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Networking IT

Indirect Documents At Last 366

Posted by Hemos
from the changing-the-base-nature dept.
BarryNorton writes "In a world that increasingly takes the WWW, its pages and the other documents we exchange in the electronic world as given - and knights Tim Berners-Lee without an understanding of the pre-WWW background of stateless client/server document architectures (e.g. Gopher) and hypertext (e.g. Xanadu) on which he built - there still beavers away a forgotten figure, Ted Nelson, eager to more fully achieve the original hypertext vision. In recent communications Nelson says: 'The tekkies have hijacked literature- with the best intentions, of course!-) - but now the humanists have to get it back. Nearly every form of electronic document- Word, Acrobat, HTML, XML- represents some business or ideological agenda. Many believe Word and Acrobat are out to entrap users; HTML and XML enact a very limited kind of hypertext with great internal complexity. All imitate paper and (internally) hierarchy. I propose a different document agenda: I believe we need new electronic documents which are transparent, public, principled, and freed from the traditions of hierarchy and paper. In that case they can be far more powerful, with deep and rich new interconnections and properties- able to quote dynamically from other documents and buckle sideways to other documents, such as comments or successive versions; able to present third-party links; and much more. Most urgently: if we have different document structures we can build a new copyright realm, where everything can be freely and legally quoted and remixed in any amount without negotiation.'"
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Indirect Documents At Last

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  • by BarryNorton (778694) on Monday October 24, 2005 @09:35AM (#13863282)
    To respect Prof. Nelson's licensing, it's necessary that I post the whole text, from which I quoted. I'll do so in a reply to this, in the hope that that means it will fold up as comments come in below. (This version is probably the same as the one online, but just to give proper credit, this text was sent to the Advanced Knowledge Technologies (AKT [aktors.org]) project, with which I'm partially associated)...
    • by BarryNorton (778694) on Monday October 24, 2005 @09:41AM (#13863332)
      trans© 2005 T. Nelson, stable at hyperland.com/trollout.txt
      and xanadu.com/trollout.txt
      Permission is given to redistribute this but only in its entirety.

      Dear World:

      The tekkies have hijacked literature- with the best intentions, of
      course!-) - but now the humanists have to get it back.

      Nearly every form of electronic document- Word, Acrobat, HTML, XML- represents some business or ideological agenda. Many believe Word and Acrobat are out to entrap users; HTML and XML enact a very limited kind of hypertext with great internal complexity. All imitate paper and
      (internally) hierarchy.

      For years, hierarchy simulation and paper simulation have been imposed throughout the computer world and the world of electronic documents.
      Falsely portrayed as necessitated by "technology," these are really just the world-view of those who build software. I believe that for representing human documents and thought, which are parallel and
      interpenetrating- some like to say "intertwingled"- hierarchy and paper simulation are all wrong.

      This note is to announce a very special and very different piece of open-source software you can download and use now, for electronic documents radically different from anything out there- and a bigger plan.

      I propose a different document agenda: I believe we need new electronic documents which are transparent, public, principled, and freed from the traditions of hierarchy and paper. In that case they can be far more powerful, with deep and rich new interconnections and properties- able to quote dynamically from other documents and buckle sideways to other documents, such as comments or successive versions; able to present third-party links; and much more.

      Most urgently: if we have different document structures we can build a new copyright realm, where everything can be freely and legally quoted and remixed in any amount without negotiation.

      It's time for an alternative to today's document systems, and we the loyal opposition have a proposal.

      >>>Humanists please jump to transliterature.org, since what follows will be somewhat technical.

      But first, some background. This will take a while.

      BEFORE THE WEB, A GREATER DREAM

      Long before there was a World Wide Web, there was a project with greater intent. This was Project Xanadu*, a bunch of clever, cynical idealists who believed in a dream of world-wide hypertext- somewhat like the web, but deeper and more powerful and more integrated, rooted in literary ideas, and mindful from the beginning of the copyright problems that would come. The project started unofficially in 1960 when I began to think about world-wide screen publishing, but grew to involve about a hundred participants and supporters over the last half-century.

      (Note that I flip between "we" and "I" because this piece culminates work and ideas shared by a number of others over the decades; but I am presently acting alone, so whenever appropriate I am including those others by pronoun.)

      Even from the beginning, we planned on unrestricted publishing of hypertext by millions of people; but web-like documents were only the beginning, only one possible form.

      The Xanadu project asked at the beginning- not, "How do we imitate paper?", but "What if we could write in midair, without enclosing rectangles? What new ways can thoughts be connected and presented?" Many ideas and screen maneuvers came to mind, but they always sharpened down to this question:
      "How can electronic documents on the screen IMPROVE on paper?" And our key answer was: "Keep each quotation connected to its original context."

      This idea (now called "transclusion") is the center of our work and the center of my own beliefs. I
      • by TuringTest (533084) on Monday October 24, 2005 @10:18AM (#13863579) Journal
        "What if we could write in midair, without enclosing rectangles? What new ways can thoughts be connected and presented?"
        I have one more question: How would we know where to look next, while reading such a mess?

