Elements – The Computer Screens & Vision

Let’s start with the screen you have in front of you right now. Your sharp vision area is tiny while your peripheral vision is wide, soft but highly sensitive to motion/change in light.

There is also a secondary border of the visual field, about the size of a large computer screen, where what is within this area has a higher bandwidth to our brains than what is outside it. This is likely down to the speed and effort of the six extraocular muscles which control movement of the eye. As you can ‘see’, you can move your eyes quite far off centre before you have to engage your neck, but there is a more comfortable zone more directly in front of you. Computer gamers find that screens which covers this area provides for a more effective gaming view with faster reflexes possible within this area.

So now we have 3 areas to consider for the visual impulses from our work environment and the upside is that a 15”-21” or so computer screen is not such a bad core work area, where augmentation from secondary displays for secondary information can of course be useful and should be considered. The main point however, is that let’s not simply push for VR and photorealistic renderings of all kinds of things as being the holy grail of information environments – we can also do wondrous things with the medium sized rectangle we all use every day.

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How to conduct the initial dialog?

We have signed up to work to produce a demo in three years to rival Doug Engelbart’s demo, something we most definitely will fall short off, but how far can we dream, and how much can we build?

The challenge, in my mind, is simple. It is to further deliver on Doug’s core dream of augmenting our ability to solve urgent complex problems collectively?

Urgent, Complex Problems + Collectively

There is a lot of meat in that, but it’s not a narrow focus. We should hunt far and wide for inspiration and be open to changing much of the way we do things, while always working to fit the world as it is and not simply go fanciful without real effect.

Step one is to decide how to discuss this. I would say that prime requirements is URL-linkable discussion, which means email and Skype is only secondary and it should be in a robust enough location to be expected to be around in a few years time. How about we start blogging and linking to each other?


Original .author document is at: https://www.dropbox.com/s/8umq9cevx3rnarq/68%4050%20Demo.Author?dl=0

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I Know Jack (or “how to move ahead”)

So we are trying to change the world.

Change it for the better, and particularly through IT.

OK, we have been working on this long enough and we are crazy enough, so let’s start.

Sam talk about the importance of incorporating many different points of view. Stan taps us on the shoulder and points to a future we should all take a more engaged look at, a future of new kinds of artificial intelligence. Timour looks into patterns and Pavel and Kennan wonders where all this will fit. All the while, Jack gets his spade out and starts tilling the soil to prepare for planting – I think that is the way to go. I feel a need to take Author to the point where it becomes obsolete thorough what we learn we can do – I think we can go way, way beyond a word processor but it’s an anchor I can mentally start from.

I don’t think we we invent the future without living with ever more advanced tools. That’s what I think.

Jack has specific suggestions for how to get started and I think we should heed his practical and technological advice and do what he says – build, then rebuild. Specifically Jack says:


“I am suggesting adopting an emerging (it works) backside knowledge processing (federation) platform: BacksideServletKS (Java, Apache2) as a basis for building Agile contributions to a) a DKR2 as proposed by Sam, and b) a looming Mother of All Demos2 based on a modern realization of the DKR concept.  Basically, by adopting an existing free and open source knowledge processor, portals need not worry about account management (authentication, etc), or persistence of that which is crafted at the portal.  In some sense, each portal can have its own backside system, and those then federate to a digital library. The proposed gain is this: we are all adopting to and co-evolving the REST APIs and protocols served by that system; no need to invent that wheel. That allows individuals to hack Agile demos of all kinds, and have them federated into a larger community.”

Jack Park,

Jack Park’s Suggestion via Email & Skype*


So Jack is talking about building a database system which can do analysis and present data in useful ways, which can be innovated on.

So there are questions, for the whole community:

What are we trying to do? Do we need databases for what we are trying to do?

How should we discuss what we are trying to do?

Where should we note down our top level requirements and priorities?

And to move the conversation forwards, should we use different tools/communications for high, high level and for implementation level?

I want to support Jack, but I am not sure we are quite ready to discuss implementations yet.

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This post will be updated with topics to cover, based on what you write in the comments below.

  • Document Formats
  • Links
  • Workflows
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The Future of Text & DOUG

The manifesto for The Future of Text 2015 has now been frozen, in it’s fresh and raw form and is now at:. The original (which may have been edited since it’s still open) is in the Google Doc: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1T22hMfsY0n3uWcY9WjieR_xriD2H6XAPzO4O3eM2vAY/edit

Our days together provided much appreciated inspiration and connections and appreciation of the vastness of the possibilities of the futures of text. Hence the impossibility of coalescing on one single point of view. This is a Good Thing.

As we prepare to leave 2015 behind and face 2016 with refreshed eyes and renewed vigour, a few of us have decided to work on something which is not strictly about text, but which we feel is important and which can make a real difference to how people communicate and work together to solve problems:

50th Anniversary of The Mother of All Demos Demo

Yes, we want to work on some way to inspire the next generation to invent. Travelling back to a world where there was no digital computer systems to compete with or integrate with, this would be a challenge for us even today, considering what Doug put together. Staying within the reality of today, with a myriad of technical implementations and working systems, this is indeed a daunting task.

We have set the task, to complete and present on the 9th of December 2018, an inspiration and an initial implementation for a whole new way of working together, over digital networks, which will fire off the imagination for renewed growth and innovation, beyond the WYSIWYG ties to paper, the linearity of documents, the incomprehensibility of AI for the user, the information ghettos of databases and document formats, the link-rotting web and the extreme limitations of endless pages of black text on a whit e background turning our information into grey mush.

We will call this system DOUG, in memory of of friend and shining light, Doug Engelbart, and as a backronym it stands for ‘Dialog for Online UnderstandinG’.

We will go far beyond the division of tool maker and tool user, working to unite the two while keeping roles clear. We will anchor the dream of what DOUG can be in the world as it is, morphing to suit current workflows and improving them, changing what is necessary while acknowledging that change is expensive and needs to be deployed with care. DOUG will not be a flashy demo of software technology but new ways of working, new ways of flying through information.

The first step is for all of us to write and publish our dreams in any publicly available form, such as through blogs. We would prefer wordpress blog posts, since they are quite uniform, but it’s up to you. All the posts will be collated on doug-50.info and by Easter we will start to prioritise and focus our perspectives. We will also be holding weekly Skype chats. We’d love for you to join us in any capacity and at any level which would suit you.

When I was taking my masters here in London, one of my tutors had seen Doug’s 68 demo and remarked that Doug seemed to be ‘flying through the information’. Doug might have added to that sentence ‘while truly connecting with it, not simply flying over it’.

The DOUG system will be all about that one emotion, that one vision; becoming so intimately connected ’through’ the information systems, with information, perspectives, other people and your own thoughts, that you feel like you have become one, one system, one flow.

Will you join us?

We are currently at the inter-galactic level of dreaming what this can be. Join us in dreaming, join us in building. As Doug once said to me: “Someone once called me ‘just’ a dreamer’. I have a problem with the word ‘just’. Dreaming is hard!”
Frode, Sam, Pavel, Timour, Stan, Jack, Vint &, hopefully; You.

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