Xanadu and Second Life - Jan 31, 2006
You: This is my first discussion to lead in SL, but hopefully not my last :)
You: I will "chat" from the notecard a sentence or two at a time, and just chime in with your comments or questions.
[This was a mistake, as it distracted me and bored the others present. Future discussions will give those attending time to read the notecard, then we will discuss it.]
You: How many of you have heard of the Xanadu software project?
  Angela Salome: I've read about it on the web.        
    Arnold Adams: I have a long time ago      
      Lee Enfield: I have heard it mentioned vaguely in conversation.    
You: Xanadu and Second Life
You: Discussion description:
You: Xanadu is the longest-running unfinished software project in history. Find out what it is, why it matters, what are it's goals, and how it seeks to replace or at least radically change the World Wide Web.
You: Brief history:
You: Xanadu is the brainchild of Ted Nelson, the inventor of the words "hypertext" and "hypermedia". He started the design in 1960. A partial working version was implemented in 1981, and another non-working version in 1988.
You: Work is now in progress on a new and re-designed version.
You: What is it?
You: Xanadu is an advanced hypertext system. First, it is not just a specific single program.
You: It is a set of specifications or features for how literature is to be created and read (listened to and viewed).
You: There will be probably just one server type, but perhaps more than one. I don't know that yet. But there will be many ways to interact with that server(s).
You: It could also incorporate some peer-to-peer communication, processing, and file backup. Xanadu assumes a certain basic philosophical viewpoint in it's design.
You: I don't mean a political or religious philosophy, because those who use Xanadu will span the gamut of those.
You: But a philosophy of knowledge (the technical word is epistemology) that assumes there is not just one "neutral point of view" on a topic, but that everyone is entitled to have their own view and to have the freedom to present it fully and in it's best and fullest context.
You: any comments so far?
  Angela Salome: I remember finding it difficult to understand the software behind Xanadu.        
You: I will also open up for more duscussion at the end as well.          
  Angela Salome: OK        
You: yes, much of the writing about it has been difficult to understand.          
  Angela Salome: Ted Nelson going to Japan and then his websites evaporating was disturbing.
Angela Salome: Let's carry on.
You: a lot of it is written by the programmers, who have at times invented new words without defining them.
You: Yes, Ted has been difficult to keep track of at times. But he has friends like me who try to help explain things.
  Angela Salome: :)        
You: (continuing) and fullest context. This is in stark contradiction to the philosophy of the wikipedia, whose moderators believe that everyone should write in a Neutral Point Of View (NPOV).
You: The problem with that, I believe, it that such a thing does not exist (at least that is my own non-neutral point of view).
        GavinLeigh Wake: So you envisage a huge database of opposing views..... where the expectation is that people will chose which view to have ?  
      Lee Enfield looks relieved, for it is impossible
Lee Enfield winks, though he typed slowly
You: There will be opportunities for all points of view to be explained in full.          
        GavinLeigh Wake: But doesn't that really lead to ambiguity in knowledge ?  
    Arnold Adams: It seems to me like Xanadu is a philosophical project but even more so a technical project, what I wonder is what can you technically acheive with Xanadu that you can't with the other markup languages?      
        GavinLeigh Wake: Or are you just saying there are no right answers..... just the one you think is right ?  
You: I think everyone should choose what they want to believe, and not be pressured to accept something just because it is popular.          
      Lee Enfield: different points of view will reveal different knowledge.    
  Angela Salome: I think the information in Xanadu is more intended for philosophy than for sciences.        
        GavinLeigh Wake: No black or white..... just shades of gray.  
You: it will be intended for all "fields" of knowledge.          
        GavinLeigh Wake: I think you they are expecting a lot from a viewing public who preferes to be polarized.  
    Arnold Adams: but what stops you technically from using other markup language to get to that goal?      
  Angela Salome: The quoting and never breaking links.        
You: Some will believe in black or white and be given the opportunity to defend and explain their position, others can defend the grey.          
    Arnold Adams: with lets say a wiki and a relational database      
  Angela Salome: Links to text fragments.        
        GavinLeigh Wake: I guess you are going to run into all kinds of problems when you have multiple answers to multiple questions... and no way of weighting them for validity.
GavinLeigh Wake: The relationships between the data will be very complex.
You: This aspect of Xanadu is not dependent on imbedded markup, but the independence of content from markup has other advantages.          
