Simon’s Backup Weblog


From the folks that brought you XCOM 2002…

Posted in Uncategorized by Simon Bisson on May 27, 2005

…comes Open Tech 2005

A one day conference on DIY technologies, from the UKUUG and NTK.

Sponsored by backstage.bbc.co.uk, Open Tech 2005 is an informal, low cost, one-day conference about technologies that anyone can have a go at, from “Open Source”-style ways of working to repurposing everyday electronics hardware.

Taking place on 23rd July, 2005, in Hammersmith, London, the line-up currently features:

  • Ted Nelson, inventor of hypertext, on where the web went wrong
  • The official launch of the backstage.bbc.co.uk developer network, opening up BBC content for you to play with
  • Plus: able to record an entire week of all Freeview TV and radio channels, probably the UK’s largest (fridge-sized) PVR

Worth attending just for the Ted Nelson talk, I’d suspect.

Looks like it could be the geek event of the summer…

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7 Responses to 'From the folks that brought you XCOM 2002…'

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  1. nmg said,

    Worth attending just for the Ted Nelson talk, I’d suspect.

    At this point I’d like to be smug and say “you’ve heard Ted speak once, you’ve heard him speak a dozen times”.

    Actually, it’s not far off a dozen these days. I’m still proud of having fixed his webpage for him when I was a postgrad.

  2. sbisson said,

    Yes, I was saying last night that reading Dream Machines was what put me where I was today.

    That and sneaking me into notSCO in the early 90s to see one of the first web browsers…

  3. nmg said,

    One day I’ll actually manage to buy a copy of Dream Machines

    One the plus side, I’ve finally got a DVD copy of the Hyperland documentary (somewhere in my office)

  4. andrewducker said,

    Oh God. Ted “I had an interesting idea 30 years ago and will keep telling you whippersnappers why the thing that revolutionarised the world is all wrong because it isn’t my idea until I die” Nelson.

    I’m almost tempted to attend so I can throw things.

  5. nmg said,

    Once you get past the rhetoric and surface bitterness, he does have a point on certain issues. The model of embedded links used by the Web has limitations, and the hypertext research community has a twenty year history of building systems in which links are treated as first class objects that can be manipulated independently of the documents they join (and yes, the Web does have XLink and Semantic Web-based open linking, but those are not part of the standard Web experience).

    Ted has been banging on about this for the last decade and a half, and on this I think he’s right, even if I do feel that it’s a bit disingenuous to claim that he fixed that problem in Xanadu.

    On the other hand, he’s a bit wide of the mark on “embedded markup considered harmful”, “hierarchies are bad” and “zigzag is a natural way to visualise data”.

    He’s an entertaining speaker, nonetheless.

  6. andrewducker said,

    My main problem with the way he thinks is that it’s top down versus bottom up. It’s _because_ the web is easy to use and requires no thought to insert data into that it took off so well. A side-effect of this is fragility – and having to find work-arounds to this. But you’re not going to get people to embrace a complex solution from out of nowhere.

    Hypertext is pretty much an afterthought on the web – we put up content, and then it’s handy to have links embedded in it. If we had to think about our links in advance rather than just sprinkling them on afterwards I doubt the web would have taken off with any but the most ardent geeks.

  7. nmg said,

    Oh, absolutely. There are some amazingly glib statements in Literary Machines about the scalability of the link integrity mechanisms in Xanadu.

    The hypertext community is gradually coming to grips with the success of the Web, and it’s been a painful realisation for some. The fragility of the Web (wrt link integrity) is not so much a side-effect as a design feature; it made it easier both to implement Web software that scaled well and to create Web information. The flip side is that it is necessarily harder to impose a link integrity mechanism at a later date when you hadn’t made any allowances in the original design.

    re: the difficulty of authoring open hypertext links, there’s an argument that this is effectively what bloggers of the “here’s a link to a cool thing” school are doing.


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