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January 19, 2001




Reed's Law — An Interview: One of the Internet originals explains that the value of the Net comes not from its raw connections but from its group-forming ability.
Stories and Fractal Interests: Human interest is fractal. That's why we love OJ and Monica.
Quoth the Raven's Master: Nevermore?: What's up with Lotus?
Reboot Habits: How do you spend your reboot time?
Beating the Bushes: More reasons to think Dubya's a schmuck (carefully quarantined for your reading pleasure).
Why Search Engines Suck: Like you need more reasons?
Collective Stupidity: Stupid domain names.
Walking the Walk: Users of Lawson software discover discussion groups.
Links to Love: A zillion more places to go, thanks to you.
Whose Tired of Being a Millionaire?: Ways to spend your money that aren't all about you.
Email, Arbitrary Insults, etc.: Your fabulous email.
Bogus contest: Pleonasms


Extry-Special Humungous Issue!

For reasons I don't understand, this is by far the largest issue of JOHO ever. I've had to trim the email version significantly, but you can read every fascinating scribble here. Sigh.


It's a JOHO World After All

National Public Radio recently ran two of my commentaries. If you are desperate for the sound of a human voice, you can listen here:

The Wireless Attachment to the Earth:

The Web and UnManagement:


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Reed's Law — An Interview

David Reed is an Internet "graybeard," there at the beginning when the first wires were connected with duct tape. He was a professor at MIT and then the chief scientist at Software Arts, the company that developed VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet and the killer app that made PCs worth owning. He went to Lotus as chief scientist, where he helped Lotus expand beyond 1-2-3. He's now an entrepreneur and consultant. He's also a really decent guy who works with non-profits and is a voice of sweet reason in some highly charged environments. We asked him about what others call "Reed's Law" which is based on the fundamental insight that the Net's value comes from its enabling of groups, not just of individual-to-individual connections.

JOHO: Here are JOHO we like groups. So do you. What do you see as the role of groups on the Net?

One third of a century ago in an article entitled "The Computer as a Communication Medium," J.C.R. Licklider and Bob Taylor wrote

What will on-line interactive communities be like? … they will consist of geographically separated members … communities not of common location, but of common interest. … The whole will constitute a labile network of networks-ever changing in both content and configuration. … the impact … will be very great-both on the individual and on society. … First, … because the people with whom one interacts will be selected more by commonality … than by accidents of proximity.

Licklider and Taylor used this argument to rally a generation of designers including me to join together in research and development of a radical new architecture for communications, which we now call the Internet.

Group forming is, in my opinion, the technical feature that most distinguishes the Internet's capabilities from all other communications media before it. Beyond either the hub-and-spokes broadcast networks of print, television, and radio, or the peer transactional networks of telegraph, telephone, and online financial transactions, the Internet's architecture also supports group-forming networks whose members can assemble and maintain persistent communicating groups.

Though broadcasting of content, catalog sales, and user-to-user messaging and financial transactions easily carry over from old media to the Internet, novel group-oriented functions that did not exist before computer networks have grown rapidly as well. Functions ranging from the "reply-to-all" feature in e-mail, chat-room hosting on AOL, web hosting sites such as GeoCities, auction-hosting on eBay, and buddy-lists in instant-messaging all enable, enhance, and sustain huge numbers of member-organized groups. The key thing about these groups is that they are freely formed — though various institutions, services, and organizations enable the group-forming, the choice of which groups are formed, who participates, etc. is entirely up to the members who organize the group, and the purpose of each group is shaped largely by some common needs of its members.

Contrast the Internet with the telephone network or the commercial broadcast networks. In those networks, which have no architectural features to support groups (save, perhaps, telephone conference call services, and the MCI "Friends and Family" billing group feature), participants never organize, never share, and devote few network resources to sustain their associations. The associations exist — just ask a group of teenagers who check in with all their friends every day — but the network doesn't know it, and certainly doesn't provide services to enhance the natural social tendencies of humans to form groups.

So how do you connect groupiness to economic value? And talk slowly I'm a mathematical idiot-savant, except without the savant part.

Five or six years ago, I was trying to explain what is now popularly called "Metcalfe's Law" to a skeptical engineer. Metcalfe's Law says that the "value" of a network grows in proportion to N2, where N is the number of members of the network. The engineer immediately understood that the number of distinct pairwise connections that a network could enable was easily calculated - each of the N members could "call" any of the (N-1) other members, so there are N * (N-1) distinct calls that can be placed. And she also understood that as N gets large, this number grows proportionally to N2. But, she said, if you assume that N people make 1 call each day, the number of calls that people make will only be proportional to N, and if you charge so much per minute, you can make money each day that is only proportional to the size of the network, not the square of the size! And of course, she was right…

But rather than run to the New York Times with a breaking news story to the effect that "Metcalfe's Law is wrong" I started thinking about the apparent paradox — wanting to confirm or refute this law on more fundamental grounds. After all, it's certainly possible that by charging "per minute" the phone companies might have just been practicing bad business judgment, and leaving money on the table that could have been captured by a better pricing scheme. Or something else might be going on.

And then it occurred to me that what was really going on was something different. In economics, there is a distinction between what you have to pay (let's call it "price") for something, what it's worth to you (let's call that "value"), and what it costs to produce (let's call that "cost"). Though they are fundamentally different measures, we usually think about them as the same. But to understand "value" in the way that Metcalfe's Law is formulated, you have to think about it quite differently.

In a network like the telephone network, there are two kinds of valuable benefits that a network creates. One kind is capacity - how much stuff it can transport per unit time for each user. The other kind is connectivity - which increases with the number of different destinations a user can choose to contact at any point in time.

The resolution to the apparent paradox results from confusing the two kinds of value. The total capacity used by users of the network does indeed tend to grow proportional to N, if only because the total resources that the users can devote to the network tends to grow proportional to N. But the potential connectivity grows proportional to N2 as Metcalfe's Law would predict.

A potential connection is what economic thinkers call an option, which is the right, but not the obligation, to perform an action at some point in the future. The key to understanding a lot of the value of networks is that they create options, and that those options are valued by the users. For another example, consider a cable TV network. Even though you can only watch one program at a time (the capacity), the choice of a hundred channels is worth more to you than the choice of three channels. The more options a network creates, the more value it creates for its users. And since the number of pairwise connection options created in an N member network is N2, then if all options are equally valuable, the network's option value tends to grow much faster than its capacity. The example makes this clear is that the value of buying a fax machine depends on the number of other people you want to talk to who have fax machines to connect with. The option value is what drives the value a buyer places on fax machines, not the capacity.

When I had puzzled this out, I started wondering about other kinds of options might be created by network architecture. Much of my career has been devoted to creating applications that focus on groups — information sharing and security, discussion groups, collaboration systems, groupware, email, etc. So it was natural to wonder about groups and option value.

It was one of those Eureka moments. As a student at MIT, I learned that the number of distinct subgroups that can form in a set of N members is 2N, which means that the number and value of group-forming options grow exponentially as N increases. (I won't repeat the proof of that simple fact here.)

JOHO: Thank you.

So any system that lets users create and maintain groups creates a set of group-forming options that increase exponentially with the number of potential members. And as a function, 2N dominates N2 - which means that even if each individual group-forming option is worth much less than an individual pairwise connection, eventually the total set of group-forming options will have far more option value than the pairwise options.

And I immediately understood why so much Internet traffic was observed to be due to newsgroups, chat rooms, etc. And why AOL's electronic community was much more sticky than CompuServe, despite similar content.

What's exciting to me about this scaling law for group-forming networks, which friends and colleagues have been kind enough to call Reed's Law, is the way it links my long-standing intuitions about the importance and value of group behavior in networks to relatively hard-nosed economic models. To someone who understands the structure of such models, the recipe for designing networks that maximize value for readers, customers, etc. becomes crystal clear. I've discussed some of the implications elsewhere.

Networked communities that support group-forming are growing in scale and reach, and network architectures that enhance group-forming processes are still being invented. Anyone who is serious about the 'net must learn to "get" the power of group-forming communities that Licklider and Taylor inspired.

David has put links to related information on his website at http://www.reed.com/gfn/.

