For those who need to understand how the Web is transforming the way businesses work, yada yada yada
Issue: September 10, 1999
Author/Editor: David Weinberger
Central Meme: Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy
Favorite Beatle: John. Duh.
Current Personal Crisis: Read article by Peter Singer expressing ethical beliefs I hold sincerely and deeply. Now I need new set of rationalizations for not doing what he says.
Home page: http://www.hyperorg.com
Contact information: Click here.
Traffic and commerce: Customers aren't just "particles with motives" we're networked, smart and full of vim.
How to be smart: First, figure out what matters.
Pornographic Intranets: The Web will transform intranets just as it has transformed porn.
Misc: Knowledge auctions and a buncha stuff.
Links I like: Virtual crack and a buncha links.
Walking the Walk: Brunswick Tech decides to let its employees know what they do for a living.
Internetcetera: Factoids about the correlation of email name lengths and buying patterns.
Email, Arbitrary Insults, and Suspicious Hacking Coughs: The usual fabulous mail from our readers.
Bogus Contest: Russell's comparatives.
JOHO Declared Obscene!
We received the following in response to the previous issue of JOHO:
From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
... This e-mail message has not been delivered because it has been found to contain offensive text and its delivery has been stopped. Please check the contents of the message and amend them if need be before you try and resend it.
Hmm, this netnanny apparently has a problem with the word "fuck." We hereby make two pledges. First, we will never use the word "fuck" to arouse sexual passions that only perverse or forbidden acts of love could dissipate. Second, we are adding the word "fuck" to our boilerplate at the end of every issue ("Editorial Lint") to make sure that issues do not fall into innocent hands.
It's a JOHO World After All
Techmailings, a service of Andover.net, has reviewed JOHO using words such as:
The JOURNAL OF THE HYPERLINKED ORGANIZATION is one of those quirky, eclectic newsletters and Web sites produced by the kind of person you think you might enjoy knowing. At least, I do.
While this newsletter deals with "heavy lifting" as regards the Web and business, you'll also find whimsical/philosophical commentary ... That's why I opened this review with the word "quirky." I like quirky.
I know this may seem like an e-zine that comes dangerously close to the edge of Terminal Coolness, but it doesn't quite fall over. It stays just within the bounds of not Taking Itself Too Seriously. Recommended.
Hey, what does a 'zine editor have to do to push past the edge of Terminal Coolness anyway? Wait, I know! Here's my new chiclet:
Is that *terminally kewl* or what, dudez!
Now that the scientists at Los Alamos National Labs have figured out the cooking directions for roasting every living human to a crisp golden brown without basting, they've turned their eyes towards understanding traffic. According to an article Post by Alan Sipress in the Washington, Los Alamos is using its supercomputers to try to understand why traffic acts the way it does. "Scientists said they are closer to comprehending the birth of the universe than the daily tie-ups along the interstate." And after that mystery is solved, perhaps they can figure out why Julia Roberts is a star even after her first on-screen smile.
The scientists are struggling with the basic models to use. Some think of traffic as a fluid with waves rippling through it. Others think it exemplifies chaos theory. (Well, what doesn't if you just keeping asking "Why?" long enough?) Others look at traffic slowdowns as phase changes. And Chris L. Barrett, who heads the traffic project, says "Traffic is particles with motive."
What a great phrase! How awful and how accurate. It captures precisely the attitude of most of ecommerce. Commerce itself is conceived as a type of traffic. Customers are particles with motive.
Now, there are lots of ways to expand this obviously sere model. We can say that commerce is actually about more than going through the checkout lane at maximum speed. We can say that the particles with motives are in fact individuals and thus personalization software could keep each person's existential authenticity in mind, or at least remember to ask me if I need more batteries for the vibrating wallet I bought last time.
But I think the most important point is that customers aren't particles any more. We're groups. We're wired one to another and we tell each other the truth.