        Written text has the very interesting property of linearity, which matches it to the linear processing of spoken discourse, for which we have hardwired functions in brain. How could you "improve" on that?
        • by BarryNorton (778694) on Monday October 24, 2005 @10:25AM (#13863623)
          Written text has the very interesting property of linearity, which matches it to the linear processing of spoken discourse, for which we have hardwired functions in brain. How could you "improve" on that?
          When you need something from an encyclopedia, do you start at p1, respecting the 'order in which it would be spoken'?

          Even allowing skipping, if you find that one concept leads to another, do you only skip on to that if it respects the linear order (i.e. comes alphabetically later)?

          When you start to read the WWW, do you start with TBL's original pages?

          No, hypertext is something different... so why should this only apply (inadequately) between documents, and not within them?

          • by Dun Malg (230075) on Monday October 24, 2005 @11:03AM (#13863896) Homepage
            "Written text has the very interesting property of linearity, which matches it to the linear processing of spoken discourse, for which we have hardwired functions in brain. How could you "improve" on that?"

            When you start to read the WWW, do you start with TBL's original pages? No, hypertext is something different... so why should this only apply (inadequately) between documents, and not within them?

            Because at some point you have to start feeding the brain information in the linear, spoken format it's designed to interpret. Linking and indexing is great for finding information, but not so good for consuming it. When you find the page you're looking for in the encyclopedia or on the web, you stop dealing with indices and hyperlinks, and start reading linearly. That's where the real gruntwork of information comprehension happens. There's no mystical transcendent mode of "uber-literacy" that allows one to absorb information better than the linear, serial way around which our human languages are designed, and for which we have trained ourselves to process since birth.

            • When you find the page you're looking for in the encyclopedia or on the web, you stop dealing with indices and hyperlinks, and start reading linearly

              A page from the OED is a great contrary example - have a look...

              I don't find a page, then read the whole thing from the first line - there are all kinds of cues (font, font size, colour, indentation) to the ability to read across a document, rather than linearly through it. I go back and forth over these structures within a page, not just to get there.

              Unf

              • by Dun Malg (230075) on Monday October 24, 2005 @12:26PM (#13864590) Homepage
                A page from the OED is a great contrary example - have a look... I don't find a page, then read the whole thing from the first line - there are all kinds of cues (font, font size, colour, indentation) to the ability to read across a document, rather than linearly through it. I go back and forth over these structures within a page, not just to get there.

                Christ Almighty, try to understand the greater meaning of my point rather than fixating on the literal meaning of my specific choice of words. When I used the word page, it was not to imply that once we reach the "page" level of organization, we start reading linearly. I used that word because it was a convenient point of similar terminology between encyclopedias and web sites. I shouldn't have to, but I will explain the point I was trying to make: Once you have found the what you are searching for (the encyclopedia entry, the web article, the OED entry, etc.) you start reading in the classic linear, serial fashion. This is the way human language works.

                • by BarryNorton (778694) on Monday October 24, 2005 @12:43PM (#13864735)
                  Christ Almighty, try to understand the greater meaning of my point rather than fixating on the literal meaning of my specific choice of words.
                  Christ Almighty try to see the mismatch with the WWW!

                  In re-defining page down to the sentences across which I scan hopping from structure to sructure down what I (very naively, obviously!) call a page, you miss the fact that these things are not individually accessed via HTTP and assembled, the whole thing (let's call it an HTML document, if you want to redefine the semantics of page) is one from the point of view of hyperlinking (save for anchors, which are completely inadequate).

                  I know you're trying to get me to concede that at some level I need to read word by word, which I have no problem doing, but you're missing the context of this entire discussion...

                  • In re-defining page down to the sentences across which I scan hopping from structure to sructure down what I (very naively, obviously!) call a page, you miss the fact that these things are not individually accessed via HTTP and assembled, the whole thing (let's call it an HTML document, if you want to redefine the semantics of page) is one from the point of view of hyperlinking (save for anchors, which are completely inadequate).

                    If I understood you correctly, you are complaining that you can't link to a

          • by schon (31600)
            When you need something from an encyclopedia, do you start at p1, respecting the 'order in which it would be spoken'?

            No, but I *do* start at the beginning of a paragraph, and respect "the order in which it would be spoken."

            I suspect you do too. Or should I make that:

            the *do* I I No a and at be beginning but do in it of order paragraph respect spoken start suspect the too which would you
            • No, but I *do* start at the beginning of a paragraph

              And there we have it... what else could there be but pages as a series of continuous paragraphs, made up of sentences, made up of words, and only linear and decomposition relationships between them?

              As I say on a separate branch [slashdot.org] (we're stuck in a hierarchy, of course, but thankfully false pages are grafted over so I can hyperlink... even so two threads are liable to still continue and diverge with only that point of contact), a page from the OED is a go

          • Dun Malg says it better than I ever could. The process of gathering the meaning of a text is the process of sequentially reading the words. In this context, each hyperlink acts as a choice point which potentially breaks the process - should I continue reading the rest of the paragraph or should I follow the hyperlink into a whole new context of meanings? Multiplying the number of links only makes this problem worse. I yet fail to see how Xanadu would handle the real and fundamental "lost in hyperspace" prob
        • Funny you should mention that. I remember reading that one classic greek philosopher actually thought that alphabetization was, at best, a mixed blessing, exactly because written text enforces linearity which he considered NOT to be a natural property of human thoughts.

