February 14, 2003
The Internet is not a thing: It's an agreement.
And there's a big difference.
It's a JOHO World After All
I have chapters in two books that came out last week. The first is Viable Utopian Ideas, ed. Art Shostak, where I have an embarrassing essay called "The Web as Utopia." The second is a compilation of works by local authors to support the Brookline Library, where I have a humiliating essay called "Disliking Libraries." The book is titled the Fruitful Branch, published by The Brookline Library Foundation, 361 Washington Street, Brookline, MA 02445. $20 for 134pp.
Open Spectrum FAQ
You may be interested in an Open Spectrum FAQ I wrote, with content from Dewayne Hendricks, David Reed and Jock Gill.
I've been thinking about the end of the Internet. No, not its collapse, but as in the"End-to-End" (E2E) argument, put definitively by David P. Reed, J.H. Saltzer, and D.D. Clark in their seminal article, End-to-End Arguments in System Design. The concept is simple: whenever possible, services should not be built into a network but should be allowed to arise at the network's ends. For example, it's a good thing the Internet designers didn't build searching into the Net itself because then we wouldn't have gotten competition and Google and whatever good idea comes along that's better than Google.
This is a powerful principle, and not only for its implications for network design (about which I know nothing). David Reed in particular has been eloquent about what this means for the economic value of the Internet: the Net's value is in its the possibilities it enables. David Isenberg makes the same point when he argues for "stupid" networks: every time you optimize a network for a particular type of data, you are de-optimizing it for others.
So, I've been wondering how this principle applies beyond the core of the Internet. Clearly, it means we should reject changes to the Internet Protocols that make the Internet better for this or that type of app. But there aren't many proposals of that sort. On the other hand, there are frequent attempts to institute software applications that would act as if they were part of the core protocols: these are apps that want to be ubiquitous and stand between us and the other ends of the Internet.
So, here's a way of characterizing the difference between evil, greed-head proposals and beneficent webhead proposals...
The Internet is not a thing. We know this because we could throw out all the material stuff of the Internet, replace it with other stuff that's vastly different, and it'd still be the Internet. For example, we could theoretically replace the wires with transmitters and receivers and the hard drives with 3D optical memory, and it'd still be the Internet.
If the Internet isn't a thing, what is it? It's an agreement. That's what a protocol is, after all. The Internet Protocol says that all those who participate in the Internet agree to package up their data in certain predictable ways. That's about it.
Nethead proposals (= Good) put forward an agreement that only works if people agree to it. That means that it makes the Internet more valuable to the participants. And it also means that no one entity owns or controls the agreement (unless we agree to it). Because no one owns it, anyone can build an application that accepts the agreement.The email protocols are an example: no one owns the agreement and anyone can build a mail client or server. The Jabber protocol for instant messaging is another example.
Greedhead proposals, on the other hand, attempt to coerce agreement. For example, they take an Internet service we've come to rely on and they force us - by legislation or by marketing muscle - to accept a new agreement if we want to keep on using it. DRM is an example. Microsoft Passport is another. I think digital ID is another, but people I respect disagree with me. Sometimes greedhead agreements are owned outright. Or they favor one company's software application. They are shotgun contracts and thus lack legitimacy.
Now, what does this have to do with End-to-End networks? An E2E network consists of the minimal agreements necessary to allow the maximum variety of applications to be built on the edge. Additional agreements can be layered on top, but they too should follow the E2E principles: they are agreements and thus are entered into voluntarily by all participants, and they are open so that the maximum variety of applications can be built on their edges.
Webhead Good. Greedhead bad.
How does E2E apply when taken out of the realm of the innards of network architecture? Does it help to think in terms of agreements?
Email feels real good. A simple data standard, not owned by any particular player, gets taken up by developers creating all sorts of applications, from email writers to readers to archivers. Its power comes the fact that so many have agreed to it, and it was easy to agree to because it's unowned.
Macromedia Flash and Adobe Acrobat, on the other hand, each rest control of a standard for encoding data in the hands of a private company, although both make the standard fully public. Both let other developers create compilers and players for files written to that standard. Yet Flash feels less intrusive to me. I think that's because I feel compelled to use Acrobat because it's been adopted by sites with whom I just about have to do business: If you want to download a US tax form or an application to a US college, you're going to have to be an Acrobat user. On the other hand, while many sites use Flash, generally they give me a way around it: "Click here to skip the introduction." Flash feels more voluntary than Acrobat, although structurally they're the same.
Further, I worry about Acrobat's future. Adobe currently has an ebook reader that enforces usage restrictions ("Digital Rights Managment"). A PR person at Adobe told me this morning that the company is looking at making the next rev of Acrobat into an ebook reader. If so, then the tool that we accepted (grudgingly, perhaps) for downloading printable forms will presumably have built into it a set of restrictive capabilities to which we didn't agree.
This feels bad because the Internet is an agreement.
I've also been thinking that this End-to-End thing can be applied to businesses and other organizations. Here are the basic lessons of E2E for business:
Controlled growth is slowed growth. If you really want to grow fast, loosen up the control.
Keep the center stupid. Move as many functions as possible out of the center of the organization.
Create a market for innovation at the edges. Not only "empower" the edges, but encourage the growth of a market that rewards interesting ideas and enables them to fail or succeed quickly.
Make small bets. My friend Jock Gill has written about the importance of making many small bets in government and politics. The same is true in business (or at least some of them). The simple reason is that given enough time, everything fails. Thus, you don't want to place too many large bets.
Note: I've been talking about this a lot with Doc Searls. His three cardinal rules — No one owns it, everyone can use it, and anyone can improve it — are at the heart of this discussion.
Note: The above doesn't pretend to be a technical article. For an introduction to IP, try here.
I taught a three-session course at MIT as part of their January independent study curriculum. I tried to get at the ideas of Small Pieces Loosely Joined in a different way. I posted my notes before each session met (Session 1, Session 2, Session 3), so rather than repeat them here, I'm going to try putting them yet differently.
The Web is a conundrum: it's both weird and familiar. What does the weird Web world remind us of?
The Web reminds us of the truth about ourselves and our relationship to the real world. Why do we need reminding? Because our"common sense" ways of thinking are so alienated, partly because of our tradition of philosophical thought.
We talk about the self as if it were an M&M: the real stuff is on the inside, protected by a thin shell. The public self consists of social roles that may or may not reveal the Inner Me. In fact, we have an important set of virtues that assume a gap between the inner and outer self: if the two are in sync, then you are sincere, genuine, authentic, have integrity, etc.
But this picture of the self is seriously screwy. Even if we are living an M&M existence, why claim that the inner self is the real one? Why denigrate the social selves we create and inhabit?
Suppose were to start differently. Suppose we were to say that first we are social and can only have an inner self because we first have outer ones. And, more important, suppose we were to say that the outer one isn't hard-shelled but is as contextual as the meaning of a word. Richard Rorty, whom I stopped reading during The Great Forgetting that began when I left academics in 1986, talks about the self as relational, i.e., as incapable of"existing independently of any concern for others..." [p. 77]. (Philosophy and Social Hope is a really good book. Wish I had read it sooner.)
Our Web self — our presence on the Web — is only relational. It is all shell and no chocolate because we have no presence on the Web except insofar as we present ourselves this way or that way. Our Web self expresses a truth about us that we often deny in the real world: we are social and many-selved first.
