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Xanadu Software Released After 54 Years In the Making

Soulskill posted about 5 months ago | from the get-off-his-lawn dept.

Software 90

redletterdave writes: "'Project Xanadu,' designed by hypertext inventor Ted Nelson to let users build documents that automatically embed the sources they're linking back to and show the visible connections between parallel webpages, was released in late April at a Chapman University event. Thing is, development on Xanadu began in 1960 — that's 54 years ago — making it the most delayed software in history. 'At its simplest, Xanadu lets users build documents that seamlessly embed the sources which they are linking back to, creating, in Nelson's words, "an entire form of literature where links do not break as versions change; where documents may be closely compared side by side and closely annotated; where it is possible to see the origins of every quotation; and in which there is a valid copyright system - a literary, legal and business arrangement - for frictionless, non-negotiated quotation at any time and in any amount." The version released on the internet, named OpenXanadu, is a simple document created using quoted sections from eight other works, including the King James Bible and the Wikipedia page on Steady State Theory.'"

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Yay, at last! Or? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47181889)

"a simple document created using quoted sections from eight other work"

Sounds like an elaborate version of ask.com or some other copy-cat filling site.

Is it time to move on perhaps? Or did I miss something?

Re:Yay, at last! Or? (4, Informative)

mlts (1038732) | about 5 months ago | (#47181925)

I think it might have a niche utility, but to use a car example, this is like making a very top tier points/condensor/magneto system for a car's engine... while the world has moved on to common rail EFI.

I am glad it got released (I remember it being the dream of document presentation well before Mosaic appeared on the NeXT), but there are many other document utilities out there with similar function. PDF and HTML come to mind, perhaps nroff on a limited basis. However, the world has moved on. On the other hand, Xanadu deserves its place in history, just for the concept.

-1 bad anology (-1, Troll)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 5 months ago | (#47182163)

", this is like making a very top tier points/condensor/magneto system for a car's engine... while the world has moved on to common rail EFI."
  point, condenser and magneto are part of the ignition system. Common rail EFI is fuel injection.
Kind of like saying "it is like making really good magnetic core memory... while the rest of the world has moved on to LCD monitors."

You fail in your car analogy. BTW light aircraft, and lawn mowers still often use magnetos.

The rest of your comment is good and informative but since you blew the car analogy you suck as human being.

Re:-1 bad anology (4, Funny)

QilessQi (2044624) | about 5 months ago | (#47182909)

since you blew the car analogy you suck as human being

I don't see the connection between the two... can you explain it using a car analogy?

Re:-1 bad anology (2)

Tablizer (95088) | about 5 months ago | (#47184293)

can you explain it using a car analogy?

You are a fucking Yugo.

Re:-1 bad anology (2)

Snospar (638389) | about 5 months ago | (#47184425)

Oh come on, I think you're being over harsh there... He didn't say that his analogy exploded into pieces on impact whilst shunting the main weight of the argument into the body cavity of the oncoming traffic.

Re:Yay, at last! Or? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47185887)

PDF and HTML is exactly the thing Ted Nelson want to prevent. PDF is created by simulating paper, it is static and take no advantages of the interactive media we have. Like Doug Engelbart, Ted wants to create tools to help amplifying human intelligent. PDF doesn't help people's ability to think and it is actually worse than paper in that case. When thinking, we are organizing little pieces of thoughts in our mind and make connections. See "As we may think" by Vannevar Bush.

HTML is another story, although it has "links", but it is only one direction. It is not that kind of "hyperlink" that Ted envisioned. Ted would call it "pointers" instead of "links". With HTML, you can only go from a link to another page, but you can't see who linked to it. Being able to see connections between documents is very important to our thoughts.

Sometimes real progress requires abandoning today's world and starting over. see Bret Victor's excellent ant analogy in the end of this page: http://worrydream.com/Links2013/

Sorry for my bad English, not a native speaker.
-Shuo Yang @yang140

 

This is only the tip of the iceberg... (1)

Mars729 (3469921) | about 5 months ago | (#47191583)

What has been released so far is a tease. It demonstrates nicely the transclusion and transcopyright concepts. For it to be truly useful it needs the ability to make your own documents with the ability to charge micropayments. Even then it will take awhile before people start to use it, but once it hits critical mass, it will be a solid alternative for publishing. Much better than the web. A global publishing system based on transclusions and micropayments would even things out -- and put serious but smaller scale publishing in the hands of ordinary people. The power would not be concentrated among the worlds most popular web sites and our culture would be less subverted by the need to advertise to pay the bills.

