For those who need to understand how the Web is transforming the way businesses work, yada yada yada
|Issue: February 15, 2000
Author/Editor: David Weinberger
Central Meme: Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy
Favorite Beatle: John. Duh.
Current Personal Crisis: Why don't airlines put seatbelts on toilets? Or do they like thinking about what happens if you hit an air pocket, so to speak? The bastards!
Home page: http://www.hyperorg.com
Contact information: Click here.
The joy of email: The hours we spend
on email everyday are building the new, connected world.
National Public Radio ran another commentary of mine, this one about why we 60's types dig the Web the most, man.
And, by the way, The Cluetrain Manifesto recently hit #9 on the Amazon bestseller list a couple more spots and we can knock off that damn Harry Potter! C'mon folks, with your help we can make this happen!
And would it be too RageBoy-ish of me to note that InformationWeek last week called The Cluetrain Manifesto "the most important business book since In Search of Excellence"? (Jeff Angus: my new Favorite Person.)
My father-in-law, whom I love, asked me if I'm getting much email these days. I told him that I spend from 8am until noon doing nothing but email. I didn't tell him the full truth which is that I can easily go until 4pm before getting off the download-answer-read-send (yes, frequently in that order) StairMaster.
"What good does it do you?" he asked, genuinely puzzled.
I thought. I sputtered. I finally managed: "It's sort of mystical."
I'm in a fortunate position. The email I get by and large isn't the scruff that people inside of corporations get: meeting droppings ("Hmm, Scout, these messages are still warm ... the meeting must have been just a couple of hours ago"), reflex keister-coverings and "I thought of it first" land grabs. Because of JOHO and the other stuff I write (but I definitely love you the mostest!), I generally get email from people writing because they're interested in a topic, rather than from people popping Tums ("The only digestive aid that spells 'Smut' backwards") as they hit the send button.
The proportion of interesting email I receive may be abnormally high, but tell me if you sense what I do. I read my email every morning and feel the world is coming unstuck in the very best of ways. We've lived under a rigid system for managing social contacts. The rules say that people you don't know are strangers, that you don't speak unless spoken to, that you'd better have a clear objective before bothering someone you don't know.
But email is such a non-interruptive medium that the rules are dissolving. I hear from people around the world. I write to people I would never have considered writing to before. We talk about whatever catches our fancy.
For example, a column in the Boston Globe mentioned a book that sounded interesting. After spending ten minutes checking around on the Web, and another five tracking down the author's email address, I sent her a message about what I think may be a shared interest. An hour later, her reply was in my mailbox. A couple of messages later, we are allies whose paths may well cross again.
Tonight I heard from a stranger who thought I'd be interested in "pattern language." Obviously, he cares about it a lot. All I knew about it was that an old friend I trust thinks it's important. So, the stranger educated me briefly and gave me a perspective I would never have stumbled on, and which my friend has never articulated. Two messages and it's over. Although, who knows, maybe I'll hear from him again.
An Italian designer now living in the Berkshires came across my site and thought I'd be enthusiastic about his own. He wanted my comments but really just wanted someone to share his pride. I sent him a message telling him briefly what I thought worked and what didn't. Maybe I should have just said, "Cool site!" because it is and let it pass. I made a mistake. I haven't heard back from him. I have no idea whether he's sulking, found my comments helpful, or now thinks I'm a moron. Maybe all three.
So, my father-in-law asks why I do this. What do I get out of it? Clearly, I get stimulation. And maybe someday one of these email strangers will remember me and recommend my work to a reclusive billionaire who will make me the sole beneficiary of his will (well, so long as I can manage to off his cat). But those aren't the real reasons. The world is growing a new nervous system. The neurons are striving to connect. I sense a spiritual mandate so deep that it feels biological. We must find one another, rapidly. We must grip every hand that we see. This is the new evolution. We are building a world that only we can build. We are building the real web, the one that uses technology for connection the way our souls use our bodies for awareness. It is joyous.
Computer displays suck. Anything else is a euphemism. (Oh, ok, I'll use the technical term for computer display quality: they exhibit suckitude.) Even your swell new 21" flat-screen beauty is totally inadequate for its main job: displaying text. Small type is unreadable and large type has all the clarity of a newspaper read through a screen door. If computer displays were capable of displaying readable text not only would your time on line be more pleasant, but you might actually consider reading long documents on your computer. And this in turn would make electronic book publishing feasible, unleashing the same market forces as MP3 has set loose in the music publishing world.
There is a standard that begins to make good on the promise. It's called ClearType(tm) and, gulp, the trademark belongs to Microsoft. [Late breaking news: Adobe has announced CoolType, which Adobe has differentiated as being "Exactly the same thing as ClearType, but we own it instead of Them." The big advantage: CoolType will work across platforms.]
The idea behind ClearType has a pedigree. In fact, you could claim that Steve Wozniak invented it in 1976 to increase the horizontal resolution of the Apple II's high resolution graphics system. But, hey, what's a patent among friends? Besides, Woz (or, as I prefer to call him not that I ever have "Niack") was designing for non-digital displays whereas ClearType only works on LCDs.
You see, your LCD screen consists of color triads. When you see a white pixel, you're actually seeing a red, green and blue sub-pixel. (Yes, I know that mixing red, green and blue should give you a brown about the color of where you spilled your Starbucks on your aunt's walnut credenza, but you're thinking about mixing cooking ingredients whereas LCDs mix light, and since black is the absence of color, then white must be the fullness of color as you can prove by shining a very bright light in your eyes and noticing that you close your eyes and thus see black. This was explained to me by Roy G. Biv.) So, it takes three sub-pixels to make one colored pixel.
ClearType displays type by managing the individual sub-pixels, tripling the effective resolution of your screen. Pretty damn clever, eh?
