holy shit, someone gets it
back when i wrote for thefeature, i used to write about how crafty developers were using sms in developing countries. in most places outside the US, sms was already the primary means for communication – most developing countries skipped landlines and went right to cell phones, and in europe and asia, it’s so much cheaper to send an sms than make a phone call that no one actually *talks* on their phone. so since sms was so ubiquitous developers thought of it as a natural medium. you could do all sorts of things just by sending a message to a phone number from local happenings to english lessons. sms was like the web for people who didn’t really have or use pcs.
a year or two later search companies like google and yahoo started to launch sms applications here in the states. they’ve been great for getting information when i’m out and about and not using the sidekick. but in general they’re going under used because (1) most americans still don’t think of their phone as an information tool, it’s just a social tool and (2) they’re kind of complicated to use. you have to know a bunch of special codes to get the most out of them and most people don’t want that. in fact, there’s an s60 application for nokia smartphones designed to make google sms search queries more user friendly.
but pt has been working on bringing the web out of the browser screen and into a communications medium more americans understand – instant messenger, AIM to be specific. you can ask the makebot to search pt’s website (make) or alot of other places or to send you the latest the news from various websites. and it will all come as ims from makebot.
you may wonder why anyone would want to use an im window when they could just go to a website? well many people already use rss readers to get information from lots of websites without once opening a browser. the great thing that im offers over rss is interactions. you can ask an IM bot questions. you can have the im bot do things no rss reader is capable of, and you can keep a bot window open like any conversation you’re having with a friend. in fact, it’s not absurd that some of the web-bots you’d keep open are to websites of friends of yours.
would you want to interact with information by typing instead of by clicking? sure! have you tried apple’s spotlight yet? that’s a perfect example. i don’t click around the finder most the time anymore, i just use spotlight to find what i’m looking for. i also use rss to read sites, but i realize rss is simply not user friendly. but adding a bot to your buddylist? that’s as easy as typing in its handle. then your website buddy can im you with new posts, or just hang around waiting for you to ask it to search that website. i can imagine a buddy list full of all kinds of websites i read and search every day – make, engadget, google, bbc and of course phonescoop… plus tons of my mates’ blogs. having a different buddy for each site would allow the bots to be more intelligent about what i typed meaning no confusing codes to remember because queries would be more confined. the problem with google is that you can use it to get information about almost anything. see, doc? markets aren’t the only thing that are conversations.
anyhow i think it’s a great friggin start, and i’m not alone. this dude john battelle, who’s far more respected than me, likes it and he gets it. he even gets how it could work just as well on mobile phones. it wouldn’t take much honestly. you could start by using the aim client most phones in america come with. but if you were smart you’d build the equivalent of google SMS. allowing me to send an SMS to a number i could easily add to my address book would most closely mimic how im bots work.
somehow i wanted to work in how web 2.0 this is – removing web content from the web into bite sized applications, but the one web 2.0 thing i consider a must have that this doesn’t really involve is user created content. on the desktop this is clearly possible. with a full qwerty keyboard, the im interface provides the opportunity to do a whole lot more than just request information. i could easily blog, take notes, and do other simple text tasks from an im window. imagine how notational velocity lets you create new or search for old notes from a single text line. i imagine that type of interface could easily be adapted to this. or combining the power of spotlight into this equation but in the same im window style interface instead of its own window. i mean think of how many apps use a small text window where you enter text and get some sort of result. i’m not saying if you extended this out to the end of the earth that the im window is the perfect interface for all those cases. but something like an im window is.
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