      Lee Enfield: Surely when presented with evidence and ideas people will select what they see fit.    
          Kipp Patton: Please all, let him speak
    Arnold Adams: But thats dangerous unless you can also have opinions on how this should be done or on how much text has to be quoted
Arnold Adams: etc
          Kipp Patton: there will be plenty of time for question's and comments at the end
        GavinLeigh Wake: I agree with Arnold.
GavinLeigh Wake: <<< hushing
You: Anyone can create an overall explanation of how they see things, and others can link to that.          
  Angela Salome: There's more on Jack's site: http://hyperworlds.org/        
You: as for how much text can be quoted, we are used to being able to only communicate in soundbites, because we have one straight thread of discussion, as we have right here.
You: But what if there were several visible threads, with lines linking them visually, and popup windows showing related material.
You: That would be one possible way to view the discussion, there would be others.
You: But there would be no one official board of editors to decide, "this is a permissible viewpoint, this is not".
You: I am biased by my life experiences, knowledge, what I had for breakfast, how much sleep I had, and dozens of other factors.
You: Everyone has these biases, and Xanadu allows for that. The wikipedia does not.
You: The mass media does not, except for allowing a limited number of viewpoints to be considered. With Xanadu, there are no limits to the number of points of view.
You: There isn't just one current version of an article. There may be hundreds, or even thousands.
You: There will be filtering and rating systems in place to find the most or least popular ones, or ones recommended by those you trust, but all will be accessible.
You: They won't be censored by an official editorial board of directors.
You: I would add that even the filters can be created by anyone.
You: OK, enough of picking on wikipedia already. I can just imagine all you wikipedians out there ready to through your mouses through your monitors. I love the wikipedia's contents.
You: I just want to see it worph into a form that truly allows for the diversity of viewpoints that really exist.* I want its' contents to be incorporated into Xanadu when it is implemented.
You: I want to be able to edit any article into my personal version, using what is already there, but reinterpreting it according to the point of view I have of this universe I have lived in.
You: Everyone knows a different set of facts, has lived life with a different set of experiences.
You: There will be great amounts of overlap between what you and I know and believe; but also real and profound differences,
You: and Xanadu seeks to give both the overlap and differences their full expression in their full context.
You: * footnote: It is easy for those who agree to agree that they agree [Wikipedias NPOV], much harder to first listen and learn what others believe, fully and in context - before expressing where and why we disagree, or even (if more appropriate) to give it some thought before saying anything.
You: (even the chat here has severe limits on sentence length)
  Angela Salome: It's a pain.        
You: This requires real patience and understanding and a willingness to let our own beliefs form in our own minds, and not just be absorbed unthinkingly from our culture.
You: What is the best way to find out what conservatives, liberals, marxists, capitalists, atheists, Christians, Moslems, evolutionists, creationists, intelligent-designists, materialists, libertarians, mystics and materialists, and thousands of others believe?
You: Ask them to explain their beliefs, fully, in context, without interruption, in as much detail as they desire.
You: But don't just allow for one representative of each categorized system of belief. Allow for as many as want to contribute.
You: And allow each to use each other's material as a starting point and just make any additions, subtractions, and modifications as they want.
You: Don't allow anyone's document in it's original form to be modified, but rather becoming a new version of that document or part of a new document created by the author or anyone else.
You: We can't come closer together as a world by pretending we all agree, which is something that will never happen.
You: It is better to just acknowledge that the differences exist and quit attacking our own straw-man versions of what we think someone else believes.
You: Instead, have direct access and full quotation rights to the actual source documents.
You: The full quotation rights will be granted in advance, upon publication of any document: movie, book, article, song, or multimedia 3D thoughtspace.
You: (The next part relates to markup)
You: Keeping all documents in an unchangeable form, as a version, has great advantages. We can compare it to any other version.
You: We can quote from it and know that it will not dissappear.
You: We can link to it and know the link will not break in the future. This, of course, is not true of the web, as any web designer knows from experience.
You: Isn't what we have now "good enough"? Well, it's good enough until something better comes along. Black and white tv was good enough until color came along.
You: Cassette tapes were good enough until CD's came along, then mp3's, etc. But there are some things that were never good enough to begin with.
You: Eight-track tapes were never reliable enough to be more than a passing fad, while cassette tapes are still with us.
You: And I believe the web with it's embedded HTML and other markup is just a passing fad.