          The assertion that we have "hardwired functions in brain" for "spoken discourse" is certainly rather bold, considering that the time since the human race developed languages complex enough to hold a discourse is *quite* short from an evolutio
        • Spoken discourse is not hard-wired linear in the brain. It's wired as branching paths. This is easily observable. When you're listening to a sentence, there can be more than one way to expect it to go. There have been scores of experiments that show that brains prepare for and expect each of these multiple paths, only "collapsing" on the one it actually takes once it becomes evident. There tends to also be forgetting of the expectancies pruned by the actual experience, so that in retrospect our foresight ap
      • When you try to persuade other people of your ideas, you normally try to explain what's so great and keep your personal problems, rants and unhappyness to yourself. I can tell you why Xanadu won't take off: Mr. Nelson isn't humble enough. "Oh yes, I invented this and that".

        I read all of this, and I still don't get it. If you can't explain you ideas in that huge amount of words, maybe your concept is too complicated and nobody wants it? Maybe simplicity won for a reason?

        Just a few ideas.
        • When you try to persuade other people of your ideas, you normally try to explain what's so great and keep your personal problems, rants and unhappyness to yourself.

          Agreed. And he doesn't have the perspective of a balanced person. For instance, he rants against Wired, but I for one would not have even heard of Ted Nelson, and done my own research into his ideas, if it wasn't for Wired.

          I can tell you why Xanadu won't take off: Mr. Nelson isn't humble enough. "Oh yes, I invented this and that"

          *Cough*

  • RTFS (read the friendly summary) ? ;)
    • by BarryNorton (778694) on Monday October 24, 2005 @09:39AM (#13863309)
      Sorry, the first sentence is supposed to be the summary. I offered the second part, as a quote, if the editors wanted to reproduce this (as they do for book reviews etc.), but they've chosen to just bang it all together to make one of the longest summaries I've ever seen!
      • In a world that increasingly takes the WWW, its pages and the other documents we exchange in the electronic world as given - and knights Tim Berners-Lee without an understanding of the pre-WWW background of stateless client/server document architectures (e.g. Gopher) and hypertext (e.g. Xanadu) on which he built - there still beavers away a forgotten figure, Ted Nelson, eager to more fully achieve the original hypertext vision.

        That's one really long sentence, including a parenthetical example inside of a d
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 24, 2005 @09:38AM (#13863302)
    "Most urgently: if we have different document structures we can build a new copyright realm, where everything can be freely and legally quoted and remixed in any amount without negotiation."

    Alas, that is why Ted is doomed to obscurity. He has a decent point and then transitions into some hippiesh b.s. that won't even play well to his core utopian audience.

    The form should not dictate the comment. And that point is where the techie utopians fail.
    • Actually the real reason he is forever destined to obscurity is:

      To be able to collage freely is one of my objectives. So that you can just gather material in a new document, comment on it, annotate it, overlay it anyway you like and yet within a feasible copyright system - since we are not going to escape from copyright law - that allows this. That is what I have always tried to do.

      It's never happened, nor is it likely to happen within his lifetime (at least, not by him anyway). People become famous f
    • That is the way of history, which Marx's teleological view got completely wrong: the young idealists rise up against the complacent, corrupt establishment. If they don't die on the barricades, they succeed by dint of life expectancy if nothing else. But while they are busy outliving their opponents, they aquire things they don't want to lose: status, position, wealth, the logical endpoint of which is cooption. Soon they provide the next generation of establishment, with slightly different decoration p
  • *head explodes* (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 24, 2005 @09:39AM (#13863313)
    Arrgh... That summary was just waay too abstract for me.
    Just give me an implementation of whatever you are thinking of, and I'll try to judge it, OK? :-)
  • by ReformedExCon (897248) <reformed.excon@gmail.com> on Monday October 24, 2005 @09:41AM (#13863328)
    The problem is not a lack of information. The primary reason we can't have a fully transparent, infinitely linked "web" is that our puny human brains are incapable of absorbing and filtering that much information.

    Consider the difference between Wikipedia and Everything2. Wikipedia is written by people who are interested in the topic at hand, and as such they link to relevant pages that are of interest to them. On the other hand, Everything2 seems to automatically link each "interesting" word to a seemingly random internal E2 page. The result is a useful and interesting encyclopedia in the former case and a jumbled, irrelevant mass of random information in the latter. Although this is just one case, it is very simple to extrapolate this result with any sort of grander version of E2 (e.g. Semantic Web).

    What we need is a better way of presenting information and an easier method of linking sites of interest to the data we generate. What we don't need is some way to make everything a link.
    • On the other hand, Everything2 seems to automatically link each "interesting" word to a seemingly random internal E2 page.

      As far as I know all links on E2 are created by the people who write the nodes. There is no automatic linking. The links seem random because it is part of the E2 culture to link phrases to disparate nodes.

