Web applications do all sorts of fun and useful things, but they come with a problematic side-effect: the potential for overload.
With each service we use and with each log-in we acquire, our stress levels rise, and the problem – known as information fragmentation – is only made worse by the advent of cloud storage and mobile devices.
This spring, Research Associate Professor Emeritus William Jones of the University of Washington Information School challenged students to create Web applications with the potential to help alleviate the overload. The students’ creations hint at a future of Web apps that are able to share information across cloud stores such as those provided by Google Drive or Dropbox and able to work in concert with one another across different devices. The results were on display June 9 as three teams of students presented their work to a panel of professionals from Microsoft (Steve Anderson and Vijay Mital), Amazon (Sheng Bi) and the iSchool (Dave Stearns and Jacob Wobbrock).
Informatics students Wei-jen Chiang, Cameron Doane and Shu Chang presented a Chrome Web browser extension that organizes bookmarks in a searchable, user-friendly interface. The app allows users to share bookmarks using Dropbox or Google Drive.
Likewise, master’s students Namrata Deshpande, Jyothirmayee Mocherla, Meg Wang and Yun Hsiao teamed up to create a trip planning app that allows users to collaborate on a schedule much as they might now work on a Google document, using an interface that’s geared for travelers.
The third group – Informatics students Jonathan Li, Brittney Hoy and Thomas Tseng – presented a way to arrange files and folders spatially and to use photos or graphics to represent them rather than the standard file and folder icons. Related items, such as folders for related projects, can be placed near each other, and more important items can be placed higher up in the display. The display scrolls infinitely to the left for items completed in the past and to the right for items in the future.
The apps each make use of an itemMirror platform. Jones noted that “the platform takes a let-it-lie approach in which a new class of apps can be ‘applied,’ mix and match, to relevant information no matter where it is stored and with no need for export and import.”
To try out the students’ apps, or to see previous years’ projects, visit the project showcase.