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Re: Definition of Xanadu per Ted and Kathy

Drew Ivan  <ivan@xxxxxx> wrote:

[ jbc@xxxxxxxxxx (Jim Bryce Clark) wrote: ]

>>"world wide web" protocol completely ignores archiving and management
>>issues.  If the article to which you have hyperlinked is changed, without
>>notice, and the old version removed, to what are you now pointing?  The
>>inability of one-way hyperlinks to deal with that problem has been utterly
>>ignored, as far as I can tell.
>..but it is not a robust hypertext system. The fact that such things
>as version control and dangling pointers have been ignored is evidence
>of this. The designers of the Web were (presumably) aware of these
>shortcomings, but they chose to accept them in favor of an easier
>implementation scheme. I think it's an understandable tradeoff.
>>In my field (law), twenty or thirty successive versions of a document are
>>not uncommon.  The idea of a "final" document, the finality of which
>>justifies throwing out all the historical drafts and previous work, is fast
>>becoming obsolete.
>Agreed. Instead of "draft" and "final" versions, I prefer to think of
>my documents as being "previous" and "current", but (almost) always in
>a state of flux. In fact, of all the documents I deal with, it is only
>the least significant that are ever "final". Even something as minor as
>this email message is likely to be edited by someone else (perhaps in
>the process of replying), and bits of it may live on for days or weeks,
>continuing to change...but never being "final".

There has been thought and discussion on the subject of archiving internet
documents & whole sites in isolated instances -- I've made CDs over the
past 3 or 4 years for people who wanted permanent "snapshots" of particular
sites at a certain time.  While not version control, it is at least a
record, but of course there is no concerted effort to maintain any such
thing for all online documents.  There may not be enough polycarbonate in
the world to do so, the net changes so frequently.

I read an article just last week in one of the (too many)
magazines/newspapers I receive that addressed the idea that the internet,
esp. the Web, could vanish overnight because it is all so dynamic.  People
who put links to sites outside of their own constantly complain when those
external links change or disappear; I have trouble keeping track of links
within my OWN site -- my directory structure is a bit complex (but designed
for growth), and I add documents frequently, and update existing ones
sometimes.  As Drew pointed out, it's always in a state of flux.

I think we have to recognise that any online medium is transient by its
nature. If we want a permanent archive, we have to store it on a different
medium, such as CD or tape or even paper.  The growing interest in
interactive CD/online hybrids may serve to stabilize some sites, since the
existence of a static representation will give incentive to those whose
sites are referenced to maintain at least the links pointed to, but this is
still in its infancy and may never be very widespread.

Naturally, the dynamic nature of the Web, while exciting and fun, creates
an enormous challenge to anyone interested in tracking or controlling
intellectual property rights. Perhaps it really will result in the
"emancipation of information" from the concept of property rights, and
authors will have to find a different path to financial gain or control of
their work instead of existing copyrights and patents and royalties.  If
Xanadu was already implemented universally, it could take on the task of
this kind of bookkeeping, but maybe it's too late for that already.  The
backfiles alone are too overwhelming, with new material being generated at
an ever accelerating rate, and no plan in place for even cataloging it,
much less organizing a method of rights maintenence.

Besides the article I can't find, another discussion of IP rights and
online media is occurring within the (US) National Writers Union.  This
group is trying to create a method to help authors maintain their rights in
an electronic market (the Publication Rights Clearinghouse.)  A point of
contact with them is Irvin Muchnick <irvmuch@xxxxxxxxxx>.  He's the
Assistant Director of the NWU.  BTW, I told him about this list and the
Xanadu Website, so you may hear something from him sometime.


        National Writers Union / National Office West
                 337 - 17th Street, Suite 101
                      Oakland, CA 94612
         Phone: (510) 839-0110 / Fax: (510) 839-6097

January 1996

Thank you for your interest in Publication Rights
Clearinghouse (PRC), the new collective-licensing agency of
the National Writers Union. By establishing a royalty
system to put money directly into the pockets of working
writers, PRC hopes to do for you what organizations like
the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers
(ASCAP) have long done for creators in the music industry.

Not exactly version control, either, but tracking publications in any form
requires some of the same methodology.

Warmest regards,


Katherine Cochrane                              katherine@xxxxxxxxxxx
The CD-Info Company, Inc.   ph (+1)205-650-0406  fax (+1)205-882-7393
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