Ted Nelson -- Inventor of Hypertext

I’ll be honest, I had no intension of sitting through this session but after buying Perl Testing: A Developer’s Notebook and Perl Best Practices I was too late to even stand in the Media Hacking session so I went back to the big theatre and sat through what was possibly (in my opinion) the worst session of the day. Now I know Ted Nelson is a smart guy and he’s got some very interesting ideas and perspectives but as a speaker I didn’t like him.

His whole talk was about how modern computers have got a lot of things wrong by using a paper metaphor for documents, using databases for storage and a lot of bits like that. In general he’s against hierarchy and for a more free form, floaty way of doing things. And while he presented a couple of good ideas the only live demo he gave was of a genealogy program that looked like a game of connect four gone insane had me sitting there thinking “I deal with people that can’t copy and paste. They’d have an aneurism if I showed them that.”

In general I didn’t like this session as the speaker was very preachy, grandiose, pompous and not very enthralling. The oddest part was a story about his grandfather and a pressure cooker. The short version is that due to bad design his grandfather was injured by a spray of boiling potatoes. Unfortunately the way the story was told most of us (this part of the session came up a lot afterwards!) were expecting some amusing anecdote and ended up feeling guilty when the story ended with a man who only had his sight saved by a pair of glasses.