For those who need to understand how the Web is transforming the way businesses work, yada yada yada
Issue: April 30, 1999
Author/Editor: David Weinberger
Central Meme: Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy
Favorite Beatle: John. Duh.
Current Personal Crisis:Found myself thinking that the version of the Beatles' "You've got to Admit It's Getting Better" used in the Panasonic commercials is pretty darn good. Home page: http://www.hyperorg.com
Contact information: Click here.
The importance of being wrong: You can't go wrong being wrong.
Let me count the KM ways: What do 8 cases of KM have in common?
Are portholes bigger than the sum of portparts?: Portal madness
Isn't it (sweetly) ironic?: The compacting of Compaq
Leading indicator: Fly Delta's intranet
Reference Works: David Isenberg on "KnowWhy"
Links I like: Maybe you will, too
Spam I didn't opt into and didn't finish reading: Write to strangers if you hate spam!
Walking the Walk: Intranets cure cancer
Cool Tool: Correlate rates
Internetcetera: Web buying is up
Email, Arbitrary Insults, and Suspicious Hacking Coughs: The usual fabulous email from readers
Bogus Contest: Smell o' Death Press Releases
The importance of being wrong
If care about knowledge management, it's not for its own sake (unless, of course, you've become a dreaded Knowledge Management Professional). Rather, you care because you want to "make your company smarter," "increase the pace of innovation," or some such high-sounding reason.
Suppose, however, it turns out that to make your company smarter, you have to not just manage knowledge but also increase the frequency and volume of error. Suppose knowledge arises most frequently from mistakes.
Suppose the key to achieving the aims of knowledge management is to reward wrongness as much as rightness ... or at least to remove the stigma from being really, really, bass-ackwards, head up the nethers flat-out wrong.
Wrongness has a lot going for it beyond the fact that some things (like what's the best material for a light bulb filament and what flavors of yuppie jelly beans you like) can only be learned through trial and error. For example:
Some people are great at generating ideas but terrible at thinking through their impact. You want them to have as many bad ideas as possible because they will thereby randomly generate more good ideas. (I tell my clients that I try to maintain a 9:1 ratio of bad ideas to good.)
Errors are how assumptions become visible. And there is little more valuable than a newly-discovered assumption, because only then can you see what's holding you back and what could propel you forward.
There's too much to know, so all important decisions are, to some extent, random. By being free for error, you can try more paths until you stumble on one that takes you somewhere interesting (albeit probably not where you at first thought mistakenly you should be heading).
Errors remind us that we're fallible humans. A company that's too embarrassed to admit mistakes and that builds a culture where being wrong is humiliating literally is denying what it is to be human. And you will pay the price ... in this world, if not in the next.
Mistakes give us something to talk about.
Being wrong is a lot funnier than being right. The right type of laughter laughter at what the mistake reveals about our assumptions rather than laughter aimed at a person who dares to be human is enormously liberating. In fact, laughter is frequently the sound of knowledge.
How hard is it to be wrong in your company? Does your company have "zero tolerance" for error? Can you change your mind without losing status? If so, consider engaging in the radical politics of wrongness. Go out and commit a whopper. Then embrace it publicly. If you get "shot," then dust off your resume. (But spell check it first sometimes it just doesn't pay to make mistakes.)
Let me count the KM ways
If you want to see what's right and wrong about Knowledge Management, just read the April 5 issue of InformationWeek. An excellent round-up article called "Get Smart," by Beth Davis and Brian Riggs, collects real-life KM success stories ... and shows exactly why KM is such a troubled discipline at the conceptual level. It also maybe just maybe points to some Hope for KM.
The article isn't concerned with the theoretical or conceptual underpinnings of KM. It just wants to present a range of companies benefiting from implementing KM systems. But precisely because the authors have no ideological case to make, it's plain as day that there is little and possibly nothing these poster children of KM have in common:
Tacit knowledge. A representative of Hallmark says: "Knowledge exists in people. It's in the heads and in the interaction between people, work, and the problem to be solved." KM, then, is a matter of making tacit knowledge explicit.
Best practices. At Shell Oil, engineers in 11 refineries across US access best practices.
Extranet publishing. Employees at Schneider Automation share knowledge with their parent company via an extranet.
