Interactive Text Ideas
Text is brilliant. You should always bet on text.
But interactivity is good too.
Here's a series of ideas I find interesting, many of which combine text and interactivity. Many of them are from demos that were never fully realised, confined to the marginalia of history. Some of them became very influential.
Skip a few years, past the garden of forking paths and we find.
"A mesh of associative trails "
We're unstuck in time. It's 1945, both before and after Hiroshima, and Vanevar Bush publishes As we may think, outlining how collective memory will be available to all in a machine called the Memex.
They imagined people blazing and sharing "A mesh of associative trails" through the collective knowledge space. Imagine a guided tour bus. The tour guide gives information, takes you to the sites where you can hop off and have your own experience. The next bus arrives as soon as you want it. The tour guide knows all.
It's 1934. We're unstuck in time. (I've mentioned that 100 times already)
Paul Otlet publishes "Traité de documentation", proposing, among other innovations, annotated links between documents
"Everything is Deeply Intertwingled"
We're unstuck in time. It's 1967. It's 1960. Ted Nelson's Project Xanadu is the first hypertext project. The world wide web, that is inspired by it decades later, fails to live up to the goals of Project Xanadu.
It's 2018. Ted Nelson explains that we still don't have "visible connection" and "parallel documents" — see video, it's a gem:
StretchText is a hypertext feature that has not gained mass adoption in systems like the World Wide Web, but gives more control to the reader in determining what level of detail to read at.
It's 1968. We're unstuck in time. Douglas Engelbart gives the mother of all demos. Douglas Engelbart's lifelong mission is to raise the collective intelligence of humanity. I struggle to lose a few kilos. Doug is lifting the collective intelligence of all of humanity!
Terry Pratchett said this about J.R.R.Tolkien:
Most modern fantasy just rearranges the furniture in Tolkien's attic.
Similarly, most modern computing just rearranges the furniture in Douglas Engelbart's attic. As Ted Nelson says here
He [Douglas Engelbart] invented word processing, outline processing, computer graphics, hypertext, the mouse... and all of this was part of his singular dream of 'How do we make people more powerful'
It's 1951, we're unstuck in time. Yesterday, Douglas Engelbart got engaged to his future wife. He decides to think about his career goals. He decides he wants to do something important to help the world to work together on complex urgent problems. We need to get much better on an exponential scale. Computers can help maybe?
It's 2018... we still have complex urgent problems.
It's 1961. Doug's techniques amount to what he calls Intelligence Augmentation. In the way that a hammer extends and augments the leverage and power of the human arm, our tools should extend and augment the intelligence of our minds.
The mouse and hypermedia are here to stay, but many ideas from Engelbart remain "unrealised" today.
Have you noticed the problem with the mouse is that you have to keep switching between mouse and keyboard? So much so that some people avoid using a mouse altogether and just get really good at using keyboard shortcuts and other wizardy.
Doug was aware of this problem and invented the "Keyset" - a "chord keyboard" you would operate with just one hand. The mouse in one hand, the keyset in the other:
It has just five keys, but combinations of keys (like chords on a piano) would produce different letters. Read more about it, including Doug's teaching method.
Steal this content
Here's a url I copied and pasted from Wikipedia:
It's the profile of the inventor of Copy and Paste, Larry Tesler, who worked with Tim Mott on the first implementation of Copy and Paste. Their work has been copied (and pasted?) many times since.
I love this quote about the invention of the Browser:
I just had to add hypertext, (by subclassing the Text object).
- Principle of least privilege
Ward Cunningham and others were discovering patterns everywhere they looked in programming. They couldn't record them quickly enough, so Ward made the Wiki Wiki: from an hawaiian word for Quick. It was a minimal addition to plain text that created new links to new pages any time the author joinedWordsTogether.
There's magic in Ward's innovation. Two or more words, if brought into contact with each other, would emit a burst of energy: a new concept would be formed and the power of their union would tear a wormhole through space, leading to a new page.
The other great innovation was that he let everyone edit. No permission model at all. You can read, you can edit. It was easy for other people to see what had been changed and to revert any vandalism. It's the "forgiveness over permission" model, espoused by Grace Hopper.
People poured many many words into that Wiki Wiki. It was in the era when the internet truly was "words plus enthusiasm"
Some of my favorite pages in ward's wiki:
The best way to get the right answer on the Internet is not to ask a question, it's to post the wrong answer.
—Cunningham's Law (Ward Cunningham)
"The Electronic Labyrinth"
One of the inspirations for Wiki Wiki was HyperCard: a pre-WWW technology that let you build a personal information system in a dynamic and programmable way. There was considerable HyperCard Mania!. It was a time when the Citizen Programmer seemed to be the way computers were headed.
Other personal information systems also had innovative ideas and passionate fanbases.
It's not a long journey from there to note taking systems such as:
...or other interesting tools such as
When studying physics in high-school, and particularly when studying engineering, we were encouraged to keep a Scientific Journal or Scientist's Notebook.
Here's a typical page from my journal in those days:
No wait, that was one of Leonardo Da Vinci's notebooks.
Some amazing "scientist's notebook" systems have emerged lately, particularly
These allow code and its output to be inspected and executed, on any computer, in a logical and reproducible manner
In architecture and programming we talk of "patterns" and the wiki was invented to capture their myriad forms. A different but very similar concept from the creative arts is the idea of "Tropes" and in particular the "TV Tropes" website.
Patterns and tropes are synonyms.
The big list of rpg plots is also the kind of problem wikis were made to solve, as is The Top 100 Things I'd Do If I Ever Became An Evil Overlord -- though wiki's are great for lists, they tend more toward sprawling networks of information.