What hasn't been shone in the docs well is what the authoring tools will be like. The better the authoring tools, the better the adoption of this software. Ted Nelson wants something called "real cut and paste". This is simply slicing and dicing a document into pieces and rearranging them. Astonishing that no software today can do this. So software today will even allow you to draw sentences around. Freeplane [sourceforge.net] , a mind-mapping program, comes to doing real cut-and-paste. Rearranging text like you rearrange text in a mind-mapping program would be best accomplished on a 4K monitor, although dual HD monitors would do. Cut-and-paste as it is today is more like hide-and-plug -- the text is temporarily taken off the screen and put into a new place.

Give the Xanadu project its due. It is still relevant today and needed. And while the Xanadu project is Ted's big idea ... he has others as well. I particularly like his Floating World(tm) [xanadu.com] spec. I myself have been working towards creating part of this Floating World idea in my spare time (development has been slow, oh well). Though I want to get the photo organizer and checklist software parts done first. If the programmers on this latest attempt at Xanadu succeed they may beat me to getting around to the Floating World ideas (although of course not quite as laid out in the old design). If so, I am OK with that.

Re: Yay, at last! Or? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47181931)

You might not be used to annotations. This could become the defacto standard.

Re: Yay, at last! Or? (0)

Grant Gibson (2882641) | about 5 months ago | (#47181933)

You might not be used to annotations. This could become the defacto standard.

Re:Yay, at last! Or? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47181937)

You might not be used to annotations. This could become the defacto standard.

Re:Yay, at last! Or? (1)

mark_reh (2015546) | about 5 months ago | (#47185641)

One more time, please, I didn't get it the first three times...

Re:Yay, at last! Or? (3, Interesting)

lgw (121541) | about 5 months ago | (#47181997)

You missed something. This was the fundamental, original idea that TBL made happen as the Web. Hypertext documents linking to one another across servers and authors, across the world. 10 years ago, I would have said that this was naive academic work, and TBL got it right with the very flexible WWW we have today.

While the "all links are backlinks too" idea was neat, and most blogs want to work that way and have to do extra work to make it so, it's the core principle of "not censorable" really shines through.

I guess "Wikipedia in the wild early days before deletionism" is the closest to this idea, if Wikipedia had no central servers for offended governments to target. But missing from this still-academic project is the strong anonymity needed for free speech in the modern world, plus real hardening against malicious governments.

Re:Yay, at last! Or? (4, Informative)

garyebickford (222422) | about 5 months ago | (#47183155)

Actually, Ted Nelson hates the whole web as implemented, as in his opinion it's a bastard stepchild that makes the real utility of hypertext impossible. Keyword: "transclusion". His approach as that even the smallest snippet of a quote was transcluded, not copied and pasted. This would seamlessly allow (& depend on) micropayments or microattribution, as appropriate.

Source: Saw him speak, spent a while talking with him 15 or so years ago, have a signed copy of his book.

BTW: Ted also came up with the term "hypertext" IIRC.

Re:Yay, at last! Or? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 5 months ago | (#47183737)

Keyword: "transclusion".

Ain't nobody got time for that.

Y'know, from that video. You've seen it. Can't be bothered to find a link.

Re:Yay, at last! Or? (1)

flargleblarg (685368) | about 5 months ago | (#47184009)

Keyword: "transclusion".

Ain't nobody got time for that.

Y'know, from that video. You've seen it. Can't be bothered to find a link.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transclusion [wikipedia.org]

Re:Yay, at last! Or? (1)

lgw (121541) | about 5 months ago | (#47184693)

Yep - the way most (political) blogs work today, where every quote is linked and every link generally produces a backlink thanks to the blogging software.

I agree, it's better than the raw web for "web 2.0" stuff. Funny how the wheel turns back around.

Re:Yay, at last! Or? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47185073)

Dude, that's like Rap Genius!

http://rapgenius.com/Rap-genius-about-lyrics

Rap Genius is dedicated to the crowdsourced annotation of music, news, literature, history, and just about any other text you could imagine. We believe in collaborative close reading—that every text is made more understandable, and interesting, by our shared attention. Join us, and help build the world’s greatest public knowledge project

Re:Yay, at last! Or? (1)

RichZellich (948451) | about 5 months ago | (#47184853)

Seems to me that is what Doug Engelbart implemented in the NLS system decades ago. It wasn't yet networked, only running on local servers (multiple servers, so it did have some networking), but that's only because the networking wasn't quite available when NLS development began, pre-ARPANet (and their research funding probably limited them to a single, small, server anyway).

