For those who need to understand how the Web is transforming the way businesses work, yada yada yada
|Issue: January 25, 2000
Author/Editor: David Weinberger
Central Meme: Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy
Favorite Beatle: Beck.
Current Personal Crisis: Never sit next to a man who brings nothing to read on a cross country flight. Will someone please kill him before he tells me more about training actuaries?
Home page: http://www.hyperorg.com
Contact information: Click here.
Does the Web Scale?: Sure, we can have global
yet intimate conversations on the Web now, but what happens when there
are billions of people on line?
It's a JOHO World After All
National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" aired another couple of commentaries of mine, which you can listen to via RealAudio or play at your daughter's wedding, if you so choose.
"The Doors of Connection" talks about the disanalogies between physical and virtual space, although it sure sounds dull when I put it that way:
Then there's one about the coming impact of e-books:
By the way, sorry this issue is late (not that you noticed), but things have gotten a little busy, what with the book launching and all. What book? Oh, haven't I mentioned that
The Cluetrain Manifesto is shipping!
Read about it at: http://www.cluetrain.com/book.html
Alright class, repeat after me: The Web is about people connecting with other people. I know you all learned that in the second grade when we did our unit on "People Are the Bestest!" but it's a lesson we're in danger of forgetting, especially when media giants like Time Warner prove they don't know their ass-kissers from an AOL in the ground. You can say the Web is about "broadband" and broadcast $170 billion times, but we'll just route around you so we can talk with one another.
So, the Web is about conversations. And, as we say in The Cluetrain Manifesto (new subtitle: "Let's All Pitch in and Make It a Best Seller"), these conversations occur among the people of the market but also need to occur will occur among companies and their customers. It's easy to find easy examples companies that put up discussion boards, who allow their employees to answer email from customers, who don't require their employees to recite the corporate mission statement by heart when they tell someone what they do for a living.
But how do you scale conversations when you have 30 million people buying your dishwashing soap? We can hear the minions of Procter & Gamble saying:
Can't be done! You'd have to hire 100,000 employees just to keep the conversations going. Oh, sure, this "The Web is a conversation" trope sounds real good, like "Suppose they held a war and no one came" and Hands Across America (don't ask, young'uns, it's just too damn embarrassing), but what works at Woodstock won't work at P&G. Just how long has it been since you changed the water in your bong?
Now isn't the time to lose heart, comrades. The Web the World Wide Conversation will scale. We just don't know how yet. But that gap of unknowing is where all the fun is. Every last drop of it.
A person at a talk three of us Cluetrain authors gave in Boulder put it very well. (Unfortunately, he didn't identify himself. If you're him, let me know!) He asked us to imagine explaining, before the free market existed, how it will work. How will the right number of eggs get to markets all over the world? How will this decentralized pricing mechanism ever succeed, with prices set "magically" by supply and demand. You're telling me to believe in some "invisible hand"? C'mon, get real! It might work in a village, but it'll never scale!
One might say the same thing about democracy: nice system for a village where everyone knows everyone else, but it'll never work nationally with, what, 260 million participants? Are you out of your mind? Get real!
Now, there's important truth in remembering that the free market and representative democracy haven't scaled in some important ways. The distribution of wealth and of access to resources is wildly imperfect, and to paraphrase Churchill, while representative democracy may be terrible, it's still the best system that large corporations can buy. Nevertheless, both systems have scaled beyond any reasonable expectation.
The Web, too, will scale. We just don't know how, yet. But it will scale for precisely the same reasons the other two systems scale: it is a large, decentralized system that is inventing itself. Centralized systems can't scale because the amount of effort required to keep them together increases at the rate of the growth of complexity, not the rate of growth of quantity. The Web is so decentralized that it can hardly fail to scale.
Some of the answer will undoubtedly come from technology. The ability of search engines to handle hundreds of millions of pages while remaining simple enough to be used by untutored info-rubes was unpredictable before the Web. But the Web is unleashing an unprecedented wave of group intelligence. So, we're likely to see advances in filtering, personalization, and information clustering.
At least as important, we will grow accustomed to using automated services. We don't want to have conversations about our dishwashing soap because, generally, we don't care about it. So, if we have a question, we will demand some form of automated system which may be as simple as a FAQ to get us what we need.
