[unrev-II] TopicMaps, Ted Nelson, Virtual Files, and everything

From: Jack Park (jackpark@thinkalong.com)
Date: Wed May 23 2001 - 10:52:47 PDT

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    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
            zigzag rocks

    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
    reusable components.

    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