[By the way, this is ultimately what makes me uncomfortable about the digital ID efforts. Not only will it change the Web default from anonymity to identified, but it will reinstitute the old sense of the self as a persistent inner core. But a cry of"Ouch! You're stepping on my metaphysics!" is not likely to stop the commercial proponents of digital ID. Frankly, nothing is likely to stop them.]
One of the basic facts of morality is that an Is can't imply an Ought. That is, there is no factual description that by itself tells you what's right and wrong. "People are starving" doesn't let you conclude "We ought to feed them" unless we also have a principle with an "ought" in it, such as "One ought to feed the starving." Thus, philosophy has focused on finding the right Ought statements and, more important, explaining what makes them right, how we could know, etc.
Now suppose we start with a different Is. Here's more Richard Rorty:
The emergence of the novel has contributed to a growing conviction among the intellectuals that when we think about the effects of our actions on other human beings we can simply ignore a lot of questions that our ancestors traditionally thought relevant. These include Euthyphro’s question about whether our actions are pleasing to the gods, Plato’s question about whether they are dictated by a clear vision of the Good, and Kant’s question about whether their maxims can be universalized. Instead, a decision about what to do should be determined by as rich and full a knowledge of other people as possible—in particular, knowledge of their own descriptions of their actions and of themselves. Our actions can be justified only when we are able to see how these actions look from the points of view of all those affected by them.
Seen in this light, what novels do for us is to let us know how people quite unlike ourselves think of themselves, how they contrive to put actions that appall us in a good light, how they give their lives meaning. The problem of how to live our own lives then becomes a problem of how to balance our needs against theirs, and their self-descriptions against ours. To have a more educated, developed and sophisticated moral outlook is to be able to grasp more of these needs, and to understand more of these self-descriptions.
Redemption from Egotism
Thus, argues Rorty, novels are the third great development in the history of moral thought: from religion to philosophy to novels.
But then what do we make of the Internet which is an unmediated reflection of the needs, passions and outlooks of its 600,000,000 participants? If morality is based in letting the desires and ideas of others affect us, then the Internet's social and architectural premise is: let us be moral.
[An aphorism: The Internet is about truth. The Web is about morality. Discuss amongst yourselves.]
Quick, come up with an example of a real thing as opposed to something mental or illusory. Got it? My spidey-sense says you came up with a rock.
What makes it so damn real? It's got heft. It pushes back. It doesn't change hardly at all. It doesn't give a good goddamn about whether we look at it or stroke it or paint eyes on it and sell it as a pet. It came out of the earth. It was there before we put the shovel in and unearthed it. It'll be there when we're buried in the earth. And it's got nice, distinct edges. That's why when we're asked to come up with a paradigmatic real thing we don't come up with a river, fog, or Dick Cheney's one-sided smile.
A rock is real precisely because it's cold, indifferent, perfectly edged, unchanging, without inherent meaning, and independent of all relationships. Reality is what's independent of our awareness of it. Reality is the residue left after consciousness goes.
Or so we've been taught.
What's the paradigmatic thing of the Web? A page. It's meaningful. It speaks to us. It was created by humans. It only is a page on the Web insofar as it's linked to other pages.
Pages are the opposite of rocks.
But the view of realness of which the rock is paradigmatic actually captures little of the world in which we all live. Rock-reality may be independent of our awareness and may be essentially devoid of meaning ("We merely see it as a rock"), but the world in which we live is linguistic, "meaned," contextual, interlinked and interdependent.
The Web reflects our world better than the real world of the rock does.
The Web is both weird and familiar. It's weird because it replaces matter with signs and distance with passion. It's familiar because in it we are what we were all along: connected through care.
Richard Volpato read my blog's description of the session on the self and said well what I meant to say.
InformationWeek (Jan. 27) gives itself over to essays by the World's Leading CEOs on what to expect in the next year. One after another they engage in language as rich and evocative as Tang's list of ingredients ("Real-time ROI, enhanced with Polysorbatol!") and visions that never seem to look past their own wallets. Herewith the short version, in order of appearance:
Steve Ballmer, Microsoft
Miscellaneous R&D, especially in the"enterprise space" with Windows Server 2003
All your every-goddamn-thing are belong to us
"...partner to deliver high-quality, affordable technology...great opportunities exist for customers and for our industry"
Carly Fiorina, HP
"...software and management tools necessary to build truly adaptive, agile IT infrastructures ...security ...high tech, low cost...lower cost of ownership"
Save me, Compaq!
"The first and most obvious choice we've made that was driven by the customer's agenda is our merger with Compaq."
Craig Conway, Peoplesoft
Expanding current offerings across different departments
No new customers so we'll try to get further into our current customers' pants
"The real-time enterprise is a reality today, and it represents the next great leap in productivity..."
Gerry Cohen, Information Builders
We've got nothing new
"Real-time analysis doesn't imply data from real-time transactions."
Sam Palmisano, IBM
Growth won't be sparked by new technologies but by companies' desire to become"on-demand E-businesses."
New pricing models to make us ubiquitous where our technology hasn't
"It will take the integration not just of technologies, but of technology with business insight. And it will take a more consistent and committed embrace of open platforms and common standards." [Take that, Microsoft!]
Craig Barrett, Intel
Gotta be growth somewhere
"What I hear from customers is, 'How do I have one database, one set of applications, one Internet that's got scalable content, regardless of the client I'm using?'" [Funny, I was saying that just this morning.]
Scott McNealy, Sun
Workstations ain't goin' anywhere so tout hooking 'em up
"The really cool thing about grid computing is that it allows companies to bring more processing power to bear on a given task than ever before." [McNealy actually sounds like he wrote this himself and that he gives a damn.]
John Thompson, Symantec
Integrated security tools
We've got lots of ok pieces that aren't getting much better, so tout hooking 'em up
"Just as systems-management solutions helped ease many of the past challenges of client-server computing, innovative security-management systems...information assets...360-degree view of their security environment ...distributed security...proactive in their security planning..."
Michael Dell, Dell
Transparency, trust, wireless, customization, standards-based yadda yadda
You can still buy equivalent hardware cheaper elsewhere
"Legacy proprietary computing architectures aren't only expensive to maintain but also keep companies from realizing the efficiencies and benefits of new technologies."
Dan Warmenhoven. Network Appliance
Heterogeneous storage management
Help! My technology is soooooo boring...
"...rapid return on investment...low total cost of ownership...leverage their organizations' information assets...without compromising availability, access, or performance..."
John Chambers, Cisco
More intelligence moving into the network. [Noooo!]
If we can set the standard by which some bits are more important than others, we can own the entire Internet
"...an intelligent information network, which is a systems-based approach to networking characterized by six attributes: robust, secure, global, fair, adaptable and scalable."
Larry Ellison, Oracle
The economy is going to stabilize. We love Linux. Sell, implement and run software for customers. Collaboration Suite.
Hey, you're looking good, beautiful!
"Now, some people talk about the aggressive Oracle sales force. But what does that really mean?" [Sounds like Ellison to me.]
Thomas Siebel, Siebel Systems
Business-process computing placing"central importance on the interoperability of applications to support end-to-end business processes."
No new customers so we'll try to get further into our current customers' pants
"paradigm shift...Web services ... gains in productivity ... organizational agility ... seamlessly...seamless...point-to-point approach is not only complex..." [Fabulous photo of him though.]
Here are two standards related to phone numbers. One you should definitely know about. The other is in the It-Can't-Hurt-to-Know-Stuff side of the ledger.