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Stories and Fractal Interests

[NOTE: If you are not an American Citizen, here's a key to this article: OJ beheaded his wife and her friend but was released because he vigorously claimed to be an African-American. Monica caused Clinton to do the worst thing a US president has ever ever done: lie about getting blow jobs. Elian was a Cuban boy who let us make it clear that because of our strong belief in family values, we think you're better off as an orphan in Miami than living with your father. And The Election refers to a court decision that actually counting votes might embarrass the candidate the judges preferred. Got it?]

OJ. Monica. Elian. The Election. It's like global warming. After a while, you think that these hot spots aren't happening entirely randomly. But for whatever reason they're happening, and no matter what else they're doing to our national psyche as they replace issues with personalities, these maelstroms bear witness to some fundamental facts about the mystery of human attention.

These storms share some characteristics. First, they go on longer than anyone expects, and they maintain the public's interest surprisingly well. Second, they get obsessive about details — the minute-by-minute timetable of OJ's movements, Bill's Christmas list for Monica, and, of course, the birdwatcher's guide to chads. Third, they're about people. Sometimes they're about more than that, little things like who'll be president, but without the faces of Bush and Gore we'd be left with legal arguments about Florida laws we never knew existed and the entire event would be lacking the requisite show biz pizzazz.

These maelstroms are centered on people because they're stories, and stories are what humans listen to. We can get so wrapped in fictional stories about fictitious people that we can jump in our seats in the middle of a movie and weep at the end of a book.

The media, it seems, are applying to the public arena what they've learned from literature. The great stories of literature have always shown us that interest is fractal. With a fractal shape, the closer you look, the more detail is revealed, and the detail reflects the shape at the higher level of magnification — a shape made up of the same shape made up of the same shape, ad infinitum. Humans are like that. Our experience of the world is interest-based all the way through. As you look at why we do something, you see a view of the world shaped by what we care about. As you look ever more closely, going to finer and finer details, you always find not only that the view is shaped by our interests, but that those interests reflect our larger interests — interests are fractal. In the right hands, even the most minute dissections of human character and soul show a person's largest aspirations and passions writ small. We have no better example of this than James Joyce's Ulysses, in which the most ordinary and even boring of humans is shown to lead a life that in its details deserves to be described in the language of heroes — Leopold Bloom as Ulysses.

So, we stumble across a person who snares our interest the way a good story begins. We have the communications infrastructure to enable us to run down and broadcast the pathways of details, and at every level the fractal nature of human interest means we can find the story fascinating. Ultimately, details are the only thing that's interesting in any story precisely because they reveal the fractal shape of the whole. Stories are the unrolling of understanding through time. They're what we humans care about.

Information isn't like that. Information consists of well-defined chunks, preferably in a cell in a spreadsheet or database. At least, so it seems. But, information only becomes information and only becomes meaningful and important in a context. The context includes other information, as well as the labels on the rows and columns of the spreadsheet. But, crucially, it also includes the human interests that caused the spreadsheet to be constructed, passed around and discussed. Ultimately, information is embedded in fractal human attention, and that means in stories.

Information without the surrounding story is just trying to look tough. Information wants to be free but only because stories want to be told.

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Quoth the Raven's Master: Nevermore?

Two excellent articles in the Dec. 18-25 issue of eWeek (formerly PCWeek, formerly VaxWeek, formerly CountOnYourFingersWeek) highlight what looks like incipient incoherence at Lotus. The first (by Dennis Fisher and Grant Du Bois) notices that IBM Global Services now has a Corporate Portal Offering that will directly compete with Raven, Lotus' KM product. The IBM offering uses software from Lotus' rivals, including Plumtree, Tacit Knowledge Systems, Autonomy, Documentum, Interwoven, Verity and Vignette. In short, this is an everyone-except-Lotus strategy. Lotus officials pointed to some features of Raven not available in the IBM offering, including instant messaging and plans to go wireless — that is, a commodity feature available for free and a direction in which everyone is headed.

The second article is an interview with Lotus CEO Al Zollar (by John Dodge and Dennis Fisher) in which Zollar nixes what I think would be Raven's most promising direction. Asked about peer-to-peer applications, Zollar expresses skeptical interest in groove.net, a P2P business application development platform spearheaded by Ray Ozzie, the inventor of Notes. Says Zollar:

The kind of collaboration that we offer is proven in a server model ... so we'll see if their model turns out to be one of interest.

I think ultimately they'll have to connect to servers...It's hard for me to imagine that major organizations are going to run everything they do on peer-to-peer. I don't think it's scalable.

Of course businesses won't go entirely P2P. That's not the point. It doesn't take Freud to see that Zollar's response is really saying:

I'm scared shitless about P2P. First we have to move to a Web-based infrastructure, and now this! Why'd that backstabbing Ozzie have to go make a big deal about this? He's just trying to prove that he's smarter than me, that he's the one with the big ideas. Well, screw him! While he's off playing with himself, I'm the grownup who runs the big iron. Sure, P2P may work for nose-picking geeks who are too cheap to buy CDs, but they'll have to come crawling back to me. And then I'll show him who's the smart guy.

In short, Lotus is retreating from the leading edge, taking a wait-and-see (= hope-it-dies) attitude towards this new technology that challenges the heart of Lotus's architecture.

If you want evidence of this, let's look at an early report from LotusSphere from Bob Larrivee of Kinetic Information (www.kineticinfo.com):

Ah yes, life is wonderful at Lotusphere this year because, for the first time in a long time, the attendees feel Lotus has met its obligations and has fulfilled its commitments to deliver enhancements to its products — enhancements like the long-awaited multi-time zone feature, e-mail reply without attachments, multi-tasking, and the ever-popular single-item replication.

Ooh, we're talking cutting edge here! Next on the wish list: keyboard shortcuts, multi-font text, and maybe use these little picture thingies — oh yeah, icons! — to represent files.

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Reboot Habits

Microsoft has taken an early lead in the Chutzpah Award race by running an ad that says "Goodbye Blue Screen, Hello reliable Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional." The graphic is a screen capture of a blue screen of death with the caption "If you find yourself missing the downtime, cut out and tape to monitor." This would be an almost admirable admission of fallibility except for two things: First, they're still selling the software that they admit is unreliable. Second, the blue screen clearly labels the errant operating system as Windows 95. What, they can't go all the way and admit that we occasionally get BSODs from Windows 98? Who on the planet do they think they're fooling? In fact, the copy says that W2K is "13 times more reliable than Windows 98," not Win95. It's just the graphic that doesn't have the courage of its convictions.

If Microsoft wants some testimonials about the unreliability of Windows 98, let me be the first to chip in. I just finished rereading Sherry Turkle's excellent book, Life on the Screen. So what? I read it entirely while waiting for Windows 98 to reboot. I wish I were kidding. I keep a copy of a book on my desk so I don't waste those precious reboot hours. (I have now switched to Win2000.)

Mini Bogus Contest: Do you have your own ritualistic uses of reboot time, other than making a cup of coffee or peeing (which an old boss of mine used to refer to as "caffeinating" and "decaffeinating")?

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Beating the Bushes

NOTE: We continue our thoughtful policy of identifying our juvenile anti-Bush tirades so those of you who either don't care or actually sort of like the guy (I've heard it's possible, like people who eat snails) can easily avoid them. (Click here to skip this section.)

No, we're not over it yet. Every time we see the smirk, we wonder anew not how he "won" the election, for that's well documented, but how did even a substantial minority vote for this guy? Doesn't Bush even have the teenager's sense of pride: "I'm not going to put all of Daddy's friends in my Cabinet. I'm going to have my own friends and we're going to listen to rock 'n roll and jimmy open the liquor cabinet and use cuss words and everything." Oh, please don't tell me W's too mature for this! No, he's too frightened. He's reaching back to Nixon's advisors, for God's sake! Jeez, what's the point of being a Boomer if you're going to hang out with Nixon's pals?

And then in response to Clinton's inadvertent telling the truth ("By the time it was over, our candidate had won the popular vote, and the only way they could win the election was to stop the voting in Florida"), Bush has the gall to reply

When they counted the ballots I won.

Pardon me, Mr. Bush, but they didn't count the ballots and you lost. Aaarrrggghhh.

