Hyperlinked Organization  Title

For those who need to understand how the Web is transforming the way businesses work, yada yada yada

Care for an Acrobat version? Click here.

 
Meta Data

Issue: November 5, 1998  
Author/Editor: David Weinberger  
Central Meme: Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy  
Favorite Beatle: John. Duh.  
Current Personal Crisis: Watching methuselan Star Guy John Glenn take off, I realized I consider NASA disappointing so far because they've paid zero attention to developing rayguns for our brave astronauts.
Home page: http://www.hyperorg.com  
Contact information: Click here

 
 

Contents

DOM Perignon, the Champagne of Object Models: The Document Object Model is goddom important, y'hear!
Microsoft and XML Make Nice: The Giant of Redmond is embracing XML ... but the way a cobra embraces a jackrabbit?
On the Sunny Side of the Street: Your intrepid reporter is back from a briefing from Sun
Death of the NC, Part Whatever: Sun's network computer is a monument to defeat
Good Books, Bad Books: Am I alone in detesting Burn Rate? And has anyone else read Brainstorm?
Fisher Scientific Walks the Walk: Publish and sell via XML -- and the weirdest imaginable XML DTD
Cool Tool: Disk copier and meta-search engine (two separate tools)
Internetcetera: How big is the Web, how fast is it growing, and surprising news in the Netscape-Microsoft battle for your browser
Informative Responses: Heady responses to our special issue on the nature of information
Rumors, Innuendo and Rude Remarks: The usual fabulous mail from our readers
I'd like to See Bill Gates Dead, Cont'd: More on the strangely satisfying Word thesaurus
Bogus Contest: E-Words -- Let's use up the puns before they fall into the wrong hands.
Contest Results

 

Late Breaking John Glenn News!

National Public Radio on Thursday ran a commentary by yours truly about a Glenn-based joke whipping its way around the Net. If nothing else, the joke is darned funny. You can get to the RealAudio version of the commentary at:

http://www.npr.org/ramfiles/atc/19981105.atc.20.ram

 

Special Return to Family Values Issue

In preparation for Thanksgiving, this issue of JOHO returns to our roots: pretending to care about boring standards and industry trends. Oh, and an extended, pointless discussion of an abstract topic. And completely unjustified name-calling.

Or, as we like to say at our editorial board meetings, "Pass the stuffing!" Dig in and enjoy!

 

DOM Perignon -- the Champagne of Object Models

Take documents, objects and models. Mix 'em together, and what do you have? A daring centerspread for the merger of Office Systems Magazine and the Frederick's of Hollywood catalog? Or a really important standard for the Web?

Unfortunately, all you have is a new standard.

The DOM makes all of the structures and parts of a Web page available to any application that knows how to talk to a browser (well, to a new browser that implements the DOM, such as MSIE 5 and Netscape 5).

What is a document object model? It's a representation of the structure of a document. At its simplest, a document is a list of parts (such as title, subtitle, paragraph, etc.) But, just about every document with which we deal in real life is not a simple sequence of bits but is a hierarchy of nested bits. For example, this sentence not only follows the preceding one, but is also part of an article called "DOM Perignon" which is part of an issue of a newsletter which is part of a set of newsletters. And, of course, documents can easily be far more complex than that. The DOM captures the structure of any XML document.

The main aim of the DOM is enable computer applications to find everything on a page. The application has to be able to walk through a document and identify every piece so that it can decide if it wants to operate on that piece. For example, an application might want to find every hyperlink in a document so it can redirect them depending on whether the user has pressed button marked "Beginner." Or it may want to find every tool listed in every list with the XML tag of "Tool_List." The DOM makes this type of thing a snap (so long as you are can rub your stomach and pat your head while reallocating memory arrays in C).

It is very good news that the two squabbling brats of the Web have agreed, pretty much, on a common DOM specification because otherwise the Java app that worked with one browser would crap out in the other. In fact, it's pretty remarkable that by and large so far pages work equally well in both browsers. (Ok, fine, send me your examples of pages that only work in one browser .... TBTF -- one of our favorite 'zines -- used to keep a list of 'em (talk about your fun hobbies!)).

All hail, DOM!

(CAPV's "The Gilbane Report" recently(July/August) ran an excellent article on the DOM by Tim Bray and Lauren Wood. If you can get your hands on it, you'll find it enlightening.)