The one that matters now is UNE-P (Unbundled Network Elements Platform). UNE-P lets a company offer telecommunication services without having to lay cable or string wires, instead using the existing "local loop" that connects users to the incumbent telephone company (ILEC). The Telecommunications Act of 1996 required ILECs to offer UNE-P at wholesale prices in order to make competition at the local level feasible; if you had to lay your own cable in order to offer a telecom service, you'd never get off the ground.
Now the FCC is shifting away from this policy. It is worried that the ILECs are going to go out of business, so it's removing this avenue of competition. For those of us who are urging the FCC to let the incumbents "fail fast," this is not good news. (David Isenberg does an excellent job explaining the UNE-P issue in his newsletter.)
Then there's the IETF ENUM initiative "which seeks a mapping between telephone numbers and the DNS." The official white paper on usage scenarios of this mapping says:
In a pure IP environment, ENUM will allow end users to be identified by a commonly used name (i.e., their telephone number) for a variety of applications. ... [E]nd users can change IP service providers without having to change their destination identification. For example, an end user can change their underlying e-mail address from email@example.com to firstname.lastname@example.org but, with ENUM set up to handle e-mail ... still be reached by having ENUM-enabled mail clients send mail addressed to their telephone number (e.g., mailto:+1-973-236- 6787).
I don't know enough to have an opinion. If you do, let me know.
Late Breaking News!
Just as I was proofreading this issue - don't laugh, I do proofread it - Eric Norlin blogged about ENUM developments and that standard's important relationship to digital ID. Important!
Where is the organized civil disobedience against the DMCA? Am I missing it?
I'm up for something. For example, suppose we made up two ribbons like these:
Look at the ALT tag. Each contains half of a DeCSS perl hack that lets you break the encryption on DVDs. (Actually, I had to encode some of the HTML elements so it'd work in a browser.)
Don't like this? Who could blame you. So come up with something better, braver and catchier. I'll probably be up for it.
The first ranking on Google for "DeCSS" in fact goes to a site that has created innocuous software called "DeCSS" precisely to make life a little harder for those trying to enforce the anti-DeCSS effort (aka The Bad Guys).
Here's an excellent column by Lawrence Lessig on keeping the Net open.
Dave Curley writes to let us know that
You will soon be able to check out e-books from the Cleveland Public Library, which is cool, broadly speaking. Of course, the devil is in the details: a limited number of each title will be available at any time. E-books - just like the real thing!
If there were e-drugs the way there are e-books, would we be ok with limiting access to them in order to maximize revenues for the drug companies?
Ok, so that analogy has some holes in it.
I'm a writer. I'm in favor of getting paid for what I write. But Cleveland's attempt to balance the interests of the author and the public is such an unimaginative note-for-note copying of real world limitations that you have to believe there's a better way
George Zimmerman's RIAA's Statistics Don't Add Up to Piracy points out that while overall music CD sales were down in 2002, the average sale per CD went up, and in a down market no less.
And Dan Bricklin has an extensive analysis of the question of slumping CD sales.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Peterson also points out that:
if you purchased retail CDs between 1995 and 2000 you should sign up for the settlement against RIAA for price fixing.
Dan Gillmor's column says the lack of competition in the access provider market may well lead to a stifling of content itself.
The question boils down to something fairly simple... Should giant telecommunications companies — namely the cable and local-phone provider — have vertical control over everything from the data transport to the content itself? Or should we insist on a more horizontal system, in which the owner of the pipe is obliged to provide interconnections to competing services?
Scary stuff. Important stuff.
Although he privacy statement is scary and quite badly written, it assures us that the information is only aggregated and not identified with particular users. To opt out, click here...and then repeat for every browser and every computer you use.
Denise at Bag 'n' Baggage describes her thought process in using a Creative Commons license. It's a helpful discussion by a bloggin' lawyer. She also answers reader's questions.
The Creative Commons has its own useful blog.
Here's JOHO's Creative Commons License:
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
There's a manifesto proclaiming a "wireless commons" that has me just puzzled enough that I haven't signed it. It proclaims the virtues of wireless connectivity, and then commits the signatories to some type of support in the wireless build-out:
Becoming a part of the commons means being more than a consumer. By signing your name below, you become an active participant in a network that is far more than the sum of its users. You will strive to solve the social, political and technical challenges we face. You will provide the resources your community consumes by co-operating with total strangers to build the network that we all dream of.
I don't think I can live up to that demand, for I am primarily a bandwidth consumer; I do have have a wifi transmitter that my neighbors could use. Does that mean I can sign?
Anyway, a "wireless commons" is a phrase worth floating.
Bruce Kushnick's book, "The Unauthorized Bio of the Baby Bells," is available as a free download via the Teletruth organization. I haven't read it yet, but I'm looking forward to it. Why, it even has an introduction by the redoubtable Bob Metcalfe!
David Isenberg's SMART Letters remain an invaluable source of highly informed opinion about what's happening in telecommunications.
Seth Johnson, in an email, points to a fascinating paper by David Walker called "Heirs of the Enlightenment: Copyright During the French Revolution and Information Revolution In Historical Perspective." From the introduction:
During the Enlightenment, two conflicting viewpoints on the nature of authorship, creativity, and copyright emerged. One view, proposed by the French thinker Denis Diderot, advanced the notion that literary works are unique creations of the individual mind, and thus should be protected as the most sacred form of property. The other view, advanced by the Marquis de Condorcet, saw literary works as the expression of ideas that already exist in nature, and thus belong to all and should be made available to all for the common good. Both viewpoints had a profound influence on the changing legal status of intellectual property during the French Revolution. Even more, this paper will argue that these two conflicting viewpoints, both of which were firmly grounded in Enlightenment thought, still continue to have an influence into the present, and the tension between the two continues to be played out in the arena of copyright in the United States in the year 2000.
Scott Bradner, one of the people who crafted this Internet thing we know
and love, has an excellent
article on the striking absence of the user/customer in Sony's and Microsoft's
dreams of living room dominance.
While writing an email to AKMA, I realized why I'm not as happy as I should be given the externalities of my life: I'm never done with anything.
I used to be. I'd work on something and then it would be complete. I'd mount the stuffed head on my wall and move on. Now everything is a damn thread. At best, things peter out. They may even end. But they're never done, the type of done where you close the door behind you and hear it click shut.
It's probably just me. Yeah, that's right.
In a comment in the discussion of my blogging about never being done, Dylan Tweney writes:
I watched "A Beautiful Mind" recently and was struck how much John Nash's schizophrenia was like my online life: ethereal voices constantly impinging on my attention, demanding responses, distracting me from the work (and people) at hand. Only in my case it's email messages, not hallucinations.
(The entire discussion is well-worth reading. Lots of great comments.)
Researchers at the Information Technology Center of Tokyo University have calculated the value of pi to 1.24 trillion places.
And we're know they got it right because ... ?
Michael Quinlon's weekly newsletter, World Wide Words, reports that the American Dialect Society has announced this year's Words of the Year:
Most likely to succeed: Blog.
Most useful: Google.
Most creative: Dialarhoea.
Most unnecessary: Wombanisation (feminization).
Most outrageous: Neuticles (artificial testicles for neutered dogs)
Most euphemistic: Regime change.
Phrase of the Year: Weapons of mass destruction.
