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Better software for multitasking


Stack of books

Applications are still largely designed to be independent from each other. But it is clear that we multitask more and more.
The question is, how can software help use manage our activities better?


Queues, in my opinion, are one of the keys to solving the overload mess. As Alex Payne remarks, we deal with remarkable number of queues on a daily basis: communications awaiting attention and reply, work and home tasks, various reading (books, bookmarks, ...), movies to watch, things to see, places to visit, thoughts to be refined...
But how to manage all those queues without adding another queuing system and spending our time keeping up-to-date ;-)

A good queue system should, I think, include some form of active monitoring: a movie I'm interested in is now showing or available on DVD, a book is available on Kindle, a good deal comes up for a restaurant or a trip.

Multiple devices

In the case of media (bookmarks, PDFs, podcasts, youtube videos, etc.), we should have better apps for managing those queues. Things become especially difficult when you start crossing device boundaries: from computer to handheld devices to TV.
I haven't seen a solution which doesn't frustrate you with unnecessary administrative waste: to delete or archive a video after watching it, for queuing on one device, then downloading and consuming on another, or for annotating and re-finding stuff.
A good model would allow different workflows, synchronize across devices and deal with intermittent or scarce connections.


The shift to more video and audio content becoming available online, also provides some new challenges. But these screencasts, presentations, and various clips are simultaneously long and hard to multitask.
It would be great if the OS or the browser could help manage and facilitate watching videos.
For example, if you could queue a video to be watched on another device (would require a way to extract and address videos).
Or if you could clip a video from one tab and make it into a side bar (any idea whether a Firefox add-on could implement that?).
Another idea would be to allow user-contributed video highlights (for presentations and such), to share condensed videos with other users.

I'm curious to try Windows 7, as it offers some incremental solutions for this kind of activities, such as the new taskbar ("superbar") and the side-by-side windows seem useful. This kind of thinking will definitely help make it successful, as there is a clear need for better multitasking.

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