David Weinberger's Weblog. Let's just see how it goes.
Wednesday, July 31, 2002
A Dram of DRM
Eric Norlin has blogged an interview with the technical director for Palladium in which Eric asks whether Palladium will be available to platforms other than Windows. Without this, despite whatever the Microsoft engineers say, Palladium is a Windows lock-in strategem: "Wanna listen to that CD? The record company has jiggered it so that it can only be heard on a Windows Palladium machine."
The technical director says some of the right things. But, there's no mention of Microsoft going Open Source with Palladium, and MS hasn't decided if it will license the software to anyone else. But why should licensing even be an issue unless MS were looking for some advantage to being the supplier of the software that enables entertainment producers to sell their wares securely? Further, the technical director is the technical director. And like geeks everywhere, he just naturally is sympathetic to the forces of openness. But technical directors don't make marketing decisions at Microsoft. I've been suckered by Microsoft in this regard before.
So, thank you, Eric, for getting this on record. Truly. You're doing important work. The tech dir's response is reasonable and gives some reason for encouragement. And flaming would be an unhelpful response. But I still don't trust what I'm hearing from Microsoft about how they're going to establish an environment that benefits me as a user as much as it benefits Hollywood and Microsoft.
Kevin Marks, Eric and others and engaged in a really useful colloquoy at Kevin's MediAgora. They're conducting a civil, constructive and incisive dialogue about the very nature of DRM.
7/31/2002 11:49:20 AM | PermaLink
A Bozo Goes to the Museum
We went to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MassMOCA) in North Adams yesterday. It's a really interesting space in a lovely place. Last year there the main exhibition had to do with games, and it was, well, fun. Not moving or even particuarlyly enlightening, but fun. This year it focuses on Viennese art and it's not moving, not particularly enlightening and not fun.
It is absolutely the case that I don't know enough about contemporary art to be able to understand what I was looking at. But here's my new dictum for myself: When viewing an artwork adds nothing to the verbal explanation of it, skip viewing it.
E.g., the video screen that over the course of half an hour cycles through every visible shade of green? Skip it!
E.g., the purposefully dull paintings hung on a plain white cube that's a statement about the importance of context? Skip it!
E.g., the ten minute video of a guy digging a hole in the forest? Skip it!
We did, however, get a cute windup toy and a bottle of artsy Bloody Mary mix.
7/31/2002 08:14:01 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, July 30, 2002
Why Vacations Suck
The better the vacation, the worse the bandwidth. It's a law.
Huge disruption in your schedule of daily activities.
Hourly encounter with non-human species.
The rest of the world, which isn't on vacation, doesn't stop sending you email.
Stephen King and Tom Clancy: ridiculous plots, stupid characters, a cliche a minute.
Bugs think they own your ass.
It's someone else's toilet.
If your real house hasn't burned to the ground by now, it's probably either been looted or infested with silverfish.
No matter how much you use, calamine lotion doesn't work ... and it tastes damn funny.
When you get back, people have no sympathy for what you've been through.
7/30/2002 09:01:34 AM | PermaLink
Monday, July 29, 2002
Three Rules of Digital Rights Management
I was happy to see Doc talking with the Head Lemur about shifting the "Right to Listen" tactics:
If artists want to distribute their stuff locked up so tightly that I can't sample it, share it, play it on every device in my house and quote it in my blog, then they should go ahead. And I hope we'll band together in not buying their stuff.
Let the market decide.
In fact, here are my Three Rules of DRM. Each rule supercedes the previous one.
1. Companies that want to sell us works of creativity can do so with whatever enforceable licensing agreement they want.
2. Fair use isn't just protected but is expanded in the face of the new reality.
3. The basic architecture of our computing and networking environment — which maximizes openness, connection and innovation — isn't degraded.
Unfortunately, I don't know if these three are mutually consistent.
[The traditional way the Problem of Evil - the fact that bad things happen in a world created by a perfect God - is formulated is: God is all-powerful, God is all-knowing, God is good: pick any two.]
7/29/2002 08:40:46 AM | PermaLink
Norlin, Doc and Dan on the Eating of Our Rights
You really ought to read Eric Norlin's coverage of the Microsoft Palladium Press conference. Unfortunately, with a 19.2 dialup connection on a line being shared by three families, I've been doing no browsing and didn't keep up with Norlin's (or anyone's) blog until he sent email saying that he's had enough abuse from mean-spirited assholes and is packing it in for a while. That's a shame not only for the noble reason — Eric's an important commentator and guide — but because I don't understand Palladium and Digital IDs well enough and was counting on Eric to explain them to me.
Also informative and full of pepper: Gillmor on the latest bad news from Washington.
And Doc has posted his presentation to OSCon.
7/29/2002 08:38:13 AM | PermaLink
End User Abuse License
7/29/2002 07:30:22 AM | PermaLink
Saturday, July 27, 2002
Bob Treitman (of the lovely SoftPro book mini-chain) forwards a stunt contest from Gregory FCA, a Philadelphia PR and investor relations firm. We are to rewrite the annual report of our favorite disgraced corporation in the voice of an author of our choosing.
I doubt haikus count, but then I'm not really entering, am I?
7/27/2002 12:18:19 PM | PermaLink
Friday, July 26, 2002
Three Recommendations: Two Validated and One Blind
Tom Poe asks "Will you still want to buy a computer in 2004" and, after looking at how restricted their use will be and how much privacy you'll be giving up, answers no.
I went to Pop!Tech a couple of years ago and had an excellent time. It brings together social-minded, humanistic technologists (generalizing rather broadly) for a couple of days of presentations in the lovely Opera House in the lovely Camden, Maine. I'm going again this year as a participant, not a speaker. There are still some seats available.
