> [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...
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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Dec 25 2000 - 18:55:28 PST