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Microsoft and XML Up A Tree

Microsoft has been making many of the right noises about supporting XML. In fact, it's been making just about every noise possible, filling in the logical grid from hand-waving to bet-the-company. At its Professional Developers Conference (no, I wasn't there, what are you, nuts?) they tried to lay it all out calmly and in a confident tone of voice. So here's the coverage they're promising:

Their browser (MSIE 5.0) will let you look at XML pages and will know how to format them if you include a style sheet that maps the XML tags to formatting information. Perhaps unfortunately, Microsoft will support XSL, a specification that has not yet been fully agreed upon, which means that whatever way MS supports it is likely to become either the de facto standard or a non-standard deviant that other browsers may not support. Sigh.

The browser will include a validating parser which knows how to make sense of an XML page and the document type definition (DTD) that specifies the rules for that type of XML page. The parser will support XML 1.0 and XML Namespaces that enable groups to share tags and not get hopelessly confused when tags share tags, even if one of the tags has been drinking heavily.

Perhaps most important, Microsoft will support the XML parts of the DOM (see above) so that, presumably, once the parser has pulled the doc apart, programs will be able to find and operate on all the pieces.

In addition, MS says it will support "server-side XML" which enables XML to be used as the way data is moved from one application to another. This is a good thing.

Bottom line? People who say "bottom line" ought to be shot.

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Look on the Sunny Side

What's up with Sun Microsystems? Your roving reporter (= me) attended a briefing a few weeks ago. Here's the scoop (aside from the stuff they told us under non-disclosure, like the fact that cases of Java-induced brain cancer are showing up in Germany, their own internal network is run on Linux, and Bill Joy has legally changed his name to Bill Quiet-Satisfaction in order to keep expectations down).

First, Sun clearly understands that they have one enemy now and his name is NT. Every presentation's takeaway was, basically, "We're grownups and NT is a whiny little baby. Would you trust your heavy-lifting business applications to a whiny little baby? I don't thi-ink so." This is known as the "whistling past the graveyard" strategy because it not only gives up the mid-range market but it refuses to acknowledge that NT won't always be a baby.

The emphasis on Java was, on the one hand, predictable, and on the other was remarkable. Wasn't Sun a hardware company at some point? Initially they hoped that Java would be the operating system that toppled Microsoft Windows and NT: if you have a Java virtual machine (i.e., software that can run Java programs) on your desktop, you can download your applications from a server and not have to boot Windows. But, that particular delusion seems not to be taking hold in the market (See Death of NCs below).

Sun seems to have a new strategy. As their COO said in a recent interview in Upside magazine, there are 70 billion microprocessors in the world and 200 million computers. That is, most microprocessors are embedded in various types of appliances. Sun believes it can surround Microsoft PCs with Java-enabled toasters, forklifts and penile implants. In fact, the concept of smart cards -- credit cards et. al. that have a little processor and RAM -- came up repeatedly at the briefing. Sun thinks they can own that market, and, yes, it will be an important one (although it means competing with GE (motto: "As the largest profiteer from the nuclear arms race, we bring New Life Forms to Life")).

So, it's a big market. But Windows is trying to move into that space; In fact, Internet World (Nov. 3) reports that Microsoft is launching a 4.5K Windows Card OS. And, weirdly, so is a re-born DR DOS, the old DOS clone. Does Java offer any advantages for smart cards? In fact, the advantage Java offers is JINI, Sun's protocol for enabling all the appliances on a network to find one another and talk (sort of like a chat room for kitchenware). There is also the potent Screw-Microsoft sentiment that could drive appliance makers into the industry-neutral arms of Java.

But you have to admit that it's sort of an odd vision that Sun seems to be painting for itself. If all goes according to plan, Sun will own the big honking servers that power enterprise applications and it will own the 4K smart card and smart garden sprinkler market ... with the most numerous of the visible computers running PC software, i.e., Win98 or NT. This is a bit like Napoleon planning on conquering all of Europe except for France, Germany, England, and the dry parts of Holland.

Still, you have to give Sun credit for moving the industry forward. They are the parents of Java and get much of the credit for XML. And Scott McNealy said "The Network Is the Computer" waaaay back in 1988, ensuring that the appearance of prescience is merely coincidence.

Hmmm, could be a motto: "Sun: Prescient by Coincidence."

[Note: the author of the above is fully aware that England is not a part of Europe, except from the Invading Army point of view, and that NT has been renamed Windows 2000 because we don't have enough things named "2000" yet.]

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The Death of the NC, Part Whatever

We've reported on the various stages in the death of the Network Computer (NC) for a while now. Most recently, we pointed out that Larry "Smelly" Ellison, the guy who thought up the idea, defined NCs downward by declaring that an NC is any computer connected to the Internet (as opposed to being a diskless, $500 computer that receives all of its applications over the Internet).