I'll blog from it, of course, but I think a semi-official blogsite is being created for it by other blogging attendees. And so blogs, inevitably, become topic- and event-based as well as based around individuals.
Because I am in a rural area where the corn is high and the bandwidth is low, I am pointing you to this site without actually having been there myself.
I heard from Steven Akstakalnis in response to the Miami Herald op-ed I wrote with W. David Stephenson about the suckitude of the Homeland Defense web site. Steven's group (company?) administers the National Homeland Security Knowledgebase. According to this msg to me, it sounds great. There's a free "knowledgebase" of information about "homeland security" that Steven claims is the largest anywhere. There's a free "Terror Alert Mailing List" of warnings. There's a free weekly newsletter.
If this site turns out to be an online casino, an offer to lengthen your penis, or ads for cameras that will let you spy on your neighbor's hot 18-yr-old, you only have yourself to blame for following a recommendation from a guy who told you he hasn't visited the site himself...
7/26/2002 12:48:18 PM | PermaLink
Thursday, July 25, 2002
InformationWeek on Blogging
The new issue of InformationWeek's cover story is on blogging in the workplace. I haven't had time to do naught but thumb through it. but it looks promising and cites Dan and Doc and Dave, so how bad can it be? (I did happen to notice, ahem, that they quote me also.)
7/25/2002 10:24:46 AM | PermaLink
Service Interruption Notice
I'm about to head off for about two weeks to the land where the air is sweet and the Internet connections suck. Dial-up makes blogging as slow and difficult as the word onomatopoetically suggests. So, I'll still be blogging but probably won't be as responsive as I'd like to be.
Damn rural life!
7/25/2002 10:22:27 AM | PermaLink
New issue of JOHO
I just published a new issue of my newsletter:
7/25/2002 10:17:35 AM | PermaLink
Wednesday, July 24, 2002
Lessig and Stallman on Freedom
We're watching our freedom evaporating.
7/24/2002 04:14:45 PM | PermaLink
More Bad Law
Jeff Chapman points out an article and discussion at Geek.com about the Cyber Security Enhancement Act that passed the House of Reps on July 17 on a vote of 385-3, the lopsided majority just about ensuring that it was a vote based on expediency backed by ignorance. According to the article:
So any government agency could tap the Net without probable cause. No possibility of abuse there, eh? Why'd we need that stupid ol' Constitution anyway when we can trust all those government agencies not to abuse their powers?
There's more at Geek.com and at slashdot.
7/24/2002 11:13:19 AM | PermaLink
Isenberg on the Telco Meltdown and Revolution
David Isenberg's new SMARTLetter has his must-read analysis of the "utter crisis" in telecommunications, as FCC Chair Michael "Son of" Powell calls it. Isenberg puts it in perspective. For example:
This is the most coherent, understandable explanation I've read of what's goin' on technologically and economically.
7/24/2002 08:33:57 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, July 23, 2002
For a shorter, lighter-hearted expression of the Hermeneutical Dilemma, read Marek's digital rendition of Hamlet.
7/23/2002 12:41:23 PM | PermaLink
Revelation, Relativism, Relevance, and Other Near Anagrams
AKMA has responded to my response to his thread on "differential hermeneutics." (He's also responded to email from Tom M.)
On the key question of whether there's something special about Scripture, we're not yet in agreement. And we may never be, thus providing an example of Differential Hermeneutics in Action. AKMA, and post-Modernism in general, wants to untie reading (= interpreting) from the meanings "behind" a text. In particular, the "right" interpretation is not the one that reconstitutes in the reader the author's original intention. There are lots of good reasons for recognizing this rupture between what we understand and what the author meant, and when it comes to scriptural interpretation the reasons include the terrifying result of believing that you have the right interpretation; armed with a belief that I know what God meant, I may feel justified in wreaking destruction on those who disagree.
And yet, if there is such a thing as revelation (and I am required here to note that I don't think that there is), doesn't it have to mean that God is telling us something in a way that we can understand? And if revelation tells us something that we can understand, then isn't it telling us what God thinks and feels — God's intentions? I don't see how you can exclude the possibility of understanding what God had in mind and still think there's revelation. 
So, here I am about to engage in the hermeneutic act of trying to figure out what AKMA has in mind. I think AKMA thinks that if we say that a hermeneutics of revelation tries to get at what's in God's mind, it has to be an "integral hermeneutics" that assumes only one interpretation is right, thus leading to intolerance. But that doesn't necessarily follow. Suppose we say that revelation expresses God's meaning in a way that humans can understand but God's meaning surpasses our simple understanding and overwhelms languagw. So, we are forced to engage our understanding together, through discussion and disagreement. Further, to speak in a way that humans can understand means to speak in way that can be reappropriated by each generation with its differences in culture and language; that's why scripture has survived the ages.
Why do I insist on this to AKMA? Because we share ethical/political aims. We want to be inclusive, not intolerant. We want a way of sincerely embracing people who also trying to understand God from widely divergent starting points. We don't want to slap people down and shut them up simply because they understand God differently. AKMA writes:
If that's all DH did, then every tolerant person would agree to it. But DH says more than this. (It has to, for otherwise DH is nothing but tolerance.) It says that we cannot read the author's intentions:
Granting the impossibility of knowing the real, final interpretation of the author's intentions especially when it comes to God, there's got to be more to interpreting than imagining, especially when it comes to scripture. If revelation is God speaking in a way that we can hear (and, by the way, can not hear or mis-hear), then there has to be more than what I as the reader bring to the party. That does not mean that there is a unitary meaning or a meaning that we foolish mortals can be confident enough is right that we can stop listening to others.
