I agree with Xunker
. (Hmm. That's a bit short, better add some more.)
N.B. This is currently a work in progress.
I too think that mblase is too quick to dismiss the 'Wireless Web', making the same mistake that a lot of people did when WAP first came out a couple of years ago1: The point of net access on a mobile device isn't to replicate the experience of browsing the internet on a fully multimedia-capable PC, it's for dipping in for a few seconds or minutes to retrieve a specific piece of information. Good examples include services that offer directions to good pubs and restaurants, and a very popular service in the UK that evaluates used cars.
We should not be chopping up a web application (E2) to fit in a mobile context, we should be designing for the machine. In Europe2 nearly all phones sold today have WML browsing capability (yes, even with images after a fashion.) over WAP or increasingly GPRS. (WML, in a nutshell, is a rather strictly defined XML subset that can be converted into bytecodes to speed things up on 9,600bps GSM circuit connections. It is fairly straightforward to translate to and from HTML, but rather more efficient to write in it natively.)
I envision that the WML service of E2 would be like a 'Guide
one would be your search field (or a mode selection menu, if you wanted to choose between different E2 features- e.g. the catbox, but as you could just bookmark the feature or features you intend to use, I'll ignore that for now). Enter your search term and click search. Now E2 (or rather the WML
converter doohickey) returns one or more writeups for the node you entered. Here's the clever part4
: the savvy
noder has previously set up their E2WML settings via the more traditional web
interface. (No, this isn't cheating
. Think of it as 'docking
'.) So now they get a result based on their preferences. (Some examples: return highest rep WU first, return shortest/longest/combination-of-length-and-rep writeup only, prefer writeups by certain noders.) One potential pitfall
is that you might have to remove hardlinks and pipelinks altogether from the output, as they would add clutter
the size of the data (that is already almost certainly having to be cut into chunks). But again, this could be an option
. The key idea here is that the web-based preferences setup allows the user to tailor the WML output to their needs and their device. (Another example- if someone nodes a book, they can adapt the contents page for mobile users and you have an instant eBook. Albeit a very chopped up one.)
could be handled pretty straightforwardly, links and all. A more useful function would be to be able to quickly send private /msgs to other users. This would be little different from SMS
, I'll admit, but it might have advantages. (Cheapness- in certain circumstances- for one.)
No-one, and I mean no-one, unless they have a laptop, is going to want to submit nodes while on the move.
We can increase the useability of mobile E2 by trying to accomodate it in our writeups or organisation. (This is one of the reasons I'm so keen on nodespheres.) If we had a way of creating 'hints' for mobile E2's parser5, we could give the user quicker routes to get to the data they are looking for (quicker means as few clicks as possible- scrolling is pretty much 'free'. So a massive combobox list is favourable to a text entry field in many cases.) We shouldn't be afraid of putting things on a seperate page (as viewed by the mobile client) if it introduces a speedup and reduces clutter. The web-based noder need not be exposed to any of this, of course.
Finally, learn about the technology. mblase's early versions of the above writeup sparked a tirade of /msgs from me, because it was slanted entirely towards PDAs (expensive and ultimately useless toys at present, IMO) - because personal experience skewed his worldview of what devices are out there and what they're really capable of. (Remember that the press- even the tech press- only have a small amount of experience with this technology, and therefore will have only seen the most widely-known websites, as opposed to the l33t high concept projects- such as multiplayer Elite on WAP). Go deeper.
1. Due in no small part to ill-conceived hype by telecoms companies, e.g. the great satan.
2. I can't comment for the Merkins, because last time I checked mobile technology over there was still in the 'crank-operated field telephone' stage. Or at least, (shudder) analogue. But look at it this way, make E2 WML-accessible now and you can use it when that technology does become commonplace over there. Get the jump on your isolationist information-provision rivals!
3. WML 'pages' consist of 'cards', which are like different stages in a HTML form. Prevents you having to scroll through loads of controls you would rather ignore.
4. Clever may mean stupid. No warranty is implied.
5. Of course ideally the parser will have enough intelligence to make many optimisations automatically....