    • Maybe. I would think the reason it won't work is because you can't depend on other documents being there. He's basically describing a website, but that "quote dynamically from other documents, and buckles sideways to other documents", I mean WTF? To make that work reliably, you have to copy other people's stuff into your document before thier document gets taken off the web, which you can get sued over nowadays. I think a new document would be fine, but it's got to work fine technically, and in the busi
      • which you can get sued over nowadays.

        Oh he's got that one covered. All content published in his new system would be placed under a particular license letting other people pretty much do whatever the hell they want with it. I don't think he's quite covered the business world angle yet. But I think he's ignoring that by saying "anyone who doesn't think my idea is a good one is too entrenched in the current set up." He then talks about creating a new breed of people under the new system. I bet he also wants
        • Although I lack any details on his system, the above points don't sound all that new
          Well, no, since he's been saying it for years (since before the WWW)...
          • Well, no, since he's been saying it for years (since before the WWW)...

            Which I addressed in my post

            Me: (sure, it may have semed that way back in the 60s, but it's 40 years later and while he hasn't done anything that's been successful on a large scale, plenty of people have which basically does what he wants). It actually sounds quite restrictive.

            He's still waving it around, acting as if his ideas are still revolutionary and haven't occurred yet. When in fact, they have occurred seperately (but than
            • I didn't mean to imply that you didn't know that he'd been advocating these ideas for years, rather to say that the fact that they don't sound so novel anymore is a measure of some degree of success. More of his ideas have been accepted or adapted than were hacked into the WWW, that's for sure.

              As far as having to fight his own corner for years, that in itself doesn't make him wrong. How long did Einstein (or Heisenberg) have to defend their ideas before they could show them part of the world (let alone p


    • On the other hand, Everything2 seems to automatically link each "interesting" word to a seemingly random internal E2 page

      No kidding, I've seen quite a bit of this at Wikipedia also lately. Is it truly necessary to link to business [wikipedia.org]?

      I've got 2 mod points left, but I had to log in to this seperate section of Slashdot in order to make this comment. This seems to be a recent change and I'd like Malda to explain.
    • On the other hand, Everything2 seems to automatically link each "interesting" word to a seemingly random internal E2 page.

      LOL. It probably seems like that.

      In actual fact, the links happen because of the user's behaviour.

      If you go along to a page that hasn't already got a full link list (or isn't the homepage of everything2 or one of the automatically generated pages etc.), and then type a different page into the search thing at the top you end up at a new page of course.

      What's slightly less obvious

    • Wow you completely misunderstand what he's talking about. REAL hypertext doesn't have links. Here's a meta-example of what real hypertext might be like.

      <document>
      <text>text text text.</text>
      <include first paragraph from joe's site />
      <include image from wikipedia />
      <include article from slashdot />
      </document>

      See, now if Joe updates his website, that will modify what appears on this page. And if wikipedia changes the image then the image on my site will be updated a

    • For some time now, I have felt that the best way to combat the problem of information overload and poor signal-to-noise ratios would be to implement a framework like Nooron [nooron.org]. The vision, as I understand it, would be to have a hypermoderated forum of ideas, like a suped-up Slashdot, and Amazon's "Other shoppers also liked . . ." rolled into one and applied to the world of ideas. I would go into it further, but it's probably best to just read the whitepaper on the website. Also check out the article "Building
  • by geekplus (248023) on Monday October 24, 2005 @09:41AM (#13863333)
    A few choice quotes from the leader:

    "I propose a different document agenda"
    There's that word agenda, in the first two sentences of his solution)

    "I believe we need new electronic documents which are transparent, public, principled, and freed from the traditions of hierarchy and paper"
    Every humanist I know who's objecting to the ways of tekkies (love that spelling) starts off by proposing, "I believe we need new electronic documents". "freed from the traditions" also kinda sounds like someone with, umm, an agenda.

    "Most urgently: if we have different document structures we can build a new copyright realm"
    This one was priceless. He's going to build a realm. So he can finally call himself a *real* DM...
    • From the article...

      This idea (now called "transclusion") is the center of our work and the center of my own beliefs.

      ...and...

      Many will be quick to call the Transliterature design "Vaporware," even though the Transquoter exists. But Transliterature is an agenda, not a promise, and I offer no dates of availability. (I believe something isn't "vaporware" till you've promised it- a mistake I don't intend to make again.)

      Another example of "agenda"...is it me or does the whole work ring of some sort of ideologic

    • kinda sounds like someone with, umm, an agenda.

      Agendas [webster.com] are not inherently bad, ya know.
      His is an agenda of freedom, the agendas he decries are those of user-locking.
      • His is an agenda of freedom, the agendas he decries are those of user-locking.

        A freedom that forces anyone that uses his (at the moment thankfully theoretical) document format to license their content under a particular license.

        Thanks but no thanks. I'd rather the being locked into OpenOffice, which lets me apply any license I want to OpenOffice documents.
  • by markov_chain (202465) on Monday October 24, 2005 @09:42AM (#13863340) Homepage
    I believe we need new electronic documents which are transparent, public, principled, and freed from the traditions of hierarchy and paper.

