Joho the BlogMarch 2002 - Joho the Blog

March 31, 2002

Notice of Service Interruption I’m

Notice of Service Interruption

I’m going to be in China and Thailand until April 7, speaking at a couple of IBM conferences. I will do my best to blog from there, but please don’t think that silence in this blog means I don’t love you all very very much.

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MiscLinks Lemurzone’s interview with Tom


Lemurzone’s interview with Tom Matrullo, a beautiful and remarkably learned writer, is a treat.

Peterme says: “You’ll enjoy this.” It’s called “Web Radio, Community, And Streaming Capitalism (A Brief Meditation).” Peterme is right. For example, it says:

The cultural technology of the World Wide Web is invested with all sorts of utopian and dystopian mythic narratives, from those which project a future of a revitalized, Web-based, public sphere and civil society to those which imagine the catastrophic implosion of the social into the simulated virtuality of the Web. But whether such imaginings are optimistic or foreboding, they are indications of what Robert Romanyshyn has termed the “re-enchantment of the world” through the magic of technology.

This reminds me so much of RageBoy‘s saying that through the Web we’re learning to love the world again.

Glenn Fleishman responds to my comments about that damned NY Times article about the fall-off of interest in the Web. He says he has “no malaise because I’ve reinvented myself every year or so. I’m not in the same business I was two years ago and certainly not the one from 8 years ago.” Good point.

(I tried reinventing myself last year but ran into patent issues.)

Chip sends us to an article in The Chicago Tribune that sites the Asia Times about the “network of multiple Caspian pipelines” the US is developing. For example, a proposed pipeline linking Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey is represented by James Baker’s law firm. Yes, that James Baker.

I know this has already made it onto and off of the Daypop Top 40, but Mark Dionne points us to truly snarky coverage of the Oscars over at Salon. Very funny.

Also already high in the Top 40 but well worth reading is Dan Gillmor’s piece on the journalistic “pivot point.” I get a little chill – the good kind – reading it.

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March 30, 2002

Hollings Is an Ass From

Hollings Is an Ass

From a posting by Peter Kaminski to a mailing list I’m on:

Here are some links [about the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act] I’ve collected. The first is a Declan McCullagh column that received wide weblog coverage, in which among other things he publishes a soon-to-be-felonious digital duplication program in its entirety:


Please visit the second and particularly the third links, wherein Senators Leahy and Hatch and the Senate Committee on the Judiciary are soliciting opinions on this and related matters via web form. Interactive government, what a concept!

Remember to cc your comments to your representatives, who may be found via the EFF link.

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That Damn NY Times Article

That Damn NY Times Article

Jennifer has blogged about the NY Times article about how no one cares about the Web any more. My own reaction to the article was that it’s the typical “go contrary” topic that gives journalists something to write about. Heck, I do it all the time. (Stop me before I go contrary again!)

Then I tried thinking that it’s just an artifact of mainstreaming of the Web. That we take the Web for granted actually proves how important it is. (Go contrary with a half-gainer!) E.g., when asked to point to a way in which the Web has affected real world business, I often point to email which we’ve already forgotten has transformed memos, meetings, org charts, etc.

Then I tried thinking that I have a tremendous self-interest in maintaining that the Web is a transforming technology, especially with a new book just out on the topic. So I put my fingers in my ears and cried “Nah ni nah ni nah ni” alllll the way home.

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March 29, 2002

Is the Web a Medium?

Is the Web a Medium?

I blogged yesterday about why I think the Web isn’t a medium. My comment “A medium is something we send messages through whereas our talk of the Web indicates that we move through the Web — we go places, we surf, we enter sites” drew this response from C. McClellan

This is a very narrow definition of medium. Water is the medium through which a fish moves and in which it lives. All previous definitions seem to have been trampled underfoot and forgotten. Medium is not always equivalent to the various forms of broadcasting which dominate our society.

That said, the whole discussion of what the web is or isn’t has gotten pretty silly. People will continue to use it as they see fit, and it will evolve as it must, regardless of how it is defined.

Yes, the term “medium” has many meanings. What word doesn’t? But, our culture has broadly accepted the Whorfian idea that meaning / information / a message is transported between two points via a medium; that’s why “The medium is the message” was such a powerful meme. In the context of communications, a medium is not like the fish’s water. And, given the context, that is the understanding against which I was arguing. (Ok, “arguing” is a bit of a stretch. “Proclaiming,” perhaps.)

As for who gets to define what the Web is: No one. Who gets to try to understand it? Everyone. (And I don’t think it’s silly to try.) Who gets to stipulate a new metaphor? No one. Who gets to try out new metaphors to see if they throw light on the topic? Everyone. Who gets to ask questions which he then answers? Apparently me. Who gets tired of this rhetorical device rather quickly? Everyone.

Jennifer Balderama also isn’t entirely taken in by the notion that the Web isn’t a medium. As almost always, it comes to what you mean by the term. So, let me recast my comment: The Web isn’t primarily something through which we send messages. It is a space we go through.

But Jennifer anticipates this, writing:

But the fact is that I’m still physically sitting here in my chair…We use “go to” and “surf” to describe our actions because they are the terms familiar to us that best simulate our clicking from spot to spot on the Web.

