August 15, 2000
The Power of the Unstated: John Updike's poem "Hoeing" delivers the tacit knowledge goods
Mapping the Web: So many ways to visualize a space that isn't even spatial!
Misc.: Shreds and tatters of a lovely lullabye.
Walking the Walk: Nuns get webby to push their candy.
Cool Tool: E-Quill lets you mark up a Web page for your pals
Links to Love: Places to go, courtesy of you
Mail, Missives and Funny Smells: More wonderful email than even usual
Bogus Contest: Celebrity En-dork-ments
[NOTE: Although it may not seem like it at first, this column is actually about Knowledge management.]
Here's a poem by John Updike that you can read in his anthology "Collected Poems 1953-1993" (Alfred Knopf) http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0679762043/.
I sometimes fear the younger generation will be deprived
of the pleasures of hoeing;
there is no knowing
how many souls have been formed by this simple exercise.
The dry earth like a great scab breaks, revealing
the pea-root's home,
a fertile wound perpetually healing.
How neatly the great weeds go under!
The blade chops the earth new.
Ignorant the wise boy who
has never rendered thus the world fecunder.
As with many poems worthy of the name, this poem shows the magnificence of the unthought. The simplest of productive acts, hoeing, turns out to be richer than we'd (and weed) expected.
And yet, the poem is explicitly concerned about the passing of this act. The poem says that our history has ruptured; the generations before us have hoed, and the new generation hasn't. It's taken an important change to bring about this little change; this is the context the poem assumes. Given this rupture, it seems that Updike is set on preserving the meaning of the act for a time when his generation has passed. But in so doing, Updike destroys the simplicity of the exercise. Will hoeing be the same for us after reading the poem? Now that it stands revealed as a complex act that shows the depth of our relationship to the earth, can we ever just hoe again?
For example, I'd never explicitly thought of hoeing as wounding the earth. Yet I recognize that as an accurate description of what I'd already been experiencing the ripping of the earth's "skin," the black decay beneath, the certitude that the tear will be healed one way or another. We see in the cut of the hoe how this activity is essentially different than that which is replacing it: the plunder of the earth by mechanical industries that are heedless and disruptive of the rhythm of renewal.
Updike makes all this explicit in the plunge and twist of the hoe, the simplest of implements. And in making it explicit, he changes the "exercise" he is describing.
Now *that's* tacit knowledge!
The tacit knowledge of KM isn't like this. Tacit knowledge, according to KM, is the know-how that differentiates the best support people from the rest. This know-how isn't transformed when it's made explicit: when Mary tells Carla how to get the XP200 hooked up to the crosswise framalator, she's only putting into words actions she's performed a hundred times (but which somehow never made it into the technical documentation). Precisely because it can be made explicit without transforming the act it's informing, KM's tacit knowledge isn't as rich or important as the poem's.
But consider how tacit knowledge is transferred outside of electronic KM systems. Mary takes Carla out on the road. Carla watches what Mary is doing, while Mary makes occasional comments ("Gotta be careful with the XP200 that baby'll blow if you don't tamp down the framalator!") and answers questions. Carla absorbs the tacit context, not just the tacit instruction set. The context is so close that it may entirely escape notice. The context Carla absorbs has to do with the speed at which Mary works, how frequently she consults the documentation, how much experimentation she does ("Let's try it set to 500"), how long she probes before she proposes, the tools she lays out before she even opens the faulty machine, how stuck she has to be before she'll call for help, how much she respects her colleagues and hates her boss.
Likewise, when I teach my daughter how to hoe, the instructions are so simple that I probably don't have to verbalize them stick in the blade, pull it back as if you're kneading dough, chop, stick it in again. But the context includes the fact that we're doing this during non-work time, that I'm whistling, that I enjoy killing weeds, that I'm bothered by slicing worms, that I find it boring after the first five minutes. The context goes to the meaning of the work and its connection to other exercises: planting, weeding, watering.
Yes, Mary is a good service person because she knows a heck of a lot about the XP series of machines. But that knowledge won't be of use if the rest of the context isn't there. Making Carla into a good service person does not simply mean transferring implicit knowledge from one head to another. It means that Carla is absorbed into the context as successfully as Mary. Updike's "Hoeing" teaches us that making contextual knowledge explicit can actually transform the context, not always in productive ways.
So, if KM is serious about making tacit knowledge explicit, it ought to be aware that there's a price to be paid. A lesson of "Hoeing" and of so much poetry, from Horace to Joyce, is that there is magnificence in the simple ... and that, therefore, the explicit is the insignificant tip of the tacitly significant.
