Futures of text

Futures of text by Jonathan Libov.

From the post:

I believe comfort, not convenience, is the most important thing in software, and text is an incredibly comfortable medium. Text-based interaction is fast, fun, funny, flexible, intimate, descriptive and even consistent in ways that voice and user interface often are not. Always bet on text:

Text is the most socially useful communication technology. It works well in 1:1, 1:N, and M:N modes. It can be indexed and searched efficiently, even by hand. It can be translated. It can be produced and consumed at variable speeds. It is asynchronous. It can be compared, diffed, clustered, corrected, summarized and filtered algorithmically. It permits multiparty editing. It permits branching conversations, lurking, annotation, quoting, reviewing, summarizing, structured responses, exegesis, even fan fic. The breadth, scale and depth of ways people use text is unmatched by anything.

[Apologies, I lost some of Jonathan’s layout of the quote.]

Jonathan focuses on the use of text/messaging for interactions in a mobile environment, with many examples and suggestions for improvements along the way.

One observation that will have the fearful of an AI future (Elon Musk among others) running for the hills:

Messaging is the only interface in which the machine communicates with you much the same as the way you communicate with it. If some of the trends outlined in this post pervade, it would mark a qualitative shift in how we interact with computers. Whereas computer interaction to date has largely been about discrete, deliberate events — typing in the command line, clicking on files, clicking on hyperlinks, tapping on icons — a shift to messaging- or conversational-based UI’s and implicit hyperlinks would make computer interaction far more fluid and natural.

What’s more, messaging AI benefits from an obvious feedback loop: The more we interact with bots and messaging UI’s, the better it’ll get. That’s perhaps true for GUI as well, but to a far lesser degree. Messaging AI may get better at a rate we’ve never seen in the GUI world. Hold on tight.[Emphasis added.]

Think of it this way, a GUI locks you into the developer’s imagination. A text interface empowers the user and the AI’s imagination. I’m betting on the latter.

BTW, Jonathan ends with a great list of further reading on messaging and mobile applications.


I first saw this in a tweet by Aloyna Medelyan.

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