Wednesday, April 22, 2009

This changes everything?

In the ICF session of Monday's RSA worskhop, Drummond described the new 'action card' concept (as enabled by Kynetx and demonstrated by the AAA and ChoixVert) with the phrase 'this changes everything'.

While the idea of client-side personalization of search results is undeniably cool, I would question its 'changing everythingness' - not because it's not a powerful idea but simply because everything changed a while ago with GreaseMonkey.

With GreaseMonkey already installed in Firefox, I installed a script (found by searching on 'environment' at UserScripts) that augments Google Finance pages with the environmental scores of the companies searched for - the 'hue' pulled from

For instance, below is the results page for Nike

Google didn't serve up the text in green, it was appended by GreaseMonkey, as specified by the script. Beyond the above simple script, there is even a whole project dedicated to the idea - the Web Browser Environmental Sustainability Toolkit.

WebBEST was built to address the world's sustainability issues. We feel that people are ill informed of their impact in the environmental, perhaps because of the lack of environmental information in popular online services. With the system in place, people no longer need to go out of their way to find environmental information. Instead, people need only install our scripts and that information is brought to them directly though the online service they frequent, relative to the content they are viewing.

The ChoixVert whitepaper argues that Kynetx's system is unique

There are many scripting languages and web augmentation
technologies out there. All of these are interesting but don’t hold a
candle to KNS. Here is why.

1. KNS is selector driven.
2. KNS is accessible. The Kynetx Rules Language is based on a
human readable programming paradigm.
3. KNS glues any accessible data to any service or application—
anywhere on the Internet—and it does so securely and with
the user’s consent. This has never been done before. 

I expect being 'selector driven' offers both advantages and disadvantages. As a possible example of the latter, can I the user customize the ChoixVert card, managed card that it is? I can see the card in the Azigo selector but don't seem to have any means to edit? A definite example of the latter is that there is but one 'GreaseMonkey Script Chooser' so the user doesnt have to deal with 'Script Chooser Chooser' windows.

The fact that the rules are human readable will reassure my mother I'm sure - she does worry so about being able to read code....

Separately, I find 'action card' as a descriptor somewhat strange, from the user's PoV, a typical 'sign in' card involves far more 'action' than this quiet personalization operation.


Robin Wilton said...

Gosh. You mean the case for a mandatory "selector" on the client may not be water-tight? Someone ought to tell someone.

Mike Farmer said...

You are right, Developers will want to edit their own scripts. I believe Kynetx offers a way to do this. However, if what is wanted is broad adoption of web augmentation, a more streamlined process is needed without programming expertise being required. The card selector offers this.

Craig said...

Since I wrote the white paper you refer to in this post, and the ruleset for the ChoixVert card, it is appropriate that I respond.

I stand by my position that Action Cards change everything.

Greasemonkey is very cool, but is a Firefox specific hack that is a fun toy but no more than a harbinger to the real thing.

Selector-based Action Cards are the real thing and do—in fact as claimed—change everything.

You completely missed the power of the rule driven action card.

You can read my whole treatise on the matter at