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Category: Deep Literacy

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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Liquid | Reader Browser Plugin

Liquid Web Browser plugin for Safari and/or Chrome and/or Firefox, depending on ease of initial implementation.

Liquid | Reader Browser Plugin

Main functions: Download PDF with citation information & Augmented Copying.

Preferences include simple on/off options:

‘Auto-Append Citation Information if found?[]’

‘Augmented Copy on regular cmd-c (•) or shift-command-c?()’

With brief descriptions of each function.

Download PDF with Citation Information

User visits an academic download site (initially supporting https://dl.acm.org/) and searches for a document and finds one which the user then chooses to download. The downloaded PDF will automatically have all the citation information pasted as metainformation, ready for use by Liquid | Reader, Liquid | View and other applications:

The plugin checks all pages for citation information, such as BibTeX (the authors of the document, the title and so on).

If the user chooses to download a PDF the plugin shows a dialog to the user (same as Author’s citation dialog) which the user can OK, amend and OK or choose Ignore. Unless the user chooses Ignore then all the meta will be assigned to the PDF in the Get Info window, as though it was exported originally like this. There will also be an option to ‘Do not show this dialog in the future’ and stay with last used preference.

Liquid | Reader will use this information so that if a user copies text from such a Rich PDF, all the citation information will be automatically appended and if the user pastes into Author it will paste as a citation. The forthcoming Liquid | View graph application can also use this meta-information. Since this will follow the Adobe PDF Meta information standards, other applications are open to using it too, where supported: https://www.prepressure.com/pdf/basics/metadata

Augmented Copy

The user can copy from any web page and the clipboard payload will also contain in-page addressability, where possible, and author name, also where possible, in a citation ready format. Christopher Gutteridge may support this effort.

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Citation Lifts

A practical problem in the literature review process is when the user comes across a citation in a document they are reading which looks interesting. The user will need to decide whether to ignore the citation, highlight it somehow for follow up later, follow the citation and either simply add it to a list or management software as another item to the stack or stop reading the current document read the cited document then and there.

To deal with this, the Liquid Reader will therefore allow the following action when a user comes across a citation in a standard PDF document:

The user selects the cited text, including the bracketed citation name & date or the superscript number and chooses a ‘Lift’ command. The software then (automatically and invisibly to the user) jumps to the end of the document for the References/bibliography section where it scans for the reference and uses the extra information to search for it online.

The search results is then presented to the user who can choose to tag and colour code the citation and/or write a note.

If possible, the user can also download the document at this stage. On ‘Save,’ the citation is added to the user’s list of literature review documents for access by any of the above meta-information (where it was found, text in the quote, tag, date found etc.) for opening in the Liquid Reader or Liquid View. Import in a citation management system is also an option.

This will deal with the issue of ‘analog-hyperlinks’ where attention becomes diluted by (potentially useful) distractions by providing the simple function to Lift the cited document to access in a findable way later, while at the same time building up a picture of the knowledge space.

Documents using the suggested Rich PDF formats will be able to support this process more robustly but it should be possible to enable on most PDF documents.

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