RE: [unrev-II] Reception at SRI Honoring Doug's Award

From: Adam Cheyer (
Date: Mon Dec 25 2000 - 18:44:47 PST

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    > [Garold L. Johnson] Certainly there are more and better tools available
    > today than when Doug built Augment! Of course, given that Augment was
    > built, we are trying to transcend it and so are trying to do more, but
    > still, the tools should give us some real help.
    Actually, I would argue that the existing tools and paradigms are much
    more of a hinderance than a help, and are the real reason we haven't
    made much progress to capturing the value and productivity that was
    Augment. Let me explain.

    In the 80s when programming for a DOS environment, only one program ran at a
    time, and each program was written from scratch, from start
    to finish: GUI, input/output, application functionality. As a
    consequence, there wasn't much consistancy across applications, but
    each programmer could rethink what made sense for his or her programs
    in terms of look and feel and functionality. When Windows became popular,
    it brought wonderful reusable components (e.g. dialog boxes, popup
    menus) so that we didn't need to rewrite implementations of menu systems
    and so forth, and this helped ensure that all applications looked similar,
    and were written with a common style. Windows also brought along the
    ability o run multiple programs at once and gave a simple mechanism for
    passing data among applications: the clipboard. But we lost something
    without realizing it: applications were now thought of as separate,
    stand-alone entities that only shared a clipboard and common GUI elements.

    My belief is that the power of Augment came not from any one feature
    (e.g., backlinks, viewing options), but rather from the integrated
    WHOLE. Augment was an "operating system" inside of which all
    applications lived: email, word processor, web browser, code editor,
    ontology editor, graphic editor, etc. In today's world, thanks in part to
    Windows, all of these are separate applications that share little --
    in Augment, all of these blend into one system. Augment's true power
    and its "bootstrapping" nature comes from the fact that every email you
    write can be journaled, linked to, commented on. Every document you
    produce can be shared with others and versioned. As you add a new
    feature to Augment, all applications are instantly improved. Augment is
    not a Windows application you run (or a website you visit), it's the
    environment you live and work in. Few knowledge management systems work
    well today because it's hard to encourage people to upload documents to
    the "site" for others to view -- in the ideal system, you don't have to
    visit another knowledge management site to update or search, you simply
    live in the site all the time.

    The closest Augment-like thing I've seen is Emacs, which becomes the
    extensible shell around applications such as email, text editing,
    word processing, even the operating system itself. Emacs commands
    and functionality overlay all aspects of the applications living inside

    As we work on Augment-like systems in the future using the latest and
    greatest tools (web-based, windows-based, etc), I think it's essential
    to think about not only how powerful they are but also what paradigms
    ("boxes") they are putting us in and what we give up by using them.

    Fodder for thought...

    -- Adam

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