We'll also invent new types of conversations. Newsgroups were one such. Chat rooms are another. These are new to our culture, even if the technology is old in Internet terms. We can't predict what the conversations of the Web will look like as the Web scales. We can't predict it. We can only invent it.
Beware the word "merely" and its cousins "simply," "just" and "only." They are among the most political of words. And they're assassins.
For example, a friend of mine wrote in a mailing list discussion recently that the Web "merely accelerates and amplifies what we've always been doing." Factually, this is true, at least in part. But politically, it's deadly. What's the "merely" doing in that sentence except trying to keep us from shouting in the streets: "The Web is accelerating and amplifying! Woo-double-hoo!"?
Our "merely"s and "simply"s want to squeeze the life out of the moment. And since the moment has everything to do with the return of passion, merely-fying is an attempt to turn back the tide. Can't be done.
Look around. Don't you hear more assholes on the Web than you ever heard anywhere before? Just as robins herald the spring, the assholes are the harbingers of passion. People are mouthing off, standing on soapboxes, adopting absurd positions, shouting down the opposition, and they're rolling on the floor laughing so often that "ROTFL" has entered the vocabulary.
Is all this childish, vain activity good? No, of course not. But, then, sitting in your seats quietly while the teacher reads aloud isn't so good either, at least not once you're out of the third grade.
The strength of the economy and the new forms of connection enabled by the Web are enabling more people to choose jobs based on passion. And passion call it "enthusiasm" if you're uncomfortable with the "p" word engenders more passion. After all, anything becomes interesting if you look at it closely enough. Unless we've finally managed to throttle the last breath of joy out of our work environment, the passion is already in our businesses, waiting to be unleashed. The Web accelerates and amplifies it. Woohoo!
Unfortunately, it has been assumed that passion is the opposite of control, so we have tried to stamp it out. And it's true that people who are committed to the products they're building or the services they're providing cannot be controlled in the old ways, for their first loyalty is to their craft and to their customers. But such passion call it "love" if you're uncomfortable with the "p" word is also the flame at the heart of the businesses that will thrive in the new millennium.
There was a time, kids, when using swear words actually got you some attention. As recently as ten years ago, if you used "fucking" in a business conversation (we're talking white collar here excuse me, I mean "knowledge work"), you were expressing some real passion. Now you can't turn around without some fucking asshole using the "F" word.
Oh, it's not mere prudery on my part. The term is being devalued. And, oddly, no replacement is coming forward. There's only one word in English dirtier than "fuck." Hint: it begins with a C. And, except for one particular company I know of, it is never ever uttered in business. (At that one company, it's used archly, even adverbially, which cute-ifies it a bit.)
So, we're in a pickle. "Fuck" has become pervasive and thus has lost its impact. We have no word on the horizon that has the sort of impact "fuck" had ten years ago. And we're not likely to have one: these words are among the most ancient in our language, so you can't expect some MTV exec to come up with a profanity with equal power.
So, what the fuck do we do?
Fear not, mofo's, I have the answer. I propose that we count profanities as a corporate asset that must be budgeted and used for maximum efficiency in today's highly-competitive global fucking market. For example, by my plan managers would be limited to 52 "fucks" (and derivatives) per year. That way, when your manager says "No fucking way!" you will know that the issue is important enough that he's squandered his weekly "fuck" on it.
Here's my proposed budget for a typical corporation:
bitch, nigger, piece of ass, fag: 0
These are reset every January 1, so you cannot carry unused profanities over into the new year, creating the important benefit of providing an incentive for a budget-clearing wave of cursing during the holiday season.
Let us resolve to restore power to our primal words. Or, as the bumpersticker says, "What, do you kiss your mother with that fucking mouth?"
The Prudish Spellchecker
In a basically unrelated development ...
If you type the word "damnn" in Word, the spellchecker suggests not "damn" but "darn." For "goddamnn" it suggests "golding," "gadding" and "sodden," but not even "sodding," which at least has some of the same sense for the bloody Brits. And while the list-topping alternative to "duking" adds a "c" to get "ducking," for "fuking" we get "faking," "fluking," "flaming," "fusing" and "faking." "Asshole" isn't flagged as misspelled, but for "assshole" the suggestions are "systole," "hawsehole," "schooled," "asphodel," and "asphalt." Somehow, though "You stupid fusing hawsehole!" just doesn't have the impact we need.
