October 10, 2006 15:29 | Culture / WebTech

Breaking out of the Document

An email from Julian sent me into a whirl.

If I wanted to publish scrapbook-like, and I mean really willy-nilly ad-hoc layouts... is it doable in web-standards today?

I can build a CMS that takes care of navigation, blog-style, across time stamps and various context mechanisms (categories, tags, authors etc...)...

But then what? I can give you a <div> and, following current web-tech, you are stuck with inline or block display.

There's a bunch of threads I can follow from here...

Weblog CMSs have mostly focused on making it easy to build and maintain the infrastructure of personal websites--archives and their navigation, etc--with a passing concern for clean markup in the actual content. But that's "in the div" and, again, it's fairly constrained. Even the most "into it" web designers don't bother doing custom layouts and CSS for their weblogs' content.

And there's a reason: doing even simple stuff in XHTML+CSS isn't simple. Or at least, not simple enough to warrant the time cost. The cost of benefit is too high, exactly how maintaining a personal website used to be too high a cost for the benefit (which we all know now; the benefits of weblogging I mean.)

Is there benefit in maintaining an online multi-media "scrapbook"? You bet there is. You know why? Take your weblog, and replace words with video and audio and drawing and pictures etc. (Hi Marc Canter!) Just ask any of your friends who maintain scrapbooks in their Moleskines.

As is always the case, I think we are at that intersection where a) all the technological pieces necessary are in place (web standards, aggregators, open APIs, UE), b) people have already tried to do similar things (for a while now, a bunch of people have been talking about this, in various ways and from varying angles) and c) there is evidence of a desire in the culture/society/people (scrapbook maintainers, YouTube/MySpace video sharers, rebloggers, bloggers even... Six Apart's "Vox" and Microsoft's "Wallop" are versions of this as well and both have been in development for a looong while... and all I've been doing for 2 years is building aggregators for people...)

Open ended thought... as usual a ramble... back to work.

p.s.: RDF could be the wiring. Like I told Julian:

"[This stuff is still] bare... it's like saying "we want a multimedia room in our house" and you step in after the electricians did their part [and go "hey, wtf?!"]"


just a question

is it about document management? (metadata about information)
is it about multi-modal inputs? (devices mechanism capturing information)

because if I understand the post here (maybe I haven't), the big differences of the scrapbook with a weblog is not that much the rendering but more the input.

For each media (photo, digital photo, sounds, pencil drawing, etc.), it would be interesting to make a table of interactions, input/output modalities.