At a briefing recently (see above), Sun touted its JavaStation, a diskless computer that at one point was poised to go mano a mano against a Windows PC. But now all of the applications they pointed to as a ideal for the JavaStation are "terminal enhancements" -- ways to make your moronic dumb terminal into a merely idiotic dumb terminal. What a step down.

And now [email protected] Week (Oct. 19) reports that Larry E. disowned the term "network computer" at his keynote at InternetWorld. "We decided about two-and-a-half years ago at Oracle that network computing was the future. Now, we're giving it the right name: Internet computing." Say, I think I may have an even better name for it, Larry. How does "PC with a modem" strike you, big guy?

Oh, and by the way, the so-called Internet Computer has about a 95% chance that it's running Windows...and about 1% chance that it's running an Oracle database.

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Good Books, Bad Books

Everyone loves Burn Rate by Michael Wolff. People I love love Burn Rate. Sloe-eyed marsupials love Burn Rate. Uma Thurman loves Burn Rate. But I do not love thee, Burn Rate.

Burn Rate is billed as an insider's view of the Internet business, but it's really an insider's view of how the author tried to dump his business to make himself a double-digit millionaire. Oh, I understand that that's the entire point of starting a business these days, like a cultist who thinks the whole point of being born is to move on to the UFO as quickly as possible. But Wolff is devoid of the single most important characteristic of authors of anything other than users manuals for assault weaponry: sympathy for others.

Let me put this differently: Michael Wolff is a prick. He may be Gandhi in real life, but I doubt it because his lack of understanding of those he meets seems inadvertent.

From the point of view of sentences and paragraphs, he writes well. It's just that everyone he meets is a shallow bastard. Except, of course, Wolff. He writes about people so nastily that it makes snarkiness look benign. And he is a homophobe: if a character is gay, we hear about it every time the character shows up.

The book is readable if you care about the intricacies of the financial deals intended to devour Wolff Media. But, please get it from the library if you insist on reading it because it'd be wrong to let Wolff profit from his bile. (Give me a shout and I'll give you my copy so long as you agree to pass it on to other potential buyers when you're done.)


On the other hand, there's Brainstorm by Richard Dooling.

I was handed this book by the person next to me on a long plane ride. She had picked it up pretty much by accident, enjoyed it, and decided to share the joy (um, quiet satisfaction). I'd never heard of the guy. It's a novel about a lawyer who is assigned his first criminal case, but what it's really about is free will (in a mind/body sense) looked at from a neurological, legal, and moral point of view. It's also damn funny. Buy it with the money you were about to waste on making the author of Burn Rate feel even better about himself.

 

Middle World Resources

A Compendium of Resources
Walking the Walk    

You know that when it comes to XML, we here at JOHO are True Believers of the most loyal and thoughtless sort. Knee-jerk XMLers and proud of it. Now and then along comes an application that actually justifies our blind faith.

Here's one from Fisher Scientific. They had 245,000 products in print catalogs and thought, gosh, maybe they ought to jump on this Web thingy. But, they realized, web-izing print is only a small part of what the Web is about. They also decided to make the move to e-commerce. All at once.

So, what do Web publishing and e-commerce have in common? Answer: XML. If they could get their data into XML, they could automatically and dynamically publish it. And the very same database driving the online catalog could also power the e-commerce application that lets you complete transactions for the beakers, litmus paper and nitroglycerin ingredients that you simply must have.

If you have massive print catalogs, how do you get them into XML? You could train a bunch of people on how to understand the structure of the various catalogs ("Whenever you see a red or black bold-faced headline, mark it as "Product_Headline" unless it says "Act Now!", etc.). But suppose you want to use off-shore typists to save money? ("Off-shore" is a misnomer since the typists weren't holed up on an oil platform somewhere. They were in China, which is about as big a shore as you can be on.) The typists don't understand English much less the structure of the documents they're typing.

So, Texterity (http://www.texterity.com), a Boston-based SGML and XML company, created a special DTD (document type definition) that lets the typists capture all of the formatting information such as font changes, text box layout, white space, etc. Texterity then wrote a processor that uses the formatting information to derive (probabilistic) structure information. After some clean up (e.g., outputting the XML to HTML so the human eye can see if it's made the right assumptions in the style-to-structure translation), you have clean, well-structured XML that can simultaneously drive dynamic publishing and ecommerce transactions.

You can see this in action -- and of course will not know you're looking at an XML app -- at http://www.fisher1.com, so what's the point of looking?