For example...My brother has an Audi. He noticed that he was suddenly able to open the trunk without the alarm going of. After two weeks in the shop, the service people told him, "We checked and that's the way it's supposed to work." So my brother found posting on an Audi devotee's site that said "Don't let them tell you that the trunk isn't supposed to be alarmed. There was a run of locks with a bad solder job that cuts off the alarm system."
So, suddenly each particle is as smart as the collection of all particles. And we haven't even moved from collective knowledge to collective power. Someday soon, preferably before the giant experiment in microwave cooking designed by the Los Alamos guys gets its global field test, being a "particle with motive" will describe you not as a customer but only how you feel on your very worst days.
How to be smart
We'd all like our businesses to be smart. But not smart in the bookish, horn-rimmed way in which you know everything except what counts. In fact, it turns out what we usually mean by being smart is knowing what matters. And knowing what matters is damn hard.
"What matters" is one of those loose but clear concepts that are indispensable and irreplaceable. It's slippery because what matters is so context-dependent. For example, what matters to a teenager is different from what matters to a baby. (Hint: the baby's demands are usually more rational.) And what matters to your business changes from day to day and workgroup to workgroup.
Skippable Digression: Actually, defining "what matters" is hard for a different reason. Although we have a rich vocabulary to describe the ways in which things matter to us, our model of consciousness doesn't seem to take much note of it. We think of being smart as being packed full of content ("knows a lot"). We think of behavior as a response to a stimulus. As if on purpose, we've ignored the faculties that have to do with appreciating the significance of what appears before us. We've lost the concept of will except as intellect reining in animal impulse. Desire seems to us to be the same as selfishness. And the most obvious fact of consciousness that all attention is a type of caring about the object of attention isn't obvious any more at all.
So, you can't tell just by looking a something that it matters. It matters only if you have some business interest that it addresses. And that's why it's hard for software to find what matters. For example, search engines can easily find you every document that contains the word "yak spleen" but they can't know that yak spleens matters to you even though you don't know it because it's been discovered that the coating of the yak's spleen has properties that would make it a great material for lining the wax lips that are at the heart of your global manufacturing empire.
That's why search engines are so bad at doing relevancy ranking, i.e., putting the 12,000 documents that match your query in order of importance to you. Instead, they rank them by how likely it is that the documents are *about* the terms you're searching for (and even that is a tough challenge). So the first 11,999 documents you're shown may be yak spleen recipes, and the document that matters most to you may be at the very end because it only mentions yak spleens once, in a footnote, as a low friction material Yaklanders use to coat their figure skating blades.
Search technology can't solve this problem. Even if it solves its own problem of galactic magnitude (understanding not just what documents say but what they're about), that's only half the equation. To be smart, your intelligence support systems (sorry, I'm getting tired of writing "knowledge management") have to also be able to ascertain your business interests.
The problem is that you don't know what your business interests are. Oh, you can copy some material from the mission statement and come up with some ideas, but you're interested in a much, much broader range of topics than that so broad that you couldn't possibly write them all down (or build a comprehensive "topic tree"). For example, you may turn out to be interested in Malaysian politics if one of your suppliers is affected by new governmental regulations, or in transfractal numbers if a competitor has figured out how to use them to turn wax red.
So, how can software figure out what you're interested in? Well, it can watch what you write, what you search for, what you read and what you share. This may be enough over time to build up a base that can be mined and used to make some guesses. Imagine the interior dialogue of a piece of software: "Ah, I see that Mary has written many internal reports on long-lasting, low-friction materials, and these reports have been widely read and shared. And here's a research paper on the Web that talks about yak spleens as a long-lasting, low-friction material. I bet this matters to Mary!"
Of course, even if we had such software, we'd be more than a little nervous about having it look over our shoulders. Yet, virtually all businesses already have software in place software that "knows about" vital and personal information: email systems, document management, KM, search engines, web browsers, even desktop apps and the desktop itself. Each of these stores data that could be embarrassing and invasive if it were gathered. (Software interior dialogue: "Smith has done 2,800 searches in the past 12 months for pages that contain the word 'without panties'... I'd bet he and his entire workgroup! would be interested in this new web site I've found!")
