Hyperlinked Organization Title

For those who need to understand how the Web is changing how businesses work

 
Meta Data
Vol/Issue: v98 #2 (Jan 20, 1998 
Author/Editor: David Weinberger  
Central Meme: Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy  
Favorite Beatle: John. Duh.  
Current Personal Crisis: End of Quayle-Bono dream ticket for 2000 
Home page: http://www.hyperorg.com  
Contact information: Click here

 
 

Wailing Siren
Special: JOHO Emergency Instructions!

For your safety, please familiarize yourself with these emergency instructions -- an illustrated guide to surviving an atomic attack with only a hat!

Click here to see the amazing illustrations!


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One question Interview
Dan Bricklin on Writing for Online

Dan Bricklin not only was there at the Creation, he actually helped the sun come up on the PC revolution. After founding VisiCalc, the company that created the killer app for PC's -- the spreadsheet -- he's continued to innovate. His latest startup, Trellix, aims at doing nothing less than changing the way business writes. Business has been slow to adopt online as a way to distribute business reports and the other fodder gushing from our word processors. That's because even though we all write electronically, and we usually write to enable people to skim and quickly navigate as if our documents were hyperlinked, our tools act as if every keystroke is destined for paper and only paper -- from fonts to footnotes to page numbers, it's a paper world, baby!

Trellix's product -- which is also called "Trellix" -- is an office productivity tool that feels like a 3-way cross between a word processor, a presentation package (like Powerpoint) and a Web site manager. Its aim is to let business people write business documents that take advantage of what online distribution has to offer. The product has made a huge hit -- it won the Best of Comdex award and has just won a Seybold Editors' Award -- although it remains to be seen if anything can wean us from our Office habits.

JOHO met with Dan in his Waltham, Mass., office.

JOHO:Now that we're being liberated from paper, Trellix lets us write in a way that takes advantage of the new way people are reading. But does this mean that writers have to learn an entirely new syntax?

DAN BRICKLIN: No, there are very important continuities. For example, one of the key benefits of online reading is that, with hyperlinks, you can skim easily, dipping in as required. And paper has already evolved a set of intricate techniques for skimming.

So we're not starting with a clean slate, so to speak. Many of the paper techniques work really well online -- better than on paper. In fact, newspapers represent the height of "skimmability," and we ought to be learning from them as we move business writing to an online world.

This isn't too surprising since the basic structure of newspaper stories -- a lead that tells you the whole story in one paragraph -- apparently was a result of a bandwidth issue around the Civil War. With all the reporters clogging the telegraph lines to report their stories, reporters had to put the most important information first in order to make sure that the story got through even if they got cut off.

The structure of newspaper stories, the inverted pyramid, is a great tool for skimming. You can see immediately if you want to continue reading. This works really well in the online world as well: by putting the headline and the lead paragraph in a document, readers can tell if they want to do the jump to the page with the full story.

Likewise, the idea of having many stories on a page, arranging them in order of probable importance, and putting the free content above the fold -- or "above the scroll" -- all work really well online.

Newspapers are a brilliant way of enabling us to skim effectively. They're so much better than most business reports. I can tell you most people don't read entire business reports sequentially ... not even the author. Most documents are skimmed. And they're skimmed in different ways because business documents are often used by multiple audiences that have different needs.

So, now for the first time we have the opportunity to write material that can be read the way that people always wanted to read paper-based documents.


 
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Random Updates

Buzz Soup

In past issues we've discussed interactive chat tools -- e.g., ICQ was a "cool tool" a couple of issues ago. These utilities let you and a buddy type at each other in real time (i.e., every stroke shows up as you type it), carrying on weird and immediate conversations.

Now Microsoft is weighing in with a standard. It's submitted a draft of the Rendezvous Protocol (RVP) to the Internet Engineering Task Force. (Couldn't they figure out a way to make it RSVP?)

The standard will enable different interactive chat utilities to talk to one another. This is a good thing for users, but may not be good news for the vendors of these utilities since the main benefit they offer is that they work at all; beyond that, they're all pretty much the same. This stuff is already being sucked into the new operating systems.

I hope they survive. I like ICQ's software but -- more important?? -- I like their attitude, the rough-hewn way they present themselves. Still definitely worth the download...

Some links:
Ding!: www.activerse.com
Ichat: www.ichat.com
LiveList: www.onlive.com
ICQ: www.mirabilis.com
PeopleLink: www.peoplelink.com
RVP draft: http://ds.internic.net/internet-drafts/draft-calsyn-rvp-00.txt

(I glommed the list of links from a column by Jason Levitt in InformationWeek.)

