Hyperlinked Organization Title

For those who need to understand how the Web is changing the way businesses work

 
Meta Data
Vol/Issue: v98 #4 (February 4, 1998 
Author/Editor: David Weinberger  
Central Meme: Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy  
Favorite Beatle: John. Duh.  
Current Personal Crisis: Avoidance techniques outpacing growth of free time 
Home page: http://www.hyperorg.com  
Contact information: Click here

 
 

Contents

The Meaning of JOHO
Thinking with Your Hands: How bricolage can help
Buzz Soup: S/MIME and PGP/MIME
Re:Wired: A face lift and a let down?
Rhone-Poulenc walks the walk:
Cool Tool: TraceRoute
Internetcetera: 4 Guesses
Unfortunate Juxtapositions
Real Dumb Quote and Ad
Email, Bricolage and Rude Remarks
Why Search Engines Suck: Blue Edition
Bogus Contest: Webku


 
Stop the Damn Presses!
Meaning of JOHO Revealed!
 

Thanks to JOHO reader Yuko Mori, the real meaning of the word JOHO has been discovered. It does not mean "penis" in Indonesian as certain Larrys have maintained in these pages. It does mean ... hang onto your hats ... "information" in Japanese.

I knew it all along. Yeah, sure. 

 

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Thinking with Your Hands

In the previous issue, JOHO touted "context management" as a term to describe what you do to provide a productive and creative intellectual work environment -- it's at least better than "knowledge management." In response we received the following slightly edited missive from Chris RageBoy Locke:

At the risk of making a halfway serious suggestion to JOHO readers, Claude Levi-Strauss has some cogent words related to what you're calling context management. He uses the term "bricolage." The article is in his book called The Savage Mind, which you can order through Entropy Gradient Reversals:

bricolage, noun

Something made or put together using whatever materials happen to be available: "Even the decor is a bricolage, a mix of this and that" (Los Angeles Times).

but that doesn't tell you much. Here's something I just cribbed from some AI hoser at http://datacase.mdn.com/PSY/32d.html

Claude Levi-Strauss describes the concrete thought of not-yet-civilized people as bricolage, the activity of the bricoleur -- a sort of jack-of-all-trades, or more precisely, a committed do-it-yourself man. The core idea is looseness of commitment to specific goals,

One can appreciate the opposition of planning (the epitome of goal-directed behavior) and the opportunism of bricolage...

there's more stuff on that page, some of it maybe even relevant.

whatever.

Ah, this brought back a whiff of sophomore year when we read Levi-Strauss not really certain of the relationship of philosophic anthropology and denim pants. Bricolage now seems more relevant than ever (which isn't saying a lot).

In this spirit of Applied Philosophy, let's see how the concept of bricolage helps with three topics:

Building the Web. The Web is group bricolage. Individuals build it without working from a master plan. They take pieces that work -- stealing gifs, formats, links -- and create new pages. Bricolage lowers the hurdle to creation because you rejoice in putting existing pieces to new use. The result (the Web) is unpredictable by its very nature.

Building intranets. Over and over we see that the intranets that work best -- the ones that actually get used -- are those that are built bottom up. Centralized planning is the opposite of bricolage. When it comes to building an intranet, listen politely to the system architects and then go find yourself some bricoleurs.

Knowledge management. Bricolage is not a bad way of thinking about knowledge management -- better than the usual image of knowledge technicians in white lab coats rectally probing scraps of information for relative knowledge densities and percentage of knowledgistic phlogiston. As JOHO has said before, the right metaphor for KM is wandering through a junkyard, not working a mine. That's because knowledge is not an inherent property of things but is instead the result of a thing being useful within some context -- the scrap of metal is valuable because it happens to fit the hole in your garage roof.

If KM is in fact a type of bricolage, then we've got to do some serious rethinking about the types of tools KM'ers need.

Programming, morality and more.Sherry Turkle, in Life on the Screen -- a book more interesting than its topic -- has also twigged onto bricolage. She has a chapter called "The Triumph of Tinkering" which is about why those who think by, well, tinkering do well in a visual computing environment. But she also touches on a number of other bricolagistic topics.

Too bad "bricolage" is French or this term might actually catch on. JOHO is accepting entries into a bogus mini-contest on marketingesque replacement terms...

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Buzz Soup:
S/MIME and PGP/MIME

Most of us act most of the time as if our email were safe from prying eyes. In fact, it is protected by the strongest security system known to humankind: the vast indifference of others to what we're up to.

