Today in a conversation at the IndieWebCamp East 2020 someone mentioned the book Ergodicity by Luca Dellanna. I haven’t decided yet if I would want to read the book, but one thing did stand out: the book is not just available in various e-book formats, but also as a Roam-research graph. This means it’s available as JSON data file, where various parts of the book’s content are interlinked. This allows you to non-linearly explore the book.

This allows you to load the book directly into your note taking environment. If you use Roam research.
I myself wouldn’t want to load someone else’s book sized content directly into my own collection of Notions. Only stuff in my own words goes in there. But I do think it would be a great experience to go through an entire book like that. So I am curious to do something like that, separate from my own vault of notes.

Dellanne claims to have invented the future of e-books, with roam-books, but of course there’s a long history of book hypertexts where links are a key part of the content and experience (Victory Garden an early hypertext novel was published in 1987). Eastgate’s tool Tinderbox also allows multiple types of visualisation to let you navigate through (and automatically manipulate) a chunk of content, and it too is saved and shareable in a XML format. Then again, a Roam-book could be a website just as much, except for the graph view.

He’s now also sending out a newsletter published as a Roam-research file. I can see the appeal, with things like block transclusion and graphical representation. In Obsidian doing something like that would be a collection of small interlinked text files. Which basically is a …. website… you would send in the mail. As both Roam and Obsidian are only viewers. So that might be something, offer a newsletter in e-mail format, as a pdf or as a interlinked collection of notes. Different formats for different viewers. The added benefit is that loading a newsletter into your note-taking tool means you can immediately put it through your own summarisation / processing, throwing out the things you’re not interested in, basing additional stuff on the things you are interested in. Another benefit is that if you use generic link titles (e.g. things like [[Indieweb]]) the newsletter will automatically link to your own mention of that term (and to previous mentions of it in earlier editions of the newsletter). I don’t want to load another project on Frank‘s plate, but it sure does sound like something he might be interested in exploring.

A team of people, including Jeremy Keith whose writings are part of my daily RSS infodiet, have been doing some awesome web archeology. Over the course of 5 days at CERN, they recreated the browser experience as it was 30 years ago with the (fully text based) WorldWideWeb application for the NeXT computer

Hypertext’s root, the CERN page in 1989

This is the type of pages I visited before inline images were possible.
The cool bit is it allows you to see your own site as it would have looked 30 years ago. (Go to Document, then Open from full document reference and fill in your url) My site looks pretty well, which is not surprising as it is very text centered anyway.

Hypertexting this blog like it’s 1989

Maybe somewhat less obvious, but of key importance to me in the context of my own information strategies and workflows, as well as in the dynamics of the current IndieWeb efforts is that this is not just a way to view a site, but you can also edit the page directly in the same window. (See the sentence in all capitals in the image below.)

Read and write, the original premise of the WWW

Hypertext wasn’t meant as viewing-only, but as an interactive way of linking together documents you were actively working on. Closest come current wiki’s. But for instance I also use Tinderbox, a hypertext mindmapping, outlining and writing tool for Mac, that incorporates this principle of linked documents and other elements that can be changed as you go along. This seamless flow between reading and writing is something I feel we need very much for effective information strategies. It is present in the Mother of all Demos, it is present in the current thinking of Aaron Parecki about his Social Reader, and it is a key element in this 30 year old browser.