But I'm sure we all appreciate Microsoft's protecting our sensibilities the corkscrews (= the corrected spelling of cocksckers).
According to an article in InformationWeek online:
IBM says it will make sure Linux runs smoothly on all its server platforms, port its enterprise software to the open-source operating system, and make IBM technology available to the Linux community of developers, according to a memo written by Sam Palmisano, the senior VP in charge of IBM's server group.
"We believe we're on the brink of another important shift in the technology world," Palmisano wrote in the memo sent Friday to IBM chairman Louis V. Gerstner Jr. The company made the memo available to reporters Monday...
Why does this remind me of the Gary Larsen cartoon in which the family dog has painted arrows and the word "Fud" ("food" in doggy talk) hoping to lead the family cat to its doom in the washing machine? Substitute "Microsoft" for the cat and "Linux" for "food" and it sort of works.
Greg "LinuxMan" Cavanagh sends along the following:
A `super' performance by Linux
NRI builds India's first supercomputer running on the OS
By Srinivasa Prasad
BANGALORE: An NRI from Bangalore has developed India's first commercial supercomputer based on the Linux operating system. It costs just a fraction of what a conventional Cray does but works nearly as fast.
I have been trying to tell people for some time what this really means. Duh, that the US no longer has a monopoly on supercomputers. Duh, that anyone can simulate a nuclear device.
Oh, so we have Linux and boosters like you to blame for the coming apocalypse? Thanks a whole lot, Greg!
As the company Linus Torvalds works for prepares to launch the product it's kept secret for many years, we thought it would be appropriate to present some anagrams of "Linus Torvalds":
vain lords lust
vain stud rolls
savor dill nuts
dull sort is van
sold viral nuts
Ok, so we're so late with this issue that Linus's company, TransMetaPostInter, has already launched its chip which will allow Windows (or your choice of OS) to run on everything from your watch to your dental fillings. Suddenly, the Palm Pilot OS is looking more and more like DOS 5 and Linus has made Microsoft very happy as was probably his nefarious plan from the gitgo. Further, because the new chip can be upgraded simply through a software download, Intel will go out of business and Western Civilization will end. We hope you're happy, Greg Cavanagh!
In other news from Bangalore, Madanmohan Rao writes to point to an article he wrote for the Economic Times on the free ISP movement in Europe. Apparently they're giving away Web connections, and not with the forced feed of ads as in these United States. Quite interesting.
Chris "RageBoy" Locke, editor of www.personalization.com and of EGR, reports that a recent personalization newsletter he sent out was rejected by a net nanny because ... well, here's what the nanny had to say
Subject: Rejected Message
The attached mail message has been rejected for the following reason: Body contained word(s)/phrase(s): Check it out
Additional Information: errorlevel: 0
Cool! The Anti-Hip Net Nanny. What other too-kewl trigger words would you like to see added? Here's the top of my list:
RL [real life]
42 [the answer to everything]
Entry number 32: "cluetrain."
Once upon a time, after the public had come to a point unprecedented in American politics it was actually tired of hearing about blow jobs I and many other millions of Americans received an email from MoveOn.com the gist of which was: Let's just skip the impeachment, censor the Billster and move on.
Apparently, the forces behind the competing impeach-and-move-on campaign were even stronger. So moveon.com lost its point. But no, like the hand sticking up from the grave at the end of Carrie (whoops, I just gave away the surprise ending), they are back from the dead:
MoveOn.org is participating in a campaign, called Back from the Brink, that demands we immediately begin a process of de-alerting U.S. nuclear weapons and negotiating reciprocal nuclear weapons de-alerting in Russia.
Having made the bold assumption that people who are tired of hearing about blow jobs must also be concerned about reciprocal nuclear weapons de-alerting (ooh, nice word!), they now are in the full-time political spamming business.
Take a hint: move on.
