Re: [unrev-II] Re: OHS Meeting at SRI on 010122 Demonstrate BrowseUp

From: Eugene Eric Kim (
Date: Thu Jan 25 2001 - 13:24:09 PST

  • Next message: Jack Park: "Re: [unrev-II] More on GZigZag"

    On Tue, 23 Jan 2001, Eric Armstrong wrote:

    > As I recall, "we" (as a group) disliked that notion, at
    > the time, because we wanted people to use a "vanilla
    > browser", without having to do anything special to the
    > client.
    > I take it that our collective opinion is now more
    > in favor of a smarter client?
    > How much effort is it to install that proxy, anyway?
    > Or is it pretty transparent? (Or does a remote server
    > actually serve as the "proxy", so that you have to visit
    > that server and, from there, go to other points on the
    > Web?

    As Jack pointed out, using the term "proxy server" in his original
    description was misleading, although there's no reason why the system
    couldn't be implemented that way. At the risk of repeating what others
    have already stated, here's my summary, along with some brief commentary.

    BrowseUp allows you to create links from any HTML page to any other HTML
    page. It consists of:

    - a link server, which stores these links.
    - an Internet Explorer plug-in, which downloads links from the link
      server, and overlays those links on top of the currently displayed web
      page. The plug-in also allows you to create links by dragging and

    The links are granular, and optionally bidirectional. You can also
    annotate the links. The link server stores all of this information, as
    well as thumbnails of the information being linked, and the "quality" of
    the links. Link quality is an attribute used for displaying available
    links, that is based on the frequency a link is viewed and presumably
    other information as well.

    The link server is written in Java, and apparently communicates on top of
    HTTP. They were apparently designed to be widely distributed, so that
    these link servers could be found all over the Net. BrowseUp has some
    solution for problems such as link integrity and modified documents,
    although I think I may have missed that part of the discussion.

    There was some discussion about social consequences of unrestricted
    linking that was interesting and important, but I won't rehash them here.

    Some thoughts:

    1. The link server is, in my opinion, of greatest immediate interest to
    the project. Many of its requirements seem to overlap with ours, with
    some limitations and quirks. For example, the thumbnails are an
    interesting feature, but I wonder if the bandwidth and storage overhead
    is worth it.

    2. The plug-in is a win, but it's not necessarily the short-term direction
    that the core project should move in. The link server would enable us to
    move in a number of directions, from browser plug-ins to proxy servers to
    custom clients. There's a lot of room for evolution here. At the
    meeting, Lee said that he would like to see a Nelson-style transclusion
    view of links and documents (where documents are displayed side by side,
    with lines showing the interconnected links). I see no reason why such a
    view is not possible using BrowseUp's underlying system; they just haven't
    built it yet.

    3. I think collaboration is highly desirable, and a reasonable
    possibility. Alon seemed genuinely interested in seeing link databases
    pop up all over the world, and seemed open to the possibility of open
    sourcing parts or all of their system in order to enable this (and
    collaborate with us).

    What are the next steps? I know Doug is pursuing the collaboration angle,
    but there are certainly things that we can do in the meantime. The best
    is to just try using the tool. I think there are many things we can learn
    about some of its fundamental linking features and about BrowseUp's own
    implementation of these features, which could lead to:

        - a refinement of requirements for the OHS
        - formal usability studies, which could also help refine requirements
          (part of the coevolution strategy) as well as serve as a marketing
          vehicle for some of the OHS's features. (i.e. "Studies showed that
          link typing improved productivity by 512%.")

    The plug-in is available from, and I'm sure Alon
    and company would welcome feedback.


    +=== Eugene Eric Kim ===== ===== ===+
    |       "Writer's block is a fancy term made up by whiners so they        |
    +=====  can have an excuse to drink alcohol."  --Steve Martin  ===========+

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