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Context aware OS

...naturally self-oraganizing
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Have you ever been annoyed by the never ending quest to organize information on your computer? This idea solves that problem:

Normally when you organize stuff on your computer you start with your files. It’s annoying but it has to be done. Fine, so you organize all your files... but as soon as you are done with that, you realize that files are not the only thing you store on your computer. You also likely have:

Application shortcuts

All of these have to be organized too. (for example, why would you want to see your game shortcuts in the same context as your application shortcuts). That means you now have to organize and synchronize the categories for at least 4 different types of information. That task is obviously a waste of time.

The solution is context aware OS. You would see a context selector somewhere on the screen that would let you switch between different contexts. For example, you might have the following contexts: Ideas, work, entertainment, job search, and pets (you could create any that you want). Now, when you enter one of these contexts, all you see are files, shortcuts, emails and applications that are relevant in that context. When you enter the “work” context, all your entertainment stuff like YouTube bookmarks, games, savegame files, and movies disappear. It’s as if you enter into your office. Do you have a playstation plugged in at your real office? I doubt it. Everything is neat and organized, you have everything you need to get your job done. It's the same reason why the stove is in the kitchen and not in the middle of your living room. The best part of this is that as you work, the OS knows that you are in the “work” context and marks any new bookmarks, files, emails and applications that you install as belonging to that context. When you want to take a break, and take a break watching funny stuff on YouTube, you just switch to the “entertainment” context and there you go, all those bookmarks are there ready for you to browse.

Now for the implementation: How it would work is that every time the OS requested to see a list of files, it would go through a "middle man" who would make the following decision: If the file is in the current context, show it, don’t show it. This would work well for files and folders as well as favorites/bookmarks which are for the most part just files and folders. For emails, things get tricky. The email client would have to be "context" aware and be capable of filtering out all emails that are not in the current context as well as marking emails with metadata indicating under which context they were created.

A research project that accomplished something similar like this has been baked with virtual rooms (you actually had 3D interface and you walked through the different rooms). This is a waste of time, I'm proposing the same concept but with no walking around, no fluff. The same applications you always used just with the ability fo filter out all of the stuff that doens't belong in that particular context.

ixnaum, Nov 12 2006

hierarchy doesn't scale http://weblogs.asp....002/11/23/5168.aspx
example of similar gripes with desktop software limitations [drefty, Nov 13 2006]

Large violins... http://www.halfbake...expression=viola%21
...all over the place. [zen_tom, Nov 13 2006]


       Contexts = users? Set up a user called "work", one called "entertainment", and some others. Many operating systems (I'm not sure just which ones) offer switching users without actually logging out of the one you're switching from.
ihope127, Nov 12 2006

       //Contexts = users?   

       This is exactly what I planned to do in order to test a prototype of this. Under windows XP there is "fast user switching". This could almost do the job, except for some serious shortcomings:   

       Need to keep typing in separate passwords (and no, I can't have users with blank passwords). I believe "install this program for this user only" is still inconsistent, I haven't seen that screen appear every time you try to install a program (maybe vista fixes this but I highly doubt it). Still doesn't address the problem with email contexts, and it would be a pain to move things around contexts (imagine moving an interesting bookmark from your work context into your enternainment context) ... it would be a pain   

       in the end it is eactly just an "inelegant fudge" as Ian said.
ixnaum, Nov 13 2006

       Your halfbake is another variant on the theme of "Hierarchy doesn't scale" ... your notion of 'context' is a feature-subset of a 'query-based filter' (with 'context' being one of the parameters that you can query against). Other parameters could be things like 'date' 'author' 'description' 'keywords' etc.   

       For example you could have a 'global desktop query' that allowed you to say things like:   

       Show only context='work' year='2005' description='SBC account'.   

       Your idea is noteworthy, but not entirely new, as it has been described variously by many others, under different names.
drefty, Nov 13 2006

       I'm a fan of the new techniques like file indexing (i.e. google-style searching on your hard-drive) all you need is to remember a set of words that might be related to a particular file, type it (them) in, and viola - visited websites, documents, etc! The only thing missing is the ability to find images that don't have clues in their titles or supplementary information. With all this, the need to waste time organising things is done away with (except when you want to migrate to a different machine, or archive off a load of data that you are no-longer interested in)   

       One problem with the idea as described is when a person doesn't work within the predefined contexts, or if some of the information drifts into multiple contexts, perhaps over time.
zen_tom, Nov 13 2006

       multiple contexts can be handled by: 1) allowing more than one word in the context field; 2) allowing contexts to be 'taggable' (using the same idea from 'folksonomy' tagging).
drefty, Nov 13 2006

       Never have I seen my Google page manifest itself into a large violin [z_t].
theleopard, Nov 13 2006

       You obviously haven't tried hard enough [theleopard]
zen_tom, Nov 13 2006

       Nice link [tom].   

       An HB in-joke, eh? Who'd of thunk it?
theleopard, Nov 13 2006

       The important thing about my idea is the fact that it allows automatic/transparent tagging. You don't have to select or type the tag (ie. this file belongs to work) It belongs to work because you are at "work" context. It's like being in a room. If you are in a kitchen you don't have to say "this spoon belongs in kitchen" .. you just put it down and it IS in the kitchen - because you are in the kitchen. This is a ridiculous example ... but that 's exactly what the OS makes you do now. Where do you want to save this file/bookmark/email? Duhh.. I'm at "work" so please save it to work and don't ask me.   

       Sure, there are odd times when you have to bring a spoon with you to the living room, but those are exceptions and can be easily handled. Overall, the time savings of not having to specify the tags for the current context are huge. After all, if you are cooking dinner, you likely have everything you need in the kitchen.   

       Simple indexing does not take this into consideration. Indexing accoplished search incredibly well, what it fails at is transparent/automatic tagging. Metadata should be added as automatically as possible (otherwise no one will bother adding it) The metaphor of rooms is a way of accoplishing that in a natural way.
ixnaum, Nov 13 2006

       // For example, you go into your "library room" to do some academic research, but it does not contain a poster for some commercial product covering your research area that became widely available in the last year   

       That is a problem. The solution is simple: "Bring" the poster with you. If you bring it with you often enough you will soon realize that maybe it belongs in the library.   

       One thing I will not dispute is the fact that this idea is not ideal for every single circumstance. All I claim is that it brings organization one notch above single context hierarchy and even improves on indexed search of metadata (by tagging automatically)
ixnaum, Nov 13 2006

       To continue your spoon analogy, what happens with a "pen" (which for many people has no 'default room', or has more than one 'default room'). What happens with newly invented things? The problem with analogies is they can get so clever that they start to create new problems. I like the idea of implicit metadata tagging, but that can already be done with plain old 'folders and files'. I'd be satisfied with simple 'query-based' filtering on top of that. Good ideas though, I can't wait to see your prototype. ...
drefty, Nov 13 2006


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