Having more and smaller dots to play with lets the computer display better looking type. Font rendering software takes the information that's included when you install a new font ("A TimesRoman 'I' is a straight vertical line with two horizontal lines at the end," sort of) and turns it into instructions for turning on a set of colored pixels ("I want 12 pixels in a vertical row...," etc.). Normally, font rendering software has to make some pretty ugly decisions when figuring out how to put a particular letter on the screen. For the sloping parts of the letter, it only has big (pixel-size) blocks to use, so you get jaggies. For parts of the letter that should be especially thick or thin (say, the different legs of the letter "m"), it only has one size block to play with; sometimes it will want to make a leg 1.5 blocks thick but will have to round it off to either 1 or 2 blocks.
That's why our eyes hurt when reading text on a screen: Rounding errors.
Font rendering software mitigates some of the effects of the coarseness of pixels through anti-aliasing which rounds off the edges of jaggies by turning on gray pixels around the stair steps. ClearType achieves a better result by using colors instead of gray and, more important, by having smaller blocks at its disposal.
The results are impressive, and better seen than described. Steve Gibson (Gibson Research Corporation) has put up a great site that explains all this stuff in readable, friendly prose, with pictures. And he's included a 35K downloadable program that demonstrates ClearType vs. OrdinaryType on your LCD screen. [See the links at the end of this article.]
But there are some limits. First, ClearType only works for black and white text there are no pixels left over for rendering color. Second, it only works on LCDs, although on desktop monitors it can give roughly the same effect as anti-aliasing. Third, because the sub-pixels are arranged horizontally, it only increases horizontal resolution. Fourth, it's from Microsoft. Fifth, it's still not good enough to make you think you're reading ink on paper.
The Beast of Redmond announced on January 6 that ClearType will be part of their new Pocket PCs (Motto: "Keep your Palms out of your pockets"), meaning that the next "convergence" won't be of PDAs and phones but of PDAs and books. Or so Microsoft would like.
ClearType is an intermediary step that will make your text-based knowledge literally clearer. We still wait for the day when the back of the display problem is broken and we have cheap, webbed, portable reading devices that are as crisp as ink on paper, but with color and multimedia. That's the point at which working knowledge intimately tied to its expression will be redefined.
Steve Gibson's ClearType resources page: http://grc.com/cleartype.htm
Download Steve G.'s demo software: http://grc.com/freeandclear.htm
Microsoft on ClearType: http://www.microsoft.com/typography/cleartype/default.htm
Microsoft press release: http://www.microsoft.com/typography/links/News.asp?NID=1090
At LotusSphere (pronounced "LotusFear"), the company unveiled Raven, although since they were showing a "prebeta" version, perhaps it'd be better to say that they undiapered it. As PC Week (Jan 24, Lisa DiCarlo) reports, Lotus expects to make most of its Raven dough through consulting and services "because Lotus hopes to force a fundamental change in the way employees communicate, deal with business issues and leverage their coworker' knowledge." In short: Flee! Flee like the wind!
Raven lets coworkers search a database for people with particular areas of expertise, based on profiles the company has filled out. Creating and updating profiles manually takes me back to 1967 when at a high school dance we were matched up with members of the opposite sex based on forms we'd filled out, resulting in Rhonda Klein being matched with Mark Zucker when God in His Heaven knew that she was meant for me. (I finally did get to go out on a revenge date with her when Mark flirted with June Abramowitz.) And what about all the gay guys (or, as we lovingly called them back then, "homos" - I'm so sorry) for whom there just weren't the right checkboxes?
So, what can you say about a KM system that requires people to fundamentally change the way they work and that rests on profiles that falsely assume people know what they're interested in? How about: Nevermore.
In case you were running low on things to be paranoid about, an article by Carl Weinschenk in CMP's TechWeb reports on the National Security Agency's Project Echelon. They're monitoring over 2 million emails an hour (shoot, *I'm* generating more than that!) and 3 billion cell phone, fax and wireline communications per day.
Supposedly the system looks for trigger words. So, if, say, a 'zine sent via email were to include the phrases such as: "Death to Project Echelon! NSA snoops are trying to catch international terrorists wielding devastating nuclear weapons and making plans to kill the president so we can all enjoy the biological weapons and anthrax-tainted Colombian cocaine generously provided by Fidel Castro," it should pop up to the top of the stack.
Howdy, fellas! Just kiddin'! Ha ha. (But while I have your attention: Christopher Locke killed JFK. No, really. He can be found at http://www.rageboy.com/index2.html.)
Here's my most embarrassing moment. So far.
I submitted a draft of a web page to a client recently. Since none of the pages it's going to link to exist yet, I made every link point to the placebo link "notyet" just so the client would still get the blue-and-underlined effect so valued by Web Professionals. My client passed the page along to his team and then soon got a not-sure-if-she-should-be-amused call asking why the consultant was sending in pornography. Y'see, Microsoft IE expands "notyet" to "http://www.notyet.com" which is one of the worst-named porno sites on the Web. Who knew?
Honda has a feature it calls "Realtime 4WD [Four Wheel Drive]" which it deems important enough to emblazen on the back of the cars blessed with it. Important? I'll say! I remember the days of Batchmode 4WD when you'd have to queue up your requests and then they'd be run for you all at once overnight.
Congratulations to the Childcare Action Project http://www.capalert.com, a site that rates movies according to how offensive they'll be to Christians who don't want to hear the Lord's name taken in vain or ever get laid. They are the proud recipients of the Footnote of the Month Award for their blasphemy-sensitive review of Galaxy Quest:
Footnote 2: "The use of the three/four letter word vocabulary without God's name in vain is incorporated into the Impudence/Hate Investigation Area. The use of God's name with or without the four letter expletive is incorporated into the Offense to God Investigation Area. There is no duplication."
