The first significant new medium since Hypertext?
In writing about Gingko, it's easy to talk about what it is. A new kind of word processor. A way of reading and writing hierarchical documents. A mix between Evernote + Workflowy.
It's different, but is it significant?
We believe it is. And though I usually temper my enthusiasm when discussing it (I can get a little intense), I am going to make a very bold claim:
This new medium will be the way most text is read and written in the future.
If that was enough to pique your interest,
Try Gingko Now
Otherwise, read on...
As one particular example, I believe it can change the way we collectively push the frontiers of knowledge.
As a Physics PhD student, I've always been astounded that all of scientific research is forced to be compressed into static PDFs of a few pages.
Or, to go the other way: Where are the jargon-free overviews of a given topic? The summaries that can be read by outsiders, to promote cross-pollination of ideas and skills.
If Gingko existed when I started my thesis, I would have taken all my notes on it. I would have included my source code, links to my raw data. Writing my thesis would have simply been an exercise of summarization & organization. And writing a paper would have been the same. At the root, I would have an abstract, explaining my work in simple terms.
Instead of publishing to a journal, I would attach the root node of all my work to the part of our global "knowledge tree" relating to my thesis topic.
Anyone else, whether an academic or not, would be able to get an overview of my work, in the context of the overall field. And if they wanted to, they could drill all the way down to the source code, and improve it.
In short, it would open science to everyone, and greatly speed up the pace of progress.
(Last year, before Gingko I gave a 3min talk on this: Science without Borders)
In a word: context.
When browsing wikipedia, for example, we often find ourselves meandering from page to page, without being to get a sense of the big picture. How does this particular topic fit in with the rest? Is it important, or a minor detail?
With Gingko, you can always see the bigger picture (to the left) and the details (to the right). This simple change makes a profound impact.
It means that text can now be two-dimensional. There's the linear dimension, and the hierarchical dimension. (Note: Tables of contents, parentheses, footnotes and marginal notes are several attempts to add this second dimension.)
Remember that there is nothing sacred in the way we organize text. When computers came onto the picture, all constraints were removed, and our words expanded into this vacuum in the most chaotic way possible: as a Web.
I argue that this is simply a response to the limitless freedom that computers provide, but it is not the best way to organize information for humans to read and understand.
I could go on and on about how Gingko and tree documents can change the world (I told you, I get intense when discussing it!).
We still haven't touched on how Gingko can be used:
At the same time, we know we are far from where we need to be. We are a small team and what we need right now is feedback.
If any of this resonated with you, if you are curious or skeptical, just give Gingko a try, and let us know what you think.
All the best, from us at Gingko,
Adriano Ferrari & Aleksey Kulikov