Quinlon also points us to the 2003 list of words Lake Superior State University has banished from the language for being overused or just plain stupid. The list includes:
Weapons of mass destruction
Make no mistake about it
Now, more than ever
Having said that (also: That said)
It's a good thing
___ in color (e.g., "Green in color") Frozen tundra Undisclosed, secret location
Now I'd like to see those American Dialect Association eggheads rough up them Lake Superior smarties — even their name is smug! — over whether "weapons of mass destruction" is the phrase of the year or deserves to be driven from the land in shame! Pettifogs at dawn, gentlemen!
(For previous years' Words of the Year, see here.)
Michael Powell, chairman of the FCC, was given a TiVo for Christmas. He's already called it "God's machine." It's only a matter of weeks before he'll find himself at a staff meeting reaching for the rewind button so he can re-hear what someone just said.
I'd heard that Powell was a part-time tech junkie. Excellent. We want our tech policy driven by lust. (Thanks, Lawmeme via Doc for the link.)
From Buzz Bruggeman comes an email pointing to Big Marv's site where there are instructions on how to enable the much-desired 30-second skip feature on TiVo:
Grab your TiVo remote.
Bring up any recorded program. (You have to be watching a recorded program rather than "Live TV" in order to enable the feature.)
On your TiVo remote, key in the following sequence: SELECT PLAY SELECT 30 SELECT
If you've successfully entered the code, you should hear three "bings" in succession to inform you that you've successfully enabled the 30 second skip.
It works! Now the little button above the number 3 button — the one that looks like this: ->| — will skip ahead 30 seconds. Unfortunately, it no longer skips ahead to the tick mark on the progress bar. But repeating the above procedure will restore it to its previous operation.
Jane Black deconstructs the Cometa story for BusinessWeek. Cometa made a splash recently by announcing that AT&T, Intel and IBM had joined to provide nationwide wifi access. On a closer reading of the press materials (first suggested by Peter Kaminski), it turns out that the Big Three have very little skin in this game. Further, it's not clear that the game is about putting up 20,000 hotspots; it could just be an announcement that Cometa is available if you're a telco or an ISP looking to outsource your WiFi construction project. (Jane's take is more detailed and fact-based than this.)
Jane draws a parallel to ZapMail, FedEx's plan to put them newfangled fax machines in their offices so that they could fax business's documents. That way individual businesses wouldn't have to buy the expensive contraptions. But this centralized approach failed as prices dropped and every business installed its own. In the same way, centralized provisioning of WiFi may (should!) give way to the bottom-up installation of neighborhood networks.
For more on the ZapMail story, see Clay Shirky's article.
Glenn Fleishman has an article in the NY Times (registration required) that includes a map of the hotspots in NYC. Unsurprisingly, it maps to the racial and economic divisions of the city: "92 percent of network nodes were below 96th Street."
Glenn mentioned this article in the hallways at Supernova, a conference we were at. Bob Frankston's reaction (and I hope I represent it fairly) was that the problem is really one of educating people about the benefits of getting connected: all but the very poorest in NYC have televisions, and if you can afford a TV you could have afforded a connected PC. It does seem that connectedness would spread further down the economic pyramid if its benefits were clearer. But I think very few people, except for the upper reaches of geekdom, view TV and Internet as competitive technologies. Having a TV is close to a requirement for participating in our culture. As long as it's an Either/Or, the digital divide in NYC will be real.
I'm annoying Dewayne Hendricks by refusing to spell WiFi as "Wi-Fi," which is the official spelling. I figure I'm already too stiff in my spelling because I capitalize the interior "F." Hell, I think it really ought to be spelled "wifi."
I also spell "e-mail" as "email."
Suppose I compromise by agreeing to put the hyphens I save into "co-operation" and "margin-of-error." Win-win!
I have come upon certain information about a hidden weakness of the 10-missile defense shield President Bush has decided to erect to protect our country. Although some may call me unpatriotic or even a traitor for telling our potential enemies how to defeat the shield, I prefer to think of myself as a whistle-blower.
So, here is the one can't-fail way to exploit the hidden weakness of our missile shield: Fire 11 missiles.
Joe Conason previews an article in Esquire about how policy decisions are made in the Karl Rove White House. Here's a summary of Conason's summary: You know how on The West Wing everyone knows everything about every policy issue? Good. Now imagine the opposite.
And here's the source of much of the information apologizing, but not recanting.
Gary Stock is funny and telling on Senator Bill Frist's past as a torturer of cats. It's Reality Based Comedy, unfortunately.
Adina Levin writes about some informal research done by Valdis Krebs that resulted in this diagram, which you can see full size by clicking here or on this gargantuan thumbnail:
This is a rough-and-ready map of the reading preferences of the political left and the right. Valdis, who does superb maps of complex information, looked at some books easily identifiable as lefty or righty (e.g., Michael Moore's Stupid White Men and Ann Coulter's Slander) and then looked at each book's "buddy list" ("People who bought this book also bought..."). He followed those links and mapped the results.
Given that Valdis is not pretending to have done thorough, systematic search, the results are nevertheless interesting if not surprising: We're not reading one another's books. In fact, Valdis found only one book that both "sides" are reading: Bernard Lewis' What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response.
Valdis puts this diagram forward as the result of some back-of-the-envelope research and nothing more. It leaves me with two questions: Is this clustering getting tighter or looser? And where would we find common ground outside of books about politics? Are lefties and righties both reading Harry Potter, About a Boy or Amsterdam? Are we all keeping up with The Sopranos? And surely concerned citizens of all political persuasions set aside an hour on Tuesday night to watch Buffy!
I hope Valdis approaches Amazon and suggests that they use his tool to let us all see the emergent patterns...
David Isenberg includes a quotation from Mark Crispin Miller:
"[U.S. President George W. Bush] has no trouble speaking off the cuff when he's speaking punitively, when he's talking about violence, when he's talking about revenge. When he struts and thumps his chest, his syntax and grammar are fine. It's only when he leaps into the wild blue yonder of compassion, or idealism, or altruism, that he makes these hilarious mistakes."
Mark Crispin Miller author of The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder, quoted in "Bush Anything But Moronic," by Murray Whyte, Toronto Star, November 28, 2002.
Gary Stock is all over the GOP AstroTurfing brouhaha: the Republican Party has been awarding GOPoints, redeemable for cheesy gifts, for sending prefab letters to the editor. Gary's page sends us to DredWerkz were you'll find a password by which you can roam free at the GOP site.
First go to: http://www.gopteamleader.com/index.asp. Next, log in. Use the username: email@example.com and the password gopgop.
Then Gary recounts how he used the GOP Citizen Spam engine to send a message to the editor of the Kalamazoo Gazette warning him/her to watch out for letters to the editor that are actually spam-for-points sponsored by the Republican party.
Back on the AstroTurfing topic, David Forrester of Molecular points to an article in NTK:
It's always good to see a thriving new community springing up in Usenet's barren wasteland - especially ones with interests as specific as those of "Richard Craft", "Kevin Steward", "Kyran Goring", "Danny Farrell", "Sean Rogers", "Mike Harding", "Oliver Hammond", "James Goodman", "Cameron Ellis" et al. Take it from us, these guys have a *lot* in common: they all post from a Mailbox Internet account, they all have Hotmail addresses, and the products they just can't help recommending to each other include student info-hub thesite.org, the musical output of Elvis Costello and Afroman, plus the Activision games Wreckless, Rally Fusion and Minority Report. All of which, any idiot with a search engine can see, are clients of new media marketing agency DIGITAL OUTLOOK, who define guerrilla marketing as "participating within a variety of carefully targeted online communities [...] and initiating 'unofficial' discussions about our clients' offering". They've yet to confirm or deny whether these individuals are Digital Outlook employees (or their aliases), and whether they have any kind of code of practice on the use of false identities for promotional purposes. Or maybe the company intranet was down, thus forcing the staff to communicate with each other via alt.internet.providers.uk.free? ...