Email received from Tom Kouloupolis, president of the Delphi Group, and a pal, begins:
The hype meter is off the scale. Several new Billion Dollar B2B funds were launched in the past two months, IBM ran a 32 page e-everything ad in the Wall Street Journal in December, and Delphi has identified a $5 Trillion Dollar 2002 opportunity in just one segment of the B2B market!
I'm just a little confused. Is Tom here identifying his own $5 trillion research as hype? Decide for yourself:
In the New York Times (Dec. 23, 99), the implausibly-named Dutch architect Winka Dubbeldam says, "I only work with natural materials...": wood, polished plaster, steel, concrete and glass.
I myself am even more of a natural purist and prefer to work only with the four elements: Earth, Air, Cellophane and Nougat.
The Turing Test is, as you all probably know, Alan Turing's suggestion for how we could tell if a computer is intelligent: if a human user can carry on a conversation with the computer and is unable to tell it from a human interlocutor, then we ought to conclude that the computer is intelligent.
At http://www.badpen.com/turing/ you can submit your own question for a Turing Test, something that will stump a computer but will be a piece of cake for a human. The 967 examples submitted by readers include:
Are you a computer?
Did you cry when ET went home?
Who many flibbles are there in a haddock?
What is the answer to life, the universe and everything?
Why do the openings of the pockets of the semi-lunar valves face upwards?
What do you think about your creator?
If you could be any vegetable, what would it be?
Under what circumstances would you exploit humans to further your own agenda?
What does love feel like?
What is your favourite part of Kylie Minogue?
How come my stomach hurts when I hold my poop in?
Does a man that goes to bed with itchy bum wake up with smelly finger?
why does nobody like me?
Why on earth did I sign up for a degree in Cognitive Science?
I SAY AGAIN, DO YOU THINK GOD IS HAPPY WITH THE WAY THINGS ARE GOING?????
Apparently, Turing didn't realize that there's a deep, Heisenbergian uncertainty to his test. If the computer passes,we remain ontologically uncertain whether that the computer is intelligent or that the human is really, really stupid.
David Wolfe writes:
I just read a fascinating article "Data Mining is a Fad" by homefair.com's Arnold Kling. The article dares to proclaim the end of the statistical consumer is at hand. Henceforth marketers must learn how to deal with real people. (Remember [a] New Yorker cartoon a census taker is standing at the open front door of a house opposite Mommy, Daddy and one and a half children.) Kling's article is at http://home.us.net/~arnoldsk/aimstindex.html, essay #53.
There's only one problem with marketers learning how to deal with real people: real people run like the wind from marketers. Who would you rather sit next to on a plane, a talkative marketer looking to "check in with John Q. Public" or a lawyer with a chest cold? Me, I'd go for the lawyer. Take it as market research.
Maarten Mulder points us to a feel-good (in the nyah nyah nah nah nah sense) site that features places where Y2K actually did cause a problem:
Mark Hurst, founder and president of , has put a link to JOHO on his customer experience site, www.goodexperience.com. We hereby declare goodexperience.com to be the Finest Site on the Web.
Jay of InternetTime.com, has put a link to JOHO on his site, www.internettime.com. We hereby declare www.internettime.com to be the new Finest Site on the Web.
Ann Wendell provides a "right info" sighting. Someone recommended http://www.datawarehouse.com/posters/ms_poster/index.html to her:
I check it out and lo and behold I find the following quote which completely cracks me up seeing as you followed the Right Information article with the one on Microsoft's KM -
The goal of the Microsoft Data Warehousing Framework is to provide the tools and services for delivering the right information in the right format at the right time.
Thanks, Ann, but I had to stop reading your message right at the beginning; your use of the phrase "check it out" has failed our Net Nanny Coolness Filter.
David Greenwood of Australia writes:
I've been watching with interest the growth of the "Real-Time Collaboration" market with its focus on dataconferencing and thought you may like to explore, if you haven't already, this emerging (it's gonna be big!) area in some future journal. Here are few links to some of the players that you may have already: www.centra.com www.placeware.com www.eloquent.com www.teamwave.com www.collaborate.com
Oh, I'm totally excited about collaborative technologies, but doesn't it seem to you that collaborative and especially real-time collaborative technology is ahead of us humans? We don't know whether we're going to emerge from the Web soup with gills or lungs, and these RT collaboration guys are busy trying to sell us filters for our snorkels. Or something.
