That Time Berners-Lee Got Knocked Down to a Poster Session

I’ve known about the Berners-Lee Poster Session for a while, but in case you all don’t, here’s the skinny: as late as December 1991 belief in Tim-Berners Lee’s World Wide Web idea was low enough that a paper he submitted on the subject to the Hypermedia ’91 conference in San Antonio, TX was bumped down to a poster session.

Today, though, things got a bit more awesome. While looking for an Internet Archive video to test Blackboard embedding on (this is my life now, folks) I came across this AMAZING video, which has only 47 views.

In it Mark Frisse, the man who rejected Berners-Lee’s paper on the World Wide Web from the conference, explains why he rejected it, and apologizes to Tim Berners-Lee for the snub. He just couldn’t see that in practice people who hit a broken link would just back up and find another. It just seemed broken to him, a “spaghetti bowl of gotos”.

The background music is mixed a bit loud. But it is worth sitting through every minute.

Where this might lead you, if you are so inclined, is to Amy Collier’s excellent posts on Not-Yetness, which talk about how we get so hung up on eliminating messiness that we miss the generative power of new approaches.

I will also probably link to this page when people ask me “But how will you know you have the best/latest/fullest version of a page in fedwiki?” Because the answer is the same answer that Frisse couldn’t see: ninety-nine percent of the time you won’t care. You really won’t. From the perspective of the system, it’s a mess. From the perspective of the user you just need an article that’s good enough, and a system that gives you seven of those to choose from is better than one that gives you none.


7 thoughts on “That Time Berners-Lee Got Knocked Down to a Poster Session

  1. That is beyond mint. If it would not scale, there would not be an obscure video one could only find by wayward serendipity clicking.

    Should I ask into what belly of Bb to to embed this video?

    • Oh, god, don’t get me started. The good news is that Bb doesn’t strip out embeds the way it used to — or at least it doesn’t seem to. The bad news is that I am spending time testing Bb embeds.

  2. There’s actually a bit more to the story than I related in an admittedly hyperbolic statement. The decisions were made by a committee. The paper really described an authoring system that reminded me of EMACS a bit. And at that time, there were a lot of informal groups (e.g., the Dexter Hypertext Group) that weighed in as to whether or not links *HAD* to be bi-directional if one were authoring (for referential integrity). And if I remember correctly, Tim had a demo and really rocked the house.

    One of the other demos was from my group. An internet-based medical hypertext library written by Steve Cousins and Scott Hassan who at the time were in my group. Scott went on to help create Google and later created Willow Garage. Willow, in turn was run by Steve Cousins.

    Scott continues to do amazing things (e.g., Suitable technologies), and Steve’s robotics start-up Savioke is getting noticed. Lesson? Really great people like Tim, Steve, Scott can indeed change the world no matter no matter what a reviewer lacking vision writes or a committee rules.

  3. Thank you,I’ve just been searching for infoo approximately this subject
    for a long time aand yohrs is the ggreatest I havve came upon so far.
    But, what about the conclusion? Are you sure concerning the supply?

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