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Re: [xanadu] flecks ?????

> Writes Andrew Pam:
> >>     where did it come from?
> > From "flecks of gold", since Hypergold / Hypercoin was
> > originally intended to be denominated in fractions of
> > a gram of gold. (Similar to e-gold, for example).
>   Atom-sized fractions, I hope ;-)) 

You may be aware that one of the key properties of gold is it's extreme 
malleability, thus it's use in Rutherford's experiments on the diameter of the 
atomic nucleus. Gold can easily be beaten to foils of about a thousand atoms 
in thickness. When buying such gold leaf, it is no uncommon for the cost of 
the packaging, processing and distribution to exceed that of the gold, it is 
exactly this cost-of-overheads that Xanadu sought to eliminate.

> >>   Xanadu had its moment _before_ the emergence of the WWW,
> >>   and for a while, after being acquired by AutoDesk, Inc.
> >>   in 1990?, it looked like it had a shot at it. But it
> >>   never realized that potential, and now it's long past
> >>   its sell-by date. Maybe, in a couple decades, when the
> >>   Internet is truly global and mature, the enfiladas have
> >>   been ironed out, and a new digital-access paradigm shift
> >>   is approaching, maybe then... but not otherwise.
> > I'm disappointed in you, Ian! As a long-time Xanadu follower,
> > you should well know that the Xanadu design evolved beyond the
> > idea of a proprietary network since at least 1993-94.  The
> > present design has been based on a set of individually specified
> > but integratable modules, some of which already have open-source
> > prototype implementations, for some years now.
>   Andrew, your disappointment in me is nothing compared to my
>   disappointment over Xanadu never materializing. I know that
>   you've "hitched your wagon onto the star", and wish you good
>   luck, but, frankly, I don't harbour much hope for the "modules"
>   idea. Somehow the notion that one can arrive at the lofty goal
>   little by little, Xanadu-Peu-En-Peu, doesn't ring true to me.
>   Xanadu was supposed to be an electronic analogy to literature,
>   which, as you remember, is "a publishing system that works."
>   Because there were no blueprints, (post-Gutenberg) literature
>   took couple centuries to mature. With a blueprint like that,
>   any extension or analogous system shouldn't take that long, but
>   it'd still need to arrive on the scene and establish its advan-
>   tages in one go, all of a sudden. Now, do you really see that
>   happening anyplace anytime soon?

Look into the night sky at a star. What does it look like? A bright twinkling 
point of light? That's what it looks like to me too. But if we went to that 
star what would we see? Certainly something more like our own solar system 
rather than a bright twinkling point of light. That act of chasing the stars 
changes our perception of them.
>   Look around you: do you see ANY complex system (of anything)
>   that is *perfect*, elegant, or sticks together without constant
>   infusion of spit, chewing gum and sellotape? I cannot think of
>   any, much less complex ones, that to a large degree aren't
>   kludges, "the usual muddle", compost heaps of conflicting
>   good intentions. Perhaps we humans are predisposed to chaotic
>   management of chaos, and simply feel no need for excellence?
>   That certainly is closer to the spirit of the WWW, which has
>   proved that it works, scales adequately, and is not owned by
>   anyone. But nothing short of perfection will do for Xanadu.
>   In the end the very idea is too elegant, too much of a paper
>   construct, too inherently beautiful for its own good. That's
>   why I called it a  d r e a m.   Don't let me wake you up.

I think this where we differ, you appear to see perfection as a state, I think 
of perfection as a direction.

By the time we've reached a what appeared at the outset to be perfect solution 
to any given information system, the problem domain has evolved: the users 
have become more sophisticated and asked for extra features, the designers 
have had second thoughts on at least some details and probably some 
fundamentals, the implementors have discovered slightly better algorithms, the 
hardware people have a dozen new CPUs/ protocols/ whatever to support, the 
logicians have designed more pathological documents (see 
http://www.cs.waikato.ac.nz/~say1/sarcasm.html for attempts to use 
pathological documents to prove properties of information systems) and other 
people have built other systems which must be communicated with through file 
formats for importing, exporting and direct communication.

It's possible that no system called Xanadu will ever be put into widespread 
use. However, it's influence on modern hypertext systems is profound and 
ongoing. The end-user problems enumerated at the outset still exist and if 
some of them are solved by current systems (CVS, WWW, PayPal, etc) the fact 
that these systems can only offer pieces of the jigsaw rather than integrated 
systems suggests how far we have yet to travel. Until such a system exists, 
Xanadu stands as a placeholder for a system which answers those end-user 
problems and a checklist of features to check for in information systems.

Martin Luther King had a dream too, and while racial equity is as likely in my 
lifetime as a `perfect' information system, I see no reason not to chase 
either dream.


--    stuart yeates <s.yeates@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> aka `loam'
"bother," said pooh, as he made an addition to his killfile.