Joshua "This Is Not a Nickname" Newman refers us to www.halfbrain.com and gives us a little sample:
Halfbrain.com not subject of DOJ investigation
22 November 1999
Dateline San Francisco. Halfbrain.com, the Webtop Applications Community, announced that it is not currently the subject of a DOJ investigation, nor have any issues regarding anti-competitive or monopolistic practices been directed at the company. ... [V]oiced Halfbrain.com CEO Steve Guttman: "Should any concerns be brought to our attention, I want to assure our users and the public that the government will have our full and unconditional cooperation," he continued. "How does this shredder work, anyhow?"
Critics of the company have voiced concern over its dominance in the nascent web-based applications arena, particularly in the critical spreadsheet sector. Detractors believe that if a single company were able to wield monopoly power with respect to calculations on the Internet, there would be no limit to its influence. "Any company that controls multiplication on the Internet has the ability to dictate how we work with numbers altogether," said Senator Orin Hatch, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee...
Funny, human-sounding, misspelled Orrin "1%" Hatch's name ... it doesn't get much better than this.
We were of course honored and delighted to receive the following (albeit after submitting a List Me form at the site):
JOHO has been listed at ezine-Universe http://Ezine-Universe.com/
You can also allow your visitors to rate your ezine directly from the pages of your ezine by including the URL below:
PLEASE NOTE: Cheaters will have their listings removed.
Suggesting that you go to the site and make JOHO the #1 rated zine in the eZine-Universe would be so *rageboy*, don't you think?
Middle World ResourcesA Compendium of Resources
According to a sponsored supplement to CIO magazine, Heineken collaborates with its 450 distributors over the Internet, reducing cycle time from 4 months to 3 weeks. But I had to stop reading the article when it mentioned integration with ERP without making a belching joke. It's an article about beer, after all. I mean, what sort of writer would piss away such a golden opportunity, so to speak?
Skipping ahead, the article then talks about a shoe company that refused to be named (since when did shoe companies get so protective of their privacy?) that said that its use of middleware to integrate its supply chain is going to enable orders to be delivered in three hours rather than four days. Thus customers waiting for their shoes will only need to bring in a Tom Clancy novel and not a change of clothing and a Coleman stove. The shoe store spokesperson said that they are looking forward to the next rev of the middleware product which will enable them to reverse the flow of time and actually order products before customers have arrived. Unfortunately, the Schroedinger quantum effects cause the toes to curl up, producing a curious post-Einsteinian elfin effect.
Chip, whose mail's "from" line lists him as Maura and then puts yet another name in the bracketed expansion of Maura, writes:
The 12/20 San Jose Mercury News advises readers who "feel like egomaniacal surfing for telltale signs of [themselves]" to try Spyonit.com (http://www.spyonit.com). Complete the Vanity Spy form and they'll let you know whenever you're mentioned on the Web.
This little agent runs a query against the major search engines and emails you when a new entry pops up. Most are minor and pointless, and some are surprisingly old (because the search engines finally reached one of the Web backwaters), but you can't hardly blame that on Spyonit.
Hint: To create your own vanity search, choose Vanity Spies in the Swiss Army Spies category; they've done their best to hide this from us.
In the previous issue, we caved in to a request to express dates in a way that's not ambiguous on both sides of the dateline. Bob Zmuda responds
There's a nice, sensible, and increasingly-popular resolution to issues of Date Format Ambiguity: ISO 8601...
An adoption campaign website is at
Oh great. We have Swatch proposing that they ought to be ground zero for Internet time pieces. (Imagine if Microsoft suggested such a thing.) Now Tony "Happy Boy" Blair suggests that some country ought to step forward to be the source and owner of all time everywhere, and, oh, blimey, Cool Britannia (formerly Cobol Britannia) just happens to be ready. Now Bob wants to standardize the dates. Look, I'm happy to do whatever it is y'all want. Just make up your mind and let me know by StarDate [-4] 77072.24.
Jonathan Peterson thinks he can outdo the link to breatharians, people who don't eat anything at all, ever:
I'll see your breatharians and raise you a crazy midi man...