You: It is just barely usable, but has so many flaws, that it will force its' own replacement to emerge.
You: "What is popular is not always right; what is right is not always popular." - from the movie "10 Things I Hate About You".
You: I am completely starting over on the Hyperworlds website. Why? For 2 main reasons. I have learned a lot since I started it, so my mental landscape has changed.
You: Also, the web is changing to what is now called "Web 2.0". So my approach needs to be different.
You: I want to still make all the old documents available, as well as incorporating many of them, some with changes, in the new "website".
You: I put "website" in quotes because it will be in more forms than just webpages.
You: If I was using Xanadu, rather than the current tools, I could reformat it into many different views without having to "import" the text and images into each new "view".
You: They would be there already just by selecting that "view". For example, Second Life would be a way to "view" Xanadu.
          Kipp Patton: Interesting
You: That is my way of pointing out the disadvantage of embedded markup. I will explain more about that at the end.
You: What would it be like getting an education in Xanadu?
You: First off, forget everything you know or think you know about how we educate. There will be no subjects, no curriculum.
You: (no one set of them)
You: Tests and degrees will be optional and relegated to secondary status.
You: Start with a massive collection of highly interconnected documents in Xanadu and your curiousity. Your curiosity is your teacher and guide.
You: Now just start reading anywhere, listen, watch, start learning. When you find something you don't understand, leave a marker where you are and look for the answer.
You: When you find it, leave an annotation where you were and a trail of links to the answer you found, along with any notes about your own thoughts on the reasoning and answer to the question.
You: Knowledge-gaining becomes a cumulative process of following your curiosity, seeking answers to your questions, finding paths to reaching your goals.
You: But you can be as much of a participant in the process as you want.
You: Instead of just reading a pre-defined textbook in which you have no input, you are helping to write the next version of it, and it is not confined to the narrow walls of two book covers.
You: You have stood on the shoulders of many giants and add to what they built in many areas.
You: Someone else stands on your shoulders and keeps right on going.
You: Forget the constraints of editors, peer-review approval, printing presses that solidify knowledge into unchangeable chunks of wood slivers, and requirements that you be degreed into a narrow specialty before you can comment on it.
You: Some of those will still be possible even inside Xanadu, but they will be parallel threads, not the whole fabric.
You: After you have accumulated a reasonable amount of expertize in a "field" of knowledge, and wish to be "certified", you can take the necessary tests and be officially recognized, if that is needed.
You: But if you are working on an open source project or a more enlightened company where competence is more important than degrees,
You: you can just go to work (perhaps building that next Xanadu front-end view).
You: Xanadu is pluralism taken to the extreme, so all options are always open for exploration.
You: In fact, I think the dictionary definition of pluralism is too narrow, and will have to be redefined after Xanadu, or a new word invented to encompass the new possibilities.
You: end of script, now more discussion
  Angela Salome: Whew!        
    Arnold Adams: :)      
  Angela Salome: It's a big, big, big project.
Angela Salome: It's biggest problem is understanding it then making it.
You: yes, it is, but is in reality many projects
You: yes, the documentation is sparce
  Angela Salome: nods.        
    Arnold Adams: not to mention its spread over many years      
  Angela Salome: I found some good documentation here:
Angela Salome: http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?XanaduProject
You: that has been one problem it has had all along
You: I will check that out
  Angela Salome: Last time I looked (several years ago), that didn't exist.
Angela Salome: There's a description of Zig Zag in there, but I didn't have time to understand it.
You: I just found a webcast about 15 minutes before our discussion I didn't know existed.
  Angela Salome: :)        
You: zigzag is best experienced using a program [gzz or zzz]          
          Kipp Patton: what is zig zag?
You: it is itself a parallel software project that will one day be merged with Xanadu
You: zigzag is similar to a spreadsheet, but much more
    Arnold Adams: So what are the reasons most of it has not been in widespread use yet?      
You: a spreadsheet is 2D, zigzag had many more dimensions          
  Angela Salome: http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?ZigZag        

You: I think the biggest reason for it's failure was that it was ahead of it's time, the tools to build it didn't exist before
You: but they are starting to come into place

    Arnold Adams: I am assuming its opensource?      
You: yes          
    Arnold Adams: Does the project have to go through any standards to be implemented on the web?      