Cars on the Web

In the previous JOHO, we talked about the coming ubiquity of Web servers and what it will mean when our appliances are on the Web. PC Magazine (Jan. 20) has an article called "Home Is Where the Intranet Is." In it, Trey Smith, IBM PC Co.'s CTO, says that the most interesting side of this will be the

"Family Information Center, which will organize the family calendar and various home maintenance chores. It will also serve as a telephone, answering machine, and video-conferencing panel."

Mr. Smith needs to cut back on his schedule a bit -- he seems to have confused "home" with "office." Scary.

There's also a little article about a prototype Chevy Blazer that's completely webbified, with a satellite antenna on its roof. Voice recognition software enables you to download your email and have it read to you, with Web browsers embedded in seatbacks.

(Looking to make a million? Invent a Cone of Silence. It's going to be big, I tell you!)

 

Pointless Microsoft Bashing

If you go to the page on the Microsoft site for reporting bugs with their office free stuff (sorry, the URL is 3 lines long), you'll find two bugs where you're supposed to tell them what type of machine you have. First, the drop down list of RAM has a list with non-exclusive choices, e.g., "48-64" or "64-128"; if you have 64 meg, which do you choose, hmmm?

Second, the drop down list of modem speeds includes the ever popular 58.6 modem -- just a couple of extra points faster than those ol' fashioned 56.6 turkeys! Gotta get me one!

(An Infoseek search found an article in Windows Sources that says "So instead of having one modem transmitting at 28.8 Kbps, we had two modems each transmitting at 28.8K, for a total of 58.6K..." which seems to me to get some basic math wrong. Please feel free to send me email saying why the quote is right and I'm dumb (which you may want to treat as two separate topics.))

dividing line

Pointless Filenet Bashing

FileNet has announced its new product. Rather than focus on this important news and giving you my Professional Opinion of it, let's instead -- in timeless JOHO fashion -- make fun of the product name.

Ready? It's Panagon.

Now, I'm no Ancient Greek scholar, but the last time I looked, "Pan" means "All," as in "Pantheist," "Pan-American" and "Panorama" (but, confusingly, not as in "Panhandle" or "Pants" -- go figure). "Agon" means "contest," "struggle" or "difficulty," as in "Agony" and "Agonistes" (but, confusingly, not as in "A gong," "Ago, Newt," or "A gone-gone Daddy-o").

Put 'em together and what do they spell? FileNet "Everything Is Difficult" or, if you prefer, "Everything Hurts" or "100% Pain."

This is argument #14 for hiring Greek scholars. (I am accepting contributions for positions #1-#13.) divider  
 

Middle World Resources

A BiWeekly Compendium of Resources

Walking the Walk   

According to an article in Information Week (Dec. 15, by Clinton Wilder), Boeing is processing 4,000 parts orders a day from about 350 airlines using its PART (Part Analysis and Requirements Tracking) page. They say they've cut 35% of the costs associated with order processing in older fashioned, paper-based ways.

But they've also found two other benefits. First, according to Tom DiMarco, sr. manager of airline logistics support systems, "It frees us to concentrate on the problems, like helping customers locate hard-to-find or obscure parts."

And -- interesting from a hyperlinked organization point of view -- it has empowered the airline mechanics themselves to locate and order parts directly, without having to involve the purchasing department. After all, the mechanics know more about the parts than the purchasing dept. And, the Web's culture of doing it yourself (the Web itself is a gigantic do-it-ourself operation) encourages this type of initiative.

Cool Tool
For the Hyperlinked Organization
 

The Web is supposed to favor the wee folk. (No, not leprechauns. I'm just being gender non-specific.) Yet, although I am besieged with spam advertising ways to let me spam others -- did TV start off with advertisements telling you how to become an advertiser? -- go try and find a tool that will let you maintain a relatively small mailing list like JOHO's. (You people are the cream of the crop, I tell you. Frankly, I didn't know cream came in crops, but I'm a city boy.)

So, it was with great pleasure that I came across Global Messenger -- a $30.00 tool that does nothing but merge a mail list and a piece of mail, sending it to every member of the group while hiding the rest of the names so that the poor suckers think you care about them and them alone. Great for newsletters, Christmas cards, and trolling for blind dates among the easily bewildered.

This is very much an under-engineered piece of homegrown shareware. You'll feel like you could have written it yourself. (It's the future of software, bunko. See what happens when your anti-establishment tendencies actually cause the dismantling of Microsoft? I think we've learned a valuable lesson here.)

