Digital Dashboard: The Big Picture

We have got the following components ready and being used internally:
– Blogs for people within the company – these are public, private and group blogs
– RSS Aggregator which posts directly to blog
Earlier, we had written the software for Outliners – we are using this for the RSS Aggregator.

The guiding principle has been to create a single screen which unifies all the information that I need on my desktop. There is a lot of value in having many things on a single page. I have seen that earlier with Samachar, wherein we had aggregated news headlines and news links on one long page. The question we had been thinking and discussing is: how can we do something similar within the enterprise, but built on the foundation of blogs, RSS and outliners. The pieces now seem to be falling in place.

Think of the Digital Dashboard screen (within the browser) as having three columns.

The Left column has links to all the personal applications and information:
– Inbox (which will open up Evolution), and shows the 3 recent message senders and subjects
– IM (Gaim), which also shows the buddies online (and messages received while I am offline)
– Recent Documents (the recent documents that I have used in OpenOffice)
– Bookmarks
– Appointments for today and tomorrow (via Evolution)
– Contacts (link to Evolution)
– Search: which encompasses mail, documents, and the blog posts
– Recently Browsed web pages (via the Cache)

The Right Column relates to my Blog:
– Calendar to navigate through time to different days – past and future
– BlogRoll, and sites I’d like to visit Daily, Weekly, Occasionally (some overlap with Bookmarks…)
– Blog Categories (personal, group and private)

The Middle Column includes:
– Private Blog, which includes all my posts (to all categories)
– RSS Aggregator links, which shows the new entries which have come in the RSS Aggregator. This is one the primary sources of new information. My belief is that most sites/information “ores” will put out RSS feeds – though some of them may require authentication for access.
– Writing Tool for posting new entries to the blog

This creates the basic framework – new events can be routed to the RSS Aggregator from where the user can decide to either post them to the blog – with or without comments, delete after reading, or email them to someone else. In all cases, the writing is more likely to happen in the specific tool provided for that purpose (Evolution or OpenOffice), but the aggregate reading environment becomes the Digital Dashboard.

Later, as the enterprise events start getting generated (when we write the appropriate adaptors), they are also sent through to the RSS Aggregator, and follow the same path as news or blog posts. From the user’s point of view, the framework remains the same. It is a bit like Scopeware which aggregates documents from all kinds of places and shows them in a streamed format. Here, the blog is a natural way to organise events/posts by time.

What I like about this integration is that it integrates the world of blogs, the current applications that people are using and the enterprise software events to create a unified information portal.

There still needs to be some thought given on how we can create a Publish-Subscribe environment to broaden what one can see in the RSS Aggregator. These are all the building blocks for the Information Refinery architecture that we need to put in place on the desktop.

These ideas may seem quite simplistic, and at initial reading, one may even feel as to why is there a need for the DD, when all the applications are there. I feel there is a lot of value in having a single screen to integrate everything together. Every mouse click reduces the inclination that one will do something. Since all the information here comes from the server on the LAN, there is no issue on bandwidth considerations or the length of the page.

One point to think through is how on a single page we can create the various fragments as separate windows so they can be updated independently. It should still look seamless on the screen. Perhaps a mix of Java and CSS…?

Over time, I think the Digital Dashboard can become the “killer app” on the Thin Client desktop, one which has the potential to even attract the Windows users to the TC. Think of TC-TS as the Pizza Base, the Digital Dashboard as the Cheese and the Enterprise Applications as the toppings. The TC-TS and DD will become the must-haves.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.