This is what happens when God hires lawyers.
(By the way, I frequently use Screen It! (http://www.screenit.com/all_movies.html) to decide if a particular movie is appropriate for our children. It reports on everything from nasty words to doing the nasty, along with smoking, drinking, and wanton dancing.)
Joshua "This Is Not a Nickname" Newman writes:
If you've plowed through ... more than one of those "past performance cannot be construed as a predictor of any possible future performance, forsooth and parties of the umpteenth part notwithstanding" disclaimers, I think you may enjoy this.
How could you not like a company that begins its risk disclosure with the words: "First of all, stock prices are volatile. Well, duh."
Joshua also recommends Red Rock Eater, Philip Agre's newsletter (http://dlis.gseis.ucla.edu/people/pagre/rre.html) about whatever Agre finds interesting usually the "social and political aspects of computing." There's an archive of the newsletters at http://commons.somewhere.com/rre/
Ron Dagostino writes:
Check out the WikiWikiWeb site at http://www.c2.com/cgi/wiki?ExtremeProgrammingRoadmap
It is a style of interaction on the web that is a mix between a web page, a newsgroup, and a chat room. Everybody can easily edit any page they want. I love it.
Very cool. And very much for optimists about the Goodness that's in people.
Aviva Rothschild writes:
I have started an online magazine: Rational Magic. I invite you to check it out at www.rationalmagic.com. Science fiction/fantasy, other fiction, poetry, graphic novel reviews, and more!
Going for the big bucks, eh, Aviva? What's next, deconstructionist literary theory drive-throughs? Sonnets 'R Us? Does your rapaciousness know no bounds?
Actually, it's a site with heart, and some Good Reads.
In a similar vein, the indomitable Julianne Chatelain writes:
A bunch of my pals are starting a nonprofit activist Electronic Literature Organization, "to facilitate and promote the writing, publishing, and reading of literature in electronic media." A broad based effort with technologists, lit-folks, readers & epublishers, ELO was originally the brainchild of Jeff Ballowe, who is now president of the board. Details at
although the good stuff is kinda buried - click "About ELO" for the meat...
Oh, Julianne, your hidden message comes through loud and clear. You pretend you're doing it for the masses (the type of people who assume your ELO site is about the flunked-out-of-Julliard 70s band, the Electric Lite Orchestra) but in fact your URL gives it away: "elite-rat, u re-org." I didn't study subliminal advertising under Marshall "I Was Senile When I Got Here" McLuhan for nothing, you know!
And then there's Carole Guevin:
if you have time check http://netdiver.net - which is visited by more than 65 countries worldwide - with no advertising - just word of mouth and recognition from the industry.
It's a freelancer community and "is devoted to tutoring, empowering and stimulating creativity as well as excellence in new media projects." And it's got an anthology of cool Flash pages.
We've been hearing from authors this month, starting with Cliff Pickover, whose book "Surfing through Hyperspace" isn't about the Web but about what us 3D creatures can know about the 4th dimension (no, it's not time), especially if we're played by Sculley and Mulder. It's a very weird topic that Cliff makes quite clear until about two thirds of the way in when he starts talking about math, thus insulting the intelligence of certain of his readers who never got past 11th grade algebra.
Chris writes the online Pickover Report that covers where the worlds of science, art and zaniness intersect: http://www.pickover.com. Learning made fun!
Next, we heard from Tom Morris, whose book "If Aristotle Ran General Motors" applies Aristotle's ethics (truth, beauty, goodness ... you know, the usual stuff of mission statements) executives every day to be more genuinely human at work," according to Toto modern business. His site, Morris Institute for Human Values, tries "to encourage m. It's the sort of applied philosophy that academic philosophers sneer at because it's actually understandable.
And while we're on the philosopher thread, Brett Pittichord points us to:
Hubert Dreyfus' lectures on the late Heidegger in MP3 (click on "previous lectures") http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~hdreyfus/hdreyfus189/
Dreyfus is best known for his excellent "When Bad Things Happen to Good Computers." No, wait, it was "What Computers Still Can't Do." I used to know Dreyfus a bit, back when I was a fiery young Heidegger scholar, the wind whipping through my hair as I contemplated what the meaning of 'is' is. I liked him. Nevertheless, when I think of MP3, I think of garage bands with names like I Ate Dad and Pocket Corpse, not disgraced crypto-fascist dissertation subjects. So imagine my surprise to learn that Prof. Dreyfus's seminars are one of the most popular downloads among the Hip Hop set. The next time you see some young'un bopping to a Rio MP3 player, the chances are about one in three that he's actually listening to Dreyfus explain Heidegger's concept of the Vorhandenheit (a truly bad name for a garage band, by the way).
The Two Onis is an elegant site (i.e., makes mine look bad) with some great Essays 'n Stuff on it: http://members.home.net/onis/. Here's a snippet:
Strip every industry assessment that has been made about the impact of the Internet to the bone, and the common low level feature - the big deal if you may - is the fact that the Internet potentially creates feature rich, one-to-one connections between billions of individuals. And these connections transcend many traditional boundaries (corporate, national etc.) that have previously proved significant.
Ashby's law suggests that the system (organisation) that will thrive in such an environment must evolve at least as much internal variety to survive...
There's plenty more where that came from...
Beth Park sends us to http://www.internettime.com/itimegroup/time.htm , a page that's full of Fun 'n Factoids about time.
Mark Dionne writes:
Here is the description from Memepool: Noodle is a free software toy which provides a visual metaphor for music-making that's so simple to use a non-musician will take to it instantly, so play-friendly and sophisticated experienced musicians will love it. It was built by the uberbrains from Realworld (who Peter Gabriel has tapped several times for CDRoms and stuff). Noodle is one of those oddities that reminds me software can be so good it makes you weep or laugh or call old friends to proselytize
It's a kicky, fun, music machine, but I wasn't tempted to weep, laugh, or call old friends. Within minutes, however, I was creating repetitive, catchy tunes.