Cool Tool
For the Hyperlinked Organization
 

Here are two quickies.

1. I was installing an upgraded hard-drive a couple of weeks ago (moving from a 2.3 gazillion gigabytes to 5.6 bazillion gigabytes) which, of course meant that I needed to mirror my old drive onto my new one. I had bought a brand spanking-new copy of DiskCopy to do this only to find out that it's incredibly dumb and will only, for example, copy from a slave drive to a master. But for reasons too frustrating to relate (this drive replacement incident has already cost me over $1,750 in psychotherapy fees) I couldn't make my new drive into the master and was facing having to do an extraneous install of win98. Pardon me while I gnash my teeth and rend my hair. Ah, I feel better.

It was the omnipresent Mike Muegel who suggested that, gosh, there might be something out on the Web that could help. Sure enough At www.winfiles.com I found EZ-Transfer, which for $20 lets you mirror disks in DOS. Worked like a dream.

2. Infoseek Express product sits on your desktop, integrates with your browser, and lets you do multi-search-site searches. Nothing new about that, but the UI is relatively well designed and the product is actually sort of usable. Worth it for free.

 

 

Internetcetera

Mike Muegel points us to two fact-based sites.

First, from Alexa (http://www.alexa.com):

  • A current snapshot of the Web is 3 terabytes, or 3 million megabytes;
  • The Web doubles in size every 8 months;
  • There are approximately 20 million Web content areas; Content areas include top-level pages of sites, individual home pages, and significant subsections of corporate Web sites.
  • 90% of all Web traffic is spread over 100,000 different host machines;
  • 50% of all traffic goes to the top 900 Web sites currently available.

Second, Mike points to some research from Zona Research that says:

Netscape's Navigator increased its position over Microsoft's Internet Explorer as the primary browser in use in the enterprise.... Compared with the previous study conducted in July, Netscape's lead has increased 6 percentage points. The research, based on 113 enterprises, found 60 percent of the respondents are using Netscape's Navigator as their primary browser, with 40 percent using Microsoft's IE. For the first time since the study's inception in 1996, no respondent indicated a third-party product was their browser of primary use.

Are browsers really such commodities that there is zero room left for improvement, for personal preferences, for quirky and oddball approaches? Or shall we simply say that people have woken from their dream of individuality and have come to appreciate the value of assimilation, I mean, standardization?

Informative Responses

Our special JOHO-ette consisting of a dialogue with Chris RageBoy Locke and his sister Liz Locke on the meaning of "information" provoked a swarm of responses.

In fact, the responses were so thoughtful and extended that we are taking the unprecedented step of making it easy for you to leap right over them by clicking here. Believe it or not, some people actually don't care about this topic. Incredible!

Oddly, RageBoy was the first to write in with comments on his own coverage in the special issue. I concluded that "Information consists of factual statements we care about for whatever reason." RB asks:

Why is the qualifier "factual" in there?

Many people "care about" EGR [RB's 'zine] MOST when it is LEAST factual. you could invoke the Grain-of-Truth hypothesis, but I don't think that adequately predicts or explains this behavior.

just curious why you felt the need to bring such a pedestrian-verging-on-fascistic requirement to bear on an otherwise useful definition. Is the Brothers Karamazov information? Not in your terms.

I'm not saying that people only care about info. In fact, the reason "factual" is in the def is precisely because there are lots of statements we care about that aren't informational. "I love you," "Good-bye" and "Fuck you" fall outside the normal use of the term information. (I.e., if someone says "I love you" and you say "Thanks for the information," the conversation has gone seriously wrong. Believe me, I know.)

RB continues:

I know I have hassled you on this point before, and I plan to continue. I'm fascinated by the boundary between the factual and what George Steiner called the contrafactual. Not sure he coined the term, but he sure talks a lot about it in his book

After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0192880934 [highly recommended]

Don't POMO me, my friend! I read it when it came out. And I've forgotten it entirely since then. (For those not in the know, POMO = Post Modern. I actually had to ask RB what it meant when it aimed it at me in one of his unpublished missives -- yes, there are some.)


Kyle Patrick (Lord Kyle to his friends) wrote:

...Something that we all seem to enjoy pointing out is that words are inherently slippery things. Most of the juicy ones (information, consciousness, justice...) represent a slew of symbols and assumptions. Sorting all of those out is just almost as easy as hex-editing in ASCII. Plus, words just never hold still, each time they're associated with something else that association is added to their melange of symbol/definitions.

