Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Beep, Beep. Hello? Is anyone there?

43 Folders: On the culture of distraction; one pipe for all interruptions?

The second part of this post about Growl is really cool, although it is only for Mac OS X. Thanks for 43 Folders for making me aware of this program. Hopefully we will see this in Windows someday, or at least something like it.

This program highlights a couple of things. First off we have to many beeping, blinking, message popping programs. IM program(s), multiple email notifiers, RSS notifiers, calander appointments, programs like Weather Bug, and how many web sites or other miscellaneous bits of info that we have to check on a regular basis because there is no other way to find out if something has changed? It makes my brain melt just thinking about it. Welcome to modern society.

Growl gives 1 notification mechanism, and ideally an easy to way set how, or if, you are notified. Now I am not sure about how granular you can set notifications. What in the world am I talking about? How about a few examples:

I receive a meeting request for later in the day. I would like notification immediately. A meeting request for later in the week would be lower priority and maybe popping up a message once an hour.

Any high priority email I want immediate notification, low priority no notification.

Anything from my boss let me know every 15 minutes, my work group every half hour.

Anything email with "compile results" in the subject gets immediate notification, as does anything that says "get out of".

Anything from "" receives no notification.

Any MP3 enclosure from an RSS feed gets shoved into iTunes, changing the genre to Podcast.

Any MP3 from RSS feed foo gets moved to the top of the New Podcast list in iTunes.

You get the idea.

Now I will be the first to admit that my personal idea of "simple" rule processing is, well, WAY above what 90% of the people think they need. As a programmer I want to have two different interfaces - a quick and dirty and a highly complex. There are times you need a quick rule, and there are times when you need a highly complex one or two. Of course my vision of how to make this all work involves a scripting language and having all programs as scriptable. That, however, is a raving for another day.

However, there is a flip side to this. First off we all need to learn how to make use of the technology we have. How many of us make good use of priority in email? I don't. How about making use of IM status, even just to check and see if someone is at their desk? Do we even just use our brain and just leave off people from our email? Or maybe just shutting off our notifiers completely?

Second we need to keep things as current as possible. I will admit I get very few emails compared to most people, but I work with people with 100s, maybe even a thousand, emails in their inbox. Adam Curry has been commenting on "infinity + 1" in his gMail account so he does not have to delete anything. One thing I have picked up from David Allen's Getting Things Done is regular processing of your inbox. If there is something I keep, I move it out of email and into a file on my hard drive. I set some time aside to periodically kill off old files. Even my sent & deleted folders in email get killed off monthly, keeping the last month of email in both folders only. Many of my emails are permanently deleted after I read them because they are not useful.

Lastly we need to have easy ways to move data application to application. Microformats and existing formats like iCal and vCard are good starts, but we also need a way to move financial transactions. How about easy ways to transfer play lists, or move files to MP3 players easily. There is still too much fiddling we need to do to get data to "flow" easily from app to app, or even from RSS feeds to apps. This is another situation where we need to get more apps and web sites to be scriptable with some kind of API.

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