    And I believe that I need 10 million dollars by noon tomorrow. Unfortunately, in both cases, there is a "2. ???" step that needs to be filled in.
    • The "2. ???" that he really needs to fill in is how to answer the big dogs when they say, "What's in it for me?" Given that he effectively wants to destroy all known document interchange formats (getting rid of Word and Adobe basically represents all documents), he will need a good answer. Companies don't do anything unless they believe it will increase their bottom line. He will need to show them how going this route will do just that. If he can't, then his idea will likely be doomed to obscurity.
  • May I suggest Web 2.0! Ah no, that's taken. Lets skip version 2 and go straight to...

    Web 3.0!

    Baz
  • by TheBeardIsRed (695409) on Monday October 24, 2005 @09:50AM (#13863394)
    The illuminati and masons have been working together/against each other for years to establish this "one world document."
  • by elrous0 (869638) on Monday October 24, 2005 @09:55AM (#13863427)
    Methinks this is the kind of guy who uses meaningless terms like "building synergy" and "paradigm shift" to cover the fact that he doesn't have a clue what he's talking about or anything more concrete to offer than a few anti-tech rants. It's pretty sad that the interviewer has to conclude the interview by asking him (twice, no less) to explain what in the Hell he's talking about and his best answer is something akin to "Well, you just wouldn't understand it."

    Learn HTML, or at least learn to use a wiki, old-timer, and stop whining.

    -Eric

    • Better to evaluate the ideas than dismiss them with an ad hominem argument. (Oh, wait! They don't teach Rhetoric in college anymore! Only a few young whipersnappers may know what "ad hominem" is! The rest are playing "Doom" or watching TV.)

      Ted may be flakey in the same way R. Buckminster Fuller was flakey.

      Mike Burke

      • (Oh, wait! They don't teach Rhetoric in college anymore! Only a few young whipersnappers may know what "ad hominem" is! The rest are playing "Doom" or watching TV.)


        Oh, I don't know if playing doom is so bad, considering that the people who claim to know rhetoric and are proud to display it seem to spend all their time on usenet on debates like:

        >>>>>>>>>>> [SNIP long winded argument]
        >>>>>>>>>> Non sequitur.
        >>>>>>>>> Ah,
  • That submission sounds like it was run through Babelfish a few times...
  • by aussie_a (778472) on Monday October 24, 2005 @09:58AM (#13863447) Journal
    Q: You have said that we have settled for less basically. Because I have been brought up with computers the way they are, I can't see this difference or quite comprehend what you are talking about. What would it mean for me if we had what you're suggesting.

    [snipped]long ass answer that doesn't answer the question[/snipped]

    Q: You haven't answered my question yet. How would life be different for me if we had?

    A: I don't know.


    So what's this guy talking about? All I can seem to pin down is he wants links to flow both ways (track-backs? Yeeesh. Haven't blogs taught us that these are horrible?) and he wants open-source document standards. Oh, and there's some talk of a license in this, he (again) doesn't mention any specifics, but the impression I get is his "new system" would have all content licensed under the one partiuclar license (which allows people to do whatever they like with it, from what I understood of his ramblings anyway).

    He doesn't say HOW this is going to happen, he doesn't mention any benefits to it. Only that it would be a good thing.

    Has he been more coherent and specific elsewhere? Or is he always like this?
  • by ewg (158266)
    Project page? Source code repository? Early-access release? Demo URL?!
    • Google for Udanax.

      I guess the submitter had the (clearly incorrect) belief that Slashdot readers would be familiar with the work of the guy who actually invented hypertext.

      It's sad to see the procession of ignorant comments along the lines of "He doesn't know what he's talking about", "It can't possibly work", "What does he mean by XML being limited", and so on. Those making the comments should go do some basic research. Yes, some of his stuff is hard to understand. That's not because it's bullshit, it's be
  • Hierarchy is a form of organization, grouping related things for the purpose of broader comprehension and/or control, whether they be people in a company or subroutines in a program. Organization is a necessary tool for logical thinking.

    Unfortunately, Mr. Nelson doesn't seem to favor organization at all except for the nebulous group of humanists dedicated to furthering his concept of "transclusion"... a group which apparently only has one memeber; himself.

    His idea that everything should always remain l

    • Hierarchy is a form of organization [...] Organization is a necessary tool for logical thinking.
      Hierarchy is one form of organisation. People have become as blind to document structure as they have to database structure - that good efficient DBMS implementations of the relational model made headway in the 1970s doesn't mean that the relational model is the only way to organise data. What about... say... hierarchy!
    • His idea that everything should always remain linked to its original context is impossible to implement. Whose responsibility would it be to maintain the space and accessibility of those originals? Would I have to store and serve a copy of everything quoted by my work, and everything quoted by each of those, and so forth ad infinatum? Who would enforce this?

      It's all a matter of scale. One of the projects I'm currently working on is to build a thesaurus -- we have to capture phrases/terms/concepts, and

  • they didn't get it (Score:4, Interesting)

    by an_mo (175299) on Monday October 24, 2005 @10:11AM (#13863530) Journal
    Before we understate the achievement of those that created the web, let's not forget that these hypertext people initially didn't get it. Tim berners-Lee wen to a hypertext conference while he was thinking about the web, and talked about the idea of putting it all on the internet... the hypertext guys didn't think it was an interesting idea :-)
  • by Ryano (2112) on Monday October 24, 2005 @10:11AM (#13863532) Homepage

    "In a world that ... knights Tim Berners-Lee without an understanding of the pre-WWW background of stateless client/server document architectures ... on which he built..."

