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Indirect Documents At Last

Hemos posted more than 8 years ago | from the changing-the-base-nature dept.

Networking 366

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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Trans (complete text) (4, Insightful)

BarryNorton (778694) | more than 8 years ago | (#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)...

MOD PARENT TROLL (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13863321)

Totally useless!

MOD PARENT IMPATIENT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13863392)

Idiot, did you even read it?

Re:Trans (complete text) (4, Informative)

BarryNorton (778694) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 believe it will give great powers to authors,
readers- and publishers. And transclusion is what we are now delivering.

But till now the world has gone in a very different direction. At Xerox PARC they candy-coated tradition and called it the future. They candy-coated hierarchical directories into 'folders' and candy-coated lump files into font-lavish simulations of paper. (This was all intended, mind you, to support secretaries.) To view it all they created an aviary of ever-flapping windows with no visible connections. (For our radically different connected-windowing proposal of 1972, see xanadu.com.au/ted/TN/PARALUNE/paraviz.html
and download the much-later prototype by Ian Heath, xanadu.com/cosmicbook.
See also "The Heart of Connection," in bibliography at end.)

This PARC pantheon of effects and structures (miscalled "the GUI") has taken over everywhere, to the detriment of the world's authors, editors and readers. It has become the standard computer paradigm- the same on Windows, Macintosh and Linux: the simulation of hierarchy and the simulation of paper as frozen by Xerox PARC, with each document a lump file. Nearly everything on computers today elaborates these traditions.
(The most extreme example of gratuitous paper simulation is Adobe Acrobat, a canopic jar to keep documents from escaping.)

These traditions are miscalled "computer basics" as if they were cosmically necessary. I believe today's computer world is based on tekkie misunderstandings of human thought and human life.

The Xanadu project, on the other hand, is based on the structure of connected ideas, which we represented by open parallel data. In the early eighties we found a generalized format and delivery system for all documents, allowing unbreakable deep interconnection (links and
transclusions) in many layers and vast quantity. Links may be of many types, which anyone may put on any documents from outside, since they are parallel and external. All links may be followed in any direction (not just two directions, since they can be n-ary.) The markup and links outside the content are what we mean by open parallelism.

Perhaps most important, this method can keep all quoted materials connected to their original sources (our original idea of transclusion). Among other things, this implies a vividly simple copyright system where anything may be quoted freely, because it is easy to arrange the payment of royalty to publishers for those portions brought from different documents. These methods can provide windows, doorways, tunnels into all the world's
documents- at least those documents opted into this form of rights
management- making it easy for people to sample and anthologize broadly from the great Niagara of copyrighted materials, and in principle making all documents freely re-usable without copyright violation. ("Freely" in Stallman's sense of "free speech, not free beer.")

This is why veterans of the Xanadu project see today's Balkanized document formats, including the Babel of World Wide Web file types, as way overcomplicated, far too restrictive, and fundamentally broken.

But the Xanadu project went wrong-footed. Along the way we had political/implementational screwups and we lost our place in line.
Thirty-two years after we started, another hypertext system caught on- far more traditional, packaging together the standard traditions of lump files, hierarchy simulation and paper simulation. It bound the links unreachably inside the lump files, making the links one-way.

In recent years the Xanadu project has been derided, disgraced and largely forgotten. That will change. If Xerox PARC was the leading university of software teams, big and conventional and smug, Project Xanadu was the Black Mountain College, small and feisty and defiantly original. Also like Black Mountain, also disbanded, its influence has been much wider than people
know.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Project Xanadu progressed slowly but well through decades of no funding, my colleagues creating the great xu88 design in 1980-1. In 1983, because the others demanded freedom to find backers, I signed a deal (the infamous "Silver Agreement") to let the others make the technical decisions provided I could oversee the publishing system (my central concern being our open copyright model). Five years later, backing hit like a hurricane. But sloshed by money, swollen by newcomers and wholly out of my hands, the project spiralled out of control with all the classic mistakes at once: too many cooks, bridges too far, horses in midstream, and Second System Syndrome. And the new people took the software in another direction, digressing from open parallelism.

It all crashed; four years and millions in funding were wasted and the new software was unfinishable. By the time the smoke cleared I was left standing with only the trademark in hand, to pick up the pieces by going back to the previous version. The other participants, less committed, went their separate ways, except for Roger Gregory and briefly a few others.

BERNERS-LEE, AND THE IRRUPTION OF THE WEB

On the day in 1992 that Autodesk funding collapsed, a young man came to see me in my office. He showed me a simpleminded hypertext system he had cooked up. I was polite, didn't say anything negative about it, and took him to lunch. Since then I have watched aghast as this and shallow system, doing only small parts of what we were trying to do (and in a completely wrong way), has taken over the world.

Now, I have great liking and respect for Tim Berners-Lee, who is a good and decent and honorable and very nice guy, of whom I have not the slightest personal criticism whatever. I believe that his ideals are probably the same as mine at some level of abstraction.

All that said, I don't think Tim and I agree on anything in the universe.
He bases his ideas on computer tradition: hierarchy, and legacy mechanisms of files and directories. I base my ideas on the nature of ideas and literature and what I believe human beings need for keeping track of ideas and presenting them, for which I believe the imposition of hierarchy, files and exposed directories are highly destructive. It goes on from there.

What Tim could not show me in 1992- someone else's work, the other half that made the web take off- had not yet come out of the cornfields of Illinois. What we now call the web browser was created by gallivanting college students (Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina), brilliant programmers throwing together a random salad of convenient effects as fast as they could. Now their decisions are hallowed, as "web formats" to be cherished and standardized (except, of course, browsers never seem to match). These quick choices made at the U. of Illinois defined the basics of what could be on a "web page" and especially how it would interact.

The World Wide Web- Tim's early design as boxed up and enhanced by the lads in Illinois- has validated all our early predictions for the benefits and wonderfulness of anarchic world-wide hypertext publishing, where anyone can publish internationally, without prior restraint, at very low cost. ("Most people don't want to publish," said arch-publisher William Jovanovich to me in 1966. I said everyone did. "Oh, you mean VANITY publishing," he said.
Since he was my boss, I had to stifle the urge to explain that ALL publishing is vanity publishing.)