We could insure privacy by keeping all the information on the desktop. But when trying to make an organization smart, watching the behavior of groups is even more valuable. Ensuring that the information is aggregated anonymously would help. The trust issue is there, waiting to be solved. (Business, as always, should learn from the pornographers who have, by necessity, solved the hardest of all the privacy and personal humiliation issues.)
Until the thankful day when software relieves us of all our burdens, there are other steps we can take to find what matters and thus become smart.
If building a KM system, don't focus only on retrieving information, sharing knowledge or making tacit knowledge explicit. Those are all either implementation "details" or actual distractions from the hard problem: finding out what matters.
You can't assume that what matters to your industry will be discovered first within your industry. So, encourage folks to explore widely. Let them roam the Web and count it as part of their job. Aimless browsing isn't the point, but healthy curiosity is.
Enable communities of interest to form without restriction on topics (except where the laws covering obscenity and hate crimes apply, perhaps). The interests people have "outside" of work often are related in mysterious ways to their interests inside of work because people generally aren't neatly segmented into two parts connected by a commute. These communities will develop knowledge that may turn out to be crucial as your company's interests change. In other words, what doesn't matter today may matter tomorrow, and your employees' interests aren't nearly as random as they may seem.
Scrub the talk of benefits as a way of explaining the value of your services and products. Think instead about why they matter to your customers. The difference is that benefits are put forward as Universal Goods and thus are often bland and vague (cut costs, increase quality, shorten time, yada yada yada) while explaining what matters requires thinking through your customers' real interests.
There's more to being smart than just knowing what matters. You also have to be able to learn as a normal part of business life, you have to have the courage to change (i.e., become what you're not) as rapidly as required, you have to appreciate the many styles and types of intelligence. But being able to find what matters would sure be a good start.
Special Bonus for You Dirty Girls and Boys!
A second article that maintains that pornography has something to teach business! Just one of many reasons JOHO is better than The Harvard Business Review!
Pornography is fascinating by definition: it's what draws our sexual gaze even though we know it shouldn't. That's what differentiates pornography from erotica; pornography is always "dirty" whereas erotica is pornography we tell ourselves isn't dirty.
What the blazes does this have to do with intranets? Absolutely everything.
Pornography is all about drawing the line between the public and the private. Acts we do in private would be pornographic if shown on the titles-of-films-are-not-shown-in-your-bill channels in hotel rooms across the land. Pornography is about crossing the line that's been drawn.
Clearly, the line that we draw is at least to some degree arbitrary. We've seen the line drift over the past twenty years, for example, even on network tv. Even so, the line continues to serve its main purpose: to exist so that there can be a private and a public sphere.
The problem with pornography on the Internet is only secondarily the ready availability of it to children. The real threat is to the line itself. You may be a minister in the Divine Church of Abstinence, but you'll still eventually receive obscene offers via email. Mis-type a letter in an URL and you'll find yourself staring at pictures of twisting genitals. Go to a Web page with an innocent-sounding name and you may discover positions you didn't think were possible without hip surgery. The Internet routes around censorship, but also around decency. And privacy.
In short, the Internet isn't just moving the line. It's changing the nature of the line. It's making the line permeable, osmotic. And that means that the nature of being public and private is changing.
Intranets, by definition, are about drawing lines. An intranet uses passwords to keep some people in and most people out. And what's so private about this private realm? Not dirty pictures or unusual sex acts. What's private is the truth about the business: the products are not on track, there's disagreement about how much to spend on marketing, a big customer is unhappy, no one is yet quite sure how much to invest in a Linux, the industry standard the company lauds publicly is considered internally to be nothing but a dumb, pointless waste of time. These are the types of secrets intranets preserve from the eyes of the "public."
There is, of course, a realm of genuine secrets a company needs to keep, some for legal reasons and some because it would actually hurt if competitors found out. But those are the exception as the line becomes osmotic. Customers are finding direct routes into the organization. Employees are refusing to insult customers by handing them canned corporate responses and are instead engaging in conversations where doubt is permissible and certainty is arrogance.
