David Weinberger's Weblog. Let's just see how it goes.
Sunday, June 30, 2002
Bricklin on Bluetooth
Dan Bricklin responds to my paraphrasing of his comments about Bluetooth. This is interesting material:
6/30/2002 11:35:57 AM | PermaLink
Saturday, June 29, 2002
Software Council retreat
I spent Friday at the Massachusetts Software and Internet Council's board retreat. I carefully took notes on the other guests' presentations and just as carefully left my notepad there. So, here are four highlights as I remember them, in no particular order.
1. Something David Boloker of IBM said in his clear and succinct talk on Web Services set off both John Landry (ex-Lotus CTO and now an investor and multi-board member) and Dan Bricklin who were both in the audience of about 25. Landry is enthusiastic about Web services as a way of integrating applications but thinks that the vision of applications roaming the Web, searching out services, and melding themselves into mega-meta-apps is overblown. In particular, he isn't convinced of the value of large, public UDDI directories that list all the available services of various apps. Boloker replied that he saw UDDI's value mainly within private application spaces; for example, within an automotive suppliers exchange, a UDDI directory of parts and app services might be helpful. Bricklin pointed to a consequence worse than the under-utilization of these directories. He's worried that the Web services protocols are being architected to serve such a wide range of possible-but-farfetched uses that they are getting freighted down with baggage for a trip no one will take; he pointed to SOAP in particular. I hadn't heard this concern before.
3. John Benditt, who until recently was the editor of MIT's Technology Review, talked about how nanotechnology — in particular, carbon nanotubes — will be used within computers. He said that within 18-24 months, flat-panel TVs will be available at prices competitive with the normal tube-based models, with better quality picture, driven by nanotech. A sheet of carbon nanotubes will replace the electron gun, for they emit electrons when you run a current through them and can thus be used to excite the phosphorescent coating that produces the light that wastes our time. He said that companies such as Samsung are promising this, and that the technology will be applied to computer displays after TVs. Cool! He also said that if you place two layers of nanotubes perpendicular to one another, you can cause the tubes to align or not, thus providing an incredibly dense storage mechanism, eventually packing a terabit (ok, here comes some math: a terabit = 1/8 a terabyte = 128 gigabytes?) into a 1 cm square surface. And it is non-volatile, i.e., you can turn off the power and it retains its state. Finally, he said that companies are working on nanotube CPUs which would let Moore's law reign into the foreseeable future.
4. Landry talked about the importance of wireless, which he sees as the next leader in the 7 year technology cycle. He and Bricklin were at each other like cats in a sack over Bluetooth. Bricklin is all like "802.11 is going to kick Bluetooth's butt" and Landry is all like "Bluetooth works and is being built into devices" and Bricklin is all like "It's too expensive" and Landry goes "It's $4 per chip from TI" and Bricklin is all like "Your pits smell" and Landry goes "He who smelt it dealt it and besides Bluetooth can support up to 7 simultaneous connections" and then Dintersmith did a flying anvil at Benditt but missed and landed on a plate of cookies that dumped on Judith Hurwitz who put Dintersmith into a powerlock while Benditt did the drum solo from In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida on him with his own PCMCIA card. And then I had to leave because my Mom was like honking the car outside for me.
But seriously, it was a great way to spend a day. I learned a lot.
BTW, Dan comments in his blog on a Pew study of how people actually use Broadband. [Spoiler ahead:] We don't use it the same way they use TV. We actually create and share content rather than simply viewing it.
Dan also has some excellent save-yourself-the-trip blog coverage of what used to be called PC Expo but now has been renamed to "PC-Cella" or "12:06pm" or"Pepsi Presents 12:06pm" or some damn thing.
[Full disclosure: I "sampled" (= stole) the "Pepsi presents..." joke from the Simpsons.]
6/29/2002 12:23:58 PM | PermaLink
Friday, June 28, 2002
I've been doing email with some academic researchers about a paper they published. They kindly sent me PDFs of other papers and have sent me more as the discussion enlarged. They're sending me the PDFs because the academic journal that published the papers charges for access to the online versions.
So, a journal that undoubtedly sees its mission as filtering and distributing serious and important research in fact now is in the access-prevention business. It sucks no less for being typical.
6/28/2002 05:38:53 PM | PermaLink
Thursday, June 27, 2002
"Minority Report" Report
[No spoilers ahead]
Saw it yesterday afternoon (at the Loser Matinee). Liked it. I'm a sucker for Spielberg's facility with the language of the cinema; that is, he puts a movie together real good. I even tolerated Tom Cruise who I actually find pretty creepy to look at. The last third dragged, though, as it spun through plot twists as if we couldn't see 'em coming.
But, ultimately, it pretends to be about something but is in fact about nothing. The premise is ludicrous, even accepting that the police might find themselves with the ability to predict when murders are about to happen. We would prevent the murders but wouldn't necessarily punish people for the murders they haven't committed. The inability to see that distinction drives the plot, and drove me to distraction.
Also dragging it down: a nondescript John Williams score and an overly-muted palette. On the positive side: Lots of witty touches in the sets.
6/27/2002 10:22:59 AM | PermaLink
Self on the Net: Actual Damn Research
An anonymous source has forwarded to me a pay-for-download article: "Can You See the Real Me? Activation and Expressoin of the 'True Self' on the Internet" in Journal of Social Issues (vol. 58, no. 1, pp. 33-48), by John A. Bargh, Katelyn Y.A. McKenna and Grainne M. Fitzimmons of NYU. It gives evidence that there's some reality to the self we present on the Net.
The researchers begin with Carl Rogers' belief that people often feel that elements of who they are don't surface in face-to-face interactions. Their hypothesis is that the anonymity of Internet encounters enables those elements to surface. They then did a set of experiments that confirmed this. Further, "features of Internet interaction facilitate the projection onto the partner of idealized qualities." While this sounds to the naive (= me) like a Bad Thing, in fact:
Note that this study looks at anonymous interactions, not at long-term relationships built up through email and weblogs.