Our Army project used NLS across the ARPANet from many sites around the US, and my team wanted to fund Engelbart to add the necessary networking hooks ahead of some other things that were higher on his development priority list. Ultimately, HQ AMC nixed the funding for that expansion, we eventually dropped use of NLS because someone objected to using a proprietary system (of course, every other system we used was proprietary...), and re-wrote an equivalent system ourselves, in C. That system, too, was eventually dropped when HQ AMC management changed and the new managers manifested a "not developed here" (i.e., by them) mentality.

At any rate, I was using something looking almost exactly like Ted Nelson's Hypertext back in the late 1970's, and developing applications for it well into the 1980's. Except neither Engelbart nor we implemented Nelson's silly micro-payment system for use of others' copyrighted works; personally, I figured Fair Use pretty much covered linking and embedding, since the links always pointed back to the original.

Re: Yay, at last! Or? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47185507)

NLS and Xanadu are completely different systems. They look similar for one reason: they are (or were) both brilliant hypertext systems. No, this is not NLS.

Re:Yay, at last! Or? (1)

salimma (115327) | about 5 months ago | (#47185429)

"all links are backlinks" is what drove me off WordPress. Too many spam links to prune.

Re:Yay, at last! Or? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47181999)

You might not be used to annotations. This could become the defacto standard.

Re:Yay, at last! Or? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47182411)

You might not be used to annotations. This could become the defacto standard

Re:Yay, at last! Or? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47182455)

You might not be used to annotations. This could become the defacto standard .

Re:Yay, at last! Or? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47182479)

You might not be used to annotations . This could become the defacto standard.

Re:Yay, at last! Or? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47183207)

At last...
Finally, I could take the dusty tarps off the ENIAC in my basement.
Hope all the proper switch settings and cable connections are in order to run the Xanadu program.

Re:Yay, at last! Or? (1)

Walt Dismal (534799) | about 5 months ago | (#47183765)

As soon as I stop playing Duke Nukem XII, I'll look into this...

Re:Yay, at last! Or? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47184223)

"a simple document created using quoted sections from eight other work"

Sounds like an elaborate version of ask.com or some other copy-cat filling site.

Is it time to move on perhaps? Or did I miss something?

You might not be used to annotations. This could become the defacto standard.

Being cutting edge is too risky... (4, Funny)

MrKevvy (85565) | about 5 months ago | (#47181901)

I'll hold out for version 2.0 when they work the bugs out.

Re:Being cutting edge is too risky... (1)

just_another_sean (919159) | about 5 months ago | (#47181963)

Yeah, but it's gonna be tough holding out until 2068. But then again it leaves plenty of time to kick the tires in testing/development.

Re:Being cutting edge is too risky... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47182089)

You might not be used to annotations. This could become the defacto standard.

Re:Being cutting edge is too risky... (1)

otherniceman (180671) | about 5 months ago | (#47185397)

Pah, everyone knows if you want a stable version, wait until version 3.0

I never thought (5, Funny)

WormholeFiend (674934) | about 5 months ago | (#47181923)

anyone would beat the Duke Nukem Forever record

Re:I never thought (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 5 months ago | (#47182067)

Next contender: Half-life 3!

Re: I never thought (1)

Tandava Nadesan (3623123) | about 5 months ago | (#47182519)

Hurd maybe

Re: I never thought (2)

PRMan (959735) | about 5 months ago | (#47183393)

Or ReactOS. Do they have their Windows 2000 clone out yet? No? Almost there?

Re: I never thought (1)

gr8dude (832945) | about 5 months ago | (#47187043)

In one of Richard Stallman's lectures, someone asked him why progress on Hurd is slow. The response was that this is not a pressing matter anymore, as there are other free kernels out there that are mature.

In other words, there are other problems society needs to focus on, so don't hold your breath for GNU Hurd.

Re: I never thought (1)

doom (14564) | about 5 months ago | (#47188615)

Just wait... a decade or two hence I fully believe we will be using Hurd on our trillion processor desktop machines, programming in Perl 6, to customize a version of Xanadu running on Parrot.

Project Xanadu Forever? (4, Funny)

OakDragon (885217) | about 5 months ago | (#47181927)

Alternately titled "Project Xanadu Forever".

