Recommended Readings on Doug Engelbart’s Ideas

Earlier this month, someone asked me for the best resources to learn about Doug Engelbart’s work. Doug didn’t publish prolifically, but he wrote quite a bit, and some of his papers are must-read classics. You can find most of his writing and many other great resources at the Doug Engelbart Institute, which is curated by his daughter, Christina.

Start with his classic paper, “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework”, which he published in 1962.

For Doug’s own historical overview of his work (published in 1985), read, “Workstation History and the Augmented Knowledge Workshop.”

For a deeper understanding of his conceptual framework for high-performance teams, knowledge work, and the role of technology, read, “Knowledge-Domain Interoperability and an Open Hyperdocument System” (1990) and “Toward High-Performance Organizations: A Strategic Role for Groupware” (1992).

I’ve written a lot about Doug and his work over the years, and it represents only a fraction of what I learned from him. For a high-level overview of his work and why I think he’s so important, start with my tribute to him when he passed away in 2013 (“Inventing the mouse was the least of it”) as well as my more personal tribute.

Brad Neuberg also wrote an excellent overview of Doug’s ideas. There are also short video clips of me, Brad, Jon Cheyer, and Adam Cheyer at a memorial service for Doug that I think are worth watching.

Luisa Beck did a great podcast earlier this year for 99% Invisible on Doug’s design philosophy, featuring Christina and Larry Tesler.

For more down-and-dirty essays about and inspired by Doug’s thinking, read:

For more on Dynamic Knowledge Repositories (DKRs) and Networked Improvement Communities (NICs), read:

Finally, for a detailed repository of notes and recommendations from when I first started working with Doug in 2002, see this list. Sadly, many of the links are broken, but most are probably findable via search.

If you have others to recommend and share, please post in the comments below!

Blogging as Knowledge Work

The process of writing my entry on community engagement and Dynamic Knowledge Repositories reminded me of Chris Dent‘s recent post on “Effective Reading.” He writes:    (KE4)

I proceed from the assumption that as knowledge workers our primary job is to communicate. Communication is not overhead, it’s the work. Things like writing code are reifications of previous communication. The quality of the code mirrors the quality of the communication and comprehension that precedes the generation of the code.    (KE5)

We often think of the act of summarizing as additional work. On one level, that’s true. But, if we reframed it as a critical part of the knowledge synthesis process, then it no longer becomes additional work, it becomes the work. Not only does it result in a useful artifact — what Doug Engelbart calls the “knowledge product” — but it helps us synthesize what’s already in our head. The synthesis is even more important than the artifact, because it’s what makes knowledge meaningful and actionable.    (KE6)

The payoff for writing this blog has been enormous on a number of levels. It offers a lens into my values, thinking, and activities, which has helped establish my credibility and reputation. It’s allowed me to have valuable conversations with others that would not otherwise have happened. It’s strengthened my professional social network. And because it’s public, it’s enabled some serendipitous connections (Leave A Trail).    (KE7)

All of these things are great for business, and so on that level, writing this blog has obviously paid off. But its biggest impact has been directly on me. The act of writing this blog has made me smarter. I know a lot more about collaboration, and I can articulate what I know much better. This alone has made writing this blog more than worthwhile.    (KE8)

As a Knowledge Worker, when I blog, I’m not doing additional work. I’m simply working.    (KE9)