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Mobile future. Clear as MUD


The incredible Russell Beattie is thinking hard about mobile telephones and what they're going to mean.

wrote_about_mobiles_and_muds_recently._i_must_have_seen_that_and_forgotten._see_the_comments_at_his_site.">Update: Russell points out that he wrote about mobiles and MUDs recently. I must have seen that and forgotten. See the comments at his site.

Me, I sympathize, although for now I'm happy with the Nokia 5210 (or is it a 5120?) my girlfriend discarded. But the young people really like these mobiles. The aforementioned girlfriend has a girlfriend who'd be not a day over 38 and she's always texting. Not to mention the thirteen yearold niece, who apparently prefers SMS, and MSN to voice, even to face to face.

Me, I've been playing with Linux. I can now SSH from anywhere (work, anyway) to the computer I bought from my previous employer for $25 and type at it in my rusty, faltering Unix. So much more satisfying than all that gauche windowesque gesticulating with the mouse. Linux and I know each other so well it can finish my sentences (hit Tab and it guesses what you mean, just like a modern mobile works out what you are typing).

See where I'm going with this?

While Russell points out that watching Finding Nemo on a telephone is pretty cool, I wonder if maybe the young person's preference for txt would extend to user interface. What does it mean when I type '57' on my mobile keypad? Is it 'jp' or is it 'ls' the Unix directory-listing command? And the N-orth E-ast S-outh W-est of a text based adventure game would still work as M D P W.

(And wouldn't any committed vi user be happy with an even more modal interface?

vi can frustrate new users, because it is a modal editor. A modal editor (or any modal program) assigns different meanings to buttons or keystrokes depending on which editing mode is active.


I'm not sure what Russell's application, the one that will get him out of his pyjamas and into the boardroom, will look like. But maybe it will be MUDlike. I'd try to explain MUD's here but I can't. If you don't know follow the link to the Wikepedia and set aside a few hours...

(Interestingly that Wikipedia article asserts that "Still others MUDs, especially those which are based on MOOs, are used in distance education or to allow for virtual conferences." But sadly it provides no links.)

Maybe the killer mobile app has a text based interface, and maybe it's a sort of MUDlike projection of meatspace into the virtual realm, a place you can wander about like an adept Systems Administrator using only the keypad with some very smart predictive software and a very well chosen vocabulary, chatting, fighting, making lurve, and leaving messages on the walls.


One of Russell's correspondents, commentors, whatever, says "The limited UI, however, forces us to classify that user data and its dependencies, and to do that meta-data is essential."

I dunno about this metadata stuff or nothin', but I don't think 'limited' is the way to think about it. If it's good enough for a teenager to make her preferred medium of communication then maybe it's empowering.

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