You win an internet for that! (1)

billstewart (78916) | about 5 months ago | (#47185373)

Several of my friends were early Xanadudes. At one point there was a serious risk that they might actually ship a product, and Ted would lose his Golden Vaporware Awards, but somehow it never quite happened.

who would have thought (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 5 months ago | (#47181949)

I would have thought nothing would come out later than initially intended after duke nukem but it looks like we have a new record!

It makes me wonder... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47181955)

If Micro$oft had spent 54 years developing Windows would it be any less buggy?

I suppose that is a rhetorical question.

Sigh.

Re:It makes me wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47182207)

If 29 years wasn't enough, I doubt another 25 is going to make a huge difference.

Re:It makes me wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47182489)

If 1 year wasn't enough, another 53 years would make a heck of a difference.

Re:It makes me wonder... (1)

X-Ray Artist (1784416) | about 5 months ago | (#47182737)

"...If seven maids with seven mops swept it for half a year, do you suppose..."

/.ed (2)

just_another_sean (919159) | about 5 months ago | (#47181971)

Anyone see the actual document before it was /.ed?

Re:/.ed (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47182401)

had a very brief look earlier, not sure if the performance pre /.ed was all that different. Kind of multicolored mashup of a Bible text, plus a few other bits, all a bit buggy and not necessarily immediately intuitive.

The real story, rather than this particular proof-of-concept site, probably remains the fact, had they taken a (relatively minor) left turn somewhere along the line in the half-century of development, they could easily have been Google, or Wikipedia. Unfortunately, perfectionism reigned, was always entirely too ambitious a project in scope and the simple law of keeping it simple, stupid was, as always, forgotten along the way.

Fantastic Wired article here ( http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/3.06/xanadu_pr.html ) from 95 - long, but well worth a read, Xanadu be definitely back online by the time you get through that..

Re:/.ed (1)

just_another_sean (919159) | about 5 months ago | (#47182507)

Cool, thanks. The Wired article looks interesting at first glance.

Re:/.ed (2)

myoparo (933550) | about 5 months ago | (#47182469)

Slashdotted!? We must make note of this-- a page hasn't been Slashdotted in almost a decade!

I wonder... (1)

Last_Available_Usern (756093) | about 5 months ago | (#47182063)

Was John Romero working on this project too?

Mine this project documentation, please (5, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 5 months ago | (#47182081)

People it is a treasure! I think people should go through the documentation of this project carefully. It predates the entire internet, but talks about links between documents, references, referees etc. I think we can find prior art by the tons here. We might be able to invalidate many many trivial patents on the internet and web pages here.

Re:Mine this project documentation, please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47182251)

Very interesting idea. You have a link for that?

Theory vs. Practice. (2)

westlake (615356) | about 5 months ago | (#47182347)

It predates the entire internet, but talks about links between documents, references, referees etc.

Talk is not the same thing as a workable solution. Particularly when applied to systems that do not yet exist.

Re:Theory vs. Practice. (2)

garyebickford (222422) | about 5 months ago | (#47183183)

Well Ted and his (various) teams did actually build semi-working versions of Xanadu. The project was at one point owned by AutoDesk. So even if it wasn't popular, that would stilll count as prior art.

Re:Theory vs. Practice. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47183683)

> Talk is not the same thing as a workable solution. Particularly when applied to systems that do not yet exist.

That's one of the issues with patents, but all you need is a description for prior art, not a prototype.

Re:Theory vs. Practice. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47184117)

Talk is not the same thing as a workable solution.

Funny, you could say the same about a lot of patents.

I pulled up the claims for patent #2,000,000 (filed 1932, issued in 1935):

1. The combination with a rail wheel provided with a retaining flange, of a pneumatic tire mounted upon said wheel adjacent said flange and having a transversely elongated cross section, said tire having an outer tread wall having a tread portion transversely reatively flat of a width somewhat greater than the width of a rail head, said tread wall being thickened by an inward protuberance comprising inner transverse fabric windings being embedded in the rubber mass of the tread wall.

Someone who knew what a rail wheel, flange, and a tire was could probably put that together, and for people who don't know, the illustrations would make it clear.

If you look at a lot of the "modern" patents, the entire nature of the patent has changed. What is claimed is "a method". Which method? Well, a method that runs "an application program in a distributed hypermedia network environment" using "at least one file containing information to enable a browser application to display at least a portion of a distributed hypermedia document within a browser-controlled window" then using the browser application to respond "to text formats to initiate processing specified by the text formats", "identifying an embed text format" etc etc etc. What information? What text format? How does it identify it?