The only good news is that bastards like these do eventually get found out. But the technique undoubtedly still "works" in some instances since more people will be fooled than angered.
See you in Hell.
Scott Kirsner's always readworthy column in the Boston Globe (here today, gone tomorrow) has a table with predictions by seven leading Boston tech analyst companies. I'm assuming that these predictions were volunteered by the analysts and thus should be counted as marketing tools. Herewith an annotated summary:
"Widespread rollout of WiFi high-speed Internet access in metropolitan areas will put telecom companies' 'dark fiber' to use..."
Safe but trendy: it got "WiFi" and "dark fiber" in a single sentence. (Won't this be more like a sproutup than rollout?)
"Companies will invest in 'enterprise performance management' software that supplies executives with real-time information..."
Predicted every year for the past decade. AMR must have a big client in the "EPM" field.
"The DVD will be the last physical format for recorded entertainment. After that, it's all delivered digitally..."
Forrester gets the award for couching a provocative prediction in a mind-catching way.
"PC and laptop market won't recover until 2004 or 2005 despite revolutionary new chips from Intel and AMD"
Ah, the "Courageously delivering bad news" approach. But loses marketing punch with the vague "2004 or 2005." Giga might as well just say "Never." (And then Giga was bought by Forrester.)
"There will be a major cyber-terrorism event in 2003, perhaps in response to a war in Iraq."
Too Magic Eightball-y. Sounds like IDC is launching a Cyber-Security division.
Patricia Seybold Group
"Companies will use new technologies like Web services to become much more adaptive to customers' changing needs."
Web services, maybe. But too transparently shilling for Seybold's "Customer.com" brand.
"The advent of 'portable' cell-phone numbers which can be transferred from one carrier to another, will spark a price war in 2003, leading to unlimited voice-calling plans for $50 to $60 a month."
Solid, concrete prediction with numbers we can check in 2004. Since Congress mandated that portable numbers be available last year, it's a fairly safe prediction.
Note: I have no predictions of my own to offer at this time. I wouldn't dare.
Cory Treffiletti in Online Spin writes about the possibility that the Internet has become a mature enough medium that it can provide "continuity" with a company's mainstream broadcast campaign:
Maybe the Internet has actually become the best medium for running a continuity campaign, to sustain the message conveyed in Television and is clearly the second most important medium in conveying a message to the consumer?
After noting that 134M people in the US are online, he writes:
Given that the prices for Interactive media are so low, and that online ad spending has surpassed out-of-home and is quickly catching up on radio regardless of the cost cutting, it stands to reason that marketers are realizing this medium is indeed a great opportunity for reaching a mass audience effectively and generating a response.
You can't argue with that! Well, except maybe to say: Noooooooo! Online marketing is almost always like handing out business cards at a wedding.
Will someone just send Treffiletti a copy of Gonzo Marketing already?
The University of Phoenix spams me about once a day. For example:
We are closer to you than you might think. Go to http://oz.valueclick.com/r/hs0243102/a0070077/0 to check the location nearest you. University of Phoenix is the nation’s largest private university.
You are receiving this email because you have opted-in to receive email from publisher: swelldeals.
Ah, yes, the mark of a truly excellent institute of higher education is that it gets its spam list from swelldeals.com. (No, I never "opted-in.") Well, that's what happens when you hire carney folk to administer your college.
Subscribers to AT&T broadband are having their email addresses switched for the third time in a year.
My guess is that there is no technical reason why the domain names are being switched. Rather, Comcast is using its customers as vehicles for its "brand. This is perhaps the clearest example I've seen of the confluence of the marketing and cattle farming senses of "branding."
Hess gas station, Allston, Massachusetts
I've been collecting screen captures about why we hate online advertising and came across this obvious example this morning in an article about The Sims:
In case it's not clear, look at the fine print above the ad on the bottom. Yeah, I know that this is nothing compared to the animations that actually run across the text we're trying to read, but that's sort of why I like it: Here's a "content provider" (yech) having to work around the way the ad is crapping up its content.
Ever-alert reader Evelyn Walsh points out a remarkable likeness:
No, that's not a before and after of Steve Case, ex-AOL CEO. Hover your mouse over the top photo to see who it actually is.
The US Patent and Trademark Office's feel-good newsletter for April 2002 headlines "USPTO Patent Examines Advance Homeland Security." The story introduces us to the patent examiners and the inventions they're looking at. It's not a bad puff piece. But the accompanying graphic is a tad disturbing:
Does the image of Uncle Sam peering through a keyhole at you give you the willies? If not, why not? Discuss amongst yourselves...
[Thanks, Chip, for the link.]
The infuriatingly smug and specious television ads from the Office of National Drug Control Policy have an obvious subtext. In the ads, which you can view here, we see a young-ish businessman having a meal in a fancy restaurant with another businessman in the next generation up. The young man thinks the relationship between drugs and terrorism is "very complex." The older man sighs Gore-ishly and lowers his eyelids in exasperation, as if he's talking to a slow-witted child. He patiently explains in one-syllable words how the drugs and terrorism are connected. The younger man gets a Jeff Spicoli look as he processes the information and then concedes defeat.
Let us choke down the bile arising from the administration's despicable attempt to use September 11 to manipulate opinion on unrelated issues and instead just look at the pictures:
Rich, callow, shallow, stupid, drug-using young businessman? Hmm, I wonder who that could be. And he's being advised by a man his father's age who patiently explains what his position should be? Lemme think, lemme think!
The George character's facial expressions are too close to Bush's to be accidental. The older man looks and sounds too much like a combination of Rumsfeld and Cheney for it to be accidental. The only question is whether the ad agency did this because their research showed it would be more effective or because they were taking a backhanded swipe at their clients.
Middle World Resources
The feds are trying to knit together several agencies to coordinate emergency relief operations, starting with the efforts around the Columbia disaster. According to an article in InformationWeek (Feb. 10, Eileen Colkin Cuneo), the Federal Emergency Management Agency is creating an inter-agency SQL database, the Environmental Protection Agency is using an intranet to create maps of where debris is found, and the Louisiana State Police uses GPS devices to locate debris pieces and shares the data in standard formats. And, of course, NASA quickly set up a site where citizens can upload digital photos and movies that captured the explosion.
It's a start.
Cool Tool For the Hyperlinked Organization
It's not like you've never heard of Opera before. It's not even like you've never installed it before. But it is like this is the first version that's got me really excited.
Opera routinely beats Microsoft Internet Explorer in download speeds. But there are a whole bunch of other things I like about it. I like the tabbed interface that keeps all the open instances of the browser handy. I like the tabbed utilities in the lefthand pane, much like Mozilla. I like the ease with which you download and install skins to change the look and feel. I like that I haven't hit any pages that display wrong. I like its integrated multiple search fields — search Google, eBay, Amazon, etc. I like its commitment to configurability.
And, by the way, it's not Microsoft.