Earlier, AKMA explains the result that's driving his line of thought, I believe:
But I think AKMA doesn't have to exclude non-believers from his account of hermeneutics; he just has to exclude them from people he thinks are capable of understanding what revelation says. How can you believe that revelation is God talking to us in a way that we can understand — which to me simply means believing in revelation — without excluding atheists from the body of "agreeable interpreters"? When I say that scripture was written by barbaric humans (stone the witches, kill the homosexuals) and has less revelatory power these days than Updike's Rabbit series, AKMA ought to stop paying attention to what I say God meant by the book of Job . You may still want to listen to me when I discourse about the history of Canaan or about Paul's word usage patterns, but I have announced that I am not engaged in trying to hear what God is saying through scripture. You can still "account" for my interpretation — DH explains why people have different interpretations and gives us a way to try to find value in them. You just won't count it for much. You will, however, keep in mind that all interpretation is situational and fallible, so you won't tie me to a stake and gather bundles of wood to show me the error of my thinking.
Let me sum up (sorry for the length). AKMA writes:
"Attribute" puts the bulk of the burden of interpreting on the reader; "imagine" puts all of the burden there. If we take "attribute" to mean "involves us" or "depends on us but not just on us," then we get what I think is a clearer picture. Every act of understanding is situated in a specific person, language, culture, and history. But if understanding revelation consists of nothing but me throwing meaning at a text, then there is nothing left of revelation. It is indistinguishable from me reading the words formed in my bowl of alphabet soup. If, on the other hand, revelation is God speaking to us in a way that we can understand, it doesn't mean that there is a unitary meaning and that those who don't get it are simply wrong. The advantage of differential hermeneutics is that we can say that the differences among those who are trying to hear the word of God engender the conversation that is the way to hear what God is trying to say.
So let me do my own rephrasing of AKMA's differential hermeneutics as I would apply it to scriptural interpretation: The way we humans can try to hear the word of God is by talking with one another. We aren't arguing about who does a better job of inventing meanings for a text that is incapable of speaking for its author. We're arguing about words written by God to speak to us — a voice we can hear, a voice that is there, although we can only hear it together and can only understand it imperfectly. Our conversation is aimed at hearing God's intentions more clearly. If hearing His intentions is impossible, then revelation doesn't speak and our conversation is mere chatter.
1. What I think is true of interpreting revelation I actually think is true of all acts of interpretation. I don't think we are as cut off from the author's intentions as AKMA seems to believe.
2. Perhaps we should leave room for atheist scriptural interpreters who preface every remark with, "Now, if there were a God, we can see in this passage that He would have meant..." and then proceed to explicate God's word without believing it's God's. I'm sure there are examples of such. These people are worth reading. But they are only worth reading if the text they're explicating is worth explicating, and it only has accidental and incidental value if the text isn't God speaking in a way that we can understand.
7/23/2002 12:16:55 PM | PermaLink
Mark Feldman points us to a collection of children's art maintained by PaPa iNk, a non-profit he heads. Some beauty, not just cuteness.
7/23/2002 09:51:19 AM | PermaLink
Monday, July 22, 2002
Who Bought Bush's Shares?
Gary Nexcerpt Stock passes along a fasinating article by Christopher Caldwell in the NY Press about the sweetheart deals that made W a rich man. But the most tantalizing bit is at the end where Caldwell speculates about what the WS Journal last week called "interesting Saudi connections on the finance side" with regard to who bought who bought W's Harken shares. Caldwell suggests "the ex-president’s ne’er-do-well son appears to have been used by the Harken board as 'Arab bait'."
This story is only going to get bigger.
7/22/2002 09:19:04 PM | PermaLink
AKMA continues his deeply important blogging about what he calls "integral" vs. "differential" hermeneutics. (It begins here, goes here with a response to Tom Matrullo, continues here with a response to my email, and goes here.)
I hesitate to try to characterize briefly the difference between the two hermeneutics, but I'm gonna anyway. Hermeneutics, usually explained as the study of interpretation, is actually the study of how we make sense of things, where "things" includes texts and the world. Integral hermeneutics thinks that to understand X is to see the simple, unambiguous, single meaning behind X; it is fundamentalism and literalism applied beyond the realm of scripture. Differential hermeneutics not only notices that there are many ways of understanding X but thinks that the best way to proceed is to pay attention to the differences among those interpretations. AKMA sides with the differentialists. (AKMA, if I got this wrong, set me straight!)
When AKMA first blogged about this, on July 10, it took me a while to muster a response, which I sent to him privately. I like his distinction and I also side with the differentialists. I wrote to AKMA with two aims. First, I wanted to know what he thought about what DH (differential hermeneutics) means for revelation. Is revelation a special type of truth-giving? If so, what does that do hermeneutics? Second, I suggested that AKMA still gave the sense (or was I merely projecting it?) that DH implies a failure: Too bad we can't get at a unitary meaning, so we'll have to settle for DH. Judaism, on the other hand, has taken DH for the past couple of thousand years anyway as quite positive. Judaism's interpretations - that is, the Rabbi's interpretations - are grounded by a text that's taken to be revealed but not susceptible to a fundamenalist, literal reading; by a tradition that preserves the losing arguments; by a tradition of how to conduct an argument; and by an embedding of interpretation into practice since the resolution of arguments over interpretation determine how daily life will be conducted.
AKMA responded to my comments with his customary brilliance and gracefulness. Here's one salient passage:
I'm not entirely comfortable with that, although I think there may be no practical difference in our positions. (As if I'm entitled to have a position in this conversation! Got to have standing before you can have a position.) I'm in the odd position of saying that I don't think AKMA is giving enough weight to the scriptural text. His view of DH finds all of interpretation's value in the play of differing interpretations and none in the meaning behind the text or the text itself. (Am I getting you wrong, AKMA?) So, we interpret revealed scripture and a restaurant menu differently because people encounter them "under different conditions, with a different stake in what they’re interpreting, and different goals in taking on the interpretation..." Notice that the difference is not that one text was written by God and the other by a person working in a restaurant.