Y'all know the short subject "Powers of Ten"? If not, you must have been sleeping during the science class when the AV Squad rolled in the projector. It's a great film, depicting the universe seen at 10x increments, starting with you standing in your backyard in New Jersey. It goes all the way from the Solar System to the Galaxy to Larry Ellison's Ego to Super Gigantic Meta-Galaxial Clusters with Caramel and Nougat ... and then goes into reverse through molecules, atoms, sub-atomic particles, and footnotes to a senior thesis in logical positivism. Looking at maps of the Web has something of the same effect, except the scale runs according to the level of abstraction, not distance.
Mapping the Web is a huge field that falls into two main pieces: maps that show us something interesting about the Web, and maps that help us navigate the Web. These two need not be essentially connected.
We begin with Bill Cheswick's work: www.cs.bell-labs.com/who/ches/map/index.html. He's a security guru at Bell Labs and a wacky guy. He and a colleague, Hal Burch, put together software that draws a beautiful map of the routers that are (as he says) the tin cans and string of the Web. It puts these 100,000 nodes together using colors to indicate congestion and arcs instead of boring old straight lines. The result looks like a fireworks display. While this map has a geographic correlate you could position the routers relative to a geographic map Ches declines to follow it. Rather, Ches is fond of pointing to a dense cluster of nodes, saying, "That's UUNET" or whatever. (PS: Try out Ches's non-optical illusion page on the McCollough Effect: www.cs.bell-labs.com/who/ches/me.)
John Quarterman (http://order.mids.org/~jsq/index.html) has been mapping the Internet in various ways for over ten years. For example, he plots the growth of Net hosts in the U.S. on a geographic map of the U.S.(www.mids.org/mmq/604/pub/us.i.gr.c.html) or the presence of hosts plotted on a world map (www.mids.org/mapsale/world/). Quarterman's group also produces the Internet Weather Report (www.mids.org/weather/index.html), a set of maps that display the speed of the Internet ("latency"). Every four hours, the IWR "pings" several thousand servers world wide and measures how long it takes the packet to do the round trip.
If you want to see the geography of a hyperlink, you can use a utility such as neotrace (www.neotrace.com/). Give it an URL and it will plot on a world map exactly how your request to see that page has been routed. While it's intended to help you diagnose problems reaching sites, it also gives you a warm feeling about just how global physically and literally the Web is, and also, on occasion, just how bone-headed stupid it is. (You can see a dynamic map based on traceroutes at http://home.online.no/~ggunners/NetBird.html.)
But the Web isn't merely hardware. Upside recently ran an article by Robert Buderi on Ravi Kumar's charting of 200 million pages and 1.5 billion links to and from them. (He's backed by Altavista, Compaq and IBM.) His initial finding is that there are four main regions on the Web, each with about 50M pages. Sites in the Strongly Connected Core are no more than 7 clicks from one another. Sites in the In region point to the Core but the Core doesn't have the good graces to point back. Similarly, the Out region is pointed to by the Core but doesn't point back. Finally, there are the Tendrils which run off of the In and Out regions but can't be reached by the Core, presumably because they're behind firewalls. According to the article, "Kumar says, despite its ad hoc creation and constant evolution, it seems the Web is actually highly organized." This is a weird type of map, sort of like clustering streets not by how they're connected but by whether they're one-way or two-way.
Valdis Krebs (www.orgnet.com/) is an expert in organizational network mapping. Rather than doing simple org charts, he aims at creating dynamic maps of the various types of structures of an organization, including the flow of information. He has created a map of the Internet industry, showing the relationship of the various Net players: www.orgnet.com/netindustry.html. This map obviously is hugely dynamic, and would need to be updated with every press release.
So far, none of these maps is intended to help you find your way on the Web. If you want help navigating, you need to decide among the Web's three basic information structures: random hyperlinks, clustered hyperlinks, and hyperlinks organized into browsable hierarchies, a lá Yahoo. Each can be presented as a map.
You can see an example of Yahoo's attempt to render its hierarchical directory as a geographical map at www.cybergeography.org/atlas/yahoo3d_large.jpg. It's no longer available, possibly because the geographical view of a hierarchical directory defeats the purpose of such a directory, which is to show a whole lot of information in a very small space.
There's a mixed mode of clustered hyperlinking that's extremely common: every Web site can be presented as a set of pages all linked (eventually) to a home page. Frequently, maps of this structure show the home page in the center with the other pages linked to it and to one another. Many Web utilities show this to you in your role as webmaster.