I was surprised when Ghost Recon won a whole bunch of Game of the Year awards. It was good. In fact, it was very good. But not the best game of the year, IMO. But it certainly got some things very right, from fluttering leaves in trees to pretty good enemy AI. Most of all, it was fun to play, even though I generally don't like either squad-based games or games that require stealth and patience. Ghost Recon dropped you and five squad members into a landscape with enemies and a mission. The squad consists of three teams. You tell the teams where to go on the map, and they will autonomously attempt to accomplish the mission. But you also always play from one soldier's point of view; you can switch among the soldiers instantly. So, you might be Soldier 1 in Team A, sneaking along the side of a river while Team B is crossing a bridge. As Soldier 1, you move through the landscape at your own pace, crouching and shooting as you will. At any moment you might become, say, Soldier 2 in Team C. Surprisingly good fun.
So, now I'm playing an expansion pack called"Island Thunder," set in Cuba a few years from now after Castro's kicked el cubo. (By coincidence,"cubo" isn't the male form of Cuba; it's Spanish for"bucket.") An expansion pack, for the uninitiated, is a set of new maps and missions, sometimes with new weapons. This one is as much fun as the original. I'm enjoying it.
According to a study:
I'm happy to report that JOHO's response time has dropped by an astounding 78%. This is coincident with our installing the new Up Yours AutoResponder that issues a kiss-off message within 8 seconds of its arrival.
Norm Jenson is the one who recommended the article by Richard Rorty, mentioned above. Rorty is one of the few practicing philosophers who makes me wish that I had actually kept reading philosophy.
Here's Rorty home and another article: "The Decline of Redemptive Truth and the Rise of a Literary Culture."
From Vergil Iliescu comes a link to a BBC lectures on trust and digital identity. For example, Tom Bailey writes a philosophical history of trust (Glaucon, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Hume) that's clear and engaging, and works itself around (in its philosophical way) to saying that the traditional pessimists think trust is irrational because they have forgotten that first and foremost humans are social. I'm not satisfied with Bailey's resolving sociality into individuals taking responsibility for the parts they play in our lives, but the article remains highly readable and readworthy.
Joe Mahoney went cold turkey. He didn't read the first page of the newspaper for a week:
I read the newspaper every morning. Two of them often. By the time I finish the front section I have a kind of brain sickness. I feel like God just before the flood
God speed, Joe.
Andrew Leonard in Salon writes about a topic I was going to write about: how damn good video games are compared to movies.
Vergil Iliescu reminds us of the silly but enjoyable VillainSupply site.
Avi Rappoport points out that a "new" weblog has begun: Samuel Pepys diary. Every day, one entry will be published. It's rich in annotations. And if you want to add information, you can in the form of a comment.
Buzz Bruggeman points us to an article by Jonathan Welsh in the WSJ online about GTA4 from an automotive writer. Conclusion: The SUV he drove in the game drives like an SUV in the real world.
Jonathan Peterson writes in response my request for some travel tips:
Check out virtualtourist, I used them a lot 2 years ago when we went to France. Very bloglike community with a lot of english content.
The navigation can be a bit confusing, as it mixes individual with commercial content. The best stuff is in people's travelogues, off the beaten path and restaurant reviews:
It's especially great when you get a local who has spent some time talking about their city
I'm amazed at how much more content there is than last time I looked. Viva la camera digita'l!
Yes, I'm a fan of VirtualTourist also.
John Husband in an email points to an article in the NY Times (pay-to-read):
New Premise in Science: Get the Word Out Quickly, Online
A group of prominent scientists is challenging the leading scientific journals with the creation of two peer-reviewed online journals this week....
The way the Web has broken the lock between perfection and eternality is quite remarkable. We can go public with work in progress and not have to wait for the Wite-out to dry on our perfect manuscript before we acknowledge its existence.
And all of this is made possible through the magic of metadata: so long as we know that it's a draft, we're willing to make allowances and read it for what it is. (And the great virtue of blogs is that they're understood to be perpetual rough drafts.)
So, let's try to get syllogistical here. Metadata allows for imperfection. Imperfection hastens time. Haste leaves little time to erect defenses. Therefore, metadata lets us be who we are. QED.
I'm participating in a group blog about what the government of a connected people might look like. It's at GreaterDemocracy.org.
Dan Gillmor has launched the meme he's been gestating:
Journalism is evolving away from its lecture mode — here’s the news, and you buy it or you don’t — to include a conversation. ..
...it boils down to something simple: our readers collectively know more than we do, and they don’t have to settle for half-baked coverage when they can come into the kitchen themselves. This is not a threat. It is an opportunity. And the evolution of We Media will oblige us all to adapt.
Of course, Dan being Dan and the Web being the Web, he's been gestating it in public. Nevertheless, the appearance of "We Media" in the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review is a marker worth celebrating.
I wax incomprehensible in an interview at the SXSW site. Jon Lebkowsky asked good questions. I drove down the road into thickets every time.
I'll be leading off the SXSW Interactive conference in March. See you in Austin?
Madan Mohan Rao writes:
Warm greetings from cool Bangalore! Just returned from a great trip East; thought I would point you towards some of my recent articles:
Asian wireless scenario (ITU Summit)
Corporate/government portals (Asia Portals 2002,
Case study: Knowledge Management at Tata Steel
Here's the beginning of the KM case study:
At Tata Steel, one incident more than any other drove home the point that they had to find a way to combining intellectual and technological assets via knowledge management. In 1999, a foreign technical consultant was summoned to the Indian steel giant to solve a problem. He replied that he had already been engaged and solved it the year before.
The article also mentions that Tata rewards "intelligent failure" as a way to encourage innovation.
That settles it: I'm buying all my steel from Tata!
Jock Gill points us to GNU Radio, and, in particular, to Eric Blossom's work. (He's been slashdotted here.) GNU Radio is a software-defined radio. Unlike regular radios that are hard-wired about what they do with the information they receive, software-defined radio can do anything it's programmed to do... including simultaneously receiving two broadcast FM stations from a single input. (Say wha'?)
In fact, the GNU Radio — which may be your computer with a little hardware added — doesn't have to assume the inputs are sounds at all. Although I'm only following this topic by the skin of my teeth, it seems to me that this is where the real promise lies.
(As with all GNU BrandTM; products, GNU Radio is a public and free software project.)
Michael O'Connor Clarke points us to a hyperbolic tree of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I'm not quite sure what's going on (how appropriate!) but it is rather wonderful.
Gary Boone starts off his new weblog with a thoughtful essay on the relationship of trains and the Internet, and a link to an "impossible" puzzle from Simon Coggins. (Actually, since I don't understand the solution that's provided, it remains to me truly impossible.)
Welcome to Blogland, Gary.
Adina reviews my book "Small Pieces Loosely Joined," filtering it through her interest in Talmudic interpretation. As you know by now, Adina is way smart and an incisive reader.
Dethe has found a very funny ... well, here's the relevant excerpt from the email he sent me:
...there's a wonderful paper on Postmodern Programming... My favorite part is when they define the essence of the PoMo programming language: Languages get defined by the problems they solve. The first exercise for many programmers is to compute the first thousand prime numbers. Here's their solution:
I thought you'd enjoy that, seeing as how it combines PoMo, Google, and a wickedly funny smack on the head in one go.
My friend Paul English, when asked if he knows someone's phone number, has been known to reply: "Yes. It's 411."
The Boston Globe ran a history of the Open Source movement by Laurence Schorsch that's quite positive, citing it as a threat "peering over the horizon ... that just might topple Microsoft." Appropriately, it begins with Richard Stallman's contribution. Yet, although Linus Torvalds and Eric Raymond are interviewed, local-boy Stallman isn't. The second to last paragraph explains why:
(Stallman declined to be interviewed for this article unless we promised to call the operating system "GNU/Linux" instead of the more common "Linux.")
