in transit, mark danielsonJournal

SXSW Panel: The Web That Wasn’t


Wright (New York Times)

Why should anyone care? It’s interesting, not just historically, but its relevant to what’s going on on the Web today. The best technology doesn’t always win.

Charles Cutter — Notably librarian in 19th century. Had first reference to something that sounded like the Internet… In 1883.

HG Wells talked about methods of making all of human knowledge available to everyone…

Teilhard de Chardin — [Look up.]

Paul Otlet — Core insight was that librarians were fixated in books. Needed to get beyond physical artifact of the book, and get to the info inside. Remix and sort information in books if you can somehow get the ideas out and into an open framework. Wanted a classification system with index cards that have information extracted from books. Got funding from Belgium to actually try to build such a system. Took tens of thousands of books, had an army of people go through books and extract information onto index cards. Nazis took over and destroyed it. Olet died penniless and forgotten.

[See if we can find video excerpt of Olet’s ideas of 1934.]

Olet used Universal Decimal Classification for top-down categorization. Tried to include social links in books and between documents. Contructing the social space of a document. Links don’t just link, they say “this document disagrees with this other document,” or “this document agrees with this document.”

Web is pretty much bottom-up right now, but Olet’s Web would’ve had top-down classification as well. Look up FacTag–Modern, web-enabled attempt to do this.

Vannevar Bush — Science advisor to FDR, president of Carnegie Institution. Author of “As We May Think,” which he is mainly remembered for. Idea was that you could pull up multiple documents in microfilm, and make links and make comments about those links. Make links between two documents, and have them added to permanent record. Over time those links would become browsable. However, didn’t try to build it because he didn’t think the technology was there. More of a concept car approach.

Bush’s web would’ve had links that in both directions, and users’ experience could become part of a larger record. Trackbacks are kind of a weak attempt at capturing this principle (seeing value in inbound links). is kind of an example as well.

Eugene Garfield — Inspired by Bush’s essay, though about how to rearrange scientific information and journals. Felt most indexes for that kind of info was very limited. Also thought about who’s cited, and who’s citing articles. First look at web of influence, citation ranking (some citations have more value than others) and kind of a forefather of PageRank.

What would Garfield’s web look like? Google! In pagerank paper, Garfield was among the first people Page and Brin mentioned.

Doug Engelbart — Inventor of the mouse, but spent most of his time working on what he called the oNLine System (NLS), a system for organizing networked information. Wrote paper “Augmenting Human Intellect.” Check out presentation… (On YouTube as well.)

Current Web is built for individual user. Engelbart’s would’ve been more of a two-way street. Lots of attempts at workarounds today, but not the extent Engelbart would’ve liked to have seen. Current browsers don’t support identity management, etc. Check out HyperScope.

Ted Nelson — Cited by Tim Berners Lee as the person who’s ideas Berners-Lee worked off of. Nelson did a lot of research on the edges of respectability. Coined term “hypertext” in 1965. Promoted a very humanist vision of computing… Let people connect without institutional filters. Wrote book “Literary Machines.” Basically his idea of what would become the Web. Though of idea of putting live documents in other documents. If one was updated, from a practical standpoint both would be updated.

Nelson’s web would’ve had two way links, transclusion (documents updating each other), and intellectual property controls. (Currently some folks at Google working on browser that includes transclusion.) Nelson currently thinks the current web is pretty weak overall.

Andries Van Dam — Early collaborator of Nelson. Came up with Hypertext Editing System (HES).

Short on time… Running through IRIS, PARC, etc.

What might a next generation look like? Facebook has some examples… Links work in two ways, identity control, and acts as a framework for apps and other solutions. Just one example, others heading in this direction.

Wright has a book that has a chapter on some of this: Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages.

Posted in SXSW,SXSW Panels at 11:30 am

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

in transit—a lame attempt at a homepage since 1996—is a service of Mark Danielson and
© 1996-2006 by Mark Danielson. All rights reserved unless specifically noted.