Convincing Lunduke: Scopes

OK, so in http://www.badvoltage.org/2015/01/08/1x33/, @bryanlunduke talked some pretty serious smack about Ubuntu Scopes, and he said that he was willing to be convinced. Scopes are supposed to be one of the most key features of Ubuntu for smart-phones (and wider).

I suggested that Scopes fans convince Bryan of the value and benefit of scopes right here on the forum. If he agrees and changes his mind, he said he will write an article for Network World and apologize to the Ubuntu community at Live Voltage in LA on 20th Feb 2015.

So, Scopes fans, explain to Lunduke why they are so incredible…

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Could someone link a demo to scopes? I read the sales brochure on the Ububtu site, but it just looks like the Gnome 2 menus that sort into categories.

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Apps on a smartphone are basically deep dark silos of content. Think of your e-mail. On a traditional smartphone all that silo of content surfaces itself as a single icon on screen. People realized this was bad and so they added a little emblem on those icons so you could know something about the silo of content that it represented. But it’s not really that much, and while useful, it’s only useful for message based apps.

Microsoft realized this when they built Windows 8 (even though scopes were released first, it’s useful to discuss this way) and created the tile based home screen. Each application is now given a tile to surface content. Some tiles are the entire application in itself, but most just provide a way to analyze the silo of data and enter the application when you think you need to. Is there something you need to do there? The idea is that a tile will give you enough information to decide.

Scopes take that to the next level and allow you to meaningfully interact with a silo of data without having to enter completely into an applicaiton. And in many cases, can replace applications that had shallow interactions with that data. Now you can quickly swipe through your scopes and see recent email, top stories and latest tweets to see if you want to interact further with any of them.

Your choice whether you do that, or go for a walk :wink:

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Thanks for posting, @ted. :smile:

Maybe you can paint a picture of how this works with screenshots in this topic to show how interesting this is.

So… kind of like what Microsoft does with Metro?

That isn’t meant as snarky – even though I invoked Microsoft – I genuinely don’t quite understand how Scopes are meant to work. Are there any good examples (maybe videos?) or what a well designed scope brings to the table?

I’m in the same boat as @bryanlunduke, where I don’t really get what’s great about them. That’s probably because I’ve not fully understood them. I’ve been watching https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OxFGDIMjic

From my understanding, it seems like a middle man app. For example, the Music scope is an app that links to music players as well as aggregating actual music from these music apps and the search scope from Ubuntu. Is that anywhere near right @ted, @jonobacon?

Thanks @ted for the explanation btw.

I’m working out a draft for a big blog post explanation, it’s a multi-faceted issue and depending how the person some points are more compelling than others.

The tl;dw is that Scopes let you put your content where you want it, rather that it being segregated away in various app, and it does so in a way that doesn’t require forking and replacing parts of the “vanilla” OS. Moreover it lets each user assemble their own ideal set of “Home” screens that contain the content they want, even replacing the default one with something that’s better for them.

Again, more specifics and better examples are to come in a proper post on the subject.

It’s more like a “Music Launcher”, in the same way that you have an “App Launcher” screen on Android. On Ubuntu you can have these search/launch screens for any kind of content, not just apps, and each one can use a layout and format that is suitable for it’s content.

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More I would say that we’re trying to solve the same problem. Their approach is much simpler in that you only have a small tile to express what is happening, while the scope approach allows for a lot more interactivity.

I’m not quite sure of a video, or one that I could make, that would express the experience correctly (hopefully @mhall119 is better than I am there). But the real world example I can think of is going to the movie theater to see if there’s anything you want to watch. Sure that works, in this (perhaps tortured) analogy the scopes are the published movie times. If you were comfortable with going to the theater each time you could see looking up the listing as a hassle or frivolous. But after you’ve used the listings it’s hard to imagine taking the trip each time.

I either need to hack together a decent recording setup with a tripod and camera, or figure out a way to record long sessions in Mir without running out of storage space on my phone.

I think scopes are a really good approach to things, but I’m still working out in my head how to articulate it. So, bear with me here and don’t take this as my final explanation.

To me, scopes are the main way you’ll use your Ubuntu phone, not apps. And they’re important for two reasons (I’m making up vocabulary here): immediacy and aggregation.

Immediacy means that the information is right there at your fingertips. The Dash is the “main thing” on the phone, in the same way that the homescreen is on iOS or Android and the desktop and panel are on desktop OSes. Scopes let you build things directly into that home screen, in a similar way to how homescreen widgets do on Android, or extensions do in Chrome (and Chrome OS), or panel applets do in Gnome. But they’re a more powerful alternative; extensions in Chrome only get one little button to play with, and Metro tiles only get a small area which means they can basically show off one bit of information. A scope is interactive – it’s a lightweight app, essentially, with all the power of an app but the UI is integrated into Ubuntu itself. So you don’t have to go find its icon in your grid of icons and then tap on it and wait for it to launch; it’s always there. And because the UI is part of Ubuntu rather than being something separate, there’s consistency; once you know how to use the Dash, you know how to use any of the scopes, and any app developer can write a scope to put data from anywhere into Ubuntu.

Aggregation is what, in my mind, potentially makes scopes more interesting than just being apps with constrained UI. Any scope can call on and use the results from any other. So what this means is that if you’ve got a scope for RecipePuppy and another for BigOven, there can be a “recipes” scope which combines the stuff from both. So the recipes you want aren’t locked up behind the grid of app icons; it’s all pulled together. A “music” scope can show and play songs from Google Music, Grooveshark, YouTube, Spotify, a local folder of mp3s, all in one place. A search for music searches them all. But each one is its own individual scope, so if you only really care about Google Music then you can just add that directly to the Dash as a “top level” scope and it’s there for you. A “readable sci-fi books” scope might pull the “sci-fi” category of books from Open Library, Project Gutenberg, your own collection of books in Beru, your web server. So you can decide on the stuff you care about and make sure it’s all at your fingertips, and leave out the rest.

