Customized Web views, continued

Continuing the theme from yesterday…

When thinking about customized Web views, maybe we shouldn’t start with “how would we implement this?” Instead we might start with “how would someone interact with this?”

Suppose somebody is looking at the Wikipedia page listing all of the people who were born on this day of the year. They might want, for example, to say: “For all of the people on this list who are still alive, change the text color to green.”

How close could I come to letting people have an interface as simple as that? Is natural language really the best way to approach it?

After all, if you were asking another person to do that for you, you would just talk to them in plain English (or whatever is your shared language).

Is that really the right way to go? Or would it be better to provide some sort of visual drag and click interface with menu options?

It seems to me that there are at least three separate but related questions here: (1) What is the best way for a user to interact with such a system; (2) How do we get the system to properly interpret what the user wants; and (3) How do we really implement all this on the back end in the Web browser?

None of those questions are easily answered. Which might be one reason that this sort of thing is not yet readily available.

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