Every time Stallman interrupts a conversation to insist that people change the way they speak, the damage he does to the social values GNU was created to support are mitigated only by the impression that he's nuts.
Language: The ultimate open source project.
RageBoy now has two — count 'em, two! — blogs. His new one is at the Corante site and sounds a lot like the RB of Gonzo Marketing and Cluetrain, a voice I've missed. Here's a taste:
...We're making up stuff and feeding it to each other. Lies and fictions and contrafactual fabrications of the worst sort. Or the best sort. We think we're hiding behind all these random words we sling around. Then we're horrified to realize we've betrayed ourselves. Our masks have given us away.
Scary. And beautiful....
Meanwhile, over at his first blog, RB's monkey-boy shadow is still pulling up the maenad's skirts and engaging in various forms of satyre.
Ruth Lipman sends us to a site that she knows will raise the blood temperature of those of us who believe in animal rights. It's quite graphic so I urge you to shield the monitor from young and impressionable minds.
(BTW, I prefer to eat them head first.)
From the online free version of the irrepressible Annals of Improbable Results comes an improbable journal entry recounting the day Oliver Sacks visited a guy who made a literal table of periodic elements. It includes videos of a self-induced sodium explosion and of how to turn eggs, cream and sugar into ice cream simply by pouring in liquid nitrogen. Also, there's a snippy argument over who has the larger lump of tungsten.
I'm at a loss.
The intentionally funny Annals of Improbable Research's also unearthed the following research:
"Mandibular Angle Augmentation with the Use of Distraction and Homologous Lyophilized Cartilage in a Case of Morphing to Michael Jackson Surgery," M.Y. Mommaerts, J.S. Abeloos, H. Gropp, Annales de Chirurgie Plastique et Esthetique, vol. 46, no. 4, August 2001, pp. 336-40. The authors, who are at Hôpital General Saint-Jean, Bruges, Belgium, explain that:
This article presents a combination of distraction osteogenesis and lyophilized cartilage used to three- dimensionally over-augment the mandibular angle of a long-face prognathic patient who had the wish to be morphed to Michael Jackson or at least as far as current technique and his endogenic features allowed.
A bird's-eye view of the article (with some of its photographs!) is at http://www.improbable.com/news/2003/jan/jackson.html
So, we may have found the only thing weirder than Michael Jackson: a guy who wants to undergo extensive surgery in order to look like Michael Jackson.
Ellen Smith of Columbus, Ohio is annoyed about what I said about libraries:
...Are you sure that a group of Librarians described themselves as"the gatekeepers of knowledge"? That is so whack. In my Library School days we were instructed that we are more like guardians of culture...
The concept of information as residing only in books has been completely antiquated for well over 50 years. Information takes many modalities, and part of my professional role is to understand the who, what, where and why of it all so that I can locate the information that a patron needs. I am Google with a human face and (unless you really enjoy slogging though thousands of lame web pages) I can save a busy professional a lot of time.
Please don't sell us short. Hopefully the people you talked to are well on their way out the door.
The"gatekeeper" language was theirs, but the picture they painted was similar to Ellen's..
Anna Gieschen writes about the same piece:
As a librarian with a sense of doom, I'd like to respond to your librarian item.
I've never thought librarians and libraries were gatekeepers, or that it would be a good thing if we were. This may be because I've always worked in healthcare, where we are clearly amateurs as far as judging content per se, whatever professional expertise we have on reliable sources, information searching and general background.
My jobs til now have all been in hospitals, my first in 1979. What I thought then, when Medline was a new thing done with TI terminals, phone lines and acoustic couplers, only by librarians, I think may still be true now, when most library users are online. It's that we are nodes in the knowledge network needed to support good healthcare. But possibly important nodes because so many threads connect in our node. Back at Mt Sinai in 1979, I learned which questions that came to the library needed to be passed on to pharmacy, infection control, nursing education, etc. These areas also knew which questions to pass on to the library. Similar networks still work, I think, with the help of listservs, websites, online journals, and all the other great electronic resources available now.
Five years ago, the last hospital in which I worked merged its library into a multi-institutional information center outside the hospital, where I now work as reference librarian. In partial agreement with your thought that "gatekeeping is self organizing" it is my impression that since this move, other departments and individuals do more of the stuff we used to do, acting as links to information sources, including the library, than they used to do. Many of the requests that come to me seem to be proxy requests where the end user is someone other than the requester. Perhaps that's evidence that the role, though not gatekeeping, (maybe link maintainenance?), and not called "librarian", has a future?
I'd like also to respond to another of your points and maybe plead a special case for healthcare, that it may be an area where the "best" information may be the appropriate kind, rather than the"good enough" kind. Witness such phrases as "best practices" and "best evidence" in journal and article titles, and the suggestion by some in the medical world that there's a need for a new category of professional with the suggested title "informationist" (see http://www.annals.org/issues/v132n12/full/ 200006200-00012.html and its followups for example). So when the doom lifts momentarily, I think the roles of librarians and libraries may evolve and meld with other species' for a new creature that still acts to help ensure that knowledge is where it's needed.
We will always need:
1. Help finding information.
2. Sources we trust.
Librarians — whatever they're called — can help with both, now and in the future.
Jeff Stecker writes:
...one paragraph caught me - the analogy of manna everywhere and the manna protected by the gatekeeper. I agree with your conclusion, however I think we might both be wrong, or why is AOL still in business? Perhaps the AOLs of the net may be the prototypes of the librarian of the future to be used by those who haven't the inclination to look for their own *books*.
Since Jeff wrote this letter, AOL has dragged AOL/Time Warner to a $99,000,000,000 loss and has fired its CEO. Ouch! Nevertheless, Jeff is right, except we should use Yahoo! as our example: a site that aggregates a million or so pages, each carefully glanced at by an underpaid grad student. Doing this for a company or some other institution is of genuine value.
I heard from Mark Federman of the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology. He teaches a graduate course in "Mind, Media and Society" at the University of Toronto, my alma mater. He writes: "Essentially the course teaches people to think like Marshall McLuhan did... you know... come up with cute aphorisms, predict the future, that sort of stuff..." The course has a blog jam-packed with ideas. Here's part of an entry:
We began the "Applied McLuhanistics" course last evening. If the nature of the discussion at the first class is any indication, this will be a lively and most interesting term! We left the seminar with the following probe: The invention of the phonetic alphabet changed us from a primarily oral culture to a primarily literate culture (starting in ancient Greek times, and accelerated by Gutenberg). The effect of this transition was, among other things, to create private, silent reading (via books), hence private ideas and therefore personal identity and individuality. Now that the acceleration of instantaneous, multi-way communications has put us back into "acoustic space" (centre is everywhere/anywhere, boundaries are nowhere), we are regaining our oral culture. (This is one aspect that led Marshall McLuhan to note that we are "retribalizing" in the sense that we move back to acoustic space, from which the Global Village metaphor emerged.) What effect might the nature of Internet as acoustic space have on personal identity, individuality, privacy and so on? Do we still have privacy, or is there a new medium of "publicy" that emerges?
Wow! What a paragraph!
You mention in your open spectrum whitepaper/manifesto that Jeffrey Beir is a former electrical engineer. As I'm technically (but only technically, I can explain at length if you're not careful) an electrical engineer, I'm curious how one can become *former* in this field. I have little in the way of skills, and I've never worked as an EE, yet I have been unable to achieve formerness, however hard I try.
I hope you'll be able to clarify this for me.