We are thankfully approaching a time when the intranets are the same as extranets. Already on intranets, permissions vary from person to person: Joe in the HR department can access salary information but cannot access the list of possible acquisition targets, whereas Carla in engineering can see the bug database but not everyone's salary. Why not treat "external" folks, your partners and customers, the same way? Let them onto your intranet but keep them away from the information they really shouldn't see. But presume openness. Let them eavesdrop on the marketing conversations about which features are going to be in the product and which standards deserve nothing more than lip service. Let them listen to engineering discussions about the trade-offs that may have to be made. Let them do more than audit: let them join in the conversation. They are going to anyway, one way or another.
The line is becoming osmotic because the Web makes connections so easy. Your choices are either to fight a losing battle to patch all the holes in your roof ... or to learn to enjoy driving with the top down.
Why online dictionaries suck
It's not only software that can be difficult to integrate. Apparently the word lists Merriam-Webster uses for its online dictionary and online thesaurus (http://www.m-w.com) have some little inconsistencies. For example, if you look up "gallant" in the thesaurus, it recommends "preux." Alas, that word isn't in their dictionary. Likewise, it recommends "borné" for "narrow," which also is reported as a non-word by their dictionary. And it's not just Gaullisms that fail the test. The delightful word "evanishes" so perfect for describing the fate of once-promising Web companies is, alas, given by the thesaurus and taken by the dictionary. Perhaps it should be renamed the Merriam-Webster-Tantalus Dictionary and Thesaurus, eh?
Or maybe they could just spell check the thesaurus. (Question: How do they spell check their dictionary without committing the sin of plagiarism or onanism?)
Ann Wendell sends along an article by Paul Nicholls from InternetNews.com :
Demand Ventures has announced that it will unveil its Knowledge Exchange Auction Knexa.com on September 1. The new site will be the world's first to combine online auctions with the globally emerging demand for electronic knowledge exchange....Demand Ventures has developed an auction and delivery process through which portions of a person's or a business' knowledge can be valued through market driven forces and then sold.
I'd be much more interested in selling off old knowledge I no longer need if I could be certain that it'd be removed from me when transferred to the high bidder. Hell, how much do I hear for everything I learned from Miss Winkler in the 7th grade?
From: [email protected]
Sent: Sunday, August 01, 1999 10:31 PM
To: [email protected]
Subject: Dream Vacation Getaway!! Win Florida/Cruise Sweepstakes!!...
Delete the spam, but don't bogart that domain name, muh friend.
Bret Pettichord sends us the following report on the depths of marketing:
Ambrosia Takes the Bug Free Pledge: Marketing Director will eat real insects if products ship with bugs. http://www.ambrosiasw.com/PRs/eatbugs_PR.html
We have bad news for the Marketing Director: I don't know about bugs, but your product is pure crap. Need a spoon?
Dave Baker wrote to us about something. His signature includes the following lines:
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
T.S. Eliot - Choruses from "The Rock"
Eliot - Poet Laureate of Knowledge Management.
Links I like
Chris RageBoy Locke, publisher of EGR, points us to a anarcho-syndicalist pinko socialist article: Anarchism Triumphant: Free Software and the Death of Copyright
Greg Cavanagh, ever vigilant in his search for the validation of Linux, sends us a link to information about a "Beowulf-style" cluster of 1,000 Pentiums.
Beowulf "style"?? Do I smell a copyright violation somewhere?
RageBoy also forwards the following
From: Virtual Crack
Sent: Thursday, August 12, 1999 5:18 PM
Subject: You have some crack!
[Someone] has reserved some virtual crack rock for you! To pick it up, all you need to do is point your web browser at: http://www.virtualcrack.com
Your dealer's pager number is: [number] Your dealer will hold on to this crack for 30 days from the date of this notification. Your crack will be re-sold or smoked after that date.
Oh, sending virtual crack to RageBoy is such a good idea, like dangling a small annoying child in front of a velociraptor.
