Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

A Few Minutes of Querki

There's a lot of grand vision to this project, and almost too many ideas and features to absorb. So rather than drowning folks in all of those details, let me describe a few minutes of what Querki is supposed to be like in practice. Keep in mind, nothing at all has been written yet, and it'll probably take a year for us to get all of the main pieces in place. But it's important to know where we're going. So here's a scenario showing what this system is supposed to feel like once it's all up and running.

A Few Minutes: My Cookbook

Last night's dinner was good -- I made soft tacos, and experimentally decided to make my own Pico de Gallo. It was tasty enough that it's worth writing down.

I open up Querki, which presents me with all of my Spaces: the Comic Book database, my Contact List, my Blog, and my Cookbook. I choose the latter, and it opens up. I didn't build the format of the Cookbook myself -- one of my friends did it a couple of months ago, and shared it as an App. I picked that up for myself, getting my own Cookbook, and have been moving all my recipes into it ever since.

I select "new Recipe", and get presented with a form. I fill in the fields that the Recipe model knows about: the name, how many it serves, and so on. It asks me for ingredients, one at a time, with the quantity of each. I give it a narrative of how to make the Pico, and hit "Save"; it shows me the newly-created Recipe, all neatly formatted. (My friend who built the Cookbook app did a good job with the formatting, so that the ingredients show up as two columns; I like that touch.)

Since Recipes have a Rating property, I can say how much I like this one. I give it four stars out of five: solid, but could use some tweaking yet.

I realize, though, that the Cookbook app is actually missing something I care about. I'm all about attribution and documentation (comes with being a Laurel), so I really want to track where I got this recipe from. No problem, though: I just tell Querki to add a Sources property to my Cookbook, and to add that property to Recipes. I edit my Pico recipe again, which now shows the Sources property -- I add a few links to the web pages I used, and save it again. I tweak the Recipe format to show Sources down at the bottom, and *voila*: a list of links, which I can refer back to or query later. I go over to the Cookbook app itself, click on the Ideas and Suggestions page, and suggest that my changes get lifted into the common app so that everybody else can use it.

I've set up my Cookbook to automatically publish new entries, so a post shows up a few minutes later on my Facebook Timeline, with a pointer to the entry. It also shows up as an RSS feed in LiveJournal -- I mixed in the What's New app, so new entries basically get turned into blog posts automatically.

My friend Ailish likes the sound of it, but being Canadian she prefers things in metric units. No problem: she right-clicks on one of the ingredients, chooses "Convert to...", picks Metric, and it all shows the way she wants. (Personally, I don't use that much, except with the medieval recipes I've been working with -- I enter those with the ancient Arabic units, and then convert them to US for actual cooking.)

While I'm in my Cookbook, I remember that my friend Anna has asked me for an index of my medieval recipes. Easy enough: I pull up Querki Explorer, and build a quick filter. I tell it to list my Recipes, then filter for just the ones that are tagged "medieval", group those by the TimePeriod property that I added in, and for each one list the name of the recipe. The results look right, so I tell Querki Explorer to save that as a new "Period Recipes" page, and I send the URL over to Anna. That'll now automatically update whenever I add new Recipes, so she can get an up-to-date view any time.

What's Going on Here

The Cookbook isn't the point above, but is kind of needed to illustrate the point. Querki is a *platform*. In and of itself, it doesn't do anything. Instead, it is designed to make it easy to build apps that are useful and personalized.

Keep in mind, none of the above is rocket science. If you're a professional programmer, it's not hard to build the sort of Cookbook application I describe above. If you know all the APIs and are good with Rails, it would probably only take a couple of days to slap together.

But seriously -- why would I want to spend a couple of days on this? All we're doing here is keeping track of a little data, saying how to display that data, and tweaking it as we go. This should be *easy*, not just for the computer pros but for anybody. The Cookbook app is built by end users, not by high-priced programmers, and tweaked by others.

So that's where Querki comes in. It builds in all the boilerplate, everything from working with the social networks to managing the database to doing the fiddly page rendering. It gives me powerful tools for exploring and collating my data, with wizards to make that easy. All I do, as an end user, is say what I want to keep track of, what it consists of, and how to display it. That's not trivial, but it should be a matter of minutes or hours, not days. Moreover, the system should cope with me changing as I go, letting me add new concepts and ideas as I learn more, so that building this stuff becomes quick, fun and low-risk.
Tags: querki

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