Hyperlinked Organization  Title

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

 
Meta Data

Issue: October 25, 1999  
Author/Editor: David Weinberger  
Central Meme: Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy  
Favorite Beatle: John. Duh.  
Current Personal Crisis: On a panel at a conference, I mentioned our upcoming Cluetrain book while making a point about how talking-head panels suck and why information ought to be free. New height of hypocrisy or just middle age?
Home page: http://www.hyperorg.com  
Contact information: Click here

 

Contents

The right information: There's no such thing as the right information when it comes to making decisions...and looking for it is a sign of deep fear.
Hermetic Microsoft: The Digital Dashboard reveals the bubble in which dwell the Microsoftians.
IQport.com and the price of info: This new site wants to create an information economy, and the hippie in me rebels.
Ask Marilyn why search sites suck: The World's Smartest Person discovers the truth about search engines.
Links I like: Great links from readers.
Misc.: Self-supporting world views and much more.
Walking the Walk: A Charlotte bank replaces paper with an intranet.
Cool Tool : Xenu, Amazon warrior or link checker?
Internetcetera: Meaningless stats presented with a straight face.
Email, Arbitrary Insults, and Suspicious Hacking Coughs: The usual great email from readers.
Bogus contest: Web Scams

 

The Former New Look and Feel of JOHO

I've posted a draft of a new home page for JOHO. And so far the reaction has been fantastic, with the vast majority of people feeling that I've successfully made the transition from incredibly ugly to deeply boring. So, if you want to see the new home page, you better hurry because it's not going to be there much longer.

http://www.hyperorg.com/index-test.html

 

Shilling for the Cluetrain

It's just 3 months 'til The Cluetrain Manifesto: The Book comes chugging out of Perseus Books. Thanks to the miracle of v-Commerce (hint: the V stands for what rises from heated water), you can pre-order your very own copy at:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0738202444/dweinbergers/

And while you're there, you may wonder along with the rest of us how a book whose authors are listed alphabetically ended up at Amazon with Chris "RageBoy" Locke's name first? Just a coincidence, I'm sure...

 

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The right information

Please raise your hand if you're a software vendor and you've ever once said that your "solution" delivers the right information to the right people at the right time. Add ten points if you ever added, in a knowing tone, "...and in the right way." Now go sit in the corner and think about what you've done.

The fact that it's impossible to deliver on the "right information to the right people," etc. claim isn't what annoys me. The real problem is that if you were to succeed at delivering only the right info at the right time to the right people, you'd be right out of business. In fact, our infatuation with the "right info ... etc." phrase betrays a deep-seated fear of the Web.

Here's the implied world in which the promise is made. Y'see, we live in a city overcrowded with information. Some of it is Good and True but, ever since the Web, we're being overrun by gangs of information that wear black t-shirts with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve. Why, it's gotten so that a decent, hardworking man can't walk down his own street without being assaulted by undesirable data elements — uneducated ruffians and women of easy virtue. At best, these lowlifes are distractions from our job, and at worst we may take a toke — the first one's free — and end up as dissolute hopheads, listening to bebop jazz and thinking the Homosexual Lifestyle is perfectly acceptable.

Behind the idea of the Right Information is fear — the fear of losing control. And it rests on a cheap pun. "Right" sometimes means "not wrong" and "right" sometimes means "right for some purpose." No one wants wrong information, stuff that is just inaccurate. But the "right info..." phrase isn't simply promising to filter out inaccuracies. It's also promising to provide you with nothing but the information that's right for making a decision. And that's where it goes wrong.

There literally is no such thing as The Right Information in that second sense. Let's say you're trying to decide if it's time to open up an office in Hong Kong. Clearly, you don't want to rely on market data that's inaccurate. But what is the right information required for these decisions? You can't know this until after you made the decision. In fact, the decision itself determines which information you think is right — you decide that the Hong Kong housing-start data is irrelevant, the demand from globally-based customers has real potential, and the lawyer's report on the threat of new Chinese regulations is overstated.

Humans don't work by taking the right input and pumping out the right decisions as output. Deciding which information to listen to is a crucial part of the decision itself.

The cult of rightness — of efficiency, of infallibility, of cause-and-effect decision theory — is more dangerous than a CFO with a "really great product idea." Good decisions aren't made by having "right information" delivered to your desktop. You need to be out in the bustle of the information city, talking with street corner toughs and working class stiffs drinking coffee from a metal thermos, as well as with museum curators and librarians. You need to "waste your time" arguing into the wee hours with someone you think is totally wrong about a point that beer has erased. You even need to get laid now and then.