Michael Heim, the philosopher of virtual beingness, points us to an article about what he's up to:
Knowledge Management journal, the best thing to come out of Antwerp since the invention of ants and twerps, has a new issue out:
I admit it. I clicked on a banner ad that asked me to catch a monkey or something, and I got taken to www.treeloot.com, a site that has calibrated to within the width of a synapse the amount of positive reinforcement people need to keep poking at a picture of a tree hoping to find a square that will win them money. As you fail, the site starts heaping abuse on you for not clicking on any of the banner ads. This is a site almost Dostoyevskian in its understanding of the dark regions of the human soul where guilt, sin and the purifying effect of punishment live. Either that, or it's like a really good scratch-and-win card.
Middle World ResourcesA Compendium of Resources
Walking the Walk
According to an article by Jacquelyn Lynn in the odious magazine, Entrepreneur (Sept.), Brunswick Technologies, which "produces engineered reinforcement fabrics that are used in a variety of products, including boats, skis, snowboards and automotive parts." (Motto: "We don't make a variety of products, we make the fabrics that reinforce a variety of products"), has discovered that it helps if their employees have some slight idea of what it is that they make. According to their COO, letting employees see and use the final product "gives them an appreciation for the need to meet customer specifications that might not otherwise make sense or seem necessary."
This has nothing to do with the Web, but the Web sure could facilitate this type of "knowledge sharing" (i.e., the type that answers the question: "What the hail do we make, anyway?").
According to Internet World News (Aug. 1), Yahoo Store has computed the median order size based on the the number of characters before the at sign in a buyer's email address. The largest median order, $44, was for 4-character names. The size quickly drops off as the name length increased. (Numbers below are approximate.)
Length Median order Length Median order 1 35 9 40 2 44 10 40 3 44 11 40 4 44 12 40 5 44 13 40 6 40 14 40 7 42 15 36 8 40 16 40
Email, Arbitrary Insults, and Suspicious Hacking Coughs
Jamie Popkin of The Gartner Group responds to our musings about browsing and portals:
One of the big challenges facing overburdened workers is the time wasted and stress created by context switching... A portal can help reduce the perception of context switching when browsing for information by creating a common context from which to launch one's curiosity. In browsing, the individual controls the velocity and disparity of context switching and is thus more satisfied than if it is forced externally.
If the portal is listing interesting links that bounce the user out to CNN, a competitor's site and the Gartner service, then one of the reasons you might choose to browse is precisely to get your contexts switched. Sure, context switching decreases efficiency because there are some moments of confusion. But switching contexts is how you learn, stay interested, broaden your perspective, etc., right? (I wish I knew more about the actual research on context switching. I'm just making stuff up, as usual.) So, I think I'm agreeing with you
Dylan Barrell writes in response to our comments in the same article about the corporate attempt to distract us from browsing:
If I follow you, I *think* the answer has something to do with locating fruitful fields for browsing which corporate portals ought to do (IMO). Within those fields, there are plenty of distractions in a sense, everything you're not interested in is a distraction. Some are more distracting than others, e.g., an effective banner ad promoting something you don't care about. But I don't believe that corporations can "pre-browse" for their employees and keep 'em within designated grazing fields without paying a very stiff price because the most important thing a knowledge worker does is follow her interests she's good precisely because she's good at browsing (on and off the Web). BTW, putting URLs into a project library is a *good* way to instigate fruitful browsing.
Hmm, try as I may, I have surprisingly little disagreement with this. (By the way, when Dylan talks about project libraries, he's covertly touting his company's product, Open Text Livelink. But since he has the good grace not to make that explicit, I'm throwing in the plug for him.)
Steven Birnam writes with a desperate plea for help:
Read your article on JetForm and UWI.com. ... Can someone please define/redefine OPEN STANDARDS (does it mean: Standards open to each or any vendor's interpretation or marketing tactic?)
Gosh, that's an easy one. An open standard is a standard that isn't determined by any one commercial entity. Open standards therefore better serve the needs of the market because random groups of standards-crazed geeks are far more in touch with market needs than companies that rise or fall on their ability to deliver products suited to the needs of customers.
