ShiftSpace (and good/bad web text)

by Hugh

ShiftSpace looks to be a cool project, it changes the Read-only web into Read/Write web, by letting you add notes, highlight, rate, and even modify source code of sites, in a “second layer” … that is the site stays the same, but by pressing shift+space, you see the notes etc of other shiftspace users, and you can add your own. Check the video.

To use it you need to have greasemonkey installed in Firefox, and then install the Shiftspace add-on. It’s still buggy, so I wasn’t able to add a note when I tried on Sylvain’s blog.

But it looks pretty neat, I think.

Reading the shiftspace web copy tho, I am reminded of how important it is to write clear concise text. The first two paragraphs of the About page are meaningless mumbo-jumbo:

ShiftSpace is an open source layer above any website. It seeks to expand the creative possibilities currently provided through the web. ShiftSpace provides tools for artists, designers, architects, activists, developers, students, researchers, and hobbyists to create online contexts built in and on top of websites.

While the Internet’s design is widely understood to be open and distributed, control over how users interact online has given us largely centralized and closed systems. The web has followed the physical transformation of the city’s social center from the (public) town square to the (private) mall. ShiftSpace attempts to subvert this trend by providing a new public space on the web.

I don’t know what creative possibilities are, much less online contexts; and when I am evaluating a tool I *never* care why you built it (“ShiftSpace attempts to subvert this trend…”), until I have decided whether or not I want to use it. I can provide my own whys. Just tell me what the damn thing does.

Para 3 gets close to the meat, but is still garbled by jargon (“contextualizations and interventions,” “utilitarian,” “context-based public debates”):

By pressing the [shift] + [space] keys, a ShiftSpace user can invoke a new meta layer above any web page to browse and create additional interpretations, contextualizations and interventions – which we call Shifts. Users can choose between several authoring tools we’re working to develop – which we call Spaces. Some are utilitarian (like Notes and Highlights) and some are more interventionist (like ImageSwap and SourceShift). Users will be invited to map these shifts into Trails. These trails can be used for collaborative research, curating netart exhibitions or as platforms for context-based public debates.

And I love this sentence:

Notes is a Space that allows a ShiftSpace user to leave post-it annotations on websites.

How about:

Notes is a Space that allows a ShiftSpace user to leave notes on websites.

Or something equally clear.

Anyway, nice project, and I would have added my comments in the spaceshift layer of the site, but couldn’t quite make it work. But, again, nice work.