Occasionally, however, we'd like something stronger. Have no fear, the Web is rushing to your rescue ... with two incompatible standards.

MIME -- Multipart Internet Mail Extension -- was invented to allow the transfer of unexpected types of data such as voice and richly formatted word processing files. (You can get a peek at how MIME is used by looking at your browser's options for what it does when it receives different "MIME types.")

Secure MIME (S/MIME) and PGP/MIME extend the MIME specification so that MIME types are locked with digital keys. And that's where the similarity ends. S/MIME is a product of RSA Data Security, Inc. and initially used RSA's patented encryption algorithm. This kept the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) from considering it as a standard. Now, however, RSA has published a description of its algorithm. PGP/MIME is the brainchild of Pretty Good Privacy, Inc., which easily wins the Webby Naming Contest.

Microsoft, Netscape and Lotus support (or will support) S/MIME. qualcomm [Note: It is a JOHO rule that any company that insists on spelling its name or its product name in all caps will find itself lower-cased in these pages], the maker of Eudora, one of the most popular email clients, supports PGP/MIME.

For difficult technical reasons having to do with the fact that I use Eudora, JOHO prefers PGP/MIME.

Now for the technical discussion you've been looking forward to. A recent article in PC Week (Jan. 19) by Dave Kosiur, explains:

PGP/MIME constructs its digital envelope differently from S/MIME. Its default mode is to use International Data Encryption Algorithm with a one-time session key to encrypt data. It then generates a hash of the message (using the MD5 algorithm), encrypting the resulting message digest with the sender's private key using the Digital Signature Algorithm developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology as a part of DSS.

This is actually an example of how PGP/MIME encrypts an email message. When this message is received and decrypted it reads: "Meet my by the palmettos and have the 'package' ready, if you know what I mean heh-heh-heh."

 
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Re:Wired

Wired has undergone a face lift. The result is that it is now more than ever mainly face.

While the eye-numbing colors are still there, the typography has been made distressingly legible. Gone are the 2-pt. marginal screeds. Gone are the hideously laid out pages. In its place is a magazine that looks like Esquire playing "make-up" with Courtney Love's mascara. (Please feel free to interpret that remark and submit it to the "What Was I Thinking?" Dept. of JOHO.)

Most upsetting to me is the hack job they've done on Idees Fortes (or "Thinking about Forts," in English), or, what most of us thought of as their op-ed pages. This hurts because they'd run a bunch of pieces of mine over the past few years, pieces that may not have had any visible effect on our culture but sure look mighty fine on my resume. Now, Idees Fortes doesn't accept contributions from outside writers at all. Instead, it's turned into "Remedial Buzz Words" (or, as their sub-title calls it, "Instant Cultural Literacy"). "Strong Ideas" my foot.

The content remains a mixed bag. (First time I've ever used that phrase! Like it? Is it a keeper? Next issue look for me to continue the "bag" series by seamlessly inserting the phrase "Let's just bag it!," finishing the series with "Poppa's got a brand new bag.") Here's a giveaway: the "Great Stuff" feature recommends the Cuisinart toaster. "You'll never burn toast again." Excuse me? Is this Wired or the Williams Sonoma catalog. Coming soon: Wired Does the Gap. Barf!

Then there is a total waste-of-space piece recounting director James Cameron's undersea adventure looking at the real Titanic. Too bad because Cameron actually has been a real innovator in the merging of digits and flesh on camera. (Note the subtle play of "Cameron" and "on camera" ... just another example of why JOHO is an unparalleled reading experience.) There are also a couple of articles about computing in countries where they don't speak English, like we give a damn. On the other hand, there's a really interesting interview with Freeman Dyson, a truly remarkable thinker (and Esther's father).

(Yeah, but can you work Leo DiCaprio into an article about Dyson? I think not. Huge career downside for Dyson.)


Dept. of Truly Embarrassing Assumptions. I heard that Cameron made a 9/10 scale model of the Titanic for his movie. This had me really confused. So, I asked the first friend I met who'd seen the movie, "Why did he make it just 9/10s?"

"What's the problem?"

"Didn't the actors keep hitting their heads on the door frames? And the actors must had had to scrunch up in the chairs like at a parent's conference in the kindergarten class."

Then I had the sort of "Aha!" experience that comes to village idiots when they realize that they can put a pile of ketchup on their plate and not have to go back to the dispenser for every french fry.

