I showed a longtime friend/guru a demo of Tock, in its current form, with all the bells and whistles flying yesterday afternoon because he was complaining about Outlook and wished “there was a better way.”  I had no intention of showing off a half-baked, barely working piece of software, but the interfaces, at least, would show him my view of “the better way.”

His comment, after spending about 10 minutes clicking on blobs, creating knowledge nuggets, playing with the faceted browse/search, and drawing connections in Tock’s interface was, “Oh my God, David… This is paradigm viloence!”I giggled at that because the last time I heard the phrase, “paradigm vilolence”, it was spewing forth from Chris Lochead, the Chief Marketing Person back at Scient.  Love him or hate him, he knew how to spin and he definitely knew how to inspire.

My friend gave me this analogy, so due credit, but it was too badass to not mention:

You know how sometimes you refer to your current sphere of attention and capacity as your “radar?”  Well, it seems that I’ve come very close to actually building that radar.

So what is Tock?  Tock is an ideas management system.   It helps facillitate your world of personal information workflow.  See, most knowledge management systems seem to focus on the gathering, storage, and organization of data.  Tock takes it a step further and guides you through USING that information so that you have what you need at the moment you need it.  Vague enough for you?

Here’s an example: Most people use their email inbox incorrectly.  At best, they treat it as a holding bin for “Stuff they need to do.” Inboxes spiral out of control and suddenly thousands of pieces of email make the user feel overwhelmed.  What an inbox SHOULD be is a triage area.  What is this email?   Do I care about what happens to it?  Is there an action tied to it?  What does this relate to in my world of information?  The answers to those questions guide the user towards progress so that he doesn’t feel like his information is crowding his life.

So Tock refines the Information Inbox and creates a better notion of “Staging Area” by using visual and navigational cues (and automatic routing/intervention as user definable threshold is broken) urging the user to deal with items in there rather than letting them fester.

Here’s another example: Tock gives you suggestions of What You Should Be Doing Right Now and brings forth all the resources it knows about that you should have to complete the task.  Our work/lives are a series of tasks and projects… however, at any given moment, we can only concentrate on just one thing.  Tock tries to take into account your context (Are you at the office?  Do you have a meeting in 5 minutes? Are you a morning person?) and makes suggestions for the very next task you should be doing to move a project closer to completion.  It uses graphical representation of ideas and thoughts (with lines and shaded grouping circles and cute little icons) to give you an idea of what your mental landscape really looks like.  It speaks to capacity and priorities and personal progression.

It really has to be used to be understood.  Screenshots would be handy here, but I think looking at the pictures would still not convey what it does (it’s intended to be very dynamic and interactive… that’s where the power lies, I think).

The net of all this is that after seeing my friend’s reaction, maybe its time to stop tinkering with Tock under the shadetree and actually start ramping it up for public release.  Any over and under bets on my breaking point, anyone?