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Usage cases

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One of the things I've noticed is that most of the material 
describing Xanadu describe how the system as a whole works - out-of-
band links, single storage, transclusion, etc. While this kind of 
description is necessary, it isn't enough. Why? Because 'the system' 
isn't what users interact with, it's the applications. Most personal 
computer users cannot explain the difference between the apps they 
use (Word, Netscape) the system they run under (Windows, MacOS) and 
the computer they run on (PC, Mac), a fact which in some ways 
highlights how arbitrary these distinctions are (at least the 
software ones). Even among programmers, there is less interest in 
*how* it works than in *what* it does, and what advantages it has 
over the existing systems. 

While it is easy for those who get the idea to say, 'X is then a 
natural outgrowth of the system, and doesn't need to be added,' or 
'you get Y for free as a result of this,' it isn't so obvious to 
people who haven't assimilated the principles yet. We need to explain 
not just how the system works underneath, but how it could be put 
into practice - especially examples of how it can provide better 
alternatives to the way things are done now, and how it can foster 
new ways of doing things. But we also have to show that there's 
nothing to lose, that Xanadu can provide *at least* as much as the 
existing systems can. *We* may know that Xanadu provides a superset 
of the functionality (eech) of conventional systems, but that won't 
mean much to novice users.

I propose that various members of the team write up suggestions for 
how a given common application - word processing, email, chat, 
database, etc. - could be handled using nothing but a front end on 
the underlying Xanadu system. Some of them are fairly easy - Xanadu 
was designed for text handling, e-mail can be done just by using the 
appropriate settings, and so forth. Explaining how it would work - 
and what advantgaes it would have over existing systems - would go a 
long way towards clarifying how Xanadu as a whole works. It would be 
especially useful to show how a given system could be done *in 
different ways* without changing or adding to the underlying system.

Better still, if you can think of a *new* application that can only 
be done under Xanadu, write it up. A lot of people in the industry 
believe that a new system has to have a 'killer app' (some new tool 
or way of doing things unique to that system) in order to succeed. 
Regardless of whther this is true or not, there are enough people who 
believe it that they'd give support for a new system if and only if 
it had one. Now in a sense Xanadu does have one already - real 
hyperliterature and hyperannotation, not tied to the HTML\XML kludge -
 but that idea is *still* too far ahead of its time. While the long 
term goals are still the important ones, we have to look at the short 
term in order to get ther; that means that we'll need some kind of 
tangible benefits now. Given the power of the Xanadu system, I can't 
imagine it would be too difficult to come up with something that has 
enough usefulness and 'ooh aah' effect to get people's interest (and 
investment). In fact, the biggest problem I'd see is keeping our 
perspective, and not get side-tracked by the immediate gratification 
like everyone else. 

I'll post an example of what I mean RSN.

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J Osako
Programmer Analyst, Operating Systems Designer, Notational Engineer