Why don't I like the web? I hate its flapping and screeching and emphasis on appearance; its paper-simulation rectangles of Valuable Real Estate, artifically created by the NCSA browser, now hired out to advertisers; its hierarchies exposed and imposed; its untyped one-way links only from inside the document. (The one-way links hidden under text were a regrettable simplification of hypertext which I assented to in '68 on the HES project.
But that's another story.) Only trivial links are possible; there is nothing to support careful annotation and study; and, of course, there is no transclusion.

For the last decade I have studied high and low, trying to figure out how to fix the web to do what I believe in, looking at server kludges, code embedments, Javascript and Java tweaks, frames, database approaches, blah blah blah, because there was no obvious way to go in the great salad of the web's intricate narrow options. (I believe millions of others experience this daily, but with not enough knowledge to be indignant.)

Finally I realized: nothing further that I believe in can be done on the World Wide Web, period. So why compromise with the World Wide Web at all?

That was the breakthrough. Let's just simplify the Xanadu structure to work in the present environment. BACK TO THE FUTURE! Perhaps another dumbdown of Xanadu can still get traction today- de-generalizing it, dropping capabilities in order to piggyback on existing protocols and servers. After all, dumbing down Xanadu sure worked well for Tim Berners-Lee!

STARTING OVER

I have now adapted and simplified Xanadu (reference version xu88.1) to the existing ambient structures of files and protocols-
      * as a usable mini-system for transquotation, downloadable now (and yes, it's open source)
      * as the general design of a new document infrastructure, Transliterature*, to support profuse linking, transclusion, and game-like 3D documents.

But Transliterature will have to have new viewers- fortunately a lot less complicated than web browsers.

Transliterature (see transliterature.org) is intended as an alternative system of electronic documents, zoomable, animatable, with vast numbers of connections where desired- including of course the connection of re-used content to its original contexts. Currently Transliterature is a sketchy set of open-source specs for a wholly different kind of document and electronic literature, and the specs are still evolving. Nonetheless, there's enough there that bright kids could easily get up a prototype; my only request is that such prototypes (if any) be brought forward against the specs as they evolve.

I regret not being able to put up a more polished presentation, but time is very scarce and getting scarcer. I would have done the illustrations with a draw program, but hand sketches are much quicker. (I note that Laurence Tribe, Harvard Law professor and Supreme Court advocate, uses his own sketches unabashedly, and so must I.)

THE TRANSQUOTER*, A PRESENT DELIVERABLE

But Transliterature may take a long time. For a quick foretaste, help yourself to the Xanadu Transquoter-
    * explained at transliterature.org/transquoter
    * downloadable at xanadu.com.au/transquoter
    * programmed by Andrew Pam.

The Transquoter allows you to create a document which quotes dynamically from all over the net (textfiles and web pages) and keeps each quoted portion connected to its original context. Just as we always said, transclusive documents. (Only last summer, a web founder told me this was
impossible.) I believe the Transquoter is the first deployed program for dynamic quotation with maintained transclusive connection.

THE TRANSLITERARY PLAN

The Transquoter is of course just the opening shot, a come-on for Transliterature. The Transquoter, and someday Transliterature, will facilitate sending and publishing of new documents drawing freely on pre-existing content, all remaining connected their original contexts.

The transliterary design is client-side for numerous reasons, including both legal issues and ease of deployment. It should be usable by anyone from anywhere, and requires no special servers (though a boost can be provided by the popular EPrints server from the University of Southampton, one of our project hosts.) Its open parallel data structure is extremely simple (streams of content portions to which streams of relations are applied).

Like it or not, discerning readers will have to acknowledge that this new Transliterature design represents a plausible and simple infrastructure for a completely different world of hypermedia- resolutely nonhierarchical, free-form and no longer constrained to the web browser (though it can project to the web browser by limiting its capabilities).

Students write to me for help with their homework, saying they have to write essays about the original 1960 vision of world-wide hypertext, and how does it play out today? Well, students everywhere, the World Wide Web was, let's say, the first 15% of that vision. Transliterature/xu88 should provide the tools for the next 50%, including especially our copyright initiative.

I don't want to kick over the chessboard, just enlarge it. A lot. Do I give a flap about "web standards"? Let's put it this way: I think I feel about web standards the way Tim felt about my standards in 1992. Ask him.

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.)

The real issue is: are we right? If the Xanadu model is workable, as embodied in Transliterature, perhaps there are big changes in store. I hope people of ability will study this design, which is much more accessible than the Xanadu version on which it is based.

VERY DIFFERENT IDEAS

Transliterature should make possible any shape of document in 3D gamespace or even more dimensions, but we won't go there right now. (What call the client? Perhaps "Flowser*," FLying brOWSER ?-)

But more important than appearance, it should make possible
        * deep profuse overlapping links by anyone, by anyone and on anything, user-selectable
        * everything quotable and connectable and annotatable, both into and from transliterary documents
        * import-viewing of documents from a variety of formats, and maintaining stable connections to them
        * indirect delivery (with its extraordinary advantages, such as unbreaking links to absolute addresses)
        * being able to see all content and connections raw
        * every portion connected to its original source (1-level transclusion.
Note that "transclusion" is now defined as "the same content knowably in more than one place")
        * user-selectable views, effects and markup, leaving behind fixed paper simulation (as propagandized by the expression "WYSIWYG"), offering instead the more libertarian WYSIWYL (What You See Is What You Like)
        * 3D animated text, 3D zooms and sworfs (swooping morphs), transparent and fade-in overlays (WYSIWYNC, What You See Is What You Never Could (before))

At least and at last, the Transliterature design offers a simple, workable, lightweight infrastructure to make all these things possible.

Transliterature may seem complicated to those fixated on the web's original simplicity, but in fact Transliterature is far simpler than the baroque web of today.

THE COPYRIGHT ISSUE

Our copyright solution has always been the Holy Grail of the Xanadu Project, and the idea is still good as gold. But first we had to have indirect documents. More is needed, but now it can start.

The world's copyright wrangling is now totally polarized- Valenti and Bertelsmann versus a million kids- but polarization, with the right glasses, sometimes shows what no one else can see. Our polarized glasses (try them on at transcopyright.org) show a world- a possible new community of documents on the Net- where everyone can re-use and re-mix freely and legally, even with paid content. It requires indirect documents that bring in content by reference (transclusion again)- but that is now possible with the Xanadu Transquoter. Which is just the beginning. Please share our vision.

