I just watched the video on Firefox’s new “Ubiquity” browser-command-line interface, and I gotta agree with my initial thoughts that told me not to watch the video. The whole thing is a big waste of time for me. I don’t need this functionality. It seems like most new “cutting edge” web-glue software are either packages of solutions looking for problems, or substitutions for what can already be done very easily if you know how to do it. I addressed each functionality in the video below:

1) Inserting a map into an email. Why would I want to insert a map into an email? They whine about “we can’t insert a map; just a link” — as if links are some prehistoric antiquated technology that make thigns worse. A link is quicker, and functionally superior! With google maps, you can make turn by turn directions with a custom turn map each map zoomed as far as you want, and the main map can be zoomed/oriented however you want.

If you just paste the “big map” in an email to me, you’re basically taking that ability away from the recipient. The video showed what looked like a JPG being inserted into an email. I don’t think it’s an active map with zoom in, zoom out, and dragging .

It’s funny how with Web 1.0, we had static maps. With Web 2.0, we introduced draggable maps that are dynamic objects – not just static JPGs. And now we’re supposed to be convinced that going back to the less-functionally Web 1.0 static JPG map is somehow superior? WHAT AJOKE!

You know what? As a recipient, I would end up going to google maps anyway. I want turn by turn maps, esp if its in D.C. I especially want the “big map” to be zoomed into the parts *I* want it zoomed into, not the parts *YOU* want it zoomed to. For D.C. clubs, for example, I don’t need half my map being filled up with I-395 going from Alexandria to D.C. What I need is a close zoom of my destination in D.C. (which is probably 5% of the whole route). This is where I will actually be lost. This is where I need extra resolution. Don’t take my functionality away from me just to impress yourself with a plugin that you think is neat.

An actual link to an actual google map is way way functionally superior to embedding a map. I don’t want you to pick my map orientation. I know where I am likely to get lost, and want to zoom in on those parts.

What is this doing except wasting the senders time (by having to install a plugin that lets them do this), and giving the recipient fewer options? How is that good other than the “oh neat I embedded a map in my email OMG!”

Please — If you’re going to send me a map, send me the google maps link. Or just send me the address. How hard is it to hilight the address, right click->google, and then click the first link (which is always a map) anyway? We’re talking 5 seconds tops.

2) map-these – That’s neat to be able to map multiple destinations by hilighting them, but it currently only works with Craig’s List. And when are all my destinations for a day going to appear on the same page? Where is this magic page that knows all the addresses I plan on going to in a given day. (Not that I go multiple places ever anyway.)

Maybe a wedding+receiption would be a good use for a multi-destination-in-one-click map, but my wedding invites usually already have directions from the wedding to the reception; it would be almost rude NOT to include these if you’re running a wedding.

Outside of weddings, when else am I going to multiple destinations in one day? If I’m going to unrelated events, their addresses are never going to appear on a single page for me to hilight and use this functionality.

So not only does it not work (Craig’sList only), but I don’t see this situation coming up as ever being useful. Maybe once in a year. But generally, if I’m going to multiple events, they are unrelated and their addresses aren’t going to be on the same page.

How hard is it to copy and paste 2 or 3 addresses into a google map with multiple destinations? It would generally take less time than installing the plugin, and certainly less time than watching their 6 minute video explaining why you need Ubiquity.

3) Translating. The most compelling feature so far, but I have only translated and emailed a webpage about 2 times in my life. Translaters do a really bad job anyway — does this let you use multiple services, or are you stuck with whatever they chose? This might save a few seconds, but how hard is it to have a toolbar button pointing to babelfish/world.altavista.com? How hard is it to copy and paste a link into that page, and then copy and paste the translated text to email? These things take 10-20 seconds. Is installing a plugin that turns a 20 second activity into a 10 second activity really saving you time, if that activity comes up less than once a year? For me? No.

4) define/wikipedia/twitter with 1 word – I already do all of these with 1 exclusively by command-line — for years in some cases. My define uses m-w.com — who knows which dictionary this uses? Is it user-configurable? My define.bat is basically http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?va=%1 … It’s not like this is rocket science. And once you’ve visited that URL once, you can simply type “m-w” at the command line, and it will autocomplete, at which point you can hit end, shift-ctrl-left-arrow to hilight the last word of the URL, type your new word over that, and enter. This is barely any slower than typing “define”.

My wiki.bat is equally simple – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%1 … And again, once you’ve visited the URL, it autocomplets. You go to addressbar, type “en” or “en.w”, it autocompletes to the last wiki, end to go to the end, shift-ctrl-left-arrow to hilight the word, type over, hit enter. We’re talking 2 or 3 extra keystrokes to NOT use the plugin. It’s starting to seem to me that the plugin is for people who haven’t learned basic keyboard concepts such as “end goes to the end of something” and “shift-movement hilights what you move over”, because it doesn’t save any time for someone who knows how to type in an address bar.

My twitter.bat also locally logs my twitters and optionally crossposts to LJ. So I’d never use their twitter functionality anyway (at least not at home) because its inferior to my own. It’s not like there aren’t other plugins for the twitter functionality at all.

5) I don’t care in the slightest about TinyURL. Doesn’t twitter automatically convert long URLs to tinyURL anyway? Not that I care.

6) Commands. They didn’t really go into much detail about how ‘commands’ are actually going to be useful. Seems like a nice area to add features to. Honestly, their ability for future commands is the neatest thing, because what they currently have is useless to me.

Conclusion: Not compelling. Video was a waste of time. No needs that I actually need are met. As I suspected, I’m already doing everything as fast or as well as I want. This would not save 6 minutes of time (the time it took to watch the video), not even after months of use. I probably should not have watched the video. A new product comes out every few months that touts to be a solution to a bunch of problems I don’t have. (The Ipod was one of those at one point.)

If I was on a work computer where I couldn’t install my own stuff, this might save a bit of time. (i.e. seconds) But honestly? URL auto-complete means I can define or wiki any word I want in less than 5 seconds anyway, and every work computer that doesn’t let me install my own scripts hasn’t let me install firefox either.

Ubiquity, like lots of new browser-based web 2.0 software — just seems to be a solution looking for a problem.

Mood: wakey
Music: Celtic Frost – A Kiss Or A Whisper