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I have returned...AIDEMemoir-Xanadu Revisited (fwd)

Note: AIDEMemoir is the new name for the original Xanadu server code
acquired by Filoli (formerly Memex).  My apologies to those on this
list who were also recipients of the original message, but I thought
it interesting enough to repost (with permission) to the entire list.

----- Forwarded message from Tim Tyler -----

>From timtyler@xxxxxxxxxx Tue Dec 19 05:41:44 1995
Date: Mon, 18 Dec 1995 11:34:10 -0800 (PST)
From: Tim Tyler <timtyler@xxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: I have returned...AIDEMemoir-Xanadu Revisited
To: main list -- Andrew Pam <avatar@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, ...
Message-ID: <Pine.3.89.9512181111.A422-0100000@netcom5>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII

As you all know, I have had a two year obsession with AIDEMemoir
(Xanadu); and, since you haven't heard from me recently, you probably
think that I have either come to my senses (and decided to drop the
whole thing) or gone completely mad.   I will tell you what I have been
doing and let you decide for yourselves.  Here is  brief summary:

1. When I went to Sea Ranch this fall, it reminded me that two years ago
I was "touting" (and I use the word advisedly) AIDEMemoir to a potential
investor who took the trouble to make the journey up the coast.   Since
then, I have not initiated a major research report because I felt
AIDEMemoir was so important.  While waiting (patiently?) for AIDEMemoir,
I have been lazily cruising the Internet and trying to determine how
soon the Web will plunge from being vastly overrated to significantly
undervalued as it most certainly will according to Lady Lovelace.
(Incidentally, while the fair lady's profound  observation concerning
Babbage's Analytical Engine has held true for every development in the
computer industry since then, I believe that Netscape has established a
new zenith of overrating, and Xanadu now rests at a new nadir of

2. My momentary reflection on that meeting two years ago, combined with
my recent experience, provided me with a very clear insight - AIDEMemoir
(Xanadu) is farther from being a product now than I thought it was two
years ago.  At that point I was inclined to say to hell with it, but

3.  Shortly after I arrived at Sea Ranch, I went to a lecture by someone
who is a "research affiliate" with the Program on Information Resources
Policy at Harvard.  His primary message is that "the most thoroughly
recorded years in the history of humanity could end up among the least
well preserved."  And, after listening to him, I can't help but believe
that he is right - especially if anyone is depending upon him (or
Harvard) for guidance on information policy.

4. The issues raised in the "research findings" published by Harvard in
1994 show less insight than some of us had 30 years ago, and no
conclusions (much less recommendations) were made in the report or
available from the lecturer under direct questioning.    For example,
the lecturer (a former DOD executive now retired to Sea Ranch) seems to
feel one of the big problems is that a lot of this information is stored
on media produced by obsolete technology (hardware and software) and
therefore will be unreadable.   Really?  What a surprising insight!

5. This intellectually depressing lecture reminded me that most of my
work for the last 20 years was generated on an Apple // and was still
stored in Appleworks format.  (Yes, I had moved all of my Appleworks
files over to the PC before giving my Apple //s to the grandchildren,
and I do have an Appleworks compatible program for the PC.  It was just
that I had been too lazy to convert the files to ASCII.)  It was then
that I decided to take a mini-sabbatical from AIDEMemoir-Xanadu and the

6. So, folks, what I have done is take everything I have written (and
all back-up materials that are in processable form), converted it from
Appleworks format to text, and dumped the whole damned mess to a fully
indexed archive.  This amounts to about 9 megabytes of research reports
and about 20 megabytes of computer industry information filtered and
downloaded from information services over the years.  (I haven't
bothered with much of the more recent stuff downloaded from the Internet
because I heard about this wonderful archival system....)  While this
may not seem like much to the terabyte types, it still required a fast
indexing and retrieval system in order to make my personal archival data
base more accessible and useful.

