16 November 2005

The Ajax factor

when digital computers were a novelty
way back in the Fifties and Sixties
nobody could guess
what they'd be best at

so every human task
that taxed our patience
was auditioned as a programming project

and many flunked that audition
often, with the words
"this is more work
than the old way"

while a favored few
were accepted
with greater or lesser enthusiasm
as simplifying that task
(those tasks)

and as the power of computers
new toolkits were gradually innovated

some new tasks were mastered
and some old tasks were streamlined

but this process of streamlining
has always been
more about inspired design
than gigabytes or megapixels or gigahertz

and most of our current tasks
in most of our current apps
still badly need replacement, as
"the old way"

when microsoft debuted dhtml in 1997
it wafted the stench of
bain de billg

but mozilla felt compelled to support it
and when the inspired designers
of google maps
(just this year)
showed what it can do
there was a collective epiphany

and, rechristened "Ajax"
it entered the collective imagination
as a new toolkit
for simplification


it's easier to program
than to discover inspired design

and most ajax demos
simplify nothing

so to remind us
what the goal is:

we have tasks
that computers can assist

but this assistance requires
user actions

and these actions require
user decisionmaking

so the goal is
to simplify the actions
and the decisionmaking

for example

i maintain a flash mp3 blog
that streams my playlist like a radio station

and just as i reread
several times a day
the latest posts to my linkblog

so i try to listen
once a day (or more)
to my latest mp3-links

and during this listeningtime
certain tasks predictably recur:

i might want song or artist info
i might want host-site info
i might want to edit the playlist
or annotate the accompanying webpage

etc etc etc

so the challenge to future
inspired designers
is simply to simplify
my path to each of these