Spare me the right information and protect me from the right people. The Web is the new world of conversations and if you protect me from it, I will become a wizened, frightened, self-important little person hanging onto the right information at the right time to shield me from the real clamor of the newly-excited world.

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Hermetic Microsoft

I've griped about Microsoft's Digital Dashboard (DD) before, but, heck, the right to gripe endlessly about the rich, powerful and obnoxious is the very basis of democracy.

At KMWorld '99, Charles Stevens, Microsoft's VP of Business Solutions (the meaningless CorpoSpeak title apparently actually means that he's in charge of Microsoft's partner relations) gave a keynote presentation on Redmond's position on Knowledge Management. It sounded as if someone said "Ok, let's see what we have that we can say is a component of a KM system. Ok, we've got email, we've got scheduling ... does Flight Simulator count as KM?" To be fair (much against my better judgment) the history of KM has been marked more by this type of re-labeling than by innovation. How many KM systems or widgets exist that wouldn't have existed if KM hadn't been invented?

The centerpiece of Microsoft's KM strategy continues to be the DD judging by the amount of time they spent on the rest of the pieces. Too bad. While there will certainly be many useful applications of the DD — no, really, there will be — in two ways it's a step backward.

First, the stifling, hermetic demo Microsoft did from the stage showed four apps running inside of Outlook (including a bar chart, the mark of a gen-yoo-ine business application) as if we've been dreaming of living inside of The Outlook Correctional Institution. Microsoft seems not to have noticed that there's been a move towards supporting browsers, not "thick clients" (despite Stevens' outrageous, Orwellian claim that there thin clients are actually thick clients because Microsoft has larded up IE5 with crap no one wants; definition of chutzpah: a kid who kills his parents and pleads "Have pity on a poor orphan"). But not every machine runs Outlook 2000. Some of them don't even run Windows. Microsoft seems genuinely blind to this, or maybe the PR handlers have simply over-trained the Microsoft execs.

Second, DD might as well be called "Microsoft Windows Tiler." I thought the point of windowing systems was to provide multiple windows. It'd be different if there were some integration among the apps, but that doesn't seem to be part of the DD story.

The DD is, Mr. Steven said, "the best sales tool we have...". Why? Presumably because it visualizes a world in which information is calm, orderly and in its jammies ready for bed at 8pm sharp. But the world is bigger than Outlook and even bigger than Microsoft. The Redmonians seem genuinely not to understand that. It's, frankly, sort of depressing. And, worse, not at all surprising.

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IQport.com and the price of info

At the recent KMWorld '99 conference in Dallas I was able to spend some quality time with two of the key people behind www.iqport.com. I liked the implementation and could see many advantages to the site, yet I found myself becoming withdrawn and belligerent, a state I usually only achieve when someone says something nice about me or if other people are having fun.

IQport.com enables people to post information objects for sale. If you find something you're interested in, you put it in your "shopping basket" and have the amount deducted from your account. The author is then credited that amount, minus a fee that goes to IQport. (The fee is much less than an author pays to a book publisher and less than the 50% that fatbrain.com — the Amazon of technical books — says it's going to charge for its vanity publishing service.)

IQport isn't an information eBay; the "information flea market" position is occupied by www.inforocket.com. No, IQport is an alternative distribution channel for people who make money by selling information, including consultants, authors, financial services, etc. Authors are encouraged to join "knowledge communities" which act as intermediaries and, in some sense, as publishers. For example, an industry association might form a knowledge community and approve any offerings made under its aegis.

So, what's my beef? It took me a while to admit that the more I talked with the site's representatives (Freddie McMahon and Penny Heyes), the more bummed out I was getting, and then it took me longer still to figure out why.

It has nothing to do with Freddie and Penny. No, it goes back to my hippie roots. You see, information wants to be free, man! In fact, information wants to put on patched jeans, take a few hits from the bong in my friend Skip's rec room and watch the Lava Lamp of Knowledge (you know, that lava lamp is really *deep*, man) until the 'rents pull up in the driveway and suddenly you're spraying meadow-scented Glade all over the room until a rosewood incense stick turns the spray into a flame thrower which you let run for longer than necessary because the purple tongues of fire look like dragons and the dragon flames are themselves breathing dragon flames, like wow, man, until you realize you're scorching Skip's father's ophthalmology diploma on the wall.

Sorry, where was I? Oh, yes. From one point of view, IQport is simply giving professional publishers the ability to publish more efficiently and effectively on a truly global scale. From another, it encourages people who might otherwise have given information away to offer it for sale. The first is Good because it lowers the hurdle to publishing. The second is Bad because it raises the hurdle to information. In fact, the site is likely to do both.

