Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

Today (hopefully) will mark a milestone in the life of Touchstone. While Chris is in the States, talking with many of the people we’ve been engaged in conversation with since we started, I have been passed the helm of our Australian Operation in his absence, and prepping a build for tonight, which I *hope* will become our first Beta build.

With the Touchstone Team growing, we have surrounded ourselves in positive, interesting people passionate about what Touchstone is all about. This positive drive, has been accelerating the momentum of Touchstone and has given us the ability to produce a build which is far superior then anything we have previously produced.

I thought it might be interesting to post a few of the recent enhancements this build of Touchstone will bring, a sort of Elaborate Release notes to show you our direction and to convince those who have not yet signed up to the mailing list to receive this build, to do so now (over there <– on the left). So, here are a few of the enhancements of Touchstone 0.4.397:

The first and most obvious change is the new slick interface as it was just too difficult and too cumbersome to use the previous one. We designed this window to be a little more “normal” while at the same time empowering us to do more with it. Now all inputs, prioritization and interuptions are all controlled within a single window.

The user now has a more verbose status area, where they can view the items Touchstone is “tracking”, sources found, Inputs and Outputs. It also shows the current state of the automatic profiler (another overhauled system for this build).

The event log is another useful tool we’ve included in this build. Originally designed as a debug tool, we thought a way for users to see exactly what’s going on inside the core during Touchstone’s standard operation would be helpful. Especially for our Adapter Developers.

While the new interface still has a few things we need to iron out, overall it makes a massive difference to the Touchstone user experience.

Another big shift is the way ranks and ranges are set. Gone are the Trackbars of old and replaced with a new star control which we feel makes selecting values and ranges more immediately obvious at a fraction of the screen space. Black stars are negative values and Gold stars represent positive values.

The development team has also been optimizing the default adapter set. The ticker is now fully dockable (thanks Paul 😉 and behaves nicely compared to the floating topmost ticker before.

The ticker also has a number of modes, Multi-Item mode (which works just like a normal Ticker) and a fade mode, which was requested by the community as an additional optional transition to the Top and Right Sliding modes.

Optimizations to the cache and core importance algorithms have made Touchstone more responsive and more discerning about what items to interrupt the user with.

Age now more heavily effects the results of an item, and this has eliminated “item spam” the user got when they used to initially launch Touchstone. This is still a work-in-progress, but the effects are really effective.

We are preparing the build now, so it should be ready for release tonight or early tomorrow morning AEST (/me touches wood). Cross your fingers for us, and signup to get in on this awesome build.

“Almost beta” indeed 🙂

Ash Out

Walking the Walk

Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

Creating a profile of a person’s attention is something Touchstone has been doing for some time now. Since we have launched the APML specification, we have had a lot of positive feedback about it, which has been both inspiring and reassuring. Additionally, APML addresses something I have felt for a while now; that I have grown weary of the constant “banter” about solving the Attention Deficit Problem.

One thing that we feel will make the difference, is the implementation of the APML specification into real-world (and value added) user scenarios.

Having an attention profile specification is all well and good, but if nothing useful uses it, there isn’t much point in having it. At some point, the talking has to stop, and action must (and should) always take place. In order to facilitate the widespread use of the APML specification, we have charged Michael (a member of the Touchstone Development team), to building an APML library which will consume and process APML data so other developers do not have to worry about designing/programming their own to process the format we have suggested. We understand the pressures of supporting a standard like this, so this library and it’s source is going to be free for whomever wants to use APML in their applications.

While APML is still a young format that is being discussed by the community it it will continue to change and grow – we are committed to making it the right kind of solution for storing an Attention Profile (so that end users don’t get 400 different ways of describing and profiling a person’s interests) and taking the first step by releasing these types of contributions. We will be releasing another build very soon, but we hope that within the week we will have the initial APML library ready to go for anyone who is interested in joining the “less talk, more action“ bandwagon, with Attention Meta-Data consumption.

You can read more about APML at the APML website.

Web 2.0 in an Occasionally Connected World

Cross-posted from the Particls blog.

Chris and I often converse with each other about a fantasy world where we would happily live. In this world, internet connections are high bandwidth, always on, and free for everyone to use, wherever you are. Sadly, “reality” just hasn’t caught up with us yet. Must be because it has a strong Liberal bias. 😉

Because we don’t have this free-for-use subspace ulra-wideband connection, Web 2.0 only works so far. It’s something that we feel sets Touchstone apart, but also means that we have this constant balancing act between the value we add into the cloud and the value we add onto the client.

It’s something which I am afraid to admit has always perplexed me about the Web 2.0 world – the plethora of diverse and spectacular applications available is staggering and inspiring; so long as I am connected when I want to use them. It’s one of the reasons I seem to be slightly more pessimistic about web-based apps than Chris.

We feel that it’s very important for Touchstone to bridge this gap by persisting information for Web 2.0 apps when the user is intermittently connected.

Filter the noise, whether you’re online or off!