Normally, I wouldn't pay much mind to this type of research, but since it confirms my prejudices, I'm suddenly all in favor of it. (You can find the abstract here.)
6/27/2002 09:49:57 AM | PermaLink
Jon, correctly guessing that I'll be drawn to his coinage "linktoitiveness" the way an Atlantic City mayor is drawn to a hotel room with a suitcase of money on the bed and a two-way mirror on the wall, suggests that being linked-to is not the only mark of page quality. We know empirically that it's a damn successful heuristic, but we also know that the system can be gamed and that the most popular kids aren't the only ones you ever want to eat lunch with.
On the other hand, we could also say that Google isn't trying to find the most worthy pages for us, just the ones we're most likely looking for. The search for worthiness is best accomplished through other means, i.e., give up.
Anyway, it's a really tasty can o' worms that Joe and Jon have opened up.
6/27/2002 08:53:25 AM | PermaLink
Wednesday, June 26, 2002
Dave is munching on baby carrots and trying to undo his association of smoking with his daily routine. Dave, welcome back and, having watched my mother die of lung cancer (my proposed tagline for the tobacco industry: "The Fun that Killed Your Mommy"), you've got all my best wishes for kicking the habit. But please expect it to take years and even decades.
In the early 70s, when I was a graduate student and dorky practices were considered acceptable, I smoked a pipe. I didn't inhale. I stopped when our first daughter was born. Five years later, I still found myself reaching for the pipes I'd thrown out. My daughter is twenty now and, believe it or not, I still get the urge. Rarely, but it's as if the smoke got woven into my DNA. I almost involuntarily inhale deeply when passing through someone else's pipe smoke. (Mmmmm, Amphora!) I can't imagine the difficulty of withdrawing if I'd been mainlining the stuff directly into my lungs.
So, please, Dave, be patient with yourself. We want you around for a long time.
Oh, and fuck the tobacco industry.
6/26/2002 10:58:41 AM | PermaLink
Collaborate East: Brief Report
A brief report on yet another disappointingly-attended conference: Collaborate East in Boston.
Actually, this won't be much of a report because I was only there for a 4-hour seminar. I did stick my head into the grand hall where the keynote was to be given by Robert Reich; the rows and rows of folding chairs had been replaced by a handful of round tables, making it look like the set up for a bar mitzvah for an unpopular only child. Reich is running for governor in Massachusetts and the size of the audience measures the popularity of the conference much more than his popularity. At least I hope so since I voted for him in the primary.
I also stuck my head into the exhibit hall; the press wasn't allowed in until the hall opens because we apparently couldn't stand to learn that the booths don't magically assemble themselves while whistling merry tunes. The exhibitors include many of the important players, but if the size of the floor is an indication of the health of the industry, you might want to consider investing in Nigerian beefsteak mines. On the other hand, if you want to speak with some of the key players in the field, this would be a great opportunity. Likewise, the conference schedule could keep you busy for a couple of days. What's bad news for the industry and the conference organizers could be excellent news for attendees.
The seminar I participated in had just 10 paying participants, but they were the type of people the conference organizgers undoubtedly wanted: mainly from large companies, trying to figure out how to use collaborative technology to save money and make money. When we went around the table asking why people were there, I was surprised that almost all of them were interested primarily in software to enable virtual meetings. Obviously that's important, but as Jeffrey Stamps and Jessica Lipnack (the "Virtual Teams" authors) put it, the synchronous collaborative tools need to be complemented by the asynchronous. After all, we're always working collaboratively even when we're not meeting, so we're really looking at a new context for work, not just some new tools.
The seminar seemed to go well. In part that was due to the inherently gonzo approach taken by the session's sponsor. eRoom is an important company in this space, but not only was there no — no! — eRoom presentation, they even invited two speakers who are affiliated with Open Text, eRoom's competitor. You have to respect them for that.
6/26/2002 10:00:33 AM | PermaLink
Not-So-Long Bet: Bloggery's First Firing
Any bets on who will be the first capital-J to be fired because of something she or he blogs?
The scenario is easy to predict in its general shape: A journalist writes something in her blog that draws letters to the editor that say: "How can we trust this person to report the news fairly when we know that she holds such outrageous, insensitive, prejudiced beliefs? If she's a bigot on the Internet, how can we trust her not to be a bigot in your newspaper?" The journalist refuses to retract. The newspaper fires her.
Unfortunately, the early adopters of bloggery among capital-J's, who are some of my favorite and most respected bloggers, are the best candidates because the fact that they were early adopters indicates that they are unafraid of speaking their minds. Ulp.
6/26/2002 09:35:19 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, June 25, 2002
Best New Feature (Dept. of Redundancy Dept.)
HWM, a glossy magazine from Singapore for the hardware industry, surveys the field of new cell phones and opens its review of the Mitsubishi Trium Eclipse as follows:
Gosh, a cell phone with a microphone! What will they think of next?
6/25/2002 03:11:18 PM | PermaLink
I'll be late blogging today because I agreed to participate in a session on "The Future Workplace" at the Collaborate conference this morning. I agreed because it's local and I'd be going anyway to see what's up. More important, I like the company — eRoom — that put the panel together, and I'll get to spend some time with co-panelists Jessica Lipnack and Jeff Stamps, the urbane authors of "Virtual Teams." I did somehow manage to ignore the fact that it is a four hour panel. Oy veh.
So, this is a meta-blog entry. Which works for me because last night I had two meta-dreams. In one, I analyzed the dream of a friend. My advice to her: When she says that the fire in her dream probably did not stand for orgasm, she should take the "not" out of the sentence (and maybe the knot out of her orgasm). In the other, I was writing an apologetic note to the organizer of the "Future Workplace" panel. Not only was a I a no-show at the panel, but I couldn't even remember how I spent the morning I missed it. But then (in my dream) I realized that this was because I was only dreaming that I missed the panel.