I should note that the above description is how, as I understand it, it is planned to work, and it might not all totally be in place yet; in particular, I think how scopes are aggregated is up to the scopes and you can’t just configure one yourself without writing some code.

I like this overall plan firstly because it gets to the heart of what I actually do with the phone – I can make myself a “social media” scope which contains twitter and G+ and reddit, if I want – and secondly because it’s not just a rip-off of the original iOS concept like so many other things are – I admire Windows Phone for the same reason. It feels more like all the stuff I care about is spread out in front of me – going back to a world based on separate apps feels like each thing I want to do is in a separate room, so I have to back out of the room I’m in and go into a different one. Having everything separate and siloed feels clunky, in a way I didn’t realise until I saw the alternative. There’ll still be apps, and (hopefully!) lots of them, but an Ubuntu phone is not just a box on which one puts a bunch of separate apps; it’s an information stream and the apps just support that. It’s like the idea of a lifestream from somebody, or why newspapers have front pages, or, I dunno. As I say, I’m still working out how to articulate this. But to me the Dash feels like the summary and contents page for everything I want, and I didn’t know I needed that summary… until I had it.

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It’s just Ubuntu, make the image writable, install the packages to mount a network drive :slight_smile:

Okay… so are scopes conceptually like… widgets on an Android desktop? (ie, customizable containers displaying subsets of data – email, music, rss, etc.)

I did a little looking around and I haven’t been able to find any demonstration videos or write-ups that show a real-world example of scopes. Maybe @mhall119’s post will help there.

Sorta. You could describe them that way. But an android widget is intentionally just a way of surfacing a bit of information, and a scope is more about giving you all you want. But they are two different (but fairly similar) approaches to solving the same problem: that you shouldn’t have to drill into a specific app to get at stuff. Android widgets provide immediacy, in my above argot, but not aggregation; you might get a Google music widget from the Google music people, but you can’t have a “music” widget which includes both Google music and Grooveshark. Scopes are interesting because they can be aggregated; instead of being one company’s way to make their stuff easier to get to, a scope makes the actual data available, so others can incorporate it. A widget is custom-built by one app to show off its stuff; a scope exposes the content and one way of showing it off, but you’re not locked in to only showing it that way; there are other ways.

There are actually a few “Music” widgets that provide access to multiple sources. [I don’t use any of them… because I don’t really use widgets much… so no clue how good they are.] Would that make them similar to what Scopes are trying to accomplish?

Or am I still a ways off?

That would. What I’m not sure about, and perhaps you can correct me, is this: if I invent StuartMusic.com, can I get myself included in that android widget without asking them? I don’t think I can. In other words, Android widgets are top-down: they say “be service A”, or maybe “be services A,B,and C”, but if you’re service X then you lose. Ubuntu scopes are bottom up, because they categorise their info: thus if a “music scope” exists then StuartMusic can be included in that music scope even if the music scope author has no idea that StuartMusic exists. Scopes work like the old gnome menus: your app will show up in “games” or “disc utilities” because you categorised it that way, and whoever designed the menu doesn’t need to sign off an approval before it happens.

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Okay. Hrm… I… yep. Still not clicking in my brain. But thanks for trying so far, Stu. :smile:

Hey, @mhall119. Go tell Mark to make a demo video of this so Bryan can figure out what the heck you guys are making.

You can buy that domain for $2k… bargain!

Thanks for the explanation though, it helped a lot. I think it’s basically what I imagined them to be in the first place, I just can’t visualise that being a big step forward, but I definitely look forward to getting one of the phones, getting used to it and then trying to go back to the usual app menu. That’ll be the real test, I think,

I can do that, but I like running a stable, image-upgradable setup on my phone. It’s my only one afterall.

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Yeah, that probably won’t work. :smile:

You’re right that Widgets are probably the closest thing Android has to Scopes, but they’re not quite the same.

This of it this way, on a typical Android setup you have 5 “desktop” screens. Each of these screens can contain a combination of widgets and app launchers. But they are, functionally, all 5 identical. Now, you can manually put app launchers on one screen, Music widgets on a another, Video widgets on a third, social media feed widgets on another, and so on. But wouldn’t it be nice if you could install a package that would let you drop a pre-built “screen” for your podcast subscriptions on there, rather than having to find and arrange various widgets from various places yourself?

Scopes are a way of providing these pre-made “screens” for different kinds of content. Then you, the user, can simply install the ones you want and arrange them how you want. You can even replace the first one (Apps by default) and a left-edge swipe or logo-button press will take you to that one. This will let users customize their Ubuntu phone experience to exactly what interests them. If you’re a socialite you’ll have a bunch of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whatever the cool kids use these days, as your custom “Home” screens experience. If you’re a rich evil capitalist it’ll have business news and stock updates. If you’re a globe-trotter you’ll have scopes that tell you about local attractions, good restaurants, even local news feeds. If you’re a developer it’ll have an overview of your GitHub projects, hacker news, Nagios statuses, etc. If you’re a mix of those things you can mix all of those things.

So while Android is very app-launching-focused in it’s home screens, with Widgets bolted on to try an surface content, Unity is very content-surfacing-focused, with apps being just one kind of content.

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