Plasma Active: A Box of Crayons

One of the results of the UX sprint in Berlin which I’m really happy with is that it helped me frame some of the bigger ideas behind in my mind behind Plasma Active, and make it digestable for someone who hasn’t spent a lot of time yet thinking about it, and digesting these ideas.

As really nice example Celeste came up with is “The Box of Crayons“.

Let’s say, we as developers create a crayon, just one color, one thickness, a tool that is fine for jotting down a note on a piece of paper. There’s something magic about this crayon however: You can change it, and you can clone it nearly effortlessly. We start spreading around the clones of this crayon. An artist picks it up, and starts sketching with it, but she’s quickly unhappy with the crayon’s thickness, and the color isn’t very beautiful either (surprise, it’s made by a software developer, those don’t have the same visual tastebuds as many others). The artist takes the crayon, clones it a few times, changes the thickness of some, adjusts the colors of others. She takes a sheet of paper (same magical capabilities) and starts drawing. Happy with this new box of crayons, she tells her friends, and starts sharing it with others (now as a box of coloured crayons, in different colors with different stroke-styles. Others go ahead and add paper, canvases in different forms or shapes…

Applied to Plasma and Active, this means that we have to bring the traditional tasks of application developers to a wider group of people, and deliver the possibilities and infrastructure to share and change our creations. Creating a new “App” (a crayon, or a piece of paper) is not necessarily programming something new, but it can also be a specialized version of something that is already there — as long as it provides added value, it’s a useful addition. An interesting aspect here is that this ties in closely with the core values of Free software, yet provides an intriguing way of blurring the lines between creators and consumers.

Plasma provides these generic crayons with magical capabilities already today. We want these to be used, shared, adapted and combined into new, desirable tools.