About An Open Hyperdocument System (OHS)
A template and call to action for seamless, evolvable, truly hyper information systems 0

Overview 1

Doug Engelbart's call for a world wide open hyperdocument system (OHS) framework identifies the key features and functionality needed in our information technology to enable today's more agile and transformative teams and organizations to perform to their highest potential. The OHS framework addresses the fundamental requirements for enabling groups and organizations of any size to amplify group smarts – in Engelbart's terms "augmenting the human intellect" or boosting their Collective IQ – yielding more brilliant outcomes, faster, at scale. 1a

The baseline requirements outlined as a starting point for OHS, which he referred to as "the critical missing piece" in the Collective IQ equation, are still largely missing from today's information technology. 1b

For example, his two top contenders, the ability to: 1c

  1. jump or link directly to any point in any file in the knowledgesphere
  2. change your view of the file to suit the moment

More under What is OHS? below. As a minimum, prototypes are needed to gain experience in experimental build-test-learn pilots. Ultimately, the full expression of OHS is embedded across all platforms, applications, and knowledge domains. This effort is part of a larger strategy for bootstrapping society's IQ across private and public sectors. Today's technology has barely scratched the surface of what's possible, desirable, and essential. 1d

User Needs 2

Designing for more effective and powerful ways of working and studying together will require pivotal shifts in how we organize ourselves, our knowledge, and our tools. We are already shifting from a compartmentalized stove-pipe paradigm, to one that is more agile, collaborative, cross-functional, dynamic, interactive, networked, user-centered, open and evolvable. This is just the beginning of the transformation. OHS requirements envision a future of highly evolved teams and networks, endowed with ever more interactive and dynamic knowledge ecosystems (DKEs). OHS is both an enabler for working smarter and faster today, and a vehicle for accelerating the evolution.

We'll need more facile ways to traverse our knowledge domains, as if we are flying around in an information space. We need to be able to quickly skim across the landscapes, and dive down into whatever detail suits our needs in the moment, zooming in and out of detail as desired. Basic OHS requirements include birds-eye views that scale, and fine-grained addressability of all objects and media types, allowing for greater agility and permeability throughout the knowledgesphere, dissolving unnecessary silos, while providing flexible and facile ways of traversing, ingesting, capturing, (re)arranging, sharing, utilizing, and advancing the knowledge upon which our most challenging endeavors depends.

For more detail see About a Dynamic knowledge Ecosystem (DKE), as well as The true promise of Interactive Computing: Leveraging our Collective IQ, and the excellent summary piece on End User Systems in the OHS Technology Template.

Case in Point 3

For example, at the top of his list has remained the ability to link directly to any point in any file in the knowledgesphere. This feature is absolutely essential to enable fine-grained browsing, sharing, connecting the dots, interacting with and editing the contents. Some systems, like this very website, and Wikipedia, and now GoogleDocs, offer built-in section linking and a table of contents view. Google Chrome now offers a right click | Copy link to highlight feature - Chrome users see it in action here! And YouTube has added the ability to right click at any point in a video to Copy Link to this point in the video. These are fabulous improvements, but an adhoc approach. The vast majority of our knowledgesphere, including and especially the world wide web which made hyperlinking a household word, has not offered a reliable and consistent way to identify, link to, jump to or otherwise address a specific phrase or paragraph, section or multi-media object within a file.

For the most part, the prevailing paradigm has remained largely based on linking to a file, and then searching and scrolling through the files, which misses the true promise of new media to more closely align with how our brains think and connect ideas. Our minds do not think inside of rectangles, pages, files or apps. We think in concepts. We dart around our minds fluidly in whatever level of detail suits the moment, connecting the dots, sparking aha moments. To put the concepts in files or discussions, we have to go into apps and translate thought into words and images --this is a very cumbersome medium. Information technology could be augmenting our collective human intellect at the speed of thought in powerful new ways, instead of automating how we used to think and work in a linear paper-based world.

What is OHS? 4

The Open Hyperdocument System (OHS) is a world-wide open source framework for developing collaborative, dynamic knowledge systems and applications. "Open" for vendor independent and interoperable, "document" of any media or mix of media (text, graphic, video, audio, animation, commentary, email, etc.), and "hyper" for enhanced, dynamic, interactive, as well as fine-grained linkability. The OHS framework includes evolving prototype(s) that can be fielded for demonstration as well as real-world pilot usage. Its primary objective is to support Dynamic Knowledge Ecosystems (DKEs). The quality of a group's DKE directly determines how high or low its Collective IQ, its overall collective effectiveness at tackling complex, urgent challenges. A higher Collective IQ yields more brilliant outcomes.

OHS Framework at a Glance 4b

Following are some essential elements of the OHS framework. For a complete list and description of features, end-user reqirements, and paradigm shifts called for, see the OHS Technology Template.

Basic Hyperdocument Features Made Possible By

1. Flexible view control such as zooming in and out of structure; showing or hiding address IDs, anchor names, and timestamps; visualizations; views filtered by content and time-stamp metadata; edit history of an object or structure as well as file

2. Hyperlinking or jumping directly to any object, optionally specifying the desired view control

3. Same features available while editing; plus fine-grained addressability of objects and structure for editing purposes

4. Transclusion of any object or chunk of structure from any file

Attributes in the file provided automatically

• Every object in the file is uniquely addressible; IDs are assigned automatically, as well as by author

• Every object is time- stamped with date, time, and author at the time it is created or modified

• Structuring of objects is explicitly supported and encouraged

Applies universally to all document types incl. email, slide decks, video, source code, calendars, todo lists, etc.

