I’m back from an unexpectedly long vacation. It was surreal to travel to Canada and to not be able to return due to bad weather back at home. At least the circuitous route foisted upon me to get home allowed me to experience the Edmonton airport, which was surprisingly attractive. Enough about me.

USA Today, the paper famous for designing their printed page to look like a TV news report, has redesigned their site to incorporate and prominently display user feedback. I guess it’s sort of MySpace meets CNN meets the for-dummies book series. Don’t worry — this post will not focus upon the mundane redesign of this banal site. Instead, I will now compound the sin of starting my post with a personal tangent, then following up with a tangent about USA Today, and then embarking upon another tangent. Don’t fear, my patient audience, I will knit together these tangents and make a point. Or not.

Tangent #3: Object Modeling
Object modelers (a.k.a. programming geeks at universities), at least the good ones, posses an adeptness at finding like qualities across a broad spectrum of information/noise. They also can tease apart related, but different types of data. For instance, they can visit a pet store and create a file folder to contain information about animals, and then file folders to contain information about cats and dogs. The animal folder allows otherwise redundant information to be kept out of the cat and dog folders, making for a more efficient filing cabinet.

Step 1: discard my meaningless paragraph about my journey across North America
Step 2: consider USA Today allows user comments on their stories
Step 3: apply object modeling to USA Today’s more user driven model for their Website

Okay. Done? Guess the meaning of the title of this post?

Sites like Digg provide news based upon user votes. Google News uses search coupled with technology to select stories “ranked by computers that evaluate, among other things, how often and on what sites a story appears online.” USA Today seems to have moved towards a hybrid of the Digg and traditional editorial selection models.

What do all three models have in common? Why, the stories themselves, right? Sure, no two reporters will write about a story the same way; often, the angle taken will be quite different. But the underlying fact is the story itself.

In that context, USA Today, I suspect unwittingly, has invited their readers to comment on two pretty different things: the story and how it’s reported. Comments on the reporting pertain to USA Today’s coverage and belong on their Website. Comments on the story transcend the site and are certainly redundant with comments on a myriad of other sites, and even votes on places like Digg.

In a more precise model, there would be a place to comment on the story outside of the USA Today site; some more universal service to solicit reader feedback, which would link back into the various news sites. A site like USA Today could then use this meta-data to better select which stories to display on their homepage. Certainly, they wouldn’t like this approach since it defeats the purpose of making their site more sticky and attractive to advertisers, but the readership would be better served in the end.

All this calls out a limitation with Web browsers: their little rectangular windows, even with tabbed browsing, make it difficult to concurrently display multiple Web pages that require interaction. Sure, Google, Yahoo!, Apple, and others now provide Web widgets, which are stand-alone Web apps not all bound to the same window. But as far as I know, nobody yet provides an integrated multi-window platform, which seamlessly links individual Web driven applications, allowing for interaction and a richer user experience. Nobody has created an OS X like environment for interacting with the Web. It’s about time for Web 3.0: the Object Modeling approach to developing applications to interact with Web information.