As someone fond of discussions of the forms of films and comic books, I find the lack of such discourse applied to the World Wide Web disappointing. Taking a small step toward a formal discussion of the new medium is Molly Holzschlag in her essay, "Freedom From Structure." It's refreshing to see such elemental considerations exhibited in a how-to Web design mag--I love that Molly is using her status in that community to breathe some life in the fundamental dialogue. Now, Molly's piece isn't the Greatest Thing Ever, but it's a smart look at the rudiments of the Web, particularly around interactivity and hyperlinking.
For me, one of the most overlooked formal elements of the Web is the network. The idea of drawing value from all these interconnected machines and the activities happening on them. Too many websites still operate on a one-to-many broadcast model. I get excited about the sites that take advantage of The Network by connecting people or groups--eBay, Amazon, Half.com, Epinions. Tracking usage and utilizing the results (say, the way Amazon shows you about how "People who bought X also bought..." or their Purchase Circles) should be part of the DNA of Web site development.
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i've been thinking a lot about this lately...what are the core things about the web that aren't being leveraged / exploited well enough? for me, it's partly about people, and connecting them... but more about the link. it's deceptively simple, but not used enough...which is a shame, because i think there's something akin to network effects with links. the more that people use them, the more that readers / clickers will understand how they're powerful, etc., etc. interlinked content, drilling down for more information, jumping off to a new place, etc.
maybe we haven't done a good enough job of giving context for links? not just explicitly stating with a link meta tag where you're going, but giving easier, visual clues as to what the link might lead to. i'm a fan of paul ford (is there anyone that isn't?), and i really like what he's doing now with ftrain.com and hierarchies of content and links to content. read more at http://www.ftrain.com/making_sense.html
anyway, rambling. god, it's so refreshing to talk back at you, peter. :)
Posted by michael @ 06/14/2001 11:49 AM PST [link to this comment]
I think there's still some great discourse going on around these topics. A lot of it is dispersed in weblogs instead of collected in essays, a trade off of getting our ideas out sooner over making cohesive arguments. Some notable exceptions are Mark Bernstein's thinking on hypertext and, oops, I was going to link to Paul Ford and realized Michael already did that :) Go read all of Paul's site now.
To your second point of increasing the network potential, I think there's mostly cost getting in the way of doing that everywhere, and this wall is crumbling quickly. Before we had only relatively expensive systems like the ones you mention. Now there's tools like Blogger, Greymatter, and Atomz Publish that bring a lot more power to the average person, and soon, thanks to all the open source development going on, all the wiki/PHP/Zope etc. tools will make the same ease-of-use+low cost leap. We'll finally use XML on the front end, link and process data across the web, use visualization tools instead of always settling for text, and drive in emissions-free German automobiles.
And perhaps this ability to use better tools to improve the 'DNA of web sites' will impact the former idea of improving our discourse. For those of us that aren't futurists, a technology demonstration gets our wheels spinning. What if we won't have to choose between ordering our thoughts according to time (blogs) or topic? What if data was passed so flawlessly that 'your site' and 'my site' became 'our web'? What if the computer started to learn our linking style and provided recommendations? OK, I'm rambling now. G'night.
Posted by Victor @ 06/16/2001 11:39 PM PST [link to this comment]
the online transcription of John Cage's Indeterminacy, a speech where Cage creates a non-determinate context using variation of pulses and speed, is another implementation of non-linear content:
Posted by tokepei @ 06/17/2001 06:40 PM PST [link to this comment]
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