So again, What method? The answer is "any method" and thanks to the notion of "after-invented technology", this includes any methods invented after the patent was written. It doesn't matter what information is used, what text format is used, or how the format is identified. It doesn't even matter if the author of the document knows what information is used, what text format is used, or how the format is identified, since they no longer have to demonstrate that they are capable of doing what they have claimed.

Had patent #2,000,000 been patent #8,000,000 it would have read like this:

1. A method for making train tires not fall off consisting of rubber and some metal.

The accompanying diagram would be a flowchart: [wheel turns] -> [tire does not fall off].

Re:Theory vs. Practice. (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 5 months ago | (#47184983)

Talk is not the same thing as a workable solution.

Since when do patents do anything other than talk in general senses about systems which have never been built? Genuine question. Thhey used to, they don't any more.

Re:Theory vs. Practice. (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 5 months ago | (#47185879)

You can only patent stuff, you actually have build, even if the wording still might be 'vague'.

Re:Mine this project documentation, please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47182403)

Prior art doesn't work like archeology. Prior art means all information that has been *available to the public* before a specific date, e.g. a date on the patent. It might be interesting, but you wouldn't be able to invalidate any patents, sadly.

Re:Mine this project documentation, please (2)

bzipitidoo (647217) | about 5 months ago | (#47182605)

What of obviousness? If some patented idea is a copy of something in Xanadu, was anticipated by Xanadu perhaps decades before, does that mean the idea was too obvious to be granted a patent?

Re:Mine this project documentation, please (1)

garyebickford (222422) | about 5 months ago | (#47183209)

No. (IANAL). However if itt was 'published' at any point, after some period of time that used to be one year, if the patent application has not been submitted it's no longer patentable and goes into the public domain.

Re:Mine this project documentation, please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47184951)

Yup is was all opensourced in 1999 http://udanax.xanadu.com/

the core of green aka Xanadu 88.1 was specified in 1997
Udanax gold is much more "advanced" but doesn't work it is ~150,000 lines of Smalltalk automagickly translated to 300,000 lines of very readable C++

Re:Mine this project documentation, please (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47184953)

Yup is was all opensourced in 1999 http://udanax.xanadu.com/

the core of green aka Xanadu 88.1 was specified in 1979
Udanax gold is much more "advanced" but doesn't work it is ~150,000 lines of Smalltalk automagickly translated to 300,000 lines of very readable C++

Re:Mine this project documentation, please (2)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | about 5 months ago | (#47182761)

Wouldn't the release of the software and/or documentation need to predate the patents for that to work? I'm not sure how this would work.

Re:Mine this project documentation, please (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47184183)

Project Xanadu has been very well documented and pretty much mined out for prior art [xanadu.com] . It was not sitting around under a tarp in someone's garage for 54 years, nor did it suddenly spring into being today.

Re:Mine this project documentation, please (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 5 months ago | (#47185875)

If it was never published anywhere it is not 'prior art' regarding patents.
It only protects the 'inventor' of that 'prior thing' from patent infringement (in europe, no idea about the USA ... it is called 'independent development' btw. and not 'prior art' in that case)

Get some privileges (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47182085)

Get some privileges, Tetris turns 30 today!

Re:Get some privileges (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47182099)

I meant Get some PRIORITIES!

Next candidate for the oldest software project (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47182119)

Hurd?

Re:Next candidate for the oldest software project (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47184141)

When Hurd is out it is going to make a killer system to run Xanadu servers on... just a little longer wait...

Problem Solved (4, Interesting)

hhawk (26580) | about 5 months ago | (#47182247)

There is a problem that Xanadu really solves which is when you want to cite someone else's text verbatim... its a direct and visual link back to the source.. so it's clear whose words are being used, where they come from and there is an easy Color coded and visual LINK to see them in full context.. HMTL named hyperlinks can accomplish much of the same however... the interface for Xanadu is much more fluid...

i would enjoy writing with Xanadu...

For God's sakes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47182255)

The Bible. Why do people keep dragging that drivel through history? Let's say this Xanadu thing takes off; now the Bible is forever baked into its history.

For God's sakes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47183187)

I really hope the irony in your post title is intentional :)

Repost (5, Informative)

seamonkey23 (3685019) | about 5 months ago | (#47182675)

http://slashdot.org/story/99/0... [slashdot.org]
Come on guys, get it together.

