I love reading Tara at HorsePigCow; she writes stuff that’s sufficiently off-beat to make me think hard and go places I didn’t plan to go. Which is a good thing.
And it made me think. About the different behaviours people exhibit in the context of the devices they use, and how those behaviours change when the devices aren’t connected to the ether.
Let’s take the device first. And for the sake of this argument, let’s keep it simple and concentrate on the laptop or handheld computer.
Some people are happy to work “offline” on things, like choring through e-mail while connectionless on a plane; they get off the plane and then zap a plethora of mails out. They seem happy doing this.
I’m not sure why, but I don’t do this. And I perceive I’m not alone. I tend to work “analog” when I am not connected, rather than work “delayed-digital”. I read physical printed things. Listen to music. Sleep. Talk to people. And it’s not just the laptop, it’s the blackberry as well. No signal no writee.
Staying with devices. They become like pens. Some people want to use their particular special pen. Some will use the nearest pen they can find. Some don’t care. And that’s the way I see people use mobile computers.
When we look at applications, I take Tara’s Google Calendar point completely. There are some applications such as address books and calendars where you need an offline or no-connection facility, which requires a local copy. It is immensely frustrating to be denied access to low-volatility information just because you’re offline.
But you have to be careful. Local copies create their own evils. Synchronisation. The need for discipline in the size of what is synchronised. The problems of synchronisation failures or mismatches.
My guess is that there are some things where I would always want a local copy of the information, such as music and video and photo and address book and calendar. These are also things I can put easily on a USB stick. And all the synchronisation I want is probably at port or Bluetooth level in close proximity to the host device and independent of being connected to the ether. And I become personally responsible for the backing up and the housekeeping.
There are some things where I would always not-want a local copy of the information, where the joy comes from outsourcing the pain of looking after it and maintaining it and backing it up and and and. Like this blog.
As far as possible, I want to minimise the things I must have on my portable device, and have a full backup on flash memory. This way I can detach myself from device ownership, using the USB stick as my personal augment to any suitable device.
And offhand I don’t want to have anything that has to be replicated and synchronised between my device and a web server, too many things can and do go wrong.
But that’s just me.
An aside. I wish I could have an address book that worked like iTunes. A big library, with a Gracenotes equivalent to extend and enrich what I enter. And a simple way of creating contact playlists for phone, for blackberry, for laptop, etc.