Task-savvy newsreading

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Jorn Barger

Sep 11, 1993, 1:50:08 PM9/11/93
I'm working on a design for a new sort of newsreader/word-processor
(you can ftp my "decentwrite.dw" for 300 one-liner specs, see below),
and one of the design principles I'm exploring is what I call the
"task-savvy application" approach.

I think most software is still at a primitive stage of evolution where
you're given a versatile set of micro-tools, which you have to
painstakingly combine into macro-tool sequences that serve your needs.

In newsreaders, for example, you're given 'scan topics' 'select thread'
'read article' 'subscribe group' etc, but I see these as micro-tools that
force the reader to, basically, walk thru any of various complicated
sequences, to achieve various *standard tasks*. But the software should
'understand' these tasks, and make them easy...

What I'm calling a task would include, for newsreading:

- looking for a FAQ
- browsing for new groups to explore
- reading new messages in threads you've already recognized as interesting
- scanning new threads' topics
- proposing a new thread

So a task-savvy newsreader might offer, upfront, a menu with these choices,
and if you're looking for a FAQ, it will know enough to scan news.answers,
and the back numbers of the group itself, disregarding the (completely
irrelevant, here) read/unread switch.

And if you're browsing for new groups it will offer you the news hierarchy
as a tree of menus (rec sci soc talk alt etc, then: rec.arts rec.crafts
whatever) and allow you to subscribe briefly, then add the group if you
like it. And if you don't like it, it can remember that and filter it in
future browses.

Task-savvy apps should also recognize that sometimes you're pressed for
time, and be ready to offer you first the highest priority tasks (like
responding to direct replies to your own postings).

It might offer you to archive threads you contribute to, and remember where
they're archived so it can add future posts automatically.

More tasks:
- joining a thread-in-progress that's started to look interesting
- occasionally checking out those busy groups you can't follow regularly
- going back to find an old message (scan topics, then grep if not found?)
- giving a canned response to a standard question
- grepping-for-kibos (your name, your friend's name) ("I grep for Kibos!"
- assembling a reply with quoted text from multiple posts in a thread
- split-screening a reply with the message it was replying to


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Jorn Barger j't Anon-ftp to genesis.mcs.com in mcsnet.users/jorn for:
<:^)^:< K=-=:: -=-> Finnegans Wake, artificial intelligence, Ascii-TV,
.::.:.::.. "=i.: [-' fractal-thicket indexing, semantic-topology theory,
jo...@mcs.com /;:":.\ DecentWrite, MiniTech, nant/nart, flame theory &c!
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