The Document Journal

A little History

A while back when I was working on the OLPC project with Seth we took a good amount of time designing a new way for the people to interact with their documents. The design isn’t specific to OLPC, it was done because they were looking to take a new approach to documents and files. The approach we took is just as applicable to the desktop as it is to the OLPC.

Document Journal

What it is

I called it “The Journal”, it’s not the most inventive name. The Journal is an interface to the documents, images, movies, and other files you work with. It is designed to help you work with and retrieve your files, however it contains more than just files as it also understands events and people. It’s probably not the best approach out there, some of the ideas are a little half baked but it’s a new approach that I think gives interesting directions to take.

What it is not

While it may have strong correlations to many different existing projects and an implementation of the Journal will likely use some of these projects, they are not exactly the same thing. For instance the Journal requires a search across your documents, however the Journal isn’t a search service; it is an interface to finding your documents. An interface like the Journal could be fitted on top of a search service or a document store or another system, however the system or service running below isn’t the question to be answered yet, first we need to get a grasp on the interactions between a person and finding their stuff.

Currently the Journal isn’t any code, there are no secrets in it. It’s a bunch of designs based on a long time spent observing, researching, and brainstorming these interactions.

How it works

Imagine if your computer blogged about what you two did together every day. What would it say?

Bryan, you didn’t do much today (like usual):

  • You created GNOME Document Journal icon (30 minutes total)
  • You edited your GNOME Document Journal blog entry (4 times, 1.3 hours total)
  • You responded to emails (12 replies, 38 minutes total)

In a recent blog entry about re-designing my blog for the future I reworked my blog interface to enhance the experience of exploring entries for my reader. I added meta-data and tags and provided extra lists for recent posts, popular posts, and related posts on each post page. The Journal and a blog interface have a number of commonalities, re-designing my blog was a quick and easy way to experiment, understand and test some assumptions that apply to the Journal.

Similar Wavelengths

There are a lot of open source projects on a similar wavelength so it’d be great to get together and talk about these ideas to see where we meet. Here’s my incomplete list.

If you’re working on one of these projects and want to incorporate any of these ideas into your project, please do. These are simply ideas and if they’re good we should be sharing them, IRC or GUADEC or anywhere we need to start putting out our ideas for what to do next into something real.


So I’m looking for help. I’m hoping other people are interested in a new way of interfacing with their files, doing something completely different from Windows, Mac, and others that actually makes sense. I know the OLPC is interesting doing this 🙂

Since this is a new venture it’s going to take a while to cover and I don’t want to lecture, I’m hoping people want to take part in the design as a discussion. Before we go to a mailing list like desktop devel I wanted to write out a couple of entries describing what I think we know so far. So here it is, the first part in a several part series about the GNOME Document Journal.


bats in the attic, crabs downstairs

Spent yesterday up at Apple Hill talking with people about the OLPC project. Met Alan Kay and lots of others. Also spent some time talking with Jimmy G.

Alan Kay and others

Lake Champlain

Going back up to the the lake this weekend, Jenny’s family is having a big party that will be a great time.

Saw this in Essex and thought it was for something else

On my way up there I see these signs written everywhere, to even things up a little I erased a bunch and replaced it with Fedora Project. After seeing one sign with this URL, and realizing it was for the kids I feel a little bad now. That’s a joke people


Things are looking really good for Evince, check out the text selection shizzle. I’m really impressed by the whole evince team’s work. Of course I’m dissappointed to see that the acrobat thumbnail logo has to go, it’s a cool feature and I guess we can’t be cool anymore.

Evince’s text selection rocks!