“Early adopters never switch”

Matt Webb is at the Hypertext’03 conference in Nottingham, and presents his rough notes here.

Amongst them are his seemingly hydra-compiled notes of “Uncle” Ted Nelson’s keynote. It seems to be about the problems of the dominant paradigms in personal computing and the web:


“broken promises of personal computing:

* easy record-keeping
* nothing lost
* simplify life
* easy programming

broken promises of hypertext:

* permanent availability
* deep connnections
* profuse link overlays
* frictionless reuse (with copyright management, transquotation)”

It’s also punctuated with gems like this:

“trying to fix html is like trying to graft arms and legs onto a hamburger. And that’s exactly what they’ve done”

Matt’s asides refer to the things that Nelson claims are failing us in current software, and how in actual fact people get by just fine. We have of course taught ourselves to get by just fine, “early adopters never switch” as Ted says, and subsequent generations of users haven’t even questioned the UI regimes we live within. How do you get to the next paradigm from within the tyrannical bounds of the one you’re operating in?

From the one before?

2004 O’Reilly Etcon has dedicated interface stream

“As the devices people spend more time staring at and interacting with–the laptop, palmtop, and hiptop–tend more and more toward mobility, the ways we interact with data and services are changing dramatically. We are taking a leap back from the heavy GUI of the past to lighter-weight, componentized, flexible interfaces such as Sherlock, Watson, and Dashboard. We’re reconsidering the browser interface, and discovering what happens when you turn Web pages back into their underlying applications and data.”

» O’Reilly ET2004: call for participation

Orange Cone

is the name of Mike Kuniavsky’s blog. Mike was the first person I ever met who did user-testing, and invited me to my first user-test. I was visiting San Francisco and he was working at HotWired, where Pouneh (an ex-colleague at Delphi) worked.

It was the first time I saw designers squirm on a (threadbare) sofa when confronted with a live feed of real people using their designs; and even though it was nothing to do with me, I empathised: with them, and the subject. A scenario repeated far too often for me since!

So MikeK. has a blog – I’m sure it’ll be as instructive as that first meeting with him!

» Orangecone: Mike Kuniavsky’s blog

BBC Creative Archive

The BBC’s Director-General (CEO, I guess) has announced a project called Creative Archive:

“Let me explain with an easy example.

Just imagine your child comes home from school with homework to make a presentation to the class on lions, or dinosaurs, or Argentina or on the industrial revolution.

He or she goes to the nearest broadband connection – in the library, the school or even at home – and logs onto the BBC library.

They search for real moving pictures which would turn their project into an exciting multi-media presentation.

They download them and, hey presto, they are able to use the BBC material in their presentation for free.

Now that is a dream which we will soon be able to turn into reality.

We intend to allow parts of our programmes, where we own the rights, to be available to anyone in the UK to download so long as they don’t use them for commercial purposes.

Under a simple licensing system, we will allow users to adapt BBC content for their own use.

We are calling this the BBC Creative Archive.

When complete, the BBC will have taken a massive step forward in opening our content to all – be they young or old, rich or poor.”

There’s a lot of other stuff about the BBC in the press at the moment, which has overshadowed this announcement… but it’s great news.

Brave and disruptive – and will have to be executed as such, with no half-measures or compromises to vested interests, but it’s still great..

Some good coverage and analysis here and here.

Large/Big/High Numbers

While trying to find stuff on Graham’s Number ( dimly-remembered from childhood obsession over the Guinness Book of Records) I come across Robert Munafo”s large numbers page, and his fascinating, Hofstadter-inspired classification of numbers:

” Class-1 numbers are those that are small enough to be perceived as a bunch of objects seen directly by the human eye. What I mean by “seen directly” is that it is possible to see the number as a set of separate, distinct objects in a single scene (no time limit, but the observer and the objects cannot move). 100 is a class-1 number because it is possible to see 100 objects (goats for example) in a single scene. The limit for class-1 numbers is around a million, 1,000,000 or 10^6. You can just barely put 1,000,000 dots on a large piece of paper and stand at a distance such that you can perceive each individual dot as a distinct dot, and at the same time be within viewing distance of the other 999,999 dots. (I have actually done this, just for fun!)”

Big Numbers was the name of a troubled Alan Moore / Bill Sienkiewicz co-creation. The High Numbers was the original name of The Who.