My friend thought I was kidding. I let her continue to believe it.
 

 
 

Middle World Resources

A BiWeekly Compendium of Resources
Walking the Walk  

John Battista manages IT for RP Technology Resources, Inc. (a subsidiary of Rhone-Poulenc, SA). His group developed an "intranet" before there were intranets by using Lotus Notes. (The group now is opening Notes up to intranet access via Lotus Domino and will tie into the corporate intranet that the parent company's IT group is developing.) He talks about the effect this type of access had even during early pilots:

"A key function of our Notes databases was to centrally manage all documents and discussions relating to a particular Engineering project.  The information we got coming back through the Notes project database was better than we'd gotten through a paper process. Normally when an engineering project happens, it typically is a bunch of engineers working together at a particular location. We said ok, let's open up the information flow to the maintenance people and production people who are actually involved in the chemical units that the project is going to effect. Not only was the outbound information flow increased, but we found that we got valuable information from the maintenance and production people -- and this resulted in changes to the engineering designs during the course of the project." Hyperlinking is -- in organizations if not in most Web pages -- a two way street. 

John Battista can be reached via e-mail at jbattist@us.rhodia.com

Cool Tool
For the Hyperlinked Organization
 

Sometimes you want to know why your Web connection works like it's trying to suck a camel through the eye of a needle. Trace Route can help. Most important, it can give you the ammunition you need to yell pointlessly at your ISP.

You tell Trace Route where you're trying to go, and it graphically displays all the hops your packets are taking to get from here to there. Each node also gives you information about how long it's taking.

Clearly this is more information than you normally need. After all, the point of the Web is to hide its own technology and infrastructure. But when you need to know, this shareware tool will do it for you.

You can get it at here. And you can get a tutorial about Trace Route here.

Internetcetera

Internet World (Feb. 9) ran an interesting table comparing research by four companies on the size and demographics of the Web. Here's some of it
  Cyber
Dialogue
Media
Metrix
Nielsen Relevant
Knowledge
Number of US users 41.5M 38M 52M 55.4M
Gender (M/F) 58/42 58/42 57/43 57/43
% with household income > $60K N/A 48.1 35.8 N/A
% with college degrees 43 49.9 40.4 51

 

 
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Really, Really Stupid Quote and Dumb, Dumb Ad

Here's a really dumb quote. I found it in Movieline, a magazine for the willfully superficial. I subscribe.

In one continuing feature, they ask movie staroids "What's your favorite video scene"? Byron Mann (apparently he was in Red Corner and has pouty lips) says:

The close-up of Rupert Graves in Damage when he discovers Jeremy Irons having sex with his fiancee, Juliette Binoche. The shock, anger and sadness in his eyes are priceless. You can't fake that.

Gosh, I saw that scene and I'm pretty sure Rupe was faking it alright...although he may prefer to call it something more glamorous, like, um, well, acting.


If you watch TV (shame on you) then you've undoubtedly seen the ad for the oh-so-poetically-named G3 Macintosh that shows an Intel Pentium II chip on the back of a snail. The smarmy voice informs us that the G3's chip runs up to twice as fast as the Pentium II.

Fantastic! Finally a chip that goes almost twice as fast as a snail! (Credit for this insight goes to Nathan, our seven year old, who is not a regular reader of this newsletter.)

 

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Dept. of Unfortunate Juxtapositions

In one GartnerFLASH report on February 6, they report the admirable news that Lotus has committed to removing restrictions from its software licenses that prevent users from communicating information about the performance of Lotus products.

In another GartnerFLASH report on the same day, Gartnoid Tom Austin reports that the "Applet load and execution speed" of the Lotus eSuite set of office productivity tools "is inadequate." (Also, he says that the demo at LotusSphere had to be rebooted 4 times in 20 minutes.)

BTW, didn't anyone in marketing at Lotus pronounce the name "LotusFear" out loud before naming their conference?

 
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Email, Comments, Rude Remarks

Danny Boulanger is interested in the idea of "context management" and writes:

We can now understand the power of a document. Why? Because it is the vehicle of choice to create context.

Yup. Much of our context is contained in documents. And, not by coincidence, documents are an amazingly context-rich way of communicating. (Is there anything more important about our culture than the fact that we read? I'm accepting entries for a mini-bogus contest on this topic...)