The transcopyright proposal is a win-win solution to support everyone:
readers, authors, and later commercial publishers- in a proposed new system of commerce based on microsale.

A lot of the open source people say, "How dare you be in favor of payment?
Everything should be free!" Answer: we're talking about the real world,
where content is owned under law and already sold on line; and we are now asking publishers to sell it in minute amounts.

Think of it this way: How can digital rights management be the most open and the most beneficial for all? Transcopyright publishing is our answer- a daylight and legally valid method within the iron reality of a world where content is sold.

THE WIRED ATTACK

Before I leave the keyboard where I now sit, I must face once again the issue of the Wired attack. The article, "The Curse of Xanadu," was published ten years ago now, but it comes up in nearly every discussion of Project Xanadu and my work. The article is a sewer of lies, concealments and fabrications, steaming with malice, signed by an author whom we may refer to as Gory Jackal.

The purpose of the article was to dishonor and destroy our work, to annihilate our reputations and our ideas, to hide the depth and integrity of the Xanadu project and present us as clueless bozos; to make sure we had no access to respect or funding, even in the dot-com feeding frenzy that was underway; and above all to deny us any credit for the thinking behind the World Wide Web. So far its dastardly purposes have been quite successful.

During the course of the article, Jackal successively implies:
        1) that I am a terrifyingly reckless driver;
        2) that I am a drug addict;
        3) that I am mentally defective;
        4) that my every utterance in the course of my life has been incoherent and offensive;
        5) that my work was driven by ignorance;
        6) that my Xanadu colleagues and I were slap-happy, deluded twits attempting the impossible with toothpicks and string;
        7) that my colleague Roger Gregory is an ignorant "repairman" (on account of a job he once had);
        8) that we were all clinically insane.

However obliquely averred, these are all damned lies.

Jackal ransacks my life (even my childhood) for suggestive scraps to be presented with loathing and mockery. He has a morbid interest in the contents of my pockets (to which he devotes paragraphs) but not even a perfunctory interest in my ideas, misstating them left and right. So busy is he with his duties as judge, jury, executioner and psychoanalyst that he has little time to get things right, misdating the Silver Agreement by five years, misdating the start of nondisclosure agreements by eighteen years, feigning astonishment at our ups and downs as if not knowing this is how labor-of-love projects go.

EXAMPLE OF HIS CONCEALMENTS: Nowhere does Jackal mention the deep media background I brought to the computer field at the age of 22: that in the late forties I had watched a new medium being born sitting behind my father in television control rooms; that I had won prizes in poetry and playwriting; that I had acted on television and the professional stage; that I had published a book and a long-playing record; and that I had written what was apparently the first rock musical (it ran for two nights as scheduled at Swarthmore College in November 1957). Jackal deigns to mention my 26-minute student film but only to claim falsely that it was unfinished.

My early experience in these many projects across the media board made me extremely confident as a designer and media innovator, and led me to recognize at once the potential of the computer screen and hypertext publishing even long before I saw a computer screen. It was this background that gave me an auteurist, lone film-maker's perspective on how software should be developed- as a branch of cinema and under the visionary supervision of a director who controls all aspects.

You would think that media background was relevant to the understanding of my work, wouldn't you? Instead Jackal just calls me a "strange researcher."

EXAMPLE OF HIS LIES: Jackal repeatedly describes me as "ignorant," and what are the particulars please? His repeated assertions of my ignorance gurgle down to two claims: that I didn't know enough about advanced software to be discouraged (HAH!), and that I didn't know why others doubted my ideas. These are both abject lies; I knew perfectly well why others didn't think world-wide hypertext could be done, essentially because they didn't want to understand what we were actually attempting.

There are more like that.

Jackal deceitfully and viciously presents my Xanadu colleague Roger Gregory as an ignorant dreamer, repeatedly referring to him as a "repairman"
(somehow intended to suggest cluelessness), where in fact Roger is a brilliant generalist and polymath- and yes, he IS a rocket scientist (see U.S. Patent no. 6,212,876).

Jackal's article deserves careful analysis for the cleverness and subtlety of its deceptions, and I intend it will become known to posterity as a classic of deceit next to the Protocols of Zion. But that is for another day. The hell with Gory Jackal; I think he was just a paid assassin, a liar for hire, and that the real perpetrators were publisher-editors Rossetto, Metcalfe and Kelly, who had all pretended to be friends of mine, and without all of whose enthusiastic support this attack could not have been so lovingly and lavishly mounted. Each of them knew, I am sure, both the article's deceit and the vicious consequences of that deceit for my colleagues and especially me, the only participant who could not leave Xanadu behind- an all-out full-frontal assault on my life, my character, my intellect, and everything I stand for, hope for and believe in.

There have been various conspiratorial theories about why they did this, but I that's not necessary. It was simply a witch-burning.

As the principal celebrants and sycophants of the World Wide Web, Wired's Gang of Three had a vested interest in silencing dissent. By burning us in public they reinforced the prejudices of all their readers and assured them that the prevailing computer paradigm was not challenged and that they would have to learn and understand nothing new.

To hell too with Rossetto, Metcalfe and Kelly. But my concern is that out of snottiness, malice and Schadenfreude, by inflicting these setbacks and disgraces to our work, these unspeakable individuals may have destroyed one of the few great possibilities the human race ever had: an electronic publishing network where contents could be freely combined and remixed under legal copyright, with each portion being purchased from the original, and everything deeply linkable and annotatable- while being changed. All this works in the Xanadu and Transliterature designs.

I have no choice but to fight on.

Transliterature is announced as an open source project, but there's no schedule and no money and no people. The Oxford Internet Institute has provided a wonderful breathing-space in which to pull together this work, but mundane pressures will shortly slow me down. This may not be finished in my lifetime. But the important thing is to start.

Thanks partly to Wired, the fascist formats have largely taken over. But perhaps this can be D-Day.