Data mining. Sears has three terabytes of data. They're going to mine that data so that when a service call for a broken dishwasher reveals it's 25 years old, the next bill will contain a coupon for a new dishwasher. (Notice, the implicit plug Sears gives itself, implying that their dishwashers last 25 years.)
Information aggregation. Scient has a tool that aggregates document information with information from ERP systems. (Scient also apparently has an excellent PR agency.)
Process automation. Schneider will also be using workflow software to automate business development and technical support.
Collaboration. Scient is adding project collaboration tools to its KM offering.
Ad hoc knowledge sharing. Hallmark is wiring 100 retailers so they can communicate, chat, and share best practices.
Knowledge communities. Platinum is enabling 1,500 salespeople to access authenticated info aggregated into six "knowledge communities."
And this doesn't even cover all the the theoretical varieties of KM.
What do all these entries have in common? They cover different types of data, different strata of people, different delivery means, different purposes.
What they have in common is that all were included in the same article, as if it were obvious that they are examples of KM.
This is useful because Socrates was right. The right way to understand a term is to gather clear, uncontested examples of the term and then see what they have in common, rather than trying to define it purely in the abstract.
So, if these are our examples, what is KM? It seems to have something to do with growing and harvesting insubstantial stuff such as ideas, practices, and information. It seems to have something to do with groups and communities, not individuals. It seems to have something to do with organizations acting smarter.
You can try to smush all three of those points into a single phrase if you want, but it's bound to come out sounding like the normal mystical consultant happy talk. If, however, we can agree that the cases in the article are in fact examples of KM, then even if we can't define it in a phrase, more than ever it seems like when it comes to KM, there's a there there although it may not be there-ish enough to support a discipline.
Which leads us to portals and the future of KM...
Are portholes bigger than the sum of portparts?
Buzzword status alert: "Portal" is just beginning to peak. How high will the portal hype go? Well, serious people are suggesting (erroneously, I believe) that portals may replace Windows. (Omigod, imagine what a multi-buzzworded linux-based portal could do probably replace computers entirely!)
Why the hype, given that a portal is simply a home page that aggregates content useful to the user? As is often the case with hot terms (like "push" and "KM"), the heat comes in large part from confusion. The Street (i.e., financial analysts who generally can't tell their ASCII from an AOL in the ground) are hot on Web portals like Yahoo! and Excite that became portals because being search sites wasn't enough. To differentiate themselves, they began offering sites such as "MyYahoo," a customizable page that pulls together news and services such as stock and sports information, chat, and, of course, access to Yahoo itself.
Now that all of the search sites have differentiated themselves in exactly the same way, they are all portals.
Now portals are moving inside the organization. Instead of having an internal home page, corporations can offer employees portals that are exactly like the ones they get from Yahoo, except they are crammed full of corporate propaganda (I mean, morale-building information), and provide tools useful for getting your work done. For example, a corporate portal might include links to corporate resources, saved searches, discussion areas, and a "buddy list" of team members currently accessible online.
At a recent AIIM conference, just about every KM company had rebranded itself as a portal company. (At the previous AIIM, they had rebranded themselves "KM.") It's easy to see why. KM is an ill-defined, amorphous, invisible discipline or service or technology or, like Scientology, is a cross between a religious experience and a pyramid scheme. Portals make the benefits of a KM system instantly apparent. It's KM, however, that feeds a portal with value. So, KM will become an invisible piece of the technical and disciplinary infrastructure, and will slowly fade from public consciousness. And not a moment too soon; if I hear one more definition of KM from a vendor trying to slip into that space, I will hurl chunks (wrapped in XML, of course).
So, everyone will have a portal. And portals are important. But it's going to be tough business to be a portal provider. Portals are too easy to build: you need a a customization wizard, a set of services that know how to output in HTML (or can be embedded as Java applets), and some type of dynamic publishing engine. None of these will strain the brain of your local weblord.
Thus ironically and tragically for the add-no-value financial investors portal technology companies will have trouble maintaining their pricing while companies that can output information useful to portals will have to swallow their branding and become simply plug-ins to portals. (Portal companies may try to maintain their value by doing deals with the plug-in value companies.)
Portals are here to stay. And by making the fruit of KM systems readily apparent, they may paradoxically both increase the use of KM and decrease its visibility. But will portals become the new desktop? After all, they pull together all the information and tools I need. So why will I have to use my Windows desktop?
