Writing & Reading

Most electronic communications technologies have helped people talk - not listen. Write, not read. Liquid Information aims to help people actively take in information and work with it.


For example, email has made it really easy to send thousands of messages - but it has not made it much easier to read all of those messages. There are millions of web pages, it takes only few clicks of the mouse to create another page or another hundred from whatever thoughts you have in your head - it is considerably harder to put what's on a web site into your head.

From the brain's point of view, just as much goes in as comes out again: There are roughly as many nerve connections from the sensory organs as there are nerve connections to the motion organs.
Nørretranders, T. 1991

I decided to use blogging to explore what is involved in helping people 'get' information - to listen. Blogging is in many ways a new form of literature. It has a very simple technical specification, allowing us to write quickly and modify software to examine what blogging is. The HyperBlog is essentially a public diary, with the possibility of commenting on it, and using its technical simplicity to build towards an interface which helps the readers' comprehension of the material.

"Wherever there is persuasion there is rhetoric. And wherever there is 'meaning' there is 'persuasion'".
Burke, K. www.stanford.edu/dept/english/courses/sites/lunsford/pages/defs.htm (2003)

There is a lot of broadcast information, a lot of presentation, a lot of persuasion, not enough dialog and not enough comprehension.

I still have a dream that the Web could be less of a television and more of an interactive sea of shared knowledge.
Tim Berners-Lee at the MIT Media Laboratory's News in the Future symposium (1996)



In Doug Engelbart's OHS/CODIAK system there are two different kinds of information we need to be able to access efficiently; dialog Records & Knowledge Products.

The Illustration from Doug Engelbart's CODIAK process discussing his OHS environment which features 'Dialog Records' as a separate type of information.


DIALOG RECORDS (memos, talk, email, news groups, discussion forums and blogs with comments) is more casual and is often not intended for an audience outside of the immediate recipient and sender - and is not intended necessarily to have value beyond the time and space of the active discourse. The blogging system deals with stored discourse access: getting a good and easy grip on information which has only casually been produced, but which may need to be accessed later, without necessarily having the context which comes from active reading and use of the blog over time.
This immediately provides some criteria for success: Input data should not need to be organized beyond an acceptable minimum (what will that be?). Traversing through it should be possible along many different paths - by many different criteria, by many different users (all to be defined). And it should be possible to change course and criteria quickly. It should also be possible to indulge in longer readings if the user so chooses, to get a deeper grip on the material - as when reading a book.

EXTERNAL INTELLIGENCE is a reflection of knowledge created outside the organization.

KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTS (proposals, plans, budgets, manuals, presentations) are designed to record facts and opinions which some author has put effort into to communicate.

top level

Doug Engelbart's position is to augment our intellect, enhance our capability to solve urgent complex problems collectively:

By "augmenting human intellect" we mean increasing the capability of a person to approach a complex problem situation, to gain comprehension to suit their particular needs, and to derive solutions to problems.

This is important, simply because man's problem-solving capability represents possibly the most important resource possessed by a society. The other contenders for first importance are all critically dependent for their development and use upon this resource.  
Engelbart, D. A Strategy For Organizational Fitness

That is the over-riding priority of the Liquid Information project as well. The access of un-structured recorded-dialog is what we have scoped the project down to as a solid start. Blogs today. Then the web. The rest of world comes soon.

One of the effects of living with electric information is that we live habitually in a state of information overload. There's always more than you can cope with.
McLuhan, M. (1967)

text freed from the computer