OHS Further Supports

Browsing and editing are seamlessly merged, not separate

Hyperdocs are vendor-independent, use tools of choice to access, navigate, modify

True hyper-email, where prior email or any object in any prior email can be referenced with a hyperlink; a Reply cites prior msg by default rather than including its contents. All hyperlinks hold true for recipients, including those in attached hyperdocs

Easy capture/tagging of hyperdocs submitted to a "Journal" library, assigned permalink and catalog entry; recipients notified by email and a link; catalogs updated automatically tracking versions, commentary, and subcollections

Signature encryption guarantees authentication

Shared screen teleconferencing: each user joins conference using app of choice, with access to his/her repositories, in free-for-all or moderated mode

SIRI-like verb-noun commands allow for more expansive and natural vocabulary/repertoire, with variety of UI styles from point and click to high-performance, using menus, voice, command keys, macros; streamlines accessibility

For more see About DKEs, and the Paradigm Shift Summary section of the OHS Technology Template.

OHS in Action 4c

  Watch basic OHS features in action - a sampling here with more under Learn From Doug below:

New Watch basic HyperScope demo (10min)
Visit About HyperScope 2.0 for more info

Approach 5

The OHS baseline requirements are a result of 50 years of innovation and experimentation by Doug Engelbart and his team of researchers among a variety of user communities in public and private sectors, including aerospace, software development, and non-profits. The purpose of an OHS initiative is to provide a common framework and eventual standards for these features to evolve ubiquitously, informed by ongoing advanced cooperative pilot usage. See Learn From Doug below for his writings and lectures on OHS, including the OHS Technology Template and Draft OHS Project Plan, for details. 5a

The Doug Engelbart Institute advocates (1) utilizing existing best of breed tools and practices to power your networked initiatives and pilot expeditions; (2) the development of one or more open source research prototypes for experimental pilots using a build-test-learn minimum viable prototype (MVP) approach; (3) the integration of key features in existing tools and systems; and (4) an open standards effort for developers in the IT arena to make OHS functionality ubiquitously and consistently available across platforms, applications, and knowledge domains. See Learn From Doug below for details. As a minimum use a preferred innovation approach, such as Design Thinking or Lean. Ideally, add Doug's strategic thinking in the Engelbart Academy and Your Bootstrapping Brilliance Toolkit. 5b

Here's a sample path: 5c

  1. Whether you are creating a standalone prototype, or extending existing tools with OHS features, get familiar with basics under Learn from Doug & Others below
  2. Where to Start? Implement the above Basic Hyperdocument Features 1 & 2 browsing functionality, with embedded file Attributes
  3. Field a minimum viable prototype to jumpstart the experimental pilot(s), and bootstrap results
    • Be your own most rigorous and demanding end-users, field it in real-world pilots
    • The importance of real-world usage is to co-evolve the tools with emerging best practices and paradigms
    • Build community participation
    • Form a Networked Improvement Community (NIC) of representative participants to share in the research, results, learnings, and cost
    • A NIC makes the best pilot test bed and 'organizational litmus test' for evolving OHS - ideally a NIC of NICs - but any networked initiative with enough traction should do for starters
  4. Encourage providers of existing systems and apps to incorporate these Basic Features - for example in Wikipedia, Internet Archive, Wordpress, Google Drive, ... -- be their end-user collaborators in their user-centered innovation process

For concrete examples of OHS concepts in action, see OHS in Action above, our Demos Archive of early prototypes, and Technology Showcase with links to related work. See also About Open Hyper Tools for ideas on evolving OHS-type open source tools, or extensions to existing tools like Wikipedia and blog. For an overview of early research prototypes directed by Doug Engelbart, see Past R&D Projects. For example, as an intermediate step toward OHS, in 2006 we developed a demonstration prototype system called HyperScope showcasing many of the precision browsing and addressability requirements in OHS (see more HyperScope Demos like Brad's above). The earliest and most comprehensive prototype system was Doug's Augment/NLS system (see more Augment Demos besides Christina's above). 5d

The first demonstration of OHS concepts was Doug's so-called "Mother of All Demos" in 1968, a comprehensive demonstration of NLS -- albeit more primitive (yet spectacular) technology (see below, and more at NLS Demos). 5e

Learn from Doug & Others 6

  Watch Doug demo early OHS concepts in his 1968 Mother of All Demos (excerpts:14min)

Presentations 6a

Watch excerpts of Doug Engelbart presenting OHS concepts in these talks and seminars (for a full topic index into these videos, visit Engelbart Academy)

Watch Christina Engelbart's Augment Tutorial (48min) - a richly featured OHS prototype with a range of UI options ::
Intro | UI1 ' Zoom | UI2 ' Jump ' Viewspecs | Turbo | Closing

Key Writings 6b

More Resources 6c

More Doug Presenting 6c1

More Engelbart Writings 6c2

Misc 6c3