Monday, October 17, 2005

Reactive Data

I wrote up an insanely long post about dimensional displays, and the functions of 1D vs 2D vs 3D displays. Did you know a line graph with multiple lines is really just a very shabby 3D display?

Well, the post was too long. And in the end it boils down to one thing:

We've got these computer things. Why aren't we using them?

Regardless of what dimensionality we display our data in, we're not using the fact that we have computers. We can tell a computer what we're paying attention to, whether it's by mousing over something or by pressing a button.

The computer should react. Moreover, it should take into consideration how (A) you want it to react and (B) how other people have had it react.

Right now, the closest thing we have to this is "links".

Links are really shabby! They take you away from the page you're currently on. Even if you open them in a new window, they visually replace the page you're currently on. And, of course, they in every way utterly fail to adapt to your needs.

Some people are kind enough to create customized links. But links are still inherently flawed. What I want is to take the evils of scroll-down ads and use them for the good of mankind.

When I see commentary on a blog post, I want to see it with some kind of representation as to how useful other people found it. This could be a combination of how many people "opened" it, how long they looked at it, what they rated it, and whether they responded to it.

When I move my mouse over the comment, I want it to "fold down", showing me the body of the text. On this fold-down window would be a green (good) and red (bad) button for easy rating (if you're logged in). And, of course, a "reply" button.

As soon as you mouse off the fold-down pane, it folds itself away, vanishing back into the comment header.

Combined with some threading routines, I would think this would be a great way to deal with commentary! Sure, it requires some coding, but as a guy who has implemented things very similar to this for a living, I don't see why it isn't common. Because people would be confused? Bullhocky! They'll move their mouse to the comment header, perhaps thinking it's a link, and VWOOP, they get the post. They want to figure out how to get rid of it, VWOOP it goes away as soon as they mouse off of it. Not exactly a high learning curve.

If I implement a commentary/forum, I'll be doing something like that. There's no reason to "permanently" take up space for text the users will only want to scan. It's transient text: why is it taking up space on my screen?

The ways to represent the threading are also interesting... but I've already rambled enough.

As a final point, the other thing we could use this sort of thing for is for displaying data. Why do we have graphs and figures which are hardcoded? A user should be able to change the method of representation, if not the data, to a form more useful to him. And, on the fly, the representation is reconfigured. It's a simple applet, even at its most complex. :P

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