Xiki, Xikihub and UI excitement

September 27, 2017

In this week's Kodsnack I got the opportunity to talk to Craig Muth about his fascinating creation Xiki and where both it and computer interfaces in general may be heading. I came across Xiki in 2014, and its continuing development was one of the first Kickstarter projects I backed.

Xiki is a sort of re-imagining of a command line, wrapped up in a text editor and somewhat mixed with a wiki, and it is just as unusual as it sounds. Craig does a much better job at describing it, so do go look as his examples instead. What really grabs me about Xiki (which I also mention in the podcast) is how new, excitingly unfamiliar and full of possibilites it feels whenever I use it or even just read and think about it. The most similar experience I can think of was when I started using and reading up about Quicksilver - here is a whole new way to get things done on my computer, one very based on text and keyboard input yet at the same time surprisingly discoverable and extremely extendable and adaptable. Yes, I am lost, but I feel sure I can figure things out and find my way around. And in the meantime, just stumbling around is pretty fun in itself. It is much more a case of figuring out just what I want to do and then doing it than wanting to do something but getting stuck because you have no idea about how.

Craig has been working on Xiki in various ways and forms for 14 years, and he has a new Kickstarter going right now. The aim is to fund and speed up (by hopefully being able to pay some additional developers) development of a social and sharing evolution of Xiki. It is called Xikihub and wants to be something of a Github for Xiki commands, and of course accessible right from within Xiki. The idea is that whenever you want to do something for which your Xiki setup has no commands, you can instantly search Xikihub to see if someone else has built and shared such a command. If someone has, you can install and use it right then and there. You can of course share your own commands too, send them by email and do a million other things I have not even thought of yet.

Xiki itself is impressive to me, but even more so is Craig's drive, focus and vision. He has built on and extended his ideas for years, and he has just as many ideas for continuing the evolution. To me, the world could use so much more of this kind of drive to run with ideas, and after our chat I keep wondering which other equally exciting interface evolutions may be lurking out there, outside of my known world (if you know of any, please tell me!)

Craig has been able to devote a lot of time and resources despite not making any money from Xiki apart from the 2014 kickstarter. It is easy to assume that good ideas will somehow have momentum of their own and keep going regardless of income or other active support from others. I backed the first Kickstarter and am more than happy to back this one too, because ideas like Xiki deserve support and long-term evolution. Too many people burn out in one way or another working on passion projects which other people just use and assume will just always be there. I think we would all be better off if we tried to support things we use, or are just plain inspired by, a bit more often.