But isn't something crucial and real lost if you can't acknowledge that difference? And if you'll momentarily grant an atheistic Jew the standing to ask this: Why does AKMA seemingly shy away from saying scripture is special because it's revealed? Is he worried that this puts us back into the game of thinking that there is a single, integral meaning behind the text, which in turn means that only one position is right and that we are justified in being intolerant of those who get the meaning wrong?
But you can believe that scripture is special without becoming an integral hermeneuticist. Suppose, for example, one were to believe that:
Then you would be able to maintain that revelation reveals God's truth without resorting to the simplistic integral hermeneutics that has led our species down such dark alleys. And, I believe, that that position sketches the Jewish stance towards scripture, although my belief here is strictly second-hand.
I very much like AKMA's comments in his most recent blog about "performative criteria" — i.e., "testing truth-claims by living them out." A right interpretation isn't one that corresponds to the concealed meaning but one that enables you to live well. This is in response to Happy Tutor's blogging about post-Modernism as a way of avoiding responsibility. The Happy Toot writes:
My initial complain about post-Modernism agrees with this. POMO produces academics who use it destructively to position themselves as the smartest person in the room, showing why everyone else is still stuck in "the old metaphysics." But POMO also captures a great truth, one that is liberating and is increasingly required for humans to continue inhabiting the planet. AKMA is a fearless partisan of the liberating force of POMO, and bless him for it.
What's missing, I believe, is a sense of the joy of being situated. Yes, we are "stuck" in a culture and a history and that inevitably colors our view of the world. And, yes, there is no escaping being situated to achieve a superior view, free of cultural bias and prejudice, that can identify the One Truth. But if we stop there, we are left with the POMO the Tutor abhors. The other side of this coin, however, is that being situated is a joy and would be a blessing if there were a God. Further, within a situation we have ways of discussing and conversing that give some views more standing than others. (That's why DH is important.) Further further, if there were revelation, it would provide a basic text that orients the conversation. Further further further, as Toot points out, practice and practicalities drive the important conversations, whether it's soldiers arguing over tactics or Jews arguing over whether telephone wires count as demarcating a bounded community (i.e., whether they count as an erev). POMO untied from situation — and from the life of practice that constitutes a situation — does indeed suffer from the tyrannical relativism both the Tutor and AKMA abhor.
By the way, AKMA is using BlogAmp, a plugin to WinAmp that automatically generates a bloggable list of the tunes you've been playing in WinAmp. (I'd consider using it but I don't use WinAmp.)
7/22/2002 12:16:28 PM | PermaLink
Sunday, July 21, 2002
Letters from Afghanistan
David Farnham is keeping a blog about his service in Afghanistan. He writes: "One of these days I'll get back to my life as a web architect, but for now I'm trying to get online and post whenever I can. Have a look." In fact, yesterday's post reads:
7/21/2002 10:19:37 AM | PermaLink
Open Recording Studio
7/21/2002 10:09:30 AM | PermaLink
Saturday, July 20, 2002
US Dept. of Brain Enhancement
Matt Oristano points us to a remarkable report that would read better as a premise for a cheesy scifi movie than as a serious statement from the National Science Foundation and Commerce Department. It's called Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance. Says Matt:
He especially commends to our attention a section on "memetic engineering" "where they propose to engineer our culture in a Darwinian mold as well."
7/20/2002 08:55:36 AM | PermaLink
Friday, July 19, 2002
Marks and Marek and the Copyright ThingKevin Marks pulls a great quote from the Recovering Marek:
And don't forget Kevin's MediAgora, a plan to build a market capable of dealing in digital works of the mind.
7/19/2002 07:26:43 PM | PermaLink
Right to Listen
(By the way, did you like the way I snuck "Right to Listen advocates" into my blog entry on the sham Commerce Dept. DRM meeting? Think it might catch on as an alternative to "content thieves," "pirates," "baked college students too cheap to pay for CDs," "anti-American, anti-Disney destroyers of civilization," etc.? Just a thought.)
7/19/2002 02:03:04 PM | PermaLink
DRM meeting update
7/19/2002 01:51:54 PM | PermaLink
The Stacked DRM Meeting
David Isenberg recommends Grant Gross's coverage at Newsforge of the Commerce Department's Digital Rights Management meeting last Wednesday. This meeting is intended to help forge a compromise for protecting copyrighted works but the deck was entirely stacked against customers/users and Right to Listen advocates. Says Isenberg: "Reading his article seemed almost like being there . . . an excellent piece." Yup.
Read it and become enraged. And engaged.
7/19/2002 12:27:39 PM | PermaLink
Book Chat Q & No A
One of the attendees — Alexandra Davis — at the book reading I did last night posted a thoughtful blog entry on it. Although Alexandra liked the event overall, my answer to the question she asked disappointed her, and I can see why. She writes:
Alexandra's recounting is accurate and fair. But her question is one of many important ones for which I have and will have no answer worth listening to. Accountability is a hugely important issue, and a really tough one that involves everything from psychology to philosophy to digital IDs. Sorry, Alexandra. I wish I did have an answer.
FWIW, I don't go into the dark side of the Net in Small Pieces because it is a partisan book — there are enough nay-sayers — that tries to get at the roots of the (positive) excitement about the Web. There are lots of things worth discussing that aren't in the book.
Alexandra's weblog overall is one of the frankest I've seen, and also one of the most reflective. Strong stuff.
7/19/2002 12:18:43 PM | PermaLink
Thursday, July 18, 2002
This 'n That
I have to prepare for a Book Event at the Brookline Booksmith tonight at 7 (you're all invited) so I've been bad about blogging today. A couple of tidbits...
Gotta love Gary Turner's sleazeball scandal rag parodies...