Internetcetera

In 1994, 31M people in the US were using email. In 1997, the number was 66M, and by 2000, there will be 107M email users. There were 812 billion messages in 1994, 2.7 trillion in 97, and will be 6.9 trillion messages by 2000

"Electronic business" (whatever that is) was a $160B market in 1996 and will grow to $360B by 2000, according to IBM (cited in InformationWeek, Dec. 15, 1997)

In completely unrelated news, PC Magazine (citing Dataquest research) says that in the fourth quarter of 1996, Netscape had 73% of the browser market and Microsoft had 20%. In the third quarter of 1997, Netscape had 58% and Microsoft 39%. At this rate, the two will have equal share in the second quarter of 1998. (And by 2001, Microsoft will have 158% of the market -- 0.7 probability.)

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The End of the TLA

I was told a rumor by one who believed it as a self-evident truth: last year, all possible 3 letter combinations were registered as domain names, and this year almost all the 4-year letter combos are gone.

Great rumor, with the whiff of truth about it. But a quick random check on the Whois database of Internic, the domain name authority, turned up rxz.com on the first try as available. So, if your name is Roberta Xavier Zingstaff, act now!

It turns out, however, that all triplet TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) are gone:

 

aaa American Automobile Association nnn Yoshiki Okada
bbb Council of Better Business Bureau ooo Net XXXpress
ccc Cole Computer Consulting ppp Point To Point Communications Inc
ddd Dynamic Digital Displays Corporation qqq INTERHEALTH (amsterdam)
eee Net Xpress rrr Risk Retention Reporter
fff Triple "F" sss Software Services and Solutions Inc.
ggg Great Glorious Grapevine ttt Test Technologists Team Inc.
hhh DomainSale.com uuu Wherever Computer Technology, Inc.
iii Innovative Interfaces Inc. vvv Pacific InterConnect
jjj North Avon Consultants, Ltd www Internet Atlanta
kkk Northwest Knights xxx No Inhibitions
lll Warren Weitzman yyy The Internet Corporation
mmm 3M Company zzz [No name]

Yes, they are real. No, some don't make any sense. Yes, I actually spent time looking all of these up. And I'm working on the complete list of FLAs as well. I must be one fascinating dude at cocktail parties ...

And, yes, the KKK is the KKK. Interesting page -- it reads like a pot boiling on the stove with a heavy lid on it -- just churns away, and then suddenly the lid rattles to remind you of what's roiling underneath.  

 
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Email, Comments, Suggested Lifestyles

The fiery controversy over the proper use of animations seems to be cooling. I'll have to add some more just to stoke the flames. But the question of whether an email version of JOHO is desirable has raised temperatures. You people are so easily excited!

For example, Larry Bohn responds with a fervor I haven't seen since he pretended to think SGML was important:

Oh my God, kill this experiment. You can't pretend to send out a text only version of JOHO. It would be like running DOS on my pentium, or using leaded gas.

Who can read text anymore unless accompanied by flying windows showing advertising, or scrolling banners urging me to link to some ungodly place. No one has the attention span anymore to read straight text and I think it will kill your journal.

Rather, I would recommend that you move to a totally idiographic mode of communication--pictures, graphics, maybe a few big sound bytes that include up to 7 syllables per line. Don't be seduced by the past--JOHO must lead us to the future!

Larry, I won't let you down. Not like in the past when I pretended to think that not only was SGML important, but the way to do it was totally in LISP. Man, I owe you one, Larry!

Clark Brady of Doculabs -- an analyst who made the career mistake of actually having experience on the customer side -- writes:

For me some type of text is a really good thing. I know it's probably a lot of work to send all the text but maybe the title and first paragraph (an abstract (which would be even more work)) and then a link.

Speaking of links.... Mid document links directly back to your site would be great. This way if I really like something you've sent I can go directly back into your site and see the content in your format. Think of it as an extension to the hyperlinked organization - the journal that is "completely" linked as well. Keep it up!

Next time I ask for comments on an issue like this (and Trevor Sharpe makes the same suggestion), I'll make explicit one of the ground rules: Make life easier for David. I don't charge you for subscriptions. I don't practically force you to lie by filling out some bogus "subscription qualification" form ("Hmm, are 5 employees enough? If I say 50,000, will I get caught?"). No, I work myself to the bone for you all, and all I ask in return is that you remember that one simple little ground rule.

Do I make myself clear?

(Nevertheless, the text-only version will continue, along with the fully glorious Web version.)


Larry Fitzpatrick comments on the notion that all our appliances will be hooked to the Web soon:

This was a perfect opportunity to plug XML... your toaster's state can then be rendered by crappy browsers if you're on a budget, or by a cool Gb MSFT app if you have dough for the fat pipe and fat disk!