The Grand Unified Dumbya Theory. Let's get all the rumors into one sentence as we imagine the Exposé of the Future. Read down the left column to get the story.


Rock Solid Proof

While George W. Bush was a coke-snorting alcoholic

Admitted alcoholism. Coke-snorting is an established factoid; no further proof required.

he used to beat his wife Laura,

Laura is a needy person: she took Hillary's hand during her visit to the White House, probably whispering, between photo opps, "Help me! For God's sake, help me!"

causing his children to hate him,

They have been suspiciously absent from even his triumphant moments. Bush barely managed to visit one when she was having her appendix out before he went on vacation.

contributing to his current use of anti-depressant drugs

Dry mouth, twitchy eyes.

which he is inadvertently abusing because he can't read the warning label.

Asks aides to give oral summaries of what they've written. Has never been seen reading a book in public. Listed "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" as his favorite book as a child even though it was published when he was in college.

Oh, and I hear he killed Vince Foster.

Is Bush Pumped?

During the Florida meltdown, it was reported that President Not-Yet-Elect Bush was spending a couple of hours a day in the gym. Presumably, he was sweating the chads out of his system, relieving stress in a healthful way. But a couple of hours a day is a lot of sweat. Even given time for a pleasant meltdown in the sauna and a bracing splash under a cold shower, we're left with a good 75 minutes of heart-pumpin', bicep-bendin' exertion. Do that day after day and your body begins to take on a new shape, like it or not.

While I'm reluctant to suggest that anyone mentally undress the president elect, it's easy to imagine a body of bulging steel under his conservative suits. Notice how broad the shoulders, how thick the chest, and, most tellingly, how his arms hang down from his shoulders, so that his hands — usually palms backwards, simian-like — are a good six inches from his torso. There's a real chance that W is built like Caretaker Willy, the school janitor on The Simpsons who frequently rips open his shirt to reveal the body of a superhero or at least a pro wrestler.

Idle speculation about trivia? Not hardly! Building your body but hiding it under a bushel basket is peculiar behavior, indicative of some deep conflict of personality. On the other hand, going to the gym for hours a day with no visible results raises warning flags about W's resoluteness, not to mention what he's doing with all that time away from the eye of Laura.

Either way, Americans have a right to know! Mr. President, I hereby respectfully request that you strip naked to the waist and strike a pose.

Oiling yourself is optional.

No comment:

Reuters: Bush, only the second son in U.S. history to follow his father to the White House, opened his first full day as president-elect with family, staff and friends at the Tarrytown United Methodist Church in suburban Austin where several pastors compared the Texas governor to Moses. "He was chosen by God as you have been chosen by God, to lead the people," Mark Craig, senior pastor at the Highland Park Methodist Church in Dallas, told the congregation.


Bush's wife Laura asked country singer Larry Gatlin to write a special song for the occasion and overnight he penned the lines: "Come let us reason together and heal the hurt deep inside, reach out a hand to a brother and heal the great divide."

Fun fact of the month: Did you know that the Secret Service code name for GWB when his poppy was president was "Tumbler," and not because he was an acrobat.

Douglas Hughes rises to the challenge on my Web page to explain why reasonable people see in Bush (edited for space):

... Bush is not an intellectual, and he isn't about to play one on t.v. His stands are purely political, or more precisely, hypothetical. I'll be he really doesn't care about much, except "the thing," whatever that is.  If he's in the oil business, then "the thing" is to find, buy, and sell oil. So, he did that, or at least tried.  Same goes for the baseball business, where "the thing" was a fairly good team (by Ranger's standards) and a new ball park, he sold "the thing" to those who could help him.

...The fact remains that G.W. Bush is amazingly good at selling things. To this end, he is great at throwing parties (as can been seen by the alcohol and cocaine accusations). When one of his siblings died, Bush brought everyone together again by being funny, playing practical jokes, and generally selling "the healing thing" rather than allowing his family to buy "the grief thing."

...If Bush had his druthers, Washington be run at cocktail parties. Various legislators and judges would gather for an evening of fun and drink, discuss the issues, and have a good time, and the next morning, a bit sickly from hangovers, they'd pass Social Security reform without much debate and wait for next weeks party and new "thing" which G.W. would sell in a low key, one buddy to another buddy way.

This leadership style hearkens back to a positive view of the "old boy" network which Bush has been so accused of cultivating...  For all its faults (racism, sexism, fill-in-the-blank-ism) the "old boy" network worked a whole lot more smoothly than the current Nixonian attack of your opponent ...

...Hopefully we will give this new-old way a chance before cutting him off at the knees.

I'd be against the knee-cutting if he were to propose a moderate compromise agenda based on the fact that losing an election doesn't really confer much of a mandate. But so far he's told Greenspan that while Greenspan is "all smart 'n' stuff," Bush is going to push through the $1.3T tax cut, and he's talked about decreasing our reliance on foreign oil which is code for Alaskan drilling. And he's appointed an ideologically homogeneous right-wing cabinet. So, get the machetes out.

On the other hand, Larry Polley responds to the request on my Web site to be "recalibrated" by a sincere Republican. I state what I see when I look at Bush and ask what they see:

1. "isn't very good at facts and details'... I would believe that if GW is a successful business person, then he must have some appreciation of facts and details. I would prefer to have a successful business person, than one that wasn't.

2. "doesn't know much about the issues".. Who does? We only get a biased view from whoever decides what and which issue we need to know about. would guess that presidents are given both sides of issues. Being a first time president, must be one heck of a learning experience.

3. "doesn't read much".. What constitutes a satisfactory level of reading? Again, he graduated from a pretty tough academic institution, so I would guess he can read. Whether he wants to or not is another question. We tried a nuclear physicist in Jimmy Carter. He wasn't the best, or the worst president we've had.

4. "lack of volunteerism".. Maybe the commander of the Salvation Army, would be a good president. So what's this about? I am certain GW contributed to "charitable" organizations.

5. "oil man's view'.. Is that bad? At least he has a view. I would venture to guess that he does have a really good feel for environmental laws. If he were a technology person, he would have a techno view of the environment. At least his bias can be inferred and is out in the open.

6. "support of the bill of rights"... I'll wait to see his appointments before I judge him on this. We could all take a good look at the "bill of rights".

7. "further to the right".. So is it better to be further to the left? have a feeling we'll see moderation depending upon the issue. I don't expect a one size fits all doctrine from GW.

8. "recount and loosing".. Gore did everything he could to create a recount in only a few select counties, because he thought he could win. What's the difference? I thought for certain there were recounts. Gore's biggest failure was to realize that the other party was popular in FLS. For goodness sake, the Repubs, held a majority in the legislature. There would not have been any issue, if Gore had carried his own state. He has spent too much time within the belt-way and has lost touch with reality.

9. "nominate extremist".. Probably will, as Gore would have if he'd won. Here again, it depends upon a person's point of view.

10. "no record of integrity i.e., taking a stand".. No real comment to this. I guess it is important to you, but not to others.

Don't try too hard to understand politics. Our system of government has survived presidents much worse than GW will ever be.

My Web page promises I won't reply. I've instead bludgeoned my neighbor's dog.

Sean Kelly responds to my plea for elucidation:

Let me offer a different perspective on the election thing and try to make you feel better. I'm a Canadian living in England, mercifully distant from the...excitement. Basically, I think you are focusing on the negatives in the situation. Yes, there is a marginally qualified, arguably right wing nutter on the throne, er, in the Whitehouse, with a questionable mandate. The important thing to focus on is that the president is likely to be a figurehead in this administration, I mean more than usual. For him to convince (almost) a majority of Americans that he is qualified to lead, his handlers must be God's. He apparently knows how to take advice from others - he didn't get elected with his own intellect. So basically, you shouldn't be scared of Bush, you should be very, very afraid of his advisors. Hmmmmm, that's not a lot better, is it?? Sorry I tried - there are some other pretty cool countries out there, maybe seeking political asylum, instead of living in one??

And his handlers are benign compared to the congressional Republicans.

