@thomas — A nodal system may seem like something for the user, but it is just as much for the developers, and there’s no way our small team would stand a chance of making something like bella without it. It affects so much; to create a new node type is just adding some lines in a json file, and using it is even simpler, such that the other guys are able to prototype things, and have UI while they do it, without any need for intervention on my part. Beyond this, the basic principle (from a programming perspective) is that a node represents a pure function, producing outputs based solely on its inputs, with no knowledge of the world outside, which of course tends to produce a more robust system, programming-wise.
The elephant-view help you accessed is the node definition help file, which was generated on-demand and written to a local HTML file when you clicked the button. What I am writing now is the more conventional documentation, the higher-level view of how the system, and how the GUI works. The node definition help is written by the person defining the node, and allows for every single node and attribute to be documented.
On your last points, we are beginning to reach the (very fun) point where we can build on the things we’ve previously built, for example with the new simple materials, and we’ll continue on that theme. Bella, right now, has as many wires hanging out the back (or well, out the front 🙂 )as we will ever see — as we proceed, a person will always be able to access those wires if necessary, but by default, we’ll have more and more abstractions built on top, so that it is an optional thing.