Answer: Because it ain't a read-only world. Portals aggregate the information users need and can also aggregate the tools I need. But as they start to deal with all of the ways I want to manage the stuff I'm working on, they will have to evolve into something like a desktop. It's going to be hard to beat the real desktops at this game.
On the other hand, control-freak IS types who think that their internal customers are morons will to try to use portals as a way to limit access to the functionality of the desktop and the network. So, when you log on, you'll be taken to the company portal where all your choices are safe. (Any portal in a datastorm?) And this may be fine for employees who use computers for nothing but accessing data. But this is like turning your phone system into a PA system. Eventually people are going to wonder what those buttons on the front do...
So, portals are here to stay. But, so is Windows at least until The Department of Justice divides Microsoft into an OS and Applications company, and the Office group ports to Linux, but that's a whole other story...
Isn't it (sweetly) ironic?
In the April 19 issue of PC Week, there's an interview with Eckhard Pfeiffer, president and CEO of Compaq. In response to a question about whether Compaq has successfully "leveraged" the acquisitions of Digital and Tandem, Ecky replies, in part:
There are longer-term projects we said would take up to a year. These are more physical integration, efficiency types of things. That includes the entire [staff] reduction plan we laid out. We are on target.
Close. What he actually meant as "I am targeted." On April 18, Werner Eckhard Pfeiffer was pfired, um, resigned.
The selling of souls
Ultima Online is a vastly popular gaming community. It's got suburbs, stores, pickpockets, the whole magilla. Of course, it's virtual. You join, take on a name, and start to accumulate riches and powers. Your character persists over many sessions, getting richer and more powerful, thus proving that it is merely a game.
Now Computer Gaming World (June) in a column by Denny Atkin reports that on the auction site ebay.com, people are selling their Ultima characters for $500 and more. In one case, one account sold for $2,050 and another had reached $3,000 after 57 bids with six more days before the auction closed.
What a fabulous idea! What do am I bid for "Zitz," the snarky teenage transvestite you've possibly encountered at chat rooms such as "Big for the ladys" and "Over 15 Go Away"? In fact, I have many more personae I'd be willing to give up for the right price. How about "Goofy Dad with a Temper"? How about "Whiny Husband"? Or "Self-Absorbed 'Zine Editor" (Sorry, RageBoy, I'm not accepting bids from you.)
Most disturbingly, the column tells of Harlan, a 22-year old college student who "sold his and his fiancee's accounts so they could move on to Everquest." Says Harlan:
We have kept our long distance relationship alive via role playing on UO.
Well, it's probably more honest and revealing than the ways I used to keep long distance relationships alive: pleading letters and a great deal of self-satisfaction.
In the Wall Street Journal (April 15), in the semi-central column on the front page that reports on "human interest" stories (and what does that make the rest of the stories in the Journal?), there's an article about a Delta pilot who refused to continue a flight because he didn't think that the new down-sized bunk beds would enable his crew to get sufficient rest. (Hey, didn't he ever hear of Benzedrine? What's wrong with the pilots of today?)
But that's not why I bring it up. Neither will I use it for a self-centered rant about the size of airplane seats or the fact that as I write this, I am actually chewing on the hair of the person in front of me, a sort of desiccated strawberry taste, not nearly as satisfying as the rich chestnutty 'do I browsed during the first leg of this flight on unspeakable America West airlines. Oh no, I am too mature to fall into such self-indulgence. Ooh, wait, the person in front of me just leaned back, enabling me to achieve a full blast of chewy-center scalp. Delightful!
No, the reason I bring this up is actually quite small. The article mentions:
...Capt. McMillan, who has a perfect flying record and a reputation for being outspoken, has been campaigning against the bunks from the start. In a recent posting on the pilot's union private Web site, he wrote of the new setup: "I think it stinks."
"Private Web site"? What, is the term "intranet" too outre for Journal readers?
Ah, but my real point is that those who doubt that corporations are going to be rocked to their foundations by intra-networked workers need to pay heed. The pilots are talking to one another over their intranet, and they're telling one another the obvious truth: the bunks are too small for humans. They're in fact spreading the terminology of "coffin" for the new bunks and "condos" for the old. What force can withstand the penetrating power of dead-on sarcastic terminology?
I refer you to the central meme of this journal: Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. QED.