And speaking of Gary, Frank Paynter has a long interview with him that, as always, gives a great sense of the Person Behind the Blog.
Dave Curley writes about the Citizen Corps TIPS rat-out-your-neighbors page:
The Law of Irony continues its uninterrupted reign.
Good article, that not so incidentally says nice things about my book, by Charles Leadbeater in The New Statesman. Charlie is the author of The Weightless Society and is an advisor to Tony "Anthony" Blair.
7/18/2002 02:43:50 PM | PermaLink
Wednesday, July 17, 2002
Personal Postage Stamps
So, we're going to be allowed to print our own US postage stamps on our own printers. Why not let us create our own designs as well? After all, the paper is watermarked. Here are the first ones I'd do:
7/17/2002 03:37:27 PM | PermaLink
Meanwhile, Mark Dionne would strip me of my award for minor, perceived technical breaches. He writes:
First, it's only #9 if you count the sub-page hit for The David and Lucile Packard Foundation. I choose not to.
Second: No freaking way! The link is to my blog, not W. David Stephenson's. It's not even a link to the particular blog entry that makes the now-obvious mistake of mentioning W. David Stephenson: it links to this blog's home page. So, if W. Stinking David Stephenson wants to make up an award for himself that says "Mentioned on a Google Top Ten First-Name Page," he can. Otherwise, the prize is mine mine mine mine and not you nor a platoon of embittered loser Davids can take it away from me. And if you try, I'll just change the rules again. Bwahahahaha.
7/17/2002 10:45:01 AM | PermaLink
Latent Semantic Search
The always-provocative Arnold Kling suggests in an email that we take a look at the Semant-o-Matic site that uses latent semantic indexing to search blogs. The current site is an open source test bed, indexing only 11 blog sites, but the idea is provocative. Here's how I understand it, from the site's readable and informative explanation of searching and LSI.
When you click on the "Find more like this one" button on a search site (= "Similar pages" at Google), the site does an analysis of the word usage pattern on that page and runs a query to find other pages with similar patterns. LSI does this not when a user presses the button but as it's indexing the page so that it always knows other pages that are similar to the first one. So, when you do a LSI search for, say "French Impressionism," it finds not only pages that contain that phrase but also pages that are similar to ones that contain that phrase. Thus, an LSI search might turn up a page that talks about 19th Century painters concerned with the play of light in paintings of haystacks even if it never uses the phrase "French Impressionism." (Of course, it may also turn up a page about Haystack Calhoun, the old professional wrestler. playing with the lights in the arena.)
One of the very cool things about this approach — whether pre-computed or done on the fly — is that it lets a computer find two pages that are about the same thing simply by analyzing the way words are arrayed on the page, without making amighttempt to understand what those words mean.
7/17/2002 10:24:21 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, July 16, 2002
Rat Your Neighbor for America
One suggestion for a link on the RATS page: "How to Tell an Arab." America needs to know!
7/16/2002 11:25:06 AM | PermaLink
First Names and Misc.
David Gallagher, author of the article that proposed the Google First Name Top Ten Award says that there's some "back story" to his article. (E.g., apparently there's a photo he is suppressing.) He also has an entry about the Making Of his piece on Mahir "I Kiss You" Cagri that ran in the NY Times. His blog has lots of pictures, too, including one of a handlettered sign advertising "Waterbaloons already filled - 10 cents" — it could be a New Yorker cartoon if it weren't already a photograph.
Anita Rowland writes:
On an unrelated note, Euan Semple (who is moving The Obvious weblog to http://www.theobviousblog.net/blog/) writes:
I assume this street guide to sign language reminded Euan of me because of the UnFuck forgiveness gesture I have initiated, trademarked, copyrighted, legally adopted and cryogenically frozen.
7/16/2002 11:19:31 AM | PermaLink
In the righthand column you'll see a little face drawn in blue. That's my "blogchalk," Daniel Pádua's attempt to provide some semi-standard metadata so we can search for weblogs more precisely. The metadata goes like this:
There are complete instructions on how to enter your own blogchalk here.
7/16/2002 10:55:35 AM | PermaLink
Monday, July 15, 2002
Google's First-Name Top Ten
David Gallagher has written a very amusing article in Business 2.0 about his attempt to get his full name moved up Google's hit list, a challenge complicated by the fact that there is a teen actor named David Gallagher ahead of him in the listings.
At the end of the article, he gives himself a new challenge: Move himself up the list when you search just for his first name.
I had never searched Google for "David" but, guess what? I'm Number 8, baby! Woohoo! I am introducing a new award for myself:
Feel free to copy and reuse the award. But, remember, it's the honor system, so cheating will be ignored.
7/15/2002 09:34:50 AM | PermaLink
Mark Dionne points out (via Ray Kurzweil) that Crash Bandicoot, one of the most popular Playstation games, was written in Lisp. Why would a modern game be written in a dead language? Because it ain't dead. The power of Lisp isn't in its conspicuous use of lists and parentheses. As Andy Gavin, the co-founder of the gaming company, explains:
So, do I program in Lisp? Nah. It's such a pain in the ass for someone like me who writes mainly little utilities for himself like a tiny text processor that automates the production of HTML tuned specifically to the needs of this blog. (Well, actually — he says with a little pride — it also stores the blog entries in a text base, lets me browse through them, and automatically assembles and formats selected blog entries for inclusion in my newsletter, JOHO.) So, what's the choice of a non-manly hobbyist programmer like me? Um, Visual Basic.
And now you write to me to tell me to switch to Squeak and I tell you that I'm good enough at VB that the switching costs are too high and then you lose all respect for me, so then I spend two years in a Zen monastery eating wheatberries and mastering C++ and come out and marry Uma Thurman. Thanks! That's just the nudge I needed!