Ted Nelson

===THANKS
        My nearly two years at the Oxford Internet Institute have given me time and breathing space for this work, and Wadham College (Oxford) has provided the Fellowship, in both senses, to help me go on. Special thanks to William Dutton and Dame Stephanie Shirley of the Oxford Internet Institute, to Wadham College (Oxford) and Kenneth Woods for supporting my fellowship there, to Wendy Hall and the Department of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton for support and inspiration during my residence in Southampton; to Chris Gutteridge and Stevan Harnad at the University of Southampton and the EPrints project for adding portion and context service to the EPrints server, to Helen Ashman and the Department of Computer Science at the University of Nottingham for my first office that had a view of swans. Extreme special thanks to my brilliant, amiable and most ingenious collaborator, Andrew Pam of Xanadu Australia. Thanks to my many other recent collaborators and well-wishers in the United Kingdom, Japan, Finland and France. Thanks to about a hundred alumni and supporters of the Xanadu Project, and especially its principal designers Roger Gregory, Mark Miller and Stuart Greene. Thanks to Doug Engelbart for his great and enduring inspiration. And thanks most of all to my collaborator, fellow traveller and sweetpartner of long standing and patience, Marlene Mallicoat.

===BIBLIOGRAPHY
        Defining book on Project Xanadu: Theodor Holm Nelson, 'Literary Machines'.
  1981 and later editions. (Editions since 1985 describe the tumbler addressing structure of xu88 in some detail; omitted was the secret that all internal mechanisms are based on tumbler arithmetic, e.g. rearrangement by permutation matrices of tumbler spans.)

        Peer-reviewed ACM article on the history of the Xanadu project,
http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=346033 [acm.org]
        If you don't have an ACM account,
http://xanadu.com.au/ted/XUsurvey/xuDation.html [xanadu.com.au]

        Peer-reviewed ACM article on transpathic media, TN's "The heart of
connection: hypermedia unified by transclusion" at http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=208344.20835 3 [acm.org] . See also Krottmaier, "Issues of Transclusions," http://coronet.iicm.edu/denis/pubs/elearn2002b.pdf [iicm.edu] .

        Peer-reviewed British Computer Society article on TN's ZigZag* nonhierarchical database and software engine, http://jodi.tamu.edu/Articles/v05/i01/Nelson/ [tamu.edu]

=== LEGACY XANADU SOFTWARE, NOW OPEN SOURCE
        Code for referential Xanadu xu88 (now also called "Udanax Green") is maintained by Roger Gregory at Udanax.com, and now said to be working. It is reported that Jeff Rush has translated it into Python. I look forward to merging Transliterature with fully-functional xu88 Xanadu, but who knows when.

        See discussion of Xanadu principles (especially enfilades) at xanadu.com/tech/. A good deal of Xanadu documentation will be found at sunless-sea.org, maintained by Jeff Rush. However, in that documentation you may find some confusion between Udanax Green (xu88) and the very different Udanax Gold (xu92), both being conflated as "Xanadu" without distinction.

        ("Udanax Gold" or xu92, the completely different design done in the Autodesk period, is not compatible with Transliterature or Xanadu xu88. It is considered by some to be of great theoretical interest, but it is very very far from working.)

==="ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS" DISCLAIMER
        Transliterature is an adaptation and simplification of referential Xanadu (xu88), which was designed by Roger Gregory, Mark Miller and Stuart Greene.
  That design was their ingenious fulfillment of the wish list and specs we worked out in the Xanadu design summer of 1979.

        It is high time they get full credit for the depth and brilliance of their full design, which is much deeper than Transliterature.

=== * ABOUT TRADEMARKS
        Trademark law offers excellent benefits to the little guy as well as big corporations. The following I claim as trademarks for open source software to avoid semantic creep: Transliterature, Transquoter, Flowser, LUSTR, Transcopyright. The following are registered software trademarks for commercial purposes: Xanadu, ZigZag.

Re:Trans (complete text) (3, Insightful)

TuringTest (533084) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863579)

"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?

Re:Trans (complete text) (3, Insightful)

BarryNorton (778694) | more than 8 years ago | (#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?

Re:Trans (complete text) (2, Insightful)

-brazil- (111867) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863651)

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 evolutionary point of view.

This man has never heard of humility, has he? (3, Insightful)

Captain Perspicuous (899892) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863613)

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.

Re:This man has never heard of humility, has he? (1)

BarryNorton (778694) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863757)

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* Tim Berners-Lee *cough* The Semantic Web won't fly or sink (am I mixing metaphors?) based on ego...

Fair use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13863664)

Summarizing and quoting from an article such as this one is fair use. You do NOT have to post the entire thing to satisfy his "license." The only reason you would have to do this is if you wanted to redistribute the piece; i.e., reprint it. . . and summary and quotation are protected forms of fair use, not just for freely licensed material, but any copyrighted text as well.

New slashdot saying (2, Funny)

zegebbers (751020) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863292)

RTFS (read the friendly summary) ? ;)

Re:New slashdot saying (4, Informative)

BarryNorton (778694) | more than 8 years ago | (#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!

Re:New slashdot saying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13863763)

That's one fubar opening sentence I've seen. Need real editing, not dabblers.

Not likely (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13863294)

And pennies shall rain from the heavens, and Microsoft will be cut into itty bitty chunks for proper reallocation among the people.

Cough.

Yeeeeah.

why Ted is doomed to obscurity (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:why Ted is doomed to obscurity (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863403)

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 for creating things, not thinking up ideas for cool inventions. Anyone can come up with a cool system. Not everyone can come up with a working system.

Re:why Ted is doomed to obscurity (1)

BarryNorton (778694) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863793)

Anyone can come up with a cool system. Not everyone can come up with a working system
Maybe the research community can make a bulk saving with the stone masons by agreeing that as a common epitaph...

Ted Nelson is like Mentifex (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13863550)

Ted Nelson [interesting-people.org] spreads his message of Project Xanadu.

Mentifex [scn.org] spreads his message of Open-Source Artificial Intelligence.

Your turn will come (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863737)

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 perhaps.

I look around and see the movement for free software and free information, and can only predict that while parts of these programs are likely to succeed, the successful parts will be coopted, if history is any guide. Figures, such as Nelson, who retain their youthful energy and idealism, do at least in part becuase the parts of their program dearest to them failed. For this reason they tend to be a bit of a joke with their contemporaries, who see them as incapable of moving on and accepting what is insted of what should be. But underlying this sense of superiority is more than a little insecurity. Free love or whatever it was we were fighting for don't feel real to us anymore because we've become éminence grises too tired and bloodless to enjoy them. Comfort and stability on the other hand we find to have unanticipated charms.