So, I don't trust my negative reaction to IQport. It comes from the atavistic hippie in me. But it's the hippie portion of our brains that built the Web and that's preserved much of what's important about it. Am I suffering from the Peter Pan syndrome? Maybe. But the question of how to motivate people to contribute information to your intranet divides people rather sharply between those who think you'll have to pay employees for contributions and those who think employees will speak out because they like to be famous and/or helpful. Where you stand on this issue probably has a lot to do with your personality and your politics. And for what it's worth, my heart is with the optimists.

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Ask Marilyn why search sites suck

Marilyn Vos Savant, the World's Smartest Person (according to the Guinness Book of World Records), ran a puzzle recently the answer to which depended on there existing a town by the name "1986." So, in her Oct. 10 column in Parade, the World's Smartest Sunday Insert, she writes:

At least one Internet search engine (Excite maps) locates "1986" in Kansas, all right. But it also locates other numbers in that same place — even when you're searching in other states!

Ah, the exclamation mark of the newbie. The rest of us are just not surprised enough to use the shift key.


Ask Jeeves (www.ask.com), the first Internet float in the Macy's Thanksgiving parade — shouldn't that honor really gone to Netscape's IPO? — shows you other questions people are asking while you're typing in your question. This list looks like it's being drawn in real time from the Web but in fact it's downloaded with the Ask Jeeves page and then is cycled via a simple Java script. One recent question was "Who is God?". Jeeves responds by taking you to www.religioustolerance.org, the one group that will refuse to answer the question, for fear of hurting someone's feelings ("Well, yes, I suppose this Brittney Spears *could* be God, if you sincerely believe her to be.")

On the other hand, the fact that someone would pose such a question to a crappy little search site has renewed my faith in humanit .... Whoops, sorry, now it's gone.

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Links I like

Dan Kalikow points us to a site that maintains that an "under construction" sign on a Web site is a sign of cowardice moral turpitude.

http://www.cs.utah.edu/~gk/atwork/


Prof. Bob Morris, who has an unfortunate tendency to keep us honest, sends us to a site where there's some XML to play with:

play with the link on XML at http://www.cs.umb.edu/efg. You gotta use IE5 until Netscape releases something that understands XML....

With Netscape 4.7 looking as shoddy as it does, I wouldn't wait for XML support. In fact, I wouldn't wait for 4.7.1.


Bill Bly sends along a column called "Whaddya, STOOPIT? or, How Could You Not Know That? — Stupidity vs. Ignorance in the Age of the Steep Learning Curve" that begins with the following wonderful quote

Ignorance is a delicate flower. Touch it, and the bloom is gone. — Wilde

You can read the entire stoopit, entertaining article at

http://pages.nyu.edu/~wb9/STOOPIT.html


Chris "RageBoy" Locke, editor of EGR and the Scourge of JOHO, writes:

I think this pretty much wraps it up...

The Microsoft Knowledge Management Strategy http://www.microsoft.com/DigitalNervousSystem/km/KMpract.htm

Yup, there's the complete story, including insights such as: "Its [KM's] essence involves fueling what knowledge workers do best—what Microsoft CEO Bill Gates refers to as 'thinking work.'" Wow! What a phrase maker! Let's see, then people who manufacture things are engaged in making work, and air traffic controllers are engaged in avoiding work.

If you send me your entry, I'll declare this a mini bogus contest!


Jim Montgomery points us to a dank little column in PCWeek that says the Internet :

"has made us all strangers (and more strange) to one another."

http://www.zdnet.com/pcweek/stories/columns/0,4351,2335594,00.html

Well, sure, but *good* strange. I mean, things were getting entirely too normal, don't you think?


John Maloney points us to the "pamphlets" at http://www.amorenaturalway.com by Diane Olson and Tom Heuerman. Their self-description:

We help others discover and live an ecological worldview, learn new ways to think, new ways to relate to oneself and others, and new core competencies appropriate for each person's role in the organization.

The first few pamphlets nicely develop a metaphor or parable and then draw a jejune conclusion from it such as "Embrace change, and don't we all deserve a big hug?" (I'm paraphrasing). The later pamphlets may be different but I got bored.


Mark Kuharich, author of The Software View (http://www.softwareview.com/), reports on philosopher and cybernaut David Gelertner's interests in moving beyond the desktop metaphor.

