Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

11 June 2010

Wizardly Collaboration and HyperCard

Clark @ 6:45 AM

I was talking to my colleague Harold Jarche the other day about the changes in work needs and it triggered a thought. Normally, when we talk about performance support and collaboration, we think of creating job aids. Yet I believe that, increasingly, interactive performance support will be more valuable in generating meaningful outcomes. It occurred to me that there was a missed opportunity: editable wizards.

Now, when I talk about wizards, I mean software tools that interact with us to ask some questions and then can use that information to do complex things for us like filling out our taxes or configure our email. This is fine for things that are static, but increasingly, things are dynamic. The question then becomes how we make more flexible, less brittle, tools.

In content, we are using wikis as tools that are open for collaborative updating. Wikipedia of course being the best known example. These are powerful ways for a community to keep a body of knowledge up to date. Can we have an intersection?

The idea that occurred to me was to have collaborative wizards; wizards written in a simple but reasonably powerful language that are open for editing. Rather than Wikzard, I thought I’d call it a Wizki (pronounced “whisky”, of course :).

Admittedly, having a simple but powerful language is non-trivial, but then I was reminded of HyperCard (which several of us reminisced about fondly just a short while ago). HyperCard was a simple environment to build applications in, with the property of ‘incremental advantage‘ that Andi diSessa touted years ago. Imagine having a collaborative HyperCard! It could be done.

Of course, there are other simple programming environments (Scratch comes to mind), but we really need a simple (and cross-platform!) environment to develop applications again, and moreover a collaborative one is the next logical step in user-generated content.

I reckon it is past time to develop passive content, and start sharing interactions. What do you say?


  1. Sounds like the Hypercard descendant we develop could be just what you’re looking for: Indeed, the entirety of Wizki and its collaborative element could be developed using it! Do get in touch with us if you’d like to know more, or just visit our website at RunRev dot com. We have a large number of former Hypercard users in our community.

    Comment by Ben Seven — 11 June 2010 @ 8:19 AM

  2. Hi Clark. There is a standard that has been developed that could address this exact need. LTI – Learning Tools Interoperability – is being worked in by the IMS group. Our company is an LTI consumer and a provider. Link provided with information below:


    Comment by Nancy Rubin — 11 June 2010 @ 8:57 AM

  3. Cross-platform, yes — avoid the pointless dogmatism of Mac vs Windows vs what-have-you. And HyperCard is a great analogy. I recall people churning decks out by the cubic yard, and many of those doing so were driven by energy about the topic rather than the technology.

    Comment by Dave Ferguson — 11 June 2010 @ 8:59 AM

  4. I would recommend for the education community to stay away from RunRev dot com. Yes, this is a hypercard successor. However, I personally experienced runrev, the company as imposing a relationship that I perceived as deeply unhealthy. I have taken to report some of it on my blog: http://codes.widged.com/node/8 http://codes.widged.com/node/6

    Another hypercard successor is http://tilestack.com/. This is on the web.

    Comment by Marielle Lange — 16 June 2010 @ 7:32 PM

  5. Hi Clark!
    I’ve been reminded a lot of hypercard over the past few months. I find it strange that technology can come SO far and yet we still yearn for the simplicity of Hypercard.
    My guess is that you will have your dream app by the end of the year. A very wise mentor of mine from way back once told me about his 6 months rule: You get an idea, you hear the same idea from someone else…expect someone else to come to market in 6-10 months.
    In my previous experiences with this phenomenon, its WAY closer to 6 months. Maybe my thoughts are just not that unique ;-)
    Regardless, I’ll bet the tool you desire will be here before the end of year. And I’m looking forward to it too.

    Comment by Brent Schlenker — 19 June 2010 @ 4:20 PM

  6. For those looking for a modern HyperCard-like system, Revolution is hard to beat. I believe it may be the only modern tool which reads the HyperCard file format directly, and its language is a powerful, efficient superset of HyperTalk. Rev lets you deploy to not only OS X, but also Windows and Linux as well, with versions available to let you use its HyperTalk-based language on the server, and a mobile solution in the works.

    In spite of the odd anti-Rev agenda of the blog cited above, the posts themselves are worth reading as they inadvertently draw attention to the scope of the Rev feature set and audience. For example, while the blog claims NASA isn’t using Rev, Ivar Tillotson, the Spacecraft Systems Engineer on the Landsat 7 flight operations team, says otherwise:

    For a more complete view of who’s using Rev and what they’re doing with it, consider viewing the video testimonials straight from the source:

    Better still, get the free demo and see how it works for you.

    I don’t work for RunRev, but I’ve been using it to build instructional and productivity tools for higher-ed markets for many years, and our customers have been very pleased with the results.

    Comment by Richard Gaskin — 9 September 2010 @ 6:08 AM

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