The Linked Data social ecosystem Solid is a work in progress. So are its UX and UI. Roads assembling themselves on the go.
But let’s face it, isn’t our own understanding of how we use, curate and give our data on the Web one that is still shaping and evolving? One that needs reassessing and reframing?
We have so much to learn about true data ownership and the building blocks of a decentralized, yet highly-connected Web... One way to do that is through the seemingly hard for non-geeks UX (or the lack of it) of Solid.
Dear Solid, Why This UX?
Fragmented, disjoint, a pain…
These are only part of the words I read about the experience, people not familiar with code, are having with Solid.
The reason Solid feels like this is because it is fragmented, it is about “small pieces, loosely joined”, a mesh of anything linked to anything that can structure itself before the eyes of the user, upon their specific request. Understanding this requires a totally new mindset where we don’t get ready solutions, but rather get our own data and further decide what we want built out of it.
And at its present state, what we see of Solid is its threads and strings as they are. If we dare to begin using it we will feel the power and the challenge of Linked Data.
And the UX will get better. Of course. What we see is the naked ecosystem, wearing only code. It will get dressed with time.
By getting dressed I mean something that you can see in action:
Added this to my website! Little card which contains my info on my portfolio website.
What you see on this user’s website is a simple and nice integration with Solid. This kind of a widget on his website is fed with data from his publicly available data on his Solid POD.
Solid’s UX as a Wake-up Call
As intimidating the experience with wrangling HTML and a data browser might be, it is also a kind of a wake-up call.
A call that prompts us to ask questions. What are the trade-offs for a seamless experience? What is at the backend of a sugary front-end experience? Where all our data goes? Who has access to the backend of the systems we are interacting within and and are we sure we will always be able to retrieve our data?
For me, the struggle (increasingly fading away) with Solid’s interface was revealing. Every time I try (and I really try a lot and hard :) ) to just create a resource to access it, I realize the many steps (and footprints) I am making towards one single digital piece. Imagine what’s happening with all our social media interactions, comments across forums, data inside various services and apps. Massive flows of data across platforms. Seemingly integrated, but very very disjoint from the perspective of the user.
How do we really own our data? Do we put our photos in the common basement or we take care of them. It also makes us ponder, me ponder, especially after the upcoming fall of G+, how much knowledge, individuality and experience we just throw into streams that are not under our control?
Are We Mindful About Our Digital Footprints?
I am not. But I intend to start trying to be. It seems to me that just like the decentralisation of the Web is something we are to see, our own realization of how we scatter knowledge, content and memories across disjoint platforms is still to happen. Gradually, we have begun to see beyond the sleek interfaces and the seemingly lifted barriers for content publishing. And what we see is walls, lack of integration and uncertainty for our digital footprints.
The way out of this paradigm built of disintegrated platforms, applications hardly talking to one another and users scrolling endless streams of content, is hitting the road of Solid. Well aware that Solid is not done yet, something that we (and an army of awesome developers across the Globe) have the opportunity to shape and influence!
Solid as a Road Assembling Itself on the Go
The thing is this road is not built yet, it assembles itself while we are walking on it. It’s true. Solid’s UX is challenging! But that’s not the point. It will, as the ecosystem evolves, at a later stage provide a seamless experience. By then, we can use the time to reassess what we want to do with our digital everything.
It will be a long road ahead. But the sooner we hit it, the more time we will enjoy building it.