Building notes, projects, and occasional rants

Real-time web

There is a lot of stuff being written these days about real-time web. Some think that it is the next step, the next big thing.

I find the concept interesting only from a technical point-of-view. All the details about a good real-time web is what passes for tech-porn around here.

But from a human point-of-view, the concept is flawed. Or at least, my own brain finds the concept flawed.

I can't keep up with a constant barage of updates. For quite sometime, I don't have a Twitter client (I only get status updates that contain a link via RSS), I stopped using FriendFeed, and I've disabled or pushed to 8+ hours all of my checks for new mail or new articles on my feed reader. The only exception to the no-real-time updates I have is my instant messenger, and a lonely IRC client on the last virtual desktop of my system.

Not that it isn't helpful sometimes, its just not a good way to consume knowledge and information.

There are two very different concepts here: up-to-date information and real-time awareness.

I want the real-time web to succeed because it creates the necessary infrastructure to have up-to-date information in real-time, but I don't want to have the awareness of those updates shoved at me.

In an ideal future, you would have an application that sits on your mobile device, your smartphone or your tablet, that helps me manage the real-time stream. Some of my friends, Nuno and Pedro, call this application Exocortex.

Your Exocortex would subscribe to all your news feeds, your email, your Twitter/Facebook/Whatever stream. With the real-time web infrastructure in place, it would be constantly being updated with the latest information. He does not interrupt your concentration, he doesn't require your awarness; he just collects, organizes (preferably by learning what you like, and what is important to you), and indexes all. It fetches pages mentioned in the articles that you get and caches them (I find that I often click on the links but rarely follow to the second level).

Most of this happens locally on the device. It is a ecological crime not to use your local CPU. The cloud should not be CPU and storage outsourcer, but a meeting point and backup destination. Not the main point of consumption, but the backup destination. And yes, some business models would stop working.

Then, when you take your device, you get an interface into the latest trends, articles, web pages mentioned, all from the inside of your little information world, powered by your personal social network.

You can be offline and still see the latest information up to the moment you disconnected. Everything is cached locally, and if something is missing, you can pin it for later retrieval. I like to call this "close the laptop and go"-scenario. No need to sync the latest version.

So I welcome the real-time web, not because I want to be bothered every time someone farts on Twitter, but because I just want to take my iPad and go.