But you may be confusing open standards with The Open Standards Gambit, which is as follows: A company such as JetForm or UWI.com announces an Open Standard that they have devised on their own in order to meet the needs of their software, um, their market. The proposing company hopes that the market will univocally accept the new standard with a loud Huzzah!, thus confusing its enemies so that the company can slay them during the six month "window" before the competitor can implement the new standard.
This gambit has never been known to work.
Robert Weideman writes:
The digital forms space has never taken off, with Jetform probably the best of the worst. UWI has nearly as many partners as customers, which is to say that they don't have many users to point to.
Robert then highly recommends using PDF for your eforms, and conveniently points out that his company (Cardiff) and Adobe "announced a strategic partnership in this area at AIIM in April..." (Please keep the cards, letters and press releases comin', folks.) Well, ok, but PDF is a de facto standard where the integrity of format counts, but it isn't when it comes to eforms, and, because it is a proprietary standard, it is unlikely to achieve de facto-ness in this arena, IMO.
Joshua Newman responds to my writing: "...JetForm (the market share leader in eforms by virtue of having bought its major competitor a while ago)..."
I believe it was A. J. Leibling of blessed memory who compared newspapers to prizefighters, saying that when faced with a rival, a newspaper will usually offer to buy it - this is sometimes done in the boxing ring too, but it is frowned upon. I wish I could quote him exactly. I can quote this pretty accurately, though, same author: "I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and I can write faster than anybody who can write better." He was right.
We are happy to run anything that returns Leibling's name in print. As for me, I can write gooder than anyone who can write slower and slower than anyone who can write English. And I'm damn proud of it.
Sharon VanderKaay responds to my writing: "we might say that knowledge workers are people who get paid to sit on their fat asses all day." She suggests that knowledge workers are:
people who handle exceptions.
I like it! Everyone knows that exceptions are where the fun is. I'd only add: "while sitting on their fat asses," to exclude Red Adair and the brave staff of ER.
Jon Pyke writes, in response to last issue's coverage of the great Dunkin Donuts Rebellion:
The thing that has always puzzled me (speaking as a non-American but frequent visitor) is why the prefix "Dunking"? I can only assume it is some cultural thing or tradition that I am not party to since on the very rare occasions I have visited such establishments - every visitor worth his/her salt tries at least once - the second time is normally as a result of being too drunk to find anywhere else - I can never fit them in the coffee cups to actually dunk.
As a bonus for our transatlantic neighbors, allow me to explain how to dunk a donut. Pinch the torus between thumb and forefinger and rip out a chunk. Dip the end of the chunk into your coffee. You now dip one of the severed ends of donut and eat the newly-moistened morsel. Now it's a race the fun part! to finish the dipping of the donut before it dissolves back into the mucilage from which it came, coating the coffee with a quarter inch oil slick.
Hey, it beats warm beer, anyway.
Richard Brockhaus, my former philosophy teacher and author of one of the best books on Wittgenstein ("Pulling Up the Ladder"), writes:
Announcer on WETA - our PBS station here - one rainy day (a mere memory here, I should (and did) add.): "There's a lot of possible accidents out there that haven't happened." Consider the ontological commitment of THAT one! Of the possible accidents out there, some have the property of having happened, and some don't. (You Pheenomenolgists prolly have no problem with that.)
Phenomenologists? Heck, "pro-lifers" have built a political movement around this idea!
Kyle, Lord Patrick, writes:
Heard much about MIT's Oxygen project? If not, you might want to check out this month's Scientific American. Oxygen is more or less an attempt to integrate voice recognition, voice synthesis, knowledge management and retrieval, all known forms of communication (cell phone, AM/FM radio, walkie talkie, pager, web), and a bunch of other stuff into a single neato system. Basically, everyone would carry around these little cell-phoneish devices called Handy 21s, which would serve as the human interface to the system. The backbone of it would be a whole lot of servers and infrared and such, which would let people communicate and access information through simple language ("What was the title of last month's sales report?" would yield the appropriate answer, for example).