Microsoft will be getting into the temperature-impervious miniature video camera market so they can embed them in toasters and ovens, etc., precisely in order to create a need for some bloated appliance-ware, to be called Microsoft GoldenBrown (I assume that's what Larry means by "Gb MSFT app").

Larry also responds to the idea that you'll get an overview of your house's "health" rather than a detailed list of parameters and states because "no one wants to read summary lists":

Ahh, but those 1:1 marketing zealots sure want to tap your summary!

Excellent point. And when you buy a house over the Web from Microsoft, you'll think you're just registering it online, but in fact, you'll be uploading all sorts of sensitive appliance-based information that MS will claim they only need "to provide you with better support." Hey, Bill, you can rectally probe my split-level ranch house, but keep your latex-tipped finger out of that old "Player Tobacco" tin in my sock drawer! A man's got to draw the line somewhere!

Then, Larry wonders how you'd use this new level of information to measure knowledge-worker productivity:

How do you measure the productivity of a "knowledge worker"? Would anyone want to? Is it in his relationships, the esteem with which he is held, the number of other people in the org she facilitates? If you can catch every click, can you try to measure it?

Good question. Personally, I'd go for number of email messages. Or, possibly, golf swing. WDYT? Look for a Bogus Contest on this very topic...


Bob Morris points out that there's nothing new about hooking machines up to networks, as per the remark in the previous issue that Digital and SAP demo'ed a Coke machine hooked to the Web:

Not only is this not the latest thing in network information exchange with otherwise stupid machines, it is one of the earliest. The Stanford AI Lab had its vending machine connected to its network in the 1960's. You didn't need any coins. You placed your order from your terminal and the system kept track of your account. I don't know, but can hardly imagine otherwise, that the machine also notified its human when it was low on Mountain Dew.

Of course, computers themselves have also long since notified humans of their woes on the network. This is such an old idea that there is a standard protocol for doing it (SNMP, the Simple Network Management Protocol).

I'm in no position to argue with Bob (since he's right), but my point wasn't that network information exchange with machines is new, but that the Web will make it ubiquitous.

Larry Fitzpatrick -- much quoted in this issue -- points out that CSU also had graduate students with too much time on their hands and hooked vending machines up to their web. See the above reply.


Chris Locke, aka RageBoy, aka editor of EGR, first savagely attacks the book publishing industry in his newsletter (he uses the F word), then explains why he thinks that this will help him find a publisher for his material:

once again, it's a new kind of technique for winnowing the wheat from the chaff. I'm even serious enough about that that I think an unpacking of the principle belongs in your newsletter:

you piss off everyone in the corporation that you possibly can; if done right, those left standing are your friends (or at least allies). if done wrong, well... sayonara. takes either big balls (or equivalent), or a serious vitamin deficiency.

JOHO is not responsible for those who heed Chris's advice on this or almost any other matter. This would be akin to taking Hunter Thompson's "Hell's Angels" book as a guide to recreational biking.


Chris also responds to the notion that one might record all of a human's experience in digital form. We raised the issue by asking if there would be more data to record if you, say, increase the resolution of the computer display you're looking at while working, or put on in the background an orchestral work rather than a singer-songwriter:

and that doesn't take into account that you might be THINKING! or HORNY!! or composing a FUCKING POEM!!!

oooooohhh, these techoturds really piss me off. they've got the whole world believing that if it can't be counted or modeled on a computer it isn't happening. JESUS THEY MAKE ME {{{{{CRAZY}}}}}!!!!

just thought I'd point that out.

professionally,
RB

Oh, great, Chris (RageBoy). First you alienate your readership by using the freakin' F word, and now you're alienating mine! Did it ever occur to you that now JOHO won't make it onto the desktops of all those using CyberSissy filtering software, or who get their email through family-oriented services like AOL or Trinit-Email (the Vatican's email service)? Just freakin' perfect!

As to the point you raise, I am in complete agreement. The whole computer-based mental model is so completely nonsensical that it's amazing anyone believes it at all, much less thinks it's obvious. It couldn't be more counter experiential. But we've always understood ourselves in terms of our technology. All this psycho burbling about "letting off steam" and feeling "under pressure" so we have to "vent" comes from the days when steam engines were a breakthrough. Someone has pointed out the correspondences between Freud's metaphors and the fact that a new sewer system was being constructed in Vienna at the time. And you have many decades of the World's Best Thinkers (= professional philosophers ... in the same way that professional wrestlers are the World's Best Athletes) who have spent lifetimes working with the assumption that experience comes in raw shapes and colors and only afterwards are meanings "layered in." Huh? It'd take a heap o' acid to give us the shapes-and-colors experience and then it'd probably be a bad trip. Oh well.