While on the topic of Cold Comfort, Nancy Fisher manages to find a single point of light in the election:

Bush is more "general aviation friendly" than Gore (or even McCain, though I wouldn't have voted for him either.) ... [W]e at least hope that Bush will favor legislation that preserves small airports and favors an av-fuel tax as opposed to user fees for weather briefings, etc.

Hmmm, aviation fuel tax relief vs. reproductive rights, affirmative action, health care, a peace-keeping role for our armed forces, support of the UN, preserving the wilderness ... why am I more depressed now than before?

Larry Weigel writes:

Ever great ruler needs a birth legend to justify their legitimacy and right to power so I offer the following: In the days of President Eisenhower, Barbara Bush was great with child and when the time grew near they sought comfort in an exclusive private hospital. A sign appeared in the heavens, a great black hole. Three ignorant bigots from the east dressed in white robes with hoods followed the black hole (Newt, Strom, and Dick). As they approached the anti-christ child they presented gifts of alcohol, tobacco and petroleum stocks. The father of the child, soon to be the humble head of the CIA, was pleased. The mother was less pleased after having given birth to a child with a large silver spoon stuck in his ass, but she managed a smile. And Lo and behold, all the minorities working in the hospital looked on in awe as 10 choirs of bat winged demons circled in the sky above the satanic crèche as voice boomed out "Behold, I bring you a spoiler, a thwarter, who is my only misbegotten son. Kneel to the fool of fools who will be your master." And all the minorities said "no way man, I ain't voting for that sucker" but the great demon rebuked them saying "Don't make no difference, your vote won't be counted". And thus it came to pass in the year of Our Lord 2001,the true millennial year, that GW the AC (AC stands for Anti-Christ) ascended to power.

Well, I've gotta say that you've beaten me in the spleen department. I just think he's a moron, not the Anti-Christ.

BTW, I believe the joke should be that GWB was born with a silver spoon up his nose, complementing Molly Ivins' comment that George Sr. was born with a silver foot in his mouth.

We asked for names by which to refer to W for the next four years. One respondent who asked us to suppress his/her name because he (damn, I let it slip) hangs out with the wrong type of clients, responded:

My favorite bushism is "His SUPREME Fraudulency, The Shrub". I have also seen him referred to as "gilligan"[sorry, bob denver] in many chat rooms. His administration as been referred to as "Daddy's revenge"

Kevin Jones has some other suggestions, including:

Chad Bush (his evil twin)
George WhatMeWorry? Bush
Gorge Sublibbital Borsh (or just "Sublibbital")
Business Failure Bush
George Delegator Bush
Grinch W. Bush

Ryan Stuart writes:

in response to your contest, i offer not a reworking of his name (jeez, can i not follow simple rules, or what?), but a moniker: The White Elephant.

being a former english major, i have to give you the dictionary definition:

a: a property requiring much care and expense and yielding little profit b : an object no longer of value to its owner but of value to others c : something of little or no value

and being a former literature major, i have to tell you that this moniker resonates on a number of symbolic levels: the "white" of "white elephant" pointing out his "whiteness is rightness", the "white" alluding to his penchant for cocaine, the "elephant" not only as the symbol of the republican party but well known in pink to alcoholics with DTs.

Good analysis, but somehow I don't think "The White Elephant" stands a chance against "Jerkface."

Gary Lawrence Murphy combines our quest for a bad word for Bush with last issue's citing of a site that auto-composes Shakespearean insults:

Gloating, Gleeking, Goatish, Gorbellied Weather-bitten, Weather-beaten Baggage, Barnacle, Bladder, Boar-Pig, BugBear, Bum-Bailey

should give you enough of your own conclusions to draw while still remaining fun and interactive.

or, in honour of John Cage, more data-mining the Bard:

beslubberinG bootlEss cOckered cRaven dissemblinG applE-john


foBbing infectioUs lumpiSh clack-disH

Gary then provides an impressive database of terms from which to choose. But since this is the longest JOHO EVER, I will suppress it.

John Gregory writes:

how about "Dan Quayle II" - at least we now understand why the old man picked Dan in 88 - reminded him of his own boy...

Ok, but I'm still leaning towards "That Fucking Moron."

b!X was among several who made the following suggestion:

Personally, I'm becoming rather partial to the term "President-Select". It makes the point but manages to do so without making use of any language that gives Repubs an automatic excuse to tune you out.

Despite the fact that it's catching on, this isn't my favorite although it does open up some possibilities. If W is president select, wouldn't that make:

Clinton president erect?
Nixon president eject?
Ford president neglect?
Reagan president t-rex?
Poppy "One Term" Bush president de-select?

Mini bogus contest: Do this better.

(b!X also likes "Commander in Thief.")

Kathy Quirk, an old friend who had the good sense to move back from California, sends us to http://home.nyc.rr.com/jadedem/gw1.html, a high-production rewriting and redrawing of Curious George with guess who as the star.

Maura "Chip" Yost has these suggestions:

http://www.counteveryvote.com/ - great t-shirts

http://gwbush.bigstep.com/catalog.jhtml - bumper stickers with pizzazz.!

She also has unearthed a site with links to various types of documentary evidence of Bush-league skullduggery: http://www.geocities.com/alanjpakula/newflyer.pdf. And she likes — and so do I — "Bush's weblog": http://www.satirewire.com/weblog/bushblog.shtml.

Gabe Goldberg writes in about my pretending to think we should show respect for the office of the presidency:

When my father was taking basic training during WWII, he was told that when you salute, you're saluting the uniform rather than the person wearing it. Reasonably enough, he asked whether one was required to salute uniform on a clothing dummy. This and other such questions likely accounted for his never rising in rank above T5, some kind of fancy corporal.

Your father sounds like an early JOHO role model. Give him our best regards.

Andrew Seldon writes:

What shocks me about Dumbo's election is that half the US voters (give or take a few hundred) voted for him. Is 50% of America stupid or do so many people hate Barbara Streisand that much?

We voted for the one we like, not the one who's smart. Gore isn't just stiff, he's actually a tad scary in his public persona. We're not stupid. We're just bad judges of character.

Guillermo Fajardo writes from Argentina to tell us about how his country is handling the What Should We Call the Jerk crisis:

The Argentine president Fernando De la Rua is in a class of his own. ...
After his first year in office he has fallen from a 75% popularity to a mere 15%. Now he is not only being mocked at for his boredom but for his slowness as well. There is a tradition of calling the man in charge:
"Excelentísimo Señor Presidente Fernando De La Rua"
His Excellency Mr. President Fernando De La Rua
This has been changed by a cartoonist to:
"Ese-Lentísimo Señor Prescindente Frenando De La Duda"
That Slowest Mr. Dispensable Braking of the Doubt (My free translation)
Enjoy your four years of Dubya. I still have 3 years of mine.

Guillermo explains that Fernando here has been rendered as Frenando, which means "braking" or "stopping and that De La Rua has become "De La Duda" which means he is slow and indecisive.

Here's the next best thing: Anagrams of George W. Bush.


Naturally you can do better. And then you'll submit it to the Mini Bogus Contest, oui?

Christopher "RageBoy" Locke (www.rageboy.com/index2.html), the Official Scourge of JOHO, writes:

pardon the interruption. just testing my new sig...

* "It's important for us to explain to our nation that life is         *
* important. It's not only life of babies, but it's life of children   *
* living in, you know, the dark dungeons of the Internet."             *
* George W. Bush, Arlington Heights, Ill., Oct. 24, 2000               * ***********************************************************************

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Why Search Engines Sucktm

Spyonit.com, which we once recommended for its ability to keep you up-to-date on topics of your choosing by periodically running search engine queries, has fallen on hard times. It stopped delivering updates for many months and now that it's returned, the hits are almost always either irrelevant or out of date by years. For example, while ego searching for me recently, it found three "new" hits:

There are 3 new references to YOU (David Weinberger) on the web.

The Fagbashers of America - list of faggot serial killers http://members.yoderanium.com/fagbashers/killers.html

GrantsDirect.com Display GrantMaker Name http://www.grantsdirect.com/SearchDB/DisplayGrantMaker.asp

Book Titles http://webhome.idirect.com/~squish/titles.htm

One is a 404, one mentions Caspar Weinberger, and the third mentions Dr. Richard and Regina Weinberger.

