The Ism Book


I didn't spend this weekend working on what I'm supposed to be working on. Instead I loafed around by starting the process of reconstructing version 4.0 of The Ism Book, the dictionary of philosophy I wrote way back in 1990 and have been fiddling with ever since. I'm not sure why I keep returning to it, since it's not as if the world needs yet another dictionary of philosophy. Yet I do keep returning. One reason, I think, is that for me this book is what hypertext is all about. I wrote (or, more accurately, conceived) the book as hypertext back in 1990 -- despite the fact that at that time the book was paper-only, it was in my mind a web of information. When I discovered the real Web in late 1995 and then started creating my own website in early 1996 (yeah I know, I came late to the game), just about the first thing I did was convert The Ism Book to HTML.

Since then, my work on The Ism Book has been near the cutting edge of my work with hypertext. In late 1996 I added scads of forward and reverse links to the book, making this web deeply intertwined. Version 4.0 was a fairly advanced application of XML (at least for me), but I lost it when my web hosting company went bankrupt suddenly and my hard drive crashed right around the same time. So now I'm working to reconstruct version 4.0 and go well beyond it. My first step, taken yesterday, was to collect together all the HTML files (I'm embarrassed to say how poor my markup was back in 1996!) and convert them into one clean, well-formed SGML file that conforms to the DocBook spec (well, almost completely -- I may have to extend DocBook to handle my categorization of the isms into types and branches). So it all parses cleanly now and I can get jade to output a big HTML file for it. The next step is to write some XSLT stylesheets that will take this structured source file and output HTML, text, PDF, or whatever format I desire. I haven't played with XSLT in a while so this'll be fun. :-)

The only problem is now I'm behind on Jabber stuff. I'll have to play catch-up on that during the week....

Oh, and to accompany my work this weekend I listened in chronological order to every original Yes album I own (skipping the live stuff), from Yes (1969) to Magnification (2001). Twenty straight CDs of nothing but Yes. Fanatical, eh?

Peter Saint-Andre > Journal