June 17, 2001
Save the Threads!: We need a way to move our conversations up, down and across the Net.
Breaking the Spine of Books: Books will always be here? Yeah, so will archery.
The Three-Strikes Rule for PR: Here's how not to get a lonely 'zine writer interested in your wares.
Misc.: Fonts, the Pope and Jerry Lewis.
Walking the Walk: Frito-Lay is salty with the Web.
Cool Tool : Ricardo can save your threads
Internetcetera: The COBOL Extinction Calculator
Links: You find 'em, we run 'em
Email, Arbitrary Insults, and Suspicious Hacking Coughs: Your always amazing messages.
Bogus Contest: Semantic Punctuation
It's a JOHO World After All
National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" on May 31 ran a simpering commentary of mine on children and friendship and the Web and fluffy slippers. You can hear it at: www.npr.org/ramfiles/atc/20010531.atc.08.rmm
Better Late than Even Later
I believe this marks the longest interval between issues. The thing is that, well, my book is much harder to write than I'd thought, as those of you who have peeked in on the drafts, — assiduously published just about every day, at www.smallpieces.com — can attest. But I'm making progress. For example, I am already definitely committed to "of," "when," and "paradigm." Now I just have to fill in the text around them.
If you want to be notified every 2-3 weeks when I think the incremental, daily drafts have resulted in a substantially new chapter, just fill in this form or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
!! Marketing Breakthrough !!
After months of posting the rankest, rawest rough drafts ever seen on a civilized Web site, I have posted a anthology of OK bits from my book-in-progress. So, if you want a flavor of what it's about without having to wade through acres of half-baked verbiage, go to: http://www.smallpieces.com/sampler.html
Dept. of Awards We Won't Win
Someone nominated JOHO for consideration as one of CIO Magazine's Top 50 sites. While I appreciate the honor, I need some help answering the following questions from the form: What are JOHO's benefits? Why will my website "survive and remain an important part" of my business? And how does my site bring "specific, demonstrable benefits" to my business? The more I think about these questions, the more pointless and stupid this whole JOHO thing seems. It's like the scales have fallen from my eyes!
CoolBoard is going out of business. Not exactly big news, perhaps. It is, after all, only one of the many discussion hosts that's bought the bit farm recently. But you may not be aware why this is in fact one of the central events of the year 2001: CoolBoard is where I have my discussion boards. So, what looks to you like yet another dot-bomb story is my own personal Chernobyl — or, to maintain just a little perspective, is the equivalent of finding out that I have to wallpaper the downstairs hallway: there's a day of my life I'm not going to see again.
The problem is that CoolBoard has no way to export the messages on a board. So, in order to preserve the contents, I have to open every message and do a manual copy and paste. (Tip: If you drag select the contents of a message and paste them into Microsoft Word 2000, Word recreates the surrounding table, nicely separating the messages.) This is more than just a pain in the butt. Just thinking about it is causing phantom carpal tunnel syndrome in my wrist. Worse, even after I've done all the control-C's and the control-V's, I will have lost the most important context of these messages: the threads in which they're embedded. Sure, by looking at the subject headers and posting dates I'll probably be able to figure out which messages go where, but there's no guarantee I'll get all the branches right. Worse, if I want to transfer these branches to another message board, I'm going to have to do a lot of reconstructive surgery. This is roughly the equivalent not only of stripping the wallpaper off the walls but then having to re-hang it elsewhere.
It's clear what's needed: a standard way (in XML, naturally) of representing threads. After all, threads are of unique importance to the Web. They give conversations their persistence. They are the fundamental way those conversations are organized. And they are unique to the new networked world; there's nothing in the real world that matches them precisely. Save the Threads!
Not only would an XML-based thread standard allow us to preserve our discussion boards and move the discussions from one host to another, but it would enable us to pursue conversations across conversational types. This is a point made forcefully by Steve Yost, creator of one of the most useful and best-spirited sites on the Web, www.quicktopic.com. QuickTopic is true to its tagline: "Your free, preposterously easy, instant discussion space." When some issue threatens to overwhelm an email mailing list, you can just pop it into QuickTopic. Now Steve would like to make it preposterously easy to move up and down the conversational chain: if you're doing instant messaging and would like to preserve or expand the discussion, you should be able to press a button and continue it on a full message board, at QuickTopic, in chat, etc. A standard for the interchange of threads would make this possible.
