Change is expensive. Standards are hard to change and anything that is not completely open is brittle. Or, why I am hesitant to embrace anything beyond basic web or documents until we develop a proven track record.
What I am trying to do is to evangelise the importance of richly interactive text by talking and writing about it, hosting dialog and by ‘putting my money where my mouth is’ by developing software to demonstrate what I am talking about which is how I make it real.
What I am not trying to do is to remake the whole world which is what some of the great minds have done. We live in a world of electronic infrastructures which are real and exist and are established, much like there is always ground to build a house on–you never build a house in thin air, and changing users habits is very, very hard. This is why I am happy to piggy-back on PDF and WordPress/HTML and web standards such as Linked Data Notifications. We can implement technologies behind the scenes but I am very wary of anything that requires user setup. I am not here to serve the tech geeks, they can take care of themselves. I am here to work on systems for the general knowledge worker who wants to develop a deeper literacy with the systems they can use for their work, but who are more focused on their work than what’s under the hood to make their systems work.
I am also not trying to tie together commercial or emerging standards such as Hypothesis or dokieli (I have tried to find the history and what’s behind the name but I have not found much. This one annoyed me, including the name! But I have a sneaking suspicion part of our future will lie here…) since the work needs to fit into actual workflows–workflow chapter markers or end points or results or whatever we want to call the parts of workflows where there is a standard are very, very hard to change–so that is again why HTML and PDF are important though of course, they need to be improved upon radically.
My main project is Liquid | Author and it’s taken a lifetime of false starts to get here. It is my personal project and I will be the designer with the last word though I of course value and elicit feedback. I saw the General Magic documentary this week and it was both intensely moving and sad but what I remember from the time was that their work environment was too cutesy. I never bought nor wanted any of their products though I was amazed by their vision and the people working there. It may very well be that my own software is out of touch, but reviews by real users convinces me that it’s on the right track.
What I feel I have to focus on is polishing and polishing the actual end-user process of authoring in Author and reading in Reader, while supporting open standards for richer interactions and richer interoperability, hence Visual-Meta and Citation Meta (not sure why only one has a hyphen).
I am hugely excited to be working with the young and brilliant Raine and I’m sure she’ll push me into places I never thought about really, such as IPFS and other enabling infrastructures but she asked me–half jokingly I think–what I have learned since I was her age and my answer is this post:
1. Change is expensive so only change what really needs to be changed
2. Commercial services are not likely to last a thousand years, all companies go out of business
3. Respect the actual user workflow, I really have problems with PDF (it’s frozen!) and WordPress (over-reliance on professionally/paid themes) but you go to the market to sell, you don’t shout outside the castle walls.
And that’s it for this ramble. I’ve had my coffee and the light is coming up. Soon it’s gym and then this afternoon I’ll drive down to Southampton to see my advisor Les for the my PhD. Hopefully not much time will be spent on The Future of Text. And yesterday my beautiful baby boy Edgar turned 2.5. We went to the Extinction Rebellion, spent time with Chris…
…A McLuhan Quote and a call for Frugality (it was all quite moving)…
…hung out at the RSA…