Erik Vlietnick, the Beatnik of Antwerp, has published a new issue of his always excellent Knowledge Manager 'zine: http://kmxplorer.com
Ann Wendell sends us to an article at Clickz (www.searchz.com/Articles/0203004.shtml) by Chris Maher, self-described "idea guy" and consultant that says that CEOs need to get out of their protective bubble. His idea? Hire consultants! What a breakthrough! He also recommends that CEOs spend a couple of hours a month on the Web. Yes, you read that correctly: several hours a *month*. Jeez, next thing you'll be forcing them to read their own email! Let's not get all scary, dude!
An article in Salon reminds us of NetHack, a DOS, ASCII-character game that is to Quake as typing is to sex. You can get your own copy of this venerable game at www.nethack.org/. Even after 15 years, it still just isn't fun.
Valdis Krebs points us to his latest animated thingamabob, this one showing the network of alliances in the Internet Industry. www.orgnet.com/netindustry.html
It's a bit like flying through a field of asteroids, each with a single billboard on it. But if it helps you visualize, then, well, what the hey. It also would make a far more interesting platform for nethack.
Tim Bouma tells us of a fascinating site for those interested in the intersection of new markets, MP3, intellectual property and online communities:
Check www.napster.com and download the software. It's a massive and distributed MP3 sharing network between users enabled by napster software. It's presently exasperating the bigwigs because napster hosts absolutely _no content_ - it's all in the network!!! Napster only facilitates the sharing.
Napster downloads a client that lets you locate MP3 files offered by other members of Napster. In effect, it's a direct market, person-to-person for sharing files. The record companies can't be too happy about this ... which makes it all the sweeter.
Jim Montgomery writes:
Here's a fun site to visit: http://www.thefulldeck.com/haiku/haiku.htm. It's a daily list of domestic international news, condensed into haiku form. e.g.: "Polar lander found!/fight for custody between/earthlings and martians.")
Here's my review of the site:
A web site says all
in lines of 5, 7, 5
Eating time like chips.
You are, of course, invited to contribute your own haiku about life, 'zines or Monica Lewinsky.
Middle World ResourcesA Compendium of Resources
Here's a message (lightly edited) posted at the FastCompany bookclub (where Cluetrain is, ahem, the book of the month):
I am in the process of redesigning the site for Junior Achievement, the economic education organization that I work for. The Cluetrain Manifesto could not have grabbed me at a better time.... I have a totally different vision of the way the site is going to be now. I was trying to push it beyond brochureware but realized the direction I was taking it wasn't focused on the 3.5 million kids in our programs, their parents, or the 120,000 volunteers that teach our classes and inspire our kids. We were still just going to throwing information at them. The new site was going to be just another publication. Now it is going to be a conversation. Every single page will prominently feature the words and wisdom of browsers. Every single page will invite response. And those responses will be answered by the real people that make-up JA, the 2,000 people that are the heart and soul of this company. Direct contact. Break down the walls. Places where every group of JA customers can meet and talkparents, kids, volunteers, teachers, contributors, etc. A living site. A rock-and-roll site that is not afraid to de-bug on the fly. We're going to launch the site prematurely and let visitors help us build it, shape it, hone it, destroy it, and rebuild it again. Damn it's gonna be good. And the greatest thing is, there's no resistance. We're running with it. It's going to happen. It's happening right now.... The total relaunch from concept to launch is happening in less than 20 days. Cool. The old site has been there for too long. Check it out www.ja.org. Come back and see it in a couple too...Lots of work. But the voice is worth it.
I attended the SpotOn.com press conference at the Seybold Seminars because, well, my feet really hurt and I wanted my spirits to be as sore as my pedal extremities. SpotOn, after all, was promising to make the Web as easy to navigate as TV. And Lord knows I won't be happy until the Web becomes TV.
It turns out that SpotOn is a moderately interesting browser add-in that has a couple of devastating flaws. It sits in the lefthand frame of your browser window and shows you a set of buttons modelled on a VCR and a bookmark list. You can select text from any page you're browsing, drag it into the SpotOn window and it will extract all the links, cache them, and let you cycle through them by pressing the "Play" button. You can save any set of links as a "tour" and can mail a tour to friends or objects d'spam; the mail contains a 20K Java app that presents the navigation buttons; clicking on the buttons cycles through the pages and a free-floating annotation window.
A little problem is that for all its attempt at simplicity, it didn't work as I thought it would. In particular, it seemed to skip some of the links I batch-dragged in.
More important, it stores your bookmark list on its server. Although the company spokespeople looked me in the eye and said their president said he would fire anyone who ever misused that data, suppose the president gets fired? It's been known to happen...
First, a correction from John Miller:
AIIIGGH! ARRRGGHHH! Strangely enough I am not Jeffrey Mann, yet I do believe I am the provider of the Douglas Adam's pedant link. And so passes my only chance at Internet stardom, callously misquoted (hell, dequoted is more like it), used for my words and just cast aside. AOL-Time Warner borgifies, Norwegian hackers tossed into jail, no new Buffy next week, and now this!!! The humanity, the humanity I tell you!!!!!
Just for that I'm not participating in this month's Bogus Contest. So nyaah!
Really, I think I can hardly be faulted for this. John Miller, Jeffrey Mann, both JMs. How the hell am I supposed to keep you straight?
