Huge Honkin’ Console…back from the dead

I’ve been working through my archives of writing, old blog posts, etc. and I came across the original post I made back in 2003 (really? 13 years?  ugh) talking about my fantasy “Huge Honkin’ Console” project.  Going through it I realized (cringeworthy editorializing aside) that I pretty much still want every single thing on this list.  I may load up the actual page somewhere here, as it’s a marvel of early 2000s Radio Userland blog formatting (past the age of spinning guitar bullet icons, but too early for magazine layout web pages, which suck just as much.)

So here’s the outline, for your amusement and my accountability, pasted right out of the original post text’s html.  I’ll even leave in the crappy links for now, to show how much the blogosphere (remember that word?) has changed in the last 13 years:

I want…

  1. A real-time ticker application that will be updated using RSS. (Not the current “refresh to update” silliness in aggregators of today) Publishable schedule items (to the rest of the world or a specific subset at my option)
  2. To subscribe to lists of events that are occurring around my area geographically, and virtually and have those events appear in a calendaring application. To use a blog or blog-like publishing environment (I’m thinking Zope with  CMF) for a personal desktop
    heads-up-display console from which I work at all times.
  3. A contact-management system that would make Harvey MacKay faint from information overload.
  4. Notifications and ticklers (woohoo!) for the following:
    1. People who’ve emailed me who I’m “officially due” to contact
    2. Software projects and updates that I’m interested in but may not have explicitly subscribed to.
    3. The same thing with commercial products (books, music, movies, etc.)
    4. All of this to bubble up into the ticker application mentioned above as well as a “product wishlist” that’s automatically maintained and published to a well-known location so I never have to answer the question “What do you want for (insert holiday here)?” again.
  5. A database of articles and references to articles (and other reference materials) on a huge honkin’ LOCAL hard drive that’s accessible through automated AND manual topic discovery as well as a full blown search engine.  (For instance:  All of Shakespeare, the “30 days to a more readable blog” article set. Comments on my own posts off of UCCU.)
  6. the built-in modem that comes with my computer to behave as my
    answering machine, saving audio transcripts of incoming messages as well as recording live conversations. AND:

    1. Trap caller-ids and match them against my address book, entering the call event PERMANENTLY in an ever-growing log system.
    2. A record to either automatically or at my option (selectable at run time) pull up references to the caller, and lists of communications over time. Including but not limited to:
    3. Incoming and outgoing phone calls with:
      • speech-to-text generated transcripts
      • instant messaging transcripts
      • lists of instantly accessible emails between both parties.
      • cross-references between other parties involved in all mentioned conversations.
  7. Intelligent Agents (ooh, blast from the past 😉 to be constantly indexing and searching the internet for other things that I might be interested in.
  8. Fully functional annotation engines to work in conjunction with my window-on-the-web environment so I can mark-up both cached and remote versions of web pages for future reference.
  9. The ability to publish these annotations (the way a few applications used to be able to do… uTok, etc.) so that other people can view them as well.
  10. Ubiquitous PGP (or equiv) system for communication across email, instant messaging, etc. People will need to be approved to be added to the list.
  11. Notifications when people read, comment on, or annotate anything I’ve published out in publicly-accessable land. (and all the other psycho TrackBack, Pingback features that have shown up in the blogosphere in the last year or so.)
  12. Published playlists from iTunes, WinAmp and any other damn thing. Note I don’t mean publishing the mp3s, just the playlists so I can compare with other people and see what music I might be missing in the world. (Hilary sit the hell back down and shut up.)
  13. Remote whiteboard chatting  (Jabber plug-in anyone?)
  14. horrifyingly high-performance rpc mechanisms (XmlRpc for now, but something a bit more svelt in the future) to distribute this work load on my local lan however I see fit (or auto-balanced.)
  15. Published blog entries (like this one) to auto-annotate with links to the right places (i.e. Jabber, uTok,(no longer available.) , Zope, CMF, RSS, etc should all be auto-linked without me having to “create shortcuts” in Radio (which just took about 20 minutes).)
  16. Integrated desktop:
    1. liveTopics
    2. Wiki
    3. Blogging
  17. Built-in mind-mapping and diagramming toolkits for charting ideas and representing them textually once the “virtual whiteboarding” session is done. (Not to mention the automated post-session analysis and discovery phase designed to extrapolate on behalf of the participants.)
  18. That cool little thing from the AT&T commercial a few years ago where the girl plays the first 3 notes of a song on her guitar and the Agent goes and grabs the song title.
  19. Live chatting and always on IRC with private subscription-only channels between circles of friends.
  20. Newsgroups as RSS feeds, distilled into threads automatically, with a signal-to-noise ratio rating accompanying each article and group.
  21. And I want it ALL in a unified source-accessible platform (I’ll pay.  Doesn’t have to be open source.  But I will need the source)
  22. A massively flexible api for developing plug ins for the 50,000,000 things I haven’t thought of and the 150 or so I’m gonna make money on and therefore am not mentioning here.

Adorable right?  But it highlights some really fascinating things to me. As contrasted with the internet back then, the web is a worse place now. None of this stuff seemed the least bit outlandish to me back then, and certainly it’s much more within reach now.

This is what the conversation was like back in the day (something something ‘damn kids’.)  People talked about the possibilities of technology and the web and how we were going to integrate it in to our lives.

There were all kinds of neat ways for wiring my website with your web site so we could have our own little domains but still keep abreast of what was going on with everyone else.

And I wonder still what really happened.  Certainly the blame can be laid largely at the door of social media and later at the rise of the smart phone.   There used to be cool applications for interacting with websites. Now it’s just “post this to twitter, share this on facebook” and that’s it.

Let’s take my favorite example from back in the day: uTok.

uTok was a horrifically insecure little piece of software.  It would attach itself like a cute little barnacle to your web browser and, for every web page you visited, it had a live chat room of other uTok users who were accessing that page (or site, I forget the granularity) at the same time, a comment section that was live.  It was great. And yeah, of course it worked by sharing your browsing habits to a centralized server and recording your every move to provide tracking information to advertisers (I presume.)


Remember ICQ? Yahoo Messenger? AIM? Little chat applications that allowed you to just have little IM conversations without bleating everything that comes out of your mouth in to public space. And yes, you can direct message on twitter, or message people on facehole.

Yes. On one hand, I’m That Old Guy now. I’m absolutely fine with that. (And once you hit your 40s, you’ll understand why, you little shit.)

What I don’t know is the answer to this:

Has the immediacy of bite sized instant gratification social media actually resulted in a dumbing down of discourse (across all subjects) or has it simply resulted in a democratization of use that’s made it appear that way by reducing the accessibility barrier to the unwashed masses of users?

Admittedly, you have to write stuff to have a blog. You’ve got to have at least a marginal facility at stringing words together, coupled with an intention to do so.  That right there shuts out most of the population of the Little Blue Dot.

And it could also be that I frequent things like Twitter, where bite-sized bleats are all you can really manage, or reddit, where messages are fire and forget, discussion groups with no real continuity.

But for now I’m going to start at the top of that list and see if I can’t chart my way through and estimate what it will take to get that done, maybe even take a bite out of it.