There have been lots of attempts to make random hyperlinks viewable and navigable. This isn't just a Web problem, however, so work has been done in lots of fields, from semantic mapping to document management. The Brain, for example, a utility that some people swear by but which is to me of no appeal helps organize scraps of information; Mappi.Mundi (http://mappa.mundi.net/map/), a site about mapping, has an example of the brain linked on its home page that maps the ideas on the site. ThinkMap (www.thinkmap.com) doesn't confine itself to the Web but it does provide a Web utility which you can see at www.bacardi.com/. Be sure to click on the ThinkMap button on the bottom left. You will then see a dynamically updated set of maps, presented as circles and lines and mysterious symbols, that are supposed to help you visualize where you are. For me, they only simulate one too many piña coladas. Inxight (www.inxight.com/), a spin-off of Xerox "Kiss of Death" PARC, for years has been trying to convince people that they want to think about information as a spinning ice cream cone (oops, I mean "hyperbolic tree") and other oddities. The demos are very cool (www.inxight.com/products_wb/tree_studio/tree_studio_demos.html), but are they useful? Not to me, but, then, the right half of my brain was removed after a series of unfortunate homework assignments in my freshman Drawing the Nude course in college.
One of the hottest areas is clustering sites based upon an analysis of their content. The wildly overhyped Autonomy engine does this (www.autonomy.com), as do others, some commercially available (e.g., www.fulcrum.com) and some in research labs around the world. Putting related sites together visually even if they are not linked is a way of manufacturing serendipity. The hard part is figuring out what's related, but you shouldn't underestimate the difficulty of coming up with a visual metaphor that works. There are already 2-D maps, browsable hierarchies, and some mappings into 3-D space. (Won't someone please adapt the Quake III engine for this purpose? Thanks.) [Note: I'm on the board of a company still in stealth mode that's involved in one of these areas.]
There will be many solutions to this problem, and which ones we like will have everything to do with our personal way of thinking and the type of problem we're trying to solve at the moment. But navigable maps of Web sites clustered by relevancy to our interests are of unique important to the Web because the Web space is itself organized not by uniform units of distance but by *interest* itself. Distance, on the Web, is measured by irrelevance. Navigable maps capture this essential fact of our new world, and thus not only map Web distance but conquer it.
Here are two sources which were helpful to me:
Will Someone Please Call the Personalization Hotline?
The following improbable spam arrived at JOHO world headquarters:
From: S.D.YOO [[email protected]]
We saw your mail address after visiting your website and would like to introduce you to our Corporation.We are now looking for companies which would like to distribute these products like super Alkaline & super heavy duty dry batteries,Nexxell Brand. If you are interested in, kindly feel free to contact us without any hesitation. We will send a definite product introduces,price list and company profile to you immediately.
Hyundai Trade Corp. Seoul,Korea
Sure, I'll sell your batteries if you'll sell my personal line of kiss-my-butt lipstick. Now, take a hike!
A term first floated in JOHO has made it into Wired's Jargon Watch: www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.08/mustread.html?pg=8. Unfortunately, after carefully asking me for permission, they forgot to run the attribution. Oh well. I wasn't that fond of the phrase anyway: Margin of Prevarication:
It is defined as ((p - a)/p) where p is the value required to be perceived in order to accomplish a business objective and a is the actual value.
In one of the few articles about Ray Lane's departure from Oracle that actually tried to explain why he was pushed out, Charles Babcock ([email protected], July 17) unintentionally leaves us with a puzzle. At one point he quotes a manager at IBM who says "DB2 is priced at least three times lower than Oracle." He later says "While Oracle leads in the number of units shipped, IBM and Oracle are locked in a dead heat for revenue leadership..." Hmm, what am I missing here?
The author also points out that it was only in December of 1999 that Oracle posted an actual price list, rather than relying on salespeople to do the pricing, thus spelling the end of the classic end-of-sales-call presentation: "Let's see, that'll be 100 licenses of Oracle 8i, a set of admin tools, a couple Smelly Ellison Aromariffic Mouse Pads I'm throwing in for free, and that'll come to ... how much did you say you had again?"
Quote of the month
Upside's quote of the Month is from Bill Joy:
"Let's be truthful. Most of the bright people don't work for you no matter where you are. You need a strategy that allows for innovation occurring elsewhere."
Excellent point. The truth is always welcome here at JOHO, especially if we can trivialize it. So, try substituting other words for "bright" and "innovation," e.g., "honest" and "integrity," or "pretty" and "beauty."
Rick Levine, pal and Cluetrain Coauthor, writes:
Fascinating article on eWatch, the Dallas firm that monitors negative net noise for companies. They now have an activist service that attempts to counter or excise negative comments on companies, and delivers a dossier of information on perpetrators to offended companies.
For $5,000 per screen name, eWatch will track down people writing uncomplimentary things about your company and will badger ISPs and site hosts into erasing the comments. Among the satisfied fascistic companies is Northwest Airlines that used the service to identify and then fire the organizers of a sick-out. The article says Northwest is now using it to find their most pissed-off customers so they can be put through some marketing reeducation.