As for the lack of a new Buffy, just ask yourself what it would be like to be forced to exchange, say, five email messages with Sarah Michelle Gellar. After exchange #1, you'd have exhausted her reflections on the socio-cultural aspects of her show and would be on to tips for keeping your lips glossy even on the sort of rainy days when you just want to curl up inside with a comic book. Then tell me about the humanity.
Second, a correction from Peter Elliott who points to the fact that the email version of the previous issue states that it was sent on January 25, 1999. Well, you see, Peter, I hate to have to condescend to explain this to you, but the millennium doesn't *really* start until next year, so my "mis-dating" of the issue in fact bounces off of me and sticks you.
Chris Heathcote responds to our dewy-eyed optimism about the possibility of scaling conversations across the Web.
The task isn't to get companies to have conversations all the time (to them, telling us to Buy More Stuff is a conversation all the time). What we want is companies that are ready, willing and able to have a conversation whenever we want it.
And hiring employees to field the conversations? Rubbish. We don't want clueless marketing drones mouthing platitudes to uninterested customers. They employ thousands of people, who, all in all, are very good at their particular job. Every one of them is more than capable of continuing a conversation with a customer.
Customer: is your product X tested on animals?
Customer looks at the website - the product isn't tested on animals. Cool.
Customer: I don't like the smell of product X.
Customer can't find anything on the website about the smell. They email the contact address on the site.
They get an email back, within the hour, from a real human being.
"Dear Ms Foo,
We're sorry to hear you don't like the smell of the product.
I've sent your comment to Ms Brand (email@example.com), who is responsible for the product. They should contact you soon.
If the real people involved act like real people, taking on board comments, criticism, even praise, and have the power to speak as themselves *and* for the company, then the conversations are happening.
In the future, everyone is client-facing.
No, no, I didn't mean to imply that what we need are millions of scripted marketing folks carrying on conversations. Indeed, there is inevitably going to be very direct communication among just about everyone inside with just about everyone outside. What do you think Ford's 350,000 workers, newly equipped with HP computers, are going to talk about? I mean, work is going to come up occasionally, even as they browse the Victoria's Secret site and play Quake under the name "PintoGasTank."
Chris Heathcote also responds to our pointer to Madanmohan Rao's article (www.economictimes.com/today/23netw01.htm) in the Economic Times about the free ISP movement in Europe.
The free ISP models only work because our telcos are so antiquated - pay-by-the-minute local and national calls are the norm over analogue wires, ISDN has only just started to be promoted (and rates reduced to acceptable levels), BT are stalling on ADSL *trials*, let alone roll-out.
foafoaf (who works at BT [British Telephone]) informally admitted that BT could afford to make all residential local and national calls completely free, but varying factions in BT management stopped it.
Myself, I'm waiting until 2001, when finally BT lose their monopoly of last-mile copper cable into homes in the UK.
If FOAFOAF stands for "From a friend of a friend," then I'm going to guess that FOAFOAF *really* means "According to an urban myth..." as in: "FOAFOAF, in the 1950s GM bought and squelched an engine that runs on water," and "FOAFOAF, you can get high smoking the threads from the inside of banana peels," "FOAFOAF, Ronald Reagan was actually re-elected to a second term," and other such pieces of delightful insanity.
Another international correspondent, Robbert "Bbob" Baruch of The Netherlands, complains about how long it takes to institute change where he works and attributes this to the lack of a strong "CEO-culture." Instead, the Dutch use the "Polder" system. He explains:
The polder model is quite famous in Europe. It is nowadays used by the Germans, for instance, as an example of how to control economic growth. It was actually first implemented in The Netherlands by the same Germans, when they lived under that other regime (1933-45), under the name of corporatism. What it means is that employers and employees negotiate about the conditions for work. But this is implemented also when organisations that don't agree with each other are invited to negotiate conditions. For instance the National Airport and the Environmentalists talk together about the amount of air pollution that is acceptable for the surroundings of Schiphol, our airport.... Tragically, in terms of knowledge the organisation is as hierarchical as ever, and change processes are very very slow, as people are not willing to have other people make decisions on what is perceived as their own field of knowledge. Practically, that means that I, the manager of the Intranet, have to negotiate with all partners. I cannot tell them to change, or ask the management to make them cooperate. So, in order to get a horizontal organisation I need a CEO like Saddam Hussein :-)) The Dutch have a tradition of negotiating: Americo-Dutch Political Scientist AREND LIJPHART is the name to remember. Quite interesting. It kept The Netherlands prosperous and a-political. Or ignorant.
So, let me get this straight. The hempalicious Dutch find the Nazi method of corporate decision-making way too lax, so they want to elect a roll-up-your-sleeves, hands-on sorta guy like Saddam Hussein. Hey, Tom Morris, sounds like you have the opportunity to write a Dutch bestseller: "If Hitler Ran General Motors."
History looks so different on this side of the pond.
Joshua "Kcineman" Newman writes to explain his own reference in the previous issue to Col. John Stingo, immortalized by the immortal Joseph Liebling." I've shortened it, in order to make it shorter:
Joe Liebling, these many years "gone where the good ones go," was very fond of what his editor called low-lifes - "characters" would have been more polite but less accurate - partly, I suspect, because they tortured the language into amazing and beautiful bonsai shapes. He obviously delighted in passing along these examples of speech-as-found-art whenever he could...
The Colonel (James Macdonald by birth, Colonel John R. Stingo byline) was probably one of these low-lifes; his prose was nearly as great a spectator sport as Leibling's own - at least, as Leibling records his conversation it was. (I wouldn't put it past old Joe to have put some English on the cueball - but either way it's glorious.) The two sentences of the Colonel's you found, as chance has it, are from the article I remembered and tie rather neatly to Breatharianism. Ain't the web grand!
When I first worked upon Colonel Stingo to set down his memoirs, he said, "You don't know what you're getting into, Joe. I am not the fine man you take me to be."