David Isenberg, telcom rebel, has sent a splendid article too long for complete reprinting in JOHO. Here's a teaser and a link to the rest of it:
You wrote in the latest JOHO that there are three types of knowledge: (1) statistical patterns mined from life's data, (2) the application of knowledge of such patterns so we don't skin our knuckles a *third* time (know-how), and (3) ideas.
I propose that there is a fourth kind of knowledge "know-why." (Actually, I think Buckminster Fuller coined "know-why" in a spare moment between designing his Dymaxion Car and formulating another theorem of spherical trigonometry.)
A company without "know-why" needs rules, procedures, and ISO 9000. A company with "know-why" can leave "how" procedures to individual employees. This is why having a real "mission" and a real "vision" are important, and why most mission/vision statements are done with the grace and skill of my ballet dancing. (I consider "two left feet" to be an absurdly understated politeness.) Missions and visions would pirouette on arpeggios of informed telekinesis if their authors had "know-why", and corporations would serve the greater good of global humanity.
Links I like
Erik Vlietink explains exactly why FileNet sucks (ok, so I'm not doing justice to the article) in his KM 'zine "Knowledge Manager:"
Oh, sure the big plug for JOHO at the top hasn't influenced my judgment about the extraordinarily talented and good looking Man from Antwerp.
Dan Kalikow points us to The Rapidly Changing Face of Computing, a weekly 'zine on new technology stuff. I've just subscribed because, frankly, I'm not getting enough email:
Spam I didn't opt into and didn't finish reading
Thank you for joining our opt-in list to receive this survey. This is not a SPAM. ...
The hottest issue on the Internet today is unsolicited email, also referred to as SPAM.
To participate, call:
1-900-737-0034 to vote "Yes" to SPAM, and
1-900-737-0035 to vote "No" to SPAM.
You will be charged $1.99 for your call (which will help offset the cost of publishing the results) and you must be at least 18 years old to participate.
Middle World ResourcesA Compendium of Resources
Walking the Walk
InternetWorld (Mar 22) reports that an extranet is being used to match doctors and patients to cancer drugs undergoing clinical trials.
230 anti-cancer drugs will be introduced this year, and patients are often eager to find clinical trials in which they can participate. American Oncology Resources, Inc., a network of cancer centers (for-profit) uses AOR SecureNet (built by TVisions) lets a doctor fill in a web form with just seven questions to get a list of available trials. The system sends email notification if a new match turns up later the poster child for the benefits of spam.
About 370 doctors are on the system. Bill McKeon, AOR's vp of mktg, says that if the number of cancer patients involved in clinical trials were to double from the current 5% rate, it could cut the testing period from 3-5 years to one year
Not to be curmudgeonly, but doesn't that last claim stretch your credulity? Don't you need to study cancer drugs for more than a year? Maybe Bill could have just left it with the fact that his system is helping cancer patients find potential cures. In marketing we call this "going one benefit too far." (Well, that's what I'm calling from now on anyway.)
For the Hyperlinked Organization
At the AIIM show, Correlate (http://www.correlate.com) debuted its product, Correlate. This is a tool so cool it's not even clear what you're going to use it for, but you will try to find something to do with.
Here's an indication of just how damn cool it is. In the very slick demo, you see something happen that you always assumed you could do but in fact can't: drag an image from a web page into another application. But wait, there's more!
Correlate puts the MS IE browser in the top pane of its app (it will support NS 5 also), and a data source in the left pane. The data source can be an Explorer file browser, an Outlook file view, a document management library browser, etc. You can easily switch these data sources just by clicking on a tabbed interface. In the large righthand pane is a blank page. As you drag files and other data into this blank page, it builds an outline (or "knowledge map," as Correlate calls it) that is easily altered and manipulated. In fact, you can begin with a template designed for a particular application such as doing due diligence or building a legal brief.
This knowledge map can be saved in a single file that encapsulates all of the information you've entered into it (embedded or linked) which can then be emailed to your best friend. If she doesn't have Correlate on her machine, it prompts her to download the free version off the web. Or, you can save the whole shebang as an HTML page (well, dynamic HTML) and publish it on a web site, retaining all of the cool outline capabilities.
Correlate is free for individual users. For networked, corporate workers, it's $200 a pop, with volume licensing available.
(Full disclosure: I've done a tiny bit of work for Correlate as a consultant, but not enough to get me to lie to you about it. Lying would have cost them another 25 bucks. Ah, JOHO, where truth is a free service and lying always costs extra.)