Must have coffee...
6/25/2002 07:02:29 AM | PermaLink
Monday, June 24, 2002
The Etiquette of Unfucking
Actually, I initially posted a photo showing the back of my hand, but it just lacked the impact of the full frontal. I have assumed that the proper gesture is palm toward the gesturer, with a quick upwards thrust. But I claim no special authority on the matter.
6/24/2002 03:07:49 PM | PermaLink
6/24/2002 03:03:17 PM | PermaLink
Jacob Shwirtz got to hang out with Cameron of BlogDex. If you want to read the sorts of things these two guys talk about at a party, go to Jacob's blog. Pretty durn interesting.
6/24/2002 11:55:29 AM | PermaLink
If you are confused about Slashdot - a site that's become a verb - but are ashamed to admit it, here's an interview with the site's founder that will explain it all to you in the privacy of your own bedroom.
6/24/2002 11:54:07 AM | PermaLink
Sunday, June 23, 2002
Halley's Comment Returns
Halley's Comment has made a surprise (and welcome) return, well ahead of schedule. Bless those unpredictable elliptical orbits!
6/23/2002 09:53:47 AM | PermaLink
AKMA on the Web's Effect on the Bible
AKMA blogs an article he's written on cyberspace's effect on our relationship to the Bible. Wow! AKMA, recently-tenured theologian at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, is the author of one of the best introductions to postmodernism, What is PostModern Biblical Criticism?, and is a serious multilingual scholar, as well as being one of the most interesting (= insightful, entertaining, compassionate) bloggers around.
He suggests two major effects the multimedia world of the Net will bring to biblical interpretation:
Fascinating. But for me, as a Jew, its fascination rests in part on seeing how matters look to a thoughtful, scholarly, imaginative, playful and ultimately serious thinker from a different tradition.
For AKMA, demystifying words is a good thing, for we believe too naively in the possibility of literal translation and we exalt printed words over other forms of meaningful communication and expression:
As a Jew, we were given a set of words. They come from the mouth of G-d, but they're written in human language. We get over the translation problem by learning Hebrew and Aramaic. (When I say "we," I mean them other Jews; I don't know either language and I only believe in G-d enough to feel that if He exists, He's got a lot of 'splaining to do.) Yet, the Jewish tradition from the beginning has been aware of the hermeneutical problem of translation, for we don't believe that even in the original language there is a one-to-one relationship of word to meaning. When G-d speaks in human language, we still need to engage in an overwhelming task of "translation" and interpretation. That's why there are no (?) fundamentalist Jews who believe you can understand the scripture just by reading it out loud in a firm, scolding tone of voice.
But scripture isn't the only way G-d speaks. Creation is another. So, while the Torah obviously holds a special place for Jews in G-d's creation, it is not the only source of revelation. But what gives the Torah its special place? The fact that, unlike the rest of G-d's creation, it's in words. So, yes, printed (well, hand-lettered) words do have a special, "over-valued" place in Judaism.
Notice, of course, that having a special place doesn't mean having an exclusive place. Not only words convey G-d's meaning. So does the rest of creation. So does love. So does science. So does observance and practice and tradition. But words are special. At least G-d's words are.
So, if the multimedia Net results in letting some of the air out of words' tires for Christians, I don't think it will have the same effect on Judaism. For a text-based religion like Judaism - one that famously anticipated the hyperlinked nature of information - the Web shines as an aid to scholarship and to the conversations that are the way Jewish scholarship proceeds and succeeds. And, more important, for a community-based religion such as Judaism - Jews are a people, and observance requires living with other Jews - the Web enables a connectedness within diaspora that may indeed touch something deep within the collective us.
By rattling this cage, AKMA is making the cage visible. Our idea of truth is all wrapped up with our understanding of words. Truth pertains to words, we believe. When it comes to pictures, we talk about "accuracy" or "realism" but not truth. (That's why AKMA's reference to Magritte's "This is not a pipe" is so apt.) But if truth has instead to do with revelation — un-covering, in Heidegger's sense — then confining truth to the realm of words cages us. Words may have a special place in uncovering our world, but they are not the only shovel in the tool shed.
[NOTE: Anything I write about Judaism constitutes an act of arrogance since I know little and believe less.
6/23/2002 09:30:50 AM | PermaLink
Saturday, June 22, 2002
Cyc, Clarke, Brooks
Norman Jenson of OneGoodMove writes:
Thanks for the links and for the cogent comments on your site. I'm a fan of Brooks, although I like his critique of AI ("The world is the model") more than what I've read of his positive comments about the nature of the mind. But I should read more before Issuing Pronouncements ... not that ignorance has ever stopped me.
6/22/2002 09:51:36 AM | PermaLink
A Gesture for Forgiveness
When the light turned green, the car ahead of me just sat there. I gave it a good five seconds (i.e., 0.5 seconds) and then blasted my horn. "What did you do that for?" asked my wife. "The light is still red."
So it was. I hadn't noticed the righthand turn light.
So, how do I apologize to the driver ahead of me? We lack a gesture by which we beg forgiveness. I propose the following:
Use it often.
6/22/2002 08:40:36 AM | PermaLink
Friday, June 21, 2002
I didn't blog anything today because I had nothing to say.
6/21/2002 05:01:58 PM | PermaLink
Thursday, June 20, 2002
CYC is now available as an open source download. This is Douglas Lenat's massive attempt to compile a database that will be able to answer the most ordinary of questions, simulating common sense, things that we humans know because we live in a contextual world: Is a kiss an appropriate way to say goodbye to a cab driver? If I run over a raccoon, which will pop, the raccoon or my tires? Which makes a better tool for cutting through the tape on a package I receive in the mail, a dime, a quarter or a CD?
CYC is so fundamentally wrong about how the mind works that it staggers me that we fall for it. Andy Clarke's Being There brilliantly shows why. (I wrote about Clarke here.) So does Hubert Dreyfus' stuff.