Let's just take eWatch for a spin, shall we?:
Hey Northwest Airlines! Yeah, I'm talking to you! Northwest Airlines sucks donkey hose! Your planes are ratty! Your CEO is a pederast! I found mouse turds in the coffee you served on board one of your unsafe Northwest Airlines flights. Your managers stole my luggage, pried it open, and sprayed their sexual essence on the contents. Northwest Airlines die die die.
I'm starting my stopwatch. I will let you know the moment the lawyers call.
Freelance Property Rights
I used to support myself as a freelance writer, so I am deeply sympathetic with this abridged message from Linda Weltner about her experience writing a column called "Ever So Humble" for The Boston Globe:
Are you wondering: Why is "Ever So Humble" no longer in the Globe? I refused to sign a contract which demanded that I hand over to the Globe - for no compensation whatsoever - all rights to 20 years of my past, present, and future columns so that they could be reprinted or sold by the Globe in all mediums - including the Internet. ... The newspaper ... informed freelancers that none of us would continue to work for the Globe unless we signed. ...
Recently, however, in Tasini Vs The New York Times, the courts ruled that work contributed by freelancers cannot be re-used electronically or by other means, by a publisher without the consent of the creator. The contract sent to freelancers was an attempt to coerce writers and photographers into giving up their legal right to be paid for reuse of their work by refusing to employ anyone who would not sign.
How would this contract work? Here's one example. ...
Freelance theater critics typically receive $125 per review. Lawyers representing plaintiffs in the freelancers' class action suit against the Globe discovered that 243 theater reviews published on the Internet version of the newspaper were sold to an electronic data base. The writer of these reviews had never been informed of this sale or paid for work to which he has the exclusive copyright.
This contract is designed to make sure that he never is.
Why did I agree to become a plaintiff in the freelancers' class action suit? ... Gandhi said the basic principle of non-violent resistance is not to participate in one's own subjugation. ... I would love to continue my ongoing conversation with my readers, but the price was too high.
Freelancers, like adjunct professors, are practically by nature exploited. We may argue over which intellectual property ought to be free, but surely everyone will agree that if it's not free, then the creators ought to get at least *some* of the proceeds.
Middle World Resources
According to an article in CIO (Megan Santosus, Aug. 1), the Web is increasing the efficiency, throughput, and return on investment ... for Mount St. Mary's Abbey in Wrentham, MA. The abbey supports itself by selling candy via catalogs and an on-site store. Because there are fewer people entering the order, they can no longer afford to make their confections year round. Now they've moved their operations onto the Web and shut down the store, freeing up four more sistahs to make and ship product. In the first three months, they were pleasantly surprised to find they'd sold 250 boxes online, up from 100.
Best of all, they were able to convert their store into a Starbucks.
Their Web site:
For the Hyperlinked Organization
E-Quill gives you tools within your browser for marking up a web page and sending it to a friend. The friend doesn't need E-Quill to see your notes and highlights, unless she wants to do some marking up of her own.
Here's what the E-Quill page says are the paradigmatic uses:
Comment on a news article and send it to a coworker.
Mark up a street map for a visiting friend.
Editing a document? Doing market research? Add your comments right on the page.
Personalize an online photo album or add humor to the latest Web sensation.
Highlight important information on a stock report, then click to send it to your broker.
Circle the CD you want for a gift and forward Mom the page.
How about the real uses: Draw a mustache on the picture of your boss! Go to your corporate web site and give away secrets! Write "Suck me, you fascist bastards!" over www.northwestairlines.com.
I'd be more enthusiastic about this product if it wasn't yet another appliance to strap onto the old browser which is already beginning to creak with its burden. But, it's free, it's simple and it works (at least so far).
Business2.0 reports (http://www.business2.com/content/research/numbers/2000/08/04/15751):
A recent Pew Research survey noted that 66% of people who go online for news end up at weather Websites or at the weather sections of newspapers' Websites.
Here's a statistic that strains the ol' credulity. Since most newspapers put the weather synopsis on their front page, this would mean that two thirds of people who see that it's going to be 75F and cloudy with a chance of rain want more details: "It's going to be 75.6F with cirrus clouds and a 43.7% chance of rain"?
Besides, shouldn't Pew Research be doing marketing surveys for Mount St. Mary's Abbey Corp.?
Better-than-Me Napster Links
A number of you forwarded a link to Courtney Love's speech about Napster, tacitly saying "Courtney got it right. Why don't you shut up now?" Well, that's right. She spoke at the Digital Hollywood online entertainment conference (May 16) and Salon has published the transcript: www.salon.com/tech/feature/2000/06/14/love/index.html Here's the opening:
Today I want to talk about piracy and music. What is piracy? Piracy is the act of stealing an artist's work without any intention of paying for it. I'm not talking about Napster-type software. I'm talking about major label recording contracts.
It is a fabulous rant. Must reading.