In short, most young people become what they hate, and when they do they have no business feeling superior to anybody who still feels passion and purpose. Sometimes it isn't, "If we only knew then what we know now," it's the other way around.

*head explodes* (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#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? :-)

Re:*head explodes* (2, Insightful)

alta (1263) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863626)

NO KIDDING! I think a sentance with 87 words is just a little long. I stopped reading after the second line.

Re:*head explodes* (1)

shlashdot (689477) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863684)

Sounds to me like he is talking about a blog.

Is a document format the answer? (5, Insightful)

ReformedExCon (897248) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Is a document format the answer? (1)

Donniedarkness (895066) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863364)

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.

Agreed. There's nothing wrong with the document formats we have now (with the exception of Acrobat...that damn thing ALWAYS freezes up my browsers. If I'm lucky, then it's only for about 25 seconds). Honestly, what's so wrong with the internet that it needs to be fixed? Even my grandmother can use it (and that's saying something)!

Re:Is a document format the answer? (1)

Evangelion (2145) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863603)


a) Acrobat is a program, not a format. If you're on windows, check out a program called Foxit PDF Reader [foxitsoftware.com] . It's much nicer as a reader (but doesn't print on my box, oh well).

b) To make Acrobat play nicer with your browser, go into C:\Program Files\Adobe\Acrobat 6.0\Reader\plug_ins and remove all the files EXCEPT AcroSign.prc, EWH32.api, Search5.api, Search.api -- the freezing of your browser is caused by Acrobat loading all it's extra plugins, so just remove them and it will be faster.

Personally, I have the Acrobat plugin disabled, and I have the browser open PDFs in Foxit. But whatever.

Re:Is a document format the answer? (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863618)

So don`t use acrobat, use another PDF reader.. there are plenty out there.. "preview" that comes with OSX works well for me.
Or, just remove the acrobat browser plugin, then it will load it with the actual acrobat program instead of trying to embed it into your browser, so it wont lock up your browser.

Re:Is a document format the answer? (1)

mboedick (543717) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863406)

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.

Re:Is a document format the answer? (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863493)

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 business world for it be be successful.

Re:Is a document format the answer? (2, Interesting)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863631)

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 to help inseminate women to breed the people as well.

Basically what he's looking for is:
* An open-source document format that is simpler then HTML and XML and can cover ANY type of document
* Every webpage has track-backs built into it.
* A Creative Commons license forced onto everyone who uses the document format.

Although I lack any details on his system, the above points don't sound all that new. Basically it's just creating an impossible document format that FORCES people to license any content placed into the document format under a particular CC license. Oh and track-backs built into the system. For all his posturing, it doesn't sound that new or revolutionary (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.

Now I like CC. For content I don't give a damn I'm more then happy to license it under a CC license. But there's plenty of content I wouldn't want to license under a CC license. But if I were to use his document format, well I'd be forced to use it only for particular content, with an alternative delivery system for rest of my content. And people who make a living off their websites (such as Penny-Arcade, 8-Bit Theatre and Schlock Mercenary) are probably counting their blessings that this guy was such a complete failure. Otherwise they'd have to have real jobs and probably wouldn't be creating the webcomics they do anywhere near as much.

Re:Is a document format the answer? (1)

BarryNorton (778694) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863776)

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)...

Re:Is a document format the answer? (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863570)


  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.

Re:Is a document format the answer? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13863749)

Links are created on E2 whenever any user moves from one node to another. This happens when node authors consciously link text within their node to another node (called "hardlinking" in E2 lingo) or whenever a reader of the node searches for another term (called "softlinking"). Node authors are actually encouraged to do a bit of softlinking on their own articles after posting to nodes they consider relevant, but any random user can also just decide to surf to a totally random node. This has led to the somewhat destructive process of creating nodes specifically for the purpose of softlinking to nodes that are derogatory.

Re:Is a document format the answer? (1)

WolfWithoutAClause (162946) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863777)

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 is that you just created a link as well, from the page you just left to the one you're now at!

It's bizarre, and not described anywhere that I've seen.

This guy is complaining about ideological agendas? (4, Insightful)

geekplus (248023) | more than 8 years ago | (#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...

Re:This guy is complaining about ideological agend (1)

frdmfghtr (603968) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863509)

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 ideological agenda? Maybe it's just the writing style the man uses, but it reminds me of some lofty, ideological-agenda-pushing writing. He even says that all publishing is vanity publishing. Does he include his own works in this umbrella statement?

The World Wide Web- Tim's early design as boxed up and enhanced by the lads in Illinois- has validated all our early predictions for the benefits and wonderfulness of anarchic world-wide hypertext publishing, where anyone can publish internationally, without prior restraint, at very low cost. ("Most people don't want to publish," said arch-publisher William Jovanovich to me in 1966. I said everyone did. "Oh, you mean VANITY publishing," he said.
Since he was my boss, I had to stifle the urge to explain that ALL publishing is vanity publishing.)


I'm not sure what to make of all it.

Re:This guy is complaining about ideological agend (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863528)

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.

Re:This guy is complaining about ideological agend (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863660)

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.

Agenda of Freedom? (1)

geekplus (248023) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863751)

George Bush's is an agenda of freedom, too. ;-)

p.s. Since I'm the first to mention a politician, the conversation will now inevitably devolve towards comparisons w/ Hitler (c.f. Godwin's Law [wikipedia.org] ).

Unfortunately -- due to Quirk's exception [wikipedia.org] -- there's not a damn thing I can do to stop you... "WE DIDN'T LISTEN!"

I believe... (5, Funny)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863340)

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.

"What's in it for me?" (1)

El Cubano (631386) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863513)

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.

mod 04 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13863355)

the reaper: BSD'sg operating systems

Needs a catchy name... (1, Funny)

Bazman (4849) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863383)

May I suggest Web 2.0! Ah no, that's taken. Lets skip version 2 and go straight to...

Web 3.0!