Spyonit now seems to search AltaVista exclusively, which is not an endorsement of AV.

The Search Engine Report (www.searchenginewatch.com) writes (Jan. 3):

How long is too long until searching the web drives you crazy? Apparently, 12 minutes, according to a new survey commissioned by search engine WebTop.com.

The survey found that 71 percent of Internet users say they get frustrated when searching, and it takes about 12 minutes, on average, for them to feel this search rage.

My solution? Pass legislation so that search engines are not allowed to return more than 15 results. How long do you have to be on the Web before you figure out that if your answer isn't in the first 15, it's not there at all?

Chris "RageBoy" Locke has bought the words "business" and "marketing" from Amazon so that if you search on either of those terms, the paperback version of The Cluetrain Manifesto shows up in the left-hand column of the search results page. Amazon, unlike other sites discussed here previously, very clearly labels the ads as ads. Most interestingly, Amazon auctions off the terms. Chris picked them up for $20 bucks, covering 20,000 "points." In the initial run, the book got about 1,500 hits. That's about $0.012 cents per impression.

Yahoo has now become my favorite search site. After five years of asking to be included in their directory, including personal appeals to Jerry Yang who at one point knew me from a hole in the ground, the teen-age editors of the site have finally deemed JOHO worth enough to be enrolled in its list.

And RageBoy's 'zine isn't. Not that we're competing or anything.

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Collective Stupidity

In the previous issue, I confessed to a dumb domain name I registered thinking it might support an even dumber business idea. I asked you to contribute your own follies. Here's one. More to follow...

Brian Millar, from www.myrtle.co.uk who is writing a brilliant series of articles (http://www.topica.com/lists/myrtletips/) to help people understand the Web, writes:

I own beefburgerbap.com

I plan to use this to stop the encroachment of american english into english english

beefburger baps are what little caffs still call hamburgers

I also want to promote "pictures" instead of "movies", and to fight the spread of phrases like "bunch of stuff", replacing them with our own, no less moronic idioms.

Further correspondence reveals that "caff" is British for "cafe." A "beef burger bap" refers to the bun or something. It doesn't matter. Or, as we say here in America: Whatever.


Middle World Resources

A Compendium of Resources
Walking the Walk  

According to a marketing write-up by Topica (www.topica.com), in April '99, a user at the Lawson Software users group meeting distributed a flyer advertising a mailing list he'd set up (using Topica, natch) for other users working within HR departments. (Lawson is a "a provider of web enabled software solutions to more than 3,500 companies worldwide," whatever that means.) Within a few weeks, users had created two more mail lists, each mentioned on the original one, including one for system administrators that grew to 300 subscribers within a few days and now has 800 subscribers. There are currently 34 lists with over 7,000 subscribers. Topics range from employment opportunities for people trained in Lawson Software to coordinating user groups meetings.

Lawson does not officially sponsor or endorse these user-run lists, but they sure benefit from them. The lists provide user-to-user customer support around the clock. And, Michael Strand, who moderates the Lawson Listserve Policy Board list, says, "These lists are mainly used by Lawson customers to get cyberhelp on the job so that problems can be solved and decisions made without paying consultants thousands for the same sort of assistance."

Not to mention the incalculable benefit of finding out that you are not alone.


Cool Tool
For the Hyperlinked Organization

So many cool toys, um, tools and so little space!

How about the folding Palm keyboard that clicks into place like an automatic weapon? (That this is the metaphor that occurs to me marks me as an American male.) Way cool and maybe with some type of use if you can find a place where a laptop is just not feasible but a keyboard with a Palm attached to it is.

Or how about Transsoft's FTP client that's my new favorite because it lets your write scripts and it puts icons on your desktop for your favorite upload sites so that you can just drag 'n' drop all those important files you have to update. And, hey, it's even Dutch! You can get an evaluation copy at:


And when you're done uploading, you can curl up with the daily NY Times crossword. You can get it for free online using an elegant Java app, or you can pay $10/year and get access to the archive. Best of all, you can lurk or perk at a daily discussion board monitored by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon where users swap hints and gripes.


Links to Love

Gary Stock, the type of brilliant, funny person that our petty envy causes us here at JOHO to despise, writes to another list about a site that operates on the premise that government email interception programs such as Carnivore automatically ignore spam. So, at http://www.spammimic.com you can automatically encode a short message into what looks like spam. For example, ask it to encode "Pie Bush and Cheney when they emerge from The UN Building" and it builds a spam message that doesn't contain any of those words. It begins "Dear Friend ; We know you are interested in receiving cutting-edge news ! If you no longer wish to receive our publications simply reply with a Subject: of "REMOVE"..." and continues longer than any of us have the patience to read. Paste this spam back into the site and it decodes it perfectly.

David Miller, literary agent extraordinaire, has found a delightful site:

From this morning's Obscure Store and Reading Room:

Resumes accepted: Utah is looking for one good porn czar

The state official will get a computer so he or she can surf the Web for porn. Andrew McCullough, a lawyer for some nudie clubs, says he plans to apply for the job. "There is nobody in Utah that has more expertise in this area," he says. "I may never be able to find pornography, because I'm not sure I believe in the concept, but I'm willing to spend time looking." (Salt Lake Tribune)

The Obscure Store and Reading Room and its weird clippings from around the world can be found at http://www.obscurestore.com. David continues:

The Obscure Store and Reading Room is Jim Romenesko's interesting mirror of his influential site about the business of journalism, Jim Romenesko's MediaNews: http://www.poynter.org/medianews/

Laura Garrity points us to Pat Kane's interesting article about the "play ethic": http://www.observer.co.uk/life/story/0,6903,386013,00.html

Chris Worth writes:

I assume you already know of this guy, but if not, you should. He's kind of like Hunter Thompson, only more so: http://www.c3f.com/mfu4xmas.html

This guy is the author of a book titled "MFU." I hadn't heard of him, but, judging from his site, his problem is that he's like Hunter Thompson without anything to say.

Hmm, why does that remind me of RageBoy, who sends us to http://chaos.no-such.com. Is it a web site? Is it an artwork? Is it a design class's project gone mad? RB considers it "one of the best sites on the web," which is like getting a five-star movie rating from Vampira. So, you be the judge.

Peter Melvoin, a man of many links, points us to a page that gathers the best and worst of
"visualizations" of quantifiable data, i.e., charts and graphs. The best include charts I can't make head nor tale of (perhaps because I don't know what a "bivariate median" is, except I know enough not to eat one in a month with an R in it): http://www.math.yorku.ca/SCS/Gallery/noframes.html

Chip "Maura" Yost recommends http://www.webreference.com/new/ia/, an article on the "war" between "information architects" like Jakob Nielsen and graphic designers like everyone who's ever made a good-looking page. A key difference between the two, according to the article: Information architects make at least 30% than mere designers.

By the way, JOHO welcomes Jakob Nielsen as a subscriber to JOHO. After I sent a suck-up message in response to his subscription request, he wrote back and acknowledged that he's not "the" Jakob Nielsen, merely "a" Jakob Nielsen, which means he's not entitled to slap the 30% (minimum!) Jakob Nielsen surcharge onto his invoices. We are, however, an equal opportunity 'zine when it comes to Jakob Nielsens. Everyone say hello and introduce yourself to Jakob. Thanks.

Greg "Linux Man" Cavanagh refers us to an article by Kwabena Boahen about building an artificial brain: http://www.neuroengineering.upenn.edu/boahen/. It begins by pointing out a limitation to artificial intelligence I have not seen mentioned elsewhere:

At this rate, a computer as powerful as the brain would burn 109W, as it must perform at least one instruction-cycle for each synaptic event. One gigawatt!

Interesting. Bush as an energy-conservation device. Interesting. 

A contributor to a different mailing list points us (well, not us, but them) to a startling picture of earthlights as seen from space: http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/image/0011/earthlights_dmsp_big.jpg. This is on NASA's "Astronomy Picture of the Day" site, almost always worth a look: http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/

Jonathan Vinson reminds us of a site we mentioned once before:

...David Skyrme's I^3 Update newsletter at http://www.skyrme.com/updates/. In this month's issue he has an article entitled "Knowledge Management: Has it Peaked?"