PC Magazine, the favorite journal for people who enjoy articles such as "1,200 Dot Matrix Printers We've Got the Specs!," in the May 25 issue, publishes the results of a survey of U.S. households by Odyssey.
Households that own PCs
Households that are online
Online households that made online purchases Aug-Dec 98
Hours per week spent using PCs for entertainment (Aug vs. Jan 1998)
Thus, the percentage of households on line is growing faster than the percentage of households with PCs.
By my calculations, by September of this year, more families will be on line than have computers.
Email, Arbitrary Insults, and Suspicious Hacking Coughs
The special issue on "The Longing" (http://www.hyperorg.com/backissues/joho-mar26-99-special.html) brought interesting mail. "The Longing" maintains that our fascination with the web betokens a sense that something is missing in our lives that we are looking to the Web to supply. The essay posits that what's missing is our individual voices, which we've bartered away in return for the illusion that we live in a secure, managed world.
Bob Morris writes:
People used to sing in their work, but I guess that disappeared in industrial countries due to the literal noise of the machines. My guess is that this has more to do with it than the Well-Managed World.
The machines are silent. Why are we still silent? Do you hear many choruses of "What's New, Pussycat?" emanating from the cubicles around you? I thought not. Nevertheless, I bet you're right about how this came about.
Bob continues, referring to the statement in the essay that "The longing the Web expresses is, ultimately, spiritual":
Here's my guess on this point, but you'll prove me wrong by example if it turns out that you've been going to the synagogue weekly since we last met physically: Some people who live in/with the web and have not found another way to express their spirituality may find that the web does. But in that role, the things that make it different from other forms of Community don't distinguish it from those other forms. Also, if the problem of communal singing isn't solved, I guess the web won't in the end satisfy spiritual needs.
I don't have much truck with this God thing. I wouldn't insult God by suggesting he's responsible for this world. I stand by my point, however. The longing for the Web (in many of us) expresses a spiritual longing, not a desire for information.
Most of your culture disagrees with you, Bob. The Web is generating so much interest not because it's a world-wide library but because it's a relatively unknown connective phenomenon onto which we can project all our deep desires to fix what's broken in our (American) lives: alone-ness, conformist straitjacketing, power-based relationships, the stillness of our voice. Each of these elements touches something fundamental about the human spirit.
Heart disease taught me that, for myself, faster and more is not better. So the net remains for me mainly a pretty good library.
"Better, faster" doesn't characterize the Web for me, nor for the world that it's set afire. That's the locus of our disagreement. And we've worked it down to a satisfyingly ineradicable nubbin.
In a similar vein, Michael Burton sent in a neatly tagged rant, followed by this:
I guess a point I flittered around towards the end of my rant deals with the ideal version of the internet as compared to how corporate influences would have things move. Of course, corps want the Internet to be Interactive TV, flush with cheeto commercials and interactive beer campaigns. From my perspective running Linux and doing most of my work from the command-line, that looks a long way away. But when I went home and watched my father interact with the web using AOL, I was shocked by the same glitz and glamor and fluff which is so prevalent on network/cable TV. And this is his whole net experience.
A friend of mine suggested that before you gain access to a GUI, you must use the net from the command line for an entire month. LYNX, and TRN, and PINE are all you get. Once you figure those out, you can trade off for a Microsoft/AOL world of buttons and "You've Got Mail!" ringing in your ears.
I see a schism between those AOL folks who drag-and-drop pictures of themselves to their friends, and the old grey-bearded suspenders-wearing, pocket-protector, scratchy glasses unix types. Of course, few actually fall to the extremes, but the stratification is happening, and that stratification will be what stops the global sharing that you and Locke [=RageBoy] envision. Instead of there being a separation based off of money, it will be based off your email address. Between the Hackerz and the Lamers, between a skittish enclosed few and the general masses.
The population has always wanted lowest denominator entertainment. Whether it is gladiator fighting in Roman times, or bear-baiting in Elizabethan times, or Married with Children today - people seek the gross. The Internet is no exception.
Doesn't it seem inevitable that mass markets sink to the level of the masses? Or do we still hold out hope that the Web is going to make the masses smarter? Durned if I know. I find myself whipsawed between optimism and cynicism, and hope, in fact, to cash in on what I predict will be the One and True Web Attitude: cynical optimism.