Kevin Wehrbach, editor of Esther Dyson's Release 1.0, reminds us that he has a piece on Napster at http://release1.userland.com/thoughts/napster. The article notes:
Two days before judge Patel's decision, Napster issued a little-noticed announcement that it had partnered with Liquid Audio, which makes digital rights-management technology that enables secure downloading of copyrighted content.
The fact of the matter is that Napster and the labels need each other.
Kevin has started his own email list. You can subscribe by sending a note to [email protected]
Tom Gross forwards an 8-minute interview with Spinal Tap on Napster that has its moments: http://www.artistdirect.com/artisttv/spinaltap/
To view it, you'll have to give them your email address and age, but at least the "Have people I hate send me email I don't want" button (well, they don't quite call it that) defaults to "No."
Spinal Tap is also promoting Tapster, a free Napster clone that is aimed only at Spinal Tap MP3's.
Brian Miller, of Myrtle, has an entertaining white paper explaining why peer-to-peer computing, e.g., Napster, is going to be Very Big. (He not only agrees with JOHO's earlier coverage of Napster, but actually quotes from it.) http://www.myrtle.co.uk/camino/distributed.pdf The Myrtle site (www.myrtle.co.uk) remains one of the more expressive business sites around.
Links not about Napster
Stowe Boyd, a pal and an eccentric who thinks about things such as knowledge management in durn peculiar (but endearing) ways has a new 'zine: http://edgecity.convey.com. Stowe has the habit of saying things I wish I'd said, blast his hide!
Jean Jordaan presented this in a discussion list I'm a member of:
Strange uses for URLs ..
As a calculator: http://$sum(42,17,-3).x42.com/
As a clock: http://clock.x42.com/ (updates the URL every few seconds).
These links from: http://x42.com/
By the way, you may have a little trouble regaining control of your browser after you do the clock one.
CIO Magazine (July 1) points us to The Cuss Control Institute, www.cusscontrol.com, a group dedicated to cleaning up our language. Here's their ten step program:
1. Recognize that swearing does damage.
2. Start by eliminating casual swearing.
3. Think positively.
4. Practice being patient.
5. Cope, don't cuss.
6. Stop complaining.
7. Use alternative words.
8. Make your point politely.
9. Think of what you should have said.
10. Work at it.
Unfortunately, www.Rinkworks.com offers dialectic translations into Jive, Redneck, Swedish Chef and Moron, but not RageBoy, which is really what this list calls for.
In response to our mentioning www.fuckedcompany.com, Bret Pettichord points us to another cynical site that draws energy from failing dotcoms: http://www.dotcomfailures.com. Not quite as funny, but it may help slake your envy-based thirst for revenge.
Although I hesitate to give more publicity to a stupid PR stunt, my sense of journalistic integrity requires me to follow up on a piece we ran in September. Tom Gross tells us the marketing director of Ambrosia has made good on his promise to eat bugs if his products shipped with bugs.
Please don't give Ambrosia the satisfaction of visiting this site.
Jenny Spreitzer writes in response to my little travelogue about China:
BeBeyond is a site for Chinese students to practice their English, discuss applying to American and Canadian universities, and learn about America in general. A good friend of mine founded and runs BBY, and as a favor to him I write a biweekly column about American life and culture called the BeAD (the BeBeyond American Digest) for the site. It's aimed at a Chinese audience, so please don't mock it or me in JOHO! Anyway, if you're curious to see the essay and link, here's the URL: http://bebeyond.com/LearnEnglish/BeAD/AsiaTrip1.html
Mock it? Moi? The fact is that because BeBeyond.com tries to explain the US to Chinese students, it's pretty interesting. Try http://bebeyond.com/KeepCurrent/KeepCurrent.html where the top three articles today are: HMOs Under Siege, MBAs are Hot!, and The Silicon Valley Indians.
Here is an artifact that will puzzle future generations (if there are any). President Clinton had an 8-minute video made to entertain the audience at the annual press corps roast of the chief executive. It's funny, although if you hate Clinton passionately, you'll find it really annoying:
Mini-bogus contest: If the White House truly were empty except for Clinton, what do you think he would *really* be doing?
In the course of an email conversation about some damn thing, Tony Rodoni pointed me to www.bonnydoonvineyard.com/, an oeneology site that bodies forth the personality of its creator much as Myrtle's expresses its own Weltanschauung.
This reminded me that in the 60s, "bonny doon" was a private code word among four of my friends for what used to make the music of Iron Butterfly seem interesting. On the phone, however, we had an alternative code set so that we could carry on an entire conversation without anyone gleaming what we were talking about. For example:
Me: Hey, Woof, wanna study psych tonight?
Woof: I've been studying psych since early this afternoon.
Me: Wow. Do you want to study some more? Isn't it about time?
