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

From: Jack Park (
Date: Wed May 30 2001 - 16:29:20 PDT

  • Next message: Lee Iverson: "Re: [unrev-II] TopicMaps, Ted Nelson, Virtual Files, and everything"

    Interesting post, Lee. Why do you think you need anyone's permission to
    offer up a conjecture?

    I have a few comments interspersed below.

    At 04:05 PM 5/30/2001 -0700, you wrote:
    >In message <>, Jack Park writes:
    > > [some deleted]
    > >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.
    >I'm with you entirely on this one. Another way of phrasing it would
    >be to suggest that we have a soup of completely reusable components
    >(nodes) which are organized using a small number of very simple
    >primitives into an arbitrarily interconnected graph of nodes.
    >Edges in the graph may be references to either local or remote
    >objects, as long as every potential object has an easily derived
    >external address (a URI). Information objects are then delivered
    >outside the system by serializing views (Doug's term, the same as
    >Ted's virtual file) using a variety of serialization algorithms each
    >of which corresponds to some external document format (e.g. HTML, MS
    >Word, GIF and JPEG images, ...). These documents only actually exist
    >as serializations produced from various views of the interconnected
    >node databases. Sounds like NODAL!

    Well, it *is* NODAL!

    > >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 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
    > >(
    >I wasn't particularly impressed with ZigZag, since it didn't seem to
    >give me anything that I couldn't get with generic (and
    >well-understood!) graph structures and algorithms. Ted's search for
    >"revolutionary" data structures seems to be too much of a barrier for
    >most programmers, let alone the users of his systems.

    It's just the image I conjure up. You have this enormous (indexed) space
    of objects, some of which can include tags (e.g. <birthday
    name="joey">...</birthday>. In general, you stitch them together into
    graph structures as needed -- Doug's view engine. ZigZag just happens to
    be one engine that, while the vocabulary used to discuss it is hard to
    embrace, does something like what I am describing. I am not sure that one
    needs ZigZag, but one needs, in theory, the ability to roam about in an
    indexed space, grab objects, and stitch them up into a structure for
    presentation as needed. One also needs the ability to create nodes within
    the structure that, themselves, can be returned to the object pool. ZigZag
    offers an engine that allows stitching, viewing, creating, and editing.

    >I'm not entirely convinced that all structure wants to be "above the
    >information" . I'd suggest that useful information has inherent
    >structure. The real issue is the flexibility of the structural
    >building blocks and the ability to reference and reuse this structured
    >information with a variety of higher-level structures. In order to
    >reuse a birthday, I want to maintain the fact that it is So-and-so's
    >birthday, no matter what the context that nugget is being used in.

    See my comment above.

    >So, with your permission, I'd say that the real failure of current
    >systems is that the only level of reusable structure "above the
    >information" is the document. That is just way too coarse.


    >Lee Iverson SRI International
    > 333 Ravenswood Ave., Menlo Park CA 94025
    > (650) 859-3307

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