So you take one of the really juicy words and try to slice it. Are we surprised that things have spewed all over the place? One might consider ignoring words in this kind of a discussion, and focus on the key concepts behind the word.

The point of the RB/JOHO colloquy was to get at what the word "info" means *as it is used,* not in a dictionary sense or in an Info Theory sense. For me, that constitutes getting at the concept "behind" the word. And its usage is very broad. I'm ok with that type of ambiguity. My little world continues unaffected.

Sir Kyle continues in a paragraph I particularly enjoyed:

...How are the chemical messages that ants use like a GUI? How are our dreams like libraries? Traffic patterns and social stigma. Binary and text. Looked at from a kind of existentialist perspective, one can say that all information is formed because of the receiver of that information. If ants weren't sniffing (or whatever ants do) for that one scent, no transfer of information would occur. Someone who doesn't read English stuck in a local library wouldn't gain any of the information that the library intended to convey. From those perspectives, the encoded information is not information, it's noise. You can't parse it, if you dig. So nothing is inherently information. Something can only be seen as informative if there is an observer, and that observer possess the necessary !experience! that will allow him or her to identify and implement that information.

As we use it normally, it does have a subjective component, as you clearly demonstrate. That's why my "definition" talks about statements about which we *care*. ("Subjective" does not necessarily mean arbitrary, of course. We need a way to distinguish accurate from inaccurate info, for example.)

By the way, Kyle wouldn't mind it if we pointed to his site: http://www.cyberramp.net/~kpatrick/ . It's quite funny. I give it five stars (number of possible stars to be determined later after all applicants have been reviewed).


Clinton Glenn was unhappy about the entire, soggy mess:

You guys are really out in left field - AGAIN!! Why not just leave the term at the lowest level and accept it. Information is is simply "knowledge acquired in any manner"; be it "facts, data, learning, or lore". Accept this and then you can all go back to trying to define knowledge and confuse us on that issue (unless, of course, you're totally burned out on that subject like the rest of us are already!)...

Incoherent epistles amongst the intellectual elite does little to help us troglodytes plan for the next generation of software that will inevitably NOT BE downwardly compatible with our existing legacy data.

Of course we're out in left field, Glenn! We like left field. It's where we feel at home.

Why not just leave info as it is? Because we're *interested* in this type of topic. Not everyone is, should be, or has to be (well, until we seize global control in the Great Disruption of '00).

As to solving your legacy problem, it's clearly your own fault for starting so early. If you had ignored this whole computing field until now, you wouldn't have any stinkin' legacy problem. But I can't say that either JOHO or EGR is going to address the legacy issue any time in the near future (= ever). Does Road & Track cover sky diving?

And, anyone who uses the term "troglodyte" clearly is, in his heart, yearning to join us out in left field ...


Ken Lyon is enthusiastic about the idea that information consists of factual statements that we care about:

This means, for example, that a document containing factual statements with a boring title that appears unbidden in my inbox from someone I don't know is not information, whereas the same document accompanied by a short message from a trusted friend recommending has the possibility of becoming information for me. This also explains (to me anyway) that most stuff in textbases or other storage areas rarely qualifies as information (because it typically stripped of human context that has any meaning to me). The way we get through the avalanche of stuff coming at us is that we rely on trusted sources and ignore most of the rest...

Bottom line: learning (ingesting information) depends on relationships. Today, these are human relationships. If I had a mechanical agent I trusted (that is, which I felt I had a relationship with) then that agent could also become a source of information for me. It would be nice to have such an agent, but I sure don't have one today.

Short of an agent, Ken, I suggest you stick with the traditional Information Heuristics: "Never ingest information in a month with an R in it," and "Do not operate heavy machinery for half an hour after ingesting information."


Eric Severson, who has had a checkered history with RageBoy (not to mince words, RB mugged him with a ferocity startling for its gratuitousness and later claimed, in a Don Rickles sort of way, "I only kid the ones I love" (a paraphrase)), replies with a message I've had to abbreviate because it is a finite, unjust world:

...I don't  think things are quite as out-of-control as it may seem, and I would like to  weave together some common threads of stability that weren't brought out:

1. I think that your example phrase "I have some information about the planned invasion" has more to do with "factual statements we care about" than simply "factual statements." ... I think that "information" in this sense has always implied something important or enlightening, not merely factual. People have found it necessary to invent the term "raw information" (as opposed to just plain "information") to make exactly this distinction.

2. Beginning computer science students are taught about the difference between "data" and "information" to make precisely the same distinction...