I am contemplating writing one of the boring-but-obvious articles that are a trademark of JOHO on the fact that technically there is no such thing as "a" document; all documents exist only within a multi-document context. Documents are webs already! (Unfortunately, this is true only in a trivial sense. Watch for another boring-but-obvious article that says that documents are being marginalized -- it isn't going to be a document-centric world after all.)


I'm not vain enough to think that last issue's article on "context management" had anything to do with Steven Birnam touting a replacement term for KM (he's not even a subscriber), but, well, let me cite one of the relevant passages:

Although KM is a high profile buzz word today, it will be shortly eclipsed, in terms of functionality and returns on investment. KM will be eclipsed by a technology called KAPS (Knowledge Acquisition and Processing Solution), and it is a simple step from KM to KAPS. Both are based on the same concept of reuse of information. But, where KM concentrates on the +ACI-object+ACI- - controlling the information/knowledge in the enterprise, KAPS concentrates on the +ACI-activity+ACI- - the work that flows through the enterprise. On close examination all work, all processes, is (or should be) based on knowledge.

I certainly agree that KM without some concept of process will be just another big, dumb, unused repository. I tend to think, however, that we're moving into an age of great concreteness, and it's not processes that people will focus on, but projects. While you can describe much of work life in terms of processes, that's not how people view what they're doing. [Editorial disclaimer: The concept of projects is increasingly central to Open Text Livelink. I worked for Open Text until a few weeks ago.]

No, I don't know what Steve means by an ACI, but I'm sure I'll feel dumb when I find out.


Mark Dionne adds to the JOHO reading list, recommending "The Church and the Bazaar." This compares the "bricolage" way in which Linux was developed as opposed to the "cathedral" way in which Unix and large tools like Emacs have been developed.


Eric Brown of Forrester writes that JOHO is a tad long. True, but in its defense, let me point out that it's still smaller than my ego.

He also refers to corporate IT creating "top-level, enterprise wide context management search service" as opposed to "building individual, searchable sites." Absolutely! We should look forward to the day when typing text into a search engine is a sign of the failure of your context to give you the information you need. Asking for information is so, well, lower-decks.


Mark Schenecker reports on using an Internet kiosk at the San Francisco airport:

The physical similarity between the internet kiosk and the phone cluster was what startled me. Communication using the internet kiosk was visually equated with communication using a phone by virtue of the construction of the kiosk. The only difference was that it was a notebook instead of a phone.

One important difference, however, I found the internet kiosk easier to use than the phone....

Which raises the question why we're perfectly happy to remember 10-digit telephone numbers but consider having to deal with IP addresses as somehow barbaric.


After our first installment of "Why Search Engines Suck" in which I casually referred to Lycos as "the dumb-ass search engine," I got a restrained letter from a friend who just started work there. Let me hasten to state that I did not mean to imply that the people who work at Lycos are in any way challenge-assed.

I also received from Jeff Millar an emphatic statement of some of Lycos's perceived weaknesses which is too long to print here but is quite interesting and entertaining. You can find it at http://www.hyperorg.com/misc/lycos.txt.


RageBoy was among those to point out that there was a slight link problem in the previous issue:

oh and btw, http://..misc/heaven.ppt and http://../misc/heaven.txt are not what we professionals in the business would call well-formed URLs.

Yeah, well they should be. Not my problem.


There's actually been a flurry of email coming to JOHO about the future of book publishing, the role of on-demand printing, etc. It's been fascinating, but too long for the already-massive issues of JOHO. But here's a taste, from Meredith Sue Willis, noted novelist and New Jersey's favorite Marxist:

Just got a snailmail communique about a company that is somewhere between a vanity press and God's gift to writers: www.Xlibris.com.

They're collecting online books BUT ALSO doing printing on demand. For $450 per book, then you get royalties.

Once every illiterate romance writer wannabe is published, how will we ever find the good books? How to get your work given the imprimatur of some legitimate critic-reader is going to be significant whether we are reading old fashioned leather bound vellum or little electronic gadgets.

It's the old problem of the Web in microcosm. On the Web, no one knows you're a lying dog. So the information about information becomes vitally important. Meta data is the name of the game, baby! Also, trust. And context. (This is one of the ways in which the Web sounds startlingly like life.) Baby.


Speaking of babies, JOHO sends its love to young Caroline Walsh-King, first scion of the Evelyn Walsh - Paul King empire. You can see all 7lbs of her at http://www.ikoned.com/Caroline. (Posting baby pictures is like a dream use of a technology originally designed to provide a nuclearly redundant network. Turning swords into baby snaps.)

