Why I am optimistic about Xanadu and zigzag.

by Jack Seay

July 18, 20005

Xanadu has failed to materialize after decades of sporadic development. Is it just a lost cause? Has it's time passed? I don't believe so. I think its' time has not yet arrived, but will do so in the near future. I try to be skeptical. But I also doubt my doubts. I ask why something may not work, but then question my answers. So I don't think I am being naive in still having hope for Xanadu. I see lots of less capable systems thriving, but I think they do so because they are just easier to implement. It's not that they meet real needs better. Xanadu has a couple of key concepts I keep coming back to again and again. They are inescapable. Whenever I use software that doesn't have them, I wish it did.

  • Separate format from content.
  • Always keep all versions.

    By separating format from content, you make it much easier to retarget a document to different platforms without having to maintain new changes to many separate content bases. That could quickly become a nightmare. You also allow the same material to be viewed from many angles and viewpoints, and reorganized by many different structuring principles and outlines. You aren't stuck with looking at something in only one way. You can refocus your emphasis according to a particular need without having to start over. By keeping all versions, you allow something to be re-used over and over by the originator and others without harming the original. If you or a client change your mind, you can always see what you have done before and go back to it. You can be completely creative, try out dozens of ideas, then pick the best ones. These are just basic needs I have, like hot water and toilet paper. I can live without them, but it's not always pleasant to do so, and I always miss their absence. Life would just be a lot better with them. That's how I feel about and how I think about Xanadu and zigzag, and why I will continue to support their development until someone can prove these are not important needs. I doubt that will happen.

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