timothy falconer's semantic weblog
Big Fractal Tangle

fun with categories

Writing the website text for Tidepool, I’m realizing that people may have a tough time putting the product into an established software category. If PC Magazine were to include us in an “Editor’s Choice” roundup, I’m not sure which category we’d be in.

Tidepool’s a semantic browser, a digital media organizer, an instant messaging client, an authoring tool, a contact manager, a calendaring app, a PIM sync program, and a personal publisher (blogs & photos & sounds & newsletters), all built upon an agent-based control system and extension mechanism. Sounds like we’ve bolted a bunch of stuff where it doesn’t belong, but I believe it’s a smooth mix. There’s some nifty ideas in the user interface that make it all make sense.

But what kind of program is it? Software’s a malleable art form, which is why we’ve got so many similiar sounding words to describe the same thing. Today I trawled through Roget’s to find a more fitting term, and came away bewildered by the terms we now take for granted. Imagining you know nothing about software, what would you think these meant:

  1. planner, organizer, processor
  2. manager, executive, driver
  3. build, assemble, make, author, construct
  4. package, bundle, archive, aggregate

There’s a real benefit when a software category gets a good word, such as the term “browser”, which I think helped the Web. Another example is “aggregator”, which is now helping RSS and RDF. Other terms like PIM and PDA are useful enough, though I suspect few non-techs use them.

What terms are people using to describe annotation programs that also let you browse and organize and publish? Is there a term in use that captures all this?

Howabout “semantic juxtaposer” … yes, this is a joke, but you never know. If aggregator can catch on, why not? I can see it now: “Today Bozo Software released ScrapHeap, yet another juxtaposer in an already crowded field.”

Okay, maybe not.

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