The MIT boys are, well, pretty fucking ambitious, but it looks like they might be able to pull a lot of it off. For one thing, they've designed an entirely new processor architecture (Raw) to allow a single device to function like a whole lot of devices. In theory, Raw chips should be able to replace the need to have specialized electronics to act as radios, graphics cards, network cards, or most anything. No need to buy more devices, all you need are more (or bigger) Raw chips. The trick is that the software itself configures the chip to act as the proper device. The one flaw that I can think of is the overhead of resetting the chip continuously to different configurations, which is what a multitasking environment would require (unless you could use parts of it for different stuff). On the plus side, it's segmented architecture reduces the space in between storage and processors, so cycles frequencies of 15 GASH wouldn't be too radical a prediction. So, here're the fun links:
It's under August 1999, all 4 articles deal with it.
I'm a little familiar with Oxygen. On the surface (i.e., I'm already over my head) it sounds like another MIT/PARC vision that will never see the light of day. With luck, I'll never have to really understand it.
Dalit Boutboul ventures:
I gleefully report to you a typo in your essay: hypnogogic doesn't exist. You probably meant: hypnAgogic, which I hope my email isn't.
Dalit, if I said "hypnogogic" then I damn well meant "hypnogogic." Please adjust your attitude. Now pardon me while I give in to an uncontrollable urge to act like a chicken.
Continuing the International Festival of Correction, Glenn "Clinton Glenn" Clinton writes about our Dunkin Donuts article. In particular, he is concerned about my comparison of donuts with what it takes to grease a fleet of aircraft:
You may want to consider a different analogy when referring to the 1235 grams of fat and a fleet of Flying Tigers, especially with a questionable reference to Normandy. On the other hand, loyal visitors to DD probably have such clogged arteries that little blood gets to the brain anyway and they wouldn't pick up on it.
Oh, Glenn, I wouldn't underestimate the perspicuity of our nation's donut-fed masses. And ever since Spielberg's megahit, "Saving Private Fryin'," tens of millions of people around the world understand the heroic role dough soaked in hot fat played in saving the world in 1945.
On a surprisingly similar note, I received the following from Dr. Michael Tulloch in response to my saying something about a Bruce Willis scene in one of the Die Hards where he says to himself "Think! Think!" I said: "Yeah, the last resort when your ammo clip jams." Dr. Tulloch writes:
I don't believe that Bruce Boy used any WWII or earlier rifles. You probably meant to refer to a "magazine". Magazines rarely jam but poorly constructed or maintained magazines can cause a weapon to jam.
Striving to correct all errors about firearms and firearm use. A truly hopeless task.
I accept the correction but maintain that had I said "Yeah, the last resort when your magazine jams," there would have been no fruitful laughter engendered, only confusion, given that JOHO itself jams so frequently.
Also, Dr. Tulloch, I personally would sleep better if you changed hobbies.
Bogus contest: : Comparatives
Famous philosopher, logician, pacifist and thin guy Bertrand Russell created a game beloved of Philosophy 101 classes around the world who view it as less boring than a lecture and more interesting than a film strip on Socrates' Greece. The challenge is to find three terms that have the same denotation but three different connotations, one positive, one neutral and one negative. For example: I'm dedicated, you're persistent, he's pig-headed.
So, now let's do 'em for the Web:
I have lots of friends You broadcast information He is a spammer My site is dynamic Yours is under construction His site sucks I publish a zine
You post your writings
He blathers on I use a knowledge management systems You make tacit knowledge explicit He just blew$1.5M I have a corporate portal Your company has an internal home page His company put up an internal billboard I surf You browse He's lost on the Web
I propose a contest. You enter. He saves his time.
The previous issue's contest asked you for names for mailing lists consisting of ex-employees of a company. The real-life example was Interleaf's mailing list: interleft.
Bob Treitman of Softpro book stores writes:
Los Angeles Int'l Airport exlax OK
If I'm not mistaken, ex-Booklink is bookends.
