Boris Mann

Open Source. Community. Decentralized Web. Building dev tools at Fission. Cooks & eats.


In a Sunburned Country

  • Created: March 08, 2003
  • Review

coverI just finished reading Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country. It’s a travel story about his explorations of Australia. I highly, highly recommend it.

The author pokes into many different areas of Australia, from cities to the outback, covering topics like biology, politics, and history. He also seems to do a lot of drinking in pubs. I really like his light, funny writing. At the same time, I love how he interjects little factoids, like “from 1950 to 1960, Australia’s estimated iron ore reserves went from close to nothing to 20 billion tons”.

Did you know, that on the verge of becoming a nation, Australia had also invited New Zealand to be a part of it, but they backed out at the last minute?

I am a self-confessed infovore – someone that devours information – and Bill Bryson caters nicely to this. Apparently he takes copious notes while he travels, then compiles the whole thing into a book, having the opportunity to do research and add all sorts of facts in.

I enjoyed this book so much, and this travelogue/factoid mix, that I think that an online/multimedia version would be really interesting. As I was reading, I often got the sense that Bryson was hyperlinking in these factoids. He’d be going along, explaining his travels, then he’d go off on a tangent that seemed to be added later, with all sorts of background info. The flow was fantastic, in that there wasn’t the “if you want to know more, click here” feeling – everything just fitted together. But, it seems also to be just scraping the surface – what if there was a hyperlink or call out box or image that could be viewed? I’m going to attempt to get in contact with Bill Bryson and pitch my idea to him. I think a website, perhaps even an interactive one, would do nicely.

Hmmm…that gets me to thinking. Maybe even a dynamically-annotated version of the entire book. You could choose to view pages / sections with annotations turned on or off, or just the annotations of certain people (like comments on Slashdot).

There could be “official” annotations, from the site’s annotaters.

Hmmm…now it almost sounds like a blog, as well. Definitely something to follow up on. I will report back.