Ted Nelson Thread on Hacker News

.. It’s easy to dismiss Ted Nelson as some old crazy man who spent his life selling snake oil when you’re behind your computer, but the reality of it is that he contributed a lot to the field and is deeply respected amongst his peers. He was a close friend of Engelbart, his work valued by his contemporaries, and there’s a reason for which he was invited at the Homebrew Computer Club reunion a few months ago. Nelson’s work gives us an insight on what computing could have looked like, in some weird parallel world.

He is controversial, perhaps; and some of his ideas/claims may be unpractical/unrealistic/etc. – but ignoring and dismissing him only sends the message that you’re not as much of an expert as your rhetoric attempts to make you out to be.

.. Alas, this believer in transclusion also deeply feels it’s important that authors need to be paid, himself included. Perhaps he’d have a better chance to impact history in a meaningful way if he opted to give away for free the works making that case? Very few will have a chance to be exposed to the ideas Ted Nelson promotes: the range of books you suggest shows the impossibility of ever getting a comprehensive look into his view.

.. More to the point, if he’d opted to open source the code.

In Computer Lib/Dream Machines, one of the systems Nelson describes and lauds is Calvin Mooers’s TRAC macro language. Mooers took his IP seriously and defended it seriously. You can read his argument in favor of copyright to protect software in a Computing Surveys issue from some decades ago. Mooers protected TRAC right into oblivion–if even 1% of those who read HN have ever heard of it, I’ll be amazed.

..There’s an open source code dump of two versions on udanax.xanadu.com. “Xanadu Gold” is the most insane codebase I’ve ever seen — implemented in Smalltalk but intended for automatic translation to C++.

.. A friend of mine says Xanadu got quite a bit further, but failed hard at the end because they’d not bothered to do and keep viable the total end to end use case. Specially, to actually interact with the system and display a document was so hard and cumbersome it never had a chance of being adopted (by pretty much anyone, let alone widely), whatever other problems there might have been with the project.

Hyper-compensation: Ted Nelson and the impact of journalism

Before you can begin to measure impact, you need to first know who’s talking about you. While analytics platforms provide referrers, social media sites track reposts, and media monitoring tools follow mentions, these services are often incomplete and come with a price. Why is it that, on the internet — the most interconnected medium in history — tracking linkages between content is so difficult?

The simple answer is that the web wasn’t built to be *fully* connected, per se. It’s an idiosyncratic, labyrinthine garden of forking paths with no way to navigate from one page to pages that reference it.

.. We’ve spent the last few months thinking about and building an analytics platform called NewsLynxwhich aims to help newsrooms better capture the quantitative and qualitative effects of their work. Many of our features are aimed at giving newsrooms a better sense of who is talking about their work. This seemingly simple feature, to understand the links among web pages, has taken up the majority of our time. This obstacle turns out to be a shortcoming in the fundamental architecture of the web. But without it, however, the web might never have succeeded.

.. In his latest book “Who Owns the Future?”, Jaron Lanier discusses two-way linking as a potential solution to copyright infringement and a host of other web maladies. His logic is that if you could always know who is linking where, then you could create a system of micropayments to make sure authors get proper credit. His idea has its own caveats, but it shows the systems that two-way linking might enable. Chapter Seven of Lanier’s book discusses some of the other reasons Nelson’s idea never took off.

.. The inefficiency of one-way links left a hole at the center of the web for a powerful player to step in and play librarian. As a result, if you want to know how your content lives online, you have to go shopping for analytics.

How to Think (with) Thinkertoys: Electronic Literature Collection, Volume 1 by Adalaide Morris

his long-term goal was to sabotage the linear-thinking that not only generates these notions of testing but makes the world safe for slogans, sound-bytes, and by-the-book spiritualities. Administered from the top-down and engineered to shape both knowledge and the students who absorb it into manageable “subjects,” school systems, he writes, “all run on the same principles: iron all subjects flat then proceed, in groups, at a forced march across the flattened plane” (308).

.. If in Nelson’s terminology each of these texts is a “thinkertoy” – “a computer display system that helps you envision complex alternatives” (330)

.. In calling the microcomputer a “thinkertoy,” Nelson claims it for tinkerers who want to go beyond the linear rigidities – the mental rods, logical connectors, conceptual end caps, pulleys, and spools – in place since Euclid, Newton, and Descartes. The difference that gave Nelson hope for the education system was the clarity, power, speed, fluidity, and on-the-fly versatility of digital culture’s conceptual toolkit.

.. Most of the collection’s poems not only dash but actively smash the conventions of the mainstream lyric. Properly speaking, only a few contain anything that resembles lines or stanzas: the basic unit of these pieces is, in fact, often either a letter

.. the reader of a digital poem may experience herself in one of a number of uneasy subject positions: adrift in a quasi-paranoid place in which everything signifies but nothing clearly declares its meaning

.. If there’s no speaker, no biographically or psychologically recognizable poet, no fixed or predictable rhyme or meter, and a scarcity of stabilizing aphorisms and culminating images, what makes these multimedia constructions “poems”?

.. Nelson’s manifesto rides on the faith that sustained most sixties liberation movements: the idea that once we rid the world of restraints, we can reclaim our birthright – the amplitude of our freedom and sexuality, racial justice and equality, equitable distribution of economic assets, and, not least, “our intelligence, curiosity, enthusiasm, and intellectual initiative and self-confidence.”

.. computers have not so much liberated us as reconfigured notions of control and freedom, protocol, power, and subjectivity for a decentralized, post-industrial, networked information society.15

.. The gaze of the teacher, like the gaze of a patriarch, sergeant, shop steward, physician, psychiatrist, or prison guard, does not, in Foucault’s account, “repress” some essential pre-given nature – an amplitude we are “born with” – so much as produce the norms and possibilities within and against which we improvise a life.

.. The waning of books and teachers’ dirty looks is happening, however, not, as Nelson predicted, through “computer lib” but rather through what might appear to be its flipside: digital technology’s increasing capacities for “continuous control and instant communication”

Text of the 2014 Commencement address by Bill and Melinda Gates

When Paul Allen and I started Microsoft, we wanted to bring the power of computers and software to the people – and that was the kind of rhetoric we used. One of the pioneering books in the field had a raised fist on the cover, and it was called Computer Lib. At that time, only big businesses could buy computers. We wanted to offer the same power to regular people – and democratize computing.

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