These are some notes on my experience with information systems with broad write access.

Keykos and Augment

Shortly after the Keykos (then Gnosis) project began Tymshare acquired Engelbart’s hypertext system and provided hypertext service commercially. Our project quickly began to use that service, renamed Augment. Up to that point I had been the only editor of the Gnosis manual and I was hesitant to give up that role. We did open it up to the small handful of contributors and that worked very well. One relevant property of Augment user interface was that the consumer of information was assumed to be a contributor as well—indeed there was no ‘read-only’ mode. Modifying what you were reading was only a few clicks away—much easier than Wiki which must contend with standard browser design. Furthermore Augment was Wysiwyg.

Keykos followed closely the philosophy of documenting in English what a software module was to do before implementing it. We would sometimes do design reviews before implementation but more often the designer would merely pester those most involved to look over the definition before proceeding with code. These design documents became programming reference documents ideally with little or no modification, but that was merely the ideal. There remain in the manual today program modules that are defined but not coded.


I was quite skeptical of the idea promoted my early advocates of open works such as Wikipedia. I am astounded at the quality of information that I can find there now.
to write
Some documents are by nature controversial and their text should be limited to one who promulgates an idea. Hyper text should do a better job of finding other text that criticizes a given work. Some blog software gets this mostly right but even there the blogger is in a position to censor criticism.