Web Wine and Desktop Food

Colin often refers to his sisters who start firefox to access the internet, but the step does not carry the same meaning to them as it does to computer people. Most people think of starting the web browser the same way they think of starting their car. You need to do it, to make things go

Faced with questions like this and ideas like the Online Desktop people often go the next logical step. Should we remove all our Desktop applications in favor of Web applications? And where do you draw the line between the two?

To simplify the differences between the two types of applications I often just work with what I think are the most glaring differences between the two. Web applications make sharing things easy, everyone has a web browser from which they can view videos, photos, blog entries, and more. Desktop applications get easy access to all your external hardware inputs.

You could try to argue that web apps are slow and desktop apps are fast, but I’ve seen plenty of fast web apps and slow desktops that it’s a tough call. I stick to these basic differences because I think they are what’s most important to people.

Someday these differences may completely disappear or maybe they’ll always be around. The point is that we shouldn’t keep such a divide between them based on where the bits are actually located. To most people where the bits reside does not matter at all.

Story Time!

I like to put a narrative around this situation and talk about how restaurants pair wine with food. A valuable service that restaurants perform is to pair a nice wine with the food on their menu. The chef in a restaurant will often have picked this wine out on purpose because they believe it will enhance the dining experience.

You’re still free to choose, mix and match your own wine and food despite the recommendation of the chef, but you’re on your own. Your personal choice may be good but likely the chefs choice is at least as good or better.

Because it’s your time and your money, you are also free to choose only wine… no food. If you do this it’s like you’ll get wasted pretty quickly; I wouldn’t recommend it (ok, it’s fun sometimes). On the other hand you could only order food without wine, you’ll be satisfied, but I’d recommend the wine because you’ll likely be more social and have a better time overall.

Bringing this all back to applications. The Online Desktop idea isn’t about only drinking wine from now on, an old french roommate claimed that a person could survive on wine alone… but it would take some adjustment. However the Online Desktop is trying to move us away from simply eating food without at least some paring of wine.

You want a good pairing of web applications and desktop applications for the best experience possible. So I’m looking into our desktop applications system to add an online application pairing.

I wouldn’t want to recommend just flickr by itself to someone even though it may be the most popular online photo application. While recommending flickr I’d want to also offer the best of bread desktop application that works with flickr such that this person is able to have the best experience possible importing and uploading their photos.

At the same time, I think it’s incomplete to only recommend a desktop application to someone, how many of our desktop applications are useful or interesting without a network component? We can and need to integrate the online applications that already exist out there into our desktop applications. Lots of this is going on already, lets start to unify the ideas!


From GUADEC I noticed an excellent behavior that consistently happened because of the spotty internet access available during the conference. Stealthily from behind, I could catch the profiled looks of despondence as people clicked on the different wireless connections. Continuously attempting to access “the internet”, but what for? If our desktop and it’s applications are so cool offline, why the need to be… online? 🙂

Side note: On my many flights with JetBlue I noticed they offer a pairing of wine with their selection of Doritos… YIKES!


Online GNOME dot org

I’ve been going over the web interface of online.gnome.org. The short term vision of this is going to just be a basic account management interface. It will mostly be there to help you organize and control the accounts you use. Some of the frequently asked questions about this interface can be answered in these bullets.

  • Not for social networking, there is no “friends” or “groups” concept here.
  • Mostly a Management interface, the home page is the account page; the account is the home page
  • No real public profile, everything is up there for you the user and no one else (see note below)

I say no real public profile, but I did leave in a “this is what is publicly visible” section at the top. The public section is mostly an example of what we could do if we wanted to allow a publicly visible portion of your page. You could imaging being able to drag up any of the available accounts below (the private section) into the public section to craft a basic public identity (think OpenID) page about you while still having a private section just for you. This is just an example, initially everything will likely be private.

After getting some of the interactions and basic flow worked out I worked with Mike, our visual designer, to create some simple layouts for the online.gnome.org site.

And from those pix mockups I’m going to continue to work on some HTML based mockups for the login page and home page, from which we can create a simple web template.

We still need to create an interaction model for local applications storing settings to the online desktop, as well as creating new accounts. Already I see noise about using the About Me dialog inside of GNOME, this is a good start but try to run (don’t walk) away from asking the person to enter in lots of form fields.

Here’s my advice for this, don’t just think about creating forms for people to enter the information. We already have it scattered all over the web! Facebook provides an excellent API for accessing your profile data, there’s no reason why we couldn’t ask people if they have a facebook account. Or LinkedIn is supposed to create a nice API for accessing their data as well, this is another opportunity to cache information about the person locally. So sure, the About Me might be a place you could edit the information locally, but more likely people will keep their facebook or linkedin data up to date because there’s an obvious and real reward for that.


The Power of Communities

It’s great to see that Facebook is opening up their platform even more for others to develop against. With that people are starting to think of the possibilities of using trust and community relationships to enable an even greater applications. And it’s nice to think that we’re already moving in that direction in a number of ways. Hopefully we can continue to hook more into facebook as that platform becomes more available, but of course we’ll also keep hooking into other interesting systems.

Amazon Wishlist and Review Support
Amazon Support is almost here…

Mugshot, Big Board, and the Online Desktop

Tomorrow night (wednesday the 18th) Havoc and I will be talking about Mugshot, Big Board, and the Online Desktop for the NYLUG.

If you’re in the area stop by and say hi. And anytime you can still talk about Mugshot, Big Board or the Online Desktop by hopping on our mailing list, IRC, or Community Group. Check out the contact page for all the details.

Update: The NYLUG requires pre-registration so you can’t just show up all “I know Havoc Pennington!” You actually need to register by 2:30 pm today.