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Category: Liquid | Author

Issue with the logic of WP to Liquid View layouts and back again

This started as a really annoying design problem I thought of late last night, then today after a nice lunch and coffee, I decided to at least write it out, and I think I have reached an useful design approach, as mentioned and illustrated at the end:


This diagram shows a serious issue of how the word processing view should be able to go into Liquid View and back again.

The initial logic for Liquid View was that there would automatically be a dotted connecting line between level 1 and 2, and form level 2 to 3 and so on. There was also an assumption that the user could add further lines to illustrate points in liquid view.

However, in this diagram I have organised purely by layout organisation and using bold for headings. There are no real, structural indications for how headings relate and thus how we can go from Liquid View to WP (word Processing) view and back again. This is a real issue.

For example the section on ‘Keyboard’ control options I have listed the basic options vertically, under the heading ‘Keyboard’ in bold, with no connecting lines:

•  Click
•  Click and hold
•  Click and drag
•  Double Click
•  Ctrl-Click
•  Cmd-Click
•  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,
•  Select Heading, then 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
•  Cmf-F
•  Cmf-Shift-F

The two connecting lines were used to connect to the category/bolded heading ‘Show more or less levels’

•  For whole view
•  For specific Heading

And this is an eminently useful way of working in this liquid view/Scapple/Concept Map space, but it does not immediately suggest how to go back to word processor view.

I did another version where I indicate level 1 to 2 etc via dotted lines (which were not indicated at all in previous diagram) and used slid lines for relationships. This gets messy though, when there is a list which should have lines going in two directions, such as the ‘Liquid View Annotations’ section, at the top:


I’m going to to try another layout, where sub-sections are all vertically in line and user can only snap sections off at a heading and lines are only for relationships. Level 1 relationships (which level one heading comes after another) is not indicated.

Here we go:

In this way of working, all headings are locked, left aligned, under the heading above it. User can drag sub-headings up and down to provide more space, and snap off any sub-heading to place it elsewhere. Unless the user drags that heading to another heading, it remains under the original heading in WP view.

Notes can be entered in italic and inserted into the vertical column layouts (to be shown as sub-heads under the heading in WP view.

Any lines used are purely for liquid view visualisation.

Visually: Level 1 headings are big and bold, level 2 bold but not as big, then level 3 normal size, level 4 a bit smaller.

The video for this exploration, showing the process as I worked:

And this is the scapple document used: Liquid View Interactions


I think that constricting the liquid view into columns can be pretty interesting. Note, after working on the example above, I realised that there were issues with the ‘Gestures’ section and the ‘Liquid View Annotations’ section and cleaned them up like this:


This layout adheres to this layout logic:





It’s important that looking at the information is different from interacting with it, so with that in mind, when selecting a heading, the visualisation could change from showing the plain view, as above. For example:


On click, the heading is highlighted, perhaps with options/buttons showing:


Then on moving, the structure (as shown above), of the column layout, is made clear, so that that user can easily drag to a new space free-form or move the heading to another column stack:


Then the user can drag on top of another heading, which would result in a link/line:


Or between two headings to move across to the new position and visually the selected heading has less of a drop shadow and the headings move out of the way to accommodate it:

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State of Text


It is so incredibly frustrating that having that single word in a document will cause many to be offended and to not want to read any further, while we are in a situation with False News and Alternative Fact and we are not organising ourselves as a species to build systems to augment how we can interact with what we read – we seem to be blind to how important and powerful every word is.

Most communication which is not face to face is via the written word. (Few people have the skills to make a video which will inform or entertain anyone but the most docile friends and family and video is not an effective means for dialog nor non-linear interaction)

Writing is an act of persuasion.

Any written sentence is there to persuade the reader of its veracity and relevance, whether it’s an important government communique or a simple direction to the nearest toilet.

Plato wrote how Socrates was wary of writing since the written word is passive – it cannot be interrogated and therefore can be false or half false. Socrates was wary of False News and Alternative Facts two thousand years ago and now, when the written word is no longer written in stone, papyrus or paper, now that the written word has been liberated into cyberspace, we are tripping over the connections and links more than liberated by them, as a result of ever chasing the Ease-of-Use fairy.

As a species, we have a choice: To take the easy route into blindness and amuse ourselves to death or to accept that we need to invest in becoming more deeply literate – all of us – simply to survive.

How can it be that our species is not investing in developing ever more powerful ways to interact with the written word?

Marshall McLuhan famously said “There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew …” … and I would like to add that we should at least all be able to read the flight manual and contribute to new editions, of this most complex planet with it’s most complex crew. We cannot afford to both drown in data and be helpless to contribute usefully.

The research project I am running at the University of Southampton’s WAIS Group (Web And Internet Science) for my PhD is a focused effort to augment our ability to author with more credibility, of which deep citations is a core component and to read critically.

And today I feel like shit, I feel like finding a mountaintop where I can stand and scream my lungs out all night. I don’t feel empowered, I feel mired in academia and commercial interests.

We use analog copies in a digital world, what some call WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), a term XEROX invented since the point of doing ‘word processing’ was naturally to print out the final result. Doug Engelbart called it WYSIAYG – What You See Is ALL You Get, since all the potential digital interaction is stripped out. We have been using analog media to try to control a digital information world, with PDF as the saddest example.

We can do better.

We really can. The work I am doing at Southampton is a continuation of what I’ve been stumbling forward with for over 20 years now and I am no genius, but I am in comfortable and stable situation so I can afford to look for what might be obvious but also useful. Thus my work has no intellectual property and is therefore not so interesting for business but looks too useful for non-profits to invest in and there you go.

Concretely what I am building as part of the Liquid Project has three parts, the first of which is already available and has gotten very good reviews: Liquid | Flow which allows you to select any text and instantly look up the text in a myriad of resources, searches and you can do translations and more. The second component is a word processor called Liquid | Author where you can instantly add citations, including video citations and finally there is Liquid | Views, which opens up your thinking space to really give you a better view of what you are writing or reading. You can see what it’s all about here, including very brief introduction videos:

Thank you for reading this, or even skimming down to the end, I appreciate your time. This was a poem, this is my frustration and my fear. It is also our opportunity.

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