Deep Roots of Hypertext Journaling

Believe it or not, I’m still sorting out what I’ve learned about Traction Software, sifting and trying to digest what I’ve learned. Traction was heavily influenced by Doug Engelbart and his ideas about through journaling:

Our Journal system was conceived by this author in about 1966. I wanted an underlying operational process, for use by individuals and groups, that would help bring order into the time stream of the Augmented Knowledge workers. The term “journal” emerged early in the conceptualization process for two reasons:

  1. I felt it important in many dynamic operations to keep a log (sometimes termed a “journal”) that chronicles events by means of a series of unchangeable entries (for instance, to log significant events while evolving a Plan, shaping up a project, trouble-shooting a large operation. or monitoring on-going operations). These entries would be preserved in original form, serving as the grist for later integration into more organized treatments.
  2. I also wanted something that would serve essentially the same recorded-dialogue purpose as I perceived a professional journal (plus library) to do.

I’m still exploring this vein, but it occurred to me that I also ought to link to one of best recognized seminal works that envisioned the hyperlinked electronic knowledge space we are all building today, Vannevar Bush’s 1945 Atlantic Monthly article, “As We May Think“:

The human mind … operates by association. With one item in its grasp, it snaps instantly to the next that is suggested by the association of thoughts, in accordance with some intricate web of trails carried by the cells of the brain. It has other characteristics, of course; trails that are not frequently followed are prone to fade, items are not fully permanent, memory is transitory. Yet the speed of action, the intricacy of trails, the detail of mental pictures, is awe-inspiring beyond all else in nature.

Thereafter, at any time, when one of these items is in view, the other can be instantly recalled merely by tapping a button below the corresponding code space. Moreover, when numerous items have been thus joined together to form a trail, they can be reviewed in turn, rapidly or slowly, by deflecting a lever like that used for turning the pages of a book. It is exactly as though the physical items had been gathered together from widely separated sources and bound together to form a new book. It is more than this, for any item can be joined into numerous trails.

We are still only documenting our “trails” in ad hoc ways, but it’s astonishing how clearly Vannevar Bush was able to see ahead.
I’ll post more specifically about Traction Software when I have my thoughts ordered.



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