Easy: start writing about all the scientific evidence for the existence of personal auras. (By the way, that'll also work for those of you trying to become ex-physicists and ex-UN Arms Inspectors.)
Gary Lawrence says he found this on his desk, but he thinks it's for me:
Dear Mr Weinberger,
In your JOHO Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization (Dec 20, 2002) you have specifically written the following:
...talking here about two recordings of silence. This is like suing me because I erased the same words as you. *** By the way, I've just composed a piece called"Beethoven's Rests."
This message is to inform you that *the* *blank* *line* used between these paragraphs is a copyright infringement as the identical blank line was used for the identical artistic purpose within a prior composition by our client in a text message in 1988 and therefore qualifies as prior art.
Under the provisions of the DMCA, you are hereby _required_ to remove all similar blank lines in all your writing, and do so immediately , refraining from all use of blank lines until the matter can be settled in court.
Rob Charlton responds to my article on Open Spectrum. But first he corrects an error:
I was ... interested in your observation that "Australia’s" Courier Mail (your assumption) had a tag-line of “For readers who expect more from life“.
FYI – the Courier Mail is actually Brisbane’s major newspaper. Brisbane is the capital of Queensland. Queensland to Australia is sort of like Alabama to the USA (although it’s a lot like Alabama on Valium). (Clearly, I’m NOT from Queensland.) Most Australians probably think that anyone who expects more from life would avoid Queensland like the plague (except as a holiday destination – for that, it’s highly recommended – even the most blasé are blown away by the wonders of the Barrier Reef and the Daintree rain forest.)
On a more serious note – your piece on Open Spectrum does raise some interesting points, via: Is the issue of interference really so cut and dried? The comments from Michael K. Powell (to which you hyperlinked so helpfully) suggest NOT. If interference is an issue – even an isolated one – then it becomes harder (in my mind) to argue for full open spectrum. Surely there would have to be some mechanism for handling frequency collisions? If interference can occur – even in a small percentage of cases – should spectrum management policies be oriented to managing that problem or isolating it? That may become an issue of judgment, based on the degree to which it actually occurs??
The problem isn't interference or frequency collisions, as I understand it, because the photons don't actually hit one another. The problem instead is the inability of the transmitters and receivers to process information well enough. And that indeed is an issue. There's a discussion about this, several leagues over my head, here.
Craig Allen writes:
This may be common knowledge, but I learned from a brief article in Doctor Dobb's Journal (ya gotta pay on the web, I get the print edition free, how weird is that?) that way back when the Internet was being designed, AT&T somehow forced the design to rely on a relatively small number of central routers rather than a more distributed, decentralized approach. As a result, the net is more vulnerable to various kinds of Denial of Service attacks, various unplanned disasters, and (I'm not sure if this is an assumption on my part or the article said it) less throughput. AT&T's reason was that otherwise it would be too competitive with the phone network (most of which they owned at the time).
(Craig notes that he's summarizing from memory and thus may be off in some of the details.)
News to me. Sounds plausible. But everything sounds plausible to me.
Jack Vinson writes:
Your Dec 20 Joho mentions your penchant for misreading headlines/comics/etc. My wife and I frequently laugh at our own misreadings. There has to be a better term that "Freudian slip," because most of them don't feel terribly "risqué." (Or does "Freudian" imply any subconsciously-generated mis-step?) For now we just say"It sounded better the first time I read it."
It was Freud who suggested that apparent "slips of the tongue" in fact had meaning, a radical notion at the time. That he thought the meaning was usually sexual just shows that he had a dirty penis, um, I mean penis. Did I say penis? I meant he had a dirty penis in his behind. I mean mind.
Some of you responded to my cri de coeur in the previous issue about why it's taking me so long to get JOHO out.
Kurt Kurosawa writes:
Publish JOHO whenever you feel like it. Let it go for a week or a decade. Something in you isn't getting back out of it what you're putting into it, and it's letting you know. You might be preparing to go on what Pirsig called a lateral drift, something you do when you're stuck, like being trapped under ice. What else is there to do but just drift along until you find a hole or edge? (If you have the Kate Bush tune Under Ice it really doesn't have much to do with this e-mail, but it's a great tune to listen to while drifting.) Anyway, if you're ready to drift, you may as well go there. You can put it off but you can't avoid it, and if you put it off, you'll get more and more annoyed at your"disobedient" self.
No, no, Kurt. You were supposed to plead with me to keep it going, not tell me the truth.
Bill Spornitz writes:
I think you should make an email address called JOHO-in and then send all your joho-related snippets to JOHO-in, and write an xml schema that handles these emails and sorts them by subject; maybe
employ subjects like *bitchy:justice:musings:What I think we should do with that President-guy* and then let the Machine do all the Work! It's the only way; capitalize ( there's that word again) on the inherent structure in the process that is You....
Except for the XML part, that's very close to what I do now. I write my blog entries in a little app I wrote for myself that does the HTML markup the way I like. Any that I think may be worth running in JOHO get saved into a text base. Another app lets me click on any entries in that text base, assign it a category, and assemble a rough draft of JOHO. Yet another app goes through a directory of saved email and turns it into this section you're reading. Nevertheless, the amount of hand clean up is formidable. Just get it wrangled into text takes a day. And then I have to go through, hand-inserting typos and randomly breaking links so that you'll know that the issue was created by a human.
Ryan Irelan has his own suggestions
How to save JOHO's royal brokenness? There are a few possibilities:
1. Talk more shit, more often.
2. Write the entire issue in German, with no explanation to the readers.
3. Fall down on your knees and beg the newsletter gods for help.
4. Fall down on your knees and cry like a baby.
5. Bring another contributor/editor onboard to help with the logistics, i.e. cutting and pasting and getting the thing in the mail.
6. Downy, the quicker picker upper.
Sehr gut Vorschläge, Ryan! Aber wie ich meinen neuen Assistenten zahle?
Kevin Marks had anr idea:
I fed the current contents of your weblog through the OS X summarizer program, and turned it d own to 2% of paragraphs- this can be your next edition:
Even 2% of JOHO is too long, so I'll spare you the summary. Suffice it to say that the OS X summarizer apparently thinks the previous issue was mainly about Eric Norlin.
Jeff Stecker, wondering how I could make the issue shorter, asks:
"Have you tried smaller type? ;-)
No, but I've contemplated getting subscribers who read faster.
Bart Simpson is shown at the beginning of the Simpsons writing some sentence over and over on a blackboard as punishment. Some samples:
I will return the seeing-eye dog
I will not bury the new kid
I am not authorized to fire substitute teachers
I will not re-transmit without the express permission of Major League Baseball
If software applications were Bart, what might they be writing on the board?
Microsoft Outlook: Spamming everyone in my address book doesn't make me popular
Linux: Not everyone who likes to use a mouse is a loser
Mac: I can be superior without being smug
Quicken: Inflating deposits is a misplaced way of expressing sympathy
Real: You can't opt-in for someone
Microsoft Passport: I will not peek. I will not peek.
David Wasser has some contributions for the Web Olympics:
JAVAlin throw: Programmers are scored on speed, elegance and sneering comments about C++
DISKus: Who can throw and AOL giveaway disk the furthest
And so another Olympic-sized JOHO comes to an end. And I'm already two weeks behind on the next one. Oy! And in addition to the usual work, now I've got a war to stop. Hey, I know! Why don't we all meet in the streets and stop the war together!
[Note: JOHO will not be accepting pro-war responses with our usual feigned good humor. This time it's serious.]
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