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news and thoughts on and around the development of the iCite net
by Jay Fienberg

Swiss lab accidents and other laws of hypertext

posted: Feb 13, 2004 3:58:04 PM

Tim Oren's Technorati > Xanadu post comments on a great point recently made by David Sifry, that hypertext links aren't just literary citations (e.g., of Ted Nelson's Xanadu), but are like social gestures (via Ross Mayfield's Linkorama, which, ironically, I can't really link to directly: this is where an iCite would come in handy).

I basically totally agree with what Tim is saying (or, what Tim is saying David said). But, the way Tim begins his post, he makes it sound like two-way linking and (by brining up Ted Nelson and Xanadu) other hypertext ideas that didn't make it into the HTML web don't or wouldn't have similar social uses.

I think what Tim and/or David is getting at, on one hand, is a useful observation: one limitation of Ted Nelson's model is that it fundamentally accepts only a "literary" approach to information, and it misses less literary but nonetheless information packed uses*. "Social gesture" is a good phrase is this sense, as gestures are packed with information that is not literary.

Something like two-way linking is, to me, also socially important—it is also a vital expression of social hypertext. Technorati and Google are great, but neither represents a good picture of people who link to this site. Two-way linking, were it supported, would be a valid form of social expression!

To me, socially, Technorati and Google are like having inattentive third-parties (e.g., secretaries) intermediate between me and the people who link to me. They are way better than nothing, but I can't depend on them to remember a lot of people / sites whom I would like to keep in touch with! (I hear that more important people get better secretaries—maybe that is more my problem!)

For at least some link relationships, I think it is vital, for specifically social reasons, for there to be a way to express something like two-way linking. (Note: I don't think the traditional hypertext idea of static, pre-agreed, two-way linking is the right model.) Similarly, there are other hypertext ideas (e.g., transclusion) that I think will have specifically social uses on the web.

(* I think it also would be fair to argue that a majority of the social gesutres on the web are textual and therefore could benefit from Nelson's literary features. I guess I should note that the name "iCite", among other things, was meant to indicate identity—the "i", as social basis for citations. My post, You + others = social, wherever you are, perhaps indicates though that I also see citations themselves more as social than literary gestures—I don't believe in Xanadu!)

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