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Magpies and Lego Bricks

created 2005-02-08 17:27:01

(Up to: Proles And Technology )

... aka "The Deconstruction of the Internet"

On visiting the website for our local magpie recycling co-op, I notice that it's pants - without viewing the source, I can't even get to the front page in Firefox. Now, I won't generalise too much, but it does kind of highlight an important divide that I think may exist (rather than actually does) between where technology is going, and what it could be used for.

There are lots of great things coming out these days - the Internet is in the process of being deconstructed, and services that were once tied irreparably together through collosal, all-encompassing web services are now being atomised by a cluster of independent developers, each concentrating on one particular, well-defined link. Different aspects of common functionality - as laid out by services and formats such as XHTML,, blogs, instant messaging, FOAF, and RSS feeds - can all be pulled in by the user to generate their own customised, unique view into the world. This process is still relatively immature, with much of the state of the scene continuing to occupy a "semi-beta" status. But even in such a primary state, the services capture what is most beneficial to the new order - functionality, simplicity, and scalability. In other words, these are the new particles, or Lego bricks, of our communications.

What we need now is to take those building blocks, and make them invisible - as easy to use as making a cup of tea (in that, not everyone makes a great cup of tea, but anyone can make tea with the tiniest amount of instruction). This is made not just easy, but possible (or vice versa), by the simplicity of the services. In other words, a larger core of people are able to couple services together when they couldn't before, and through that ease of dispersion, services are brought to those who don't have the expertise, but that need them most.

Which is where the Magpie site comes in. There is a wealth of possible information and functionality available from the site - from newsletters to collection times to links - but the content is obscured by fancy Javascript and unnecessary frames. What we need now is a push in the direction of the non-geeks, and the non-netheads. We need to make these things even more usable and more applicable. Just as packages such as Dreamweaver made creating a basic web site possible, there should now be a focus on helping people push their own content out, in as many ways as plausible. Thus, the standard "site" for those developing their own would not be a badly-designed, innaccesible kludge, but a something like a series of "access points", each designed to get information out as relevantly as possible.

OK, this is finger-in-the-air stuff, but if it means moving from "style"-oriented pages that depend on which browser you're using, to instantly-usable (by anyone) information feeds, I'm all for it.

See also..

  • Good article: Boning the Monoliths: "Rather than extending our computing environments, the game is to colonize it."
  • TS::SmallTools

(See also: Building Blocks )

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