About An Open Hyperdocument System (OHS) 0

Overview 1

Watch Doug presenting OHS basics to his peers
at the 1995 Vannevar Bush Symposium
  OHS diagram
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Source: see Engelbart's Bootstrap Paradigm Map for more

Doug Engelbart's call for a world wide open hyperdocument system (OHS) framework identifies the key features and functionality needed in our information technology, across all platforms, applications, and knowledge domains, to enable today's more agile and transformative organizations to perform to their highest potential. In an era of accelerating change and complexity, the OHS framework addresses the fundamental requirements for the enabling technology organizations will need to maneuver more rapidly and intelligently through extreme uncertainty, to boost their Collective IQ and innovation capacity, while accelerating their transformation. This effort is part of a larger strategy for facilitating networked improvement communities, toward bootstrapping brilliance across business and society. Today's technology has barely scratched the surface of what's possible, desirable, and necessary. 1a

The baseline requirements which Doug Engelbart outlined as a starting point for OHS, which he referred to as "the critical missing piece" in the organizational transformation equation, are still largely missing from today's information technology.

Case in Point 2

For example, at the top of his list has remained the ability to link directly to any point in any file. This feature is absolutely essential to enable fine-grained browsing, sharing, connecting the dots, interacting with and editing the contents. Some systems, like this very website, and Wikipedia, and now GoogleDocs, offer built-in section linking and a table of contents view. Some video platforms such as YouTube have recently added the ability to right click at any point in a video to Copy Link to this point in the video. These are great improvements, but an adhoc approach. The vast majority of our knowledgesphere, including and especially the world wide web which made hyperlinking a household word, has not offered a reliable and consistent way to identify, link to, jump to or otherwise address a specific phrase or paragraph, section or multi-media object within a file.

For the most part, the prevailing paradigm has remained largely based on linking to a file, and then searching and scrolling through the files, which misses the true promise of new media to more closely align with how our brains think and connect ideas. Our minds do not think inside of rectangles, pages, files or apps. We think in concepts. We dart around fluidly at whatever level of detail suits the moment, connecting the dots, sparking aha moments. Information technology could be augmenting our collective human intellect at the speed of thought in powerful new ways, instead of automating how we used to think and work in a linear paper-based world.

User Needs 3

  Visualization diagram
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Example of information visualization


Designing for tomorrow's dramatically more effective and powerful ways of working and studying, in a climate of accelerating change, will require pivotal shifts in how we organize ourselves, our knowledge and our tools. We are already shifting from a compartmentalized stove-pipe paradigm, to one that is more agile, collaborative, cross-functional, dynamic, interactive, networked, user-centered, open and evolvable. This is just the beginning of the transformation we'll be experiencing in future. OHS requirements envision highly evolved teams and networks, endowed with dramatically more dynamic and interactive knowledge ecosystems.

We'll need more facile ways to traverse our knowledge domains, as if we are flying around in an information space. We need to be able to quickly skim across the landscapes, and dive down into whatever detail suits our needs in the moment, zooming in and ou tof detail as desired. Basic OHS requirements include birds-eye views that scale, and fine-grained addressability of all objects and media types, allowing for greater agility and permeability throughout the knowledgesphere, dissolving unnecessary rigidity within silos, while providing flexible and facile ways of viewing, skimming, traversing, manipulating, capturing, (re)arranging, sharing, utilizing, and advancing the knowledge upon which our most challenging work depends.

For more detail see The true promise of Interactive Computing: Leveraging our Collective IQ, as well as the excellent summary in End User Systems in the OHS Technology Template.

What is OHS? 4

The Open Hyperdocument System (OHS) is a world-wide open source framework for developing collaborative, knowledge management systems and applications. Its primary objective is to support Dynamic Knowledge Ecosystems (DKEs). The quality of a group's DKE directly determines how high or low its Collective IQ, its overall collective effectiveness at tackling complex, urgent pursuits. A higher Collective IQ yields more brilliant outcomes. The Doug Engelbart Institute advocates (1) the development of one or more open source research prototypes for experimental pilots using a build-test-learn minimum viable prototype (MVP) approach; and (2) an open standards effort for developers in the IT arena to make OHS functionality ubiquitously and consistently available across platforms, applications, and knowledge domains. See Approach below for details.

Guiding Principles 4b

  • To facilitate purposeful working environments involving diversity of people in multiple organizations, especially those tackling complex challenges and questions

  • Facilitate concurrence, collaboration, and collective action at scale ("real work")

  • Unified ways to capture, integrate, manage, and flexibly portray the emerging heterogeneous knowledge

  • Enhance access, maneuverability, applicability, and (re)utilization of knowledge assets

  • Evolvable, scalable, seamlessly interoperable across domains (dissolves silos)

For more see About DKEs, and the Paradigm Shift Summary section of the OHS Technology Template.