Re:Repost (1)

garyebickford (222422) | about 5 months ago | (#47183217)

Cool! :D

Re:Repost (1)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | about 5 months ago | (#47183887)

An additional inflation-adjusted 12,000 mod points for Cptn Proton (29372).

Waiting For The Xanadu (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47182775)

Everybody always expects the Xanadu.

Doesn't this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47183165)

Doesn't this just make you want to roller skate? I mean, just look at all those colors...

NJ has one of those too. (1)

tkotz (3646593) | about 5 months ago | (#47183283)

They should have done like our never to be released xanadu and renamed it first.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Dream_Meadowlands

Longest startup ever (1)

Sla$hPot (1189603) | about 5 months ago | (#47183435)

Congrates! That should also leave a record in Guinness Book of World Records

And I'm all outta bubblegum. (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 5 months ago | (#47183515)

54 years...making it the most delayed software in history.

Well, I guess hail to the queen, baby!

Big Answer to a Nonproblem (4, Insightful)

mugnyte (203225) | about 5 months ago | (#47184059)

The issue of tracking entities that quote your resource is not really the size of a problem that demands this much answer.
IIRC, the original design included a large number of other features that became nonsensical as modern conventions for information arrived:
- We do not require licensing or micropayment for quoting text or speech. The www follows free-speech by default, and tools must be built on top to restrict things. (Among many reasons why not: There is no permanent trust-able entity for enforcement)
- There is a vastly larger usage of linking than quote usage (links jump but also embed)
- Commercial licensing of text, images and video is still required but the infrastructure to enforce it has to constantly differentiate by usage and intent (satire, education), not mere presence or absence. (YouTube's big review process...)
- There is no permanent barrier to building a free side-channel for information that would otherwise be licensed. (P2P File Sharing, etc)

.

data URIs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47184167)

kinda make this obsolete

1956 story by Sturgeon inspired Nelson/Xanadu (5, Informative)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about 5 months ago | (#47184559)

See "The Skills of Xanadu", as text: http://books.google.com/books?... [google.com]
and as audio: https://archive.org/details/pr... [archive.org]

Around 2001 or 2002, while working at at IBM Research I went to a talk by Ted Nelson there, and I asked him about the story given the similar name. He said that the story had inspired him (at least partially) to do his work, and thanked me for telling him the name of the story, saying he had been looking for that story for a long time. While I did not say so, his reply about looking for the story surprised me given that there are probably not many stories with Xanadu in the title so a library search would have found it I would think.. Ted Nelson records everything around him on a tape recorder (or at least did then), so that interaction should be on one of his tapes...

The 1956 story by Theodore Sturgeon is am amazing work that features a world networked by wireless mobile wearable computing supporting freely shared knowledge and skills through a sort of global internet-like concept. Some of that knowledge was about advanced nanotech-based manufacturing. The system powered an economy reflecting ideas like Bob Black writes about in "The Abolition of Work", where much work had become play coordinated through this global network. The story has inspired other people as well, both me from when I read it (and forgot it mostly for a long time, except for the surprise ending), and also a Master Inventor at IBM I worked with who got inspired by the nanotech aspects of that story when he was young. Even almost sixty years later, that story still has things we can learn from about a vision of a new type of society (including with enhanced intrinsic&mutual security) made possible through advanced computing.

A core theme is an interplay between meshwork and hierarchy, reminiscent of Manuel De Landa's writings:
http://www.egs.edu/faculty/man... [egs.edu]
"Indeed, one must resist the temptation to make hierarchies into villains and meshworks into heroes, not only because, as I said, they are constantly turning into one another, but because in real life we find only mixtures and hybrids, and the properties of these cannot be established through theory alone but demand concrete experimentation. Certain standardizations, say, of electric outlet designs or of data-structures traveling through the Internet, may actually turn out to promote heterogenization at another level, in terms of the appliances that may be designed around the standard outlet, or of the services that a common data-structure may make possible. On the other hand, the mere presence of increased heterogeneity is no guarantee that a better state for society has been achieved. After all, the territory occupied by former Yugoslavia is more heterogeneous now than it was ten years ago, but the lack of uniformity at one level simply hides an increase of homogeneity at the level of the warring ethnic communities. But even if we managed to promote not only heterogeneity, but diversity articulated into a meshwork, that still would not be a perfect solution. After all, meshworks grow by drift and they may drift to places where we do not want to go. The goal-directedness of hierarchies is the kind of property that we may desire to keep at least for certain institutions. Hence, demonizing centralization and glorifying decentralization as the solution to all our problems would be wrong. An open and experimental attitude towards the question of different hybrids and mixtures is what the complexity of reality itself seems to call for."

