Brian C. Lincoln

Date: Fri, 25 Aug 2000 01:00:03 -0700

From:   Brian C. Lincoln


Subject:   Meeting Summary & Thoughts, Doug & BCL,
Monday August 21, 2000

Sorry about the delay, I am going to be out of town for 10 days starting saturday and then drowned in backlog for a few days after that.

I met with Doug on Monday and we spent a couple hours talking about OHS. Because I only started with the group in June, Doug spent the initial part of the meeting going over the full history of Doug's DKR / Augment projects.

He went through some of his powerpoint slides from the colloqium and helped me understand a lot about his overview vision of the reasons as well as some of the pitfalls that have hobbled the development along the way. Pat had given me some background information before but it was very helpful to get the story from Doug and Doug is very pleasant to work with, so it seemed to go very smoothly.

While we were talking, I took some notes, but spent a lot of my time wondering what would be useful to summarize about what we talked about. Does everyone have a pretty good sense of the history? I'll limit it to just a few details.

Doug first started his development of ideas about the iterative co-evolution of tools and processes in the late 50s and in 1962 produced the paper "Augmenting Human Intellect" which is available at:

From there Doug started actually working with software & computer designers through the 60s and had in the late 1960s an initial version of Augment.

Each step of development ran into a wall at some point or another due to odd corporate and larger processes, but Doug has continued to champion his cause and kept developing the ideas throughout the last 40 years.

We talked a little about the problem of having much of the software developed to reduce the slope of learning curves with little or no attention on what 'expert use' is like. For tools that I use every day, I want to learn the most efficient way of using them and I am constantly annoyed by the lack of direct-key access to commands or the layout of menus which seem designed for someone else. Doug shared this frustration.

We then spent some time talking about current technologies and I showed Doug a quick introduction to Javascript and talked a little about some of the limitations of javascript versus java for the a thin client. One question Doug had that I couldn't answer is whether any current javascript DOM allows javascript to find out what text is selected by the mouse. Obviously javascript is a very limited language for attempting to implement any serious Augment candidate, but its an extremely light way to implement some concepts.

One of the elements of the discussion which surprised me was that Doug said that he had not been planning on any actual coding development happen before some financing for the project had been secured. Although I think that the project will get funding soon, this seemed somewhat different than what I had understood to be happening. Doug said he was willing to rethink that, but I mostly thought it was good to get his view of it explicit so that it could be discussed if necessary.

Thats about it for the summary.

For my thoughts:

I think the history of the project may have some lessons we can learn, but I suspect each of us may take away different lessons. I believe that Doug's project has generated a number of good concepts, 'technologies', and core designs that can be implemented as is.

I think that one way to approach the problem of how to implement technologies and instantiate ideas in a way that won't become dead ends is to do 3 things (this may be exactly what is happening and is not intended to be novel):

  1. Create pseudocode, englishy-code object descriptions, and technical documentation.

  2. Instantiate OHS Email Gateway V1 using some of the key features, with the intention to create something quickly, something light, and something that can act as a world-useable strawperson to beat up and use as a launching point for future instantiations. I am pretty sure this is happening already.

    The work on the OHS Email Gateway V1 does not interfere with more generic and higher level pseudocode object definitions which can then act as templates for implementing wider and wider sets of Augment functionality in various environments.

  3. Documentation & publication. Continue to write documentation for each individual innovation and index the documentation well so that it can be archived, indexed, etc. This includes trying to write some pseudo code, a technical description, and an executive summary indicating what value it adds to the world and how.

I think that this process can bootstrap the ideas in the current context/climate to get them out and being used and getting additional groups developing instantiations of the many feature ideas.

So, thems my thoughts. I will be back in September. Feel free to complete the revolution in my absence.


Brian C. Lincoln