OHS Framework at a Glance 4c

Following are some essential elements of the OHS framework. For a complete list and description of features, end-user reqirements, and paradigm shifts called for, see the OHS Technology Template.

Adding these attributes to a file Make these basic hyperdocument features possible

Applies universally to all document types incl. email, slide decks, video, source code, calendars, todo lists, etc.

Every object is uniquely addressible; IDs are assigned automatically, as well as by author

Every object is time- stamped with date, time, and author at the time it is created or modified

Structuring of objects is explicitly supported and encouraged

Hyperlinking or jumping directly to any object, optionally specifying the desired view control

Flexible view control of objects such as zooming in and out of structure; showing or hiding address IDs, anchor names, and timestamps; visualizations; views filtered by time-stamp metadata; edit history of an object or structure as well as file

Same features available while editing; plus fine-grained addressability of objects and structure for editing purposes

Transclusion of any object or chunk of structure from any file

True hyper-email: Prior email or any object in any prior email can be referenced with a hyperlink; a Reply cites prior msg by default rather than including its contents. All hyperlinks hold true for recipients, including those in attached hyperdocs

OHS Further Supports

Browsing and editing are seamlessly merged, not separate

Hyperdocs are vendor-independent, use tools of choice to access, navigate, modify

Easy capture/tagging of hyperdocs submitted to a "Journal" library, assigned permalink and catalog entry; recipients notified by email and a link; catalogs updated automatically tracking versions, commentary, and subcollections

Signature encryption guarantees authentication

Shared screen teleconferencing: each user joins conference using app of choice, with access to his/her repositories, in free-for-all or moderated mode

SIRI-like verb-noun commands allow for more expansive and natural vocabulary/repertoire, with variety of UI styles from point and click to high-performance, using menus, voice, command keys, macros; streamlines accessibility

Where to Start?

  1. Embrace the Guiding Principles, then start with Basic Features 1 & 2 above to jumpstart the capability
  2. See Approach for details.

Watch Christina Engelbart demo OHS features in the Augment browser (48min)
Watch Brad Neuberg demo similar features in HyperScope browser (9min)

See also Learn From Doug below.

Approach 5

The OHS baseline requirements are a result of 50 years of innovation and experimentation by Doug Engelbart and his team of researchers among a variety of user communities in public and private sectors, including aerospace, software development, and non-profits. The purpose of an OHS initiative is to provide a common framework and eventual standards for these features to evolve ubiquitously, informed by ongoing advanced cooperative pilot usage. See Learn From Doug below for his writings and lectures on OHS, including the OHS Technology Template and Draft OHS Project Plan, for details. Sample path: 5a

  1. Embrace the Guiding Principles under What is OHS? above, start with Basic Features 1 & 2 browsing functionality
  2. Field a minimum viable prototype to jumpstart the experimental pilot(s), and Iterate - don't expect to get it right the first time
    • Be your own most rigorous and demanding end-users, field it in real-world pilots
    • The importance of real-world usage is to co-evolve the tools with emerging best practices and shifting paradigms
    • Build community participation
    • Form a Networked Improvement Community of representative participants to share in the research, results, learnings, and cost
  3. Encourage providers of existing systems and apps to incorporate these Basic Features - for example in Wikipedia, Internet Archive, Wordpress, Google Drive, ... -- be their end-user collaborators in their user-centered innovation process

For concrete examples of OHS concepts in action, see our Demos Archive of early prototypes, and Technology Showcase with links to others' works. See also About Open Hyper Tools for ideas on evolving OHS-type open source tools, or extensions to existing tools like Wikipedia and blog. For an overview of early research prototypes directed by Doug Engelbart, see Past R&D Projects. For example, as an intermediate step toward OHS, in 2006 we developed a demonstration prototype system called HyperScope showcasing many of the precision browsing and addressability requirements in OHS (see more HyperScope Demos like Brad's above). The earliest and most comprehensive prototype system was Doug's Augment/NLS system (see more Augment Demos besides Christina's above).

The first demonstration of OHS concepts was Doug's so-called "Mother of All Demos" in 1968, a comprehensive demonstration of NLS -- albeit more primitive (yet spectacular) technology (see below and more NLS Demos). 5b

Learn from Doug & Others 6

Watch Doug demo early OHS concepts in his 1968 Mother of All Demos (excerpts:14min)

Watch Doug Presenting

Watch excerpts of Doug Engelbart presenting OHS concepts in these talks and seminars (for a full topic index into these videos, visit Engelbart Academy) 6a

Doug's Writings on OHS 6b

More Resources 6c