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OHS-Like Tools 0

Overview 1

OHS diagram
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To meet the rapidly evolving needs of today's teams, initiatives, and organizations, Doug Engelbart called for a world wide open hyperdocument system (OHS), as outlined in his OHS Technology Template. To this day, these requirements remain largely unmet, the majority of features and functions he called for are either missing from prevailing information technology, or not yet sufficiently ubiquitous or interoperable to reach their intended potential. 1a

There are nonetheless emerging some OHS-like features and tools that begin to address or exemplify in an adhoc way some of the basic OHS requirements. Some examples are given below. Teams and initiatives wishing to cobble together and harness the best of OHS-like tools to support their member engagement and collaboration, please share your top picks and lessons learned with us. 1b


Examples 2

Efficient Navigation & Linkability 2a

Also called 'precision browsing', this may include provisions for different views of a file or document, for example an outline view, as well as fine-grained addressability, i.e. the ability link to, goto, or jump to a specific place or item within a file or document. In its most exemplary, the user has a sense of flying through the information space, within and across repositories, throughout the web, zooming in and out of detail as needed, landing with precision at any point in any file with whatever view of the contents suits the user in the moment.

  • Spreadsheets: A standard provision in all spreadsheets, since the beginning of spreadsheets - the ability to Goto, link to or reference a specific cell or range of cells by column and row - for example the cell in row 25, column G is addressed as G25. In addition to this system-provided address, a user-defined name can also be used.
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  • Documents: MS Word and GoogleDoc offer dynamic outline view of a document in a left panel, if you click on a heading in the outline, you'll be jumped to that place in the document in your main window. Presentation tools such as PowerPoint and Adobe Acrobat offer thumbnail view of slides or pages in left panel, for some level of granular navigation and manipulation. What's distinguishes GoogleDoc here is that it automatically assigns a label or anchor name to each heading, and adds that to the URL with a hashtag #label which you can now copy the whole URL that links directly to that heading. GoogleDocs also wins in the document sharing category with real-time collaborative editing.
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  • Video: YouTube gets the cake for efficient navigation among video platforms, with the provision to right-click on the video to Copy a link to the video or Copy a link to the video at that specific time in the video. You can use right and left arrows to skip back or skip ahead, you can set the playback speed anywhere from half time to double time, and you can view a transcript of the video in real time, AND clicking on any line of the transcript will skip the playback to that point in the video. Bret Victor single-handedly pushed the envelope with his video digests - renders the video skimmable, browsable, annotatable, and chapterized - see examples Doug's 1968 Demo Interactive and Media for Thinking the Unthinkable.
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  • Wikipedia: Like GoogleDocs, Wiki will automatically generate a clickable table of contents to aid navigation, and assigns a #label to every heading included in the TOC, so you can jump and/or copy a URL directly to any section of the document. A purple numbers extension is available for use on MediaWiki: Purple MediaWiki, which makes every paragraph uniquely clickable to jump and/or copy link to.
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  • Ubiquitous Linking and Annotation: The open source annotation tool hypothes.is created by a non-profit by that name, essentially adds an invisible layer to the web through which you can directly link to or annotate any piece of any file anywhere on the web, even files you don't own. See our blogpost Game Changer: Hypothes.is announces 'direct linking' across the web.
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  • Websites: purple numbers is an open source module that makes every paragraph in a web page, like the purple numbers on this webpage, uniquely clickable to jump and/or copy link to.
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  • Our Website: About Our Website re: our purple numbers, table of contents view, and other rudimentary OHS-like enhancements we have added for your convenience, and to give a taste of a few key features.
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Full-Featured OHS Prototype

In short, what's available out there is a hodge podge of point solutions, leaving the end user with a hodge podge of apps and utilities that don't amount to a fast, flexible open hyperdocument system. What is needed as an alternate option is a research prototype OHS -- a viable, evolvable prototype, or MVP, for use in pilot expeditions, designed to push the envelope on the full range of features on the tool side in a way that supports commensurate experimentation and evolution on the human-system side. Such an MVP would facilitate: (a) hands-on experience of OHS features in an integrated environment, (b) a superior alternative for teams and networked initiatives wishing to push the envelope in productivity and effectiveness, (c) a platform for prototyping dynamic knowledge repositories, (c) end user feedback to inform developers, and (d) a working model for open source developers writing OHS extensions. See About Augment/NLS and About HyperScope for early prototypes used to evolve, refine and demonstrate OHS requirements, and our Demos page for illustrative examples of these prototypes over time.

Ultimately most features of OHS would become standard, working interoperably across all platforms, utilities, and applications.

Further Inquiry 3