You are living in a box

If you are like most people, you will be reading this humble blog post from within a browser application. If you are like most people, you are probably taking for granted many of the utilities and functions afforded to you by your browser, the toolbar with its convenient visually indicative images, the menu with its comprehensive and logically arranged functions.

You are also probably entirely comfortable with the way you are interacting with this blog post. You are reading it. Your browser is eminently capable of supporting this mode of interaction.. its a ‘browser’ after all, you can scroll through the post, change the font size, even print it.

This is all very comfortable and familiar but what if you wanted more. What if you thought this blog post was so fantastic that you wanted to capture it, ads and all. Say you wanted to add some notes to it, circle some of the more insightful passages, squiggle a mustache on the image of the author and then email it to your mates. Firefox cant do all that, neither can Internet explorer. These applications are not free form editors, they are merely browsers.

‘But wait’ you say, ‘I can get this done!’. And you are correct, you can achieve this a number of ways. For example, you could print the post, edit the printout, scan or photograph the printout and create an image file. You could then open an email application, attach the image file and send it. Also, you could print-screen the image, Open a paint program, paste the image, edit the image, save as an image file, open an email application, attach the file and send it. You could also send an email to Microsoft or the Firefox community requesting free form editing, notation and highlighting and email integration features for their respective browsers, you could then wait a long time.

That these operations are doable is not at issue. All of the necessary tools to achieve this outcome, this deliverable, already exist on your computer. The point I want to make is how these tools are arranged. They are stuck inside applications, inside boxes. This blog post is the thing you are interested in right now (I assume this because you are still reading). If you want apply all of these wonderful tools to this artifact, you need to export, transform, import the artifact into each application in turn. This is horrible! You take this for granted, you cop this on the chin because, like most people, you have grown complacent and accepting about the limitations of software and the operating system.

Why cant we make software better. Why cant we make the artifact, the thing you are interested in right now, the most important thing? Why cant we free up these tools from their application boxes make the computing experience more intuitive?


Michael Dausmann

Full stack developer. Agile, Data science and Machine Learning. Love learning, speaking and dad jokes. Tweets are my own.