The future of words (on the internet)

First, let’s look at some interesting recent, and not so recent, developments:

  1. Google History. Tracks everything you’ve searched for on Google, and which links you followed. Bear with me.
  2. Google Books. Allows you to search the text of most(?) books ever published. Amazon has a similar feature, and both are somewhat crippled while we get our uneasiness about copyright worked out.
  3. Good Reads. A pretty decent website that lets you track what books you’ve read. Has some unexpected advantages over just keeping a list.
  4. Action Stream/Activity Stream. A running tally of everything you’ve done on the internet (more or less), and by extension potentially everything you’ve read; maybe best explained by looking at an example, in the sidebar of Anil Dash’s blog. Here’s my stream, although as of right now it’s busted.
  5. Zoomii. A visual bookstore interface to Amazon. You zoom in/out, and click individual books for information, to order, or to flip through the book. (This is only tangentially related, but cool enough to include.) Looks like this (but you’ve really got to play with it):


So where’s this all headed? Well, one place I’d like to get to is a search box that works on everything I’ve ever read: books, magazine articles, and web pages. The web aspect should take no more then a little Firefox plugin that creates an index as you browse the web. The book thing would require some clever mashup of something like the Goodreads feed with the Google Books search. I’ll give you odds there’s already an engineer at the Googleplex working on it. The magazines are a little tougher, since not all the text is online yet. But lots of it is, so what you need is a service to track your magazine subscriptions/purchases along with some tricky database work. Maybe when Google’s done scanning the world’s books they’ll start in on the mags. Or maybe the publications themselves will create a system to allow this to happen.

The magazines are the trickiest aspect, but I hope this happens, because some great information is locked away in magazines (and I for one do not want to have all that paper laying around, since about 99% is still completely useless). I give it a year or two before some embryonic form of this exists, maybe five until the kinks are ironed out.

7 thoughts on “The future of words (on the internet)

  1. By the way, the reason for quiet all this time is that I’m working on a Big Subject post about global warming.

    If anyone has anything I should be looking re. that, lemme know?

  2. Omnivorous consumer of books that I yam, I figure some of this is right up my alley. I try Goodreads. Welcome to Goodreads, it says, and offers a place to register. Not a single word about what the hell it is, or does, or involves. And that’s the Home page.

    What am I missing here? Why isn’t there a simple, clean explanation of what this is supposed to be? Why would anybody sign up for this? This kind of shit is so typical of (a) the way people who fart around all day on teh internets take so much for granted (and care little), and (b) what drives ancient DOS farts like me around the corner and up the wall.

  3. Alex~ I’m looking at it more from an economic issue: “we agree that this is happening, now what?”

    Blah~ Thanks for giving it a chance, at least. BTW, my best work for a long time has been on twitter anyway: check it.

    squathole~ The home page says

    Have you ever wanted a better way to: – see what your friends are reading? – keep track of what you’ve read and what you’d like to read? – get great book recommendations from people you know?

    And there’s a tour link that explains it in detail — 1000 words or so.

    Try it again.

  4. That’s ok. I’ve always been fascinated with Miami hipsterdom. Such interesting characters, those Miami hipsters.

  5. Okay, I tried again. I didn’t see anything that says “tour,” but following the link you provided in your comment back to me, I now find what I’m looking for (and, IMHO, what should be front and center on the Home page). So now I see “How It Works,” just not the passage TO that page.

    So I’m figuring if I have this much trouble negotiating the front door, I probably won’t be too comfortable in the library.

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