7/15/2002 09:19:15 AM | PermaLink
Sunday, July 14, 2002
The Google Mirror
Have we (well, S. Lamb) found the most pointless use of the Google API? It's a Google mirror in case Google is running too slowly. But, you'll have to go there to understand...
7/14/2002 10:49:30 AM | PermaLink
Verisign's Waiting List Gambit
Here are a couple of answers to the question I posed about Verisign's attempt to own the "Domain Waiting List" market. Right now, you can sign up with various companies to claim existing domain names if and when they are not renewed. I wondered in my blog what happened if two people both claimed, say, "amazon.com" using different services and that domain became available. Who would win? And is that the problem that Verisign is proposing to solve, enriching itself in the process?
Udhay Shankar says, yes Verisign's solution would solve the problem "for those people who don't have expensive lawyers, and who can't move WIPO or whatever. This would probably exclude Jeff Bezos. ;-)
7/14/2002 10:29:59 AM | PermaLink
Saturday, July 13, 2002
Plain-Talkin' Judge Rules against Bush-Cheney
A federal judge has ruled that the lawsuit trying to force Bush-Cheney to list who they met with when crafting the administration's "energy policy" can go forward. The judge found a pattern of deception in the administration's arguments to the court that can't be explained by mere incompetence. According to the article by the Environmental News Service:
[Thanks to Gary Unblinking Stock for pointing me to this.]
7/13/2002 08:51:24 AM | PermaLink
Secondary Domain Market: How Do I Feel?
Dotster, which has been my favorite place to register domain names, is circulating a letter to all its users asking for us to tell ICANN that we don't like Verisign's proposal for the "secondary domain market." As far as I can tell from this, Verisign is proposing that SnapNames be the only authorized provider of the "Domain Name Wait Listing Service" that lets a user grab an existing name as soon as it becomes available. So, if I want "www.amazon.com," I can pay a service a subscription fee so that if Amazon forgets to renew its registration of "www.amazon.com" it goes to me. Verisign — the owner of Network Solutions. which is the monopoly ICANN was established to break up — apparently would be the only one entitled to offer this service, which is currently widely available on the Net. It would charge $24/year whether or not the name came available, whereas other services charge less and only charge if the user succeeds in getting the name.
Now, here's what I don't understand. If two people register for "www.amazon.com" with different services, and Jeff Bezos forgets to put "Renew domain name" in his Palm Pilot, which of the two wins? Is this the problem Verisign is attempting to solve?
7/13/2002 08:39:29 AM | PermaLink
Friday, July 12, 2002
Marek's Doing Better
I spoke with him a couple of hours ago (around 6pm EDT) and he sounded chipper. We'd never talked by phone before. Not surprisingly, he's a funny guy; he's what 30 years ago hippier people than I would have called "a trip."
The problem is some type of intestinal infection and he should be going home on Sunday.
Whew! Don't do that to us, Marek!
7/12/2002 10:17:25 PM | PermaLink
Homeland Page Follow-up
2. David points us to Oklahoma City National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism because, unlike the Homeland page, it actually provides useful information and ways to contact the group. It's a start, anyway.
7/12/2002 10:46:00 AM | PermaLink
Marek: Get Well Now!
Marek's voice is powerful, beautiful and truly unique. And treasured.
Those of us who don't believe in the power of prayer will have to fall back on the old standards: superstition and hope.
[For an introduction to Marek, read Doc's blog. Thanks, Doc, for putting it so well.]
7/12/2002 10:30:34 AM | PermaLink
Pig in a Poke
Because I am still on The World's Slowest Net Connection - I'm actually picking up CompuServe reruns from 1987 - I have not been able to listen to the following link, but I trust its provenance: an email from RageBoy. I reproduce it here in its entirety:
7/12/2002 10:20:09 AM | PermaLink
Thursday, July 11, 2002
Presidential Medal of Freedom
According to the NY Times: In a White House ceremony today, President Bush awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, to a dozen prominent people, including:
We can dream, can't we?
7/11/2002 11:14:35 AM | PermaLink
David Reed is no fool so if he's excited — positively — about possible changes to the FCC's policy on licensing spectrum, then so am I. His blog entry has links to lots of comments filed with the FCC, including his own. (Whether the FCC listens to any of the sensible comments is a different matter.)
A passing comment from Dan Bricklin at a conference last week puts the issue in perspective. When someone commented on the fact that so many technologies use the 2.4gH stretch of spectrum, he muttered: "It's unlicensed, which is why the innovation happens there."
7/11/2002 10:39:11 AM | PermaLink
The Whitehouse Responds
BTW, apparently the White House has invested in a printer capable of turning out backdrops for Presidential Events with the Message of the Day emblazoned on it: Yesterday "Corporate Responsiblity," today "Protecting the Homeland", tomorrow "I Am Not (technically) a Crook."
7/11/2002 10:10:06 AM | PermaLink
Wednesday, July 10, 2002
A Neatly-Edged Square of Wilderness
Jeff Gates writes in response to my comments about trying to de-grass our front lawn:
I really like the idea. Giving corners to wildness. Maybe next year.
7/10/2002 12:16:11 PM | PermaLink
Some Questions for W
If CEOs ought to be held responsible if the financial disclosure statements they sign are wrong, then are you saying that Ken Lay's excuse that he was misled by other managers ought not to hold and that Kenny Boy ought to do hard time?
Are you confident that no CEO could be misled by crooked accountants or an errant CFO in any part of her or his business? For example, might a "lawyer's mistake" result in a member of the board of directors filing notice eight months late of a major stock transaction that has the appearance of insider trading? Ought the Board Member do hard time?