This is not an entirely new idea. Microsoft, Qualcomm and Lotus proposed an email threading standard to the W3C in January of 1998 . It seems to have gone nowhere. (Heck, I proposed it 2 years ago but no one in the Kit Kat Club was listening to me.) Times have changed and the need is greater than ever. Steve Yost has found instant enthusiasm for a broader standard pretty much wherever he's mentioned it. The folks behind Jabber (the open source instant messaging initiative), Topica.com, EZBoard.com and Gazm.org have all expressed some level of interest. Unfortunately, the bastards at CoolBoard — who continue to let new users create boards without informing them that the site is folding — apparently couldn't care less.
Pardon me, but I have to get back to copying and pasting.
Note: If you're interested in contributing to this possible standard, please contact Steve Yost at email@example.com. In fact, I've set up a board at QuickTopic: http://www.quicktopic.com/7/H/rhSrjkWgjnvRq
 W3C Email Threading Standard: http://www.w3.org/TR/1998/NOTE-HTMLThreading-0105
The New Republic asked Larry McMurtry to review Jason Epstein's Book Business: Publishing Past Present and Future (http://www.tnr.com/010101/mcmurtry010101_print.html) , an optimistic look at the future of the publishing industry. This is a bit like asking Bill Gates to review Proprietary Solutions: Their Wisdom and Eternality. The conclusions are just as predictable.
McMurtry quotes Epstein:
Trade publishing is by its nature a cottage industry, decentralized, improvisational, personal: best performed by small groups of like-minded people, devoted to their craft, jealous of their autonomy, sensitive to the needs of writers and to the diverse interests of readers.
Nicely put. That's trade publishing at its best. Too bad increasingly trade publishing is at its worst: a bottomline exercise in brand name merchandising. (Or course not at Perseus, the lovely publisher of my once and future books.)
At the end, McMurtry quotes Epstein (if it's not obvious, I haven't read Epstein's book, just McMurtry's meditations on it) on why books are eternal:
Civilization without retail bookstores is unimaginable. Like shrines and other sacred meeting places, bookstores are essential artifices of human nature. The feel of a book taken from the shelf and held in the hand is a magical experience...
And that, says McMurtry, is why we're not going to want e-books:
... a text is not a book, and readers are mighty picky. They don't just want texts, they want their texts put into pleasing formats that look right, feel right, smell right...
Yeah, that's why television will never take off. I mean, who wants to sit in your living room in your underwear when you can get dressed in your evening clothes and go out to the legitimate theater?
The fact is that when we have e-book readers that have high resolution screens (or other display devices — I actually don't rule out geek glasses) and are robust enough to last for 2 years of ordinary use at about $150 per year, not only will people drop paper like a newspaper stained with puppy pee, but it will be considered environmentally selfish to read paper magazines and newspapers. Yes, there definitely will be books and bookstores forever, just as there's legitimate theater. And they'll be about as frequent and play the same role.
"We read your column about 'idea management' and we think you'll be very interested in what we're up to." A promising beginning to a phone call ... except for my nagging suspicion that I wrote about "idea management" to make fun of it.
"Do you have a Web site?" I ask.
"Sure!" the in-house PR guy said, smelling blood. I type in the URL and now we're both looking at the company home page.
Strike 1: I ask, "Can I skip the Flash introduction?"
"Sure, that's just there to give people a sense of the scope of the problem we solve." Uh-huh. Actually, it's there because you've confused the Web with television. You think people coming to your site want to sit through a commercial.
"So, what does your product do?" I ask.
Strike 2: "Well," says the marketing guy, "it enables companies to innovate more quickly by enabling ideas to be generated and managed from the first step to the last, with accountability, ensuring efficient work processes and ..."
This tells me that his product doesn't open walnuts and it doesn't make my tires last longer, but beyond that, I still have no idea what the product does. It may not even be a product. Maybe it's a service. Maybe it's a how-to book or an herbal remedy. Benefits don't say enough because ultimately all products boil down to the same three: Sell more, cut costs, have whiter, brighter teeth.
