Sherlock Rules

Sherlock for Mac OS X is pretty bad ass.

Sherlock is basically realisation of a lot of the promises of “web services”: completely modular information sources, totally separated from an interface, allows for a totally smooth integration with almost anything, in this case, OS X.

I started toying with it over the weekend, popping up the eBay channel. There is a field where you type your search, and once it is filled, a second panel automatically is filled with matches. When you select one, the item’s description shows up in the content pane, and its photo shows up in a seperate pane. It’s great. Like browsing eBay, but even easier and with a much smoother interface.

Also cool is the Movies channel. When you switch to it, the movies playing around you are automatically populated… select the theater where you want to see it from the list, and show times appear. A description of the movie is automatically shown on the bottom, and the trailer starts playing in the lower right. When you flip from there to the Yellow Pages channel, driving directions to that theater pop up. Wow.

Other really cool channels:

  • Flights (when is the next flight to Narita Airport from SFO?)
  • Translate (what does this Korean recipe say?)
  • Dictionary (how do you spell that? synonyms? Definitions? all automatically!)
  • Calillona, an Amazon channel which can query the catalogs from the US, Japan, the UK, and Germany. I haven’t tried buying something with it yet though!

Using only XQuery and JavaScript, you can make your own channels for Sherlock. A lot of channels have already been created for it by independent developers.

My current favorite 3rd party channel is “Gutenberg” which lets you surf the various free texts from Project Gutenberg. I’m curious about the Lonely Planet channel; I haven’t checked that out yet.

And to all you whiners out there who complain about how the channels don’t do what you want? Here’s an idea, why don’t you make your own? It’s not like you’re writing thousands of lines of code- the codebase for these things is really small!

Ideas for Sherlock channels:

  • A channel devoted to the
    UPS services

    • Package Tracking
    • Signature Tracking
    • Rates + Service
    • [estimated] Time in Transit
    • Address Validation
  • A Bugzilla channel
  • I wish MTV would expose their schedule as a web service- their entries in TV Guide are notoriously inaccurate.
  • For that matter, the radio stations could expose their play lists as a web service. Hmmm….
  • IMDB would be good too

So… a philosophical question: would it be counterrevolutionary to make a XUL application which acts as a container to host Sherlock channels? On one hand, it would be enable a huge functionality on Mozilla on the PC as well as the Mac, and as we can all agree, Mozilla is part of The Movement. An application like this would also leverage the existing Sherlock channels/mindshare.

However, it might be argued that to do so would take away from some of the value-add of switching to Apple, which is less a part of The Movement than Mozilla is, but still a key part of the Revolution.