In response to "The Longing," Thom Forbs writes, and I interpolate:
I must ask you a question that pops into my head every time I read something that talks about reclaiming some lost ideal. When exactly was it that "we" had this voice to begin with? What does being like a wanton fly to the gods have to do with having a voice?
The wanton fly refers to a time when we didn't delusionally believe that we could manage our world.
Forget about sitting up straight in committee meetings, or being fearful of undermining your boss. There never was a golden age when the common man, or even the royal man, could say exactly what he felt. Saying the politically incorrect thing could get you flat-out killed. The common woman couldn't even vote in this country when my grandmothers came of age. Women are still oppressed in many cultures. And men are still jailed or killed for giving voice to an unpopular idea.
I understand where you're going, both in this essay and in the Cluetrain Manifesto, and agree with a lot of it. I just don't understand the direction you're taking to get there. I don't think there is a past to this Web of Ours. The face-to-face, intimate networks of earlier societies were very parochial and insular. The answer is all in the future, which I guess is why you doubted you'd get it right.
Well, that's a durn fine point. I know that I didn't have some mythical Golden Age in mind when everyone (who happened to be white, male and property-owning) could speak in his own unfettered voice. But, the fact is that it does feel (to me) like a return to voice. Why? I believe the return is not a return to a previous historical era but to a state that we all (?) have felt as a possibility if not as an actuality.
To put it inelegantly, adopting the suit of conformity feels like limiting ourselves from the possibility of a broader range of action and thought (and voice) even if in our entire lives we've only worn the suit. The possibility of genuine voice (of authenticity, if you prefer) forms the horizon of our life in a very real way and, of course, an horizon is a limit that tells you that there's something beyond the limit.
So gaining voice feels like a return not to an historical era but to a possibility that has been beckoning to us. Thanks for helping me to clarify this to myself.
Jeffrey Harker writes:
You might want to check out some articles written by Alan Liu at UCSB. I heard him deliver a similar talk at a conference on Technology and the Humanities last year at UC Riverside. His arguments revolved around the same themes.
A quick check turned up "The Voice of the Shuttle," an obscure but provocative Aristotle reference that will please all fans of fine-ankled metaphors: http://humanitas.ucsb.edu/shuttle/the_myth.html
Bob Morris writes (again!) to tell me that my history of the Web is wrong:
Prehistoric documents suggest-and I agree-that Berners-Lee actually didn't understand SGML very well in his Swiss period, and that this in fact impeded some early progress of the Web. The participants in that dispute have lately made nice with each other, and everyone is now worshiping in the Church of XML. The disputants don't even seem to remember how they used to lob electronic ordinance at each other. As it happens, I think the Church of XML has pretty good doctrines and is likely to succeed if the Bishop of Redmond doesn't go for yet another schism.
No, no. SGML has all the signs of a church: doctrine-soaked adherents willing to kill and be killed defending the one true faith. XML is more like James Joyce: Everyone agrees he's great, but no one reads him.
On the same point of my attributed the SGML decision to Tim B-L, Chris RageBoy Locke weighs in:
I don't think that's true. Don Connelly (sp?) used to call himself the "SGML cop" because he was the main proponent of making HTML compatible with SGML. Originally, I'm pretty sure it was not. Of course, who the fuck really cares.
Ah, pity the poor RageBoy whose memory is long and attention span is short.
By the way, have I given RageBoy his plug yet? http://www.rageboy.com/index2.html
Clinton Glenn writes to say he liked "The Longing":
Thanks for providing the "mental enema" that I needed to flush out the crap and take a clearer view of this subject. I am passing this on to my interested peers with the hope that it will kick their brain cells into gear and relieve their rectal hindsight (damn, I should have known I couldn't get through this without getting slangy - sorry about that).
I think we've learned an important lesson: be careful when you pick your initial metaphor. Once you start with enemas, you can't stop the rest from flowing.
Martin Hensel writes:
I hope you will consider repeating this approach in some future issues of SOHO. Articles like this provide a window into your substance. I feel that you hide this substance with 'snarky' commentary. It is the substance, however, that I find appealing.
Martin, you're a brave man! And for this, I hereby award you one "Get Out of Snark Free" card which means I will pass on the next time I'm inclined to say something snarky about you. And that time is now. Your card has been used. You're fair game.