For some reason, reading this aligns very well with my reading of Eliyahu Goldratt's latest, Necessary But Not Sufficient (A Theory of Constraints Business Novel). I'm only halfway through, but it has some interesting things to say. The book is written as a story, or parable, about an ERP software company. But I am seeing ties to my pet ideas in knowledge management. The basic tenet, so far, is that technology can provide quite a benefit, BUT there is a much larger role of changing the culture to take advantage of the benefits of technology.

I'm way behind in my Business Parable reading list, starting with "Who Moved The Cheese?" and its sequel, "You Moved The Cheese Again, You Bastards," and its insightful follow-on, "Ok, Give Me My Cheese Back, Guys."

Tom Meyer apparently is still reading books and isn't ashamed to admit it. Jeez, what a square! He writes:

... I think you'd really get a kick out of reading this book, if you haven't already: A Thousand Plateaus : Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari ISBN: 0816614024 It was written in 1987, and says nothing directly about hypertext. But it provides such fertile ideas for thought, that point into the same kinds of ideas you're discussing (nomads, rhizomes, I wrote a hypertext-based piece about it in 1992 or so (now blissfully lost to the file-corruption faeries), discussing that we need to turn our hypertexts inside-out (the dual of the graph, to speak mathematically), and see the documents as connecting the links, rather than the other way around.

This is just the type of inversion that powers so many issues of JOHO. As we like to say, "When in doubt, flip it": The problem with knowledge management is the management, not the knowledge. The importance of peer-to-peer computing is in the "to." The problem with metaphysics isn't the meta or the physics, it's the notion of a problem itself. Anyway, you can't go wrong with a book that pairs capitalism and mental illness, so I look forward to pretending to have read it. Thanks!

Olivier Travers writes:

... Here are some links related to topics you wrote about.

Idea marketplaces: there's also www.brightidea.com

wacky generators: I've listed the ones I've found so far at: http://webvoice.weblogs.com/stories/storyReader$14


Talk about embarrasing! Dan Kalikow lets it drop that his wife is on the Nixon Library mailing list:

... Some years back, my wife got herself on the mailing-list of the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace. She did this because she felt it necessary to own a coffeemug depicting the Historical Meeting between Nixon and Elvis (the one where The King asked The Prez to deputize him as an anti-drug agent). Since then, we've been getting treated like unreconstructed Republicans.

Just got one of their more amusing pieces of snail, announcing http://www.nixonlibrary.org, "your new gateway to... The Nixon Legacy." Plus — they have a Museum Store!! The kicker was a little graphic in the shape of a lapel button: "CLICK WITH DICK". Thanks for the image, Mr. President....

Is it too early to begin making jokes about what will be in the W presidential library? A Texas Instruments Speak 'n Spell?

km sends me an interview with Ken Wilber, apparently a leader in the "transpersonal" movement: http://www.khandro.com/kenwilber/visser071595.html

I bet you would really like Wilber - he also has read and understood Heidegger and has moved on to discussing spirit in a way that you might do well to investigate because I suspect it will add a lot to your understanding and ability to communicate your vision.

I started with Wilber's "A Brief History of Everything". I still think it is a wonderful book.

Please please please tell me I don't sound like this guy! What have I become??

Whose Tired of Being a Millionaire?

We're still looking for your recommendations for charities. Todd Bradley has come through with some for us:

I'm a big believer in the Heifer Project (I bought my girlfriend part of an ox for Christmas last year), but here's my plug for a couple other charities you could donate to as a gift to a loved one.

First is the Colorado Bat Society. Colorado is home to about 20 species of bats, but most people don't know anything about them. And negative folklore and irrational fear about bats abound. But the truth is bats are good neighbors—they eat tons of mosquitos every night and pollinate some of my favorite plants, such as the agave cactus. The Colorado Bat Society exists to promote conservation of and education about bats in Colorado.

Second is the Glen Canyon Institute, an organization committed to restoring Glen Canyon to its original beauty. Glen Canyon was one of the most beautiful stretches of the Colorado River, until it was flooded in the 60's to make what's mistakenly called Lake Powell (it's a reservoir, not a lake). Lake Powell isn't needed for electricity or for water storage, and the Glen Canyon Dam exists as a monument to American excess. The Glen Canyon Institute works toward the draining of Lake Powell in order to restore what many called the most beautiful canyon in the country.

See www.coloradobats.org and www.glencanyon.org for more info.

The Motley Fool (now the AOL Motley Time-Warner Fool) has picked its favorite charities: Fool.com: Foolanthropy 2000 Charity Drive http://www.fool.com/foolanthropy/ The top five:

America's Second Harvest — Ending hunger with food rescue and job training.

Ashoka — Investing early in social entrepreneurs with world-changing ideas.

Grameen Foundation — USA Making the poor self-sufficient via business loans.

Heifer Project International — Lifting people out of poverty with gifts of farm animals and training.

Lifewater International — Saving lives by bringing clean water to developing nations.


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Email, Arbitrary Insults, and Suspicious Hacking Coughs

We must begin with the most pressing matter before us: How do you do an em dash (i.e., a long dash) in HTML?

Kirk Reistroffer, software genius, responds:

... Windows fonts contain several character glyphs that extend the ISO-8859-1 (Latin-1) standard. They're mostly in the charcode range 0x80-0x97 and your #151 (0x97) is among them. Others include the TM symbol, Bullet, Dagger, Double Dagger, Ellipsis, matched open/close single quotes and matched open/close double quotes.  If you "save as" HTML from Word, it will automatically use the explicitly Windows markup and the resulting HTML page will then only display correctly in browsers that run in an MS environment.  The mnemonic markup, using the "mdash" name, has spotty support. The Unicode alternative for this emdash, &#8212, is better supported and less MS bound.

I resent the implication that I'm producing HTML by saving Word documents as HTML. Puhlease! How very bourgeois! Nevertheless, I'm switching to the Unicode 8212. If your dashes look funny, please let me know.

Joe Clark has a simpler suggestion:

Do not use an em dash. Use space-endash-space. I learned the hard way that only 8211 is widely compatible.

Ok, here's a test for y'all. You should see an instance of the markup next to the markup, if you know what I mean:

Microsoft 151: one—two
Unicode 8211: one–two
Unicode 8212: one—two
En dash with spaces: one - two

If none of these work, clean your monitor screen.

Steve Yost, creator of QuickTopic.com, nee TakeItOffLine.com, the tag line of which says it all ("Your free, preposterously easy discussion space"), writes:

...in the spirit of the BE DIRECT item: should I look for any changes due to the early feedback I gave you on your metaphysics article, or should I be pissed about (as Joe Mahoney would quote his querulous brother) "two of the best hours of my life...WASTED" ?

(Joe is a mutual friend.) Well, how about if we say the value of the two hours hasn't been wasted but has definitely been postponed. I'm working on a bunch of other stuff and the temptation to go back to the metaphysics article to improve it is about as compelling as the temptation to eat last night's unpopped corn kernels. But rest assured, Steve, that your astute comments have made me a better person, albeit only in imperceptible ways.

Breaking News! Steve tells me he's introduced a new feature at QuickTopic.com that I haven't seen anywhere else. If you post a document, you can have the site add a marker to every paragraph. Click on the marker and you launch a new QuickTopic discussion about that paragraph. Chunk by chunk review! Cool! http://www.quicktopic.com/newfeature.html

Pat McGrew, co-author of Critical Mass: A Primer for Living with the Future, available at www.mcgrewmcdaniel.com, managed to spot one of the few typos that make it through MULTYPS, our Multi-layer Typo Prevention System at the heart of which is a radical, patented technology called "re-Reading©. I apparently referred to "mnanaging documents":

I'm guessing that mnanaging is a Nigerian word for managing?

No, it's just ultrahip new slang. All the kids are mnanaging now. They like mnanaging while they mlisten to mrock and mroll. Please rest assured, Pat, that your comments have made me a better person, albeit only in imperceptible ways.

Jeff Doemland writes about our article on "the new Web metaphysics" (http://www.hyperorg.com/misc/metaphysics/):

...We are not just "insanely social" as you suggest, we are nothing if not social.