"I'd be happy to take you through a demo," says the marketing guy.
I'm not ready to invest that amount of time yet, so I reply: "Can you just give me an URL where there's some product information?"
Strike 3: "No," he replies, "we don't put that information on the Web. The product is proprietary. We have some patents..."
This company doesn't trust its potential customers enough to tell them what its products are? What are they are afraid the customers are going to do, tell other people? If only!
InformationWeek's daily update for May 29 had an article by David Ewalt:
... Your choice of font can reveal aspects of your personality you might prefer to keep to yourself, according to a new study....
For instance, people who use typewriter-style Courier fonts are stuck in the past..., while Helvetica fans are in touch with contemporary issues. Devotees of Times New Roman and Palatino are able to compromise between old and new, and they're trustworthy, to boot. Sans-serif fonts like Arial are big with sensible folks, and fashion-obsessed girls use curvy fonts like Georgia. And what about more casual typefaces? Well, ... Comic Sans users are hungry for attention, and people who use handwriting fonts tend to be overly familiar.
But there are those who say people can't be so easily typecast. "There probably is less to that than if you said a choice of a person's dessert reveals their personality," says prominent graphic artist Milton Glaser. He says that fonts can be used to express an emotion, but that so many other factors go into the choice as to make categorizations such as Sigman's useless...
I would think so! After all, the fact that in my personal correspondence I use the Adobe font face called "Loser_Zine_Writer" has to be a coincidence, right? And you wouldn't want to make too much of the fact that my absolutely favorite dessert is Your Book Is Boring Ripple.
Graeme Thickins passes along the news that the Vatican has decided not to allow online confessions (http://news.zdnet.co.uk/story/0,,s2088182,00.html), insisting that "face-to-face" (as they call it) is required to cleanse the soul. Damn! I wonder if I can get my $45 back from www.AmIDamned.com. (Yes, I do own that domain. Really.)
By the way, there's been no word yet from the Vatican on the brisk trade at eBay in indulgences.
According to the Associated Press:
Comedian Jerry Lewis, whose telethons raise millions for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, apologized Friday for [saying about the youngsters he wheels out at his fund raiser]...: "...You don't want to be pitied because you're a cripple in a wheelchair, stay in your house." In a statement released by MDA on Friday, Lewis apologized and said his comments were in error. "It is certainly not how I feel," he said. "I admire people with disabilities. That's why I've worked so hard for all these years. They are my friends and co-workers. I would never intentionally harm or demean anyone with a disability."
He did not rule out, however, displaying them as carnival attractions.
Middle World Resources
Frito-Lay, an $8.5 billion division of PepsiCo, has 15 sales people — let's see, that's $533,333,333 per person — who, in typical fashion, know more collectively than they do individually. Further (according to an article by Esther Shein in CIO, May 1), they all need roughly the same sort of information, so they ask the corporate staff the same questions over and over, questions such as: "What are the current private-label trends in my snack category?," "What's the latest research on shopping behavior?," and "How do you get Cheese-Doodle orange out of a polyester pant suit?" So, they hired some fancy-pants consultants (Navigator Systems) that pegged together pieces from Lotus, Business Objects, DB2 and Autonomy and came up with a knowledge portal that enables them to share documents. The portal "also helped foster a sense of camaraderie" by listing the team member's birthdays. It's enabled them to share best practices, helps managers assess the skills of the team members, and has boosted retention rates: not one member of the team has left since the portal's been in place. Now it's spreading to the rest of PepsiCo so that employees in all divisions can share information and co-promote products that are typically eaten together such as soda and PopRocks.
Although I hate to refer to a person as a tool, even a cool one, it's my pleasure to introduce Ricardo. He saved my bacon. Maybe he can save yours as well.
As the article about threading in this issue mentions, CoolBoard is shutting down. My sympathy has been overwhelmed by anger, however, at the ungracious way they're doing it. They are providing no way of saving the messages that have been posted there, no advice on other boards to use, and no responses from their technical support people. They are, in short, nuking their "customer relations."
