Hashify – your entire document in a URL

A colleague at Atlassian launched an experiment a couple of weeks ago. It’s intriguing. It’s cool. It may even be useful. 😉 It’s called “Hashify” and it puts a whole document into a URL.

David Chambers is one of the Bitbucket developers. He recently posted a link to Hashify on our intranet, with this explanation:

I’ve just released Hashify. It facilitates the sharing of information, which is never a bad thing, but it’s the way in which it does so that’s of most interest.

Hashify does not solve a problem, it poses a question: what becomes possible when one is able to store entire documents in URLs?

I find the concept fascinating – it blew my mind repeatedly for two days after it first occurred to me.

I’m keen to hear your thoughts.

Thanks David, I find the idea fascinating too.

What is Hashify?

At first glance, Hashify is a web page where you can write notes. Notice the short URL just above the editor pane, next to the Twitter link. When you start adding text in the editor pane, you’ll see that the URL disappears and is replaced by “Save.Shorten. Share”. Click those words, and you get a new URL. That is the URL for your document. You can send the URL to anyone, and they can follow the link to read your document.

That’s it, in a nutshell. Except…

  • The URL is a shortened URL, supplied by bit.ly. If you copy it and paste it into your browser address bar, it will expand into something much longer.
  • If you change the text of your document, you get a new URL.
  • In fact, the URL contains the entire text of the document.

Here’s a Hashified document I created when I first read David’s announcement: http://bit.ly/idJWac.

Hashify even supports drag-and-drop for images. See http://bit.ly/iHXGXL.

You can create a Hashify document too

It’s very easy and quick.

  1. Go to any Hashify page, such as this one.
  2. Type your text in the editor pane on the left.
  3. Click “Save. Shorten. Share”. (The option appears above the editor pane when you start typing.)
  4. Tweet and let the world know about it. If you like, you can add the link in a comment on this blog post too.

So, what’s it for?

Well, David is not sure. The idea came to him in the tub or near a plummeting apple or something similar. It grabbed him and wouldn’t let him go until he gave it life.

So now its alive and kicking.

There’s been a lively discussion on our intranet. Here are some of the less esoteric comments posted:

  • Once you’ve created a Hashify URL, it’s permanent and unchangeable. Censorship is not possible.
  • Hashify represents a superb transcendence of REST where the representation is​ the resource. Now the identifier is the resource.
  • Josh Graham pointed out that you can compose larger documents using a list of data URI links. He put the whole of Bram Stoker’s Dracula into one URL. Here’s his Hashify (use Firefox to see it): http://tinyurl.com/hashcula

There’s also a lot of discussion happening on Hacker News.

It’s intriguing!

What do you think?

Is there anything cool or innovative that we could do with Hashify, especially in the technical communication world?

Hashify - your entire document in a URL

A fly on a Scribbly Gum tree

About Sarah Maddox

Technical writer, author and blogger in Sydney

Posted on 7 May 2011, in technical writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Monica Rivera

    Hi Sarah,
    I just tried Hashify and I’m wonderfully intrigued by it.
    The thought that first popped into my head for a techcomm use is a way of providing individualized step by step information in answer to a how-to request on Twitter. Since it’s difficult to deliver step by step info on Twitter, with there constantly being new tweets in between, you could work around that problem and tweet the link that contains all the information.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Hallo Monica
      That’s a good idea. And to take it a step further, other people could add to or comment on the information you’ve given. As soon as they make a change, they get a new URL, leaving your original content in place too.

  2. Intriguing.
    As suggested, possibly a way of ‘broadcasting’ reponses to queries (rather than emailing).
    If you forget to bookmark the short URL, is there any way to find your page again?


    • Fengyang Wang

      Since hashify doesn’t store anything themselves, I would assume the answer is, unfortunately, no.

  3. Hello. Just released LZHost (http://lzhost.co.vu) that serves for a similar purpose but uses LZW compression algorithm and is optimized for HTML ephemeral hosting. It has a separate loader and for long pages the algo is more efficient than pure Base64. Plz check it out too.

  4. This is what lies at the heart of Git and Github

    • Hallo Graham
      That’s interesting. How so?
      Cheers, Sarah

      • All incoming content to be stored has a hash computed. Only if incoming content has a hash that has not been seen before is it stored. Otherwise the incoming content is pointed to the currently stored content that has the same hash. A unique number for a unique text string (document). The same document (after adjusting non-significant whitespace) would have to be normalised, as with XML normalisation, before hashing to ensure that there was no unnecessary repetition. This is a fascinating area, thanks for the post that drew hashify to my attention.

        If you have any pointers on how I get my elegant DITA structured content (shoehorned) easily into Confluence, then I am all ears.

      • Ah, I see, thanks Graham.

        Have you tried the DITA2Confluence tool? I haven’t used it for ages, but it’s worth a look. This post may help to get you started: https://ffeathers.wordpress.com/2008/10/26/playing-with-dita2confluence/

        Cheers, Sarah

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