3. Of course, all this is confounded by the term "raw data" (as opposed to "raw information?") which is used by scientists in other fields. But I think even this is consistent, if one looks at it from the viewpoint of scientific method:

- Make observations and collect data (resulting in "raw data").

- Summarize observations / data into tabular (or other appropriate) form for analysis (resulting in "data").

- Analyze data and extract key conclusions (resulting in "information").

In this case, the term "raw information" would equate to "data" -- i.e. data is the "raw material" for extracted "information."

4. Information theorists, who came from a scientific and engineering background, saw a nice metaphor in the physical model of entropy and an engineering idea of signal-to-noise ratio, but again were essentially saying the same thing. Data is just "noise" until it is extracted into important "information" that forms the signal...

5. Bottom line: while the above reinforces the confusion between "data" and "information" in common usage, I don't think that the examples you give constitute wildly varying formal definitions, nor of widespread misunderstanding. I also don't think the web has changed any fundamental issues -- it's just created a vehicle for massive noise and massive signal all in one big interconnected heap, in which it is increasingly obvious that "signal" has always been in the eyes of the beholder.

6. To the extent that some mainframe database administrator, or document management analyst, or web indexer, thinks they can completely capture and ultimately codify what constitutes "information," they will be barking up the wrong tree...

7. However, avoiding this trap does not take a major web-based revolution, nor rejection of all of computer science or information science as we know it. It just takes a strong dose of common sense when designing information systems, and a recognition of the fact that mission-critical core business applications may call for different techniques than are appropriate for general collaboration and information sharing applications -- regardless of whether either or both are implemented using the web. In the first case, critical "information" can and should be understood in the context of specific business needs and processes. In the latter case, what constitutes "information" will be highly dependent on time, place, and context -- and ultimately the eyes of the beholder. What we need is the wisdom to know the difference.

And the wisdom to know the difference is what I was asking for when suggesting we need a new type of information science that understands that more and more good information is found in the weeds, not in the neatly tended rows and columns of the garden.

 

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Email, Ripostes and Parthian Shots

Bret Pettichord writes about some stats from a previous issue indicating that only 3-15% of IS managers plan on installing Linux systems:

Actually what it means is that the managers aren't planning to install Linux but that their staff is installing it anyway. Or if they plan to, they just aren't admitting it. Or they are not ready to describe the effort as significant.

We'll never know where the ambiguity lies, of course (damn statistics!), but I'd guess that 15% of IT guys surveyed know there's some Linux going on somewhere, but very few plan on installing it (at this point). I also think we'll hit a critical mass soon (it may have happened already with the recent investments in Linux) and that 3% will shoot up quickly.

On the other hand, my opinions are even less reliable than ambiguous, bogus statistics.

Bret continues:

BTW, here at Tivoli, every once in a while a discussion starts on our broad development mail alias about the pros and cons of Tivoli. It turns out that someone ported our software to Linux, unofficially. Some people think we should sell it. More just want to get a copy of it so that they can run on their old 486's at home.


Richard Smith reports a different quality of experience than we encountered when using Hotbot to find information about Gertrude Stein's "There's no there there" line:

I know you're no doubt being inundated by others with similar observations, but I thought I'd offer my "Stein-orama" results. I came up with 57 hits with:

+"there's no there there" +"gertrude stein"

on the Altavista site. The second one, though, seemed to call out to me, so I hit it: http://www.s-t.com/daily/04-96/04-29-96/1larsen.htm . There, buried in an April 1996 story on "the Dole team stuck in second gear", was this quote:

For a victorious campaign that was supposed to be a personal and political humiliation for President Clinton and one to deprive him of a second term, the Dole campaign has the forlorn look of Oakland as it was once described by Gertrude Stein: "There's no there there."

You've got to love that Massachusetts writing...

The truly amazing thing about Massachusetts writing is that it's done while eating lobster, leaning on your horn, and giving pedestrians the finger.

Tony Mckinley, responding to the special "What is information?" issue sends us the following:

I think Gregory Bateson suggests the science you seek in his book of essays called "Steps to an Ecology of Mind." This book covers cybernetics, biology and psychiatry, trying to find pattern and order common to all. It also has interesting parts.

"Metalogue: How Much Do You Know?

