So, the web is full of interesting stuff, right? Gadgets, people, blogs, books, tips, wine—all good things. At least, the web is full of interesting pages about these things. In a single session, you might read a mate’s blog (maybe about wine), then browse a retail site for a book that that mate recommended and stumble across a brilliant gadget. That’s five good things in the space of a few minutes. Here they are, in case you missed them: your mate’s a person (good), and he’s got a blog (debatable, but there you go). He’s talking about wine (which is definitely good), and he happens to recommend a book (great). In the process, you stumble across a gadget (brilliant!).
The problem with all that is that you didn’t instantly recognise all the good things in that very brief narrative sentence. The web is an interconnected bunch of arbitrarily-related pages, like a catalogue of (often good) stuff, without an index. It’s arbitrary, because the pages only exist when it’s linked to; and the stuff can be anything from a purchasable item to an innovative idea. This network is mind-numbingly huge and even the most versatile of polymaths can’t be interested in all of it. So, what we want is all the good stuff, and we want it with all the flexibility an arbitrary system can offer (I like this, this and this… are they related in any way?)
Well, when I look at them, I can see that they’re related; and not just because I happen to have chosen three things I like. I have had the tremendous privilege of testing a gadget which lets me capture these things, and lets me peek at how they connect with my own little perspective on the web. The gadget’s called Glue, and it’s the latest offering from AdaptiveBlue. I’ve blogged about AdaptiveBlue’s Smartlinks in the past, and they’re responsible for the little icons next to the linked things above (if you have a decent browser). What they’ve been doing is allowing you to contextualise the stuff on the web, and Glue goes a step further by letting you also interact with other folks’ contexts.
Firstly, Glue is a browser plugin for Firefox (remember, I said to get a decent browser?). Glue creates a bookmark in your bar, but the real magic occurs when you navigate to some stuff. As you seek out or stumble across interesting things online, the Glue menu glides down, giving you instant options to “like” the item, find out more about it, and see who else has “liked” it too. They have an excellent walk-through on their site, so I won’t duplicate their efforts by explaining how it works here, but it does recognise many kinds of “stuff” from a myriad of very important sites.
The interesting part, for me, is that it brings a context to all the arbitrary links we follow all the time. We can see where we fit in with this, and what our mates think too. Best of all, these things are treated just like that: as the things in which we’re interested. I want to talk about this book, not this page about the book. I want to rate this book, and if a friend sees it on another site, he’ll still see that I liked it!
Best of all, it’s a social network without the need for a social-networking space. It’s the first thing I’ve seen which successfully breaks out of the need to be inside a specific place in order to interact and contextualise—we don’t need MyFace’s training wheels! Glue shifts its focus from trying to hem in, or reduce the web, to elegantly augmenting it.
As you can tell, I really like this gadget, and I thank @fraser and @alexiskold for building it, and letting me have a play of the Beta.