Ricardo posted a message on CoolBoard's support board mentioning that he has written a Visual Basic program that works with Microsoft IE to spider a message board, putting the messages and metadata into an Access database. The program apparently isn't very robust and has to be hand-tailored for each message board, so Ricardo isn't releasing the program itself (at least not yet). Instead, for a small fee, he'll do the spidering for you himself. He charged me $25 to save hundreds of messages on the Cluetrain "Clues You Can Use" board. I don't have any obvious way to move those messages out of Access and onto a new board, but at least the data has been saved. Hats off to Ricardo.
You can address your own desperate please for help to Ricardo at firstname.lastname@example.org. My email interchanges with him were pleasant, and he delivered exactly what he said he would.
According to Gartner, Inc., as reported in eWeek (May 28), there are 200 billion lines of COBOL code in existence. That number will grow by 5 billion lines every year for the next four years. While there are 90,000 COBOL programmers in North America, that number is being decreased by death and retirement by 13% a year.
Let's see, that means the living COBOL programmers are each responsible for maintaining 2,222,222 lines of code each. Further, after five years there will be only 44,856 COBOL programmers ... and that's rounding up, friends! So, in 2006, each of these programmers will be responsible for producing 111,467 lines of COBOL code. Assuming an eight-hour work day (7,200,000 seconds/year), the COBOL programmers of 2006 will have to produce one line of code every 64.5 seconds as opposed to the leisurely 129.6 window given to the spoiled, lazy COBOL coders of today.
Finally, we can at last deduce the date of ZCD (Zero COBOL Day), the day on which the planet will at last be 100% COBOL programmer-free: 2083. In fact, here's a ZCD calculator for you to run your own calculations in case you come up with ways to increase the extinction rate.
Brian Millar writes a quirky, amusing and insightful intermittent newsletter. This is from a recent issue:
Why do I - why does anybody - do this kind of thing? Why has there been such an explosion of personal weblogs, so much so that www.blogger.com is constantly in need of new servers to keep up with demand? Then I remembered Thomas Wyatt.In the 80s a Californian called Stephen Greenblatt wrote a book which made historians re-think the whole of the Renaissance. It was called "Renaissance Self-Fashioning," and showed how the courtier's role was an elaborate construction of a "self" through writing, dress, behaviour and the commissioning of art. And the nightmare was, you couldn't stop. Greenblatt argued that the whole Renaissance oeuvre was the product of this constant shoring-up of the era's fragile constructed personalities. When Shakespeare said all the world's a stage, he wasn't talking in metaphors. ... With the coming of the web, we're all courtiers now.
As Stephen Greenblatt writes, "self-fashioning . . . crosses the boundaries between the creation of literary characters, the shaping of one's own identity, the experience of being molded by forces outside one's control, the attempt to fashion other selves. Let's be characters in each others' stories. No wonder the internet is so much more fun than real life.
I was personally glad to receive this since I've been writing about this very topic for my book and wasn't aware of the Greenblatt book or argument. I can't wait to read it. Brian adds in an email:
The whole "construction of self" side of the Internet is fascinating. I was talking to an old mate who's poetry editor of The Guardian (which is up there in the cool job title hall of fame). He's got this similar obsession going with rap music and its obsession with self-description. He has a good line on how Eminem plays in all kinds of sophisticated ways with ideas of persona. At that point the brouilly really started kicking in, however.
It's amazing how sophisticated we are at interpreting the seriousness of the roles we all play at various times. Or, since this is so central to our social dance, maybe it's no more amazing than the fact that we can usually tell apart the thousands of faces we encounter.
Brian, in a completely unrelated message, recommends two completely unrelated sites:
If you liked eboy.com you may enjoy www.habbohotel.com - now you can live in eboy world
and as for interesting folks online, do you know the lovely www.heyoka.com ?
The former is a discussion place for youngsters. The latter is the Restless Sleeper's site, a prolific journal writer. Eboy.com shows off the design work of a bunch o' guys. Any more questions?
Impresario Jeremy Driesen suggests we visit the site of a Web design firm: http://www.geocities.com/webtekrocks. If I tell you about it, it'll spoil some of the fun.