Baz

Re:Needs a catchy name... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13863560)

No.. Add them up! 1+2=v. 12.0!

Worked for Netscape - not so for Winamp, however.

Re:Needs a catchy name... (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863778)

That seems too technicals. Let's just go with w-triple, or 'WWW' for short.

Coming soon...Utopia (0, Redundant)

manarth (919856) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863387)

I believe we need new...transparent, public, principled, and freed from the traditions of hierarchy...far more powerful, with deep and rich new interconnections and properties...we can build a new...realm

That's right, Prof Nelson's on his way to save the world and create a new utopia for rebel humanists everywhere!

It's happening behind the scenes right now. (3, Funny)

TheBeardIsRed (695409) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863394)

The illuminati and masons have been working together/against each other for years to establish this "one world document."

Ted, meet wikipedia (1)

ModernGeek (601932) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863398)

wikipedia, meet Ted. Now I'm sure you guys will get along just fine. Wikipedia just needs an interface that is more like Word, instead of a textarea for everything. Maybe it could branch off of wikipedia and we can call it WikiWord!

Re:Ted, meet wikipedia (1)

BarryNorton (778694) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863434)

As has been pointed out [readwriteweb.com] elsewhere, there are features of Wiki [fluxent.com] that are closer to Ted Nelson's ideas in Xanadu than made it into the plain WWW...

Re:Ted, meet wikipedia (1)

interiot (50685) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863524)

Aren't Wiki backlinks somewhat computationally expensive? And they don't usually work across different wikis.

Blog's trackbacks [wikipedia.org] are a little more generalized, but they haven't spread beyond blogs, have they? (partially because trackbacks are too-easily exploited for spam/search engine optimization purposes)

Re:Ted, meet wikipedia (1)

BarryNorton (778694) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863563)

Aren't Wiki backlinks somewhat computationally expensive? And they don't usually work across different wikis.
Exactly because they're grafted on top of the WWW architecture instead of being designed in from the start, no?

Re:Ted, meet wikipedia (1)

interiot (50685) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863650)

Exactly because they're grafted on top of the WWW architecture instead of being designed in from the start, no?

Either that, or it's simply a difficult problem that couldn't be designed into WWW from the start because there was no good solution.

Trackbacks aren't terribly CPU- or network-demanding in many cases (though note that weblogs.com [verisignlabs.com] has very high requirements). But there's still the trust / spam problem with them. That you're basically allowing anyone to add links to your webpage. That's fine if you have an army of people to comb through every single addition [wikipedia.org] , but in cases where individual users don't want to monitor their trackbacks 24/7, it may not be a good thing.

Re:Ted, meet wikipedia (1)

BarryNorton (778694) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863713)

Either that, or it's simply a difficult problem that couldn't be designed into WWW from the start because there was no good solution
In those terms (cross-document) searching is a difficult problem that wasn't designed into WWW from the start. Google's server farm isn't the pretty (or always acknowledged) part of the web's arhitecture, but it's necessary...

Meaningless doublespeak from a bitter old man (3, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 8 years ago | (#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

Re:Meaningless doublespeak from a bitter old man (1)

meburke (736645) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863572)

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

Re:Meaningless doublespeak from a bitter old man (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863747)

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

The problem is, he's not flakey--he's just hollow. He's essentially offering nothing more than a vague, meaningless rant.

I'll be happy to attack his argument, just as soon as he MAKES one.

-Eric

Re:Meaningless doublespeak from a bitter old man (1)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863755)

ad hominem means "more grits" in latin.

Re:Meaningless doublespeak from a bitter old man (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13863814)

"More grits", that is really funny, it works. Good one.

Re:Meaningless doublespeak from a bitter old man (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13863805)

You seem to miss the point. Anyone can fling vague, nearly meaningless buzzwords around. That this guy thinks he's got some radical idea going amazes me. I've had all these same thoughts for years. In fact, why limit the whole thing to just text documents?

Why not have all of my digital data work in a transparent, interdependent way? Why shouldn't my image files have versioning and meta-data and the like? What if I scan pages of a book and then run them through OCR? Why isn't there meta-data in both files to link them? Why is it that if I correct an incorrect document that was OCRed it doesn't give that as feedback to the OCR document for next time (think of an algorithm similar to the way Naive Bayesian spam detection is done)?

Why can't I link scans of my bills with my accounting software's entries for checks or electronic transfers? You see? Ideas are easy. I've got a million ideas. But I'm just some guy with ideas. Now this guy comes along and not only does he have an idea, but he appears to have a political agenda that is certainly going to mitigate his ability to convince people to join his quest. Never mind that he seems to be taking potshots at a variety of document formats that are working quite well, for the most part. People with anything invested in the existing formats are going to take a dim view of any shift--and I'd guess that's probably most of us, who would then need to take all our existing text documents (again, why just text?) and convert them to this new format.

I have no idea what's going on (3, Funny)

casualsax3 (875131) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863446)

That submission sounds like it was run through Babelfish a few times...

A lack of substance (4, Insightful)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863447)

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?

Re:A lack of substance (1)

TuringTest (533084) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863547)

Why are trackbacks horrible? To me they work just like comments to the blog entry, only you have to click a link if the comment is too long. Is that how they are worse for you?

Re:A lack of substance (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863566)

Don't spam companies sometime use them to spam links onto blogs?

Re:A lack of substance (1)

rdmiller3 (29465) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863627)

Here's a big hint:

When someone spouts lots of confusing stuff about a topic which you feel you have some expertise in... or there seems to be some logical inconsistency...

It's probably bullshit.

Yes, he has been very specific (3, Informative)

metamatic (202216) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863719)

His book "Literary Machines" goes into great detail about how this could all be accomplished, and the Xanadu source code (released open source as Udanax) apparently has a partial implementation.

His other book "Computer Lib/Dream Machines" is more the political manifesto and historical document. That one's easier to get, it was published by Microsoft Press.

Oh sure. And then... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13863453)

... and then the sky will rain puppies and kittens and chocolate gumdrops! And all the children in the entire world will join hands and sing a song of love and harmony!

Summary (0)

kevin_conaway (585204) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863464)

I don't know what indirect documents are, but will they help submitters write a clear and readable summary? I lost interest trying to comprehend that first paragraph.

