Someone asked me today if used Firefox. “Yes, I said”. After a pause they said “What are all those icons where the site address goes”. I thought for a moment and replied “waypoints”. After a slight nod of acceptance came “what do they do?”.
My waypoints – Delicious, Diigo, Zotero (still scares me), zemanta (awesome tool), Cooliris, Google Notebook – are all things I use to recognise where I’ve been, what I’ve seen and learned. They do add to productivity – but I am so used to using them that I almost forget they are there and just how damn useful my browser is. Add ons come and go, but these have been with me for a while now. They make the whole process of telecommuting, working anywhere so easy that I wonder how people who have IE, Word and Email cope with the ebb and flow of communication that passes by them daily. It all starts and ends with meta data. The ability to leverage poweful tools, from simple icons, and create a set of way points that help me navigate the stuff that I’m interested in makes Firefox a weapon of mass construction (sic). Not only do I explore the metaverse, but the tools make it easy to drop pixel pins all over it.
Do I prefer to use online tools? No. I just want to use powerful tools. I can’t do any of this in Word and Outlook, so don’t – unless I have to. A decade ago, I had Outlook open all day, now I have to remember to check Groupwise. All this comes with me as I wander around with my iPhone (which as a phone is not that great). I no longer carry my laptop around with me. I’ve also noticed that students on campus also don’t. I half expected that students would all have laptops or netbooks – given the free wifi. But no, they prefer their phone and then drop into a ‘lab’ when they need to use a PC. I think at times, these things creep up on us. We don’t make big jumps at all, but there is a constant upgrade at work. It is impossible to keep up, to know all that is there, or all that is possible anymore – and I am not sure we need to. Powering your browser allows you to do more. Talking Web2.0 to someone on stock IE6 is difficult. Developing learning systems using browser power-ups is something I am beginning to think is like an exoskeleton. In the brief conversation today, it was impossible to put this into a simple answer other than “they make things better”.