My basic premise is that there is much more we can do to make digital text more powerfully useful. This is important because a large part of our thinking and communicating happens through reading, writing and editing textual symbolic notations. Considering digital symbol manipulation has only been available for one generation and humans have existed in current form for 200,000 years and our planet has about four billion years left to sustain habitation, it would be quite ludicrous to think that the digital work environments we use have reached it’s zenith and the only future is the size of the screen–Smaller ‘smart’ phones and large VR–and increasing the intelligence of the system rather than the user.
initial user group
Text carries human thought and as such there will be outside of the scope of this project, such as political arguments. I simply want to start with a more achievable goal: Augmenting the document based discourse of a group of people who have something in common to learn about, discuss or build.
In order to create a powerfully interactive system the interactive components need to be as powerfully intractable as possible. This is an insight which was presented to me when reading an interview with the creators of Crysis, a very popular open world, highly interactive-world computer game. I have not been able to find it since I read it in a paper copy of Edge magazine but the point was this: In order to make the environment interactive you have to make elements aware of what their properties are. This is how you can provide a physics simulation without having to script every possible interaction.
I feel that this is similar with knowledge work, and this is neither controversial nor terribly original; if you can ascribe meaning to knowledge units then the computer system can more powerfully assist in both visual displays and analysis.
I believe that in the social media age more and more people have become more comfortable with assigning tags to their media and posts so this is an opportune time to provide people with more powerful ways to contribute to online dialog than with pure text.
What I propose is that we build an experimental, open and open source, free-to use, useful system for supporting dialog on the web, based around documents, not databases.
Because all the information is stored as wordpress posts all the information stays open (as per author preferences) and there is no concern about loss of information in the future based on the project’s viability.
Every addition to the dialog will be in the form of a complete HTML page, a WordPress article/blog post and the system will be designed in such as way as to strongly encourage the use of semantic tagging alongside colour coding in order to build powerful, flexible and easy to manipulate views of the dialog and interactions:
Picture a blog post directed to a team working together. Someone has an issue with one of the points raised so selects the sentence(s) she would like to comment on and chooses ‘Comment an issue’ (from a list of a few possible types, such as ‘Comment further information’ and ‘Comment Support’). Although the resulting dialog will allow the user to change the type of comment, already the user has usefully added context to her comment. The commenting dialog will feature quick access to her own blog posts to easily link to, as well as clickable tags to add further semantic context for her comment. This dialog will be a large part of the design and testing.
Once posted, the comments can be viewed inline with the original document, as colour highlights (red for more disagreements, green for more agreements, blue for additional info fx.), by author and so on.
Since the text units have semantic meaning attached they can be pulled into graph views such as the Webleau and combined with the hyperGlossary, citation sources and many other units of information in order to give the user, whether reading or authoring, a flexible visual mental augmentation space, where they use their occipital lobe to support their prefrontal cortex: Use their eyes to think with more flexibly.
This is what I want to build: A new way of supporting a dialogue via blog posts where everything is a blog post (there are no ‘comments’ or other special, hidden or tied data) and is viewable in powerful ways as a result.