Towards richly interactive, robust documents

The documents we share with each other today are generally paper-facsimile with few digital interactions afforded to them. To truly unleash digitally connected discourse we need documents to ‘know’ what they are; who authored them, what their title is, when they were published, how they connect to other documents and so on, as well as what their structures are. 

To achieve this, it must be done in a robust way so that this enabling metadata does not get stripped from the document over time. It is relatively easy to invent a format to provide this but with the ubiquity of PDF it would be prohibitively expensive to promote as a universal standard. It should therefore bootstrap what we have, it should augment what is already used for important documents, particularly academic documents; PDFs. This achievable–it can be as simple as simply writing a few lines of text at the back of the document.

Doug Engelbart felt flexible view controls were vital to extend the grasp of our knowledge. Bertrand Russell, writing more abstractly about views, used the example of how binocular vision provides a richer sense of what is being viewed than is afforded by a single eye, with a single point of view. Now we must imagine what an almost unrestricted amount of views can give us because our documents now contain the metadata to build such views.

In these days of hype around AI/ML text, it is important to note that the clearer we present our knowledge to the world, the less interpretation and potential for error there is. Hence metadata remains vital.