So, as far as preferring substance to snark, we here at Sournal of the Hyperjinxed Orgasm are proud to announce our new Substance Abuse Program. Why, after three weeks (and just $30,000), you'll master your cravings for substance and will find yourself replying to serious questions with a cutting remark and a string of cusses you hadn't heard since your sailor friend Hatless Bob confused circumnavigation and circumcism.
Snarks 'R Us, Martin.
And while we're on the subject of me being wrong, Arthur Phillips writes:
Kafka didn't name "Amerika". It was unfinished and untitled (like much of Franz's stuff) when the author died and left instructions to his pal Max Brod to burn most of it. Max did his best with these ambiguous instructions: he published everything with new titles and chapter headings 'n' everything.
"K" still connotes what you said, but it isn't Kafka's idea.
Sorry to be so pedantic. I'm a novelist temporarily trapped in the communications business.
Arthur, just one word of advice. "Temporarily" in this context almost always means: "forever, but with the comforting delusion of coercion."
Having never met you, I'm in the perfect position to tell you how to run your life: get yourself fired before it's too late! Also, find a little-known Web stock and get in on the bottom floor. Oh, and marry a wonderful, strong woman who will shape your experience and edit your prose. Have some kids who write scathing memoirs about you. Die in Venice.
There, that just about wraps it up. Next!
Tom Maddox writes, for reasons I forget:
Okey-dokey, as my trained dolphin sometimes says. But then what the *fuck* does "the enterprise" mean?
"Aardvark Softscene, Inc. produces high quality scansion and maceration software for the enterprise."
Is "the enterprise" something on the order (you should pardon the expression) of the Gigantic Global Capitalist Hegemony Blessed Be Its Name, or ...?
It's a code word, of course. Strictly speaking, "the enterprise" can be translated as:
2. Complex, hard to install
3. Requires services
4. Will take 9-18 months to work
5. Is waaaay to expensive
6. Was probably written in a dead programming language
Tom generously replies:
My primary mistake was in assuming that in the question, Does the dog have Buddha nature? the phrase "the dog" *meant* something. Now, having recovered from my moment of blinding illumination (I smoked a cigarette and said the word "Kosovo" twice), I can face all mentions of "the enterprise" with a radiant calm.
John Pittman reacts to Jon Pyke's discovery that print outs of articles on an industry consulting company's web sites contain the line "Printed on recycled paper":
http://tbtf.com/jargon-scout.html on Pyke's observation in the latest JOHO - I knew I'd seen it referenced (and named - even more important!) somewhere - see , specifically the entry for inappropriate fidelity.
Kyle, Lord Patrick, writes:
I felt I should point out a feature of Internet Explorer 5 which really impressed me. In diagnosing a friend's ailing site (a simple page generated by the Tripod sloppy pathetic WYSIWYG pagemaker, and it wouldn't run in Netscape), I discovered that after using IE's "Save as" and saving the entire page (it grabs the pictures, too, a neat feature in and of itself), that it automatically generated a well-formed HTML document, saving me the trouble of actually fixing it. Pretty darn nifty, I thought. I'm not sure you can still be a self-respecting web guru (as WSJ called you) and declare IE5 a Cool Tool, but this feature is still pretty impressive. Figuring out what a person meant to make a page do and then writing the document for them is rather savvy in my book.
So IE5 is acting like good citizen? Off with its head!
Lord Patrick continues his romance with Microsoft in a later message:
(Don't feel like you have to go here, but you can still appreciate that someone at Microsoft is quoting lyrics from a semi-famous rock trio's less-famous song, which happens to contain the f-word) http://msdn.microsoft.com/scripting/default.htm?/scripting/jscript/
One then finds this text:
Add it up! Add it up!"
Yeah, anticlimactic. But still, it's enough to brighten a day that began with a chemistry midterm.
Jeez, when I was in school, we began the day with chemicals, not chemistry.
And I'm afraid I'm too old a fart to "get" your cultural references, including who the Violent Monks are, but I'm glad to hear MS is "way cool" as you kids say.
Lord Patrick also sends us the following random link:
http://www.edisys.com Taking e-word pollution to new extremes. Scary.
With his normal sensitivity and good grace, Chris RageBoy Locke points out a wee error in my final bit of faux palindromery in the previous issue. I wrote: "Now it's up to you - uot ot pu sti won"
now it's up to tou????
you really are dyslexic, aren't tou?
