Seeing Through the Chaos of the Cloud

By: Kalpesh Rathod
Read time: 5 minutes
Jan. 7, 2016

Using the human superpower of visual processing to make the cloud more coherent.

For the past few years people have been predicting: This will be the year of the cloud! The bandwidth is there, the big players are there, and the devices are well, everywhere. It's clear the cloud is playing an increasingly bigger role in people's lives. However, the power of the cloud in the palm of your hand will only be realized when we're able to have a more human experience of the cloud through mobile applications.

Don't get me wrong, it's great to edit a Google Doc on the train when you need to put the finishing touches on a big proposal. Or catching up on the latest Forbes article on your Twitter feed. There are some features of the cloud we can take advantage of right now.

But what happens when you want to reference the original proposal from three months ago... was it saved as a Google Doc? Was it shared via DropBox? Or, was it emailed to your Yahoo account as an attachment?

Trying to get a hold of the latest news and relevant content is another hit or miss scenario. News streams and content pass by so fast, when you actually want to find something, it seems darn near impossible, or at the very least, frustrating to find it.

It's this fragmentation that leads to chaos in the cloud. Kyle Vanhemert touches on some of these points in his article at Wired, The UI Inventions We Want to See in 2015. As the cloud expands to reach a more mainstream audience, there will be increasing pressure to find new ways to simplify access to shared content across different platforms, services, and devices.

Vanhemert and the team at Wired see a need to "clean up the cloud", and I couldn't agree more. As more apps and services rain down from the cloud, people are getting caught in a downpour of content. The growing majority of users need a simple way to make the cloud more coherent. In other words, we need a more human experience of the cloud.

I'd like to take a step back though. Rather than talk about the shortcomings of the cloud and mobile apps, I'd like to look at why more of us are starting to feel the impact of information overload.

Phil Libin, (ex)CEO of Evernote, is right when he speaks about Evernote as an extension of the mind. While neuroscience hasn't shed much light in this area, we can be sure that the way we access information in our always-on society is having an impact on our thought processes.

A typical day using email, social media, and various mobile apps to communicate at work and home can be disorienting and counterproductive. As we go from app to app, our brains are never given a chance to reach peak performance because we're constantly changing our modes of thinking to suit different platforms.

One possible way to alleviate this roller coaster of cognitive activity is to make the cloud more coherent by drawing on our innate preference to process content visually. The web as a whole has been trending towards a more visual experience, away from the hypertext code which underlies it all.

I look at Instagram overtaking Twitter in number of active users as a further indication that people prefer a visual experience of content. To provide a more effective human experience of the cloud, we need to take advantage of our most valuable asset, our ability to capture information visually from the world around us.

I'm not saying that documents and emails aren't useful, but when it comes to finding and effectively communicating information at a glance, text is not a solution. According to 3M presentation guidelines, we can process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.

My point is that the underlying services in the cloud aren't lacking in any way. After all, Google Docs is great and so is Dropbox. Although the underlying services are fragmented, they definitely add value. What's lacking is a simple and centralized way to interact with the entire cloud. If the promise is to put the power of the cloud in the palm of your hand, as an industry, it's our responsibility to step up our game and take advantage of the human bandwidth for processing visuals and avoid the bottleneck of text.

Ultimately, the year of the cloud will arrive when the power of the cloud is in the hands of everyday people through a mobile interface that provides a more human experience driven by visuals.

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