Product & Startup Builder

Touchstone won't work... we give up

Added on by Chris Saad.
Just kidding...

As I posted earlier, we were mentioned on Ajaxian. The resulting torrent of conversation and requests has made us a little dizzy. But one comment on the Ajaxian site itself struck my interest:
OMG what a great time to be alive!!!!
Kiss your browser goodbye: The radical future of media beyond the Web
Comment by hmmm — March 29, 2006

Please excuse the state of the website he linked to, it seems to be a poorly maintained archive from Wired Magazine.

In it, they claim that Push technologies are going to be the 'next big thing' replacing the browser and making us all work and play like super human beings.

Sounds encouraging for Touchstone right? Well actually he was being sarcastic because it was published in 1997 and it was referring to the last round of push publishing clients that came out including Microsoft's active desktop.

It didn't work then, so why should it work now?

So we give up...

Well not quite :) but I don't think we should shy away from the reality that Push publishing has happened before - so have compact applications that try to display content to the screen while a user works.

So I thought I might make a post about all the reasons Touchstone wont work.

It's too annoying to have things pop up all the time.

Just recently a couple of new applications out there are trying the 'RSS updates while you work' approach and receiving lots of flack for being annoying and distracting.

So how is Touchstone different from the last round of Push technologies and the latest round of annoying popup applications.

  1. We don't use proprietary approaches to get the content 'pushed'. RSS and OPML are proven examples of push technology (I must say here that RSS is technically implemented as a PULL mechanism but it looks like push in terms of self-updating content). This means that the technology and approach are already accepted (unlike in the 90s) and there is a far broader base of content to drawn on - not just the companies who have set up media deals with Microsoft.

  2. Touchstone is first and foremost an Attention Management Engine. What does that mean? It means that we do not push everything to the screen. We use an increasingly complex process to rank each item and then allow the user to determine, based on importance, how to display (or not) given importance thresholds. We have said from the beginning that Touchstone will live or die not by what it displays, but rather what it suppresses from a user's desktop.

  3. Even if Touchstone never gets used as an RSS reader we don't care. Touchstone is not an RSS reader. It is an Attention Management Engine for Alerts and Updates. With an increasing number of web-based apps, users must have a way to get alerted to changes outside of the Browser sandbox. Something that client-side apps have taken for granted since the invention of the GUI. So Touchstone might fail... as an RSS reader... lucky we are not a RSS reader ;)

Imagine getting notified when someone joins your social network. Imagine getting told when someone assigns a project task to you via BackPack. All without leaving your work.

It is interesting to note here that I saw a comment about another RSS alert application that read 'I would use it if it was a Firefox add-in'. What about when Firefox is closed or minimized? Think outside the 'browser sandbox'.

[Name your gadget/widget platform here] already lets us send/get alerts to the client-side.

True. But how many gadgets and alerts do you want on your desktop? Does having 10 gadgets help you with your attention or further confuse the hell out of you?

Touchstone is not a gadget platform. I often struggle to explain this part because people look at the adapters as gadgets.

The clearest example I can give is that, with Touchstone, stocks prices do not appear on a stocks gadget. They appear in one of many ways. If it's an important change (like Google dropping 20 points) then it appears as an alert that follows your cursor for a few seconds. If it's an unimportant change then it might just appear on the ticker (or not at all). So yes there might be 10 widgets, but they are only visible when there is an alert, and only 1 gadget at a time depending on how important the alert is.


This post has ended up a little longer than I'd hoped. But I just wanted to let you all know that we quit... or maybe not :)