The People and Information Monitor

I’m in the midst of installing a big honking piece of software over a cable modem connection, so it’s taking a while. In order to explore exactly what is taking a while, I’ve been checking out Vista’s Reliability and Performance Monitor. Under the covers it’s still good old perfmon.exe, a system monitoring tool that had me at hello, way back whenever I first saw it, in whatever version of NT that was, maybe the first one.

The name change in Vista refers to a new feature which is mentioned in my podcast with Partha Sundaram about software instrumentation. In addition to all the low-level counters for disk, memory, CPU, and network activity, there’s a view that summarizes the stability of your system and correlates it with application-level events. Last week, for example, I was using a beta third-party application that crashed a half-dozen times. That made the system’s overall reliability dip down in the summary view, and the details reveal why.

In Vista, the default views of the traditional low-level counters are more comprehensive than in XP or in Server 2003. Everything’s correlated to the process that are running, and the files they’re reading or writing. You could learn a whole lot about the internals of Vista by just leaving perfmon running on your second monitor while going about your business.

There was a time when I would have found that mesmerizing. Part of me still does. But most of me cares more about the people I’m communicating with, and the information I’m producing and consuming. And of course the vast majority of people who use personal computers care only about those things.

So as I watch the Reliability and Performance Monitor xray the guts of my system, I’m imagining what it would be like to have an equally capable People and Information Monitor to xray my activities in the infosphere.

It sort of exists, but in a fragmentary way. The Recent Changes view in Vista’s desktop search, which I mentioned the other day, is a step in that direction. It can see into multiple local data siloes — the file system, email, calendars.

Then there all my siloes in the cloud: my blog, various other online services. To the extent these offer RSS feeds I can begin to aggregate them. But there’s no way to really correlate my interactions with people and information across those services, never mind across the desktop/cloud chasm.

Such a thing is conceivable, though. A desktop operating system could monitor the union of local events and network events, could correlate the names and addresses of people and items of information, and could offer visualization and analysis in the realm of people and information rather than CPUs and netcards.

Maybe one person in a hundred, or in a thousand, will ever appreciate a sexy low-level Reliability and Performance Monitor. But a People and Information Monitor? Everybody needs one of those.

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6 thoughts on “The People and Information Monitor

  1. “But there’s no way to really correlate my interactions with people and information across those services, never mind across the desktop/cloud chasm.”

    What about Yahoo! Pipes?

  2. “What about Yahoo! Pipes?”

    Not exactly the 99% solution.

    “I believe Facebook has already implemented this feature.”

    To the extent that 99% of folks do all of their work and communication in Facebook, problem solved.

    “There was Dashboard for linux (, but the development is stalled.”

    It was a good start, though, and totally the right idea.

  3. Re: Facebook. The feed system in Facebook blew me away. Maybe it’s revolutionary. Or maybe it’s just I’ve never seen it so well implemented — sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

    The most interesting thing about it to me is how viral it makes things. While the challenges of doing this in a closed network are considerably reduced, I hope to see copycat implementations soon. It could really revolutionize things (in fact, because it led to the Facebook Obama phenomenon, it’s already pointing to some massive changes in political communication).

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