Addressing and identity are a crucial part of hyperlinks and versatility
if everything is addressable you need a kind of scheme or protocol for identifying things.
in Hyperscope, every element is automatically numbered. Easier than asking the author to name each thing.
See this video also: Screencast of Douglas Engelbart's HyperScope Project from Brad Neuberg.
With markdown libraries they can automatically name every heading for you. Very helpful and takes the onus off the author to decide which parts of a document can be linked to.
a reference system with addresses can either return a single thing or a list of things. For example, a primary key only returns one item - or in CSS, a '#ID' selector should only return one element (but this is an unenforced constraint) but other ways of selecting can return many homogenous things, e.g. select * from person where managerid = 1, or many heterogeneous things - $(".item") - elements returned can be of many different types.
predicates that are applied to sets to filter them.
- Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston invented the spreadsheet.
- roedy green SCID (source code in database)
- oide (online ide)
- markdown -
- view source.
- bret victor inventing on principle
- james clear on bret victor
- bret victor the future of programming
- vannevar bush as we may think
- interconnected memeplex
- annotation is now a web standard see w3c, and announcement
- neonote - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hm4UNtR0WfI
- tags, tag clouds
- aza raskin - search console idea - zooming user interface - ubiquity? weave? https://techcrunch.com/2008/06/11/zoom-pan-throw-a-peek-at-what-firefox-mobile-could-be/ https://vimeo.com/1152218
- vertical versus horizontal organization (from structured procrastination)
- TUFTE and Tufte CSS
- mouse (windows-icons-mouse-pointer)
- omea reader
- river of news
- foaf - opml (blog rolls)
- Domain Specific Language
- Pivot tables
- Interactive charts
- Descartes staring at flies on the. Ceiling
- Cartesian coordinates
- Latitude longitude
- Reverse geo coding
- Descartes staring at flies on the. Ceiling
- Dewey decimal
- Collation of alphabets
- Pointers - pointers to pointers
- Set mathematics
- Russell's paradox
- Godel incompleteness
- Squarified Tree Maps
- Sql alternatives
- Literate programming, see http://www.pbr-book.org/3ed-2018/Introduction/Literate_Programming.html#fragment-FunctionDefinitions-0
- WEB is d Knuth’s first literate programming exemplar
- WEB → noweb → Sweave → Knitr → R Markdown → R Notebooks, see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18342415
- Literate Haskell
- Jupyter notebooks
- r notebooks
- Org Babel is https://orgmode.org/worg/org-contrib/babel/
- SQL Notebooks (example, 103 comments here
- Syntax highlighting
- Step into
- Step over
- Yahoo Pipes
- Lion Kimbro "How to Make a Complete Map of Every Thought You Think" (and as PDF)
- force directed graphs
- graphviz and dot
- hyper fiddle
- plant uml
- markup issues 1189
- Airtable - Part spreadsheet, part database, and entirely flexible, teams use Airtable to organize their work, their way.
- Notion - The all-in-one workspace for your notes, tasks, wikis, and databases.
- Trilium - Trilium Notes is a hierarchical note taking application with focus on building large personal knowledge bases.
- MS Access
- Mike Gunderloy's "Daily WTF" story about a guy "improving" access
Ajax, perhaps the earliest surviving tragedy of Sophocles, presents the downfall and disgrace of a great hero whose suicide leads to his rehabilitation.
—A.F. Garvie in Sophocles: Ajax
- NumSum - here's your throw-away web spreadsheet
- tikkawiki.htm tixinboxes.htm
- Seymour Papert Logo minstorms
- Alan Kay DynaBook
- Ivan Sutherland SketchPad
- Magic Slate
- Choose Your Own Adventure Books.
- Interactive Fiction - IF.
- Text Adventure Games.
- Why the lucky stiff - try ruby
- Mark Pilgrim - accessibility book
- Mozer's smart digital textboobs
- Cook book
- Recipe book
- Tour bus
- Tour guide
- ZOG (hypertext)
- SCUMM - "Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion"
- Google Wave
- Other realtime collaboration apps?
- Plato (computer system)
- Lotus Notes
- Ascii art
- Ascii chart
- Looking Glass - a revolutionary window manager revealed in 2006
- "The revolution hasn't happened yet"
- Scheme 9 From Empty Space
- Hg wells the world brain 🧠
- WorldBrain is building a memex interesting and ambitious
- Wikipedia:Michael Dertouzos
- Transmission of Programs over Radio (1983)
- Satellaview: Transmission of Programs over Satellite (1995)
- Simultaneous Editing (one person editing multiple things at once, not collaborative editing, where multiple people edit one thing at once), for example "Lapis is an experimental web browser and text editor allowing simultaneous editing of text in multiple selections. Lapis is able to infer the list of selected elements automatically from positive and negative examples given by the user, during a process known as selection guessing, based on concept learning."
What I believe I need:
a light table interface for a multi-page PDF, where I can zoom in/out, annotate the PDF with text, easily mark pages to split into individual pages (or page ranges), add comments to each page [range], then split into individual files.
Beyond Conversation -- thoughts on keeping the links outside the document, and about federated wikis
Various interactive text ideas in this hacker news thread about Light Table
A constitution is a book designed to be edited.
Nomic is a game where you invent the rules. (Calvinball is the canonical game with made up rules.)
Wreck This Journal is a book designed to be wrecked.
In the style of William s Burroughs cut up text ideas.
Steal This Book is a book designed to be stolen.
Popup picture books are quite clever and have limited interactive elements.
- Wikipedia: The garden of forking paths
- Wikipedia: ZOG
- Joel on Software: Reading Code is Like Reading the Talmud
- Wikipedia: Association (psychological links)
- Wikipedia:Michael Dertouzos