Update: The CritSuite Toolset Project has been completed. This page is now part of an archive of CritSuite web pages. The domain http://crit.org no longer belongs to this project or to Foresight Institute. For current information on CritSuite, please see the site maintained by the author of the software, Ka-Ping Yee:
  Enhancing the World Wide Web: Social Software for the Evolution of Knowledge  

Web Enhancement Project Progress: May 1997

by Chris Peterson

In Foresight Update 27, I described HyperWave, a web-based software program that appeared to fulfill all the requirements Foresight has been trying to fill for years: fine-grained extrinsic (i.e. unapproved, third party) bi-directional links in hypertext publishing.

We've run into a glitch with HyperWave. It does indeed have fine-grained, extrinsic, bi-directional links; however, these links are not visible in the original document. Instead, alongside the original document, one gets a list of URLs to visit. If the reader follows that list of coarse-grained extrinsic links to the commenting document, and then follows links back from that commenting document to the original document, then the fine-grained nature of the commenting links becomes apparent. That is, the commented-on section is highlighted in the original document, when visited from the commenting document. This may sound a bit confusing, but the upshot of it all is that when you're looking at a document and you want to see embedded commenting links, they aren't there.

Our plans had included joining the Hyper-G Consortium in order to obtain the source code, so that we could fix any glitches that came up, such as this one; however, in the last few months the open Hyper-G code has been commercialized into HyperWave and source code can no longer be obtained, so our plans to alter it will no longer work.

One of IMM's Senior Associates, Dave Forrest, is communicating with the HyperWave company to see whether this needed feature can be added. However, we have very little influence with this company, and we can't depend on this as a solution.

When we hit this roadblock with HyperWave we looked back at our previous options -- the options we considered prior to selecting HyperWave as our first choice -- and found that our preferred solution involved extending some public domain annotation code originally written by Wayne Gramlich. (The term "annotation" is frequently used to describe what we've been calling comments, extrinsic links, or third-party comments.) Although Wayne now works for a startup company and cannot take the Annotator project further, Foresight is fortunate to have located a programmer who is very interested in completing the project, and who has immediately started work on this full-time. This is Terry Stanley, who has a long-time interest in argumentation visualization. She is being assisted by Ka-Ping Yee, a summer intern at Xerox PARC.

So not only do we expect that the Annotator code will be taken to a useable state and installed on our server, but also that Terry will continue to develop this code to make some really useful and unique graphical methods for argumentation visualization, which should be of great use when we get into having real debates on complex issues, and find ourselves needing all the support we can get in figuring out difficult, complex issues.

--Chris Peterson