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Category: Meeting Notes

Doug Engelbart Interview : What Doug Wants

I interviewed Doug Engelbart for the web documentary of which the question of what he really wanted to do at the late stage of his life is worth highlighting so I have transcribed it here. Full audio of this dialogue is available:   

What Would you like to have happen?

This has to become a large movement. It has to create an improvement infrastructure in the world that’s of a scope that can really get the changes occurring in the way we think and work together that’ll have be more effective.

I’ve got a lot of concepts in mind about how the human brain, the human perceptual machinery and sensory machinery can be helped considerably.

What would you like people to do?

I would like them to ask how they can join this collective movement.

We have a basic scheme and a strategy and it’s getting started with the evolution because there is nobody who knows the answer of what should be in five or ten years.

The best we can do is get on a path which will facilitate the evolution of our ways of thinking and working and getting real help from the computer.

What are the real first steps?

Get a novel set of tools together which can work in the current legacy environment and bring a new degree of flexible capability and it also offers a nice evolution – it doesn’t require large, stiff, ways of changing what your organisation does. (This is what he called the Hyperscope)

Then its the infrastructure within the organisations and between them to facilitate the evolution, what I call ‘an improvement infrastructure’. That would mean that the collaborative processes among people actually trying to implement the aggregate knowledge organised in ways which facilitate your understanding and can be flexible in its evolution as new understanding improves in the way of bringing logical rationale in to the ways which many disparate kinds of assertions and data can be pieced together and structured so ‘hey’ – a reasonable logical assumptions are such and so…

So that would basically mean having specific people working on this. If you were to hire them today, what kind of resumes would you be looking at?

A mix of people:

  • People who can work with fairly deep technology.
  • People who can work on training and change in the organisation.
  • People to measure the effectiveness of the new collective ‘smarts’.
  • People who are interested in finding out how to push to higher and higher levels of capabilities for specially equipped and trained teams. Orientating of the specially trained teams to approach the aggregate of knowledge and integrate and show reasonable conclusions and what their explanations are.

If you had a leaders willing to support this, what would we need to invest in first, what are the baby steps?

The first step would be to set up the infrastructure within the organisation:

A core of people who can coach/guide/facilitate the evolution of the new processes, methods and terminology and uses of equipment etc:

Information Processing Specialist

You would need an ‘information processing specialist’ person who would be flexible enough to what’s coming from the new evolution and to work with the people who say they need new methodology.

Special Teams

It would be more efficient to take special teams and move them ahead in their capabilities before everybody but everybody can start the path with the Hyperscope and that is evolution – but the special teams can push ahead which would be very valuable.

Architect of the Knowledge Workshop

The ‘architect of the knowledge workshop’ would be more than IT people by quite a bit.

It would be like in materials handling workshops you realise what you are trying to construct and you realise what kinds of special tools you would need and what special training the people would need to have and how the materials would need to move from stage to stage and being handled in order to have an effective flow. The same thing would be for the knowledge activities that go on.

How do you want people to feel after the presentation?

Doug: How I want them to feel is that they realise that there is a frontier that hasn’t been explored that the new capabilities that computers can provide can make a big difference in the way in which people can conceptualise and portray their concepts and represent them in the structured way of developing a plan, a design, an understanding and that people can learn the new skills and that, yes, we have taken so long for granted that the page in a book is *the way* that knowledge is supposed to be portrayed but from there realise that that’s old technology and the new technologies do not have to emulate the page in a book.

So what should the people run out and do?

Doug: They can start by saying; ‘look, why don’t the people in my circle of workers/professionals/etc. why don’t we start to get organised to start this kind of evolution, in a way which we can cooperate effectively with others, sort of like the way that professional societies cooperate’.

Evolution towards what?

Evolution in a wide number of aspects of our working live for knowledge workers:

  • The tools we use.
  • Specialised ways of viewing information, manipulating it, handling it.
  • Evolution towards social groups being able to be much more effective at developing, integrating and applying knowledge collectively.

Final Thought

The early months and years of this have to be an investment that’s based on the long term return but there should be important returns within a year or so that people will be Abel to see differences.


Note : Facilitated Evolution

‘Facilitated Evolution’ is the very important term in the thinking here. Evolution will happen naturally and we aren’t smart enough to do design from here to the end, so the best we can do is to find an effective way for facilitating the evolution of our organisations, of our ways of thinking, our tools etc.

We need to put practices and organisations in place.

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Smart Glossaries

Friday I went to the Groucho where I met Joe and we discussed the glossary opportunities, as I started with Mark and Chris earlier in the week. Here are my notes as developed over Easter Weekend:

Problems Addressed

One of the issues with writing something within your field is that, as an author, you are likely to have written something about what you are about to write and it can easily feel like you are duplication efforts and this can be a real source of frustration, something I first noticed when working with Doug. It would be worthwhile to define something once, in a glossary, and then have this available for reuse later. 