You: Ted Nelson has copyrights on names to prevent their misuse on other unrelated software
You: there is a project beginning to do some of it on the web
You: the problem is that the web is too "browser" like, and not a good editor

    Arnold Adams: Well I think its a terrific idea given I would be cognitively enhanced to deal with all the branching and versions, since text is pretty linear to start with I wonder how it changes the way we parse text      
You: some browsers now allow editing, but without good version control that is automatic, it is not enough
You: what do you mean "parse text"?
    Arnold Adams: Just looking for 1 word in wikipedia I can end up with 12 tabs open in FF
Arnold Adams: I mean to process it all
Arnold Adams: And I am concerned philosophically about how this is affecting my perception of it
You: yes, there will need to be many summaries, but anyone will be allowed to make them.          
    Arnold Adams: And the problem about what is presented first      
You: There will be many more visual clues also          
      Lee Enfield: A friend of mine here had a multidimensional project with many similar properties, though it was much smaller I'm sure. I will find out exactly what he was doing and pass it on to you or have him contact you.    
You: such as lines linking specific text
You: OK, I am looking forward to that
  Angela Salome: The C2 wiki is a pretty good reference at the moment.        
    Arnold Adams: I mean there is still the problem of judging what comes first
Arnold Adams: even in a table of content or summary
Arnold Adams: The thing I fear is basically the google effect
You: no one person decides what comes first [each person can have their own view based on their own preferences]          
    Arnold Adams: where the most relevant is not necessarily at the top
Arnold Adams: well if no one decides, what does come first?
  Angela Salome: Everyone goes to the first site in the search results list?        
You: anyone can build their own index built on top of someone else's index          
    Arnold Adams: something somewhere has to put up what shows up first      
  Angela Salome: People build indexes.
Angela Salome: Angie's list of great sites.
You: you find someone you trust who has an index and start there.          
    Arnold Adams: Angela: More like first result can either be most relevant, or most pointed to site, or some other algorithm      
  Angela Salome: Bob Brown's great movies of all time.        
      Lee Enfield: you look for key words that are telling.    
You: and you make indexes of your favorite indexes, if you want          
      Lee Enfield: that separate useful from non-useful. touchstone words.    
You: some indexes will be algorithmically built on link popularity, like Google
You: others will be created by ratings
    Arnold Adams: I see      
You: If Google makes a Xanadu index, I can make my own index where I have all of their stuff, plus my 50 best places.          
      Lee Enfield: but it would still be searchable?    
You: and somebody else can take mine and add to it
You: yes it would be searchable
    Arnold Adams: So are you personally involved with the programming or maintaining of that project?      
You: neither
You: I am an unofficial reporter on my website. I am trying to explain what Xanadu is.
You: I hope it will expedite the programming in some way.
    Arnold Adams: What things right now today would you see could be Xanadu's biggest highlight?      
You: I think it's most important feature is just what I talked about today, helping to present more viewpoints fairly by allowing a better forum for that.          
      Lee Enfield: You have explained it all very well, sir.    
You: thank you. There is so much more I hope to explain in the future.          
    Arnold Adams: But it's mostly a problem of scale really
Arnold Adams: because a small community has all that in a simple forum no?
      Lee Enfield: And collaboration, and an opportunity to work without the travesty of the credential machines our institutions of higher learning have often become.    
You: Scale will be an issue, but I think it is solveable.          
      Lee Enfield: Well things build in scale if they are brilliant and promoted.    
You: yes, when I majored in philosophy, only one viewpoint was presented.          
    Arnold Adams: I guess I'm just having trouble thinking how we can get away cognitively being limited by *how* we go through text linearly      
      Lee Enfield: I am all for multiple viewpoints.    
You: With peer to peer, better languages, better data structures, it will be possible          
      Lee Enfield: There is so much information that is ignored or held only by those of particular viewpoints that are vital information pieces nevertheless.    
    Arnold Adams: I am having doubts about how it would be successful at tracking truth      
You: We will still be able to go through text linearly
You: but will have much better linking capabilites
      Lee Enfield: original documents are always original documents.    
You: yes          
      Lee Enfield: I am an historian maybe, so I am certainly coming from a particular need and point of view.    
    Arnold Adams: Right      
      Lee Enfield grins    
You: all original documents will be cast in concrete
You: but when you write a new version, you will be looking through your revision to the original underneath it.
    Arnold Adams: Is there any danger that in that technology, the line between what is fact and opinion gets blurred?      
      Lee Enfield: That sounds grand!