According to Gelernter, the desktop metaphor is obsolete. He wants to move beyond space - to time. The project that Gelernter and several of his graduate students were working on was called Lifestreams, and it may completely change how we manage information. Today, our view of cyberspace is shaped by a twenty-year-old metaphor in which files are documents, documents are organized into folders, and all are littered around the flatland known as the desktop. Lifestreams takes a completely different approach: instead of organizing by space, it organizes by time. It is a diary rather than a desktop.

Twenty years is a long time for a metaphor? Jeez, metaphors are what keep cultures together, and papers have been going into folders for a lot more than 20 years. The reluctance of humans to move to new metaphors is of epic proportions — epics being yet another metaphor we can't duck.

No, the way to radically extend the desktop metaphor without having to switch from space to time is to supplement the concept of the folder with that of the single most common way of organizing paper: piles. Hyperpiles™: The desktop of the future.

You can learn a little more about Lifestreams technology at http://www.mirrorworlds.com.

 

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Misc.

Greg Cavanagh, our resident disciple of King Linus, writes to tell us about

Linux beowulf clusters made from sony playstations. Also note the new playstation will be based on linux. http://www.wulfstation.org/

Excellent! Playing Goldeneye by typing into a command line should finally give adults just the advantage they need!

Greg also forwards the following from nandotimes.com:

The Defense Department unveiled its latest arsenal of high-tech crime-fighting tools Friday, a $15 million [Linux-based] computer lab where it can trace hackers across the Internet, unscramble hidden files and rebuild smashed floppy disks that were cut in pieces.

Ah, remember when our fighting forces would spend the day storming hilltops, returning to the barracks with barely enough energy to harass some busty WACs, instead of working from 9 to 5, sipping double lattes, and figuring out how to hack into www.davidbowie.com?


Frank Vernon found the following:

The IESG has approved the Internet-Draft 'The Transmission of IP Over the Vertical Blanking Interval of a Television Signal' as a Proposed Standard ... a method for broadcasting IP data using the vertical blanking interval of television signals.

So, the same signal that brings you Bridget Loves Bernie can also connect you to the Web. Of course, if the synchronization goes awry, you could end up ogling Yahoo jiggling along a beach and typing a query into Baywatch.


RageBoy found the following from Edward Vielmetti:

Valdis Krebs sent a pointer to a very interesting article in the current Harvard Business Review by Henry Mintzberg and Ludo Van der Heyden on "organigraphs", a functional replacement for traditional organization charts that acknowledges that modern companies are not strictly hierarchical and that people in them need tools to visualize how people and processes are connected. They identify four philosophies of managing and the graphs that go with them: among a _set_ of independent actors, allocate resources over a _chain_ of actors that depend directly on each other, exert control with a _hub_ of activity around which actors cluster about, coordinate activities within a _web_ of related actors who interact in many patterns, energize the network.

This sounds like an advance. But how about the other common management constellations? For example, how can we graphically portray, say managing a small, cowering marketing department dominated by a petty tyrant's genital-shrinking reign of terror? Or managing a vast set of feuding, arrogant technoids who are each heading in what s/he is snarlingly certain is the only non-brain dead direction? Or how about manging people who are all running from any set, chain, hub, web or galaxy that includes you?


And while we're discussing attempts to make sense of the world, we ran into Andrius Kulikauskas at a conference. He's trying to help people think about thinking by building a standard for expressing all thought. He postulates are three basic structures that need to be captured: hierarchies, sequences and webs. And he has some rules about how they interact. He thinks a standard for these 3 schema will enable all info-aggregating programs (e.g., Notes, outliners, etc.) to interchange content without loss of thought. Say what you want about this project, you have to admit that it has an admirably short url:

http://www.ms.lt

(Yes, this is JOHO's first link to a Lithuanian site.) You can read the initial data of his project investigating what kids say gets them to change their minds:

http://www.ms.lt/ms/projects/structureuses/990930change.html

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Middle World Resources

A Compendium of Resources
Walking the Walk  

According to an article in InformationWeek (Oct. 18, Beth Bachelder) First Union of Charlotte, North Carolina (oddly, I bank at the First Rebel Bank of Boston) has created a portal inspired by Internet sites such as Yahoo. It links up the bank's mainframes and midrange systems, supports office formats, and handles files as large as a gigabyte ("Smithers,download the latest issue of JOHO!"). For example, the Budget Report is 150,000 pages and the General Ledger Control Report is about 600,000. It's indexed, however, so you can skip right to the really juicy parts.

