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BumpTop: Nice for anything...but my Desktop

BumpTop Prototype - HoneyBrown.ca

Don't get me wrong -- like apparently everyone this week, I think the BumpTop demo is right purty. The little interface widgets are beautiful and functional, and the physics of the motion seem realistic. It looks lovely. But would I ever, in a million years, seek this out as a Desktop replacement? You bet your butt I wouldn't, and I'll tell you why (as well as what it would be great for).

See, here's the thing: once your computer (and your related world, writ large) has excellent indexing, search, and access via something like Quicksilver, this kind of "physical" interface metaphor starts seeming quaint, if not downright exhausting. I guess I just never find myself shuffling and re-organizing large numbers of files in a way that isn't more than satisfactorily addressed with sorting, Smart Folders, icon views, and searching. I throw stuff into the most general piles I can stand, then let Quicksilver and Spotlight do all the heavy lifting. Maybe that's me, but this seems like a recipe for non-stop fiddling.

Having said that I can imagine several situations where I'd personally want to toss items into piles and use functionality similar to BumpTop.

  • Photographers? Maybe. Could be a nice interface for iPhoto or the like.
  • Video editing? Totally. Being able to quickly "pile" and re-arrange related clips would be unbelievably useful.
  • Shoppers? This would be ideal for eCommerce. Imagine a collaborative filtering inbox where you could throw books and CDs into piles. Maybe as a quick way to rate movies on Netflix?
  • Collectors? This jibes nicely with Delicious Library's approach in many ways. You're sitting there with a friend trading CDs and say, "Oh you'd love this, and this, and this...." Click to export, and zing, you're done.
  • Planners and schedulers of all kinds? Ever try to organize a conference or similar event without Excel and a huge bottle of Tylenol? The physicality of this would be a cool way to see "Oh, Track 4 is looking pretty busy for Monday morning; what can I move?"

But as an interface to my file and folder system? Meh. The metaphor of personal computer as physical space has been strained beyond usefulness, in my opinion. It's the lack of physicality that affords such insane productivity for Quicksilver users. Everything is abstracted into nouns and verbs and I get to mash them up however I need to. I'm unconstrained by "here" and "there."

Maybe I'm not who this would be targeted at, but I think I could be if it were applied to almost anything except my Desktop's contents.

What do you think?

sascha brossmann's picture

basically just another pile of...

basically just another pile of unpractical bullshit. the main problem (which as far as i see nobody hinted at, yet) is that screen space simply isn't 3d and there are no proper tools to interact with a 3d space in your computer. but all the interactions seem to be 2d (2d plus time to be exact), anyway, i cannot see any reason to still stretch this darn 80ies 3d desktop metaphor (extreme waste of screen space, btw) past its premature and rightful death. and the visualisation is just so static, i'd rather like the computer to do the low-level organisation for me. actually it's high time to get rid of the complicated and limiting file metaphor but most people still seem to be stuck in that paradigm.

what is partly interesting though are the gestural select-and-act mechanisms (the lassoooo ;-) stuff) which enable the user to act out of movement without breaking the movement. properly done this could turn into a quite convenient and fluid way of interaction, at least for pen-based input devices.




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