Unfortunately, CYC (or whatever software is running the web site) isn't smart enough to know how to put commas into long numbers; it reports the file size of the download as "39955940." Have I ever mentioned how much this irks me?
6/20/2002 09:50:09 AM | PermaLink
Wednesday, June 19, 2002
Walking over Hot BS
The Boston Globe yesterday ran a story on the front of its "Living/Arts" section about the reporter's evening at a fire walking session. For $95 the Globe journalist was helped to find the spiritual strength within that allowed her to walk over hot coals without pain or scarring.
I'm no scientist but I'm sure someone will correct me when I say: What a load of crap! Isn't the "miracle" of fire walking due simply to the fact that hot, ash-covered coals don't transfer heat very quickly? I mean, I can put my hand into an oven for a few seconds without getting burned even though the air inside is 375 degrees, but if I touch the aluminum pan inside, I burn immediately because aluminum transfers heat much more quickly than air does. Same temperature but one burns and the other doesn't. No spiritual/mystical explanation required.
The Globe ought to be ashamed of itself for spreading this type of crap.
[Alternative last line: Hey, Globe, put it in a blog!]
Virgil Iliescu has put it in a blog.
6/19/2002 08:18:34 AM | PermaLink
Live with RSS
With some too-patient hand holding by Kevin Marks, I seem to have succeeded in getting blogger.com to wrap this blog with the appropriate RSS tags. As a result, aggregators around the globe can now ignore JOHO on purpose.
Click on the "xml" button to the left to see this blog the way it looks to a machine.
6/19/2002 08:15:28 AM | PermaLink
As one of the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto, I thought I'd pass along this outstanding example of "clueful" marketing that arrived in my inbox this morning:
She really seems to have read and absorbed our book! This is non-money-focused ("FREE"), acknowledging that connection is more important than shoving coins over the line. It's all about joining with other people ("memberships") rather than mass marketing to a faceless crowd. In fact, she even gives out her IM account number so we can make direct contact! She doesn't put on a phony veneer of perfection — you can really hear her own voice. This doesn't sound like it was written by a committee and then deloused by lawyers! She signs her own name. And she's totally upfront about the fact that her product isn't perfect, acknowledging that we may not even be interested in it. Wow! It's great to know we've had this type of effect!
I'm so proud!
Well, here's a briarpatch of postmodern netiquette (= "nettlequette"?). If you're reading this because AKMA sent you over here because I chided Ms. Witherspoon on her spelling while introducing my own spelling error, you will notice that my blog entry in in fact makes no reference to Ms. Witherspoon's spelling. I had taken that line out because there is no actual misspelling in her message except of "amateur" in her domain name. But I thought I'd taken out that reference before I posted it. Apparently not. So, AKMA must have read a posting that was up for just a few minutes this morning, and I'll be damned (actually, I will be damned, but that's a different story) if I'm going to re-introduce the inaccurate sentence about her spelling just so AKMA's tweak still makes sense. (I am, however, leaving in my misspelling.) As for AKMA's main point - that I am an annoying, self-righteous twit who recognizes flaws in everyone except himself - well, yes, I assume that that's obvious.
6/19/2002 08:10:43 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, June 18, 2002
Get Well Soon Dave
6/18/2002 05:50:05 PM | PermaLink
Kevin Marks points us to a BBC piece about Afghan women blogging their way back into the daylight, and Halley reruns a related blog entry. It's one of those things that makes you think this Internet stuff might actually make a difference.
Graeme Thickins points us to a Salon review (By Andrew Leonard) of a book — Ruling the Root by Milton Mueller — about the way in which the special interests that control ICANN control the DNS and thus inhibit free speech. Sounds interesting although the review makes it sound as if the regrettable advantage the incumbent brands have in holding onto their names and variants means that the Internet is doomed. To me, the most alarming point in the review is:
Sounds like a must-read.
Ryan Ireland wants to start a group read of the book Empire by Hardt and Negri. If you're interested, head on over.
Michael O'Connor Clarke links to a very funny database of chat quotes. Be sure to see what Michael selects as his favorite. Very funny. (Kudos to Michael for having the least visible permalink on the Web. Runner up: Eric Raymond.)
6/18/2002 10:16:17 AM | PermaLink
Monday, June 17, 2002
Scoop! Newspaper Ontogeny Recapitulated!
Turbulent Velvet has a fabulous piece on pseudonymity that provides a context to the modern phenomenon by looking at pseudonymity in 18th Century newspapers. Fascinating and, of course, directly relevant to what's going on with weblogs.
It reminds me of Dan Bricklin's terrific piece on the ways in which 18th Century pamphlets were similar to today's home pages. Dan wrote this before weblogs were so common so it is even more relevant today since weblogs are what home pages were supposed to be.
6/17/2002 10:44:56 AM | PermaLink
Hierarchy and Collaboration in the Globe
Back-to-back articles in the Boston Globe talk about the present hierarchical assumptions of business and the future of collaboration.
DC Denison pins his story on hierarchy on the intelligence failure that culminated on 9/11. He quotes Philip Evans, author of Blown to Bits, who says information hierarchies used to work because information itself was manageable.
The problem with information hierarchies isn't that some people have more authority than others, it's that the information flow is one-way and codified. In a non-hierarchical, web-based system, authority figures emerge, but they're only as respected as their work entitles them to be. This is how it works with the columnists you choose to read ... except now anyone can be a columnist even without being anointed as such. That's why blogging seems like a transformative business tool to many of us.
Scott Kirsner's article today talks about the present and future of collaborative software, a category that has not taken off with the rapidity with which it deserves. Many of the major players are in the Boston area. including eRoom, SiteScape, Lotus and Groove Networks. But Redmond, and its $51M investment in Groove, looms over the region and the article.