The new intranet portal has reduced lag time from four days for paper to nanoseconds for electronic documents. Notes Dhrubo Sircar, division information officer in finance, "We are going from a push model — where we push reports or paper out —to a pull model, where people pull the information when they need it." They're saving about $200,000 a year.

(By the way, Dhrubo Sircar anagrams to: "crush bid roar," "scour hard rib" and "rubs chair rod.")

Cool Tool
For the Hyperlinked Organization
 

At the risk of letting RageBoy continue to dominate this issue, we must reluctantly note that he has unearthed a useful utility. For the price of a free download, you can be the proud owner of Xenu, a link checker. Give it the URL of your site and it'll test every link and generate a report showing which ones are broken. For example, it shows that fewer than 100 of my site's 816 links are broken. Excellent! It even creates a list of unique links suitable for submission to search engines so you can be ignored on purpose rather than unintentionally.

Pick it up at:

http://www.snafu.de/ ~tilman/xenulink.html

Damn you, RageBoy!

 

Internetcetera

According to a survey of 800 companies by Advanced Manufacturing Research (Motto: "When there isn't any real research, we'll manufacture it") in PC week (Oct. 18), here's how the Web is progressing:

Have Web sites: 95%
Allow online transactions: 17%
Allow online customer service: 8%

(All numbers are approximate.) In other words, just about every company has a web site, a few of them will let you buy something, but hardly any will offer you help. Ah, the joys of customer focus!


[email protected] Week (Oct. 18) reports on the "most productive forms of compensation for retaining employees", on a scale of 1 to 10:

Stock option grants: 8.4
Salary increases: 8.2
Bonuses: 7.7
Training: 6.4
Other compensation: 6.3
Educational reimbursement: 5.7
Profit sharing: 5.4

Here's JOHO's own list, in order:

Participation in at-work community
Treating employees like humans instead of gerbils
Sense of accomplishing something worthwhile
Free soda

 

Particles with motive: Follow-up

In the previous issue, I made much of the phrase "particles with motive" as used by the labs at Los Alamos which are training their mighty computers away from the problem of how to end all life on the planet and on the truly difficult problem of understanding traffic. The author of the phrase must have been out ego surfing, for I heard from him rather promptly:

I'm the Chris L. Barrett that used the phrase "particles with motive". Although I find your article intriguing, I think you misunderstood what it takes to derive "motive" in a simulation of this kind. I think that because what it takes, specifically, is an approach that builds up and evolves relations among entities that are characterized individually. What that means is the interdependencies among individuals that exert causal effect on the observed gross properties of systems build up from interactions among individuals that evolve and form precisely the kinds of "mini-societies" you seem to suggest are important. This is exactly what science has really never gotten right about scientific principles and tools for things like transport policy. You just can't average over the representations of people like you can with, say, electrons or something. Even if the measurements you make (e.g., mean speed on a road or ratios of turns in different directions at a signal light) are averaged, if you are to produce them meaningfully in simulation, you have to let the bottom-up properties of individuals, their interdependencies, and various constraints evolve and give you that. It is those things, not the turning ratios, etc., that matter. So it is with markets, just as you say. But there is nothing scary about saying you're a part of a system, a "particle", unless you leave out the idea that your personal mission and relationships, your "motives," guide your behavior. Then you have the coarsest kind of facelessness in policy and the inevitable failure that derives from it. We just say that there are scientifically understandable ways, as well as moral and emotional ways, to understand why individually unique properties and dynamic interdependencies among individuals are essential in the analysis of human systems. Even traffic. Even markets.

I love the phrase "particles with motive" because it captures the paradox of being unique just like everyone else. God Speed, Chris Barrett! (Nevertheless, too many frigging ecommerce sites treat us as if we were nothing but particles with motive -- or, perhaps, particles with wallets.)

 

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Email, Arbitrary Insults, and Suspicious Hacking Coughs

In the previous issue, while writing about the question of corporate authenticity, I wrote:

Can a company be authentic if its vision is simply that of its own success? To answer that, we need to know whether one can be authentic and evil, or, possibly authentically evil. To put this in the words of the great philosophers: Can Lex Luthor exist? But we'll save that for another time...

Eric Hall, writer of the always insightful net.opinion (www.ehsco.com), responds:

You lost me there. Is HP an evil company? The founders only had one intention, which was to make products that people wanted. The same is true of Sony, who started with the simple goal of being successful. And they are evil how?

A company that's really only interested in its own success would be happy to produce defective or harmful products if they could get away with it. Tobacco companies come to mind. If evil has something to do with intent, then they are in some sense evil whether or not their products actually cause harm, in precisely (?) the same way as a drunk driver is evil whether or not he happens to hit someone.