No, Bush is once again over-simplifying vastly complex problems so he can use his Blame-and-Punish strategy to give us the delusion that they're under control. Terrorist attack? Pin it on one evil-doer so we have someone to track down rather than addressing the complexities that give rise to terrorism. Widespread corruption in business due to the systemic flaws in the way our stock market works? Pin it on CEOs and threaten to jail them. Failing educational system? Reduce the problem to what can be diagnosed by federal, standardized tests ... and then punish the schools that need the most help.
The problem is that even if we get rid of the evil-doers, we will still have a world in which the next evil-doer will seem to make sense to a whole bunch of people.
Some nice puns:
7/10/2002 08:57:22 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, July 09, 2002
Do Libraries Need Books?Really interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed.
7/9/2002 01:24:42 PM | PermaLink
The Good, The Absurd, The Hateful
Three pieces of self-centered media news.
First, the Miami Herald today is running an op-ed written by David Stephenson and me about how bad the Homeland Security homepage sucks and some ideas about what can be done about it. (This expands on some stuff I'd written and David has been thinking about.)
Second, I got quoted in the NY Times on July 4 in an article about Mahir, the I Kiss You guy. The author of the article, David Gallagher, sent me a message to let me know that a Turkish newspaper covered his coverage and apparently quoted my quote.
Yeah, but they translate my comments as “Hollywood bize kendi ürettigi yildizlari sunuyor. Biz de internet araciligiyla siradan bir kisiyi yildiz yaptik. Fena mi?” Can't they even get the oblative right? Besides, I think "yildizlan sunyor," while correct in a pedestrian literal sense, really doesn't capture the sense of what I was saying. I think "kisyildzik aryiskadilzi" would have been much closer, as I'm sure you all will agree.
Well, you know what they say: "No tiskilyazi is bad tiskilyazi so long as they spell your yaptik right!"
Third, Small Pieces got the worst review of any book in history in the Washington Post. The reviewer actually used the monkeys-at-typewriters trope. Feel free to console me with small gifts. (FWIW, I agree with his comments about the mysterious "we" in the book, although I made the choice intentionally.)
>[I should probably note that my book has actually received some good reviews. There's a list of reviews here. And, yes, I will add the stinker from the Post when I get a chance. And when the Prozac kicks in.]
7/9/2002 10:43:50 AM | PermaLink
Gary Unblinking Stock has three pointers for us.
First, there's a list of philosophical humor. I'm laughing. I think.
Second, Gary lets us know that the mnftiu book, Get Your War On, is coming soon. You can sign up to get a signed copy for $20 with all profits going to landmine clearance efforts in Afghanistan. (Here's the latest Get Your War On comic strip.)
Third, Gary points us to a site with funny fake banner ads.
7/9/2002 09:31:10 AM | PermaLink
From James Sisk comes the following call to action:
Good idea, but since this won't happen only on blogs, maybe it should be "de-linking" or "a-linking." "Hypolinking"? "Hacksawing" (to cut the links)? Or the old word for this: "shunning." "Connect-shun"?
Of course, when it comes to the search engines, it would be a clear case of "ind-excommunication."
7/9/2002 09:15:06 AM | PermaLink
Monday, July 08, 2002
Transcript of the first sax solo at The Blue Note after musicians, thanks to neuro-implants, were able to play their "instruments" simply by thinking the music:
7/8/2002 09:22:08 AM | PermaLink
Blogs Worth Every Penny
Jeneane, who blogs movingly about her Aunt Penny, was the inspiration behind the "How's my blogging" blogsticker, although she credits RageBoy with the original question: Why don't we put our phone numbers on our blog sites? (My answer: Because I'd rather interrupt people than be interrupted.)
7/8/2002 06:59:28 AM | PermaLink
Sunday, July 07, 2002
Three Notes from around the World
Gary Turner writes:
Gary's right. It's a meta-approach to "warchalking," the instantly-amusing idea of adopting the old hobo chalk signs to mark when you are within WiFi range, because heaven knows there's nothing worse than running your WiFi card over the beach only to find out that you were getting false positives from old tin cans and crumpled foil candy wrappers, not from the pile of gold doubloons and lost engagement rings you were hoping for.
Martin Roell blogs enthusiastically about some thoughts inspired by Gary Turner's site where he has recorded the voices of a handful of his readers and co-bloggers. "I could suddenly feel the Internet," writes Martin.
(Martin blogs in German, which is something of an obstacle for many of us, including me, even with the absurdist help of Google's translation tool. On the other hand, where else are you going to see the word "faktenfaktenfaktenreichen"?)
7/7/2002 08:31:14 AM | PermaLink
Saturday, July 06, 2002
I thought I said I thought
I was interviewed yesterday by a radio station in the area of the US with "big states with pointy corners," as the host put it. It went fine, except for one patch. "Isn't it easier to come out of the closet on the Web?" the host asked.
Here's what went through my mind:
The host then asked, "But isn't it easier for gays to come out online?"
And so I probably sounded either homophobic or so conflicted about my own sexuality that I'm unable to talk about it. Oh well.
Ten minutes later, I found myself thinking about what I should have said:
For the record, how homophobic was I growing up in the '50s and '60s? Enough to worry as a teenager that I might be queer. Not enough to ever call someone "queer." Enough so that about a third of my circle of hippie friends in college waited until they graduated to come out of the closet. Not enough to change the way I felt about those friends. Enough so that I had some very stupid cocktail chatter as a graduate student about why gays weren't taking enough risks in their loving because no child could result (ah, the days before AIDS). Not enough to keep talking when my housemate came out of the closet. Enough, plenty enough.
7/6/2002 10:31:25 AM | PermaLink
Thursday, July 04, 2002
Why I Love the Web
So, I person I don't know takes the time to craft a response that is informative, personal and thought-provoking. What a gift. Nice to meet you, Elaine.
7/4/2002 12:19:33 PM | PermaLink
Dave Rogers points to an article from the WS Journal (by Lee Gomes) posted at MSNBC about whether the cyberworld needs its own cyberlaws.
