BumpTop is a virtual desktop environment that behaves like a physical desktop. You can “pile” documents, toss them around, and even “crumple” them up.
Their video has been getting a lot of buzz after the demo at TED2007 the other day. It seems like a lot of people are pretty excited about it, but I fail to see what all the hype is about.
BumpTop looks entertaining, I’ll give it that. I’m sure I could waste at least a few hours stacking and unstacking my documents. But would you rather riffle through a mess of virtual papers to find your 2005 federal tax filing or just type “1040” into your Google Desktop search (or perhaps simply go to the folder where you keep your tax filings)?
I’m all for extending concepts from the physical world into the virtual world. But the extension needs to make sense! A password is a conceptual extension of the key; and it’s a logical and highly useful extension. But imagine if instead of a password you had a virtual key, and instead of typing in your password to unlock something, you needed to find your virtual key and drag it over a virtual lock. What do you do if you leave your virtual keys between your virtual sofa cushions! Yes, this is a ridiculous example. But is it that different from what BumpTop is attempting?
The beginning of their demo video is a pan over some guy’s messy desk. The narrator, in his nasally voice, proclaims: “In real workspaces, documents are piled and casually arranged in a way that subtly conveys information to the owner.” Can you imagine saying that to your boss if he walked over and told you to clean up your desk? “Casually arranged”? Are you kidding?! That’s a damn mess!
The principal reason I use a computer is because it allows me to do things more efficiently than I could in the real world. That’s the appeal of computers. They’re not like real life.