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Category: Updates

What can you do with it?

Someone I know who is a very positive person but not at all very technical asked me a while ago about my Apple Watch: “What can you do with it?” And my first thought was “well, probably not very much for you because you don’t like to learn how to do things with tools”. I didn’t say this of course, I just mentioned a few of the main features. However, this got me thinking about something fundamental:

The pencil and paper, what does it do? This is a question more about the users skill level and use case. The properties of the pencil and paper medium are not that hard to describe. The power comes from a skilled interaction.

The smart phone, what does it do? This depends very much on the users ability and interest in using the available apps so the answer would be anything from just making calls to running your full digital life.

The point is that the capability = the tool + the user.

Personally I have to try to answer the question of what does a graph view of text do for an author? It’s not a simple question since there are specific ‘affordances’ which need to be be built into the system for certain things to be possible. When making a CGI movie it is often remarked on how everything in the world has to be thought about and designed–there is no background or set they can put the actors into. Similar things with games–in Battlefield I can easily blow up a building but I can’t tie my shoelaces.

I read once (and cannot for the life of me remember where, but I suspect it was in Edge) that a lead developer of the successful Crysis game once remarked that making the AI for the players adversaries work well was a matter of making sure that everything in the game knows what it is and what its characteristics are: A piece of wood needs to know what force is required to shatter it and so on. This matters greatly since a digital environment may look like a flat screen with colours but this is only a two dimensional slice of a multidimensional space of interactions. Even a paint program does not simply add colour to the screen based on the users mouse, trackpad or digital pen–it adds the marks based on the pen and virtual paper’s characteristics.

In the graph view what is being around is text and lines but the text represents specific text, since I have already taken it as a starting point that simply letting the user take any words from their document and move them around is not as useful as having different text have semantically interactive characteristics.

The basic way to do this is to have some sort of a list of what words are ’special’ and a way for the user to visually state which other text is also special. By assigning text as a heading you are saying it has a special role–and I am referring to roles within the work of authoring a document, particularly an academic document–that of indicating a high-level view of the organisation of the document. Headings have been referred to as structural links since they do not have a semantic meaning but they do have a semantic meaning, there is a reason why one chapter or section comes before another in the flow of a linearised argument. This is the very essence of headings: Showing sections of a linear flow. To me, at this point that should be respected and therefore headings shown by themselves, collapsed into a table of contents or outline should be editable in sequence through a drag and drop function but not be in a graph view since that defeats the function of headings. This can be disputed but there it is for me for now. They can have value in as markers in other views, but not for themselves.

Other text in a list. This refers to what I am working on with what was originally called the hyperGlossary and then Liquid Glossary but which I think I will just call it a glossary though Chris might not agree. Anyway, it’s a list but a list where each item has attributes (as in Crysis) to create an environment for useful interactions. Each ‘glossary’ term can easily be linked to other terms to create an explicit connections allowing for construction:

And there we have it. I wrote the above sentence using the word ‘structure’ instead of the final ‘construction’ since I thought that structure seemed a bit too final so I used Liquid Flow to look up construction in wikipedia–not useful, then the etymology and then it became clear that what I wanted to do was to say this allows for construction, it is not a structure and this is the key.

The glossary as I am designing it now for Liquid Author’s dynamic view has these types:

  • Document for anything the user cites
  • Authors/people in general
  • Institutions of people
  • Concepts for anything else

This is for the use-case of a student of course, the last item ‘concepts’ is quite general but users will be able to type in anything they choose. Likely ‘document’ will be auto-assigned when the user downloads an academic document with the Liquid Browser:

There is probably room for improving this list, particularly outside of the initial use case but categorising is useful for filtering views, for doing basic citation analysis for example. Naming things is a big issue. Confucius is said to have said: “If I was the ruler, the first thing I would do would be to make sure everything is named correctly”: “If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things.”


Walking in the early, dark morning of Singapore to find a toilet, this Starbucks does not have one and it’s the only 24 hour one. Lots of police cars outside Orchard Towers. I hope they are only there for the unruly. Anyway, to ION and back and with a new perspective.


