New Civilization News: Continuing Chandler/AntWeb Discussion    
 Continuing Chandler/AntWeb Discussion37 comments
picture9 Dec 2003 @ 11:31, by Roger Eaton

Following up on the comments of the previous article, I have just posted my conclusions to the Chandler Design list. See the December Archives of the Design list for previous postings under the heading "Thoughts on a Browser Parcel". If the Open Software Foundation people respond positively to the idea of including Mozilla in the Chandler distribution, then perhaps Mitch Kapor's idea of a Mozilla toolbar could be made to work. Otherwise, we will go with our "Personal Portal" idea.

The Annotated Web

There is a third way to integrate a browser with Chandler. It is clunky but it should work and given the discussion so far, looks to be the best doable alternative.

To recap, the first alternative would be to embed a browser in Chandler, probably using wxMozilla. Mitch Kapor ([link]) and Heikki Toivonen ([link]) from osaf have said that there will be too much UI work going this way. They should know, so we scratch the embedded browser option even though it feels right because we get a slick product and the user doesn't have to do anything special.

The second alternative is to create a link between Mozilla and Chandler. I take it this means a plugin toolbar in Mozilla. There are problems with this approach and the fact that osaf recommends this over the embedded-browser option tells me there really are hidden costs in embedding a browser. For one thing, most people use Explorer, so either you need to create another plugin for the proprietary and possibly hostile Explorer code and maybe jostle with the Google toolbar, or you require users to install Mozilla, which is a huge hurdle for the user. Moreover, there are any number of other browsers that will need their own plug ins, and there remains the fact that the users will need to download and install a plugin, a lesser hurdle than installing a new browser, but still significant. Altogether this seems a very poor option. There is one way that might work, and that would be to include Mozilla ChandlerToolbar in the Chandler distribution so it is all one install for the user. Under this scenario, there would be a button in the Chandler interface to kickoff Mozilla. Has this idea been discussed?

Against that background, a clunky third option might not be so bad after all. This is to embed a server in Chandler instead of a browser. A button in the Chandler interface will invoke the users preferred browser to access a "personal portal" page that comes with Chandler via the embedded server. The important ideas are 1) the embedded server always adds a "Chandler" header and footer to whatever page is being served, including the portal page, 2) Chandler as a second window besides the browser will be able to offer options ala Selva's suggestions ([link]), and 3) the server will turn itself into a proxy server by replacing all links to the web with links to itself that embed the true link as a cgi parameter.

The big problem with this option is that use of the url address window in the browser will exit Chandler. The Chandler header that is added to every page browsed will have to have a url address window in the html -- this is almost the definition of clunk and makes me for one want to run back to the embedded browser idea -- except that it has been nixed by osaf! The embedded server will have to act as a browser at least to the extent of fetching pages that are in frames, so it can manipulate the links. Also, clearly, https links should not be directed through the embedded server.

With this third option, the InterMix voice of humanity product I am designing -- see [link] -- will be more loosely attached to Chandler than it would be under the embedded browser option. So I guess that is a plus from my point of view (though I wish with all my heart that Chandler succeeds). As a point of interest the InterMix implementation of the embedded server will be called the "Annotated Web" or AntWeb for short. Chandler users will be able to set up "community portals" in addition to their personal portal. As users browse the web through a community portal, they will be able to add annotations, ratings and keywords to web pages that will be visible to all who enter the web through that same portal. I see the Annotated Web as the ground floor of a bottom up, peer to peer, hierarchical structure that will integrate communities right on up the scale to humanity as a whole.


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37 comments

9 Dec 2003 @ 13:29 by ming : E-mail
One thought .. As Chandler natively handles e-mail, including, of course, being able to view and HTML e-mail message, it seems like if a webpage can just be saved as an e-mail message within Chandler's storage space, it is then subject to being moved around and categorized as any other Chandler item. That doesn't give all the same advantages as annotating the webpage in real time, but it is one possibility. Saving a webpage in e-mail format is not very hard.  


9 Dec 2003 @ 13:30 by ming : Chandler controls
Do you have any idea of how Chandler's categorization interface actually looks? I mean, is it a full screen thing, or something that is done in a line or two on a screen? Would it at all be possible to implement it in html, or does it require real-time database access? Anyway, let me go and look for myself, rather than just asking you ...  


9 Dec 2003 @ 13:58 by ming : Browser
Looking over the Chandler very open architecture in a bit more detail ... I think there is NO way that nobody will think of creating an HTML viewer within chandler, and a data type for storing HTML pages. I think several people will do that, and you'd be able to use any of the available engines, including both Mozilla's and IEs. It is just too tempting, and doesn't seem terribly hard, at least for somebody who would even think of embedding an HTML engine into anything. So, I think you could almost assume that somebody will do that, and maybe concentrate on on how chandler would relate to your plans of more global sharing and aggregation. I.e. get the middleware engine right, and create a parcel that interfaces it with chandler. Solve your core engine and I think that hooking things up will be much less of a problem than it might seem.  


9 Dec 2003 @ 16:25 by Roger Eaton @209.55.71.129 : re: Browser
For sure there will be an html viewer in Chandler, but if you click a link on a viewed page, I believe you will start up your preferred browser instead of seeing the target page within Chandler. I'd love to be wrong on this. Do you think I might be? I don't see how having just a viewer without browser capabilities will do the job.

I'll be curious to know what you find something about Chandler categorization.  