Woof: Sure. I've almost forgotten the psych I studied a couple of hours ago. Come on over.
Me: Ok, but my psych text book has very few pages left. Does yours have some I could use?
Woof: You're always sponging psych text book pages from me.
Me: Yeah, but your bookstore sells it a lot cheaper. I wish I knew who that bookstore is, I mean, where it is.
Woof: And the psych text book pages I'm studying now are like really strong. See you in ten.
Me: I'll bring munchies. I mean salty psych tests.
Perhaps if you were to set up a distributed computing environment, you could harness the CPU power required to crack this code.
Mini-Bogus-Contest: In the days of your foolish youth (which for some of us means right now), was your dumb-ass way of referring to marijuana even dumber than ours?
Peter Merholz responds to my simpering article about questions being so bloody important, in which I once again mention "conversations," with the following tactfully worded statement of principle:
You guys really can't shut up about conversations, can you?
I mean, yes, conversations good. Duh. Asking questions, thinking together, dialogue, those things produce good results. Anyone who doesn't know that already is beyond hope.
What I was hoping for, from your set up, was something more along the lines of what Malcolm Gladwell discusses in his book, _The Tipping Point_. He has chapter on The Rule of 150, a notion that the largest size any working-together group can be is 150 before the working functions of that group become inefficient. ... Essentially, a group of 150 can work as a single Big Brain (or hive mind).
Anyway, to get back to my first, um, question, I'm concerned that y'all's rhetoric (by y'all, I mean Cluetrain types) are getting hindered by over-reliance on the buzzword 'conversation,' particularly as if its something newly discovered last year that most be brought to the masses.
The truth is that I'd already vowed to myself to shut up about conversations. Cluetrain's favorite metaphor which originated with Doc Searls' formulation, "Markets are conversations" has been stretched as thin as Chris Farley's thong. I personally have applied it to everything from marketing to collaborating to that remarkable sport, the luge. I'm soooo tired of it.
As for Gladwell, jeez, doesn't everyone already know that 100-150 is the magic number when a corporation starts to become bureaucratic? His slapping a name on it strikes me like Peter, Paul and Mary copyrighting "Stewball Was a Racehorse." (PS: The Cluetrain authors own the copyright on "Stewball Was a Conversation.")
I hereby promise if I ever use the word "conversation," I will eat bugs.
Prof. Bob Morris, usually a gentle soul, seems quite riled by the puerile tripe in the previous issue. (Gosh, he's a long-time reader. I would have thought he'd be used to puerile tripe by now.)
In JOHO July 11 you wrote
"The Question Question
Imagine that [blah, blah, blah].
[blah, blah, blah ...]
Every pleasure in life worth having comes in the form of a question. Doesn't it?"
Yet in the same issue, you quote me:
"Most interesting information is held in databases and you can't make consequential use of it without formulating a question."
Why did it take you so many blah, blah, blah's-I mean so many paragraphs-to say what I said so succinctly in a single sentence?
From neuroscience we know that humans are databases, and from JOHO we know that organizations are also. Hence, all your wind on this subject is a special case of my pith.
So, exactly what language do we use when we're retrieving data from our mental databases? It's gotta be SQL, don't you think? Besides, your sense of questions doesn't fit the case of a little thing I like to call *conversation*!
D'oh! Pass the roaches please. (Oh, have I mentioned that Northwest Airlines sucks ants?)
Jeffrey Rosen responds to a previous message from Prof. Bob in which he uses the punctuation :?* and wonders where the question mark belongs:
[The] snippet is actually a rare smiley :?* interpreted as "user is whistling" or perhaps "user is eating a lemon".
Assuming you take the question mark as a nose rather than as a mouth, you get a pretty good sketch of me eating a lemon. Of course, in the Lucida Console font, I look a lot more like Harrison Ford.
Tony Cocks cocks an eyebrow at all this American flapdoodle over Napster:
I not sure why but the bun fight around Napster hasn't quite caught the public imagination here in good 'ol Blighty as it seems to have done in the good 'ol US of A. I suppose it's back to the free ubiquitous access to the internet thing again.
Well, "free" is a little strong, but "not measured by the minute" is true for most of us on this side of the Pond. Makes a big difference, especially when it comes to pirating, um, studying psych, um copying whole CDs in a single gulp.
Eric Clark reports on a search he did at www.go.com
I did a search for "Better than Napster" cause I am a Mac user who can't use their warez, and got your pagelink. Ha!
Sure enough, #10 points to the April 14 issue of JOHO, once again proving the Search Engines Suck. (By the way, is it merely coincidence that Forrester Research has issued a report called "Must Search Stink"?)
[Actually, www.go.com doesn't point to the April 14 issue. It points to www.hyperorg.com/current/current.html which always has the current issue of JOHO convenient for humans, befuddling for search engines.]