Specifics (1)

ewg (158266) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863476)

Project page? Source code repository? Early-access release? Demo URL?!

Good Shot, Wrong Target (1)

Vorondil28 (864578) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863479)

He says:

HTML and XML enact a very limited kind of hypertext with great internal complexity.

Then goes on to say:

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.

So basically, he wants a hypertext format that is less complicated than HTML and it's variants but totally scraps the traits current hypertext formats get from their paper-based forefathers? (Okay, a quadriplegic monkey can write a simple hypertext document in HTML, but that's not my point.) Hypertext is based on paper for a reason: We still use paper. It won't be until we all have those little Star Trek-like pads for reading stuff that a truly not-like-paper hypertext format will make sense. Sure, I can put together a pretty sweet hypertext document in Flash where dynamic linking of useful information takes place in real-time, but just try to print it out -- it'd be useless. On the other hand, the only place I can use my Flash document is on a PC, in a Flash enabled browser -- just as useless.

My point is, it's stupid to spend a bunch of time coming up with cool, new, not-like-paper hypertext formats when there's no practical way of making them as portable and accessible as paper. Show me my Star Trek pad and I'll get behind this guy.

Re:Good Shot, Wrong Target (1)

BarryNorton (778694) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863544)

Sure, I can put together a pretty sweet hypertext document in Flash where dynamic linking of useful information takes place in real-time, but just try to print it out -- it'd be useless.
Is that how you use, for example, Wikipedia then? Is that how you use a blog? Do you print out separate Slashdot articles, mostly ignoring comments, and certainly ignoring that these are inherently cross-referenced and not really hierarchical?

These technologies, that are what a lot of web use in recent years are about, are artificially grafted over the WWW architecture, and to their own detriment...

The problem with those who don't know history... (3, Interesting)

kah13 (318205) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863718)

...is that they're doomed to not remember that Ted is rehashing Xanadu here. What is being described here is his original conception for Xanadu, with one of his big goals of being able to freely draw from the work of others while allowing them to be compensated. Ted has tried to implement Xanadu multiple times before, burning through alot of money to no clear result. And as noted above by another wise soul, pretty pictures and nice ideas are not what makes the Net -- the Net is still "show me" space, favoring working code over design utopias.

Some of the ideas that Ted has expressed in Computer Lib/Dream Machines and Literary Machines have been implemented in other places, examples being Notes, NoteCards, and HTML. The fact that his vision hasn't been achieved in full certainly doesn't require that no one else truly understands, nor that we're just one technical push from getting there -- it may just not be fully workable. It seems more likely that the rather grotty little copyright scheme that we live with is something that enough people want as is. It may also be that people don't really want to replace paper with pads, no matter how cool they looked on Star Trek. Not saying that either of these is true, just that consumer acceptance is the metric, whether the consumers are Red-State Republicans or Modern Day Hippies.

Re:Good Shot, Wrong Target (1)

Dr. Evil (3501) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863728)

But HTML isn't based on paper... it just tends to be rendered that way for the bennefit of sighted humans. Web designers then respond by tweaking and hacking it with the assumption that it is going to be rendered using a page metaphor on a web browser.

When non-sighted humans view HTML, it's not using a page metaphor. When software programs index or analyze documents based on HTML, they do it based on the logical structure.

I think this guy is thinking in an artsy kind of way... text is linear, thought is not. Text becomes a straightjacket for communicating non-linear ideas. Non-linear ideas like the stuff he's trying to communicate... which comes out like nonsense when written down in a short, linear fashion.

He probably makes more sense when communicating in a pub with a beer, lots of arm waving, feedback from peers and his audience and the bennefit of body language.

I personally think aside from providing artistic direction, non-linear ideas have no value in science and technology. That is, you might design a chat room so that people around the world can communicate... there would be no linear goal... But despite having no clear end result, we all know what the technical direction would be.

In the same way, you might decide that ideas need to be able to be linked together in a distributed shared way... just like the outcome of a chat room, there would be no clear goal... but like a chat room, smashing IRC beyou shouldn't be poking around with HTML to do so unless you can quantify the limitations of HTML which prevent you from accomplishing your goals.

Whoops.... finger slipped, hit submit too soon. (1)

Dr. Evil (3501) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863752)

.... but you get the idea.

Freedom from hierarchy??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13863482)

"Freedom from ... hierarchy" == freedom from organization.

The internal structure of (eg)OpenOffice documents is XML (a hierarchy!), and the content is organized with (guess what!) hierarchy. This let me do cool things for our company.

How does this nut suggest referencing another document, when that other document has no hierarchy???

Aiiiieeee! Anarchy reigns!

OP Is a bunch of Vague Buzzwords (0)

brxndxn (461473) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863487)

I propose we all think collectively in a team-oriented manner to break through the paridigm and create a beautiful world that we will all be happy to pass on to our children!

My statement sounds great too.. but it says nothing. /same as original article

Dead Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13863501)

HTML and XML enact a very limited kind of hypertext with great internal complexity.

When oh when did XML become "limited kind of hypertext"? XML can be used for anything, yes ANYTHING to describe, well, anything. And although most people associate XML with xhtml (as it is commonly transformed into), it normally is not. A number of payment gateways use XML and SOAP or XML-RPC messaging to transmit data (even some credit card processors use this method), and at work we have an e-mortgage application that uses xml as the data format that is not only sent to Freddie Mac for processing, but also transformed with XSLT to produce a PDF of the actual URLA form.

To call XML "hypertext" is either a lie, a gentlement misinformed, or a self-proclaimed expert who thinks he knows it all.

Anyone can see that it wouldn't work. (1)

rdmiller3 (29465) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863503)

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 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?

In short, these "ideas" are garbage dreamed up by a disorganized mind.

Re:Anyone can see that it wouldn't work. (2, Insightful)

BarryNorton (778694) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863583)

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!

Re:Anyone can see that it wouldn't work. (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863743)

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 try to reconcile them all -- deal with homonyms (same phrase, different concepts), spelling variations (different phrases, same term), and equivalent terms (different terms, same concept), and it's a whole lot of doing exactly what he described -- trying to track relations between different records.

If we merge down records, we need to track the provenance of the new record, so that should there be confusion later, we can determine what the original input was, to get clarfication.