Have I ever mentioned John Austen's conundrum? A husband believes his wife's lover is hiding in their room. He grabs a pitchfork and savagely stabs under the bed. But no one's there. Why isn't the husband arrested for attempted murder?


Marty Heyman raises an interesting problem

If the Internet and its primary tools and applications support a conversation, a collective set of relationships, help me with what we call some of the participants... The old "users" thang just doesn't seem to fit any more ... there's more to the "community" or "relationships" than the old master/slave relationship implied in "users" ...

Well, we could invent new words or try to force feed some current word. Or we could just give up, which would be my professional advice. Of course, if you were paying me as a marketing consultant, I'd recommend spending tens of thousands of dollars on coming up with new words. Browserites™. Surfors™. Vizitors™. The invoice is in the mail.


After running a "Cool Tool" piece on PicoSearch, I heard from a certain Carl there:

Your review is very nice, thankyou. As luck would have it, it just yesterday became a little bit out-dated though, with a big upgrade. The Free plans now have no banner ads (!) and index only 1500 pages, not 5000 (we found this to be plenty for most people). So it would be great if you could adjust that.

I prefer to think that my review wasn't out-dated but that your product is in-dated. I stand by my statements, although they are now demonstrably false. Isn't that what loyalty is all about, not that you'd know about that, would you, Carl?


My question about the origin and meaning of the phrase "the exception proves the rule" brought several answers. I thought it meant that if B is an exception to A, then A must be a rule because you can't have an exception unless you have a rule. But it turns out otherwise.

Bob Morris writes:

The "proves" in "The exception proves the rule" derives from an abandoned form "probo" (still in German as "proberien" and in English as "probe") which means try, or test. The expression has reversed its original meaning, which was that exceptions show that a rule is invalid, not that it is valid.

... An AltaVista search with "exception proves the rule"—- check it out if you want an authoritative test of the converse of the rule "Everything on the web is interesting." I think just the titles will give you column material. Some samples:
What Makes A Great Marriage or Relationship?
Jim Reviews: "Year of Hell, Part II"
Love is the Hand of the Soul: Augustine on continence
What_Do_we_know_about....doc
Libertarian Solutions: Protect food from federal "safety"
The Day The Dove Visited The Enterprise
...

Gee, I wouldn't have gotten so many (176 (sic!)) entries if I could find a search engine that could distinguish use from mention. I guess I'll have to wait until XML is really here.

The amazing coincidence is that Bob has found a reference to Augustine and continence while researching a topic in an issue that actually talks about Augustine's penis. It's a small world!

Peter Merholz finds a source with a great discussion and a sense of closure:

With respect to exceptions and rules, well, trust Cecil to have dug into it: http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a3_201.html

Cecil brings the matter to closure. Great reading.


Dylan Tweney, InfoWorld columnist and editor of the hard-drivin' Tweney Report (http://www.tweney.com), liked the idea that knowledge isn't an asset.

This reminds me of a passage in Michael Dertouzos' book, "What Will Be," where he recounts meeting someone who described herself as the "chief knowledge officer" for her company. "I manage the company's knowledge assets," she said. Dertouzos says his response was "Do you also manage the company's knowledge liabilities and the knowledge balance sheet?"

I'm suspicious of the term "knowledge assets" in the same way I hate the term "human resources." Such "assets" really don't exist apart from the people in whom the knowledge resides. Outside of people, it's just information. And considering people to be assets or resources reeks of slavery and indentured servitude, to me.

The absolutely weirdest notion in business is that we can use the same word — "manage" — with regard to how we treat our office supplies, finances, and people.


Jim Hurd sends along an attempt to remove with extreme prejudice some particular words

Alert: the following words have been placed today on the Up Software "I Need a Bodyguard" List: 1- "CHANGE," 2- "CAREER," 3- "TECHNOLOGY," 4- "INFORMATION," and, 5- "MARKETING. ... Each of these words has gotten WAY too popular and WAY too important. In fact they are so important they're just about everywhere. They are WAY overexposed...

Jim recommends that the word "marketing," for example, always be preceded by "win-win" "invisible" "permission" (Seth Godin's term) or "viral."

I'd propose that we add to the Never Want to Hear It Again List: "solution," "enterprise," and "Seth Godin."

[Whoops. Seth just came through with a blurb for the Cluetrain book. I'm sure he takes justifiable pride, as we all do, in his richly deserved over-exposure.]


