Monday, November 21, 2005

How will we consume/create content in the future?

Sometimes I miss my Bloomberg terminal.
Have you ever seen one those things? Have you ever worked with one?
I used to be an editor at Bloomberg. And it was an exceedingly unpleasant job in an exceedingly unpleasant place. But God how I loved the terminal.
I had two flat-panel displays on my desk that tied the limitless databases of the company to state-of-the-art analytics software. I could crunch numbers, generate charts, research companies and find sources with a few keystrokes. Stock and bond prices updated in real time, and the system could warn me when something significant was happening in an area I cared about. It was wonderful. (That's not to say that the terminal didn't have flaws. Bloomberg is an anti-Web company, the sort of place that tries to block employees from using personal email accounts. As a result, the terminal was riddled with lame, Bloomberg-built versions of things from the rest of the Web -- notably an instant-messaging system that arrived years after IM had swept the Web and a strange, VoIP-style phone that doubled as a fingerprint reader.)

I thought of the Bloomberg terminal earlier today as I read Doc Searls' piece on Geoff Moore's call for a new user interface for the Web.
In brief, Moore wants something less like a Web browser and more like a Wall Street trader's workstation. In other words, he wants a user interface that is more like a Bloomberg terminal, "with many concurrent feeds that enable traders to scan for information, detect trends, and transact, all very rapidly. Switching between states, foregrounding one without losing the context of the others in background, is the technical requirement."
It's a lovely picture. And I agree that the typical trader works with a more compelling information-delivery system than does your typical Web user.

Doc suggests that a Wall-Street-style terminal isn't exactly what we need -- it would still be too much about experiencing content and too little about producing it, too much about receiving and too little about creating. But the easiest system I ever used for creating multimedia content was the Bloomberg terminal. For Bloomberg customers, the terminal was about receiving and acting on information. But for Bloomberg journalists, the terminal was about production -- prose, audio, video and real-time graphics. When we asked the terminal to create a chart, we had the option to "share" it by publishing it with our story. And doing so was no more complicated than pressing a button. And therein may be the key to the next generation of user interfaces -- a system in which producing multimedia content requires no more than an additional keystroke or two. No extra software, no uploading, no FTP, no hassles.

For another vision of the future, check out Dave Newcorn's post on e-paper (I'm far less enthused about e-paper than Dave is. I don't think the audience wants a new way to read content as much as they want a new way to interact with it.)
And for some disconcerting news about today's delivery systems, look at this piece on how few readers open B2B email newsletters.

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