Oh, what's so eccentric about an organ-playing, sky-diving, spiritual singing, anti-Bible, wife-desiring, soaps-watching, self-described crazy man who supports reversible sterilization until the age of 30? Jonathan, breatharians claim to live on air. They still take the prize.
Joshua "This Is Not a Nickname" Newman, who first proposed A Lose Weight by Not Eating diet, which then led to the link to Breatharians, writes:
May I commend to your attention the sainted Colonel John Stingo on the subject of such swindlers? Look for him in Leibling ... I haven't searched the wwweb for him but I wouldn't be surprised if he'd achieved digital fame ...
Jonathan Schull responds to my observation that at one large, unnamed company, people begin sentences unconnected to the previous one with the word "so":
I've noticed this with the Adobe Acrobat people (at Adobe....) Is that your "Major Company"?
Nope. Unless you're implying that Adobe is about to buy Intuit! Stop the presses! you heard it here first.
Jason Fried writes to complain about:
...Intel and their "WebOutfitter" service that claims to make the web a better place if you have a Pentium III. It seems that if you have a P-III everything on the web is spinning around, 3-D, a full screen motion game, or some other wildly irresponsible incarnation. What a joke.
I haven't seen the PIII ads yet (or maybe I just wasn't paying attention) but I made fun of AMD a few months ago for exactly the same reason their claim was that suddenly your computer would show you 3D. So, no only is this Intel campaign stupid and inane, it's also ripped off.
Three people wrote in with messages that have the suspicious whiff of plug. But, being incredibly thick, I have fallen for it. D'oh!
First up is Matthew Kelly, responding to my comments on why the search for "the right information at the right time for the right people" is actually a way to avoid the hurly-burly of the Web:
...I think you need to delve into the whole area of competitive intelligence because the necessary philosophy to do the work, and your philosophy have a lot in common. CI is 'a timely tale told well', to dramatically oversimplify. The picture you put together of the competitive landscape is always changing, and put together piecemeal. The upside to CI is that if you get the right piece of information at the right time, and you have management that has the ability to act on that information, it could net you millions and even billions...
...Most CI people would disagree with the fact that you can't know which information you are going to need until the decision's been made.
The competitive intelligence product made by Matthew's company Strategy! is a database application that lets you manage every conceivable detail about your competitors and their products, from specs to personal taste in hookers. It's full featured and lets you slice and dice more ways than a 90 horsepower Mercury outboard (actually, outboards puree more than they slice and dice, but we'll just go with it for now). Strategy does the management of competitive info-shards well, but it doesn't tell a "tale" and my point was that thinking that any software application could deliver only and precisely the information you need is not only a type of magical thinking but is often a way of denying the need to browse aimlessly for yourself on the big messy Web.
Next, Craig Wier:
As a co-founder of Intraspect Software (www.intraspect.com), I'd like to second your vote for e-mail as tacit documents and its importance to an organization.
Making e-mail a cornerstone of Intraspect's collaborative, knowledge-sharing server was an original design criteria, and remains one of Intraspect's strong differentiators in the crowded KM/portal product field. The IKS server can send and receive e-mail, and the contents of messages received by the server are all instantly indexed, as are any attachments associated with the e-mail. When users search the group memory for content, e-mail messages received by the server containing content that matches the user's query are returned in the search results. Content can also be e-mailed into the server, notifications about new content can be received via e-mail, discussions can be participated in via e-mail, etc. E-mail is a fully integrated component in the collaborative, knowledge-sharing solution Intraspect delivers.
Ok, I give! Intraspect is an email machine! It's a hunka-hunka burning email. But, while indexing email is important, and getting notifications via email makes more sense than throwing a rock at someone's head, c'mon people, we gotta do better than this! Our frigging email clients are cracking under the load, and that's just the tip of the mailberg. Where's email typing? Auto-classification? Email threading? Email is growing faster than our ability to manage it. Help!
Finally, Malcolm Dean responds to my article on tacit documents. I don't know if he works for Info Select, but if not he might want to approach them and wave this issue of JOHO under their noses as proof that he can lead gullible zine editors around by their copious noses.
Yes, and one of the best applications for capturing these fragments is Info Select, used on a workgroup basis. http://www.miclog.com
Info Select is a personal information manager. I know nothing about it, but I'm sure that it must be excellent, especially if gives me the right information at the right time.