9 Dec 2003 @ 17:22 by ming : Viewer
What I mean is that 'viewer' is sort of a specialized word in their vocabulary. Which is something that one can create as a parcel that interacts with data, and hook into the rest of it, the way I understand it. And one can create one's own data types as well. And it can have whatever functionality one wants it to have. So it doesn't have to be just a literal viewer. So, my point is that since it is so open for expansion, somebody HAS to make what is essentially a web browser for it, which to Chandler just looks like another parcel that implements a 'viewer' and another data structure. And which then can be embedded into Chandler documents, just like they have in mind with e-mail inboxes and buttons and pictures and so forth.

"Examples of modules include the "viewer parcel," an area of the desktop user-interface which can view various kinds of items, for example, the calendar view for viewing calendar event items, an email view for viewing email items, a contacts view for viewing contact items, or a generic table view that can view items of any type. If you have some experience programming Python, we hope it would be relatively easy to add a new kind of data, for example your music collection including information about each song and write a music viewer that you could use to search and view your music.

Parcels can be used at a many different levels. They might include an API for filtering email that can be used for spam filtering, an API for plugging in new protocols used to enhance or improve communication, an API for extending the search capabilities in each view, or even an API to attach a script to a button in the user-interface."  



10 Dec 2003 @ 14:51 by Roger Eaton @204.250.12.246 : an opportunity here?
The opinion of the [Design] list is divided on the embedded browswer concept. Here is a message that says "no" to embedded browser and "yes" to embedded html rendering machine.

Personally I like the embedded browser option, but it throws me that Mitch Kapor thinks it is not a good idea. Is politics entering into the decision here? I doubt it. Is it because the embedded browser will bulk up Chandler too much? Kapor's stated reason was that it would be hard to implement the UI, yet I don't quite see why it would be that hard.

For now, I will go ahead with familiarizing myself with Python and Chandler and writing the InterMix middleware piece. Perhaps someone else will implement the embedded browser, as you suggest. If not, then implementing one myself might be just the ticket to introduce InterMix to the Chandler crowd.  



10 Dec 2003 @ 15:32 by ming : Kapor
Sounded to me like it just wasn't included in their project plan, and he didn't think it would be a complete no-brainer, so therefore it wouldn't be something they would plan to do.  


10 Dec 2003 @ 23:14 by Roger Eaton @209.55.71.129 : re: Kapor
> Sounded to me like it just wasn't included in their project plan, and he didn't think it would
> be a complete no-brainer, so therefore it wouldn't be something they would plan to do.

Sensible fellow, ming!  



15 Dec 2003 @ 22:57 by darryl kanouse @67.119.158.64 : Win/IE Annotation Client
Everything I understand about the ambitions of InterMix and/or the Annotated Web project tells me that you are aiming for the involvement of the masses (“voice of humanity” and all). Assuming you don’t have the resources to engage in parallel development, why not focus on addressing the computing environment for 95% of internet enabled humanity instead of the insular world of intellectual property idealists and anti-Bills? (I am an intellectual property idealist y no me gusto el jefe… but I am also a pragmatist about technology.)

Consider how easy it is to rub your hands, twist your mustache and make a few bucks selling user demographics collected with Trojan Freeware. But if you use your super powers for good instead of evil, you can turn that Spyware application (the one that tracks Internet usage and sends it to the Empire of Porn) into an Annotated Web application (one that tracks Internet usage and sends it to the Collective Messaging System). Digital jujitsu, ala Saul Alinsky.

The technology is really simple; using the WinINet API any client (C++/VB6) can tap into the Windows URL Cache ([link]) Slap on a user interface, an XML engine, and a SOAP wrapper… and voila: a light-weight annotation client that any other standards compliant open architecture application can integrate with (and users don’t have to change their browsing habits!)

I have all kinds of client code (VB and C++), including all the heavy-lifting functions for the WinINet API and XML DOM, which I will happily share with anyone who sends me an email.

I apologize if this opinion has already been discussed and dismissed, I’m new here.  



17 Dec 2003 @ 10:11 by Roger Eaton @204.250.12.246 : re: Win/IE Annotation Client
Looks like the user would have to have the Annotation Client open in one window and the IE browser in another. Is that right, Darryl? I'm interested and will communicate by email. There's more than one way to make a cup of espresso. Hmmm...this idea also rather validates ming's comments that I should concentrate on InterMix as middleware. Saul Alinsky! Brings back memories of my SDS days. Digital jujitsu -- always an appealing idea.  


19 Dec 2003 @ 14:34 by ming : Right
So, there are companies that gather huge amounts of data about patterns of browsing for their own use, and to sell it. Like double-click. So, a core idea here might simply be to make something similar or better available for the common good, while adding ways for users to add their metadata (ratings, categorization) to it. And, yes, it seems like the central piece for you would be the actual engine that stores it and shares it in a sensible way, more than it would be the exact input methods. There will be lots of smart people who might offer good stuff like the above, or link it up to one browser or another. So the main thing is that they'll have something to pass it on to.  


20 Feb 2004 @ 14:33 by Josef @81.208.36.89 : Del.icio.us
Could this social bookmarking service have any relevance to what is being discussed? I realize it doesn't fit into the 'middleware' concept, but perhaps it could be yielding some unexpected solutions for a different tack on annotating the web.  


22 Feb 2004 @ 19:54 by Roger Eaton @208.187.17.230 : delicioso
Neat! I logged in and posted the New Heavenarticle. del.icio.us is doing well, I expect in part because it has a simple api. Easier said than done, but the api must be simple if InterMix is going to take off.  


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