In the days of CD-Rom “multimedia” we often talked about the “thickness of the book” factor; how much was there to read, do, watch, etc.
When you pick up a physical copy of “War and Peace” you know you’re about to commit to an intimidating pile of reading. When you popped a copy of Myst into your CD-Rom you really couldn’t tell how long it would take you to enter, acclimate, reach catharsis, and get out of whatever experience the author had created for you… We came up with ways to telegraph “how much is here” and ” how much is left.
The scroll bar of a scrolling pane in an application or web site serves a similar function to the careful user who understands that its relative placement within its sliding axis is an indication of where you are, and it’s relative size compared to the dimension of the track it slides within is a relative indicator of the overall size of the content.
But, in iOS they made that affordance hidden except while your a scrolling, must frequently by swiping/flicking. The problem with this is tha then i’m reading a long treatise by Paul Bryon or Luke W I have no idea how long their well thought out diatribe will continue, whether I can finish before my train stop, if I need to save it off to Instapaper, or what without occasionally doing a mini-flick to activate the slider thumb…
And, thus my reading flow gets interrupted and a little bit harder.
And, now it’s my stop. gotta run.
I’ve often heard people, myself included telling their kids “don’t look that up on the computer – use the dictionary… The process of looking it up is as important as knowing the word”
Reading on my Kindle (ok, Kindle for iPad, really) on the commute train this morning I tapped a word and was instantly delivered the definition. For that instant need, in that in setting, that was perfect. A dictionary – especially a separate app dictionary, couldn’t have served me better.
On one hand I think the seeing of the words that surround the word you’re looking for, the free exploration of words with similar prefixes makes the physical dictionary a wonderful thing. I remember long afternoon’s as a teenager with my friend Jim trying to stump one another as we traded back and forth with a dictionary, and think that game served me well.
But, what I wonder about, is as with all things interactive, is the context question. Context, and the nut that hasn’t been cracked: form factor. The 2D screen is pretty good for reading, yet very linear for exploration. Why hypertext made free form exploration of relationships seems like the ultimate place for branching and exploring a conceptual matrix like a dictionary, I think there must be a form factor more optimal than a 2D screen.
Like, the very physical nature of a slide ruler made relationships obvious to the budding math wizard , what electronic gizmo could make word relationships come to life.
Well, it’s my stop, gotta run!
I was in Nashville a couple weeks ago and couldn’t resist driving up to Hendersonville and visiting John and June’s final resting place:
It was nice and peaceful sitting there on their bench for a few, strumming a few choruses of Wildwood Flower while some folks were having some sort of candlelight vigil affair.
So, 2011 is drawing to a close, and all the music rags are coming out with their “Best of 2011″ lists. Though Zite, Flipboard or your favorite RSS reader might have already aggregated these and others for you, here’s a sampling I think is pretty spot on. Continue reading