terms.

Explain and visualize changes in your Terms

This is the actual crux of the matter. It’s hard to see, compare and detect the changes made in any document. Companies should put some effort into explaining or make insightful what the actual changes are, and also talk about why the terms changed. A visual format would be a ‘track changes’ (like Microsoft Word) kind of version of the document. This will reflect on how your brand is perceived and trust in your service.

Agreement Reversal

If someone has second thoughts about accepting the terms and conditions of a particular service, they should be able to reverse the agreement and thus suspend the implementation of the changes of the reversed terms. In broad terms that would either mean that the particular account would be suspended with the option to reactivate the account, but also block for the company to use the user-data.


[2011-05-16] We have an update, after some extra thorough Googling we found the TOSBack website an initiative of the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) and TOS Back is available as an Open Source project, which implements some of the features described above! It’s still in the beta, it’s a start. It’s and archive and it does give a visual difference view. Funny to see most changes in the Terms are spelling errors.


Loud environment conversation earplugs

Use industrial earplugs for meaningful conversation in loud music

Problem: I keep having these urges to have a chat with people. This is quite impossible in bar dancing’s or other loud social gatherings like loud bars (very common in Amsterdam), festivals and concerts.

Solution: Bring a few sets of industrial earplugs to keep the interesting things (the conversation) and filter out the often irritating things out (drunks singing, bar music, or the feedback of a bad PA system).

Another advantage is that you can also talk with a normal volume (and hear other people talking with normal volume), and other people can’t. So the conversation can be as intimate as you want. This makes loud concerts perfect surroundings for talking about bribes, state security and personal affairs.

Checkout the anotations and votes »

Channel Surfing Auto Fire

Start channel surfing with just one stroke of a key

I have the problem of wearing out my ‘channel up’ and ‘channel down’ buttons on my TV’s remote control. This happens while channel surfing in vacations and weekends.

There should be a button on the remote like you would find on your joystick, the “auto fire”. Maybe two buttons, “toggle surfing” and “toggle surf channel list inclusion”.

For the advanced users there also may be a “surfing speed dial”.

Checkout the anotations and votes »

Call Frequency Sorted Phonebook

To reach the most (or least) called/ calling people in the book

Why not call the people who seem to think that using the phone is important, and don’t bother calling people who don’t use the phone frequently? The frequent callers/ callees are probably the people who react best on beeing called, right?

My experience is that some people like (depend) on using the phone do get things done. Some people are very important, so they get many phonecalls (this might be even enhanced through good replies).

You could also attach other conclusions on beeing called frequently, or calling frequently. For example for companies: bad service, bad product, good service, good network (of people), or for people ((a)social, good network, stalker. ;-)

Checkout the anotations and votes »

The Beer Crate Seat

Mould a butt-shape into the short sides of a beer crate to enhance comfort when sitting on them.

Pop quiz: Where does one get the best ideas? Right, at parties! So did I. Another question: on what does a Dutchman sit when all seats are taken at a party or on the camping? Right, on the side of a beer crate! They are solid (because of the enforcement within the crate to separate the bottles), they are lightweight and they have nice colors.

So why did no one think of way to make these things comfortable? A crate with a pre-mold butt-shape on the short sides for example! This is only the `economy` solution. It would be also nice to have an integrated polyester cushion instead of the butt-shape. This would be the ‘deluxe’ version, also easy to clean.

As an extra addition it would be nice to integrate a small ashtray in the form of a small, partly removable, drawer in de sides of the crate. This could be even an extra idea for halfbakery.

Checkout the anotations and votes »

The Relations Tracking Address book (Facebook history?)

Basically there are a couple of concepts that need to be coupled to build to a CRM for your friends, family and professional contacts.

Disclaimer: I’m aware that this might be a tool for man, rather than woman (they seem to have this down to an art)

Here is the list of concepts to be connected to give people their own place to track the relations of their acquaintances:

  1. Persons, companies: Name, Addresses, etc
  2. Relationship quantification and rating  between the person and  you (ie. friend level, professional level (with discipline), family level.
  3. Relationships between the Persons (this person was married with that person, this person is a kid of these two persons).
  4. History: basically when did somebody live at, have a relation with, worked at, got a child with, etc

That final touch (the history aspect: 4) will give the most crucial dimension to most social networking sites we already have. There is no way to track the relationships of people in time with those websites, or not in the extension one can deduce a narrative.

This tool by the way does not have to be made as an online service, you might even want to put all this offline, as it might not be for others to see (new kids, relationships, etc). It might however connect with facebook, linkedin to parse updates made by the persons and companies.

When changing address or relationship, all the data goes lost in a normal (electronic) address book. So I want to make an address book which tracks address- and relationship changes. Here’s a small data diagram of the idea. I do have to update it because the idea did change since I came up with it.

Updated 2011-06-02 (made an edit to update the piece to relate to facebook and linkedin (not known to me at the time).