Michael Lukaszewski finds Yet Another Typo but then breaks out of his appointed rounds as Whoopseus, the God of Small Mistakes:
... This one's from the "Tacit Document" article... '...one of the author gets called a fascist,'
I'd like also to step out of my traditional role [this being the third typo message I've sent...], and broach the aspect of content in your "Tacit Document" column. As I was reading the article, I suspected that you might have been building the case for a product I recently encountered. But the plug never showed up. So, [and this is NOT a plug] I'd like to direct your attention to the following URL: http://www.tacit.com/products/tacit.knowledgemail.detail.html
Thanks for the typo correction. Yet Another Sigh. I've talked with the KnowledgeMail people they called me after reading the same column. It sounds like what they're doing is probably useful their system identifies sets of people as sharing interests based on their email but where's the killer app for email? Still waiting.
Received December 29 from a brave Craig Allen who predicted a disappointing New Year for Y2K doomsayers but a boom at the next new year's eve:
An unholy alliance of the so-called "hospitality industry" and frustrated programmers and system managers who babysat systems over what comes to be somewhat pejoratively described as "the date rollover", encouraged by the ever-sluttish media and bandwagoned by all the cautious folks who just watched TV instead of going out, make New Year's 2000 a huge deal despite shortages of champagne precipitated by dumping of unsold inventories in January 2000. Pedants who maintained all along that the millennium actually started on 1/1/2001 - as if that were somehow less arbitrary an excuse for a party - chill their unfortunate acquaintances with their smugness.
Oh, I'm just waiting to get invited to a New Millennium party to be held on Dec. 31, 2000. It's not have I have some incredibly witty retort to make. It's just that I didn't get invited to any millennium parties last month so next year offers me a rather sad second change.
David Stephenson wonders about the fate of JOHO in the days of AOL mania. He seems just a little confused:
Wow. This merger stuff is incredible the headlines were a little ambiguous. Did you buy Grit or was it the other way around? Will JOHO be delivered by 8-yr. olds trying to earn enough points to get a Red Ryder air rifle? Either way, it looks like one of those ideal mergers that will help each partner leverage the other's historic strengths. Good luck.
Thank you. Our people are tremendously excited by the opportunities ahead, especially the possibility of bringing snarky Web commentary straight to doorsteps all over central Pennsylvania.
Jeffrey Mann brings a topic up out of nowhere, just the way we like it:
...This sounds similar to a trick I have often observed among British politicians, although I am sure politicians and real people elsewhere do it also. When you do don't want to answer the question asked, repeat a few words from the question as if you're clarifying it and take it wherever you want to go. E.g., (is this a proper way to start a sentence, by the way?)
Q: How can the government explain the thousands of millions of pounds wasted on health care cockups over the last decade?
A: The cockup that millions of people want explaining is why the Tories find it so difficult to come up with a candidate for mayor of London.
Arthur Scargill was a master of this technique in his day, but I've also heard it used by Tony Blair and the Iron Witch herself. It seems to work better when expressed in a patronizing, "I know you're dim, but I'll explain it to you yet again if you promise to listen carefully" tone.
I'll bet there's a real word for this among people who know debating stuff, but I suppose that last comment is a non sequitur.
I think we Yanks can hold our head high in this department. I've been watching the Republican debates, and they are models of answering the question you wish you were asked. We call it "staying on message" which actually means "staying off answers."
Jeffrey continues, referring to our separated at e-birth contest:
Thank you for correcting my Jim/John [Belushi] transposition, as thanks I shall repress my pedantic urges to state the next millennium has yet to begin and point you towards the following fun read:
Fun enough. At least it doesn't contain the hilariously funny line: "42."
Dan Kalikow approaches the challenge of finding more examples of word pairs distinguished only by a single internal "s", as in spam/spasm, a task I failed at miserably:
Here are some random walks around that target...
"One man's perm is another man's sperm." [Curiously relevant to "There's Something About Mary" - ed.]
"One man's poi is another man's poison."
"One man's charm is another man's chasm."
(fails my algorithm but is cute)
"One man's rap is another man's crap."
"One man's pure is another man's prurient."
