This blog is (for the most part) dedicated to advanced web research and development, in particular Web 2.0/3.0 and Semantic Web efforts. Please peruse earlier postings for lots of material on both topics.
One thing we have discussed are the “mega apps” used by video, audio, and animation professionals.
These applications are highly sophisticated in their capabilities, vastly huge in the size of their interfaces, and because of these two things, it is very, very difficult to learn to use them by experimentation. You have to be trained, and professionals spend years learning to use them properly and creatively. These applications can be viewed as the ultimate challenge for the next generation of web application development. Can media and animation applications be deployed as web applications that would actually perform well enough? It would be a great relief to many artists and media professionals to not have to install and maintain their mega apps on their desktop machines.
But now, let’s look at what makes these applications so intimidating. Consider five questions that relate to complex applications.
- 1. What does the application do?
How long it takes to answer this question and how much specialized terminology is sprinkled throughout the answer are very telling. Can you say what a 3D application does? How would you explain it to a non-animation professional?
- 2. What does the GUI look like to the user?
The depth of this answer – in a literal sense – is also very telling. Mega apps have deeply layered interfaces, and at any given time, only a fraction of their capabilities are visible. Learning to peel back the layers and master these applications can be extremely frustrating and typically takes professional training itself.
- 3. What algorithms are used internally by the application?
Animation, special effects, video editing, and other media applications do in a number of difficult-to-learn steps things that could take days or weeks or months to do manually. Figuring out how the application gets its job done and how that relates to the tasks a media professional wishes to carry out – that is what separates gifted artists from gifted artists who also have a gift for software.
- 4. What is the process for using the application?
A typical mega application is so complex that there is no way that its two-dimensional interface on a single bit mapped display can walk the user through the suggested processes for using it. And, there is a creative element that is discovered in real time by the artist, anyway.
- 5. What is the application’s role in media workflow?
In many media environments, like animation, a wide variety of mega apps must be used in a intricate, iterative, and ever-changing workflow. New apps come along all the time, old ones are extended and reengineered, and specialized products that hook up various mega apps into cohesive workflows are becoming a huge business in themselves.
So, what’s the lesson?
If you want to get a feeling for just how high the bar has been set for the next generation of web apps, think about your favorite desktop mega app (or the downsized, but still sophisticated version or competing product you might be using), and think about these five questions. Now think about the web applications you actually use. Note taking applications? List making applications? Mailers? Messaging apps? See how far we are from making the new web truly compete with the desktop world? Are we really going to switch to net computers that contain only highly limited operating systems and access applications only over the web?