The estimable Peter Merholz suggests we might be interested in a recent article by Phil Agre in his Red Rock Eater Digest (http://dlis.gseis.ucla.edu/people/pagre/rre.html), although why Agre thinks we can digest red rocks is beyond me:
http://commons.somewhere.com/rre/2001/RRE.Hierarchy.and.Histor.html Hierarchy and History in Simon's "Architecture of Complexity" About hierarchies, organizational structures, evolution, etc. etc.
It's an appreciation of Herbert Simon, the AI pioneer, on the topic of hierarchy. Here's a snippet:
Simon wanted to emphasize above all that hierarchy was something profoundly natural. He viewed hierarchy as a general principle of complex structures — and not just of particular complex structures but of complexity in general. Hierarchy, he argued, emerges almost inevitably through a wide variety of evolutionary processes, for the simple reason that hierarchical structures are stable.
Rich Persaud writes:
Good books on mind-mapping:
Of course with my impaired visual sense, I won't be able to make sense of any of these books. Do you think I could request the authors send me pure-text versions?
Deb O'Hanlon sends us to http://www.wetmachine.com where you'll find the first 13 chapters of John F.X. Sundman's "nightmare hacker-thriller." It's no Small Pieces Loosely Joined — for one thing, it's sort of interesting — but it's summertime so I suppose you're entitled to some beach reading (so long as you wrap it in the cover of "Renaissance Self Fashioning").
The reliably prolific Madanmohan Rao has had published an informative article on the convergence of the Web and TV, based on a recent European conference on the topic: http://www.economictimes.com/today/31netw03.htm
For reasons I'm afraid to ask about, Mike O'Dell seems to be interested in how to make a full-size replica of Robbie the Robot, the bulbous android familiar to 1950s SF fans and fans of "Lost in Space." Anyway, Mike's recommendations came in three waves. First, the site of an enthusiast building a model: . Then another: http://www.robotbuilders.net/B9/. Then Mike found a business supplying parts for faux Robbies: www.classicsreborn.com/standard/products/pieces/b9/features/index.html Finally, he writes:
this is one of the most remarkable communities i have come across in my limited wanderings across the web. this was sent to me by a buddy at UUNET who as looking for "castolite" acrylic casting compound and you can in fact see the reference that caused Mr. Google to find it.
... this is truly marvelous. a person sitting around with this weird dream to build a copy of the Lost In Space robot, and he can find other people like him. it's also kinda scary (grin).
By the way, the real Robbie is currently doing "The Odd Couple" at a dinner theater in Boca Raton, starring opposite Gary "Radar" Burghoff.
Erik Vlietinck has reformulated his KM site and zine. It's now KM Informer and it continues to be a source of provocative ideas about KM: http://km-informer.com. (The unfortunate connotations of "informer" should be overlooked since Erik is Belgian and I can just about guarantee that his English is a lot better than your Flemish.)
Merry Sue Willis has found a site that generates quite convincing post-modernist gibberish.
Here's the start of a synthetic POMO article:
Subdialectic Depatriarchialisms: Capitalist prematerial theory in the works of Gaiman
1. Gaiman and dialectic theory
The primary theme of Wilson's essay on capitalist prematerial theory is the rubicon, and subsequent meaninglessness, of semanticist class. But the main theme of the works of Gaiman is a self-supporting whole. Several discourses concerning subtextual deappropriation exist.
Thus, the subject is interpolated into a socialist realism that includes sexuality as a reality. If dialectic theory holds, we have to choose between the conceptual paradigm of narrative and postcultural theory.
In a sense, Bataille promotes the use of dialectic theory to analyse and modify sexual identity. Foucault's critique of capitalist prematerial theory suggests that class, perhaps surprisingly, has significance. Thus, Bataille suggests the use of socialist realism to attack class divisions. The example of patriarchial prestructuralist theory depicted in Gaiman's The Books of Magic emerges again in Neverwhere, although in a more mythopoetical sense.
Now, if you really want to have a good time, take this POMO gibberish and run it through the "dialectizer" at http://rinkworks.com/dialect/. Here's what it became when dialectize into "hacker":
subdial3ctidc depatriarchialisms: cLapitalistt prematerial theroy in teh wrokz of g4iman 1..