Here's the essential problem for the industry. Kirsner writes:
Yet Kirsner's article is clear that the benefits of using collaboration software are multiple and manifest. You don't need to be a rocket scientist, although maybe you do since Lockheed Martin is the article's lead example of a company using the stuff. So, why aren't organizations more interested in using it?
One explanation: We are in the realm not of scientifical business management but organized religion. The issue isn't business efficiency but the maintenance of power. Collaboration software does indeed hyperlink the hierarchy. And that's just plain scary to The Establishment, the status quo and/or The Man. The price of admission is business' corrupt soul.
(Notes: 1. The Globe's window for free access to these columns is only a week or so. 2. Denison quotes me.)
6/17/2002 08:59:25 AM | PermaLink
Saturday, June 15, 2002
The OED and Blogging
Peterme reports that the Oxford English Dictionary is considering including the word "blog," which Peterme coined. But the OED can only accept printed pages as sources for word coinages.
How long do you give that rule before it's amended in a flurry of embarrassment? I presume it was originally meant to keep the OED out of arguments about oral origins: "I was the first to use the word 'magikal' with a K. It was in a shouting match I had in 1964." Now it just keeps the OED out of relevancy and accuracy.
6/15/2002 09:01:33 AM | PermaLink
Blogthreads at Last!
BurningBird has announced plans to build a service that will put the thread into blogthreads. If you register your blog with her new service (which is a few months away from launch), it will automatically scour it for links to other blogs so that when Tom replies to AKMA and Jeneane replies to Tom and then Tom replies to Jeneane and then Jennifer replies to AKMA, all that will be saved and will be made reference-able and link-able as a blogthread. Excellent!
This is something we really need. In fact, I hope that BurningBird's work will be taken up by sites that are in the business of aggregating blogs — Google? DayPop? Are you interested? — so that blogthreads can be assembled from blog entries on sites that haven't registered with BurningBird and, most of all, so that they can be indexed and returned by the search engines. Wouldn't it be cool to search on, say, "forgiveness" and have Google and/or DayPop tell you not only that AKMA, Tom and Jeneane have blog entries about this but that there is an extensive blogthread on the topic?
6/15/2002 08:55:29 AM | PermaLink
Friday, June 14, 2002
The End of AI: The Movie
MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD!!! If you haven't seen Steven Spielberg/Stanley Kubrick's AI, do NOT read any further. (Also, Rosebud is a sled.)
I volunteered for the 6:45AM shift staffing the phones at the local public radio fund driver this morning and got to talking with the station's technical infrastructure manager about movies 'n such. (Yes, it was a slow day in the fund drive. So call and contribute already! You ought to be ashamed of yourselves!) I was reminded of my cousin-in-law Mark Dionne's explanation of the ending of the movie AI.
I had assumed that the end was a Spielbergian moving-but-vapid paean to the power of love: The robot boy has become human and can't rest until his absent Mommy requites his love. Yeah yeah, I thought, sad but uplifting.
About a year ago, Mark told me a different interpretation that made much more sense. Mark is a topnotch software engineer. He saw the ending as saying not that the robot boy had learned to love but just the opposite: the robot was programmed to continue until he heard the "I love you" from his motherly unit. All those thousands of years he was stuck in a loop. No love. Just an unfulfilled conditional. When Mark said this, the ending became much more cynical and much more satsifying to me.
Note: "Love Is Just an Unfulfilled Conditional" TM; is soon to be a major song from Garth Brooks. On the B side: "Our Love Is So Sub-Routine that I Can't Function." To be followed by "There's a Method to Your Madness (You're in a Class by Yourself)."
6/14/2002 07:39:15 PM | PermaLink
Clued Game Development
Andy Mahood, columnist on game simulations (that is, games that are simulations, not simulations of games) at PCGamer, gave the product of the year award last year to Microsoft Flight Simulator which, in his view, narrowly edged out IL-2 Sturmovik. According to this month's column (July), not only did the Sturmovik developers try out their ideas in public at gaming message boards and other online forums, the company has been collected bug reports and enhancement requests there as well. They've been issuing "an aggressive series of patches" whereas "Microsoft recently issued a statement saying that it would not be providing any sort of patching process for the bugs found" in their product.
Concludes Mahood: "Is it too late to change my vote?"
6/14/2002 01:27:00 PM | PermaLink
Thursday, June 13, 2002
Me at Wordsworth. Tonight.
Self-promotion: I'll be at Wordsworth bookstore in Harvard Square tonight at 7pm to talk with the debonair Scott Kirsner about "Small Pieces." You're welcome to attend, but only if you're either not hostile or easily intimidated into silence.
6/13/2002 02:25:05 PM | PermaLink
Brian Millar's Unpronounceable
My list includes:
And my number one word that I can't pronounce:
6/13/2002 10:29:08 AM | PermaLink
Since Abdullah al-Muhajir (nee Jose Padilla) was picked up on May 8, and since Ashcroft's announcement over a month later was precipitated by no relevant event, and since Ashcroft wildly overstated both the readiness of the plotters (they were just talking) and the damage a dirty bomb would do (it might kill scores, not hundreds of thousands), it's only rational to assume that the announcement was timed for Bush's maximum political advantage. Has anyone advanced any other reasonable explanation?
So we also have to assume that the administration is stockpiling Abdullah al-Muhajir's who have been "picked up," ready to be announced the next time the Bush crowd thinks there's a political advantage to scaring the crap out of us and our children.
If lying about getting blow jobs from an intern is an impeachable offense, what's the penalty for spreading panic among an already frightened citizenry because it helps you stay re-electable?
Eric Norlin, who is "incentivized" by a small explosive capsule implanted next to his heart not to tell us too much of what he knows, says that the news was timed to "learn about the inner workings of the [terrorist] organization. "
Even assuming that there were no political considerations in the timing, that doesn't explain why Ashcroft's announcement wildly over-stated the stage of the plans and the effect of a dirty bomb. The terrorists are not the only ones being manipulated here.