But Bob isn't done yet:
On a slightly related note... You might (or might not) know that every book has an ISBN (International Standard Book Number, I think) that is pronounced "iz bin." We refer to books that have gone out-of-print as having Has-beens.
John T. Maloney suggests:
Du Pont Do!Punt
General Electric - Generally_Elected_To_Leave
Ross Wirth essays:
Too easy: CITGO CITGone
Scott Oglesby proposes:
AltaVista - HastaLaVista
Wired - Retired
Apple - OutCiders
Gateway - OutToPasture
Home Depot - Depohted
Lucent - LetLuce
Caterpillar - Butterflies
PG+E - LastOnesOut [... shut off the lights]
Gershom Bazerman gives us the following self-negating entry:
No bogus contest entries this time. Well, one. Manpower = MYpower, and, even though it isn't operational ICANN = I-WONT, because a pun on ICANN is too hard to pass up.
Keith Davidson, President of Xplor International which was, at one point, the Xerox users group, writes:
I always thought that the former Xerox employees group should be called Ex-rox, to be palindromically correct. (It's actually called X-X, which qualifies homonymically)
In response to a previous contest, Ben Tye writes:
I was reading a profile of Tom Norris (philosopher turned business guru ) in the latest edition of Fast Company when I came across a genuine example for the thematic recycling contest. If Aristotle ran General Motors : The New Soul of Business (Henry Holt 1997) - Tom Norris What a dumb title !. It just goes to show that truth (what is truth anyway ?) is stranger than fiction.
From Robbert "Bbob" Baruch comes the following missive:
It all comes together now. There was a square in Prague called "Leninska"; after the revolution it renamed "Davidska". It's true. Go check it. You changed your name with it, and your original name (or nickname) was "Lenin". That is why you claim that Elvis is dead. (Oh yes, and class struggle is alive and kicking. duh). It all is clear to me now. You, sir, are a communist, and JOHO is in fact at the forefront of the dialectical materialistic struggle for a class-free society. Or something. "Comrade".
Fortunately I work in a bank. This means I am a liberal, earn a lot of money and work an average of 40 hours a week, which gives me enough time to enjoy such hallmarks of american culture like "The Jerry Springer Show", from which I picked up words like "dissing". I pick up other words as well, but I fail to pronounce that beeping sound that goes with it. The secret of Americans on TV beeping is the same secret of German pornomovies, where girls are in fact able to talk with penises in their mouths. The world is full of strange things.
Now, as far as the contest is concerned: I did not realise I was supposed to be funny. On most parts of this world called Internet, "Funny" for americans means "Punny", and I think pun-humour is about as funny as a turd. I will not send in a contribution: I am still lacking imagination. However I wish to participate in the draw for free tickets to Disneyland. Do I win anything?
Americans punny? I don't stink so!
And so another smelly, obscene issue of JOHO ends, one with a record number of "fuck"s, some user-contributed, some added for the literary zing, and some inscribed in order to record the fiercely robotic reaction of Condescension Filters. It is a word that now has only the semblance of shock, like laughing at your boss's joke or pretending to find the latest random scrawl of your child so unexpectedly exquisite that it has to stay on your refrigerator for 8 years. "Oh, it says 'fuck' in this zine! It's terminally cool!" No, the coolness JOHO seeks could never be found by using a depleted expletive. We seek warmer climes in which the only shocks are those of deep-piled Turkish terry cloth abrading skin made sensitive by warm salt water and the ministrations of tapering fingers raveling the subcute (punny American for "subcutaneous") furlings of care-fed muscle and ligature, tying together letters like loose-jointed limbs, sentences like cats sleeping together in the wicker baskets of paragraphs. That's the day we yearn for, a single journey around the sun uninterrupted by fricative phonemes and punny Americans indulging in cursive writing, which is where we leave this frickin' issue, punking out at the end, thinking perhaps we'll sneak by the nanny dozing in the hallway after all.
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.
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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.
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