[Freedombox-discuss] User Interface thoughts

Keir keirlawson at gmail.com
Thu Dec 2 12:57:07 UTC 2010

Great post, very agreeable.


On 2 December 2010 01:53, Alistair Davidson
<alistair.l.davidson at gmail.com> wrote:
> Hi all,
> First time posting to a Debian list! I'm a programmer and UI designer,
> trying to start an offtopic open source business at the moment.
> I thought it would be good to start talking about the user interface(s) of
> the freedom box's services. It helps with developing a shared vision, ease
> of use is going to be vital to mass adoption, and sometimes UI decisions can
> have a big impact on decisions about the back-end.
> I think a key theme will be unification. Writing a blog post, microblog post
> or email requires pretty much the same set of formatting functionality, and
> in the mind of the user should have a shared addressbook scheme. As I
> understand it young people send Facebook messages rather than emails (and
> sometimes I do myself), and this is essentially because Facebook's email
> system is unified with the user's best addressbook.
> Another theme was supplied by Eben Moglen: the feeling of an "appliance". I
> recently surprised a perfectly intelligent friend of mine when I explained
> that a games console is basically just a dedicated general-purpose computer.
> This is because to many users, even competent and intelligent users, a
> "computer" is a complicated thing requiring mastery of various concepts and
> metaphors. A games console, mobile phone, or PVR does one job and does it
> well - it's an appliance, a tool, like a washing machine or a TV.
> More correctly, these computers give the appearance of doing one thing and
> doing it well. In reality, there are any number of sub-systems and different
> protocols, but the user is presented with a unified tool. We would do well
> to keep this in mind as the project develops and we get to making software
> choices.
> Functionality will of course need to be customisable. Installable
> applications could each come with a 'plugin' for the unified user interface
> web page.
> I was looking at Diaspora's interface, which is a useful starting point:
> http://static.arstechnica.net/assets/2010/11/diaspora-thumb-640xauto-18014.png
> It looks to me like we could replicate the functionality of Twitter and
> Blogger by adding a "public" aspect and doing some dynamic DNS . The backend
> software and protocols may be different, but there's a powerful opportunity
> to unify the user interfaces of these functions. Naturally a blog post will
> need more complicated formatting tools - it could look a little like
> Facebook's "write a note" .
> Continuing the theme, my inbound "public" aspect could integrate an RSS
> reader - and we could surely find a way to allow websites to add a "Follow
> me on freedombox" button that essentially causes the RSS reader to
> subscribe? There may be some challenges there, but it would beat Facebook at
> their own game rather neatly, and end the horrible practise of maintaining a
> website and several social networking pages at the same time. Can we
> replicate facebook's "x of your friends like this article"? It seems very
> popular with web masters.
> Looking down the list on the wiki, libre.fm, calendar and VOIP all look like
> they could be sensibly integrated into this interface too.
> All that said, we may want to make certain separations. If we've integrated
> enough of this functionality, that "work" page could become a very useful
> place to businesses - actually it starts to sound a bit like Google Wave.
> This is in our favour in terms of adoption, but nobody wants work following
> them home. So it's perhaps worth having two urls - work and play. Work
> having a different visual theme, and perhaps a slightly different user
> interface organisation. The two can share all their actual code and
> behaviour.
> If we get a bit of a discussion going I'll see about doing a few sketches of
> our ideas.

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