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Tock urges action

David Nunez
David Nunez
3 min read

Again, once April 10 comes around, I’ll try to crystalize some of the vapor.

A while back, [url=]Adam[/url] and I had an email conversation about Tock and email and things… this is an excerpt I wrote in response to his mentioning [url=]Zoe[/url].Zoe IS cool. From what I gathered, it’s basically the an improved and webified/OS version of Nelson Email Organizer ( Indexing on the fly, lots of good stuff. Phenomenal for collecting, organizing, and finding, but still not as good for driving action. It’s missing the calendar & task stuff that’s mandatory for an activity based ideas management system.

Tock addresses the organizing also. In fact, Zoe is using Lucene, which is the same OS search engine Tock uses.

I think Tock’s implementation is more closely related to Diego’s Spaces (which, I recall, Adina blogged a while back)… The issue that I had/have with Spaces is that it still thinks/acts like Outlook.

Let me elaborate with a poorly thought out use case. Tock treats email just like todo items and calendar items. It sees everything as one big graph.

Ex: When I review an incoming email from Adina about EFF-Austin Policy Meeting, the interface should surface all relevant and current Adina-related information (ex. The blobs that represent the upcoming Thursday meeting and her business card should surface because of “Adina” and “EFF-Austin” and “Policy”) It’s “smart” enough to prioritize information based on “relevance” (as defined by things like “date” and keyword matching).

However, with some graph navigation and faceted browsing, I should be no more than a few steps from ANY information that’s related (ex. all my web bookmarks about Wiki implementation, Meetup stuff, Adam, or notes I’ve taken as I thought about EFF-A/ACLU integration).

The real value is when the Tock UI “urges” me to build next-step connections to address incoming email. I literally would draw these connections by dragging lines between blobs to either reinforce the inferred related topics or more likely create new ones (since Tock isn’t excatly an AI exercise). For example, when I highlight the icon representing the new bit of information (i.e. the new email), lines get drawn all over the place to “related” info (ex. The blob that represents
Adina) so I can visualize how my world of information relates.

Also, some @Action buttons appear next to the icon (ex. A little telephone, a little car, a little envelope. etc) which will facillitate my “dealing with” that email. If, after scanning the incoming email, I see it’s about the Policy meeting and I remember that I need to call her to see if I should bring anything, but I don’t have time to do that now, I’d push the telephone button. That draws a connection between that email and the @Calls node. When I’ve hit “delete” or clicked “Read it” or built a next-step connection, then this email is effectively “dealt with” and it just becomes another node in the graph.

Later, when I have some spare time, I tell Tock I have a telephone and 5 spare minutes. Tock examines that “context” and provides me with a list of all things I could be doing; for instance, it might suggest that I could be making calls. So I see in the @Calls group, a connection to a call to Adina… I highlight that blob and relevant info surfaces (like the phone #, Policy Meeting notes, Wiki stuff) so in case she asks me a question about the agenda, then it’s a click away. Furthermore, if there are connections I forgot about (like maybe, as I was driving to work the other day, I realized I had a question for her about SxSW and told Tock about that), Tock will present those as part of an inferred “agenda.”

Hard to explain, really, without doing a demo… I’m starting to realize Tock probably front-loads a lot of effort which may overly complicate things, but I’m getting there…



David Nunez Twitter

Dir of Technology at the MIT Museum • Writing about emerging tech's impact on your life • Speculative insights on the intersection of humanity and technology 🤖


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