Ironic, perhaps, that it is this sociability that at once blocks our experience of the "something more" at the core of the spiritual and the clearest path to that experience. As Heidegger would have it, we are thrown into being-in-the-world and the world we are continually thrown into is rigidly compartmentalized (your containers); this is a world where our fellows are experienced as a standing-reserve, a potentiality for usage. But the turning you talk about happening on the web when two people come together is perhaps analogous to Heidegger's turning in his essay on technology, in which technology is cast finally in a hopeful light.

Frequently when I was younger, less so nowadays, I had the experience of sympathy you talk about. The best I have ever been able to express the sensation verbally was a "might as well be me" when I observed someone in a situation or condition dramatically less fortunate than mine. Almost as if were at some inchoate level aware of a primordial unity. There is no self and other, only the Spirit, the something more than self and other.

I agree that we are more than insanely social. We are as contextual as words. We don't make sense without the language, history and company of others. We can't be what we are without them.

I know the sense of sympathy you're referring to, but I intended to point to something different: not the occasional vivid sense of the other, but the constant experience of the world as shared. That's why I twist the term "sympathy" (and maybe should find a different term entirely) so that it doesn't mean me feeling what you're feeling but instead means me disclosing the world the way that you do. In this disclosing, I may find myself having the same feelings as you, but the disclosing comes first. (I'm using the term "disclose" Heideggerianly, if that's not obvious.)

Val Stevenson also comments on the metaphysics article. Among other points she makes:

...I'm interested in how the web might alter teaching. My son has to be prized off the computer with a crowbar and is used to creating his own narratives as he jumps from site to site (mainly game cheats, but I can dream...). His school teaching, because it is single-subject based, is not taking advantage of his ability to see links, and I think the role of teachers should be to be link managers, to point out that the Odyssey (classics) leads to Ulysses (modern European literature) leads to Derek Walcott (Caribbean literature) leads to ideas of freedom and alienation, and so on and so on. Their role is to temper the 30-second attention span induced by the internet, but they'll also need to be polymaths, which (certainly in the UK) is discouraged by the school and teacher training systems, to encourage the development of judgment and independent thought (also discouraged by container thinking) and to lead in a more collaborative, less hierarchical style. Basically, back to an 18th century gentleman's liberal education, which only worked because there was an underclass working to support it. Ouch.

Our 15 year old does her homework while chatting in 5-6 instant messaging sessions. She takes it for granted that people get smart together. Meanwhile, her teachers still assume the kids are doing their homework individually. And the mandatory state testing that is ruining our local school system evaluates her by locking her in a room with nothing but a sharpened stick.

Bob "Professor" Morris writes about the discussion board I set up to discuss the metaphysics article:

I won't participate in your coolboard message board [www.coolboard.com] because it has a (typical) obnoxious indemnification clause in its service agreement. Before online services, a vendor never made such agreements a condition of doing business with them except in rare circumstances. Vendors should carry their own liability insurance, not make the customers agree to protect them.

He then gets to the substance of his remarks, responding to my response to comments from Mike O'Dell, whom the "professor" refers to as a former student of his:

In answer to Mike O'Dell [who evidently isn't being kept sufficiently busy :-) ], David writes "But the genius of hyperlinks belongs to the creator of the concept (whoever that may be) more than to the implementors of it."

That creator is usually agreed to be Vannevar Bush, in his 1945 Atlantic Monthly article "As We May Think". The seminal passage is

"[The memex] affords an immediate step, however, to associative indexing, the basic idea of which is a provision whereby any item may be caused at will to select immediately and automatically another. This is the essential feature of the memex. The process of tying two items together is the important thing."

There's a Short History of Hypertext at Sun, q.v. In fact, we are near the end, not the beginning of the age of hypertext. This is because, as argued in Joho, most internet accessible data is in databases, not static linked pages. Most likely, the overwhelming fraction of the information transferred on the internet is responses to database queries and takes place between programs, not between static pages and people pushing link buttons. As far as I know, there has never been a single episode of Star Trek in which human interaction with computers has been by hypertext links. That's how we know they aren't of lasting importance.

Yeah, I should have anticipated the V. Bush reference. I read G.P. Zachary's bio of him (Endless Frontier) a few months ago. Of course I have by now completely forgotten 95% of it and the other 5% is being blocked because his name is Bush.

As for the end of hypertext: The relative number of hypertext links may decrease compared to DB fetches, but I think (and what do I know?) that it will the dominant way that we move around the Web. Here to stay. In fact, maybe the most likely outcome is that the non-link traffic, and certainly the machine-to-machine interactions, will sink beneath user consciousness and will not be considered to be part of "the Web" at all.

Steve Yost (previously attributed) writes about an idea tangentially related to the metaphysics article (previously attributed):

The communication brought about by the internet and the web, along with the increased specialization of much of our work, leads me to a far-flung idea that I want to develop much more — its abstract is at www.quicktopic.com/blurcircle?SpecializationAndCooperation, 13-Dec-2000 4:40am post. ...

Steve also reminds me that I may never have corrected a misattribution (previously attributed) of a comment from Steve about Steve The Brain Guy. It's corrected on the Web, but I was unable to reach onto the hard drives of some of you in order to correct the email (although I did find some interesting gifs — you know who you are). To read the correct version, check the online edition: http://www.hyperorg.com/backissues/joho-nov20-00.html

Don Darragh writes a thoughtful commentary on the metaphysics article which I'm abridging ruthlessly, while including my responses:

For what it's worth, here are some ramblings on Darragh's contrarian, inversely proportional observations (or, the closer you are to something, the harder it is to see the whole thing).

Consciousness: Awareness is first a process of waking up (I'm assuming most, if not all people are initially asleep, psychologically & spiritually). And this process is usually brought about by some life experience forcing us to become aware. So I would submit that consciousness becomes aware, first of itself, then expands outward encompassing an ever larger universe. This is process. Very messy. Few if any roadmaps, since ultimately what we experience is ourselves.

Au contraire. Consciousness is first aware of the world and only develops a self-awareness. I think. The baby is aware of the "blooming, buzzing confusion" of the world. Only later does s/he become aware of his/herself as an independent center.

To this Don in a later message replies:

My point exactly! From what I understand, most psychologists consider infants "unconscious" or driven by impulse & instinct rather than independent consciousness. Or, you can be aware without being conscious. I don't believe you can be conscious in the full sense of the word until you "see" yourself as separate from your body, thoughts & feelings. Something  infants, and most adults, are incapable of.) Julian Jaynes wrote an excellent book, The origins of consciousness in the breakup of the bicameral mind which gives deep insight into the nature of consciousness & awareness.

"Conscious in the full sense" requires self-awareness, but consciousness begins with other-awareness, I believe. Now back to Don's original message:

Morality: The Internet is amoral. I don't believe that any human creation, Internet or otherwise, is intrinsically moral (or immoral for that matter). Since the essence of morality is choice, we determine whether or not our creations and their use are moral.

Well, the point of my article is that it's not amoral, but I think we're using the term differently. The Web isn't a neutral technology (at least not once you get past the servers and wires). It's a human creation with a purpose and lots of premises. It is fundamentally social, and thus connects us, and thus tends to bring us out of ourselves and to see the world as others do. This, I maintain, is the basis of morality. In this sense, the Web is moral. (Of course, lots of bad things can be accomplished with it, based on our *choices.*)

...Which brings me back to a fundamental & essential theme in all metaphysics; everything is ONE. What we name "bad", what we name "good", and even that which we can not name.

Man, I totally disagree! But it doesn't sound like this conversation would get anywhere without an open keg between us.

Jason Gollan read our article on the peer-to-peer future of document management and writes:

...What you describe sounds a lot like MindCrossing. Seen it?


Not specifically client-side, it's an ASP, but it allows for most of what you're looking for.

Hmm, aside from not being P2P, it's just like P2P. Once you get passed a mind-numbingly conventional Flash overview, it turns out Mindcrossing, apparently intended for B2B markets, offers some promising communication and knowledge management tools.