"One man's mega is another man's smegma."
Bends the rules, but, hey, it's the Internet and that's supposed to be a good thing. But you don't get no stinking prize for it.
Jacky Eacott gets closer to the target, albeit by cheating in a different direction:
...here's a contribution for the "one man's spam" teaser: "One man's orgam is another woman's orgasm" (works better if you know that "orgam" is Turkish for "organ"... or so I've been told)
This would be a big winner if Turkish were a dialect of English. But I like the approach of allowing foreign words. Here are some more possibilities. If any of these terms mean something in any other language, would someone please let me know? We may really be onto something here:
We've all mistyped a web address or two. And, yes, people have snatched up the off-by-a-letter domain names of their all-too-perfect mega sites. But suppose you wanted to do more than just trap fat-fingered visitors. Suppose you really wanted to build a business. What businesses could be built by taking typographically-challenged versions of popular sites? For example:
|Original||TypoStore||Type of Store|
|amason.com||brick supply store|
|yagoo.com||The Online Slime Store|
|Cluetrain.com||gluetrain.com||Cluetrain parody site (it's real)|
|clubtrain.com||model railroaders' site|
Surely you can do better than this!
We asked you to find (or make up) web addresses that become hysterically funny when you insert unexpected word breaks into them in unintended places.
Jeff Mann writes:
www.groupsexposition.org, where groups hold expositions, or.... I actually saw this on a sign outside of a gallery in Amsterdam and was confused for weeks. But it was in Dutch. "Groepsexpositie" looks a bit better. There is also the famous "Bommelding" in Dutch, which means bomb warning when pronounced "bom-melding" but sounds funny when you say "bommel-ding." Am I getting too obscure for you? I'm doing my best.
Jeff then returns to our perpetually-popular "Separated at eBirth" contest and suggests the following look-alikes:
Larry Ellison : Edgar Bronfmann
Ray Lane : Robert Conrad
Scott McNealy : Beaver Cleaver
David Weinberger : Woody Allen (it was a very small photograph)
Rob Glaser : Newman
As for me looking like Woody Allen, the fact is that I actually look like 2 Woody Allens.
John Miller stays on track and suggests the following divisions of JOHO's own address, www.hyperorg.com:
hyperorg.com becomes ... hype-rorg
Of course, exactly who Rorg is and why he needs hype-ing is a mystery, though I suspect he (it?) is the blobby alien intelligence sitting at the base of your medulla oblongata responsible for the numerous self-promotions and cluetrain references (oops, being redundant there aren't I?).
Frank Vernon didn't know he was entering a contest when he innocently pointed in an email message to:
And the winner is from Charles Royal:
My favorite "split-indefinitive" URL has got to be for that virtual training outfit, ViaGrafix. Rumor among urologists is that the site has really frustrated junkies that are really hard-up...
No no! No Viagra jokes. The convexity of the male body is too easy to work into a conversation, like a cheap shot aimed at lawyers or Kennedy relatives, as sophisticated as a prat fall or a Ben Turpin pie fight where the messes are always humorous, and order is the music of the serious - the poles of our planet, yet, of course, far more complex than that, for messes command order and order is the condition for humor. So, too, JOHO balances on the wire strung between the truly boring and the merely tedious, and, now tumbles into the net, flips once, and gracefully plops to the sawdust-covered earth, where it loses its footing, falls on its prat, as people laugh thinking it was all on purpose. We shall not disabuse them, for a good time was had by all, except for the guy with the cracked coccyx who just used up three week's supply of swear words and will now be forced to mutter things like "hushpuppy" and "hoppin'" until the next issue of JOHO flips to the ground, raising a nimbus of ineffable F words as it skids to a stop at the edge of the tent.
The following information was found trapped at the top of my washing machine when I ran some issues of JOHO through it.
JOHO is a free, independent newsletter written and produced by David Weinberger. He denies responsibility for any errors or problems. If you write him with corrections or criticisms, it will probably turn out to have been your fault.
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Dr. Weinberger is in a delicate nervous state, but if you want to send positive comments to him, his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This journal eschews the use of the word "fuck" except when it is deemed the right word for literary purposes, although we use it in this disclaimer because we enjoy confusing censor-savant netnanny programs.
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