Daughter: Daddy, how much do you know?
Father: Me? Hmm - I have about a pound of knowledge.
D: Don't be silly. Is it a pound sterling or a pound weight? I mean, really how much do you know?
F: Well, my brain weighs about two pounds and I suppose I use about a quarter of it - or use it at about a quarter efficiency. So let's say half a pound.
D: But do you know more than Johnny's daddy? Do you know more than I know?
F: Hmm - I once knew a little boy in England who asked his father, 'Do fathers always know more than sons?' and the father said, 'Yes.' The next question was, 'Daddy, who invented the steam engine?' and the father said, 'James Watt.' And then the son came back with ' - but why didn't James Watt's father invent it?'
D: I know. I know more than that boy because I know why James Watt's father didn't. It was because somebody else had to think of something else before anybody could make a steam engine. I mean something like - I don't know - but there was somebody else who had to discover oil before anybody could make an engine.
F: Yes - that makes a difference. I mean, it means that knowledge is all sort of knitted together, or woven, like cloth, and each piece of knowledge is only meaningful or useful because of the other pieces - and ...."

Well, this was published in ETC. A Review of General Semantics in 1953, so I guess it's too old to worry about. They only had a few dozen computers in the whole world back then, so what could he have 'known'!...

Ahhh, it's so soothing to not think about Monica and Bill.

Wait, I thought all of this was a metaphor for Bill and Monica. I mean, clearly "brain" is just a cheesy Freudian symbol for, well, never mind...


RageBoy noticed that we've added an Adobe Acrobat version of the newsletter, available from the Web version of this newsletter. Rather than expressing his gratitude, he writes:

Looking at it from your perspective, the sole advantage to the PDF version seems to be that, since you haven't bothered to implement that format's hyperlinks -- the little item your zine is named for, or had you perhaps forgotten? -- you can thus (for a time) prevent the inevitable attrition of subscribers to EGR. Points are in order for marketing creativity if not technical acumen.

Tony McKinley has a similar gratitude problem:

Your PDF version of JOHO seemed to have problems, creating an error message about "fonts can't be extracted" and they displayed on the screen as little black blobs, digital raisins in Acrobat 4 inside Netscape 3 (old reliable). However, when I saved it and re-opened it, it was fine. Hmmm. Ah well, it gives me something to post to the Acrobat 4 Beta site...

Ok, so the hyperlinks and the fonts in my Acrobat file don't work. But you'll notice that the white space is rendered with absolute 100% fidelity. "Acrobat: Rendering Nothing with deadly accuracy." (I only kid the ones I love.)


Many of you responded to our Project Millennium call for new subscribers. You have our heartfelt thanks and in several cases a genuine "Get out of Snarkiness" card for referring three hapless souls to JOHO.

Predictably, RageBoy, the official Scourge of JOHO,  was among the first to respond:

Nice effort here. However, the trouble with form letters is that they fail to distinguish degree of enlistment-to-date and other critical parameters.Who, we would ask, has done more than EGR to swell your pathetic ranks? Therefore, we demand retroactive retraction of all former JOHO snarkiness directed against Our Persons.

PS: The Scourge of JOHO designation can remain intact. For some reason, this reminds us of Randy Newman's famous line: "you can leave your hat on."

Excuse me, but gratitude isn't in the Web Dictionary. And frankly, the thought of RageBoy with naught but a hat on does little to swell my pathetic ranks, if you know what I mean.


Jay Cross writes:

you've got a couple of dead links in the best of JOHO section.

For example, The Death of Docs is a 404.

I must have done this on purpose as a very witty joke. Or else The Iron Law of Irony has struck again!


Simon Whitaker joins the chorus of those who find me in error. In the previous issue, I doubted that a bit of amusing Web comedy was in fact authored by Scott "Dilbert" Adams:

it was really written by Scott Adams. You can get to it here:

http://www.hyperorg.com/misc/zippergate.txt

It certainly is Scott Adams - quoted from the last DNRC newsletter, which you can find at:

http://umweb1.unitedmedia.com/comics/dilbert/dnrc/newsletter/html/newsletter21.html

But, as Scott Adams himself admits, most of the ideas for Dilbert come via email, making "Dilbert" the first community-authored comic strip in history. Can we possibly pretend that this fact means that in some way I was right in denying authorship of the article to Adams? Can't we let me be right at least once, ever?


Mark Schenecker contributes the following Amusing Quotation:

"We've heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the Complete Works of Shakespeare; now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true."
Robert Wilensky, University of California

Hmm, I'd say that the evidence so far is that a million monkeys have been proven to be unable to produce anything more interesting than dumbass corporate white papers and email invitations from guys pretending to be coed lesbians.


Mark Dionne

While reading today's JOHO, I recalled the following word I ran into while working on the dictionary look-up code here a few months back: catachresis

1. a. Strained use of a word or phrase, as for rhetorical effect.
b. A deliberately paradoxical figure of speech.
2. The improper use of a word or phrase, especially in application to something it does not denote, as the use of blatant to mean flagrant.