Patrick Archbold also comments on the P2P article:

It seems like you are missing a very critical piece of a DM solution in my opinion. If I can access documents on your hard drive and save them locally how do you control versions. If I have accessed document and begin working on it to collaborate with you on developing a document, what is to prevent another user from accessing the same document and making changes at the same time. Now I theoretically have three copies of the same document and have no way to know who did what short of running a comparerite or some other software and then creating the delta which now gives me 4 documents?

may be missing something here? Also, is there any sort of metadata or profile associated with the document so I that I can quickly classify collections of documents?

Unless I am missing something it seems this p2p concept would live in the same world as Napster and instant messaging, a neat tool but not really applied broadscale in the general business population?

You're pointing exactly at the problems with P2P as seen from the document management point of view. I wave my hands in the article about a docman P2P app solving these problems ("As I add documents that I want to share ... the P2P app does some document management work: it indexes them, notes new versions, tracks access, builds a browsable 'portal,' notices similarities to other projects underway across the enterprise, etc. ") but I don't know how much of this can be done P2P-ishly. Certainly you're trading off control for access. So, I can envision a P2P docman app tracking some metadata about the docs and indexing them and even providing the type of informal versioning that people actually use on their desktops, e.g., the app could assume that if I have docs named foo1.doc and foo2.doc then foo2.doc is a later version of foo1.doc. For controlled version control, you need a more controlled environment. As for check in and out, well, that's probably not part of the P2P future, although tracking metadata that lets me say that my foo2.doc is my rev of your foo1.doc might be worthwhile. But, I'd rather leave these questions up to some vendor who wants to invest in providing serious answers based on: P2P infrastructure, a clear idea of what customers want, and incredible ingenuity.

Old line docman will be with us as long as there are regulated environments. P2P docman will be where most people spend most of their docman time. The two systems certainly will be integrated.

I think.

Chris Worth responds to my article about P2P document management:

Let's look at what the real problem is here: the disconnect between storing something on the network and storing it on your computer.

Let's face it, the network's a lot more convenient if you're working with others. If the dog yanks your phone jack in the P2P model, your colleagues are sunk. In the network model, everything just carries on without you. (Actually, I find my colleagues seem to carry on without me even when P2Ping, but that's another story.)

But you're absolutely right that storing stuff on the network is complete pain in the ass. No drag and drop, unfamiliar software and metaphors.

think once we get rid of this and bandwidth increases, the location you store your stuff in will become much less important.

Chris points to a product his company's building called 10KC that does a bunch of knowledge management and collaboration things. Take a look at: http://10kc.com/10kc_demo/index.html

Patrick K. Bagarimu writes to comment on our article on The New Common Sense:

I generally support the views you advanced about the hyperlinked world, the web. However, in my opinion, the web is a means, but not an end to a life style. The means (of communication) are virtual, but the end result is physical. It looks like the physical world will continue to exist. Therefore, the basic rules by which our communities are controlled must prevail; though subject to necessary modifications...

Of course much of what we do on the Web is directed at the real world. But I do consider the Web to be a separate (although not entirely separable) realm or space or place or world (your choice). This new world is unbounded by many of the old physical constraints, so, for example, it's not only possible but actually quite easy for strangers to join in conversation from around the world. Distance doesn't matter. Of course, if you're ordering at an ecommerce site 12,000 miles away from you, distance does matter again. But that is only one type of interaction we have on the Web. The defining characteristics of the Web, and its appeal and its joy, seem to me to have to do with capabilities that liberate us from the old constraints of the real world.

By the way, Patrick actually thanks me for accepting his subscription to JOHO, a formality that we in the real world used to call "manners." You're welcome, Patrick. As for those who have not yet submitted the three references required to be awarded a JOHO subscription, please be sure to get them to me before the start of the new Bush administration. Please. Thank you. You're welcome.

Hernani Dimantas writes about our article on common sense:

I do believe (you have asked for own observations) that the real society has been afraid to change its concepts. The society status quo is in the real word an untouchable paradigm. But on the web we look for and breathe revolution, and we are in an hurry for everything changing. ... The virtual society is accepting all common senses that you described without any *deep question*. That's incredible 'cause it's blowing up the old ropeline in a very natural way. The revolution is common sense.

Yes, it is amazing how much weirdness we accept on the Web as if it were part of the natural order. In fact, that's more or less the topic of the book I'm working on. (More in future issues...)

Chris Locke comments on my common sense article:

...you didn't link to my rant on common sense. you bastard! http://www.panix.com/~clocke/ieee.html

It's always about you, eh RageBoy?

Mark Dionne asks our help in the name of the Annals of Improbable Research (www.improb.com):

Please join us in carrying out Project Blow-Your-Coat. The goal is to introduce into wide circulation the evocative scientifical phrase "blow your coat." The phrase described a phenomenon observed in chinchillas. When startled, they sometimes shed their fur. Veterinarians call this "blowing the coat." The phrase can be applied, at least in a metaphorical way, to humans — thus the inception of Project Blow-Your-Coat.

RECOMMENDED USAGE: as a folksy, yet precise way of urging someone to relax rather than to act startled, or to suggest that someone has overreacted.

EXAMPLE #1: "Don't blow your coat, man."

EXAMPLE #2: "When Professor Sigerson saw the bill, she totally blew her coat."

INCENTIVE BONUS: After you succeed in getting even one person to habitually use the phrase "blow your coat," you will be authorized by the Blow-Your-Coat Foundation to affix the Blow family coat of arms to the arm of your coat.

We must love this phrase if only because it will inevitably be misunderstood the first time someone hears it. http://www.improbable.com/airchives/miniair/twenty-first-century/MINI2000-12

James Wills really didn't like my article on the fruitlessness of analogy. Here are some of his comments and all of my replies:

Analogies schmanalogies. Bloody Napster again.

Yes, because we only understand new things by appropriating them to something else that we already understand but which they are not entirely *like* (because they're new). Hence the focus on analogies. And metaphors.

Indeed. "What is it _like_?" is a useless, pointless (endless) question.

Not usually. But often on the Web. Which was the point of my article.

A useful question is "what _is_ it?". Talk about getting side-tracked on the web! All this arguing about what Napster is _like_ gets in the way of what I believe is the most important question we should be asking about it - a question I first saw raised on musician Robert Fripp's on-line diary (find it at http://www.disciplineglobalmobile.com/). Napster is _just another_ way of sharing with others music which we value. This is something people have always done with music, one way or another. So, an important question about Napster is this: "How do we legitimise this clear human need to share with others music which we value?"

Wow, is this a loaded passage in the guise of a simplification! Sure, we all want to "share" music, but we have a complex social and economic system with contradictory assumptions. Further, it's now been moved into a digital sphere where the old contradictory assumptions don't necessarily hold. So, yes, let's "share." But how? Who gets paid? What's fair?

So we define what "legitimate" means in this case. Is it payment to the copyright owner? Or can we find another way to pay artists for reproduction of their work? And here we return to familiar territory.

Familiar questions, but the assumptions underlying them are different because of the ease with which we can "share" perfect copies.

But at least we didn't get there via "It's like concert taping" (it isn't) "It's like you stealing my car" (it isn't) "It's like you raping me" (it isn't) "It's like you killing my mum, stealing her car and videoing yourself doing that, then selling copies of the video at the local store without the permission of her estate" etc etc.

So, if it's all so bloody obvious, what's the answer? And how are you going to legitimize your answer without reference to offline practices? And once you do that, you're back in the analogies game.

James and I then engaged in an extended exchange in which we agreed that I don't know what I'm talking about.

David L. Freitas really really doesn't like my cheap shots at Bush:

RE: Which is it? Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization...

...or Tool of the Politicking Whiner?

Leave your politics out of it, David - don't ruin an otherwise great resource.

Ok. Consider it done.

dividing line
Bogus contest: Pleonasms

We find fractals fascinating. In fact, we own the domain www.fractical.com. It's true. We can't even remember why.

Here are some activities that are somehow self-reflective, or, if you prefer, pleonastic.

Playing Flight Simulator on an airplane

Pressing the Back button to return to www.back.com

Browsing to find a new browser

Downloading a download tool such as go!zilla

Writing diagnostic software for a project developing software to guide electronic bug swatters

Can you come up with more? Please?

And now can I please end this issue? Stop me before I write more...

Editorial Lint

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