    The world didn't knight Tim Berners-Lee, the British Government did, presumably because he's a British Citizen who has made a distinguished contribution to technology and society. We will probably never know whether a deeper understanding of the pre-WWW background of stateless client/server document architecture on the part of Queen Elizabeth and Tony Blair would have had any impact on this decision.

  • I believe we need new electronic documents which are transparent, public, principled, and freed from the traditions of hierarchy and paper. In that case they can be far more powerful, with deep and rich new interconnections and properties- able to quote dynamically from other documents and buckle sideways to other documents, such as comments or successive versions; able to present third-party links; and much more. Most urgently: if we have different document structures we can build a new copyright realm, wh
  • by Hosiah (849792) on Monday October 24, 2005 @10:17AM (#13863571)
    Geez, a couple months ago I dared to suggest (1) that Tim-Berners-Lee was not - in fact - God almighty, and (2) the whole web thing is just one way to do the internet...it's the standard we ended up adopting mainly because, like so much else in the technology field, it was in the right place at the right time. Dozens of other multiple implementations could have formed. For pointing out all of the above, I got flamed from (I lost count) about 20 different directions. Now another guy, who, like me, was hanging around in computer rooms before most of you were out of diapers voices a hankerin' to make a new internet...something (yeah, he WAS kinda hazy on that point). He gets dismissed as a crotchety old man. And neither one of us are even all that old.

    Guess everybody is too busy kissing the status-quo's ass to consider that things might change? What, something that's only been around for 30 years is all of a sudden hewwed in stone? Well, surprise, the technology you're married to now WILL crumble to dust eventually, as will your own dear bones, be it in a decade, a century, or a millenium. And other things WILL replace it. Be it by a new twist on an old scheme dreamed up out of some codger's half-gone imagination, or the fresh, new idea of young blood. Momento mori....

    • I don't think anyone's arguing that hypertext/www IS the internet, or that it will be around forever. Most people on /. know better than that. I think what most people take issue with is that this guy is going about blabbering about how the new paradigm is upon us but offers no substantive idea of what it will be, much less a working model of it. TBL didn't just spout off about his idea, he actually made a working prototype of it. Until your idea exists in reality, or until you can at least pin it down in a
    • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday October 24, 2005 @11:38AM (#13864186) Homepage
      Welcome to humanity. this is how 90% of your bretheren are.

      People resist change. Everyone knew that the WWW and http was nothing but a sloppy hack to begin with, but it filled a hole. coming up with something better will upset everyone that is used to the current standard (see the insane flamefests and screamfits that happen every time a new http standard is proposed) Humanity hates change, really hates having to learn something new and will lash out against anyone even considering changing what they do or how they do it.

      IPV6 should have been here 5 years ago SMTP/POP email should have been replaced with something more robust and spoof-proof 6 years ago...

      both are still on old broken systems because people do not like to change anything because of good old fear.
  • we can build a new copyright realm, where everything can be freely and legally quoted and remixed in any amount without negotiation

    Anyone else think these guys are going to get thier asses handed to them?
  • The world has been waiting for a realization of Ted Nelson's hypertext vision for quite some time.

    Much as I enjoy reading science fiction, I'm not really prepared to spend much attention to dead-tree descriptions of his vision, or screen replicas of the same.

    When I can do some hands-on playing with a non-toy implementation of Nelsonian hypertext, I'll be interested in trying it out and making a judgement.

  • Quote Me (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday October 24, 2005 @10:33AM (#13863680) Homepage Journal
    I'm appalled that, in 2005, we still have to jump through hoops to include arbitrary objects in arbitrary documents. Why can't HTML include a <OBJ> tag, with an "HREF" argument, that points at any object at any URL? Like a text object that is maintained by the server, not necessarily the one maintaining the document in which the document is embedded. To do so now, I have to use IFRAMEs, which have all kinds of quirks and cross-platform differences. How about email, where the Content-Disposition [faqs.org] MIME header has, since at latest 1997, let us include a message body from an arbitrary URL, rather than always including every (often huge) object inline, such as "attachments"?

    While we're at it, I'd like servers to keep a "reference count" of objects they serve, so documents which refer to their objects can (optionally) register. I'd like servers to keep a database of all their referrable objects and their URLs, so an object whose URL changes (moved internally, externally or deleted) can simply return the response code so indicating. Servers like the "Internet Archive" could be much more useful if they accepted archives of low- or old- refcount objects from elsewhere. Other servers wouldn't be able to "disappear" objects without notice, which is extremely important now that publishers often deny some publications that have such an important effect on politics and business, revising them without notice to coverup various deceptions without accountability.

