Douglas Engelbart and Linked Data

In this video, Douglas Engelbart answers a question about issue-based structured argumentation. #

I’m very interested in the idea of structured text. I’ve referenced Dorian Taylor’s The Symbol Management Problem before, which is where I first learned about an IBIS (issue-based information system). #

This type of linked data, in conjunction with an outliner-wiki (like Roam), could be interesting. #

Roam improves on a traditional wiki by showing a more contextual backlink. It does this by leveraging the note’s outliner structure. #

It also allows you to link and embed specific headlines from other outlines. #

Contextual Backlinks in Roam #

The missing piece, of course, is adding meaning to the link. Links and backlinks say nothing more than “here’s a link” and you infer meaning from whatever contextual clues you might have from the surrounding text. It would be awesome to have pages and links labeled (like in the IBIS example.) So I could (in a human and machine-readable way) say, “This is an issue, and it concerns this thing, and it questions this argument, and this argument supports and opposes these positions.” #

You could then build systems on top of this knowledgebase to generate a chain of logic and try to find ideal solutions to problems. #

Dorian’s IBIS tool is useful and interesting, but imagine this idea embedded in an outliner-wiki. I could create a page of notes that I took in a class or from reading a book. Then as a phase of progressive summarization you could label individual blocks of text as issues, arguments, and positions and formally link them to the other appropriate concepts, both within the current document but also other notes on your site. #

Links might be a regular link, contextual link, or embedded content from other pages. The system could generate new pages based on the known metadata. Hopefully, there would also be ways to leverage what Ward Cunningham is doing with Federated Wiki and allow you to pull other people’s content into your view seamlessly. #

My brain is working on this problem a lot these days. I just woke up in the middle of the night with ideas I needed to write down. #

Published by Andrew Shell on and last updated .