Are hyperlinks the biggest idea to arrive once we ...
# thinking-together
Are hyperlinks the biggest idea to arrive once we had computing? I mean in terms of impact on our lives. On our future. A piece of transformative UX design and engineering work that was done—without any chance of knowing how massive it would become. I think hyperlinks are bigger than the Internet. The Internet isn't the Internet without hyperlinks. Yes, hyperlinks don't work without a running internet, but the Internet isn't "the thing", it's "the thing that let us create the (many exciting) things". It's wild to think that once the idea of hyperlinks formed, the UX design that arose was the application of text color and an underline. With that, semantic color and an underline, we got: Hyperlinks as sharing. Hyperlinks as social currency. Hyperlinks as digital neural connections. Hyperlinks as the connective tissue of civilization. Hyperlinks as the most transformative tool in use by humans today? Or maybe, just maybe, cats had this planned out all along 😁
"Hyperlinks as social currency" has a few big disadvantages. It's remarkable how often people online don't link to those they are arguing against, or even give the name of the person or publication they're criticizing, because they don't want to "promote" the web site or account of their intellectual opponent. This makes it difficult to follow many of the most important social dialogs in our culture, and makes it easy to commit straw man fallacies when one is concealing the original text being criticized. Treating hyperlinks as social currency has also encouraged an explosion of link spam that has made search engines much less useful than they were 10-20 years ago. Also, the epidemic of broken links means that knowledge keeps being lost at a frightening rate, which makes the shift away from paper dangerous because it so dramatically increases the danger of any given piece of knowledge being lost. So yes, hyperlinks are awesome, but we haven't perfected them yet. Not by a long shot.
@Personal Dynamic Media It's interesting how, with all the flaws and limitations of Hyperlinks 1.0, so much of the modern world relies on them. Seems like an example of "Worse is better" like with JavaScript. Type a string and you've got a link. Simple, yet imperfect, 50% of the time it works every time. A "better" solution is likely much more complicated, maybe 10X, which hinders adoption and "I just created a link using Notepad" kinds of UX. How would Hyperlinks 2.0 work? How much of the internet and other enabling technologies would have to change and be improved? A few things that came to mind as I read your comment: • Semantics for a link, e.g. to enable links with semantics such as "counter argument" instead of blindly being "social currency". Maybe the identity of the linker needs improvements as well. • Versioning/snapshotting of linked-to resource to prevent dead links, but how to reconcile that with the distributed nature of the Internet and dynamic pages? A lot of added complexity, which makes it interesting to think about, but also super challenging in terms of what the adoption story looks like.
I agree. Links are so powerful, so empowering to people, that companies like Facebook try their best to suppress them. The so-called "Web" standards have been subverted by this movement to focus on "APIs" at the expense of the loss of what made the Web great in the first place.
I think Ted Nelson describes a lot of good ideas in Literary Machines, but his vision was too centralized. I suspect something like Xanadu built on something like IPFS would be a good starting point, but it would require the ability to index documents not just by their own hashes, but also by the hashes of files for which they describe links and files for which they contain updates. It would also require some ability to filter search results by author or publisher so you can see updates from just the original author, or links just from sources you're interested in. I'm not sure if that's the right answer or even close, but I think Nelson did a good job of articulating the capabilities we should be trying to provide.
I think we can put Xanadu to rest, to be honest. It ain't happenin'. But we can take some juicy bits from it: • linking to either a snapshot static version or to the latest version • transclusion
And add • everyone is first class, so we own our own content and identity • the latest version mentioned above gets pushed to you when it changes • not just paragraphs of text or images to transclude, but entire docs, todo lists, calendar events, 3D models, whatever
Obvs you need non-source cacheing of intermediate static versions (you can't trust the source not to wipe out the history too) which combined with people being first class means we're now building a P2P network, but we can't use IPFS, etc cos we need content updates
Your 1, 2 and 3 seem fine to me, not sure where the disagreement is there. #1 seems interesting not boring, but it has to be open, yes. I'm not interested myself in deep document stuff other than the base idea of keeping the structure in a more "data" state, with trees, versions, transclusions etc. I'm more interested in expanding to other types, such as (lower level) 3D and (higher level) semantics/data - well, calendar events, social networks, etc. I'm 58 and have a lot of free time currently to work on this stuff, so I'm both better and worse off than you! What deep water? What proper gear? What Turing/state machine content are you referring to?
Deep water: if you move away from text (where the language is external to the content) towards direct symbol manipulation through object networks, you enter the realm of forgotten heroes who have already done a lot.
Please be specific - Who? What?
... those heroes and their results, giving the theoretical explanation of my experience ... brought the understanding why I can't explain it so I gave up trying... why it was horribly wrong....
Please do elaborate on these points!
I'm finding this exchange rather frustrating. Does anyone else here on this thread have anything to add or offer?
Here's a document laying out what I'm currently working on, a description of my current target - its main feature is the pervasiveness of links, thus why I jumped into this thread!
Interesting discussion, though I have the impression that everyone gives a different meaning to "link", leading to serious misunderstandings. In a way, that's a symptom of the mess that the tech world has become. As @Lorand Kedves nicely summarizes in the beginning of his "science of being wrong". My analysis of this mess is "too much interaction". If you look back at the history of technology, on a century-to-millenium timescale, it has relied on a equilibrium of tinkerers, scientists, and engineers all taking inspiration from each other but mostly working according to their own logics, solving the problems they most care about. In today's tech world, tinkerers dominate so much that scientists and engineers can no longer do their long-term work of identifying fundamental concepts and principles and of developing mature technologies. The tinkerer's ecosystem churn and low-reliability products are not a solid basis to build on, and require so much attention just to keep running that society has no attention (and resources) left for long-term study and design. Perhaps someone somewhere is working on ideas like Xanadu, but if that someone is actually productive, they have isolated themselves so much from our tech world that we are unlikely to ever hear from them.
In this discussion, we have the HTML link as the tinkerer's view, Xanadu as the engineer's view, and relations (as in "relational database") as the scientist's view. What we'd need is the three points of view being improved iteratively, learning from each other.
Yep, it looks much cleaner without me.
@Lorand Kedves Done here?