Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Hyperwords, which I wrote about in June last year, released a new version. Hyperwords is a nifty extension to Firefox that creates contextual menus that sends words selected on a web page to various services. It's improved significantly since the initial release and has become a standard part of my Firefox setup.

Disclosure: I've agreed to be an advisor to Frode and the Hyperwords team.


Heh, how very Semantic Web.

It looks really nifty, I think I'll have to give it a go :)

I have installed it - it's a good idea, but the user interface concept needs a lot of work -. There's just too much in those menus, and they're too deep. I can see how it might evolve though.

Hi guys. Yes, the menu is a bit big and a bit deep. That's the problem with having so many options available... However, we'll be coming out with special editions soon, and then later fully customizable Hyperwords! Hope you'll stick around to try those versions too.

I have enjoyed using Hyperwords for a few weeks now. I would be even more enthusiastic if there was a link in the translation menu that allowed for a (using rikaichan? style of giving readings for Japanese characters.


No! No! No! There has to be a better way to do this. Can't you make it more context-sensitive, to guess what the user wants? Or try to pick the most appropriate source on the server-side?

If you allow customers to personalize everything, you will never be done supporting it and people will be confused about the product. As I understand it, Microsoft has dropped its personalized menus. It's worth reading 'the trouble with personalisation' -

Obviously you have to do what you think is best. Thanks for responding, I appreciate it.


Antoin, this is exactly the dialog we need, so thank you.

The fully editable menu will be for a few expert users. The special editions will be for special audiences, such as bloggers, academic, biz people and so forth. A simple choice when downloading will set the menu to the edition you want. You can change this later.

This lets the (new) regular/basic menu be simpler. And hopefully that will suit most people, with not a huge menu.

ut context sensitivity? No. We feel the menu should not change based on the context as we can't always guess what it should show and it's a bit annoying when the menu changes and you have to go looking...

From the license of Hyperworld:

" You agree to indemnify, hold harmless, and defend the Company from and against all costs, liabilities (including attorney's fees), and expenses arising from or related to claims or allegations, that arise or result from your use or misuse of the Software, or violation of any of the terms of this Agreement. "

I'm sure this is pretty harmless, but since I don't understand all the implications of the rest of the license, and don't really desparatly need hyperworld for my work, I think I'll pass for this time (unfortunately).

Hi Francois. This is standard End User License Agreement text, same as what you have with most of your other software. Hyperwords is not opensource at this point, we are trying to build a business to sustain its development, so we need the usual legalese. Hope you'll try it sometime!

Well, I want something context-sensitive in the same sense that google is context sensitive - it looks at the words i type in and tries to guess what documents I'm looking for. The kind of context-sensitivity I'm thinking of is to guess what translation I want, based on the language of the current page and based on the language preferences of my browser.

It sounds like an exciting project. I give you this word of warning. If you ask developers to develop software they like, they will develop software with complex options and loads of features. If you ask customers what sort of software they would like, they will say they want simple software with only the necessary features. But they are both wrong. What the market really wants is sophisticated software, with loads of features and complexity, but which has been designed to appear really really simple.

"sophisticated software, with loads of features and complexity, but which has been designed to appear really really simple." I think you are exactly correct.

Developing something that is powerful and simple is no simple task! :-)