Another issue that as a reader, a document in a different field than your own where terms may be used that you are not used to or used in ways you are not used to. 

Both of these problems can be addressed within the framework of a modern glossary system. 


The notion of re-use writing and of writing in smaller chunks and then linking it together is not new and in some ways it seems this is what many feel hypertext is about. This glossary implementation can support such an approach. 


A glossary is a collection of glosses, which are “word inserted as an explanation, translation, or definition,” (Harper)

A glossary is not a definition in any objective way. In a narrow sense it can be seen as an elucidation of specific text written by a specific author in a specific document. It would not be stretching the definition of a glossary to allow an author to build a glossary over time and to 

The notion is to build a glossary (a ‘gloss’ of person meaning, not a dictionary) for an author, as you go along authoring documents, and the glossary is then appended to a document on  publish, with levels of information visible as the reader requires. 


Assigning Glossary Entries to Keywords

The author selects the text which needs a glossary entry and cmd-y(or ‘l’, not determined yet) to produce the Glossary Dialog (as outlined below). In this dialog the author has rich options for assigning glossary meaning but only the ‘Short/Twitter Description’ () summary is required. 

A way to enter a person is a bit different from entering a place or concept, since the full name of the person should not be in the Short description since the first name would then be doubled if shown inline, as you can see in the example.


Over time the author’s glossary will grow and be re-useable. The user can at any time access previously added glossary items to edit or delete them. The user can also choose to add to glossary entries over time. 


On publishing the document all the words in the document which have glossary entries are highlighted in order for the author to review the text in case some are contextually wrong. A simple click on a word disconnects it from the glossary (if a mistake is made, a click on the word will automatically re-connect it).

The published document will get a document with a ‘Glossary’ section appended at the end, so that the reader can choose to read the glossary before reading the rest of the document. The reader can interact with the glossary text at will as well, including having an option to have every glossary term highlighted on first occurrence.  


• Without the glossary expanded, the text looks like this, same as the introduction to this blog post: 

Friday I went to the Groucho where I met Joe and we discussed the glossary opportunities, as I started with Mark and Chris earlier in the week.

• Showing only text in the ‘Short/Twitter Description’ summary inline in the text, after each occurrence. This is a reader option and can be applied to any arbitrary section of the document, it does not have to be the whole document BTW, The last example has the number 15 in brackets and that refers to the week number, a number used in Norway more than in England.

Friday (the 15th of April 2017) I (Hegland, PhD Student Southampton) went to the Groucho (a media club in Soho, London, of which I am a member and I love it there) where I met Joe (Corneli, University of Edinburgh) and we discussed the glossary opportunities (re-inventing glossaries as discussed in my blogs), as I started with Mark (Anderson, PhD Student Southampton) and Chris (Gutteridge, EC Southampton) earlier in the week (15).

• And this is what it would look like if non-expanded but interacting with the word ‘Joe’, perhaps simply by mouse-over/pointing to the text or clicking on it:

Friday I went to the Groucho where I met Joe (Corneli, University of Edinburgh) and we discussed the glossary opportunities, as I started with Mark and Chris earlier in the week.

• Here I have bolded the text ‘glossary opportunities’ has been marked to highlight, to show the reader that it has a glossary definition attached:

Friday I went to the Groucho where I met Joe and we discussed the glossary opportunities, as I started with Mark and Chris earlier in the week.

Create New Glossary Entry : Dialog

Selected  Keyword Appears As Heading

Category: [        ]  this field acts very much like assigning tags in macOS: user can click on a list or add new

Short/Twitter Description (if person’s name, only last name, then description): ( ) this is what would appear in-sentence if reader-requested

Fuller Glossary (If person’s name, start with full name): [        ] 

Appended Comments: [        ] This only appears when opening a previously created glossary item

Highlight? • whether or not this should be highlighted in the text on first appearance, if the author wants to emphasise this to the reader

Uses: [        ] how this text should be used

Related words: [        ]  related words to click to also see

First used in the sentence: Automatic inclusion

URL to this Entry: Automatically generated

Mathematical logic: [        ]

Programming logic/code: [        ]

Show what this word is (dictionary lookup) such as verb etc. (user editable): 

Very Experimental

Logic: [        ] this is where the system uses logic to infer what the text should really read:

Here • Use the current location when authoring

At a specific Date in the future. Change grammar when passed this date.

Automatically Assigned

URL to this entry is fixed to the bottom of the dialog (with  a ‘glossary’ tag): http:…. &glossary

Who has referred to this entry/cited it: [  Pop-Up Menu or List \/]



There needs to be ways to store the entries and retrieve them over a network. Where the entries are stored should be flexible however, and the user should be able to set this.

Multi User

The system should allow for multi-user systems, such as in a research team.


Allowing the author to add to a glossary easily lets the author build up a series of statements which can then be re-employed for a reader or for the author automatically, again and again. In some ways this is an angle of writing ‘hyper textually’ but it does not imply the complicated linkages which mid-90s hypertext notions wrestled with.

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