7. I am now "reverse engineering" a crude library system that will
organize my books according to the references that are made to them from
the archive.  I say reverse engineering because books will be classified
and "shelved" based on their use rather than on their content.  In other
words; citations, quotes, definitions, etc. in my personal archival
storage will point to paper publications, CDs, or network information
sources, but the use of the sources will be classified rather than the
sources themselves.  (My crude library system is a poor substitute for
AIDEMemoir-Xanadu.   It becomes rapidly unwieldy as I link to the
gigabytes of publications and reference material on CD-ROM, and rapidly
becomes  unworkable for network information sources.)

8. Everything I am doing reconfirms the wisdom of Ted Nelson as
expressed in his early publications (and I don't mean just hypertext).
>From the beginning, I have viewed AIDEMemoir as a means of reducing what
I have referred to over the years as "information entropy" (an extension
of Shannon's use of the term).   Office automation to date has only
increased the entropy of paper information, and the Web is now doing the
same for interactive electronic media.    We must all wade through
increasing volumes of information to find even a smidgen of something
new.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to find the knowledge
needles in the information haystacks.   That is why the lack of progress
in AIDEMemoir-Xanadu is so damned frustrating.

(BTW the most recent issue of Wired [January 1996] has a couple of
articles on Marshall McLuhan by Gary "The Curse of Xanadu" Wolf.
McLuhan is referred to as the patron saint of the magazine, and Ted is
referred to as the "hypermedia guru."   Not surprisingly, Wolf does not
recognize the connection between some of McLuhan's concerns about
electronic media and the Xanadu "solution.")

9. So wandering around the Internet and building my personal archival
data base has only reconfirmed the need for AIDEMemoir-Xanadu.  The
question which remains is whether I have been naive in believing
workable products (and services) can be implemented.  That, in turn,
leads to the question of why some very intelligent people have failed in
their Xanadu-AIDEMemoir implementation efforts.

10. A quick search through my newly established archival data base
turned up a wealth of useful clues as to why major systems development
efforts fail and succeed.   It provided a "knowledge list" of case
studies, research projects and conclusions for evaluating the various
Xanadu-AIDEMemoir development efforts.   I started to pass some of this
evaluation along to you, but it will serve no useful purpose for most of
you at this time and it was only delaying my reestablishing
communication with the outside world.

However, I will share with you the immortal words of a frustrated
systems programmer after a development effort to bring up a "large"
on-line data base resulted in a "large" mainframe computer being tied up
all night with a relatively simple "test".  He stated: "Do you know what
their problem is?  I'll tell you what their problem is - they thought
they knew what they were doing!"  (Of course, that couldn't be the
problem in the present case.  Could it?)

No, I think it is more likely that a quote, not included (until now) in
my personal archival data base, may be more appropriate.  When asked
what Bix Beiderbecke (the jazz musician) died from, a fellow musician
replied: "Man, Bix died of everything!"

I believe the Xanadu and AIDEMemoir development efforts have died (or,
more precisely, remain stillborn) because of everything - platform
selection, tool selection, quality assurance, politics, unreasonable
schedules, "unstructured" programming, fuzzy  requirements and
specifications, uncertain markets, lack of personnel experienced in
getting out a commercial product, etc.   You name it - Xanadu and
AIDEMemoir have suffered from it all.

11. That is the good news.  The development efforts never had a chance.
There is no reason to believe that AIDEMemoir-Xanadu cannot be
implemented.   The question remains - is it worth doing?    My answer to
that remains - yes!  The question remains - how can it be done?   My
answer is - I think I know, but right now I have to write a letter to
Santa Claus.

So...Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, and may 1996 be an improvement on


----- End of forwarded message from Tim Tyler -----

<mailto:avatar@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>                  Andrew Pam
<http://www.aus.xanadu.com/xanadu/>             Coordinator, Xanadu Australia
<http://www.glasswings.com.au/GlassWings/>      Technical Editor, Glass Wings
<http://www.sericyb.com.au/sc/>                 Manager, Serious Cybernetics
P.O. Box 409, Canterbury VIC 3126 Australia     Phone +61 3 96511511