See also, for other "old" ideas we could still benefit from thinking about:
"The Web That Wasn't"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
"Google Tech Talks October, 23 2007
    For most of us who work on the Internet, the Web is all we have ever really known. It's almost impossible to imagine a world without browsers, URLs and HTTP. But in the years leading up to Tim Berners-Lee's world-changing invention, a few visionary information scientists were exploring alternative systems that often bore little resemblance to the Web as we know it today. In this presentation, author and information architect Alex Wright will explore the heritage of these almost-forgotten systems in search of promising ideas left by the historical wayside.
    The presentation will focus on the pioneering work of Paul Otlet, Vannevar Bush, and Doug Engelbart, forebears of the 1960s and 1970s like Ted Nelson, Andries van Dam, and the Xerox PARC team, and more recent forays like Brown's Intermedia system. We'll trace the heritage of these systems and the solutions they suggest to present day Web quandaries, in hopes of finding clues to the future in the recent technological past.
    Speaker: Alex Wright
Alex Wright is an information architect at the New York Times and the author of Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages. Previously, Alex has led projects for The Long Now Foundation, California Digital Library, Harvard University, IBM, Microsoft, Rollyo and Sun Microsystems, among others. He maintains a personal Web site at http://www.alexwright.org/ [alexwright.org] "

For example, here is what people were doing in 1910:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M... [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P... [wikipedia.org]
"The Mundaneum was an institution created in 1910, following an initiative begun in 1895 by Belgian lawyers Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine, as part of their work on documentation science. It aimed to gather together all the world's knowledge and classify it according to a system they developed called the Universal Decimal Classification. Otlet and La Fontaine organized an International Conference of International Associations which was the origin of the Union of International Associations (UIA). ... Otlet regarded the project as the centerpiece of a new 'world city' -- a centrepiece which eventually became an archive with more than 12 million index cards and documents. Some consider it a forerunner of the Internet (or, perhaps more appropriately, of systematic knowledge projects such as Wikipedia and WolframAlpha) and Otlet himself had dreams that one day, somehow, all the information he collected could be accessed by people from the comfort of their own homes."

Now that it is available... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47185545)

Will it work on the computer it was designed for, from 54 years ago?

Why did it take half a century to write? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47185717)

Couldn't you implement Xanadu today in a few weeks using XInclude and some social conventions?

http://www.w3.org/TR/2006/REC-... [w3.org]

The content could be, by convention, kept in place and merely added to in an XML library, and the documents themselves could be implemented by an XML document populated with nothing but XIncludes. Links could be represented by XML fragments using XIncludes as well.

Beware Xanadu -- a path to Dooooom (1)

TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) | about 5 months ago | (#47186373)

A so sad, too bad story of genius... it reminds me of some of the tales told in the Cosmos and Connections series (Sagan, Tyson and Burke) of astronomical and physics visionaries, folks glimpsed truths that became essential building blocks of our modern understanding of the world, and yet in their own time this information was of little or no practical use.

I've been down some of the rabbit holes of Xanadu in my own algorithmic doodles which centered around 'compressing' information by changing tokens into references to tokens down to the rudiments of language, which is going too far because you lose useful context, and have witnessed some of the grandest experiments in whole encapsulation -- such as the replication versioning disaster that was Microsoft OLE (object linking and embedding), where burned-in OS paths to data (on my computer, not necessarily yours) create a fragile web of things on disk and things inside other things that is easily broken, leaving us with data cobwebs flapping in the wind.

Sadly, and with utmost sympathy -- it's a beautiful dream-- but I believe that many of these concepts are dangerous and should be abandoned.

These are extremes. Make lots of copies, knowing some will evolve and diverge... and try to smarten the analysis so after the fact you can reconcile diffs, but it's a separate process and you're screwed if non-trivial transformations occur. Or centralize and impose a System (as Xanadu attempts) with a battery of willing monkeys feeding knowledge into the system, correctly applying transclusion down to some atomic level, and on the seventh day He looked down upon it and saw that it was Good...