Niels Jørgen Aagaard writes about the article "The Knowledge Conversation":

I agree with most of your views in the article, but, in the margin you have a phrase saying "The aim of KM was never to take knowledge from the brain of a smart person and bury it inside some other container like a document or a database. The aim was to share it." I say: 'The aim of KM was never to get people talking and thereby sharing knowledge. The aim was to benefit from knowledge in your business"...

Oh, you're definitely right. But where's the fun in that?


Along the same lines, we heard from Stu Rubinow

Good God, David! I didn't think the Web was old enough for the kind of dewy-eyed romanticizing you've JOHOed us with today. Exhibit A for the prosecution:

On the Web, on the other hand, you'd do a search to find the right page and go to it,...no having to re-navigate,...no time-jacking. Web time is mine. I control it. ...[T]he Web...was designed from the ground up to let us surf hyperlinks, rather than having to read through things in the sequence someone else decided would be best for us."

Oh yeah? Here's a not-48-hour-old story. The D&B Million Dollar Directory online give 8-digit SIC codes for companies; our office SIC book only offers 4-digit codes. So somewhere the gummint must have a directory of the big ones, right? Go to AltaVista, search for "SIC +codes +manual domain:gov", and 345 items are returned. Here are the first three: 1995 Water-Use Guidelines: SIC codes SEP for Silicosis Pollution Prevention Information Clearinghouse Order Form

Nothing close to what I'm looking for in the first hundred items found. ... After ~20 minutes I was no closer to an answer than when I started. Now, I'm not a virtuoso Web researcher, but I ain't no steenking newbie either.

In instances like this, I sure as hell am reduced to "read[ing] through things in the sequence someone else decided would be best". Maybe I miss something, but how is this any less jacking of my time than listening through automated phone options I don't need? In only one way that I can see: the time-jacking is impersonal and inadvertent, rather than deliberate and designed...

I'm shocked you had this experience. Search engines uniformly turn up the absolute best results for me. In fact, I can't remember a search for which an engine has returned more than 8 hits. I guess it's just a purity of soul sort of thing.

Anyway, no matter how much complain about the Web, it still beats reality hands down.


Adam Bolowski was among several of you who liked what was on the other side of the link to www.melloworld.com/Reciprocality/stone/index.htm. He writes:

F*** the cluetrain...get those www.melloworld.com/Reciprocality/stone/index.htm guys to write a book - they're really onto something

Ok, we're withdrawing publication of The Cluetrain Manifesto (formerly to be available at bookstores everywhere in Feb. 2000), as long as you're *sure* it's an either/or type of thing.


Bonnie whose last name remains shrouded in mystery, writes with a certain piquant charm.

David Darling,

Please communicate with us more often and not at quite such length, if you please! As you can see, it's already mid- Oct. and I haven't finished this newsletter yet! Help me manage my knowledge by spoon-feeding me, ok?

Bonnie

I know that a 45K newsletter is unreadable and that the sensible thing to do would be to break it into pieces and mail it much more frequently. I know this, yet I am helpless to break my self-destructive pattern of behavior. I would be in bad faith to promise you otherwise. I am truly sorry.


Mark Dionne corresponds about my mention of "Dr. Kellogg's original health-food and enema vision"::

Wasn't that Dr. Post's?

Nah. Who'd want an enema with a Post?

For those interested in knowing more, Mark suggests:

http://match.cuisinenet.com/digest/breakfast/cereal.shtml


Andy Moore, editor of KMWorld (http://www.kmworld.com), passes the following along, which I'm heavily excerpting so as to avoid giving too much free publicity:

Subject: PAX TV/FAST = World's Largest Safe Search
...Our client, Fast Search & Transfer, the creators of the World's Biggest Search Engine at http://www.alltheweb.com today announced a co-development with PAX TV to create the world's biggest SAFE search engine for the Web. ...

[many paragraphs ensue]

Bene Tibi Sit — Let it be well with you — Latin Anonymous

When I proposed a less beneficent closing and asked Andy to translate it, he replied: "I have chosen the inaccurate 'Carpe Esta', loosely translated as 'Seize This.'"


Clinton "Glenn Clinton" Glenn is getting tired of the KM and Portal buzz words:

...Personally, since I'm not smart enough to come up with my own buzzwords, I'm going to milk these all the way to retirement! Besides, look at all the exposure you get by having your opinions printed in KM World. What a deal! But tell me, how does one become an expert on something that doesn't really exist?

The same way the little boy become a fashion expert when viewing the clothes-less emperor. As Justice Stewart once said, I may not be able to define KM, but I know when I'm not looking at it.

