Click No More. Why we should care about data not devices + the disintegration of convergence.

*this is a most spurious and poorly researched post. Frankly I wouldn't read it. It's a balloon load of hot air - and I wrote it. But as piffle goes, I thought it might be thought-provoking piffle - so there you go.  Let me know if any thoughts are provoked...

The last ten years have seen an extraordinary explosion in how we collect and organize data.
I think the next ten years will be mainly about how we interact with and experience that data.

Let's say you look after a brand, or have a website. You want to know whether you should build apps or sites, optimize for mobile, tablet or PC, advertise in Flash or HTML, or go native on iOS or Android? It's decision time.

But we're coming at that decision, and everything to do with digital, from where we have been, rather than where we are going; as if the future might not change, as if this might be it: a touchscreen, some tablets and twitter. But we know this isn't it. We know it will evolve again. We are trying to guess our way to a soufflé. So far we have some eggs, in a bowl.   

For instance we still think it's about clicking.
It's pretty uncertain if it will be about clicking. Or buttons, or banners. Or webpages.
It's more likely to be about liminal display, 3d spaces, environment coding and custom gesture control. No, I'm not sure what that is either. I know that people used to talk about convergence but really we are experiencing a disintegration.

Features are fickle.

In olden times clocks had barometers, weather gauges and calendars built in to the clock face. We still have the clocks. But we  can experience all those other functions on our phones. And the clock. Similarly my preferred phone experience is now on computer.  We still have paperbacks because the technology is awesome, but that moved from stone, to scrolls, to papyrus to paper to pulp before it hit maximum efficiency. (I am no expert here btw, can you tell?)

We don't care to notice these historical meanderings of functionality but as gesture & projection & screens start to move around all that data we collected starts to come back to us in new ways. So consumer technology brings us increasingly 'real' simulations - art on walls, pictures in albums, films on walls, words in ambient light, audio with base etc.  Or it will do, and it should do.

Most of the devices we use to interact now were invented in the 60's. More recently we've seen touch screens overcome their prohibitive cost and then very recently gesture, and voice control.

Meanwhile the speed that data can travel has got really rather fast.
And all the wires have vanished.

We are halfway to our date with invisible frameworks for interaction.

Voice controls, face-recognition, audio targeting and the Kinect-on-crack potential of tech like Leap suggest that we just won't need to use a computer to control a computer. You could use your face as a keyboard, wave a paperclip to open docs, or use body-language as a remote. Or... hmmm, well whatever, if I knew I would patent them, but let's all agree we will ultimately find perfect screenless ways to do things. At this point interface design becomes a about tweaking details of the experience (turning up the volume) not how we experience content (YouTube).

And what does this mean for me?
Well if you have a website it's a good time to work out what your website does.  And make it as simple as possible.

Breaking the internet down (crudely) let me suggest that site does one of four things: conversation; consumption; commerce or tools.

And it's worth asking if  a user would prefer to experience those on a computer if it could be on your watch, in your car, in your book, on the fridge, on your desk, in your pillow, in your wallet, or subcutaneously? Media should be found in the place that makes most sense, using the object it is meant to use, with the least amount of interface possible. (use your imagination)

There is very little that one gets from the internet that is best experienced on a computer screen. Most things are nicer if they feel real.

We're probably going to see a rise of programming for physical factors in our lives, like weather, traffic, illness, childcare. We claim not to need (or want) the cloud, or one company, to "know" these things. But people do want a web with tools that allow us to program around them, just like we program the VCR to record shows. We want many things that do one thing extremely well, and easily. This is an organic, societal privacy solution.

One tool, one task.
Which means we should probably stop fussing over the internet. Or even mobile. What will matter is the structure of your data. Having it organized so rigorously that you can easily move across platforms or forms; hardware devices and operating systems; so you can optimize, adjust and manage centrally; so you can analyse and change direction as expectations change or new formats emerge: a hub with spokes to the many different devices or applications that build or augment or amplify that purpose.

This is already happening within social media. It’s interesting watching brands scramble (or not) to respond to Plus, Pinterest, Tumblr, Medium and platform devices like Kindles Galaxys, Nexuses (Nexi?) and annual iPad upgrades. I imagine in ten years they will all seem insanely quaint. 

And it all comes back to data. Understanding precisely what a company actually does, and being agile enough to experiment with how it is delivered -  bringing whatever that might be to market simultaneously across a wide variety of formats and devices. Unfortunately that part is going to be quite hard. (and hard == expensive)

So you're saying we should build an App?

Not really no. I’m suggesting you experiment with everything. From experience comes wisdom and all that. The implication is that "optimizing" for one solution, web, or mobile, or any device seems to be less a priority than being consistent and authentic in your voice, because it is the only thing that will remain consistent over the coming years - outsource design and technology, and understand and focus on your content, your streams, your community and whatever it is that you do. Long term brand integrity.
It seems a truism from here - but maybe worth saying anyway - but anyone online has to learn to manage, play with, and optimize their data; and make their online form mutable and ready for change, because change is always coming, and it's always coming fast.