No, I'm dyslinksic: I can't publish an issue without getting at least one link wrong. I am also, however, sloppy, in large part because I know it makes Chris feel better about himself. And, Lord knows, we're here to feed RageBoy's esteem.
Aren't we all?
After many days and hundreds of dollars trying to fix my kids' P200 computer, I finally got it right this morning. I can't begin to tote the amount of time I've sunk into this. So your challenge is to figure out what was wrong with the sucker all along.
Here's a hint: When you get it, you won't say "Gosh, David sure was clever to figure that out." Phrases more like "fucking moron" will come to mind.
Herewith the symptoms and attempts to fix:
The kids' computer was getting random blue screens of death (BSOD). I couldn't correlate it to any particular piece of sw or hw.
I replaced and increased the ram to 64M.
I upped the hard drive from 4G to 10G.
I put in a new graphics card.
It was getting so bad that I couldn't get through an install of Norton Antivirus without getting the BSOD.
I ripped out the network, removed the NIC, and removed the scanner's SCSI card.
I reinstalled Win98 on top of the current installation of Win98.
I finally reformatted the main drive and reinstalled Win98 and all the apps. BSOD.
I checked the RAM again, this time with Nuts and Bolts. Fine.
The new HD checked out fine also, using Norton. No Norton diagnostic turned up any problems.
So, if y'all are so damn smart, what do you think the problem turned out to be? And remember, when you find out, you're going to say "For this I wasted my time? What a fucking moron!"
Bogus contest: Smell o' Death Press Releases
Sometimes you can read a bold, bright, upbeat press release and just know that the company's pallor is grey and the death rattle isn't far away. For example:
Press Release Blurb
"MyCo is delighted to welcome BigCo into the widget industry, validating the mission critical role played by industrial-strength widgets like MyCo's at fortune 1000 companies around the world."
BigCo is going to kill us.
"Bob Bigguy, CEO of of MyCo, today issued the following statement: 'MyCo denies that there is any substance to the rumors that ...'"
You won't find out until next week that the rumors are true.
"MyCo, the leading supplier of industrial-strength widgets, today announced that the next release of its award-winning widget enhancement solution, BigWidget, will occur in the fourth quarter of 1999. Bob Middleguy, MyCo's VP of Marketing, said: 'MyCo is proud of its record as a provider of quality products products Fortune 1000 companies rely upon around the world for their mission critical widget needs and this small delay in the shipment of our product will allow us to work even more closely with our beta customers who are extremely enthusiastic about the new levels of mission critical functionality in the next release of our award-winning widget enhancement solution for leading Fortune 1000 companies around the mission-critical world."
The product is late. It's late because we just found out it doesn't work. It doesn't work because the laws of physics have not yet been rescinded. But we're not returning the money.
Your job: Construct your own press release blurbs that stink of mortality.
And we will gladly read them as we ourselves lie in bed, sleep-burdened and feeling in every joint a readiness to turn bone to soil and flesh to mulch, much as this issue of JOHO slouches forward, born more by the gravity of time than the graveness of issues, to a state perfectly horizontal and buzzing with the boring activity of what turns out to be merely worms and germs... Goodnight, sweet readers, goodnight...
JOHO is a free, independent newsletter written and produced by David Weinberger. He denies responsibility for any errors or problems. If you write him with corrections or criticisms, it will probably turn out to have been your fault.
Subscription information, or requests to be removed from the JOHO mailing list, should be sent to [email protected]. There is no need for harshness or recriminations. Sometimes things just don't work out between people.
Dr. Weinberger is in a delicate nervous state, but if you want to send positive comments to him, his email address is [email protected].
Dr. Weinberger is represented by a fiercely aggressive legal team who responds to any provocation with massive litigatory procedures. This notice constitutes fair warning.
Any email sent to JOHO may be published in JOHO and snarkily commented on unless the email explicitly states that it's not for publication.
The Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization is a publication of Evident Marketing, Inc.
"The Hyperlinked Organization" is trademarked by Open Text Corp. JOHO gratefully acknowledges Open Text's kind permission to use this felicitous phrase.
For information about trademarks owned by Evident Marketing, Inc., please see our Preemptive Trademarks"!"! page at http://www.hyperorg.com/misc/trademarks.html.