OLOOLOLOLOLO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111~ GAIMAN AND DILAECTIC TEHORY THE PRIMARY THEM3 OF WILSoN"S[!] RSSAY ONCAPIT4LIST PREMAT3RUIALTEHOrY IS TEH RUB1C0N, AQND SUbSEQUeNT MEANINGESSNESS, OF SEMANTIC1ST ClASS Sbut t3h main tehme of teh \\\\////\\\\////orks of gaiamj is 4 eslf-supp;orting whole,,, SEV4RAl DFISCOuRSES CONCERNING SUGTEXTUAL DEAPPROPRIATOIN EXIST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111
~ thus, teh subject 1 interpolated imto a socialist realism that includes sexuality az a r3zlity!!!!!!!!!!!!!11 if d1a;lectic tjeory hOlds, we have to cho0es b3tween th3 cOnc3ptual p4radigm of narrative and postcultural t3hroy...
in 4s ernse, b4taille pormotes the use of dialectic theroy to aNalyse ande mod1fy sexuak id3nt1ty olololololl.. ofucault' critique opf c7aapit4list rpematerial theory suggests th4t cklasz, pedrhaps surprisingly, ahz s1gmificance OLLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL THUS, BATA1L;E USGGESTS TEH uS3 OF SOCALIST R3ALISM TO TAT4X0R CLaSS DVISIONS CAUSE IW ILL AHCK YOU THE EXAMPLE OF P4TRIARCHIAL PRESTRUCTURALIST THEORY DEPICED INM GAIMAN"S TEH BOOKZ OF MGAIC EJMARGEZ 4G4IN IN NEVARWHERE, ALTHOUGH IN A MORE MYTHOPOETICAL SENSE!!!!!!!1~ ololol
Homework assignment: Run this through the multi-babel translator (www.telalink.net/~carl/multibabel/ )
Kathleen Quirk has found a site that, like the Wu Tang Clan name site, makes up a nickname for you. In this case, it's a "prison bitch name." Perfect for the kids.
Hey, Shower Stalker, Sugar Pussy thanks you!
Venkatesh at elearningpost.com has written quite a good article called "Grassroots KM through Blogging — Influencing the 'Tacit' by Enabling Conversations." The fact that it cites JOHO favorably has nothing to do with my recommending it, although I have resisted referring to Venkatesh by his prison bitch name. (Hmm, if you didn't read the suggestion from Kathy Quirk immediately above, that sentence probably has a queasily nasty tone.)
Who's Tired of Being a Millionaire?
Lisa van Cleef tells us where she likes to donate:
By the way, there's no need to be a millionaire to qualify for this column. If you have a charity you donate to — and you'd better, bunky (see www.AmIDamned.com) — then why not spread the love by telling the rest of us about it?
Tim Bray, one of the three people entitled to wear the Father of XML championship belt, responds to our article about the inner values of the supposedly value-free Net:
The mistake that you and Dr. [Lawrence] Lessig both make is the assumption that when they were building what he calls the Code, anyone actually ever considered putting societal apparatuses in. He's got this one story in his book about his Law school having built accountability into their university network, but the environment of administrators deploying a net for their organization is just a different planet from a bunch of protocol designers building general-purpose infrastructure. They just wanted to pump bytes around efficiently and reliably, the notion that libertarian values crept in at that stage is about as plausible as the Wright brothers worrying about the implications of frequent-flyer programs. Lots of people who build useful things like to, on an ex post facto basis, claim that it was an expression of their Philosophy of Life... I may have done this once or twice. Anyhow, I know David Clark and a bunch of the other IP pioneers and the notion that they're libertarians or collectively members of any other ideology is just wrong.
My article doesn't say the creators built the Internet for political reasons. Rather, the "long beards" wanted to move bits efficiently and did so by creating a centerless, self-organizing Net. But "Let's build a network that will move bits around efficiently and will be self-maintaining and thus without any central control, enabling the free flow of information of every sort" is a political value even if it's unrecognized as such. A centerless net happens to be a brilliant and elegant technical design, but is of little appeal in cultures where central control is considered a core value, e.g., a fundamentalist religious culture. Building a network designed for the free, unchecked flow of information *is* a political act.