6/13/2002 08:37:51 AM | PermaLink
Wednesday, June 12, 2002
Frank Paynter interviews the fearless Jeneane Sessums, making it clearer than ever why so many of us love her. And Frank's developing quite an interesting rhetorical form.
The ever-vigilant Chip has written up a report on Al Gore's recent speech to Wisconsin's Democratic stalwarts.
I like Al Gore. Really. But the Democrats are going to have to do better than this. Gore is right to call Bush on what in calmer times would be seen as outrageous acts of environmental and economic pillage. But my spidey-sense tells me that Bush and his cronies are right now setting the stage for an act of great evil, a theater piece that threatens to be apocalyptic. No, I don't know what it is, but I bet it involves a pipeline, an invasion, and the transformation of the norm of liberties. It's being done out of a well-placed fear, the desire to get reelected, greed, racism, and incredible short-sightedness. Personally, I'm scared shitless.
Michael Moore for president.
6/12/2002 09:55:55 AM | PermaLink
A Pocketful of Standards
Ed Nixon was prodded by my blog about HTML validation to point out that the Web Standards Project is up again. Its mission: to "fight for standards that reduce the cost of complexity of development while increasing the accessibility and long-term viability" of web sites. The standards they like include XML, CSS, XHTML, DOM and ECMAS. Here's a bluffer's guide to each:
XML: Smarter tagging of documents (and other types of information) so that computers can do more interesting things than just display them in the right font.
CSS: Define the look (and more) of document elements external to the document so they can be displayed in the right font ... and so those definitions can be applied - and updated - across multiple documents. Part of the conspiracy to turn authors into text monkeys.
XHTML: Anal-compulsive HTML. Makes sloppy tagging habits so that the pages are more predictable to computers. No shirts, no end tags, no service.
DOM: A standard computer-eye view of the internal tree structure of a document so its elements can be found and understood in relation to one another. You never knew a simple document was that complex.
If you'd like actual information, you can start with the Web Standards Projects' own list of links.
6/12/2002 09:32:27 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, June 11, 2002
AKMA points us to Dorothea who points us to the W3C HTML Validation Service, a nicely done tool. Put in an URL and it instantly comes back with the list of syntactical errors in its HTML — attributes that need to be within quotation marks, paragraph tags within block elements, ALT attributes left out of graphic links. Why, there are hundreds of mistakes in the very page you're reading. It's completely, totally, unredeemably INVALID! In fact, the home page for OASIS , the SGML/XML standards group, is INVALID, XML.com is INVALID, the O'Reilly home page is INVALID, Linus Torvalds' home page is INVALID, and the 12-line home page of Google has a bold-faced FATAL ERROR in it.
Reminds me of an old joke. A man goes to a doctor. "Doc, it hurts when I go like this," he says, poking himself gently in the foot with his index finger. "It hurts when I go like this," he says, poking his knee. "It hurts when I go like this," he says as he pokes his thigh. He proceeds the same way up to the top of his head.
"Yup," says the doctor, "You have a broken finger."
6/11/2002 08:55:31 AM | PermaLink
A Rumor of War: Request for Confirmation
I have heard a rumor through a friend of a friend who is shipping out to Afghanistan that we are in the middle of a the largest call up since Vietnam and are massing soldiers and supplies along the border in Afghanistan preparatory to the invasion of Iraq (through or over Iran?).
Surely if this is true, we would know about the size of the call-up. I don't. Do you? Is there any truth to this rumor?
6/11/2002 08:50:13 AM | PermaLink
Monday, June 10, 2002
That NYT article
Doc is a must-read today, even more must-y than usual. (Hmm, that somehow came out wrong, but you know what I mean.) He has the definitive comment on David Gallagher's piece on "warbloggers" in the NY Times. And he also has some great quotes from David Bowie in a John Pareles piece in the aforementioned Times. Bowie says, matter of factly, that the music industry isn't going to be around in a recognizable form in ten years and that "Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity." Rock on, GlamBoy!
6/10/2002 11:46:31 AM | PermaLink
My fear about the Semantic Web...
...is that it's based on an engineer's view of language.
There's an article about the Semantic Web by D.C. Denison in today's Boston Globe. Get it before it retreats behind the veil of pay-per-viewness.
Also, Scott Kirsner has a it-makes-total-sense column arguing for the creation of a federal CIO. And I say this not merely to curry favor with Scott before he hosts a Small Pieces interview at Wordsworth Books this Thursday at 7pm in Cambridge, MA.
6/10/2002 11:07:17 AM | PermaLink
Stupidest Robot of the Year
Enfish, which makes a great search engine for your own email and desktop files, has a very responsive email support system. So, when I replied to one of their replies, I was aghast with delight to receive a bounce-back that began as follows:
Let's see. The robot knows what my message was. It knows which lines my message should have been entered between. But it needs a human to do the cutting and pasting for it.
This makes as much sense to me as the phone error message: "Your call could not be completed. You need to dial a 1 before the number." If they know it needs the one, then put it in for me!
Jeez, do I have to do everything around here myself ?
6/10/2002 08:13:02 AM | PermaLink
Sunday, June 09, 2002
A reflection prompted by AKMA's forgiveness blogthread...
My father's greatest fault was that he held grudges. He held them so long and so deep that he drove wedges in my family. For example, a year after my mother's sister died of breast cancer at 36, her husband failed to use my father's legal services to close on a new house. My father never spoke to him again. He would not go to my uncle's house so that I hardly ever saw my cousins with whom I had spent every summer until then. He would not invite my uncle to my sister's wedding. My father insisted throughout the slow process of dying of cancer that my uncle not be allowed at his funeral. It'd be funny if it weren't so destructive.
In my father's case, this was part of his binary emotional nature. He either loved you or couldn't talk about you without putting "goddamn" in front of your name. And the door between the two was one way: You could fall from favor but never regain it. As a result, his life had a pattern of always decreasing his circle of friends. It was just a matter of time.