Other instances where this could be useful are defect tracking systems (correlate error reports to known defects, to source code, to unit tests) -- with the reciprocal link, you could look through the source code, and find out why it's written the way it is. It's also useful in scholarly articles, as some projects have to justify their funding by showing how many peer-reviewed articles are being pubished using the project's data.

On a small scale, I think this is completely realistic to want, and to implement. On a larger scale, there are projects such as DOI [doi.org] to deal with refering to other project's documents, but there's no easy way currently to query who might have linked to a given DOI.

That's all his quote!?? (1)

W3BMAST3R101 (904060) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863505)

Some one needs to cut down on the coffee.

they didn't get it (3, Interesting)

an_mo (175299) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863530)

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 :-)

Who knighted TBL? (WARNING: pedantry) (3, Insightful)

Ryano (2112) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863532)

"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.

Yep (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13863546)

I see the publishing industry loving this about as much as the RIAA loved the original Napster.

Err... (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863552)

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.

Oh, my! Someone has the vapors!

Do people back away slowly and nervously when he talks like this?

Simple Reply (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13863556)

"I've got two words for you, COME ON!"
"COME ON!"
Peter Griffen

Slashdot bigotry at it's highest proof... (5, Insightful)

Hosiah (849792) | more than 8 years ago | (#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....

Re:Slashdot bigotry at it's highest proof... (1)

Xarius (691264) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863813)

the whole web thing is just one way to do the internet...it's the standard we ended up adopting mainly because, blah blah blah

It's only part of a much bigger internet. Heard of email? IRC? VoIP? Instant Messaging? FTP? SSH?

The WWW is (or was) an extremely simple system, anyone with five minutes can write a webpage from scratch. When you start adding layers of cack on top (like javascript or flash) then it starts to get difficult.

But what we have now (in theory) is an entirely scalable system of pushing documents around the world.

What would you rather we all use, PDF?

Dude! (1)

faqmaster (172770) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863574)

Stoner1: And what if, like, our whole universe is just one atom in the fingernail of a giant?
Stoner2:Whoa! Dude!

I'd like to have some of what he's been smoking. I think he's a founding member of PoMo First!

My $0.02 (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863588)

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?

Doesn't follow (1)

Darius Jedburgh (920018) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863597)


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

Why would a new document structure lead to a new copyright realm? The same idea that allowed Shakespeare's contemporaries to have monopolies on the printing of his plays is the one governing the copying of XML documents today. Changing the 'structure' doesn't free you to remix without 'negotiation'. And anyway, if you can do this freely, how is it a new 'copyright realm' as opposed to simply dumping copyright?

Ted, I want to believe you (1)

handslikesnakes (659012) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863610)

And I can see genuine value of some of the things you're pushing for. Some of this is happening in XML - Syncato [syncato.org] does transclusion and I'm working on something similar that does two-way links as well. It's neat to actually see the results and the code, and where it would be useful.

But that's exactly the problem. Is Xanadu the original vapourware?

The pride of an information society (1)

SlashdotMirrorer (669639) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863619)

Will the future be one in which the pride of a technologically advanced information society overrides the welfare of its participants? The more we make our documents dynamic, transparent, and interlinking, the more we open ourselves up to the possibility that those we link and those who link to us might wish to do us harm. The bearded terminal hackers of the early days of the web discovered this, "pranking" each other by waiting for a number of links to a particular site to appear, before switching it out to some other, more humorous content. In more serious cases (see Citrix), we can see how this can cause serious public image problems for businesses. As always in networked technology, and predicted by the late Sir Tim Berners Lee, actually, the pornography industry has made an art of this sort of deception. How then, would opportunists exploit these new ideas and techniques? Certainly we can't stop innovation over a fear of how it can be misused, but it should give some of you a pause for thought.

Great programmers ship (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863620)

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.

"Quoting dynamically" (1)

Ctrl+Alt+De1337 (837964) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863656)

So if some sites are quoting dynamically from other sites, what happens when some script kiddies or crackers get into someone's source material?

"... which brings up a good point that Steve Ballmer said in an interview with smallcomputersite.com when he said, 'Fr33 V14GR4!!1!!1 C1AL15 4 L3S5!111!!'"

Quote Me (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863680)

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?

A perspective on Ted Nelson (5, Interesting)

yawgnol (244682) | more than 8 years ago | (#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...

While we're re-inventing (2, Insightful)

rasqual (725451) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863722)

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; witness Google's disastrous attempt to index all the php forums a while back). A hyper-usenet that doesn't depend on internal quoting, something that indexes and links every bloomin' character in a post or document. Nothing short of that.

Ignorant of the realities... (2, Interesting)

Lodragandraoidh (639696) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863736)

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?

Theory and practicality (0, Offtopic)

Danathar (267989) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863754)

One of the problems with computer scientists who work on grand theories is that they don't give real world examples I can relate to. They end up using jargon wording and vague terms that are hard to define.

I have no problem with his ideas, but please provide and EXAMPLE!

he's partially wrong on copyrights (2, Interesting)

zogger (617870) | more than 8 years ago | (#13863783)

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 harder to access,so even if there might be "more" out there, it won't do you as much good. Look at the hardware model, the more "How do we do that?" information that becomes available to use for anyone at free or reduced cost, the quicker we are getting more advanced features, at a lesser cost. Would we have as much innovation today if patents were even more restrictive and lasted longer? Would we have as much if specs were harder to access? Suppose the patent model for slapping an ICE on a horse carriage lasted 100 years and the specs were blackbox, no looking the whole time? It's the same with knowledge in general, carry it to ridiculous extrapolative extremes in either direction, think of what the world would look like then. In one direction, you would have universal access and sharing, so you can get on with the real work that humans do. The transition period might be painful to some, as not all people could immediately benefit from the openness, as they don't really innovate, they just leech and consume. On the other, carried to the extreme, you would need a personal lawyer on a tether to follow you around and give you guidance on everything you touched or read, combined with your personal accountant clicking away as you paid off your increasingly complex contractural obligations to access this or that.

I know which direction I would prefer...both have ups and downs, but if you have a long range view, to me anyway, it appears free and open would eventually win if expanding the universal knowledge base is a goal.

It would eliminate a lot of middlemen jobs though...
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