Jack Seay Weblog

Oct 8, 2003

from "Band Of Brothers" miniseries, episode 3

You know why you hid in that ditch, Blythe?

I was scared.

We're all scared. You hid in that ditch because you think there was still hope. But Blythe, the only hope you have is to accept the fact that you're already dead. And the sooner you accept that, the sooner you'll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function; without mercy, without compassion, without remorse. All war depends upon it.

My comment: I have sadly worked for businesses that take this approach to dealing with customers as disposable sources of revenue. The method of war is to kill people and destroy property. This should not be true of business. I recently had to quit a job where the company required of me that I care more about their methodology than for people. I listened to several of them cry because of the injustice of a ruthless and inflexible system. I will hear them crying in my memory for the rest of my life.

By the way, I love this miniseries. Watch it if you haven't. To prevent needless repetition of the same kinds of suffering in the future, we must understand the past.

What we need to replace the Web.

I have been reading about some of the options for ultra-complicated website production. It is mind-numbing. What it all means to me is that if someone has an idea for what they want a truly interactive website to be, they must have a huge budget to hire a lot of geniuses who understand 10 or 20 massive and complicated tools and languages to implement it. If I had a better idea for an auction site than eBay, I couldn't get it done for less than tens of millions of dollars. And that would not include the marketing.

I want tools that will allow anyone with a reasonable amount of intelligence to put their ideas into production fast, cheap and easy. It must support programmability without being cryptic, interactivity that is more than just buttons and forms. It needs to have versioning, transclusions, automatic payments, and infinite dimensions and 2-way unbreakable linking, all as standard built-in tools. It needs to support all forms of media: text, video, 3D and 2D animation. It needs to be cross-platform, scalable, flexible, and as simple as it's requirements can allow.

As for what I think is closest to this now, I would say Revolution has some, but not all the requirements. Rebol View/IOS has many, but still lacks good Mac support. tk3 is my choice for interactive books.

None of these, however, has the many unique Xanadu features included. Maybe they could be added.

Fenfire related projects look promising to eventually have all I require. I still play around with gzz sometimes, and look forward to some fenfire applications I can work with soon.

It needs to have the capabilities of all the best types of current software built-in. Some of the features could be pay as you use (using the built-in payment system). Most of the basic capabilities should be included at no extra cost.

I realize I am asking for something that doesn't exist yet. But parts of it exist in different programs and languages. It's just a matter of putting it all together. Not an easy task, but I believe it can and will be done. The main task, as I see it, is to design a replacement for the current file system as we know it. This file system should allow current programs to be modified to take advantage of all the core elements of Xanadu. As to whether or not this will be possible is speculation. It may require writing most or all of the software from scratch. Some of the processes that will need to be included are data organization and manipulation; and image, text, video, sound, and 3D object processing, and interaction with users, programmers, and between the various media.

Oct 11, 2003

What current programs give us ideas on what Xanadu will be like?

Try out some of these programs and try to imagine using all their capabilities without limits and interacting with people all over the world as you do so. Buying and selling, editing, modifying, linking, reorganizing, never destroying the originals. As you describe what you want you enlist the help of others to attain it, and help them in their creations. When you watch, listen, and read; as you think of what book or movie or music it reminds you of, you can quickly find the segment of that work and link to and from it.

Thinker: locally and globally collapsible outlines, easy link creation, massive document handling, multiple windowing, remote targetting of links (open in other specified window), links to other programs, see-thru links (transclusions), viewing first lines of paragraphs, everything editable all the time (including text attributes), collaborative editing on a network

token_word: automatic payments, transclusions. This may be a small feature set, but it is two of the most important of Xanadu's capabilities, and ones that make so many things possible, including versioning and elimination of copyright restrictions that inhibit creativity and the ability to critique documents freely.

tk3: highlighting of text, adding "sticky-notes", embedding of other media, pop-up mini-spotlight windows, dog-eared pages, automatic indexing of all your notations and marks, creating your own notebook. The main thing I would want to add is that everything be editable all the time, as in the tk3 authoring program.