Mark Dionne points out another Napster spin off, sorta:
Check out Sharezilla, at http://www.flatplanet.net/. It may be the best reason why Napster will succeed and Gnutella etc. will not:
Spam + Guntella = Sharezilla
What is ShareZilla?
ShareZilla is a quick, cheap, and easy way to promote your products, services and web-sites across the latest and greatest thing on the Internet: Gnutella. ShareZilla intercepts every Gnutella search that comes across its network horizon and re-transmits an ad back to the person originating the request. In addition, ShareZilla can transmit an MP3 file (if that's what the user is requesting), or it can transmit a Movie, Text, HTML, VS, etc.
Fortunately, www.flatplanet.net is returning DNS errors today. Maybe they're out of business. But you can see a cached version of the page at Google: http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:www.flatplanet.net
Guillermo Fajardo writes:
I do not do Napster, but I love the concept of sharing music, books, or any other information for free. The first thing I did when I heard of the Metallica suit was download their mp3 of Whiskey in the jar. What's the matter with this fellows? Aren't they already rich enough? Don't they remember where they came from? I am 35, right after the Generation Beatle. In my time one bought the record and a hundred taped it on cassettes. Now you can either rewrite normal CDs or write mp3 CDROMS. Why not ban all recording devices. Come home and confiscate my JVC music system!!! Jail everyone with a WALKMAN!!!
You can´t watch MTV anymore. HATE ALL THE NEW BRITNEY SPEARS CONCEPT. We need to go back to the garage concept. ...
DON'T BUY. DOWNLOAD.
Guillermo, put the CD-R down on the ground and back away slowly. The authorities have been notified.
Claire Schaeffer comes to the rescue. In an earlier issue I couldn't find any information about Richard Whetherill who supposedly was putting Goodness Management into practice:
love a good Search Challenge. That may make me twisted, but then, we rarely choose our passions.
Here's an article on Wetherill Associates and their version of "Goodness Management":
By Katrina Burger
Remember mother telling you that cleanliness is next to godliness? Wetherill Associates, Inc. agrees. A disorderly desk can jeopardize a promotion at this 480-employee business based in Royersford, Pa. At headquarters every cubicle is fastidiously tidy; sales orders rarely go missing.
The company's performance-appraisal form rates employees on how well they "attempt to promote goodwill." So seriously is righteousness taken that the firm refuses to make sales targets. That way employees won't be tempted to lie if they fall behind. "
So, when did Goodness become synonymous with Total Authority? Oh wait, from the beginning.
Marina Streznewski replies to a passing comment:
One of your kids is serving 5-7 for whining? Must be a first-time offender. :)
Which reminds me of a Bill Cosby joke:
Q: Why do parents put kids in the back seat of the car?
A: Because it's illegal to put them in the trunk.
Pat McGrew replies to a follow-up discussion about networked appliances.
We've been talking about those net appliances as long as you have and guess what, Electrolux really has one and they really sell it. Goes nicely with the Ariston Internet Oven by Eventi. Don't know what happens if you pair the Swedish fridge and the Italian oven, but it must surely involve something with fish and marinara sauce?
The Japanese have been trotting them out at trade shows for years, but the nice Scandinavians went and built one. Go figure. Of course, about the time we started seeing the Electrolux we saw a Microsoft ad touting their net appliance standard and what did they show. Yep! A fridge!
We've been pussyfooting around this topic too long in JOHO. I'm just going to blurt it out. Forget refrigerators and thermostats. We all know what moved VCRs and, to some extent, the Web into mega-acceptance: porn. So where will the convergence of wireless and web appliances really happen? Networked sex toys. Wireless. Collaborative. Embedded processors. You get the picture.
It's a million dollar idea, and I give it to you for nothing. All part of the JOHO service.
Australian Ron thinks I'm too kind about Jeff Bezos's remarks about trying not to control too much of one's business, especially one's market, e.g., customer reviews:
After feeding the above snippet through our patented one-click decoder ring, it appears that what he's really saying is: Letting people blather into our web form is a really much cheaper than hiring marketing creatives, which since we've never actually made a profit yet is a very good thing. We let the monkeys hammer away to fill the database, sieve out the chunky bits we *really* don't like, then use some incredibly simple software to pick out a few snippets that can help us push whatever it is that we're overstocked on this week. This puree'd authenticity is great. Our shareholders are really recommending it.
Hey, the man's sold a boatload of Cluetrain books, so I agree with everything he says. It's the way the game's played, muh friend.
In that same snippet about Bezos, I ejaculated: "He's actually beginning to believe that [Cluetrain] crap!" Leo wrote in perplexity:
If [that] remark is yours, I guess it's tongue in cheek, if not, whose opinion (or joke) is it?
