'User agent' is a great idea that has been weirdly perverted.

Nobody these days (even highly technical people) has a user agent. (Maybe @drwho does.)

A user agent is a piece of software controlled by the *user*, that performs the automatic tasks the *user* has instructed it to. It communicates with other user agents, automatically, on the user's behalf.

Today, the term 'user agent' means 'long, misleading browser-lineage-identification string'. It identifies one of ~3 corporations.

Imagine if we actually *had* user agents.

Like, imagine if our computers were doing things we wanted them to do, automatically, on the network. And, it was our computers doing these things, instead of a rental service like ifttt or google alerts that's selling info on the back end. Imagine if they stopped doing things when we told them to stop.

Imagine if non-technical users had this too.

'User agent' is basically 'daemon, but controlled by an end user'. And, it's a thing we really need & don't have.

@enkiv2 I remember I think it was the early 1990s, lots of talk about 'software agents'. They were sort of the buzzword term, the 'neural networks' of that decade.

I don't really understand even now what lab that hype came from, and why it went away?

@natecull @enkiv2 i've never really found the "software agents" line of thinking very compelling, or at least it hasn't been very compellingly _presented_. it always felt like hype in much the way that VR or that weird brief period when XML was going to save the world did.

on the other hand, if the idea is just that people should own and control computers which do things with their data in their interests, well, that sure does sound like a pleasant contrast to the status quo.

@brennen I can say that even the term "software agent" sounds sort of dull, uninterestingly hands-off, and like something the average person wouldn't think they needed or was qualified to mess with.

Exactly the opposite of the hands-on, approachable, and self-ownership feel that future tech stuff needs to have.

Meaning no offense.
@natecull @enkiv2

@erosdiscordia @brennen @enkiv2

Well, on the one hand, part of the 'software agent' fuss was sort of linked with, um, personal organizers, early handhelds, the idea of an 'electronic butler/secretary' and so there WAS quite a bit of that 'hands-on, approachable' hype about it? You'd have a personal 'Agent' who would be a sort of pseudo-personality in your computer?

But then the other side of the 'software agents' thing was... mobile code, that you'd transmit? I guess 'cloud server' ate that?

@natecull @erosdiscordia @brennen @enkiv2 How people think of something complex (like software agents) is to a large extent controlled by how they /can/ think of them. The cultural referent has to be there first, the framework for understanding what a thing is and what a thing can be.

@drwho Hmmm. Maybe they could be presented as assistants/agents, or also as a type of power that a user has.
@natecull @brennen @enkiv2

@erosdiscordia @drwho @natecull @brennen

I think the most important thing about them is that they keep on doing things on the user's behalf when the user isn't there. This is something that end users aren't used to: that they can *control* an automated process.

@enkiv2 @erosdiscordia @natecull @brennen Very true. Most users get really frustrated at automated processes because they tend to get in the way at the worst times, like antivirus scans in the middle of a game. That's a power dynamic issue.

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@drwho @enkiv2 @erosdiscordia @brennen

It is amazing the fuss I have sometimes just *changing the volume of the speaker*, with multiple apps conflicting, the OS being slow to respond, to the point that having a *physical plug in a physical socket* is more reliable.

until we can fix stuff like this, we don't have much chance in heck getting much more complex agents than 'audio volume' to communicate in ways that give the user satisfaction.

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