June 18, 2010
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Hypertext 2010

Two conferences in two weeks might perhaps be too much.

If last week’s ELO_AI was a fallen lemon soufflé – aspiring to be high and frothy but turning out mostly burnt and bitter – Hypertext 2010 was one of those little meat pies they sell on the Sidney quay. There was rich and tasty food here, though it was not showy and seldom neat. These were papers meant to sustain you through the hard work that hypertext folk share, contributed by people who were interested in their own work but also deeply interested to learn what their colleagues had found out this year.

One highlight new spatial hypertext system, iMapping by Heiko Haller (Forschungszentrum Informatik). It’s built on top of Piccolo, a Pad++ successor, and gets lovely panning and zooming performance. I was talking to Haowei Hsieh (Iowa) after the talk – we’ve both spent lots of time building spatial hypertext views — and we agreed that the performance was really compelling. Also interesting here was a new approach to link elision: links are shown on hover and otherwise hidden. This is certainly interesting, and I believe it’s completely novel (though Jan Walker’s Document Examiner highlighted links on hover). The paper doesn’t really call attention to the most interesting aspects of the work.

Hsieh’s paper on VITE was another highlight. VITE is a long-running project to combine spatial hypertext with formal AI-style knowledge representation. It’s one of the inspirations for Tinderbox and it’s great to have a fresh flagship publication for it.

A spontaneous (and excellent) session on hypertext narrative, chaired by J.Nathan Matias, was a novel and exciting development. Hypertext 2011 (Eindhoven, June) has a strong call for hypertext fiction and storytelling.

One mild vexation was that my own paper on Criticism (pdf) was scheduled directly opposite one of the strongest sessions on adaptive hypertext systems, and so I couldn’t see several terrific papers. I suspect that this was a two-cultures issue; people assumed that systems builders would be less interested in critical theory. Oh well. It was a good session, with three capable and engaging discussants on hand, ably to critique my review of hypertext criticism.