Even as an employee of Flock, I was a late adopter, or at any rate, I was late among the early adopters. I hate to say it, but our browser didn’t add much value that was useful to me, and it was a little flakey on top of that, so dogfeeding obligation aside, I had little incentive to fire the browser up. I’ve been using it as my only browser for six or seven weeks now, though, and particularly in the last two or three weeks, I’ve started to find that it adds specific value to my experience.
First, a bit on how Flock still doesn’t add value. I can’t use Flock to blog at my personal blog if I want to apply useful tags to my posts without having to double edit. I have a copy of wordpress installed, with the Ultimate Tag Warrior plugin installed to let me add tags complete with sometimes maligned tag cloud. Because wordpress doesn’t support real tagging and Flock understandably can’t just include a hack to address the issue, I can’t use Flock to write at my personal blog as I’d like to write there. For my Flock blog, however, where real tagging isn’t an option for me anyway and I’m happy to just use categories, I can and do use Flock’s blog editor. And it’s as fine and dandy as any rich text editor for composition on the web. In fact, Flock and wordpress.com appear to use the same editor, and having it integrated into my browser is nice, if not something I’d switch browsers over, particularly given the existence of the Performancing extension for Firefox.
Where Flock of late has begun to win me over and in fact to make me a more prolific contributor to the web (for better or for worse) is in the shelf. And it’s done so in not quite expected ways that may or may not be instructive to Flock’s user interaction designer types. I don’t often blog quotes or images, and on the rare occasion that I blog a link, it’s usually one like those listed in this entry that are familiar to me and easy enough to remember and type in without cluttering up a shelf. It’s the "Add Note" button that has drawn me in. You see, while I don’t often blog media or links, I am very forgetful. I frequently dupe myself into thinking I’ll remember to blog something when I have more to say on the subject at a later time, but in the absence of any sort of scratchpad to remind me about these things, I usually forget.
Enter the shelf, where I press the "Add Note" button, type a quick little memo, and dismiss the window, without losing browser context by going to a full blog entry window. My shelf currently contains the following items:
- The Impeach Project
- How I use Flock, the shelf being a very good thing (better than drafts)
- Financing Choice: Why should we facilitate abortions but not facilitate the active (and unasked for) killing of people in vegetative states?
- My Daughter the Whino
- I Know a Chicken, VIctor Vito, Monster Boogie, Elvira, Gold Digger
The first is a site I want to mention in connection with a post I want to write about Harper’s Magazine generally and about the March cover story in particular ("The Case for Impeachment"). The second is a reminder that I wanted to write this very entry. The third is an ethical question I want to remember to spend some time ruminating on and to blog about. The fourth and fifth are little things from my daughter’s life that I want to blog about (my daughter is not a whino; please don’t call child protective services). These last two are the most important to me. My daughter does new things every day, and I’ve neglected to blog so many neat things she’s done and milestones she’s reached that perhaps you should call child protective services after all. Now that I can add notes to the shelf, I’m less likely to forget to blog these things, though. I just add a quick note and have them for later compilation and use. More often than not, what’s happened lately is that I’ve begun adding an item to the shelf to blog later but have gone ahead and blogged it anyway. So the shelf not only provides a repository for things to blog, but the fact that it’s so convenient to use and that I even bother to open it up and add notes in fact compels me to go ahead and blog short entries on the spot while I’m at it.
In short, Flock has helped me to salvage and record some threads from my daughter’s childhood that might otherwise have gone unremembered. How’s that for an endorsement? If part of Flock’s mission is to facilitate better use of the read/write web (I think we’ve said as much before), then, in my case, mission accomplished, if in an unexpected way.
Of course, it happens that Flock has a drafts topbar whose purpose lines up more or less with what I’m using the shelf for, and I’ve wondered why I haven’t been inclined to use that topbar rather than the shelf. I can think of a few reasons. One is that I wrote the first draft of the shelf and so maybe am biased in its favor, however different a beast it is now than when I wrote it. Another is that the shelf provides time-stamping, though I don’t think that’s the draw for me, as I don’t know that I really look at the timestamps when I use it. Yet another is that to use the drafts topbar, I have to open a whole new tab complete with all the editor UI if I want to create or view a draft, and that just feels intrusive and feels like overkill for typing a quick telegraphic idea about something to write about later. And then there’s the fact that using the shelf feels like less of a commitment to me. I’m just taking notes and not committing to staring at a blank page, filled with dread at the probability that I’ll fail to express clearly the precise impishness and delightfulness of my daughter that the thing I want to write about captures. If I’m just taking notes, what I write doesn’t have to aspire to perfection, so it’s less intimidating, and I’m (it’s been proven) more likely to write things down.
There are other things I find useful about Flock, of course (tagging of links on a web service, the history search [more and more, though it’s not something I use naturally, never having used that search box very much previously], and collections foremost among them), but the shelf has been the big plus for me. Add a keyboard shortcut that lets me toggle between the shelf and the last thing filling that top real estate and I’d be a very happy camper indeed.
technorati tags: flock