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Category: HyperGlossary


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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Glossaries in Dynamic View?

The pinch-out gesture results in a Citation View with all cited documents listed in a single column. (A question is still how to integrate glossary terms but I’ll have to freeze that for now–skip ahead to later thinking and this becomes a separate issue).

What is important is to be able to show citations in a loose and ordered manner (timeline etc.) with a good interaction to toggle between them and somehow annotate/present them with the concepts they represent.

So how can we build a system where the main aim is to allow the author to provide a multidimensional view of the concepts they are discussing in the word processing view, with reference to the citations affecting the concepts being connected?

Different Glossaries

There are probably two kinds of concepts here:

  • The ones which are many and belong in a glossary list
  • The few which really informs the document–will they be the same as the headings in the document though? Probably not.

Let’s call these Glossary Terms and Concepts and treat them differently:

  • Glossary Terms, which will continue as currently implemented; outside of the document (stored on WordPress) but linked through cards etc.
  • Concepts as annotations in the Citations/Concept view.

The concepts making the shape of the document–the really big ideas–are not the same as the Glossary Terms but are they the same as the Headings? Probably not, since the Headings include such things as ‘Introduction’ and ‘Conclusion’ etc.

Back and Forth Arguments

Let’s flip it: The pinch-out gesture becomes the Concept View where the user can choose to also view Citations, but how? There is no mechanism for creating or tagging text in the word processor view as Concepts, though of course that can be done, and it’s unlikely to have been done before entering pinch-out.

Maybe a sub-set of the headings are useful as Concepts? Maybe the smallest, level 6? Maybe create a new level, level 7 which will be Concepts but will show up in TOC and Concept view and word processing as normal but bold text?

What about letting Concepts live in the Headings view since they must surely be related to brainstorming? Maybe make pinch-in behave as today, with a long list but the user can re-order it and make pinch-out go to concept mapping?

In the work I am doing the concepts include:

Interactive text including hypertext,
Layout methods including spatial hypertext and other spatial systems and concepts
Interaction methods including visual and semantic zoom, ViewSpecs,
Human cognition including vision and mental load, cognitive fluidity
User tasks including literature review
History of the people and projects which have gone before, including Doug Engelbart, Ted Nelson, H-LAM/T, Augment, OHS, Xanadu, NoteCards, memex
Conceptual infrastructures including types of links (explicit, implicit, typed…), high resolution addressing, ABC levels of activity, potential of digital substrate, symbols, capability infrastructures, facilitated evolution, nodes,
Technical infrastructures including internet and document formats
Proposed infrastructures including rich PDF

Citations without Glossaries? (yes)

The question I have to ask myself is if this is best thought about–and presented as–a simple list in a document, in-text or as a separate view. I think that the historical people, projects and concepts can be usefully mapped somehow and since they need the documents from which they are cited, this will be tied to citations but much of the other concepts do not have such a striking need for a spatial view. In other words, the citations view is useful and does not need the other elements, a simple annotation for this view, not a glossary or anything else.

This is why the pinch-out should be grounded in citations and have the option for specific ‘annotations/headings/explanations/concepts’ listed so I propose the pinch-out shows citations in a list, which can be flipped to timeline and the user can double click to add such text and this text can be connected to a local glossary simply by giving them a Get Info window for further information and exported as a Glossary section at the back of the document and linkable as ° from anywhere in the document on reading.

Or not. A glossary in the document itself will be a parallel and useful thing but the text here should not need to be linked in the first instance.


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Liquid | View Application (layout tests)

Layout tests for a citation layout application.

Full Meta-Jacket

The user drags a PDF icon onto the workspace and the application checks whether it has full metainformation attached for citation. If not, it asks the user to select the name of the document and gives the user a list of a few places it can search for metainformation, including the ACM Digital Library or by the user pasting a Bibtex text or manually entering the data.


I experimented a bit with how to represent documents (as icons to make them take the same space or as text), people (bold), headings (san serif, same as Author headings) and comments (italic) and how ctrl-clicking could bring up different dialogs for options:

I also changed the canvas to a light grey and did some experiments with real documents, shown as two line serif type and headings in san-serif to see clustering:

I also looked at some different ways of showing active/selected documents, highlights and connection lines etc.:

Structure: Columns

I moved onto columns since we have tried that before in early Author dynamic Views and it seems to make sense to be able to anchor items to headings.

Here is a test where more annotations are shown (in yellow, as they would appear in the document) and there is green text above one of the columns (it seemed easier to skim when I used columns) designed to indicate an unread document:

However, based on how well the columns seemed to work, I then had the notion of having a column to the left for un-read and therefore un-categorized papers and the idea of having a column on the right for used or refused documents took too much space so refused documents now appear under the un-read column and used documents (copied for citation) are grey but this can be toggled).

I am really quite pleased with this layout, in it’s Trello like column style but I honestly don’t think it really adds much functionality beyond what normal citation managers do so I’ll pause this direction.

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