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Month: April 2019

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In working on the dynamic view’s citation analysis space I had a hard time thinking about exactly what useful views should be possible, apart from chunking and labelling and timeline. I found Advanced Visual Analytics Methods for Literature Analysis which had some interesting ideas but the main point, which is quite obvious, is that it’s easier to to do ‘distance reading’ if you have access to the contents of the documents. For example, in this mockup, which doesn’t use documents, just headings but let’s pretend they are documents, the user has performed a search (cmd-f and type, then ‘enter’) for the keyword ‘Hypertext’ and it appears on the screen with lines connecting it to where that text appears in the other nodes (which could be documents/citations). This can of course only happen if the system knows what the nodes contain. 

Therefore we are adding a text field in Author for the user to paste any/all the contents of the document to enable this analysis but that text will not be readable or extractable by a user, to hopefully allay copyright fears.

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Un-Leash

When going to bed night before last I flipped through the recommended youTube channels and there was a live cast of the first time Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy had all three boosts safely return to earth. I felt I was watching real human progress, it was amazing and uplifting.

This was also the easter weekend when my son Edgar and I took a (minor) part in the Climate Extinction protest which is also uplifting and inspiring.

This easter was the easter when the roof of the Notre Dame caught fire and had near-instant billion dollar pledges for support to fix it. As a species we have an amazing capacity to do amazing things, but often we don’t. The same human ego that drives massive wealth accumulation needs massive ego reward to spend the money–being important to the future of humanity or even to today isn’t enough.

Last night I watched Elon Musk’s Tesla’s Autonomy Day with my beautiful wife resting in my arms. It was hugely impressive, uplifting and inspiring. Last night’s far as I can piece together, I dreamt of many of these elements in poetic form.

Today I want to do something. Something big and useful.

I have worked on aspects of symbol manipulation for most of my career and I have had some progress but very limited compared with the potential.

Liquid | Flow is a powerful and, judging by actual user reviews, successful text manipulation utility with just 30,000 downloads but happy users. It allows the user to interact with their textual information far more rapidly than through other means, resulting in searches and references being carried out to check on whether news is fake or not much more often than through traditional means. The main problem with Flow is that it’s hard to communicate what it is, it is very hard to sell to someone who is not already interested in more powerful text.

Liquid | Author has had only 17,000 downloads but has not been on the market very long (a bit over a year) and has only had a brief period of being featured by Apple. Reviews are very good but people are not used to paying for software anymore and that severely lowers the cost per unit I can charge. The only effective marketing tool so far is to have Apple love it and feature it on the App Store and that is not a viable strategy for growth.

I can only see one way out of this and that is build and ship something which is so self-evidently more powerful than what we have today so that traditional and social media will spread the message virally.

To do that we need to explode the grey column traditional text layout but not in a demo-app or isn’t it cool kind of way, but in a way integrated into a useful workflow. Yes, this sounds like what I have been working on forever and it is, but it’s time to take it to the next level. I’ll park Author very soon, there are a few small issues needing fixing but I am concerned that they have turned into excuses as much as anything, so the final version of Author (for this round) will be submitted to Apple on Friday.

It will then be one month of work on the Dynamic View which is important for my PhD but also the most visually clear way I can explode the grey text column in a visually-impressive and work-useful way.

And from there on develop more interactions to usefully impress. How about infinite semantic zooming in both directions? How about graphed glossaries with auto-layout? How about gestures to expand and collapse text to fit the whim of the reader? We can do this and more and we can communicate it.

What happens when we unleash text?

Let’s find out.

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