I’m not going to be making predictions for 2014. Or promises that I may or may not keep. Or even resolutions. At least, not public ones : who knows what crazy trajectories my life will take this year?
But I do have a couple of questions. These are the things occupying my mind at the beginning of 2014. And which may plausibly inform what I do.
1) What’s the relation between OWL and Mind Traffic Control?
There’s little doubt in my mind now. OWL is great. It’s the future. At least, as far as my private notebook is concerned. And that means it’s now my de facto to-do list manager as well.
Which is kind of embarrassing for Mind Traffic Control.
MTC does have some virtues :
- firstly, a kick-ass name that I love. “Mind Traffic Control” is the best name ever! For personal organizer stuff.
- it’s solid. It has remembered everything I put into it from the moment it was written. It’s all still hanging around to haunt me. (Even if I kind of wish some of it wouldn’t)
- the task delegation is pretty sweet. I don’t know anything else as simple as MTC for delegating tasks to other people and tracking what you delegated. To be honest, I don’t do a lot of delegating tasks to people. But if I did, I’d want to use MTC.
- the deferral part works as advertised and it’s a nice feature for a task-tracking app.
- MTC is slicker than you remember, if you haven’t looked at it for a while. In 2013 I did a bunch of Ajaxing it up so it’s now sending more little json fragments around and doing a lot less recreating the page.
But it also has big problems.
- It’s not OWL. (See above. Doh!)
- There is a major impedance mismatch between queues and the ORM-style storage system that Google App Engine uses. Moving items around on the queues seems to be really inefficient. To such an extent that whenever I do a burst of development / testing on the live server, Google kick me off for going over my quota of data queries. Querying also seems to take longer than it needs.
- It’s on the GAE cloud, at a time when I and, I think, many others are becoming wary of storing their personal / private data on servers belonging to large corporations under the jurisdiction of the NSA. And at a time when I, myself, am seeking to become less entwined with Google and its technologies.
- While the UI has improved, it’s still not as slick as it ought to be. It still needs a lot of work to look as good or work as well as modern web-apps.
- It never really caught on. People try it, some have used it off and on over a couple of years, but I don’t think I have any long-term users except me.
So if I look deep into the abyss and am honest, MTC is a failed experiment. Whatever its theoretical virtues.
And in 2014 I think there’s a straight choice :
Either admit to myself that MTC is no longer a going concern. Perhaps kill it entirely. (Like I did with Platform Wars last year.)
Or, to use a fashionable term, pivot the site to become something else. Probably something with OWL at its core. I don’t quite know what that would mean. Maybe doing the hard work of remodelling the queue data-model (use localStorage? synchronized to large BLOBs on the server?) and then trying to put OWL / Concord on the front-end of that? Maybe just a one-time export of MTC data? (Remember, MTC has exported to OPML since its inception.) Maybe becoming a GAE hosted farm of OWL wikis? If so, what, if anything, of the original queue and delegation model could / should be preserved / recreated?
Today, I only have these questions rather than answers. But this year, I’ll be trying to resolve them one way or another.
(I’ll post the next of my 2014 questions tomorrow. Maybe.)