My effort to set him right on that score resulted in an estrangement, but we became friends again.
At another time he appeared to believe I was giving him too much of the worst of it, for he said, "It is only a boob that conducts an enterprise in such a manner that it leads to embroilment with the law. I myself have never collided with it head on. But I have had many associates less wise or fortunate. One was Dr. Orlando Edgar Miller, a Doctor of Philosophy of the University of the Everglades, Rushton, Florida. Dr. Miller, when I first met him, was of appearance pre-eminent. Sixty years old, straight as an arrow, with snow-white hair and black eyelashes. He affected a Panama hat, Palm Beach suit and white buckskin shoes even in the dead of a New York winter. He presented an undeviating outward semblance of sanctity, but he was a deviator, a dear old fellow. Having drawn the multitude toward him, first thing you know he had his hands in all their pockets.
"During the course of the revivals he conducted, frequently lasting for weeks if the supply of boobs held out, he professed a diet of one orange a day, but he was a practiced voluptuary. He did not like oranges, but he ingested plenty other comestibles. 'We eat too much, and no mentality can be alert when the body is overfed,' he used to proclaim in Carnegie Hall, where he lectured to throngs, and then he would take a taxi to a speakeasy called the Pennwick and eat a steak with a coverture of mushrooms like the blanket of roses they put on the winner of the Kentucky Derby.
"After that he would plunge his fine features in eight or nine seidels of needled beer, about forty-proof, a beverage worthy of revival, for it combined the pleasant Gambrinian taste with an alcoholic inducement to continue beyond the point of assuagement. Or he would decimate a black bottle of Sandy MacDonald Scotch, landed at Rockaway Point and conveyed fresh to the table by the courtesy of Big Bill Dwyer. Scotch, like the lobster, tastes best when fresh from the ocean, a truth which we have forgotten since repeal.
"But let him, in the lobby of Carnegie Hall after one of his meetings, be introduced to a man with upwards of fifty thousand dollars and he would ostentatiously gnaw an orange peel ..."
"'Not the mythical bacilli but improper breathing causes tuberculosis,' this old Dr. Miller would hold forth in public. 'Among the ancient races who understood proper breathing there was no such disease.' The cure he espoused was by the laying on of hands, calisthenics, and giving the right heart, and the women flocked to be laid hands on, even the most buxom averring a fear of dormant maladies...."
"Dr. Miller once said he was good for two hundred and fifty thousand a year on a purely spiritual plane. He drew tease from the repentant like soda through a straw."
(From "The Life Spiritual," in a must-have collection entitled "The Most of A. J. Leibling")
Tease probably deriving from T's - as in Treasury.
Now I can't imagine how you can condense that enough to use it, but I hope you'll enjoy reading it. Without ever having met him, I miss Leibling badly.
No need to condense it in this online version where the bits are free and the wine flows like water (except *every* year is a good year for water ... wow, that's like so Zen!). But for the email version, we can count on Word to come to the rescue. Here's how Word auto-summarizes it:
One was Dr. Orlando Edgar Miller, a Doctor of Philosophy of the University of the Everglades, Rushton, Florida. Sixty years old, straight as an arrow, with snow-white hair and black eyelashes. "'Not the mythical bacilli but improper breathing causes tuberculosis,' this old Dr. Miller would hold forth in public. '
Asaf Bartov responds to our recycling of a Gary Larsen cartoon that involved a dog attempting to lure a cat to its doom painting "FUD" with arrows pointing to a dryer. Our version substituted "Linux" for "FUD":
couldn't avoid noticing the extra dimension to this quaint recollection FUD is the common hacker term for Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. FUD is a tactic so often employed by Microsoft that I'm surprised they have not trademarked the term...
Yikes, of course! Not only am I familiar with the term, but when trying to track down an online image of the cartoon, I searched for FUD and came across many references to it as an acronym. You've unearthed a whole new layer in the rich semantic archaeology of Gary Larsen. Nice work!
Jacky Eacott suggests yet another anagram of Linus Torvalds:
SODS ALL NU TRIV ... trivia being everything non-Linux or everything Linux depending on whether you've got that battery plugged in or not.
She also points out that "Cluetrain" has the same number of letters as "Communist." But is it a coincidence that "Jacky Eacott" has the same number of letters as "coincidence"? FOAFOAF, I doubt it.
In the previous issue, we put in a link to www.goodexperience.com because it had the good sense to include a link to JOHO. Mark Hurst responds:
very clever, hiding my company name :) maybe you're helping us with linus's strategy of keeping it all secret to millionize our valuation. ooooooh, mark hurst, founder of " ". whoa!
In keeping with Mark's new marketing plan (no charge, my good man!), I am once again not running the name of his company. All part of the service, Mark!
Eric Post replies to our article on the hidden politics of "merely":
When I read the 'Politics of Merely', I was instantly reminded of Pirsig's rant against 'just' in "Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance". I have heavily summarized two paragraphs below:
"Little children were trained not to do 'just what they liked' but what others liked. And which others? Parents, teachers, supervisors....All authorities. When you are trained to despise 'just what you like' then, of course, you become a much more obedient servant of others...a good slave."
agree with your point and would like to take it further. When we pay attention to what we like, we can't help feeling passion in our life.
I have managed to not read "Zen in..." for 30 years now, and if you think I'm going to spoil my unblemished record, bucko, you've got another think coming!
Obscene Email Department
And, predictably, what article drew the most mail? My thoughtful, nay philosophical, discourse on how the update to the JPG standard will bring about world peace or my insightful proposal for "Hegelian Hyperlinks"? No, of course it was the article on treating "fuck" and its friends as a corporate resource, permitting only so many uses per year.