Caroline is beautiful and made a very wise choice of parents.

 
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Why Search Engines Suck: Blue Edition

The prissy among you may not want to read the following.

I have noticed that mainstream headlines and commentators discussing the Clinton-Lewinsky matter use the word "blow" at a disproportionate rate. The uses are, on the surface, entirely innocent: "Blown out of proportion," "Blow up in his face," "Suffers a Blow," "Will Blow Over," etc.

Or am I just being sensitive to the word?

Well, we have fantastic search engines. Surely we should be able to put my hypothesis to the test. Are mainstream headlines using the word "blow" more? There's a free JOHO business card for the person who figures out a way to test this using Web search engines.

My friends at Open Text -- who know a lot about searching -- tried to help out. Alta Vista lets you specify date ranges, but, of course, there's no way to say you want to search only the mainstream press. In any case, we searched for "blow AND clinton BUT NOT 'blow job'" (to eliminate non-innocent uses of the term) and got the following results:

 

FromToHits
5/1/976/12/97770
11/1/9712/12/972,545
1/1/982/12/983,818

Unfortunately, we don't know how much of this growth is due to the growth of Alta Vista's text base.

And it doesn't exactly inspire confidence that, while randomly sampling some of the hits for the period Nov. 1-Dec. 12 of last year, we turned up an August 10, 1995 press conference transcript.

If you can think of a better way to test my Blow Up Hypothesis, please let me know.


Dave Seaman has another reason Search Engines Suck, in this case the HP search site (www.hp.com):

You cannot find part number A3658 but you can find part number A3658A

Dave also noticed that JOHO sucks when it comes to well-formed hyperlinks. (See RageBoy's comments above.)

 
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Bogus Contest: WebKu

Remember Haiku, the only art form (outside of abstract expressionism and beebop jazz) that can be successfully created with an adequate random number generator? Remember Haiku, the only art form (outside of existential novels and anything by Quentin Tarrantino) where the dividing line between wisdom and imbecility is indiscernible? Remember Haiku, in which you string together seventeen syllables, preferably in Japanese?

Well, given that the Web consists of many small pieces loosely joined -- as endlessly expounded in previous issues of JOHO -- its poets ought to be speaking Haiku.

Now, truly by coincidence, Ross Knights forwarded the results of a Haiku Error Messages contest from Salon Magazine after I'd already decided on this issue's contest. And the proof I offer that I didn't steal this idea from Salon is that Salon's contest is a much better idea than mine. In any case, here are the two winning Haiku Error Messages.

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

Everything is gone;
Your life's work has been destroyed.
Squeeze trigger (yes/no)?

JOHO is giving you more latitude. We'll take entries on any aspect of the Web experience, and won't enforce the 17-syllable rule. For example:

 

Spiders spin the roads they walk
And never find themselves lost.
Where was that bookmark?

Words slip from the sound of streams.
Pictures unreel from unseen sites.
Pam Anderson panting.

Pigeons roost overhead unasked
and leave brown branches unmarked.
Spam arrives.

Wind rattles hollow bamboo greens
The tiger stalks on snow.
The contest is bogus.

 

 

Your turn.


Editorial Lint

The following information was found trapped at the top of my washing machine when I ran some issues of the JOHO through it.

The 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.

To subscribe or be removed from the JOHO mailing list, click here. There is no need for harshness or recriminations. Sometimes things just don't work out between people.

Dr. Weinberger is in a delicate nervous state, but if you want to send positive comments to him, his email address is self@evident.com.

Dr. Weinberger is represented by a fiercely aggressive legal team who responds to any provocation with massive litigatory procedures. This notice constitutes fair warning.

Any email sent to the JOHO may be published in the JOHO and snarkily commented on unless the email explicitly states that it's not for publication.

Note to distributors: If you are interested in reselling the popular Hyperlinked Organization brand line of memorabilia, please contact our manager of JOHO Channels, Divad Regrebniew. (The JOHO corn dog attack vehicle with lifelike action figures is no longer available, and will return once we fix the eject button and pending the outcome of the lawsuit.)


The Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization is a publication of Evident Marketing, Inc.

"The Hyperlinked Organization" is trademarked by Open Text Corp. JOHO gratefully acknowledges Open Text's kind permission to use this felicitous phrase.

"JOHO," "Internetcetera," "One-Question Interview" and "Buzz Soup" are trademarks of Evident Marketing, Inc.