Real World Linux 2004: Bigger and Better - page 3
The True Linux Turnout
In an interview after the keynote, Friedman explained that what excites him when it comes to the Linux desktop are the "soft areas" of innovation, those inexpensive but brain-intensive leaps that he works on over the weekend because he "has no life." The two major gaps he sees here are in information management, and collaboration.
During the keynote, Friedman had demonstrated a small but incredibly useful tool he calls the Dashboard. This application talks to your IM client, mail client, Web client, and more, consolidating information related to a single person so that you can easily view their phone number from their contact manager, their URL, whether they're on IM or not, your last few IM conversations, files they've sent you, and more, all in one single sidebar window. As far as Friedman is concerned, this is just the beginning of what needs to happen to bring human/computer interaction to the next level.
(Remember that claim that open source stifles innovation? Microsoft started talking about this same topic after Friedman did, calling it "implicit query.")
Getting the information management tools solidly in place allows for what Friedman sees as the next stage of improved desktop functionality, which is improved collaboration. He points out that today we're all relegated to filing clerks when dealing with people and services on the computer. We know we read something somewhere, but don't know if it was in email (and from whom), in a word processing document (Which document? Where is it?), or on the Web (Which URL? Did you even bookmark it?). What he envisions is basically a personal Google, storing metadata and other such information with every document through technologies such as the ext3 filesystem's attributes feature, and Jakarta tools such as the nLucene search engine.
Once this capability pulls us up out of the desktop dark ages, the true work on collaboration can begin. Friedman cites Kubisoft.com as an example of a company who is going in the right direction, here. His ultimate goal is to allow people to collaborate through email with built-in change tracking and more, with the documents built into the email rather than the user having to do the file clerk duty of saving the document, picture, schedule, or whatever they're working with, making changes, and then reattaching the item.
Friedman's vision of how this collaboration technology might come together includes a number of existing tools, such as Novell's recently open sourced iFolder, along with his Dashboard tool, embedding these items into other applications.