TECH TALK: Rethinking the Desktop: Spaces (Part 2)

MySpace: This is my personal space. The email and IM I use here would link with my personal identity. This space would be built around my personal life, and my social network consisting of family and friends. So here, the calendar would show birthdays and anniversaries. The RSS feeds I would subscribe to here could be from shops in my neighbourhood. At the heart of MySpace would be a personal blogging tool like Userland’s Radio. All my personal information would be stored in the XML Store and then synced with a server on the Internet. This way, even if I want to access my personal information from home or if I change jobs, I always have access to it.

WorkSpace: This is my business and work-related space. It is built around my life is an information worker. The focus here is on knowledge sharing, collaboration and shared spaces. In the enterprise, I need to share our (tacit) knowledge. This is where k-logs (knowledge weblogs) come in. I would use a k-log to share my knowledge and narrate my work, which would then flow out through an RSS feed. (An example of an enterprise blogging and knowledge management applications is Traction.) I can create an outline to share information on topics that I know. As part of my work, I would need to I work with colleagues on different projects, or be part of some ad hoc groups across enterprises. This would be the focus of what Workspace needs to enable (and what Groove does very well). In WorkSpace, I would also subscribe to specific enterprise events and reports that are necessary for my decision-making process. This is where the executive dashboard would come in.

The above is a simplistic view of how we could think of the two spaces. Obviously, each of us would have to create our own interpretation of how we would like to prioritise information in the two spaces. It may seem disruptive thinking of two separate spaces and having to switch between the two. But, let us think about a little more. The computer screen space is not going to increase dramatically. The information we need to process and analyse continues to increase. The time that we have is always a limited resource. We need relevant information quickly.

Windows has never us a choice of multiple desktops, so it is something we have never even thought about. Linux does have this option, and that is what opens up possibilities. While one could theoretically imagine “virtual” and infinitely large spaces, the two spaces approach on a single screen with a single click needed to toggle between the two is, according to me, the best solution at making it simple enough to use. This approach also ensures that the two worlds that we need to work in are never too far apart – because that is exactly how our lives are.

The applications and tools that we need to use are a mix of what is available today (mail client, browser, word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software) and some new ideas (weblog, RSS aggregator, outliner). It does mean changing the way we are used to doing some tasks, and that may be the hardest part about this for the existing set of Windows users. However, this may not be the case if one looks at new users and new markets.

When one is lagging, innovation must help leapfrog. The advantage for laggards (first-time users) is that there is little or no legacy of established habits and processes. The set of ideas we have talked about here can help the next generation of users leapfrog into a real-time, information-centric computing era with a next generation desktop. The two spaces as part of the digital dashboard with the new applications may become a natural interface for them, in much the same way that SMS is preferred over email or IM as the primary person-to-person communications method in many Asian countries.

“Rethinking the Desktop”

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.