Revolution and Rebol View: easy to learn programming environments

fenfire: cluster diagrams that change focus to the highlighted node

gzz: infinite dimensions and multiple view modes, very fun to play around with

quicktime movies and VR: audio, video, animation, simple recording methods (using video to produce a virtual reality)

Photoshop and After Effects: editing in layers of bitmap, and vector drawings, applying special effects and changing attributes over time.

iMovie, Premiere, and Final Cut: timeline drag and drop editing of audio and video. If you could imagine adding all the other features of the other programs mentioned here, the possibilities to creative expression become enourmous. You could reorder the segments of any movie, reversing them as in Memento; allow branching to various alternate paths as in Run, Lola, Run; add your own audio commentary; and link to other similar movie segments. Many of the special features and menus on DVD's hint at the possibilities, but add the ability to make changes and it gets interesting.

Abora: highly visual display of editing a document (showing differences between any 2 versions), transclusions

Oct 15, 2003

I am learning to use Cinema 4D now. It is similar to Maya. I have also used Lightwave in the past. Suppose you were to add Internet collaborative capabilities, versioning, micro-payments, hypertext links, live audio feeds, etc. to it. Add all the abilities from the Xanadu and zigzag toolsets. Objects, polygons, edges, or points I have selected would be "checked out" to me for as long as I have selected them. Or perhaps I could check out objects or groups of objects. In addition to 3D objects, there would also be nD objects (and groups and arrays of them), animations, audio, video, text objects, etc. I could be speaking or playing my keyboard. Everyone within a specified radius of me in the 3D virtual world could hear me and I could hear them. I could be recording or not as I wished. I and everyone else could be editing and browsing the virtual world using all the tools normally available to a 3D modeler and animator, as well as the audio, visual, text and other tools for all other media in the world. Some of the tools could be cross-media, so what I am playing on a keyboard could affect a lightshow and 3D models in real-time, so there could be dancing bears and fireworks (or something much more abstract) to accompany my music. Or ambient 3D sounds could be automatically generated to go along with an animation I am creating. Animations could have game rules applied to them for interaction with participants, and the rules could be changed as the "game" is being played. Add the tools available in programs such as Mathematica, Maple, and Graphing Calculator and allow them to interact with the painting, 3D, and music tools. Continue to think of all the other types of software tools that have been created. How could they interact with each other and other people in a collaborative networked environment with a full set of advanced hypertext tools?

Oct 17, 2003

When thinking of when is the next moment of time or the next point on a line, "normal" numbers are completely inadequate. There is only the continuum. There is no next point on the line. There is no next moment in time. Any that we try to pinpoint can be infinitely sub-divided and re-divided again an infinite number of times for eternity. The point on a line that designates the number 1 can be imagined but not seen. It is the location that divided all the points before from those after. But you can never imagine the location of the point just to the left or the right. Any that you try to imagine contain an infinite number of points between them and 1.

Oct 23, 2003

There is a "visualizer" program called G-Force for a music program called Audion (and also iTunes). G-Force is a beautiful work of art and science. It combines animation, music, and mathematics in a way rarely acheived. I can watch it for hours and never see repitition. Software like this has much to teach about mathematics. What a great way to teach math, if you could teach students to produce great works of art by creating the equations that produce it. They could also produce the music that modifies it and maybe learning some computer programming in the process.

I have tried some very interesting multimedia authoring software the past few days. It has great features as far as it goes, but it needs to go further, to be able to have many links from a point to many other points, from a span to other spans, and combinations of these, versioning, infinite dimensions. If the feature sets of several programs could be combined, there would be some amazing capabilities. I am learning Cinema 4D, Body Paint, and After Effects now. It's great to be able to paint and sculpt in 3 dimensions, and layer and animate it with sound tracks. But add to that the ability for user modification into their own versions, unlimited linking, and cross-comparision, combined with all the products of millions of people in producing knowledge and information over the past few thousand years. It will be a great educational playground that won't require the whips, chains and straightjackets of our current intellectual assembly lines.

Cinema 4D has some interesting capabilities in addition to the above mentioned ones. All the menus, commands, windows and subwindows can be changed just by dragging them around. It's kind of a pattern for an easy to use programming environment. With a few changes, perhaps it could become one.

Oct 29, 2003

If there is no hereafter after here, then what are we here for?