We begin with an important correction from Robert Gilvey:
I'd send you my OED, but it's too fucking heavy. OOPS, there goes my quota. Fuck is an obscenity, not a profanity. But who the fuck cares?
David Allen recounts his own experiences with spellcheckers:
"the prudish spellcheck" reminded me of other flaws i've noted in spellcheck; my personal fave being that word 97 recognizes "Stairmaster" but not "tachycardia." and these are the vermin who want to let encarta educate our kids.
I've often thought that the right way to abridge a dictionary is to drop the words everyone knows and just put in the tricky ones. As for the omission of "tachycardia," FOAFOAF who works at Microsoft said that they purposefully leave out the hard words to help dumb down America so that our kids won't figure out that Linux rocks Windows. Really!
Marina Streznewski writes:
Before I changed jobs, I was becoming a real potty mouth and it was starting to bother me. (The frequency with which I use the F-word is a *very* reliable indicator of my stress level.) So I decided to do something about it.
Now when I am tempted to use that particular Anglo-Saxon term, I say instead . very bad word.. If I. m really annoyed, I. ll say . four very bad words!. This has the effect of making everyone within earshot laugh - so the tension is further lightened. A few of my friends have adopted this technique because they think it. s funny. And it is a perfect way to stretch that corporate . fuck. budget.
This is precisely the strategy Richard Nixon used in the White House. All those places in the transcripts that say "expletive deleted," he was actually saying "expletive deleted." FOAFOAF!
Tom Matrullo writes to tell us of his profanity-related escapades in re the Brothers Bush. It seems that Jeb Bush, "governor" of Florida, tried to evict two protesting state reps by telling his aids to "kick their asses out." But the Sarasota Herald-Tribune somehow neglected to mention this in their coverage of the sit-in. Tom sent a letter to the editor suggesting the paper was several shades of yellow. It didn't run. And when the newspaper finally covered the event, they censored the Bad Language out of it. As Tom wrote:
Do you not understand that every time you preserve our delicate sensibilities from the actual language spoken by our politicians, you defeat the very purpose of your existence - to tell us what happened?
I thoughtfully replied to Tom, cutting to the heart of the issue:
BTW, doesn't everyone agree that the Bush bros will be played by Jeff and Beau Bridges when they make the movie?
to which Tom sensibly replied:
Ha! They wish! They'll probably prevail on Garth Brooks to play both of them - not that I'll be watching.
Jerry Lynde writes about Eudora's superior fucking handling:
when I type "fuckung" (deliberately misspelled to catch the spellchecker), I am offered fucking, fuck, fuckin (one I added to the local dictionary) and funking (not profane, but groovy nonetheless)... Eudora's got no prudishness about it...
Outlook, meanwhile, puts any message that contains the words "lay," "pole" or "Boy Scout" into the ObsceneMail folder. Better safe than sorry...
Chris Heathcote bemoans the possibility that he might be limited in his use of profanity. He writes:
fuck, that's worse than casual Fridays.
Nothing could be worse than casual Fridays. It's bad enough to have to get dressed up like our parents on Tight-Ass Mondays-Thursdays. Now we have to get dressed up on Friday to pretend to be relaxed and enjoying ourselves. I can't take the levels of indirection! Someone stop us before we have to dress up on Saturdays like people who are at work pretending to be on vacation while at work...
J.D. Wilson addresses the problem of not having a word to replace "fuck" now that the F word is used by everyone and her wide-eyed toddler:
To replace the use of "fuck" and its derivatives in North America, I recommend the Australian and New Zealand usage "bugger" as an intensifier. Will it work as well? From my experience as a Kiwi at North American conferences - yes. Like the time my wife told a Southern gentleman she was "buggered" (i.e. very tired, cf "I'm fucked"). He literally blanched and was struck speechless and quickly moved away.
So don't give a "fuck" - give a "bugger: "Fuck it" becomes "bugger it". "Fucking becomes "buggering" as in "stop buggering around". We don't say "mother buggering" but that could be a new North American variant to replace the "mofo" mouthing you folk seem so attached to. A very useful usage is as a substitute for the person (usually male) as in "He's a good bugger" or equally "He's a bad bugger". Any other adjective descriptive of the person can also be used, eg, "He's a sympathetic bugger". "Bugger off", with its plosive attack can be even more effective than "fuck off".
So bear in mind that it's a right bugger if you can't think of anything more original than "fuck" to tell them that you really mean it. I don't give a bugger if it doesn't catch on. In fact it would probably be a bit of a bugger if it did.
PPS My mail spell check gives "fuci" or "funk" for "fuck" but ignores bugger - another reason to consider its adoption.
When I inquired whether "bugger" really is of the same intensity as "fuck," J.D. referred to a commercial that uses it repeatedly and adds:
To answer your question as to which is more emphatic - I might casually say to my wife: Hey, bugger-off now, I need to concentrate." and while she wouldn't necessarily comply I probably wouldn't be buying a fight. In the same circumstance I would never say "fuck-off".
And thus we have conclusive proof that "bugger" is *not* a replacement for "fuck." (Perhaps we could do some other comparisons by using the "Does it get me slugged by my spouse" criterion.)
Craig P. passes along the following with regard to the Word that Dare Not Speak Its Name, the only word in English actually more foul than "fuck"
LONDON, Jan 24 (Reuters) - British defence minister John Spellar scored a parliamentary first on Monday by accidentally slipping the most offensive four-letter word into a heated debate.
Under fire over spending cutbacks on defence, Spellar steadied himself for a return volley, accusing the previous Conservative government of slashing defence budgets to the bone.
``Those cuts...have gone too far,'' he meant to say. But an errant ``n'' slipped into ``cuts,'' making it sound more like the verbal abuse that precedes a gang fight.