    Many of the problems with making and using Internet documents in WWW and email are solved directly with those two "embedded reference" technologies. This Internet is starting to get old, without outgrowing some of its basic limitation. I want to quote any object (or fragment) from any document in any other, without copying it - just include a reference. We don't need to make a quantum leap to Nelson's Xanadu just to get some things right. Where are the versions of Evolution or Firefox that just use these simple technologies to do that?
    • Re:Quote Me (Score:3, Informative)

      by msaavedra (29918)

      Why can't HTML include a <OBJ> tag, with an "HREF" argument, that points at any object at any URL? Like a text object that is maintained by the server, not necessarily the one maintaining the document in which the document is embedded. To do so now, I have to use IFRAMEs, which have all kinds of quirks and cross-platform differences.

      Actually, the <object> element [w3.org], which the W3C says is for "generic inclusion" has been around for a number of years (since HTML 4.0). I believe it does what you w

  • by yawgnol (244682) on Monday October 24, 2005 @10:36AM (#13863700)
    I've met and talked with Ted Nelson a few times, and I would never presume to speak for him or explain his ideas for him, but I think I can give a little perspective that might help clear up Ted's "thing".

    Ted Nelson is personally an incredibly scattered individual, and his whole thought process seems to be like a million mixed-media post-it notes flying around in a tornado through space and time. That is basically why he makes no sense to people (and vice-versa I'd guess). I truly believe that his driving motivation is to create a system of information that WORKS LIKE HE DOES. I don't in any way mean that to be insulting, it is pretty amazing really and I am strongly PRO Ted Nelson. But with that in mind, he needs everything to connect to everything in every single way and be visible from every different angle. In his brain, he doesn't have to leave one program and export his thoughts to another program, and negotiate the copyrights so that he can think properly. And he KNOWS that it's possible, but not too many people are really looking at the big picture. I don't think he's saying there's anything WRONG with the internet, he's just looking about 50 years into the future and wants to get there... sooner.

    Remember, this is a guy who thought up hypertext and micro payments at a time when people were literally telling him he was insane. In the next thirty years they went from saying "that could never physically happen" to "even though it's probably technically possible people won't want that to happen" to "oh, yeah, that's obvious and totally unavoidable. Duh Ted. Why are you even talking to me about this ?". So the guy is a visionary and a long term thinker.

    Though I do admit that sometimes it seems (like all visionaries) he doesn't seem to have enough respect for the people who are actually creating useful and IMPLEMENTABLE technology. Still, we've been exploring this stuff for 20+ years now, and major "conceptual" advances are just going so unbearably slowly.

    So maybe that adds some perspective. It's just my opinion anyway...
    • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Monday October 24, 2005 @10:58AM (#13863874) Homepage Journal
      That is basically why he makes no sense to people (and vice-versa I'd guess). I truly believe that his driving motivation is to create a system of information that WORKS LIKE HE DOES.

      Thanks for the insight into Ted's way of doing things. That makes a lot of sense. So much of what we do is governed by our own peculiar ways of sifting the information we receive. For example, some posters have said that you can't do anything without heirarchy. Perhaps the experience of growing up working with computers makes most of us think that way, or maybe it's something hard-wired into most people at birth. The few people who do think in a radically nonlinear way tend to be either totally nuts or utterly brilliant, or a hybrid of the two.

      If you're thinking that long and hard about how the world *should* be, as opposed to how it is, in a sense you're already living in something of a fantasy. The question is really whether you can do something to make your reality everyone else's reality. Hopefully Ted will have many more years to keep pushing for his vision. I don't necessarily think he's got a chance, or even that his vision is The One True Way, but it bothers me when people, particularly in Slashdot, kick a guy for being different.

      Maybe we have fallen into the trap of only rewarding those original thinkers who have become famous, rich, or both.

  • Now if someone would take that paragraph and make it happen to usenet, we'd be set. Google has destroyed the archives with a politically/patronage-motivated archive presentation decision, noobs have destroyed the medium itself, and http/php forums have left most of the useful discussion on the planet utterly inaccessibly to central indexing. In other words, what WAS good has been destroyed, and what has come out of this confusing matrix can't be indexed in any helpful way (and there's no one to do it; witne
  • by Lodragandraoidh (639696) on Monday October 24, 2005 @10:40AM (#13863736) Journal
    Aside from it being a vague idea (not withstanding his spirited defense of his name against his detractors) - he gives me nothing to illustrate how his 'documenation agenda' would be any better than what we currently have. Additionally, he is greatly ignorant of the realities of the systems necessary to make the automated aspects of his idea work - and distressingly it sounds alot like Microsoft's Palladium DRM.

    I am all for a simplified documentation system that allows you to keep metadata regarding a document. XML and standards derived from it (Docbook, OpenDocument) fit the bill - and are about as uncomplicated as you can get while retaining that capability. The only thing simpler would be plain text. Of course you would lose any hyperlinking and metadata capability with that.

    With XML we have the ability to extend the capabilities of our documents to imbed information - that is extensible for future improvements - and future proof because it is encoded in plain text.

    Whatever we want to layer ontop of this is fine - and allows any expression you can think of.

    The only part of that he mentioned that makes any sense at all was when he mentioned version control. We already have the tools for that - Subversion or CVS can be integrated in our documentation systems to handle real version control in XML documents.