Dave's response is pointed.
7/4/2002 12:14:54 PM | PermaLink
Wednesday, July 03, 2002
From a mailing list (quoting a quote from a quote, so hell with it) comes four places providing privatized domain name resolution. You can register names with them with extensions such as ."agent," ".mp3." ".love," and hundreds of others. But there is, of course, a rub. The domain name servers that do the look-ups when you click on a link don't recognize those extensions. So, you either have to modify your browser to use them, or, in one case, the names actually mask conventional domain names:
http://www.New.Net: "Enable your browser to see New.net domains." (You can also become a registrar, selling New.Net names. Hmmm, is "avarice.amway" taken?)
http://www.Name-Space.com: "Clients who host their DNS with Name.Space are mirrored in the domain '.XS2.NET' for compatibility with legacy domains. (i.e. name.space = name.space.xs2.net) "
http://www.NameSlinger.com: "To view this and other NameSlinger Websites, you should enhance your browser. "
http://www.MOX1.com: "3. Download the plugin."
The only way I can imagine these succeeding is if ICANN makes such a hash of it that balkanizing the Web begins to look good. (See Bob Frankston on ICANN.)
The Bob Frankston Corner
Bob has posted a terrific article explaining clearly the benefits of an "end-to-end" (= "stupid") network by explaining how caller ID works within the "smart" (= closed) telephone network and how it would work if it were implemented in an Internety way. (For why it's difficult to finance an end-to-end network, see NetParadox.com.)
7/3/2002 09:41:52 AM | PermaLink
Eric Norlin writes:
Hmm, isn't that like saying that you believe you can fly and please don't send emails about gravity?
7/3/2002 08:52:53 AM | PermaLink
A Metaphor in Search of a Meaning
I pulled up all the grass in our front yard this spring. That's a small task since the yard is about large enough to bury two people comfortably (or, as my mother used to describe the capacity of a friend's cabin cruiser: sleeps 4, fucks 8). I then sprinkled "meadow mix" and waited for my garden to bloom. But, the only plant I recognize is crab grass, which I have been dutifully pullling. Otherwise, I can't tell a weed from a flower, so it's all a-growing.
In 50 words or less, please apply this to:
a) The Web
For extra credit: Must any metaphor be capable of describing disparate phenomena? In general? In this case?
7/3/2002 08:51:01 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, July 02, 2002
At Harvard Course
I'm currently blogging from a course: "Creative New Media and the Web". More to follow.
Ok, I was a guest speaker at a course this morning. That first paragraph was a sample blog I did from the class to illustrate a point. The question had to do with the future of linear, sequential thinking which I inadvertently provoked (the question, not the thinking) by saying that my book developed some ideas over the course of its 200 pages. Isn't linear thinking so '50s? Well, yes and no. I don't think it's dead in our digital future, but I do think that the non-linear, web-like, hyperlinked mare's nests of blogthreads can often be a better way to get a view of a topic. I'm just not an Either/Or type of guy, I guess. Color me wishwashy.
7/2/2002 11:25:04 AM | PermaLink
Gillmor on Lessig: Scary, Depressing, Important
Dan Gillmor is attending a seminar at Harvard on Internet law and is blogging his notes. But Dan's notes are better written than the final drafts of the rest of us. And his notes on Lawrence Lessig's session on exactly how we can - and will, according to Lessig - lose what's most important about the Internet are a superb critical summary of Lessig's position. Read it and weep. Or, better, read it and fight.
Hylton Jolliffe writes: "I wanted to point you to another real-time blog on ILAW that you might find interesting and worth pointing to. It's edited by the Berkman's Donna Wentworth: www.corante.com/copyfight/." Well worth visiting. (Dan G points to this site also in his bloggage from the seminar.)
And Eric Norlin is POed that we're not paying enough attention to digital ID since that's a linchpin of the entire scheme. He highly recommends what looks like an excellent conference. Why, I'd be tempted to go if someone were to pony up the travel expenses. (That's the problem with being self-employed: you have to engage in some serious self-delusion to enjoy the perqs fully.)
7/2/2002 09:59:54 AM | PermaLink
BTW, don't forget the discussion of Shelley's ThreadNeedle project at QuickTopic. It's how we're going to get honest-to-object blogthreads.
7/2/2002 09:33:21 AM | PermaLink
Frankston on Bluetooth
Bob Frankston adds a critique of Bluetooth to the blogthread that began with my blogportage of a contretemps between the estimable Landry and the venerable Bricklin (or was it the venerable Landry and the estimable Bricklin?) and continued here (Bricklin) and here (Fleishman, Peterson, Marks).
7/2/2002 09:27:46 AM | PermaLink
Monday, July 01, 2002
Belkin Customer Support Rocks
For the second time, my Belkin Nostromo 500 Speedpad, an essential add-on if you play computer games, broke. For the second time, a simple email to their support folks resulted in them sending out a new one. These folks are great to do business with.
7/1/2002 04:38:41 PM | PermaLink
In a follow-up email, Glenn writes:
Jonathan Peterson responds with an email supporting what seems to me to be Bricklin's main problem with BlueTooth:
Kevin Marks writes:
It has no chance in hell of competing with 802.11b.
7/1/2002 09:02:37 AM | PermaLink
Locke on Blogs and Penises
Meanwhile, RB blogs some spam promising to enlarge his penis. A quick calculation shows that had I responded to every spam offer to enlarge my penis, my dick would currently be 2.36 miles (3.64 kilometers) long. Ok, ok, like all men, I rounded up my starting length. It'd really only be 2.357 miles long.
(You'll find a witty metric conversation chart here).
7/1/2002 07:56:03 AM | PermaLink
Blog Reviews of Small Pieces