Whatever the cause, if you want to see the social importance of forgiveness, just live with its opposite for a while. I was always on my father's good side — which meant, by the way, that he forgave me an awful lot because I wasn't very nice to him — but seeing the irrational bitterness of which he was capable made the love he offered seem just as little deserved and not a little dangerous.
Request for Book:
There's no logical reason why holding grudges needs to go with this type of bifurcation, although the two are certainly complementary. But I just don't know if there are grudge holders who are able to maintain a more shaded range of relationships. Also, a psychologist once told me that the trait sometimes skips generations. If someone can point me to an article or a book, I'd be interested. If there aren't any, then please write one. Call it "Grudge: How the Inability to Forgive Makes You Miserable and Tears Apart the People Around You." It's a million dollar idea.
By the way, don't miss the Head Lemur's interview of AKMA.
6/9/2002 08:45:33 AM | PermaLink
Saturday, June 08, 2002
Hear Me, See Me...
Wordsworth Books, famously in Harvard Square, is hosting an event for Small Pieces on this Thursday, June 13, I think at 7pm. The debonair Scott Kirsner, columnist for The Boston Globe and contributing editor to Wired and FastCompany, will be interviewing me. Afterwards, portions of my roasted flesh will be donated to a local kitchen serving the homeless.
The Internet radio show, Inventing the Future, has posted an hour interview with me from a few weeks ago. The hosts, Janice Maffei and Joanne Spigner, were great. (Hey, it's over. I don't have to be nice to them any more, so I must mean it.) BTW, for the first few minutes, I'm real hard to hear. But the technical quality picks up after that. I do remain, however, the longest-winded guest in radio history.
(You will need the RealAudio player. Beware of its spyware/adware.)
6/8/2002 02:35:02 PM | PermaLink
J. Thomas Vincent blogged a conference on the intersection of digits and entertainment the other day. It's an excellent report of what sounds like a useful conference. You'll actually hear people give a more reasonable defense of the Hollings Bill than I'm willing to listen to.
6/8/2002 02:25:44 PM | PermaLink
Friday, June 07, 2002
Kids version of Small Pieces - It's an outrage!
Lockergnome — Chris Pirillo's daily newsletter of tips, downloads and chitchat — is now offering exclusive access to the PDF of the kids version of Small Pieces as a premium if you download one of the "Gnometomes" of tips for $5. 50 tips for $5 is a good deal. It's a business model that I hope works.
Meanwhile, Chris has already heard from a reader who is outraged. Outraged! He has correctly surmised that I removed the PDF from www.SmallPieces.com so that Lockergnome would have exclusive access to it. (The HTML and Word versions are still there.) How dare I remove public access to something so that it is now only available as part of a commercial package (if you want to call $5 for 50 tips a "commercial package")! How tawdry! How, well, commercial!
Damn straight, asshole. You know what else? You could have read my entire book online as I wrote it, but the day that the publisher said it was done, I shut down access to all but the first two chapters. So, pardon me while I move your email into my ToughShit folder.
In less hostile news, I heard yesterday that there will be a Korean edition of Small Pieces. Break out the kim chee!
6/7/2002 08:56:03 AM | PermaLink
Lust for Gadgets
I just got a Pockey 10G external hard drive and I find my geek gland is engorged. It's a little thinner, longer and lighter than a deck of cards (the Pockey, not my gland, children) , plugs into a USB port, and is letting me free up 10G of space on my laptop. In fact, it is now the main repository of my vast MP3 collection. (I have over 7 gigs of the classical repertoire recreated in dog yips.)
On the minus side, the data transfer is noticeably slow, although it plays back MP3s without a hitch. On the plus side, it's powered through the USB connection and thus I don't have to stack another piece of furniture in order to make room for one more transformer plug.
It cost $80 through ReturnBuy, which I found via eBay.
6/7/2002 08:39:42 AM | PermaLink
Homeland Security Page Sucks
I hadn't been back to the home page of The Office of Homeland Security since I went to get a copy of the color-coded alert system to make fun of it. But I had breakfast yesterday with David Stephenson, a consultant to companies and the government on how to use the Internet to change their ways of doing business. He's been thinking about what Might Be when it comes to using the Net to help protect our country from terrorist attacks. David reminded me of just how bad the Homeland's home page is.
Have I mentioned that it sucks? And in this case, sucking isn't a laughing matter.
The basic problem with the page is that it's primarily intended as PR for the grand job the administration is doing. There's the endless photo montage of Bush signing legislation and Ridge looking tough but slightly bewildered at press conferences. There's the "Homeland Security Timeline" that lists speeches and budget increases but somehow misses the anthrax-based evacuation of the Senate and doesn't list a single one of the alerts Ridge's office has issued.
Most clearly featured are the press releases: "Tom Ridge Speaks to the Associated Press Annual Luncheon," "Remarks by Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge to the Electronics Industries Alliance." The impression this leaves: the greatest weapon in the anti-terrorism arsenal is the rubber chicken.
In one of his speeches, Ridge says, "We're going to knock down the information 'stovepipes' throughout government and turn them into pipelines." Excellent and important. So where are those pipelines on the Homeland home page? Where's even a link to the FBI page? How about a link to something - anything! - that isn't just more PR about what a swell job Bush and Ridge are doing?
In that same speech, Ridge says:
And how might we serve? Where's the link to the Citizen Corps? Where's a place where we can leave a tip, get educated about what "be on alert" means and what "suspicious behavior" is, or ask a simple question? (I'm too civic minded to make fun of Ridge's suggestion that attending a PTA meeting constitutes an anti-terrorist action.)
In fact, the URL is within the whitehouse.gov domain, sitting there along with the pages for White House tours, the first lady, and the "Kids Only" page - all listed as buttons above the Homeland Security title, just one click away. Swell.
When a government engages in PR, it's called propaganda. And in this case it's not only disgraceful, it's dangerous. What a missed opportunity. For shame.