Is there any way for you to determine whether I really did not get it, or whether I'm being fastidious or joking?
Leo, Leo, Leo, this was a post-modern, self-deprecating ironic remark, uttered by my ennui-filled persona in a post-ironic, self-modern tone of voice. You didn't get it because it wasn't very funny ... which is, of course, exactly why it's funny, but funny not in the ha-ha sense but in the smug, superior sense characteristic of an acolyte of Derrida who has just shown that the previous acolyte's paper was too post to be post. Hint: if it were meant to be funny in the ha-ha sense, it would have contained the word "albacore."
While writing about weightier matters, Craig Allen suggests that Spim(tm) our word for humor writing, particularly in the form of lists, circulated via email needs a cousin:
So is 'spum' like spim(TM) but for dirty jokes?
It's a keeper.
Jack Vinson writes:
After reading your concerns about AskJeeves selling keywords, I happened to drop by their site on my way to purchasing my (first!) cell phone. Your fears have been confirmed. They have definitely sold the cellular phone keyword to Nokia.
Jack asked specifically "What cell phone service is best?" Jeeves responded with several takes on the question. Jack chose the second, "Where can I get basic information about the cellular phone topic: Features and Services?" And, sure enough, Jeeves gives you a page with heavy plugs for Nokia. This is because it's actually taken you to www.nokiausa.com, although that fact is obscured by Jeeves' enframing of the page. So, yeah, it looks like some money has changed hands. Insidious indeed.
In my article on China, I wondered if Internet cafes will maintain their local flavor or develop a trans-global, homogeneous atmosphere like Hard Rock Cafes. Dave Phelan responds:
Every one I've been in, from Stellenbosch and Cape Town (South Africa) through San Francisco and on to Sydney and Surfer's Paradise (Australia) have all been different... Mind you, the interface (Netscrape or Internet Exploiter) have been the same.
Good to know. But I must correct you: The proper insult-name for the Microsoft browser isn't Internet Exploiter, it's Internet Exploder. Please try to get this right in the future.
Speaking of falling for cheap publicity stunts (see the above mention of Ambrosia's marketing director eating bugs), we notice that Palm Inc. is coming out with the Palm Vx Claudia Schiffer Edition. According to the press release, "Schiffer is personally selecting her favorite add-on software applications to include on a CD..."
Why shouldn't it go the other way? Don't we need endorsements of real world products by Web celebrities? For example:
Chanel No. 5 - Lycos Edition
To Chanel's signature smell of lilacs and vanilla, Lycos adds an underlay of the stink of death.
RonCo's Esther Dyson CANN Opener
After much struggle, this device opens even the toughest can of worms.
Microsoft Word's Jeff Bezos Personal Assistant
Run the spell checker and it personally trademarks every third word.
John Perry Barlow Vending Machines
If you see one with the JPB insignia on it, keep your change in your pocket and consider yourself lucky. After all, "Snack foods just wanna be free."
The Limited Edition RageBoy Chia Pet
Keep this adorable statuette of a weimaraner moist for 5-7 days and to the delight of your family it will sprout "hair," and then turn on you and sever your jugular vein.
Surely you can do better!
We asked for sites whose URL makes them look like the opposite of well-known sites, with extra points if the contents were amusingly relevant. Keith Casner responded:
Well-known site: google.com
Opposite: Well, a google is a finite number, so the obvious interpretation leads to...negativegoogle.com, or minusagoogle.com... both unclaimed!
Ah, but we're trying to find opposite sites that exist so we can see if their content is in fact opposite to that of the original. I tried zero.com, but there's no site there. Likewise for fraction.com. But www.nothing.com is pretty interesting. It randomly picks a link to sites that have something to do with nothing. Weird.
Scott Owens suggests that the opposite of Yahoo.com is Damn.com: "On Nature, Love, and the Beast Within."
Aaron Spencer writes:
While clicking through the backissues of the JOHO, I noticed one of the Bogus Contests involved creating new jargon by adding or changing letters in existing jargon. One of your examples was "sportal- something ESPN should be working on" I don't recall where I scrolled across the link, but there is a www.sportal.com. It looks like a European sports portal. I don't know if JOHO had this one Preemptively Trademarked, you might want to give the attorney squad a call.
Robbert "Bbob" Baruch contributes to our apparently perpetual quest for URLs that hyphenate awkwardly: www.newstool.com
In a similar vein, there's this from Mark Hurst of the excellent newsletter, www.creative.good:
pointed out on a mailing list i'm on...
check out the site. just a regular IT site they must have no idea it looks like sex change...
Hey, *everything* looks like sex change ... when you're in love.
And while you're trying to decide if that actually means anything, I will take the opportunity to duck out ... Until next time, amigos.
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