I’ve recently enjoyed a brief exchange with Scott Wilson on a CETIS after he asked "is Pipes the new HyperCard". I felt I had to comment, not least because it was with HyperCard that I first learnt how develop interactive content, so I felt I understood a little about just how revolutionary that application was. Those who know me will also attest that I am very enthusiastic about content syndication using RSS, so I also get where Scott’s coming from stating the significance of Yahoo Pipes (though perhaps not everyone is quite so enthusiastic). The discussion quickly went beyond Pipes being an interesting service to being more about interactive content, interactive multimedia, call it what you will, being supplanted, or not, by YouTube and it’s ilk. I personally think this is a far more interesting topic.

Anyway, Scott’s posted some of the exchange on his weblog but he doesn’t allow comments so in the spirit of the two-way web I’ve posted some more by way of a reply. I’ve edited a little but you can always visit the list archive for the full text of all the discussion.


"I’d like to challenge Scott on his Pipers/HyperCard comparison. At best Pipes might do the metaphorical equivalent of linking different stacks or possibly cards of content but not much more. HyperCard was revolutionary because it allowed non-programers to develop interactive multimedia content. When content moved off the desktop onto the web, HTML took over and for a while it was easy-ish for anyone to create content but then increasingly complex tools such as Flash became the interactive multimedia development platform of choice and a new generation of content developers were born leaving a gap in the market for easy non-technical content generation. Then along came content publishing systems (in the context of teaching & learning) such as VLEs, blogs and wikis and content was easy to make again, but the nature of the interaction has shifted from humans interacting with content to humans interacting with other humans. It would be nice to see another accessible tool, the 21st Century equivalent of HyperCard perhaps, for the development of interactive web-based content. But it’s not Pipes."


"My counter-argument isn’t about whether things like Pipes and HyperCard directly compare in terms of function, for the reasons David points out. However I think there can be a comparison in terms of role and purpose, because the nature of content itself is changing. HyperCard, Flash, and the like are indeed tools of interactive media. However, interactive multimedia is no longer in fashion (who needs a "next page" button in a piece of content when we have ubiquitous hypertext? Why embed the movie in Flash when I can just link to YouTube?)"

"Instead we have entered an era of connected media. Connected media does not contain interaction; instead content items are nodes in a network of connections that are the focus of interaction. The content is inside-out. The hot content today is not interactive – Flickr/Photobucket, YouTube, iTunes, RSS feeds all feature non-interactive content, yet the content is highly connected via layers of interlinked metadata (del.icio.us, technorati, recommendations, hyperlinks, comments…)"


"So, my thesis is that Pipes-like tools (I don’t think Pipes is it, but one will come…) are to wrangling with connected media what HyperCard was to developing interactive media – an easy to use tool that lowers the barriers for all kinds of users."


"Hmm. I think I’d have to disagree with the suggestion that interactive multimedia is no longer in fashion. If nothing else witness the phenomenal growth of Flash, but there is of course much more than just Flash-based content that’s rich and interactive. I’d even suggest that there’s more interactive multimedia available now than at any previous time and similarly probably more multimedia developers (or instructional designers if you prefer) in employment. But this isn’t surprising because the scale of the endeavor is greater. It’s a bit like saying the web is popular because there are now more web sites than there once were."

"However, I do think that the interactive media we now have is (generally) not the same as the hard-coded CDROM-bound multimedia on the 90’s that you either loved or hated. Inevitably we’ve ‘Ave moved on a long way from closed publishing systems towards more open formats with content more easily aggregated using just the kinds of systems Scott is a strong advocate for, and that few would disagree with. This is also not surprising because technology advances at an ever-increasing pace along with what we can do with that technology."

"There’s no question that a deluge of user-created content is transforming the way people consume and distribute content. And new ways of allowing people to interact online are challenging some of our thoughts about activities such as education."

"It’s all good. Buts it’s not all one thing or another thing, it’s not all about connected media just as it’s not all social interaction and it’s not all about interactive media. I naturally resist the thesis that the web is this or it’s that, it’s everything (or has the potential to be) to everyone, it just depends what you’re taking from it."


"So I’ll agree with Scott. The new aggregation technologies offer almost unimagined potential for finding your own trails of information. These are as innovative in their way as HyperCard was in its way. If this is the era of connected media (I don’t share that view as my experience is it can be very difficult to connect media right now – because when people say that they’re often selective in the media they choose to connect – rather it’s people that are better connected at present though even that is pushing it) then very soon we’ll move into the era of interactive connected media 🙂 […] "

I hope this thread develops further because it has helped me think more about how much of the YouTube, Flickr, etc, so-called web 2.0 content complements, but is neither the same as or a replacement for, interactive instructional content. It’s just different, and we need both. And I think web 2.0 will get a lot more interactive content soon enough.

One thought on “Pipes vs HyperCard and the demise of interactive content”
  1. I can’t believe it is 2008 and there is nothing out there that compares to what HyperCard was, so many years ago. I’d kill for a 2008 version of HyperCard that let average users create stacks and cards using simple text editing and paintbrush style tools, while at the same time allowing advanced users to script and import/export and send messages to other apps, etc. Killing HyperCard was criminal, in my mind.

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