6/7/2002 08:23:54 AM | PermaLink
Thursday, June 06, 2002
The Painter of Howls
Frank Paynter has interviewed Denise Howell of the Bag and Baggage blog. "Interview" isn't the right word, though. More like, um, a one-act play presented as an e-epistolary interchange with the public looking over its shoulder. It's got anecdotes, banter, theories, jokes, links, poems, photos, a top ten list and therapy. Also homeless people who smell like Dungeness crab.
6/6/2002 10:27:43 AM | PermaLink
Someone else likes Small Pieces
6/6/2002 10:15:39 AM | PermaLink
In Microsoft Word XP, type the phrase "Information Highway." (It's ok, you don't have to mean it.)
Notice the subtle purple underline indicating that Word has Smart Tagged it? Click on the down triangle to see the pulldown list of actions:
Don't bother clicking on "Display Driving Directions"; Microsoft MapPoint.net confesses not to know where the Information Highway is. (It's everywhere, dude!)
6/6/2002 08:09:22 AM | PermaLink
Wednesday, June 05, 2002
Bad Biz Plans
The debonair Scott Kirsner, in his column in the Boston Globe this week, recommends we visit MIT's Cambridge Forum's humor page where they list the winners of their annual Bad Business Plan contest. These are bogus companies with truly bad ideas. I won't give any of them away except to say that no one is proposing investing in a beef steak mine, much less one in Nigeria.
6/5/2002 11:38:56 AM | PermaLink
Hank Blakely is funny
He just is, durn it. Especially if you think Bush is a moron. His Bush Diary is good, but what I really like are the email msgs announcing new entries in the diary. He writes with great confidence which is hard to do with comedy because humor writing is inherently a type of pandering, and his confidence is justified ... which is also rare with comedy. For example, in this week's message he waxes comedically about the sorry state of readiness of the National Guard patrolling California's bridges and recommends that we replace them with trolls. He archives his msgs here.
I was disappointed, however, that he makes no mention of W's dismissing of his own administration's conclusion - based on information from six agencies, including the EPA - that global warming results from the human abuse of energy and isn't simply an unfortunate coincidence caused by bovine methane leakage, Iraqi hair dryer usage and Monica Lewinsky. "I read the report put out by the bureaucracy," said President Bush as he dismissed it. Later he was heard to refer to Mahatma Gandhi as "that career politician, " Edward R. Murrow as "that journalist-for-hire" and to himself as "that so-called president."
6/5/2002 11:32:17 AM | PermaLink
How to Stop a Money Order
A few hours after sending a USPS money order Priority Mail with a request for delivery confirmation to an address in Atlanta, I received a message from eBay telling me that the recipient's account had been suspended because of unauthorized access. Does anyone know how to stop a money order?
Alternatively, does anyone know any goons hanging out in a bar in Atlanta looking to make a few bucks? (Note: I just want my money order back. I am not paying anything extra for throttling.)
Here's how you do it. You get a form #1509 from your local post office. (It's not available on the USPS.com site.) It's an "Application for Recall." You fill it in and fax it to the post office branch that will be delivering your envelope; you can get that address at www.usps.com. You call the local destination branch and talk to the nice lady there. She gives you the fax number. You fax the #1509. You cross your fingers because it hurts too much to Jewish-star your fingers.
6/5/2002 07:56:22 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, June 04, 2002
Google: Word Worry Wart
From Tom Gross comes a link to Christophe Bruno's article "The Google AdWords Happening" about his experiment with using Google AdWords to have people see his art. He bought some keywords so that his ad would show up when people searched on those words, but ran poetry instead of an ad. For example, if you searched Google for "symptom" you'd see:
As the clickthrough rates fell — Bruno's aim was to present poetry on Google's page, not to get people to click through to his — Google's bot noticed and decreased the frequency with which his ad was served. Finally, his ads were disapproved and Google suspended the "campaign."
This actually accords with my own experience with AdWords. I bought the keyword "Lessig," as an experiment, and submitted an ad that began "If you like Lessig..."; the rest of the ad touted Small Pieces as a book that Larry Lessig liked. But I couldn't get the three dots past Google because they do not permit "excessive" punctuation. The bot did let me get away with "If you like Lessig-" but I then received a personal email telling me that my use of a dash was ungrammatical. Admittedly, but that's only because they wouldn't allow me to use the grammatically correct ellipsis.
Methinks they're a bit overscrupulous...
6/4/2002 08:46:15 AM | PermaLink
Monday, June 03, 2002
Frankston on the FCC
Bob Frankston has a clear and provocative article on what needs to change at the FCC. Here's a taste:
It's also chockablock with crystallizations such as:
Must reading, IMO.
6/3/2002 10:50:13 AM | PermaLink
Upcoming Business Titles
USAToday reports (and Slate re-reports) that Katherine Harris, Florida's Secretary of State during the first annual Florida Fraud Month, is working on a book about her experience. It's called Center of the Storm: Practicing Principled Leadership in Times of Crisis.
Other upcoming books:
(How dare I compare Harris to Bin Laden or Milosevic? You're right. I don't.)
6/3/2002 08:25:41 AM | PermaLink
Saturday, June 01, 2002
Jonathan Peterson musing on corporate personae, writes
Definitely. And it's hard to see why that should be even objectionable. I don't want or expect the notice of the upcoming shareholders meeting to be written in the same voice as the tips newsletter or the corporate endorsement of City Year. The question — which Chris Locke raises sharply in Gonzo Marketing — is whether a corporation can have any authentic voice at all since it doesn't have a self and doesn't have a body. Is a corporation all masks and no cowboy? Or, are corporations in the real world distressingly similar to selves on the Web: all public personae without an inner core against which they can be measured as authentic or not?
Jonathan recommends Brenda Laurel's Computers as Theatre, and asks her to write one on corporations as theatre. I just ordered Laurel's book from Amazon; sounds fascinating. (Thanks, Jonathan.)
6/1/2002 12:09:05 PM | PermaLink
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