Human language does not allow for one correct label for one thing. For the case of this work though, I will remove ‘institutions’ from the basic list and have buttons for ‘Document’ and ‘Person’ and freeform for anything else, which will automatically be put under the meta-tag of ‘Concept’. This should serve literature reviews well since documents are a core unit and are addressable items and persons are out-of system but the reason for the documents. Anything else can be labeled should the user want to, from idea to building, but they willl… Stop, this does not really make sense. Let’s start again:

Buttons for Documents (they have citation information) and Person. Anything else will be text entered but recent items will stay available for clicking on, to use recollection to encourage the use of same tags. Here it is mocked up:

basic types. Hegland, 2019.

This means that we can support nice citation flows through documents, their authors and any associated concepts as well as let the user add any terms they know.

So what can you do with it? Anything you like in terms of visualisation we hope, over time. Initially though, we are focused on supporting citation views and concept views to help the student ‘map out’ their understanding of a knowledge space and communicate this understanding to other readers, particularly examiners of their thesis.


Headings are for linearising. Glossary terms are for enabling constructions of relationships. And this is how we will focus the development of the Liquid Views.

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Conversations with Edgar

I started recording answers to function/expected questions from Edgar in the far, distant future. I worked on an app idea for this a few years ago and there are all kinds of wrinkles but I think I should just record some answer videos and then just see if I actually do enough and if they seem useful. They are on a public but unlisted playlist on YouTube: 

What prompted this is that I am in Singapore without Edgar or Emily revisiting pasts and thinking about futures. Right now we only have FaceTime video so why not let him have the potential to have ‘facetime’ chats with the dad who loves him so much in the future?


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the dream. update

(Semi-personal diary note/update, written to a friend)

As you know, my dream is to build a thinking and presentation space which really starts to set the written word from the constraints of the past, free for rich interaction and deep visualisation. I really believe that this has serious potential to augment our ability to interact with knowledge in powerful ways.

I have just spent another $10,000 on Author though, and that is of course not sustainable. Most of this went to support import and export of Word, of which we are only partly done; we can’t export links or headings or images. Ugh, Microsoft has made this very hard…

The Dynamic View

I am looking at adding a major feature to Author, which would also be part of my PhD (yes, I’m hanging in there, barely): We already have the ability to pinch in to collapse the document into an outline and now it will be possible to pinch out to ‘explode’ it into a ‘dynamic’ view.

This is the view we have been thinking about, discussing and testing to an extent tested in collaboration with Chris as the Webleau/Liquid Space: and which I made video demo tests for way back when: and today, to show an early transition from word processing view into the dynamic view. This is live software BTW, not a mockup:

I have written a list of basic capabilities here:

Glossary Terms

The crucial difference between the initial dynamic view tests and what I am looking at now is that it is not the headings which become the nodes, but terms which the user has defined in their personal glossary, as either a concept, a person, an institution or a document. These terms have been defined using Liquid | Flow which makes it easy to create a structured entry which then have relationships in them. I put up a few screenshots here for you: and I have of course blogged about the process on the same blog in general:

Promoting Author

I am not standing completely still with promoting Author, though I desperately need support:

In order to promote Author I am adding the Rich PDF export, so that a full, original copy of the Author document is embedded into the PDF. This means of course that anyone with only a PDF reader can read it but if opened into Author you get all the interactions of a full Author document. I hope this will make Author documents more ‘viral’ since they will make it clear opening the document into Author gives the reader a better experience.

I also think it would be a great way to send the proposal document to Apple, with a top sentence in the ‘PDF’, saying ‘Please open this document in Author’

I am also sponsoring (only £1,000) a JATS conference 20th of May. JATS is the up and coming academic document format we are working on supporting:$x7oUDJUT4


So what to do now? The goal is to get Apple to consistently feature Author on the App Store, that should generate enough revenue to make it self-sustaining. I need $5,000 for the next few months to add JATS, rich PDF, smaller myriads of issues like making import and export work with all attributes, and most importantly add the Dynamic View feature.

Dynamic Views

I hope to have something more impressive and real to share with you for the Dynamic Views over the next few days…

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