About An Open Hyperdocument System (OHS) 0

Overview 1

Watch Doug presenting OHS basics to his peers
at the 1995 Vannevar Bush Symposium
  OHS diagram
Click to enlarge
Source: see Engelbart's Bootstrap Paradigm Map for more

Doug Engelbart's call for a world wide open hyperdocument system (OHS) identified the key features and functionality needed in our information technology, across all platforms and applications, across all knowledge domains, to enable today's more agile and transformative teams, networks, scholars, communities, organizations, and institutions to perform to their highest potential. In an era of accelerating change and complexity, the OHS framework addresses the need for dramatically more dynamic knowledge ecosystems in which to leverage and advance our knowledge, individually and collectively, to quickly and effectively respond to the toughest questions and challenges. OHS thus identifies the fundamental tool requirements for increasing Collective IQ and innovation capacity at scale, as part of a larger strategy for Bootstrapping Brilliance in business and society. Today's technology has barely scratched the surface of what's possible, desirable, and necessary. 1a

The baseline requirements which Doug Engelbart outlined as a starting point for OHS are still largely missing from today's information technology.

For example, at the top of his list has remained the ability to link directly to any point in any file. This feature is absolutely essential to enable fine-grained browsing, sharing, connecting the dots, interacting with and editing the contents. Some video platforms such as YouTube have recently added the ability to right click at any point in a video to Copy Link to this point in the video. This is a great improvement, but an adhoc approach. The vast majority of our knowledgesphere, including and especially the world wide web which made hyperlinking a household word, has not offered a reliable and consistent way to identify, link to, jump to or otherwise address a specific phrase or paragraph, section or multi-media object within a file.

A major breakthrough announced April 2016 is an open source annotation tool called hypothes.is which offers the ability to highlight, comment, tag and link directly to any point in a webfile, across the web. This is exactly the type of approach that Engelbart envisioned. Another type of breakthrough is Video Digest, which turns a video and its transcripts into a browsable, skimmable, and fluidly navigable webpage with chapter headings and annotated thumbnails for watching, studying or sampling.

For the most part however, the prevailing paradigm has remained largely based on linking to a file, and then searching and scrolling through the files, which misses the true promise of new media to more closely align with how our brains think and connect ideas. Our minds do not think inside of pages, files or apps. We think in concepts, we dart around fluidly at whatever level of detail suits the moment, connecting the dots, sparking aha moments. Information technology could be augmenting our collective human intellect at the speed of thought in powerful new ways, instead of automating how we used to think and work in a linear paper-based world.

User Needs 2

Designing for tomorrow's dramatically more effective and powerful ways of working and stydying,, in a climate of accelerating change, will require pivotal shifts in how we organize ourselves, our knowledge and our tools. We are already shifting from a compartmentalized stove-pipe paradigm, to one that is more agile, collaborative, cross-functional, dynamic, interactive, networked, user-centered, open and evolvable.This is just the beginning of the type of transformation we'll be experiencing ongoing. OHS requirements envision agile heterogeneous teams and networks, endowed with highly dynamic and interactive knowledge ecosystems.

  Visualization diagram
Example of information visualization
Click to enlarge

We'll need more facile ways to traverse our knowledge domains, as if we are flying around in an information space. We need to be able to quickly skim across the landscapes, and dive down into whatever detail suits our needs in the moment, zooming in and outof detail as desired. Basic OHS requirements include birds-eye views that scale, and fine-grained addressability of all objects and media types, allowing for greater agility and permeability throughout the knowledgesphere, dissolving unnecessary rigidity, while providing flexible and facile ways of viewing, skimming, traversing, manipulating, capturing, (re)arranging, sharing, utilizing, and advancing the knowledge that our work depends on.

For more detail see The true promise of Interactive Computing: Leveraging our Collective IQ, as well as the excellent summary in End User Systems in the OHS Technology Template.

Watch Christina Engelbart demo OHS features in the Augment browser
Watch Brad Neuberg demo similar features in HyperScope browser

OHS Highlights 3

Following are some highlights of the OHS framework. For a complete list, see the OHS Technology Template. See Further Inquiry below for more background.

Internal Attributes of a Hyperdocument Make These Features Possible OHS Further Supports

Applies to all document types incl. email, slide decks, video, source code, calendars, todo lists, etc.

Every object is uniquely addressible; IDs are assigned automatically, as well as by author

Every object is time- stamped with date, time, and author at the time it is created or modified

Structuring of objects is explicitly supported and encouraged

Hyperlinking or jumping directly to any object, optionally specifying the desired view control

Flexible view control of objects, zooming in and out of structure, showing or hiding address IDs and timestamps, visualizations, filtered views include filtering by time-stamp data; view edit history of an object or structure as well as file

Transclusion of any object or chunk of structure from any file

True hyper-email: Prior email or any object in any prior email can be referenced with a hyperlink; a Reply cites prior msg by default rather than including its contents. All hyperlinks hold true for recipients, including those in attached hyperdocs

Fine-grained access control to the object level

Browsing and editing are merged, not separate

Easy capture/tagging of hyperdocs submitted to a "Journal" library, assigned permalink and catalog entry; recipients notified by email and a link; catalogs updated automatically tracking versions, commentary, and subcollections

Signature encryption guarantees authentication

Shared screen teleconferencing: each user joins conference using app of choice, with access to his/her repositories, in free-for-all or moderated mode

SIRI-like verb-noun commands allow for more expansive and natural vocabulary/repertoire,with variety of UI styles from point and click to high-performance, using menus, voice, command keys, macros; streamlines accessibility

Approach 4

The OHS baseline requirements are a result of 50 years of innovation and experimentation by Doug Engelbart and his team of researchers among a variety of user communities, including aerospace, software development, and non-profits. The purpose of an OHS initiative is to provide a common framework and eventual standards for these features to evolve ubiquitously, informed by ongoing advanced cooperative pilot usage. 1b

See About Open Hyper Tools, which highlights opportunities for OHS-type open source tools, and extensions to existing tools like Wikipedia and blogs. As an intermediate step toward OHS, in 2006 we developed a research prototype demo system called HyperScope to demonstrate many of the precision browsing and addressability requirements in OHS; HyperScope is not working at the moment, but you can watch some HyperScope Demos to get a feel for it. See also About Augment/NLS for the earlier and most comprehensive prototype (minus the interoperability), and Augment Demos. Doug's so-called "Mother of All Demos" was a comprehensive demonstration of NLS, which demonstrates OHS concepts, albeit with more primitive (yet spectacular) technology; watch Doug's NLS Demos. 1c

Further Inquiry 5