Will Desktop Affordances be Useful?

Computer technology demos are always interesting, but sometimes you wonder if it would actually be useful in real life. And the opposite is true: Blogging doesn’t demo well, people have a hard time understanding why, but it turns out to be valuable. This week’s impressive demo is BumpTop, showing “physically-based casual interfaces and pen-centric interactions.”
Well, it’s totally cool. The seven-minute movie is worth your attention. It makes your computer desktop look archaic. But I tend to agree with Merlin that I’m not sure I’d use it for that purpose.

See, here’s the thing: once your computer (and your related world, writ large) has excellent indexing, search, and access via something like Quicksilver, this kind of “physical” interface metaphor starts seeming quaint, if not downright exhausting. I guess I just never find myself shuffling and re-organizing large numbers of files in a way that isn’t more than satisfactorily addressed with sorting, Smart Folders, icon views, and searching. I throw stuff into the most general piles I can stand, then let Quicksilver and Spotlight do all the heavy lifting. Maybe that’s me, but this seems like a recipe for non-stop fiddling.

Reminds me of David Gelernter’s project called Lifestreams, which looked cool but ultimately hasn’t taken hold. It was core research, however, so maybe something will come of it someday.