Reading Usable Help
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Gordon R. Meyer
Info info everywhere, but not a thing to read
J. Bradford DeLong, in Shifting Into Overdrive for Wired magazine, points out that the forgotten revolution in computing technology has been the development of mass storage. New computers routinely come equipped with what would have been $6,000,000 worth of storage back in the mid-'80s. We've had a 60,000-fold fall in the cost of hard disk space with hardly anyone noticing.
Driving the need for more storage space is high-resolution media such as video, music, and photographs. Symbiotically, applications like iView Media, and Portfolio crowd the market in an attempt to solve the unintended consequence of storage abundance -- CFS syndrome. (aka Can't Find Sh*t.)
Even the smallest hard disks available today have ample space for the equivalent of shelves upon shelves of books and textual information. (Unless you use a bloated file format. See "A Hidden Cost in PDF Documentation.") The potential is amazing -- an entire library at your fingertips -- yet the industry's efforts are focused on things to look at, not things to read. Is HTML and PDF the best we can do for presenting the written word onscreen? Where is the software that allows you to find, organize, read, and preserve text the way that iTunes puts thousands of songs within easy reach?