MPs didn't know whether to gasp or guffaw, but in the press gallery overlooking the House of Commons, hard-bitten journalists wept with laughter. Behind his ample ginger beard, it was impossible to see whether Spellar was blushing.
Undeterred, Conservative defence spokesman Robert Key later risked stepping into a verbal elephant trap himself.
``Can we now go to the nub of this?'' he asked.
I was with you until we got to the "nub." Why is this such a land mine? Slip in an N and you get "nunb." What's the big deal?
Finally, Jon Pyke weighs in:
This sodding profanity business can be a real pain in the arse (note spelling) - there are lots of words that are much better than the word "fuck" and you don't have to sink to "C-Level" to shock - what you need is a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary of Slang - this is the book that just about all 11 year old English schoolboys head for on that very first day they are let lose in a library.
Words that are just as expressive as the F word include: Bollocks, Sod Off, Wanker, Twat, Plonker, Nerk (I could go on but you get the point) overuse of the F-word means that the over-user has limited slang vocabulary (an English expression meaning lots of words at your disposal).
Lets take an example - the sentence "Bollocks, what you just said made you sound like a real plonker and made the rest of us look like a bunch of twats" is very expressive and is basically telling someone that they disagree with the comments and in expressing them put the rest of the group in a bad light - an alternative maybe to utter one word beginning with C and simply walk away.
Good sodding point, although none of the freaking words you suggest have the sheer shock value that a simple "fuck" used to have. "You stupid wanking plonker" to me sounds like a euphemism used when you've stubbed your toe among Boy Scouts. And, given the meaning of the word "bugger" here in the US, you *definitely* don't want to use it in the presence of Boy Scouts. Or sheep.
Here's an old-timey contest for y'all. Create two anagrams from the name of some company or person that has at least a tenuous connection to the Web, and then use those anagrams in a rhyming couplet that has some tenuous connection to the original name. Now replace the anagrams with blanks (along with the number of letters in each word) and see if some poor fool wants to waste her time backward engineering your stupid little puzzle
Diamonds _3_, _3_silver, _3_ _3_ of gold
Captures the mythic value of this DOS expert of old
The answer is, obviously, Norton (aka Peter Norton, aka Standing With His Arms Crossed Guy). You see, you replace the first pair of blanks with "NOT, NOR" and the second with "NOR TON:
Diamonds not, nor silver, nor ton of gold
Captures the mythic value of this DOS expert of old
Here are a couple of other examples, with the answers all the way at the end of this issue:
Many a __6__ may run through this OS
but there's no __6__ of those who see it as a loss.
_2_, __4__ upon hectare of data we see,
_1_ _5_is our path to victory.
_3_ is inevitable as we __ 2__4__the hits
From this awesome search site definitely not the pits
Have fun figuring these out (hint: one of them is considerably better than the example I gave you and one is pretty bad), but, more important, send me your own so we may all share in the merriment.
In the previous issue, I asked for businesses that could be built around one-letter typos in popular Web destinations.
James Sherrett suggests a typo for eBay.com:
eBoy.com: a companion wanted personals resource
B!x pronounced "B-Bang-X" offends us all with:
yaho.com Sort of an iVillage for whores.
James Sherrett suggests
msn.com: Could be man.com, not exactly what you think of from a company called Microsoft...
dogpile.com: Could be dotpile.com as an homage to failed Sun marketing campaigns.
amazon.com: Could be amazon.con or amacon.com as they reveal the real source of revenue in their business model is data collection.
aol.com: Could be awol.com to frustrated customers trial to dial up the service and getting busy signals.
Bob "Prof. Morris" Morris rings the changes on our own beloved cluetrain.com:
cute-rain.com trading barbie dolls in slickers
hoot-rain.org Seattle Save the Spotted Owls
jute-rain.org rainforest sister site to hemp legalization site
klute-rain.org fans of obscure Jane Fonda films
lute-rain.com auction site for weathered medieval instruments
mute-rain.org community of speech impaired meterologists
suit-rain.com all weather business wear
toute-rennes.fr Tourism page for Rennes
ute-rain.org Raindance enthusiasts
zoo-train.org (too easy)
zoot-train.org hipster trainspotters
-rein has possibilities too, but I gotta get back to work.
No, you need to have your keyboard pried away from your fingers before you move on to the "reign" series, followed by "rayin'," "brain," "plain," and "Spain."
And, so, appropriately given the randomness of the semantics of JOHO, we end on the accidents of language puns, anagrams, palindromes redressing our culture's prejudice towards rhymes. For thousands of years we have structured poetry around rhymes when we could just as easily imagine poetry that needs matching anagrams on every other line in order to scan. Ah, but rhyme enters through the ears, not the brain, and, as this Valentine season makes obvious, ears are the fastest way to the heart, since words burrow into our bodies and chatter every sensate part, as if we are standing too close to the speakers or riding a board pulled by a yammering outboard shogging through ocean chop. The wrong words or the right ones can loosen the plaque and carbuncles of the blood stream, clearing the arteries but also felling the mighty whose power is always greater than that of mere words but less than that of heard words. But all that has naught to do with JOHO which dallies in the effluvia of words, preferring a pun to an insight and most of all desires to issue an ending.
Answers to Anagriddles:
Many a THREAD may run through this OS
but there's no DEARTH of those who see it as a loss. [REDHAT]
LO, ACRE upon hectare of data we see,
O CLEAR is our path to victory [ORACLE]
LEG GOO is inevitable as we GO OGLE the hits
From this awesome search site definitely not the pits [Google]
The following information was found trapped at the top of my washing machine when I ran some issues of JOHO through it.
JOHO is a free, independent newsletter written and produced by David Weinberger. He denies responsibility for any errors or problems. If you write him with corrections or criticisms, it will probably turn out to have been your fault.
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