Evelyn Walsh, high on my Favorite People list (published in the ill-fated "Ill Considered Ways to Make Friends" issue of last year), points us to the dogpile.com search site that runs your search against several other engines. Dogpile is one of several meta-search engines on the Web, which will discuss in our upcoming article: "Why Search Engines Suck."


An actual entry to our Bogus Contest asking for predictions that show the range from certain to gutsy. We've got a winnah, ladies and gendermen!

Mike Alsup writes:

Certain - 1998 will see new twists and turns in the Java Wars.

Likely - Microsoft will argue that the Java language is best suited for conversation over a coffee cup.

Gutsy - In response, Scott McNeally will claim that his Java decoder ring contains the long lost Java test suite.


And now for a sparkling change of pace. I received some really thoughtful email in response to the article in the previous issue on what it would mean to record all of a person's experience. My conclusion: Experience doesn't come in bits. If you want to record your experience, get yourself a diary.

Larry "Much Quoted" Fitzpatrick responded. The message is too long to reproduce here (gosh, an extended chain of thought ... what a concept!), but you can read it, and my interpolated comments, by clicking here. Larry's message was a welcome break from a world in which Scott Adams is taken seriously as a thinker.


To the Whoops My Face Is Red (Not Really) Dept. comes this message from Bob Treitman, QA'er and book emporium meister, correcting an address in the previous issue:

I couldn't find this link [www.global.officelink.net], but did locate http://www.global.officelink.com.

(Once a QAer, always a QAer...)

If I were a bigger man, I'd apologize for an inconvenience I may have caused y'all.


Finally, the Email of the Fortnight award goes to Meredith Sue Willis, who writes:

As a neo-Marxist (which means that I don't follow Marx chapter and verse—in fact, I can't even read Marx chapter and verse), I have an interest in relationships among people within organizations. On the other hand, I have very little interest in improving efficiency for increased profits. What I like best about JoHo is how it seems to point at a type of organization for the future that could go beyond hierarchical power relationships and the commodification of human beings. One tiny example from my life is that I am part of a group in my town that is trying to stop resegregation, and we communicate a lot by email. Even though we have a chair and an executive committee and an executive director and all that, a lot of what we do is email one another, constantly critiqing one another's articles and presentations in this quick, mutually supportive medium.

So keep on analyzing the neo-Marxian equality of hypertext and cyberspace!

Damn! It took an accomplished novelist like Sue to deconstruct my hidden neo-Marxist agenda! (Technically, I'm a neo-post-Marxist of the Adorno variety, which is the same as all other neo-Marxists except we want to kill all those other no-good neo-Marxists, feh, I spit on them!)

I'm going to have to change my subtexts now that I've been found out. Next issue, look for a David Stockman - Desmond Tutu sort of slant. It'll be subtle, but it'll be there!

 
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Web Log Rolling

Message received:

I recently put a link to your website into our

Elsop Webmaster Resource Center (http://www.elsop.com/wrc/) In our Elsop's Directory of Computer Publications on the Web

We don't require reciprocity, but we would certainly appreciate it very much if you would put a link to our page on your page...

Now we're even.

 
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Bogus Contest: New Nothing Scripts

"Java" was so great for puns and headlines that we could all use a break. What we need is a new scripting family that will let vendors create lots more stupid punning product names. And, as time goes on and our scripting language becomes more widely used, the puns will have to get more and more obscure.

For example, suppose we were to create a new programming language called No Script. We might soon see the following No Script editing environments:

 

Product name

Explanation

Ad Lib™

No Script

Rehearsed™

Know Script

Fillmore™

Know-Nothing Script

Oxymoron™

Noh Script

Dead Cyrano™

Nose Crypt

Not funny enough? Do better! And send me your results...

 


Editorial Lint

The following information was found trapped at the top of my washing machine when I ran some issues of JOHO through it.

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]dent.com. 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].

JOHO 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.

Note to distributors: If you are interested in reselling the popular Hyperlinked Organization brand line of memorabilia, please contact our manager of JOHO Channels, Divad Regrebniew. (The JOHO corn dog attack vehicle with lifelike action figures is no longer available, and will return once we fix the eject button and pending the outcome of the lawsuit.)


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.

"JOHO," "Internetcetera," "One-Question Interview" and "Buzz Soup" are trademarks of Evident Marketing, Inc.