This is the first (though it might be the last) in a series of memory dumps
from a lecture given by Ted Nelson http://www.sfc.keio.ac.jp/~ted/
yesterday. At the heart of the discussion lay several, imho, key points:
imbedded markup is bad
transclusion is good
Of course, there were other points in Ted's colorful talk, but this core
dump wants to think through his comment on imbedded markup.
Ted Nelson created an addressing scheme he calls "Tumblers"
(http://www.sfc.keio.ac.jp/~ted/XU/XuSum99.html for an entry into this
literature) (see http://starship.python.net/crew/jrush/xanadu/ for a python
implementation) and "tumbler arithmetic" that seems very much like what we
now call URIs. Tumblers include the ability to perform versioning.
On top of that, Ted talks about Xanalogical Media, which includes something
called a Virtual File. Now, we are strongly reminded of Topic Maps and
Steve Newcomb's lectures that everything in the way of references and links
should reside *above* the information resource. That, if nothing else,
describes Ted Nelson's Virtual File. I believe that I have read somewhere
that word processors do something like this when one opens a document for
edit: a temp file is created complete with links that, during the save
operation, allow merging temp with the main document. After listening to
Ted, heck, why not do everything that way in the first place.
BTW: my understanding of Douglas Engelbart's Augment system informs me that
Augment "files" do precisely the same thing.
An advantage, as advertised, is this: you now only need one copy of any
given item in an information resource universe. You just wire these
objects together in a virtual file and *presto!* you've got document, mail,
So, what happens if one simply begins to construct all documents with
virtual file systems, and, um, suppose the virtual file system were to
implement XTM documents. One wonders just what levels of searchability,
readibility, and so forth (not to mention, disk space requirement) one
could achieve by this subtle shift in action.
DocBook would nolonger be comprised of imbedded tags. Rather, it would be
an "above the document" series of URIs into a rich information
space. Parsable as a DocBook document, but now, given the ability to let
the URIs (tumblers?) pass through a grove engine, one now has the
capability of universal multimedia document generation, complete with
Of course, one needs a mechanism to view (and edit) such an enormous,
heterogeneous information space. Ted gave a great demonstration of his
ZigZag technology that allows individual information-bearing nodes to be
wired together, just as beads on a string, and wired into as many
dimensions of information one wishes. One node, many views. An open
source version of ZigZag is available at http://gzigzag.sourceforge.net. I
am persuaded to suspect that an application of the ZigZag idea merits
consideration in just about any knowledge project in which one might be
involved, including Doug Engelbart's own Open Hyperdocument System
Boggles the mind to think that Ted Nelson, Doug Engelbart, and very few
others have seen the universe this way and it has been largely ignored. I
am thinking that the *above the information* paradigm rediscovered by
Newcomb, Biezunsky, and others needs an even closer look.
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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Wed May 23 2001 - 11:09:34 PDT