Attention Metaphor

The idea behind good technology is calm. GooChat is good and calm.

The idea behind good technology is calm. GooChat is good and calm. Even as pinheads roam the GooglePlex issuing blacklists against news organizations, engineers create smooth ponds of application space, clean rooms where clarity emerges like a a cupped hand from a mountain brook.

You don't agree? Fine. But try GooChat and then flip back to AIM or even Skype. It's like the difference between the Mac and the PC. In fact, it's turned my PC into a Mac for the moment. Something so trivial and mundane and commoditized as an IM client? Whooyeah. (A note to my random shooting gallery of backbiters: I'm doing exactly what I want here, so move on if you don't like it.)

As I've expressed before, my idea of platform stability is something that works across multiple platforms: Firefox, Skype, Rojo, GMail. Now, with GooChat, the promise of interoperability is good enough for me. In particular, GooChat's combination of simplicity and clarity emulates the Mac to the point that I don't notice when my mind switches into that Mac flow that binds me so tightly to the Powerbook. The elegance of the keys laying down before the words, accepting them rather than resisting in some subtle way.

Scoble hipped me to this Tablet but I wasn't really listening when he did. I first worked with the Motion Tablet, which is a marvel of light weight and long battery time. But the sound card currently used doesn't support what I need to run Castblaster, so I switched to the Toshiba. It's bigger, heavier, no detachable slate mode like the Motion, but the screen resolution is intense. Coupled with some new glasses and a great new easy chair and ottoman, it's relegated my Mac to its current role as Airport Express server. Note to Apple: your iTunes software on the PC is intermittent when playing Airport to the speakers, on both the Motion and the Toshiba.

Then there's Skype on the Toshiba. I discovered this by accident, just out of the shower and not wanting to get my headset wet. So I answered a Skype call anyway, using the Toshiba as a speaker phone. Works perfectly, no echo, good sound, good results on the other end too. In fact, I just had a long chat with Dan Bricklin about the relative lack of quality of my podcasting experiments (Dan's opinion, not mine) that felt not as good as but better than a "real" POTS call.

Reminder: this is not an indictment of the Mac. In fact, it is precisely because I am confident these tools will migrate back to the Mac in reasonably short order that I am committing time and configuration energy to the PC in the first place. I still avoid Office as much as possible because of its siloing issues, and have already moved significantly away from AIM to Skype IM to try and get up above the AIM/Yahoo/MSN noise. Here's where GooChat slips in nicely--through my GMail portal.

Speaking of which, this is the only portal that lives. Make of it as little or as much as you want, but the portal is dead. Notes is dead, standards bodies are dead, Office is dead, and portals are dead. Of course that doesn't mean that we won't spend billions and years extracting ourselves from their grip, or maybe we can just start now and let the rest of the world catch up if they can. Gmail and Skype and Rojo and Firefox are all elements of a services fabric, a grid that keeps the lights on and the communications up between one idea and the next. A portal is like calling the canvas on which a picture is painted the UI.

So, the GMail portal--it's the wormhole through which more efficient, tactile services enter. GooChat is simple, devastatingly so. Most reactions have been to the beta nature of this, the promise of expanded features to compete with the others. Interestingly, Google's engineers are competing not with AIM or MSN but with Skype's UI. SInce there's no so-and-so is typing foreshadowing in Skype IM, I'm more willing to switch to GooChat's slick cling-to-upper right corner and integrated email/IM notification in the lower right.

In two simple moves, Google sends one loud message: they are not competing against Yahoo or Microsoft in the Portal wars. They aren't even competing against Skype, because the reality of Skype's ubiquity is an asset of the broader platform, not something to be targetted for extinction. The tools speak to me this way: here's something that improves Gmail (system tray notification), does not speak the language of the kids and the groovebusters who've increasingly spammed the competitive IM landscape but does allow a new dialogue to be rendered that cherry-picks the Gmail and Skype contact lists, and also does not blare the deprecated, bloated Office hairball-speak of the Raikes/Sinofsky Age of Lock-In. Note: go back and look at the picture of Dave and Ray in the previous post for evidence of cluefullness rising. I'll wait.

Or as Dan Farber would say: breathe.

This model of iterative competitive development is very interesting, isn't it. Promise overlapping interoperability and I'll go with you on your journey. Send the message of looming lock-in, or more devastatingly, lock-out, of my favorite tools or people, and all bets are off. I don't care if you ban me from every pre-briefing to the end of eternity, as long as you send me the signals that you're obeying the laws of attention: property, mobility, economy, transparency. It's my data, I can move it through your pieces of the platform, economically (efficiently), and openly. Violate them and I thank you for letting me know that the next station is where I get off. It's like the stray dog that follows you home. He'll eat your food and guard your house, but if you don't pay attention he'll move on.

I've only got one buddy in GooChat so far, the aforementioned Mr. Farber. I'm looking forward to more.


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