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Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
omniinmo,

Thanks for breathing some fresh insights into the conversation. I'm happy to read something besides "me too" on the subject. (BTW, I wasn't guessing philosophy professor. I was guessing that you might be a fellow Computer Science professor, perhaps one studying semantic web issues.)
Glad to be able to provide a different perspective :). On the other hand, I would like to dispel the impromptu professorship attribution. I'm merely a verbose enthusiast. Analyst by trade in the software industry business but, not a professor. I certainly wouldn't mind spending all my time reading and studying but my life took a different turn. Teaching isn't entirely ruled out though; maybe in a few decades ;). On the other hand, semantic web issues are always interesting to me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
I think its useful to separate your idea of associating actions with multiple identifiers (park, exercise, dog) from the idea of "contexts". A context has a very specific meaning in the GTD parlance and in OF, so using that term brings in lots of ideas about how contexts should work in a GTD system. OF strives to be both a GTD system and more flexible than just a GTD system. Using a term besides contexts helps to separate the issues. You've objected to the term "tags", so I'm going to call your proposal "semantically meaningful identifiers", or SMIs.
A good start. SMIs will provide a good platform to more forward :). My objection to "tags" was partially arbitrary in that I haven't followed the discussions pertaining to them. In any case, "tags" or "contexts" are a means of implementing the core idea of associating semantic information to *something* and the current "context" implementation under OF seems to be a prime candidate for expansion under the richer SMI coupe.

Quote:
Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
Logically, SMIs are at least as expressive as the current implementation of contexts in OF. This is because we could implement OF's contexts using SMIs. Just associate a unique SMI with each context in the context hierarchy.
Agreed with the below mentioned caveat.

Quote:
Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
An action in a particular context would get the SMI for that context, plus the SMI for every parent context up the hierarchy.
I beleive I understand what you're exposing but I perceive a slight hitch in that the current implementation of "contexts" under OF seems to be a superset of SMIs (SMIs + Non-SMIs). So I think that we could generalize the superset to be that of Semantic Identifiers (SI). The reason why I make the distinction is that it is very possible, under the current implementation of OF contexts to have hierarchies of non meaningful semantic information as well; although useless to human beings who would generally have no use for it since sane individuals try their very best to attribute meaning to their hierarchical constructs. I will plug a potential avenue for discussion disaster by saying that one could probably argue that all constructions can be considered meaningful given a particular context (not an OF context but a context in the generic sense) but I think that this would take us down an arduous path. Back to the main point.

Quote:
Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
For example, my "Call Tree Service" action might get the "Phone" SMI and the "Phone:BusinessHours" SMI. Viewing a single context in the current implementation would be accomplished by showing all actions with the corresponding SMI. Viewing several contexts in the current implementation would be accomplished by showing actions that have at least one of the corresponding SMIs.
Agreed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
But there's more. SMIs are strictly more expressive than the current implementation of contexts.
I perceive something slightly different, see comment regarding SI above.

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Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
Actions could be assigned multiple SMIs unrelated hierarchically. For example, I could have separate groups of SMIs corresponding to different people, different places, or different times of day. Views in a SMI-based system could use boolean combinations of SMIs, like (Alice AND Bob AND Carol) OR StaffMeeting.
Absolutely.

Quote:
Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
So, if SMIs have so much going for them, why not dump contexts and just use SMIs? A few possible reasons come to mind:
  • Consistently and accurately assigning SMIs to every item is a daunting task. Tagging works for very large data sets, like Flickr, where an infinite number of monkeys are assigning tags and approximate results are sufficient. (Our brains also return approximate search results.) However, when the goal is to show the complete set of actions that could be done at the moment, much greater accuracy and consistency is needed when assigning the SMIs. This makes capturing actions and organizing them a more costly endeavor.
I would generally disagree here. I would not necessarily encourage the systematic or excessive use of SMI*s* in all cases. One can always overdo anything. Too much cake or no cake at all can lead to disgruntlement :).

Quote:
Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
  • Bringing GTD back into the discussion for a moment, the Mind Like Water state comes from having everything in a trusted system. If the system instead replicates our brain's capacity for storing lots of stuff but providing approximate search results, then we're back to having incomplete actions and projects intruding on our consciousness.

    Of course, this argument against SMIs is mostly just a straw horse. One doesn't have to create a complex system of SMIs. So, it really comes down to whether the system should guide users or give them all the rope they need to hang themselves. In this case, I'd argue that OF is already in the rope dispensing business. Massive power and a steeper learning curve seems to be OF's niche.
Bingo.

Quote:
Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
  • Could we get there from here? Substantial portions of the OF architecture seem to be designed around having a single context for each item. (Think quick entry, context mode, context column in planning mode, group by context, and context navigation on the iPhone, just to name a few areas.) Would the additional benefits of SMIs be sufficient to justify the redesign required to replace contexts with SMIs?
As mentioned earlier, I really think that contexts are an implementation of "SIs" rather than "SMIs", but that aside, I do understand that a lot of thought would have to be placed into a redesign using the more flexible concept. In the end though, I beleive that the ensuing expressive power and extreme semantic flexibility would be most welcome by many.

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Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
  • Leaving contexts as is (as are?) and treating SMIs as additional meta-data works around these issues to some extent, but still requires substantial UI and database work on both the Mac and iPhone applications. It sounds like the Omnicians are working on this. I can imagine how this might look on the Mac. Clean querying of meta-data on the iPhone is going to require some innovative UI design. I look forward to seeing the results. (And never mind the computational complexity of querying set-based fields as opposed to singletons.)
It would also provide more flexibility in the direction we are discussing but I have a tendency to think, from a puritanical standpoint, that the design would feel less integrated if SIs were implemented separately from OF contexts which seem, to me, to be the ideal candidate for a makeover.

Quote:
Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
  • While philosophically fascinating, are the additional benefits of SMIs practically compelling? Many of the people arguing against multiple contexts on this thread are arguing this point. It's hard for me to say without doing the experiment, but then I'm not paying (much of) the developers salaries. I do know that I mostly gave up on complex tagging in Mail, but I still use three tags there (Personal, Work, and Quicken) and often assign multiple tags to a single message.
Without excess, I beleive that the feature is undoubtedly very useful and powerful. Interestingly, I also think that given that anybody would be able to assign secondary or tertiary, etc., meaning, more efficient systems could potentially be devised where a lacuna seems to exist in the software. Think of it as a dream-catcher. One such example is the @Waiting context and leaving action items where they are but "flagging" them as "waiting" without having to displace them from their current contextual tangle. See How do I use "Waiting For" or "@waiting"?.

Quote:
Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
*snip*
Regards
omniinmo

Last edited by omniinmo; 2009-08-02 at 09:45 AM..