This is such a cool word. Please use it often.

I will catachresisically attempt to, especially since RageBoy caught me up for using the word "thesaurused" in the previous issue. See, I intended it as a catachresis, but, of course, in using it thus I was contributing to the catachristicity of our culture. Jesus Catachrist, it won't happen again!

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I'd Like to See Bill Gates Dead, Cont'd

In the previous issue, we reported on a bit of Web flotsam that pointed out that if you use MS Word97's thesaurus on the phrase "I'd like to see Bill Gates dead," it suggests "I'll drink to that" as an equivalent. We also pointed out that this is the bluff response you get to any phrase that begins "I'd like" and you can get similar risible effects with "I am..."

The electronic ink was barely dry on the issue when PC Computing (Nov.) ran a letter to the same effect. The editor replied that you get an amusing response with "love her and leave her."

Aw, what the heck, I'll save you the trouble. The suggested alternative is "make pregnant."

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Bogus Contest: E-words

Jon Pyke, who not coincidentally works for Staffware, a workflow software company, writes:

Is workflow across the web - e-Motion ?

Let's stipulate a couple of further requirements in order to make this hard enough to interest the stupendous brainpower of the typical JOHO reader. (No, not you. Typical ones.)

1. The definition must refer to the full word as well as to the E-less word.

2. The definition must contain some reference to the E world.

Let's see if we can exhaust the "e-" puns before they all actually show up in two-page spreads in InternetWeek.

 

What do you call the online processing of feelings?
E-motion.

What do you call an online conference for expressing hostile e-motions?
E-vent.

What do you call a Web site designed to promote self-esteem?
E-special.

What do you call doing online research to decide on a company's worth?
E-valuation.

What do you call the joining of companies into a new Web-based entity as a result of that e-valuation?
E-merging.

What do you call a site that lists names of people you're delighted are dead?
E-late.

What do you call the ruling monarch of just-scraping-by-on-line?
E-king.

What do you call a side effect that causes hits on your site to drop to 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944 per day?
E-pi-phenomenon.

What do you call the famous-for-15-minutes ex-bodyguard and "A Team" star who creates a Web presence for himself at which he reveals he's a space alien?
E-T.

What do you call the Web's ability to bring together many different types of people?
E Pluribus Unum.

 

I know these are inconsistent in their format. But a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little advertising campaigns (Ralph Waldo E-merson).

C'mon, let's empty the shelves of e-puns before they're used against us...


Contest Results

Trevor Sharpe (of Open Text, a Documentum competitor, the relevance of which will become clear in a second) responds to our call for annoying ways of disparaging software products by making adolescent fun of their names:

Internet ExPLODER is a more apt name, non? Then again, I don't much care for NetsCrap, either.

How about DoggiesRectum (Documentum) or their latest acquisition Irrelevance (Relevance) and their product offerings DumbSpace (SmartSpace) which has absolutely no business logic at all, and OutofSpace (WorkSpace) which hogs gigabytes of disk.

Much as it pains me to say it, I've heard a customer reference our product [Livelink] by the name Deadlink (on account of their misconfiguring it, I'm sure!)

And then you have Panagon -- which simply begs to be mocked -- Pan (meaning all) and gon (gone?). Together you get nothing (all gone) - which is exactly what FileNet investors got this past quarter.

BackOrifice isn't mine, but I'll take credit for it, thank you very much.

So, what do I win?

You win our foreswearing of cheap disparaging comments based on your own name. (We are, however, accepting contributions on this topic.)

We might also point out that we have previously definitively traced "Panagon" back to its ancient Greek roots as meaning "All Struggle" or "All Pain."


Stuart Hillston responds to the same Bogus Contest with an anecdote:

Somewhat off-topic, but apropos names for competitors products, I used to work next door to the Aquascutum factory, and every one referred to it as Aquascrotum - to the extent that became difficult to call the company anything else. So much so that when the receptionist sent out directions to our office for visitors, she'd put Aquascrotum on the map - having heard us refer to it that way so often she believed it!

Reminds me of the fact that there's an exit off I-80 (I think) called "Scotts Run" that it turns out every male reads as "Scrotum."

And at that exit, we turn the speeding carriage that is JOHO onto smaller and smaller byways until we roll to a slow stop, sling the pyjama-footed toddler over our shoulder, and attempt to rest, still feeling the faux forward movement that gives us the uncomfortable illusion of restless progress. Just like the Web.

Sweet dreams 'til next time...


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]. 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.