    The paper was not well thought out or delivered - particularly his reference to 'humanists good', 'technologists bad' -- what was that all about?
    • The only part of that he mentioned that makes any sense at all was when he mentioned version control. We already have the tools for that - Subversion or CVS can be integrated in our documentation systems to handle real version control in XML documents.
      Externally. There is no version and authoring information in the WWW model, hence things built over it like Wikipedia have to provide proprietary islands of provenance.
  • I think he's missing the boat on what a truly open system of information means economically. More and more people are finally realising that it is in their own selfish best interest, economic or otherwise, to be able to access WAY more data freely than whatever they can come up with individually or be forced to jump through hoops for or pay for. Restrictive licenses are just that, restrictive. If you encourage restriction, it just keeps coming back at you, your available knowledge base gets smaller, and har
  • by waldoj (8229)
    It's funny -- just as this /. story came up in my newsreader, I was reading through the Text Encoding Initiative [tei-c.org]'s introduction to TEI [tei-c.org], trying to learn about it for implementation in the Virginia Quarterly Review [vqronline.org]'s archives.

    TEI is rather an old standard, as I understand it, that serves as an markup standard for the sort of documents that you might find in a library -- books, articles, letters, etc. Rather than using full-on SGML, or an invented XML standard, TEI exists for marking up documents and describi
  • Greets!

    OK, up front, I work with Ted, I know him personally, I admire him a lot, so feel free to ignore this post if you want to continue your bigoted, uninformed opinions instead of learning something.

    First up, Ted is NOT an uninformed old man - he is the reason, along with Bush [theatlantic.com] and Englebart [stanford.edu], that you are all sitting in front of interconnected computers.

    Author of two of the most influential books of the computer age, Literary Machines [eastgate.com] and Computer Lib/Dream Machines [uconn.edu] (not available in print - I have

  • by museumpeace (735109) on Monday October 24, 2005 @10:57AM (#13863862) Journal
    I first ran into some of Ted's groupies at a science fiction convention in 1983...you can't fault the man for giving up on his vision.

    But the idea that any media technology would somehow elevate the quality or the level of trust or remove/refine the effects that authorship and ownership have on documents when the power of any document is measured mostly in how many can access it...this flies in the face of human nature. People will ask "whose side is this document on?" of most documents with any information more contorversial than a bus schedule. Most documents that take any money or time to put before the public will go on line in spite of the required effort because the document is to someone's advantage. We can keep redefining what "document" means by changing the technology but we can't we can't change what effects the authors of documents want to achieve.
  • The quality of Nelson's ideas have always been impaired by his cluelessness in software engineering, rendering Xanadu a monumental piece of vaporware and broken architecture/code. Look at transquoter: The software is broken by design because any change of a source document, or it's URL, will screw up the document that uses the quotation. This is software engineering on the level of a hack "designed" by a 10-year-old kid.

    Berners-Lee weeded out the reasonable subset of Nelson's visions and fortunately knew h

  • As a coincidence, Cringely just posted the latest episode of NerdTV (torrent file: http://pbs.org/cringely/nerdtv/mp4-torrent/redir/h ttp://distribution.nerdtv.net/video/ntv007/ntv007. mp4.torrent [pbs.org])

    where he interviews Dan Drake, co-founder of Autodesk. AD bought Nelson's company and tried to get Xanadu to work, but as Drake puts it, it was 3 orders of magnitude from completion. Interesting interview.
  • I can't quite pin it, but everytime I read something by Nelson I have this feeling he's on crack or something the like.

    More to the point, I never saw a well-presented summary of his ideas, allowing one to evaluate: concepts, possibilities, hurdles, the way there.
  • It's a shame that his life-long dream has never come to fruition, but a similar and simpler one has taken over the globe. It must be incredibly frustrating.

    The world needs good ideas, but good ideas do nothing by themselves. Imagining something brings it partially into existence in the sense that ideas are the mother of every action, but implmentation and execution are required for any real result.

    My early experience in these many projects across the media board made me extremely confident as a designe

  • by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Monday October 24, 2005 @05:20PM (#13866797) Homepage

    The problem is not the concept, but the implementation.

    Without some solution to the problem of conceptual processing, Xanadu cannot be made to work, certainly not on the scale Ted has envisioned since the beginning.

    And the experience over twenty years of trying to make it work clearly shows that it cannot work without some fundamental breakthrough in knowledge representation technology.

    Now it might be possible to get the Web to allow "links in", as he puts it. AJAX is sort of a baby step to that possibility, perhaps. If your Web browser can run JavaScript to access a server database and update your page without reloading the entire page, I see no reason why it can't send a request to the server to access some sort of Google-index of all links to the page you're looking at, select links on some specified basis, and retrieve and send those links to your browser. The browser would receive only the links, not the entire pages, and could then organize them in some way, and present them to you in some overview form (assuming there are many), and then you could browse around in them, retrieving the pages they link to as desired.

    The problem would be organizing them in some rational way - it might not be very well-done without conceptual processing, but something might be done along the lines of what the desktop search tools like Copernic and Google try to do. In other words, the browser might need to be integrated with a desktop search engine in some manner.

    Just a (hazy) thought.

    Nice to see Ted is still around, though. I listened to him at a West Coast Computer Faire back in the eighties, when he said there was no acceptable software on the market. He was right then, and he's still right about that now.

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