Archive for October, 2009

Nepomuk is useful, but is it useable?

October 3, 2009

Lately there where some blogs on Nepomuk and in the comment section there were also some critic points and I want to touch one myself here, the usability.

We have seen that Nepomuk can store (sic) lots of data, lots of “sentences”, like an object has a tag, a date or whatever. That is pretty nice as it enables to connect all that information together.


Now where I see the problem is that accessing all that information basically works the same way: nepomuksearch:/hasTag:OpenCL

That’s the problem! I do not care to enter these lines to learn the verbs, neither do other users especially if they do not know that they have to do it this way. And I’m not even sure if hasTag/tag is localised, if it is not yeah fun for the regions in the world where they use different letters/alphabets than that.

As you see the problem is not really Nepomuk, but rather the present ways to interact with it as a user.

Explaining what you want

As I’ve posted in a comment of a blog some weeks ago the way searching in my opinion should work is the way you explain something to others. You talk about “London”, your counterpart thinks you are talking about the city, so you say “No, not the city but …”

  • “… a book by Jack London”
  • “… our school colleague Jeffrey London”
  • “… a person on irc with that nick”
  • “… the paper I wrote on London’s homeless people”

It is a trial and error, you throw one term and maybe your counterpart instantly knows what you are talking about and if not you have to be more specific, make connections etc.

The perfect search you should always avoid is “Let’s talk about Jeffrey London, you know who we went to school with [nice so far], who was born on 1/1/1970 in Bram, whose parents were …, whose RNA is.”


But this is not to become a troll-entry, so what I propose – actually most likely not do, so drive-by-posting 😉 – is imitating and improving Gnome’s tracker search.

Tracker in Ubuntu 7.10 (two years old)

There you have one line where you enter whatever you want to enter, be it names, tags, parts of a document etc. When in their gui you have categories on the left, like “Documents”, “Images” etc., we should add Contacts, Mail, and other categories we find useful, but there shouldn’t be too many.

None has to care about the semantics of a search and as probably most people don’t have thousands of files with “London” somewhere they should find what they want easily.

If they don’t find what they want they can specify one of the categories I mentioned above, add another term to the search term, or in the KDE case they should also have an options-section where they can fine-tune the search:

  • part of filename
  • created (on|before|after|between)
  • last viewed (on|before|after|between)
  • created by (dropdown list with people who were found in the search as author etc.)
  • etc.

And that’s not all, there could be an automatically created section with nepomuk categories that were found with this search like:

  • Tag
  • Contact
  • Mail

essentially this could be merged with the categories mentioned above, though there should be a fallback e.g. if Strigi did not index a file-yet there should still be a category “Images” with it inside.

That should give them results very fast. The target should not be to create the “perfect search” where you get what you want on first try, but rather to have a good starting point where the user can narrow the results down if they want or need to.


Yes I have read about the gsoc projects for nepomuk and like the changes on the search (I’m not sold on the loading/saving), though judging from screenshots (!) it still rather tries to implement a perfect search rather than adding means to improve the non-perfect result.


Yes with all that you would not be able to use all of Nepomuk features but you will be able to use it, everyone will be.

It would be a starting point where improvments could happen, there is no sense in waiting for KDE 4.4++ or whatever to have a nice desktop search, if the capabilities are there already.

Please make Nepomuk useable, you can make it perfect later on.