Lee Enfield: And I still hold that individuals of divergent viewpoints hold vital original information to add too!
You: Just as in our current online world, people can point out innacuracies, Xanadu will make that much easier to do.          
      Lee Enfield: Fact and opinion are always blurred, and mightily in the so-called independant media and even wikipedia.    
You: When you say something in Xanadu, you will be giving everyone permission to link to you.
You: And when someone reads what you wrote yesterday, they will see the links added today to contradict you.
      Lee Enfield grins
Lee Enfield: aces!
You: Even web pages don't usually do that.          
      Lee Enfield: You will still have to decide yourself their motives and reliability, but you will have clues to do so!    
    Arnold Adams: you mean automatically?      
You: and I can quote the one who calls me a liar and point out where they are mistaken.          
      Lee Enfield: Huzzah!    
    Arnold Adams: Is there anything in the code or project that has any machine-side function to process semantics?      
You: yes, and there will be ratings to guide you
You: that will be a function of the front-end programs
    Arnold Adams: but it's not in the specifications per se      
You: each front end will provide a different way to show and interact with the database          
      Lee Enfield: I do not know that I hold with ratings. On the net they are so often illegitimately tampered with...    
    Arnold Adams: Lee: yea I agree      
You: the back-end server will be very strict about how it does things. It will maintain the integrity of the data.          
    Arnold Adams: The other question I have is related about how to integrate the existing databases into Xanadu      
You: but if you can link to a rater who is a shill and point it out, that will discourage it          

Arnold Adams: As I've heard recently from a tech podcast (was it Accelerating change I don't remember) that adding metadata requires about as much resources as the data itself

You: in Xanadu, all markup and metadata is kept separate from the content          
    Arnold Adams: How much of a problem would it be to convert the existing web in a workable foundation for Xanadu?      
You: the current project is taking a stab at that          
      Lee Enfield: Would it not simply link to it as one form of media, which would open according to its usual methods?    
You: it is allowing you to have a webpage that extracts the raw text from parts of other webpages, and each quote is linked to the source.          
    Arnold Adams: interesting      
      Lee Enfield: Aw... if only I could ink all my quotes in my book directly to their sources...    
    Arnold Adams: I guess it can read of the date tag along doing that      
      Lee Enfield weeps at the very idea    
    Arnold Adams: hehe      
You: If you took each web page, and made all the markup into a separate file that could be merged into one format of that page, it could be added to Xanadu
You: With Xanadu, you write or edit the content once, and then it gets put into different format containers, one for wireless phones, one for huge screens, one for SL.
    Arnold Adams: Now That is what am talking about      
You: but you only make your edits once, you don't have to reformat for each destination.          
    Arnold Adams: I understand
Arnold Adams: on a related note, I've heard they are integrating a browser in SL
Arnold Adams: from the Mozilla API I believe
You: yes [it will make discussions like this easier]          
      Lee Enfield: Hm. That presents more of a problem than I was envisioning. It can only accept its own format as links?    
You: yes, it will be a web browser inside SL. Surprisingly I see that as a good thing. I wish it could be Xanadu, but it isn't ready for prime time yet.          
    Arnold Adams: so its basic building block is basically a container that can have multiple form depending on what calls it?
Arnold Adams: lets say I have a RSS podcast link that points to your submitted document
Arnold Adams: would it download the file were there audio attached to it?
You: even with CSS, you have embedded markup. It's better than plain HTML, but is still a problem where radically different formats are needed.          
    Arnold Adams: I think there has been too much emphasis on how documents are presented rather than how much, in what order, and relevance      
You: if they were online, it would download, or it could be pre-loaded onto their iPod
You: absolutely
    Arnold Adams: So yea, hearing all this today, am all for it :)
Arnold Adams: It clears out a lot of queries I had about it
You: with Xanadu, any document could have any number of formats. One with big bold blinking text, another plain text, and variations in between.          
    Arnold Adams: thats the part I don't care about      
You: and if you don't like the format, redo it to suit yourself. [or pick another format for it that someone else has already done]          
    Arnold Adams: What I care about is that if I visit document X that talks about Y, I want this document to know that I have philosophical position Z and present me Y in that light      
You: that would be possible.          
      Lee Enfield: wow. I want as many documents as possible so I can compare and contrast. starting with original documents    
You: You could have more than one "wikipedia", one to please every taste. Continued next page, as Dreamweaver has reached it's limit on ability to display this table.