Yes, but we use those terms because they somehow seem to fit our experience of the Web. It’s navigable. And in our real world experience, navigable things tend to be spaces. And how did “spot” get into Jennifer”s description? If the Web has spots, it has spaces (or, possibly, measles, but I don’t think that’s what she means.) So, it still seems to me that there’s something importantly spatial about the Web, although it’s not clear exactly what.

As for us moving through the Web, yeah, I admit it’s a stretch. But I’m not sure it’s the wrong stretch. It obviously requires some hand-waving about what a “self” is, but waving hands is how big planes get parked. (Block that metaphor!)

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New, completely self-centered issue of

New, completely self-centered issue of JOHO

I’ve just published a new issue of my (free) newsletter, JOHO. Here’s the table of contents:

the book is about
: It’s harder to say than it sounds…
review I dread
: It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of how
children’s version
: Yes, I wrote a children’s version. No, I don’t
know why.
Early reviews, etc.
to arms
: Don’t make me beg
Bogus Contest
: What the hell did I mean?

By the way, it contains a parody of RageBoy that has provoked him like a flashbulb going off near a tethered ape. What was I thinking?

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March 28, 2002

Saltire Reviews My Formerly Upcoming

Saltire Reviews My Formerly Upcoming Book

Thanks, Steve.

Steve thinks he’s summarizing part of my book when he says “It’s not the medium, it’s the message.” The messages will continue, he says, even if the medium changes. By gum, I hadn’t thought of it that way, but he’s right! That’s another reason why it’s a mistake to think of the Web as a medium.

In fact, let’s summarize the Top Three Reasons Why the Web Isn’t a Medium.

1. A medium is something we send messages through whereas our talk of the Web indicates that we move through the Web – we go places, we surf, we enter sites.

2. When you call it a medium, the broadcast boys get erections. (And the broadcast girls get more head lumps from jumping up against the glass ceiling.)

3. The Web is “content” – us writing stuff to and for another another – not the transmission medium.

Anyway, I love Steve’s review and not just because it’s so positive.


A Plea to Bill Gates:

A Plea to Bill Gates: Free the Ideas!

“But don’t you worry about Bill Gates getting control of all your personal data and taking control of the entire Net?” I’ve been doing radio interviews in support of my Upcoming Book, and that’s what the interviewer wanted to know after I said something optimistic about the Internet.

Damn straight I worry about Gates. Microsoft wants to own not just the desktops but the connections. They’d even like to own our identities. (See Doc on the topic.) They are clever enough to get away with it if we’re not vigilant. But Microsoft is still constrained by some market forces. Yes, Microsoft twisted the market’s Invisible Hand until all it could do was salute smartly in the direction of Redmond. But the market is still capable of containing Microsoft’s hegemony. Just barely. Maybe.

I am far more worried about the entertainment-legislative complex. Because the market has emphatically rejected its business model, it’s perilously close to rewriting the software and hardware rules to force the market to comply. The government is both venal and stupid enough to do it.

Too bad Microsoft, dreaming of being an entertainment company and getting to invite Jeff Katzenberg over for some barbecue, is siding with the IP anal-compulsives. Microsoft lusts after getting a micro-slice of every entertainment bit that passes on to one of “their” desktops. But you know what? They may make the Windows I run on my machine, but it’s my desktop.

So, here’s my plea to Bill Gates: Be the white knight. Swing your mighty sword in favor of building the most vibrant marketplace for ideas and creativity the earth has ever seen. Storm the halls of Congress. Make it your personal compaign, Bill. You’ll help grow your market so radically that you won’t need to own it all to be the richest man on the planet. And you’ll also be one of the most loved. We all applaud the Gates Foundation, but this is your real chance to change history. Become the digital millennium’s Medici, not its Savonarola.

Besides, wouldn’t you rather barbecue with Courtney Love than Jeffrey Katzenberg?

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My Upcoming Book – Upcoming

My Upcoming Book – Upcoming No More

Although it may not seem like it, I’ve actually been restrained in promoting my Upcoming Book. But I’m girding my loins. Amazon is now shipping the book. Bob Treitman at the SoftPro bookstore tells me that books have actually arrived. So, apparently my book is Upcoming no more.

If you have already read an advance copy of the book, please feel free to write a review at Amazon. I wouldn’t exactly mind a surge of interest.

Also, Marek elicited a Marekian interview with me about the process of writing the book. You can read it here.

So far, I’ve been pleased with the level of interest. The Boston Globe ran an excerpt in their Sunday magazine. I’ve done a few radio interviews and have a bunch more coming up. The book is being considered for review by the appropriate places. And I’ve solemnly vowed to become ruthlessly self-promotional. Any help you can give in getting the word out I will greatly appreciate.


Musical Blogs Phil Jones writes:

Musical Blogs

Phil Jones writes:

BeatBlog is an attempt to blog in music.

Currently I’m just concentrating on posting musical fragments on a regular basis, but I’m hoping to find other people to join in with their own musical blogs and create a blogroll. Then we can link and comment by sampling and remixing each other’s micro-pieces. The idea is to see what kind of music evolves in this ecology.

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