I was wandering through last week’s NewScientist magazine when I stumbled across a letter that I had to read three times to comprehend the second last paragraph… not that it was incomprehensible, just the author is quite obviously a lot brainier than me and used long words. (Turns out, he’s even invented a few of his own, like Intertwingularity) The reason for persevering was that it included a couple of gems about the history of hypertext and its influence on managing information:

That project dumbed down hypertext to one-way, embedded, non-overlapping links… XML is only the latest, most publicised, and in my view most wrongful system that fits this description…

😦 so much for my love affair with XML.

The closing comment was most interesting:

I believe humanity went down the wrong path because of that project at Brown. I greatly regret my part in it, and that I did not fight for deeper constructs. These would facilitate an entire form of literature where links do not break as versions change; where documents may be closely compared side by side and closely annotated; showing the origins of every quotation…

Blimey, that would make for a useful online document management system… Anyways, the whole letter is available online, including the paragraph that I made such hard work over. I think he is over-harsh in his criticism of the hypertext we have ended up with, but the author is none other than Ted Nelson.

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