But you're screwed with Xanadu. You're screwed as a species because you have distilled a knowledge base into a few high-tech points of failure. Where knowledge survives over history through massive and often wasteful replication, oops there goes the Library of Alexandria, oops there goes another rubber tree, you're putting all your intellectual eggs a few baskets. Baskets held in Xanadu servers that are so pointer and reference rich that a raw dump of the damned thing wouldn't make any sense at all.

Xanadu screws you as a person because we assimilate knowledge via a narrative process. Books render completely and we read. We need lectures to learn, great lectures that illuminate and inspire. Good lecturers are those whose minds unroll knowledge into talking-streams. They cannot and will not (instead) engage in some process of hashing out every sentence they utter, completely researching and correctly embedding the underlying link to the utterance of the person who said it last to first, and did not necessarily say it better. When faced with the task of applying tranny-links to their work they would likely just fall silent.

Because (since we are each alone in the mind) there is no one way to say anything, and no distilled 'true' method of thinking. Not even in German. It's treatises, sermons and pulpits all the way down.

If you are excited by the Xanadu concept and think fewer points of failure are better, please take a moment to view this exquisite and amazing visit with Computer Zero [youtube.com] . It is from the 1975 movie Rollerball, and what the hell is it doing there, it is true genius and is creepy as hell.

Zero was a 'memory pool', an actual Xanadu Server! It had all the books, all the knowledge, all the connections, and yet -- it was absent-minded and going insane, losing things, mumbling. If there had been a sequel to Rollerball world 100 years hence, it would surely have been a medieval society.

Make a zillion copies of everything. Re-tell in your own words. There's no time for linking or data trans-substantiation, just replicate data like rabbits and we'll fix it in the mix. Or let the kids sort it out.

The last days of XOC (1)

Keith Henson (1588543) | about 5 months ago | (#47187623)

I knew the people who worked on Xanadu though not quite back to the earliest days.

The design was largely completed by the time Autodesk got out of funding it. For a while the project continued under Memex (later Filoli over trademark issues). Memex had funding problems, the core group quit, and when Memex was funded again Roger Gregory (one of the original team members) and I were brought in to try to make sense of what they had. My experience was long out of date FORTRAN and more recent assembly. The majority of the code had been written in Smalltalk and auto translated to C++ as part of the compiling process. Memory was (by current standards) insanely limited. The clever part of the code was to pack and unpack a multi dimensional tree off disk. Fan out ran to around a thousand link pointers per 8k disk block meaning three disk reads could take you to a billion unique objects. The famous log N property.

The performance critically depended on a high performance system to reclaim abandoned parts of the tree in memory and that part was not finished. (It had been designed as an Ungar-Sather moving type garbage collector and partly written but not tested.) We got it going and it ran the regression test suite. One of the last tasks was to upgrade it from the Sun compiler. The most critical inner parts of the code depended on switching tree elements around to keep the tree balanced. It used the classic c=a, a =b and a=c where a and b were links. Bjarne Stroustrup had changed the definition of overriding equal between the two compilers making this a hard bug to find. I finally found it single stepping through the assembly language representation of the code. The tools are much better now, nobody would think of writing a garbage collector from scratch. It was only 20 years ago, but it feels like a lifetime.

That gary wolf article, shall we say, sucks (1)

doom (14564) | about 5 months ago | (#47188609)

That Gary Wolf hit piece about Xanadu is one of the worst things written on the subject... he apparently figured he could get away with empty vapid sneering on some logic like "if he's so smart why isn't he rich?". Be sure to look at the comments published at wired, including the second one by Nelson himself http://archive.wired.com/wired... [wired.com] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

Fascinating Story... (1)

ndykman (659315) | about 5 months ago | (#47196715)

The more I read about Ted Nelson and the story behind it, there's much to learn. Firstly, what an extreme example of becoming too enmeshed with ideas (worse, ideas about ideas). His drive to index everything seems to be driven from his extreme case of ADD. But not every thread of thought needs to be catalogued and indexed, something that is harder to remember in the days of social media.

But mercilessly tracing connections between ideas can truly be a madman's folly. The crux of scholarship is not obsessively tracking down references and sources, but steadfastly ignoring side roads and making your point. It's not jumping from source to source endlessly in the search of absolute truth.

While these ideas sounds awesome to the ADD side in myself, in the end it is a distraction. Attention is a necessity, because it allows us to selectively ignore things versus having to slavishly follow the random whims in our heads.

Seriously, this story seems like something straight out of a Umberto Eco novel. And it's sad, because it is really way too late for this to matter.

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