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Category: Poem

The Old Man

old man inventor?

As my first major software application reaches 16th most popular Productivity Application on the macOS App Store I reflect again on what Alan Kay said over lunch: “But you CAN do anything!”. I know he was being sincere, it’s the same thing I would say to a curious and passionate student. My concern is that my brain is fully myelinated, all the fatty optimisers have been laid down, my axons and dendrites are not as much in the dating market as before. I have now managed to produce one instance of my vision in Liquid | Author, which includes Liquid | Flow. It’s a different type of word processor where I had a few medium sized ideas (tag for meaning such as for headings, a different Find command and so on) and did a lot of polishing on use, reducing as many button presses and unexpected frustrations as I could see.

So now I have a smidgeon of credibility, which is great, but what I have produced is only a very small incremental step in a different direction. How can I possibly move symbol manipulation along at a usefully large step? How can I invent something amazingly powerful? This is the question any inventor or artist would ask. And my stodgy old brain, is it still able to fluidly create new and useful connections?! I have noticed that my memory has gotten better over the last few years, which worries an artist-type such as myself. I should be able to be flexible and see things afresh. So I worry.

old man navigator

But my worry gives way to perspective. It’s not my ability to invent something which is why I must keep working and why I invite others to join me. It’s not what I build, it’s about where I am going. I am a navigator, not an inventor.

My work is to augment our ability to orient ourselves in our information, to see and make connections. These are all navigation metaphors and they apply to the process of building the tools as well.

I take responsibility of the question, of the goal, not the answer or a particular way of getting there. Sure, my world is that of visual symbol manipulation (text and associated visual communications) but to navigate we must first choose which world to venture forth into.


My future work will be to further improve the navigation and display of text in Author and on the web, including through compressed scrolling, dynamic views and more atomic authoring, including though the user of hyperGlossaries. Much of the work will be to implement small, incremental changes to make the information flow more liquid. The reach of my research and implementation–the twins of progress–will venture as far as my mind will stretch and collages will entertain.

In the distance I see a more liquid information environment where users can become deeply literate because their tools are powerful and they can view and interact with their knowledge in visceral ways, like moulding magical clay.

This is not a solo effort. It is an effort in building dialogue in addition to systems and approaches. This is what I have been doing for almost a decade now with The Future of Text Symposium and look forward to continue.

My premise is simple: Continue to work to employ the occipital lobe to support the prefrontal cortex–to use our eyes to think. And that is my journey.


Walk in the Valley of Life

Today I walked among the dead in the university of Cairo. I saw sarcophagus’ from longer before Christ than it has been after Christ. I reflected briefly on how scared they must have been of death to make such efforts to make it less final. I reflected on my father† who died this summer and who I can no longer interact with. I reflected on how he said he felt ‘philosophical’ towards life and death and he demonstrated this view the way he dealt with things in his life. He also said that he did not have any illusions as to his memory; he felt he would be remembered by those of us who knew him, and that would be it.

I feel much the same. I have no illusion of eternal life or being in human or stored memory for any great length of time and I am fine with this. I see my life and all those around me as being in a tiny bubble in the eternal stream of time and I get to spend it with my eternally beautiful wife and son, mother, father, brother and brother outlaw, and friends and I can’t ask for a more wonderful existence.

 My shining light. Hegland, 2018.
I also looked at the ancient writings, primarily hieroglyphic but also some hieratic and felt a tremendous sense of opportunity to keep inventing.

Self Portrait Into the Written Past. Hegland, 2018. 




My father also did once say then he was much younger: “Die? I will love forever!”








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