It’s 2010. Where’s My Internet Dashboard?

With everyone debating whether email is being displaced by social media, I find myself returning to a thought I’ve been tossing about for a while. Why isn’t there a single, web based dashboard for all my internet-based communication? It should act both as an aggregator and as a messaging centre– a singular launch-point from which I can see the latest news and quickly compose messages that can be sent to any of my connected platforms: email, twitter, blog post, whatever.

I actually expected this to happen quite a while ago, and I know that there have been some attempts to pull it off, including Google’s increasing suite of apps (and the poorly exectuted iGoogle). I also had an interesting discussion about this on Twitter a few weeks ago, suggesting that part of Facebook’s success has to do with the dashboard. You access news, messages, shared links, photos and status updates from one convenient interface.

I’m no programmer, or I’d have built this by now. Despite that, I can tell you what would be required of such a thing if it’s to work:

Data needs to live both on my computer and in the cloud.

This dashboard of mine should live on a mini server on my computer, synchronizing with the cloud whenever changes happen. My data needs to be portable, it needs to be accessible anywhere, and I need to be able to own it. This means my little server would synchronize with servers “out there.” That way, I can still access the service through mobile devices and library computers, and everything will still be stored locally on my own computer.

Peer to Peer Connections

My contact info should exist as my identity on my personal server and when I change anything, it should push those changes to my “friends” or whatever you want to call people I’ve allowed to have access. This will always go directly to their personal servers, when possible, or through the cloud when needed. For larger files, I should be able to “post” them via a secure bit torrent feed. That way, everyone in my network shares the load of the file. Of course, I should be able to restrict automatic download of such files to a size limit, much like I do with my SMTP client.

River of News and Single Composition Interface

The heart of the dashboard will be a river of news, but filterable in a variety of ways, threaded and combining incoming messages from all my services, including email. A single interface will let me send email, post to my blog or update my status. It will default to whatever mode I’m responding to (if it’s a response), but I can select whichever services I want to push to.

A Public Face

This would look something like ClaimID, with an OpenID certificate built in and a button allowing people to request access.

I think the ingredients are all out there, just someone more clever than me needs to hook it all up.

What do you think? Can it be done? What else does this dashboard need?

Posted in Meta.

13 Comments

  1. It wasn't until very recently with the recent push from HTML5 that this was possible, at least from the offline storage capacity. Webkit, Firefox 3.6 and Opera now support this golden feature that allows you to bring your data with you once you've unplugged.

    It has been available for sometime from Google, however they're really only concerned with Chrome (webkit).

    Two other issues that I kinda see in your concept: either A) you will need to have everyone join the network you're creating so everyone exists in the same network as your dashboard, or, B) you would need to amass accounts to all existing networks, and have your dashboard network mashup with them.

    It's like the mother of all mash-ups. Plus wrapping an HTML-based IMAP/SMTP client around your current email provider.

    This is quite the undertaking. :)

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  3. Some apps are trying to go this direction, bringing together several social media sites and feed sources under one umbrella. The "Flock" browser, which is moving to Chrome, and the "Socialite" app (which I use) are off the top of my head. They require accounts at all sites be set up, but at least it reduces the amount of programs someone has open and/or jumps around to to keep up :/

  4. True. There have been several attempts at this (don’t know about GOtrieve), but none that I’ve seen that meet all the criteria I’ve listed here, and none that look like a combined aggregator/publisher which Ross mentioned in reply on the thread over on scripting.com with a PubSubHubBub. This is really what I’m getting at.

    I want a trustable public profile that connects with my streams and allows me to aggregate them and publish to them. It has to be open and live on my machine, and like SMTP, when I “publish” it should go into a queue that will go send when the service is open. For others on the same network, it can just go direct.

  5. This is why I can't build it myself! But it seems like it should be simpler than this. You could even just start with a simple aggregator and a fancy form that connects to other services.

  6. True. Many of these are close. I've played with a handful, and that's why I think that one of the attractions of Facebook is it's simple ability to handle multiple kinds of streams in one single place. Photos, Statuses, Email, etc. I just want that dashboard to be open and controllable by me, and connect to the services "out there" that I choose, rather than be corralled within a gated community that has control over all my interactions.

  7. This dashboard app was actually released back in 2001 as a product called GOtrieve. It provided a peer environment where participants could identify content of interest to a community, share it amongt peers, and make sure that data was propagated not only to peers but also to repository sites. There have been numerous variant of this original app created since then and several are available out there if you know where to look…

  8. I'm hoping so. If they follow this kind of thinking, that of a dashboard, instead of just another alternative network, I will be very happy.

  9. I've been really happy with Feedly so far. It pretty seamlessly integrates your twitter feed with RSS aggregation… Its missing some of the features you want and others that I'd like to see as well, but its not a bad starting point.
    Another really interesting project that I've been keeping an eye on is the Cargo CMS (http://cargocollective.com/). It's a portfolio site builder that connects you with other Cargo users whom you can choose to follow and share your work with. They also use the system pretty uniquely to collect content from hundreds of contributors for spacecollective.org (spacecollective.org/recent). Its a pretty interesting concept.
    Again, not exactly what you're looking for, but the UI design is extremely intuitive and inviting.

  10. This is pretty much a verbatim description of a project I'm working on in my spare time. It's called "HTFS" (Hypertext File System), and I started roughing ideas out about it about 7 years ago. What I'm working on now is building on top of a WordPress installation, and it will effectively act as a Universal Aggregation Engine (tagline!), which pulls content in and then allows you to sort/filter/pivot it all based on a variety of factors. I have a few random, very old notes here http://dentedreality.com.au/projects/htfs/ They don't really describe much of the current approach, but might be interesting regardless.

  11. That's really interesting. I figured someone out there must be working on something like this. I just can't fathom why no major project has emerged. It would have been a good idea 7 years ago, but by now it seems essential.

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