But, more important, the KM Expert scam is mine. Don't try to muscle in, if you know what's good for you.


My puzzlement in the last issue at a mention of "Brak" called forth an explanation from Eric Hall:

Brak is a character on the Space Ghost talk show on the Cartoon Network. You should watch that sometime. You'll get a kick out of it.

Kyle, Lord Patrick adds — and I'm excerpting because I basically don't give a rat's tush about the topic:

Don't tell me you don't know who Brak is! Oh, jeez, time for some re-Ned-ucation...In the early 90's, some odd fellows over at Cartoon Network decided to make an animated (well, the guests are video) late night talk show, with Space Ghost as the host, and a few of his villains from the old show working on the staff. Moltar runs the equipment, Zorak (the mantis) is the bandleader, and there are a few other guys that came onto the show occasionally. One of these is an odd fanged organish fellow named Brak. There's actually a picture of him on my webpage, at http://www.cyberramp.net/~kpatrick/ ... One is left with an intense feeling that the show is, in fact, far too cool for you. Which is likely the case. Enjoy, grasshopper.

I'll have you know, young whippersnapper, that I happen to be the coolest Dad on the block, so long as you overlook the guy up the street who aced me by putting racing decals on his Caravan. But does *he* have both of Beck's CDs? I don't think so.


RageBoy is in a snit because I responded to his calumny about whose returns lists are bigger than whose. Here's the background: After he gratuitously slammed me to his "readership" (by the way, I've sic'ed the Magazine Auditing folks on him and we'll be getting the *real* numbers any day now), I performed a simple scientific test, searching for both our names on AltaVista. Notice the mature way he deals with the fact that the first 17 returns on "Chris Locke" are for other people ill-fortuned enough to bear RageBoy's name:

Oh yeah??? Well next time try using my real name! I am only Chris to my friends, and this rarefied category definitely does not include any search engines! Searching (correctly) on: Christopher Locke AltaVista found 452 Web pages And the first 14 are (similarly) really mine. Whereas, searching for Dave Weinberger AltaVista found 3 Web pages. And searching for Davey Weinberger yields nothing. Same thing for "Dr. David Weimeraner" and "Dr. Weimeraner" — which really quite surprised me, as I'd thought my campaign to properly rename you had been more successful. I shall have to redouble my efforts on this front!

I see we have to up the rigor of our investigation. Using the advanced Boolean search capabilities of AltaVista, we discover, not surprisingly:

 

"I hate" AND "Christopher Locke"
10
"I love" AND "Christopher Locke"
14
"I hate" AND "David Weinberger"
9
"I love" AND "David Weinberger"
16

Game, set and match, SnitBoy.

dividing line

Bogus contest: Web Scams


According to an article by Keith Perine in the Industry Standard (Oct. 4), the Federal Trade Commission is setting up scam sites not to trap the perpetrators but to catch the johns who fall for it. For example, they set up a site for a product called NordiCalLite, a "Scandinavian weight breakthrough" that can earn you thousands of dollars. A couple of clicks in and a screen tells you that you're a moron.

So, what types of scams would you concoct if you wanted to trap the truly gullible?

 

Three-hole punches for Web pages

Overnight delivery service for email

Salt-free spam

Weight loss plans for thick clients

Landfill at which you can empty your recycling bin. (Yes, I know there is one: http://www.digitallandfill.com/)

 

Scam me, brothers and sisters!


Contest Results

Robbert "Bbob" Baruch responds to a contest looking for terms that different in their emotive value as applied to the Web:

I am an IT-professional, You are working in IT, he's a professional nerd

I keep in touch with business contacts using innovative products, you use ICQ and IRC, he doesn't have any friends.

I am interested mainly in the communication-side of applications, you are unaware of the technical consequences, he's ignorant

And so, as the leaves in Boston finally do their slow burn in the palette of fire, JOHO takes a moment to look out the window and, noticing the peculiar lack of scroll bars, decides that perhaps the world doesn't have to smell like hot silicon and coffee in a mug lost a month ago. It is time, perhaps, to escape from Windows, not into the waiting arms of the ever-amorous Linus Torvalds but into the dry breath of the Northeast fall that carves edges in words and puts angle brackets around couples as they move from the blood-tempered spray of the salt sea to the coruscated fields of winter where they have no excuses, no distractions, only themselves ... and endless issues of JOHO.


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.

This journal eschews the use of the word "fuck" except when it is deemed the right word for literary purposes, although we use it in this disclaimer because we enjoy confusing censor-savant netnanny programs.

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.