Notes on Bootstrapping

Doug Engelbart was a visionary, best known as the inventor of the computer mouse.

I have been reading about his life and ideas and want to share with you a short inspirational reading from page 8 of "What the dormouse said", a book by John Markoff.

Doug was passionate about improving the way we improve. Any organization has a primary process, and it is generally understood that to be effective at that process some time needs to be dedicated to improving the way the organization does that process. Doug's key insight was that technology would scale in such a way that this would not be enough to meet the challenges of the future with this two activity model, and that a third activity was required: improving the way we improve. This activity was specific to activities involving technology, which he saw would be evolving rapidly, and was beyond the scope and resources of a single organization or team to achieve. (Read more about the ABC model). I find this to be a truly inspiring stance. I like to call it meta meta. It's relatively easy to think meta, but takes considerable effort to really get into a meta meta mindset.

If you haven't already seen it, make sure to watch his Mother of all demos from 1960.

Doug actively applied his philosophy to his own research group in what he termed bootstrapping (using augmentation to build the tools for augmentation).

Notes on Bootstrapping

  • Faster cycles
  • Concurrently developing, integrating and applying knowledge
  • Open hypermedia store
  • Networked improvement communities (improvement alliance)
  • Vertical and horizontal networking
  • Use what you build to boost the collective IQ of your own group as well as your target groups
  • Dynamic knowledge repositories
  • Engage in activity to improve the way you improve
  • Human systems (remote work/learning!)
  • HyperBrowser
    • Right note on document location 5J
    • Zoom in, zoom out, open view
    • Good for documentation?
    • Ubiquitous across documents, email, project, software
    • 3 classes of user
      • Jump to number/letter
      • View depth and style
      • Filtering (paragraphs)
      • Create links to jump+view+filter
      • Turbo is a command interface
      • Integrated editing


  1. looks like you've been keeping busy!

  2. looks like you've been keeping busy!