So last week the news was that Jef Raskin secured $2 million in funding to build a radical new approach to the user interface. Poking around, we were able to find the AZA Demo (8 MB shockwave file) which features some of the concepts of the new interface.
In particular there is the concept of leveraging the natural human understanding of physical space using a data ‘geography’ to arrange and store your work. I found the demo speedy to learn, fun to navigate, and generally quite interesting. But what struck me soon afterwards was that such interfaces re-create many of the problems that physical spaces have.
The working area is an infinite plane filled with complex nooks and crannies where data is nestled. While humans do have a natural sense of space and geography, sometimes we still get lost. We also tend to misplace things. Over time, these two shortcomings will serve to complicate the interface significantly. The interface starts to become like my physical desk — which has a couple of loose piles, some bills, some coupons, CDs, pens, knick-knacks, etc. While I do make some effort to keep things from getting mixed up, within a month the desk is invariably messy. I can see my AZA interface starting to decay in the same way. Granted, there are people out there who would be very systematic and neat about using the interface, and would succumb to messy after many more months (if ever), but these sorts of people will be neat no matter what sort of program or desk you give them.
Even if you have kept a pretty orderly digital desk, there is always the chance that you have misplaced or misfiled something. In such cases, you will find yourself hunting around where the data *should* be, and potentially never finding it. It’s like when you lose your keys and you keep hunting around the kitched table because that’s where they are *supposed* to be. This is an interface you could lose your keys in.
For these reasons, I don’t see the concept taking over the desktop just yet.
Sorry everyone. I just sent out duplicate weekly notifications because while sending I got this helpful message:
ERROR: Can’t use string (”ARRAY(0x885337c)”) as an ARRAY ref while “strict refs” in use at /App/CMS.pm line 2622.
Who the heck can figure what that means? Regardless, one could at least assume that the notification did not actually send… right? right??! Alas, that would make far too much sense for the wonderful world of technology.