Ted Nelson – Where technology gets it wrong.

The structure of documents and the difficulty of representing them in computing. How can electronic documents improve on paper, rather than how simply to imitate it.

The History of computing – three dumb downs and a betrayal, Fire in the Valley, Freiburger especially the last chapter (Citizen Nelson)

The betrayal of Personal Computing – should make things easier and keep track of your stuff. All built on the model of operating systems distilling the 1960s into the unix system with a hierarchical system of files – the simulation of hierarchy and the simulation of paper. Computer systems are hierarchical because techies think it should be. The idea that they’re that way intrinsically is a lie. The challenge is taking how the real universe – Parallel interpenetrating structures and representing it through computing.

Computing is a Rorsach test – peoples descriptions of what computers are tells you much about them and people have also created them in their own image.

GUI => PUI – the PARC User Interface is more than an interface it’s a cosmology. A vertical desktop, the wastebasket, clipboard (the vilest thing on the face of the earth), folders and icons.

WYSIWYG is just a way of selling paper.

Meanwhile Ted was working on links behind text and the back button. Then the Xanadu project (not the bit where they got funding…until 1992) Every quotation should be connected to its original source. You can’t do that on the WWW because it comes from the hierarchy and lump file and the imitation of paper.

Ted shows http://www.xanadu.com.au/transqouter sends an EDL (an edit decision list) ie a bunch of links to the original stuff – go look it up and use it..

Implications – Copyright -> transcopyright you get the right as long as everything is linked back to it’s original source.

Techies say – this is new. Ted says no this isn’t new we’ve had it before it’s called literature.

Nothing I believe in can be done on the web – the next step is transliterature – an entirely new structure. We need something like software X but simpler – as that catches on, it actually gets more ponderous and complex. Hofstadters law – everything takes longer than you think even when you take into account Hostadters law.

We want you to be able to create flying comments on any document. Thousands of comments should be possible. A collaborative system where everyones contribution is clear and rewarded. Pullacross editing. Is it possible? Of course, but it’s not possible within the constraints of the PUI. We should be able to fly documents in 3D space with all the links being shown – the problem then is aggregating and understanding them.

So we have a document structure that is content and clinks – the multitrack view of a document.

Terry Pratchett talks about octarine – can you visualis a completely new colour?

What Ted does for fun. Why are databases rectangular? Theodore Codd at IBM thought it had mathematical properties that would be useful, but under pressure he quit and SQL was a hasty mopping up which got mangled by people trying to make it work. Dirty secret 1 – it may take 10 years to merge two corporate databases. Dirty secret 2 – you have to stop it to modify a field. So Ted’s created ZigZag a multidimensional data structure.

Information is not rectangular though you might wish to give it rectangular properties. Interconnected cells – example the royal families of europe. Take hierarchical structure Dimension 1 is name, Dimension 2 is Title Dimension 3 – marriage Dimension 4 children etc etc etc. The assignment of dimensions is of course not trivial.

Floating world – the commercial version of ZigZag under the transliterature model.

Q: do you see a problem with spam – Yes of course because whatever you do gets gamed.

Q: Issue of binary and handling ambiguity – not to do with binary, it’s about how you come to tolerate ambiguity. What makes the web complicated, standardisation of browser. Acknowledge them not supress them.

Q: to what extent can we separate content and presentation? Imagine that you’re a movie producer going through scripts – no presentation at all except the descriptions within. But the producers are able to see through the script into the movie. You want both – the transliterature view we saw is without presentation but you can put all of this on top.

Q: Are there different types of Clinks? Yes and you can invent your own – it’s just a type and pointer (from: and to:)

Q: Realtime creation from the script – plus re-editing of Star Wars “just for fun” how does this fit with transcopyright and transliterature. They can sell snippets and get new ways in. Record industry allegedly seeing the benefit from this? IP law isn’t going away, Ted is trying to create something honest and within the law that doesn’t violate anything and reusable without negotiation.

Q: what happens to broken links. We promise not to – and there’s no need to because you always leave the original there.

Q: doesn’t it kill differential pricing? Yes, but we don’t have a payments system yet so maybe it will get fixed. The price is attached to it.

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