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[FWD] Re: Some Questions to Xanadu

Oops. I sent this to Mr. Grenzdoerffer, but I forgot to post it to 
the mailing list. Since I am well aware of the incomplete nature of 
my understanding of Xanadu, I want any mistakes I make corrected by 
those more knowledgeable than I.

on  Tue, 26 May 1998,  Soeren Grenzdoerffer 
<leonardo@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

<prefatory remarks clipped>
>  Having
> read a lot about Xanadu some questions arose which I hope you can
> help me to answer:

While I am not myself a part of the Xanadu team (much though I'd like
to be), I believe I can answer some of these questions reasonably.

> a) 
> Ted Nelson wrote in several publications that there is no censorship
> in Xanadu. How will you handle forbitten topics like bomb-building
> or child-pornograpy? In Germany they trying to disconnect server in
> the WWW with such topics from the net. I can't imagine that the
> government would allow Xanadu publishing such topics.

Information policies of that nature fall to the client software, if I
understand correctly. Since, unlike with the WWW, the data and
linkages are independent of the presentation, the way it displays is
controlled by the user, and the software the user is browsing with.

> b) 
> Ted Nelson prefers a mouse-click-universe. 
> What about necessary text input for example in search engines?

While Nelson-sensei has promoted the use of mice for years, he is not
committed to them to the exclusion of keyboards. In fact, one of the
tools he has held up as an exemplar in the past (JOT) is designed to
allow editing without requiring either the typist's hands to move off 
of the main area of the keyboard at all or the user to memorize 
elaborate control-meta keystrokes  (the space bar is overloaded for 
the purposes of moving around the text, for example) . The goal, as 
always,  is simplicity and usefulness. In any case, as I stated 
earlier, since the client software is separate from the server, how 
you interact with it depends on the specific program.

> c) 
> In the FAQ for Xanadu you wrote in the point 2m that a 'document is
> automatically moved to physical storage appropriate to its frequency
> of access'. In point 2o I read that 'every Xanadu service provider
> can charge their users at any rate they choose for the storage'.
> Scenario: Provider A stores a huge amount of information, User X
> often connects to provider A via provider B requesting this
> information.
> According to point 2m this information will be automatically move to
> provider B. 1) Is the fact that the provider B possibly can't handle
> such a huge amount of information neglected ? 

No, available space is taken into account;  the server software will
be smart enough to deny a local-copy request it cannot fulfill, and
the data would simply be called directly from A (or any of A's mirror
sites). Remember, also, that there will be at least one other copy (at
a, presumably) on the network, and that mirroring is transparent (the
user needs only have the 'address' of the data, not the specific 
machine it is stored on).

> 2) Who will charge the
> user X for storage, retrieval and perhaps publishing this
> information (see point 2m). Provider A or provider B 

That one I'm not sure about. Anyone?

> d) 
> In Dream Machine Nelson wrote about the grand dream of Hypertext
> that everything shall be in hypertext. Point 2h in the FAQ says that
> the 'Permission to link to a document is explicitly granted by the
> act of publication.' If everything is in hypertext an accessible via
> provider, how do you handle restricted access for the reason of
> privacy or secrecy (thinking of corporations or gouverments) ?

OK, while I'm not certain if I have this right, here is what 
understand. Each individual link  is marked as to its publication
status (i.e., public, public with royalty, private,  private
encrypted,  privashed (published within a specific group of users),
etc.). If a given link is marked such that it would not be available
to a user browsing through a particular piece of material, the user
does not see that link at all. 

> e) 
> Referring to education Nelson wrote that there will be no need for
> teachers. The pupils will learn by exploring the Xanadu system. I
> think that teachers and especially what their teaching can be
> controlled to a certain degree. There will be no effective control
> over the Xanadu system in its function as a teacher, especially
> concerning political or similar groups openly spreading their ideas
> ?

Here I have to think that Nelson-sensei was overstating himself, tho'
not by much. The main idea he was trying to project, at least as I
understand it,  is that the teacher would no longer be the 'dictator'
(both in the sense of tyrant and of one who is giving dictation) to
the students. The role of the educator (*not* 'teacher') would be to
guide the students in their explorations : to hold discussions, to ask
probing questions and to encourage their interests.As for control, 
while what I said earlier about the client software being able to set 
policy, one would hope that such 'controls' would not be used to 
prevent the student from learning on their own and forming their own 
opinions. Ignorance is far more threatening than any 'dangerous' idea 
could ever be, and it is often the act of censorship makes such ideas 
'dangerous' in the first place. 

> f) 
> Without removing any document out of Xanadu how do you want to
> handle 'junk-information' ?

Well, if you mean in the sense of 'junk e-mail', its very simple
(again, this is my understanding of it, not the official policy). The
message received is not the permanent copy, necessarily; if the user
marks it for clearing, it is removed from the local storage. The
permanent copy is on the originating server (or any which mirror it),
so the issue of storing unwanted material becomes the offenders'
problem not the victims'. OTOH, as for the issue of unneeded
information in general, I'm not sure; it seems to me that there's the
implicit assumption in Xanadu that *no* data is 'junk data'.

> g) 
> The WWW is already very big. Do you want to take over the Web with
> Xanadu or do you want to build your own system which will replace
> the WWW ?

Well, the eventual goal is that all the material on the web (and
everywhere else) be migrated into Xanadu, or that all non-Xanadu 
materials be at least readable by Xanadu tools ( a tall order, to be 
sure). How to do this, and how quickly, is an open question, but 
presumably a Xanadu based client will be able to read in HTML and XML 
documents, at the least, and present them as such (they'ed be treated 
as a single chunk in their format). 

> h) The WWW lives from the many young people who don't want to pay
> any royality. Do you think that Xanadu will be alive like the WWW if
> you implement a royality system ?

There are two answers to this. First, the royalty system will be on a
link by link basis; if an author wishes to publish material with no
royalty (but with proper credits given), they can do so. Second, the
goal of the royalty system is to allow things that normally aren't put
on the web (copyrighted books, private data, etc.) to be networked in
a copyright-secure and privacy-secure manner, without all the nonsense
about SSL and the other contortionist acts needed with the WWW.

> i) What are the reasons for Ted Nelson selling Xanadu to Autodesk in
> 1988 and rebuying it in 1992?

That I can't answer sensibly myself. Anyone else?

#define KINSEY rand() % 7      ______ Schol-R-LEA;2 LCF ELF JAM BiWM
BigTimeHardLineBadLuckFistFuck \ bi / "Like marmalade on burnt toast"
Want some catsup for your menu?  \/ Now on Slip '.' Net as 'scholr'
Trouble rather the tiger in his lair than the scholar among his books