Uncertain Interfaces

Uncertain input

The general idea is that most interfaces do not adequately allow a certain field to be filled out in an “uncertain” or “to be determined” manner.

Perhaps the key is being less specific?


Google Calendar does not support any “maybe” events, and consequently sucks at representing them.

A great deal of my events have a tentative date or a time, but I still want to mark them in my calendar; I need to resort to conventions like marking the start date as, ex. “12:34” or “17:17” (an unlikely time for an event to start), which on a base level forces me to input “wrong” info, or by marking them as all-day events, which does not have enough resolution.


“Untitled” documents are not a mistake - some documents just do not need names!

A photo for example benefits very little from having a filename - the primary way they are organized is by date, location, etc. “IMG_1234” is only a vestigial artefact of the organization.

Perkeep 🌐 gets this right - as a general data store, it does not require filenames.

Dump documents, a space for a lack of structure, staging areas

There is a necessity for “chaos”:

Pretty much all religions, and even some psychology frameworks, have the concept of "infinite chaos, uncertainty, unstructured potential" modeled, either as a entity (Leviathan, Falak, Jörmungandr) or as an abstract (right hemisphere, the orienting reflex, Tzimtzum). We need it.

Dendron 🌐 gets this right - scratch notes that do not get into your way; filing into a hierarchy in advance incurs additional mental and workflow costs.

Roam, on the other hand , gets this one wrong - I had to keep a “temporary” page/node from which I copied my notes into a larger hierarchy. Daily notes kind of alleviate this, but it’s ultimately a bad fit.

Uncertain output

Ex.: Time until next highway exit in a GPS app: Likely to be uncertain depending on the speed (imprecision in measurement, unexpected variations, etc.); how to show a useful indicator of the time left regardless?