As for the politics of the Wright Brothers, I think the analogy would be: The notion that flying is desirable would not occur in a society that worships gravity. Or something.
Finally, I was careful to define free-speech Libertarianism in the JS Mill sense, not the Ayn Rand sense.
Tim goes on to amplify a comment in the article on SOAP:
Dave [Winer] actually cooked up the core ideas behind XML-RPC and SOAP in collaboration with Microsoft, he's open about this. Problem was it got caught up in internal Redmond wrangling - not unusual - and Dave lost his patience - not unusual - and released XML-RPC... a year or so later SOAP emerged from MS.
Ah. I didn't realize that Microsoft was in on this so early.
Brian Thurogood goes back to the article in an issue in March about the new webs of friends we're building on the Web.
like your friends, I have often been excited about the ease of connection (at times). I have also searched for classmates from college days or colleagues from companies I worked with pre-web. The results have often been satisfying.
And, yes, the hard drives do store mountains of information.
But the management of all that information, even with diligent electronic housekeeping, is (so far) rather shoddy.
Where is the killer app? Not the enterprise "Information Portal" or the "Outlook with bells" but a true product which scales as required, yet has a light footprint. Maybe there is one, but I have yet to find it. I suggest it needs: 30% content management 20% contact management 20% clippings management 20% bookmarks management 10% messaging management
Notice I omitted email management and that follows my view that email has been not much more than an electronic version of an envelope. To my mind it is dumb to store envelopes in an alphabetical or chronological filing cabinet. Equally it is dumb to be forced to store emails in such fashion.
As you say, conversations can leapfrog all over, and that often indicates the way our brain makes new connections, or a group of brains feed off each other. So I would like a clever, small, intuitive app which could retrieve our information snippets based on: actual text keywords concepts defined links metatags
And it needs to run on any browser, any PC, any PDA, and any mobile.
(Sidebar: I also enjoyed your piece on P2P and maybe P2P will gradually help erase the Outlook folly we all find ourselves in.)
Oy vey. Don't you know that I am now going to hear from various product managers, each claiming to have exactly (well, almost) what you've described? Didn't you read the "Three Strikes" article above? (Oh, so you wrote this letter before that article was published, eh? That's what happens when you rush into print, buddy!)
www.enfish.com and www.thebrain.com would like to be the tool you want. I have stopped using both of them because their 'natural' ways of representing info don't feel natural to me. Jeez, all I really want is a full-power search engine that lets me search every which way from Sunday and that doesn't want to take over my life, hard drive and desktop. (I wouldn't mind being able to tell my life, hard drive and desktop apart, but that's a separate matter.)
Michael Aitken writes:
...A recent report from CyberAtlas (www.cyberatlas.com) based on data from Alexa Research suggests that, contrary to expectations, Web users are visiting *more* sites as time goes on.
No great surprise - as the rise of commentators and provocateurs such as JOHO and EGR and TDCRC continues my "new" site visits are much more likely prompted by their links than any search engine. The rise of the interlinked community dramatically changes the ability of businesses or portals to control our wandering minds.
Absolutely. I spend all day online (lucky me) but very little time browsing. Most of the spots I visit I go to because someone's sent me there. Capturing this global email traffic in links would be an amazing thing, don't you think?
(And thanks for plugging Chris "RageBoy" Locke's sites — www.rageboy.com, www.tdcrc.com — saving me from a savage pummeling for failing to meet my monthly minimum RageBoy Spam quota.)
David Curley writes:
Now that 4 sites account for half of all Internet minutes (although that seems to be a pretty dubious stat, since it counts e-mail and messaging, so obviously a big mail shop like AOL is going to be way up there), my guess is that the Web will end up kind of like TV: a few big sites/channels that churn out bland pap, some smaller ones that occasionally turn out something decent and ranging from entertaining to meaningful (Buffy, www.MightyBigTV.com, www.TomPaine.com), and sites like this, www.zefrank.com, the web equivalent of a great community access show.
I don't think the web is going to have much of an impact on mass media - I think that in the end it will be more like replacing cable-to-the-TV with cable-to-the-PC. What will change is the stuff around the edges, stuff created by people who simply want to create. While you used to have to put together a 'zine or a community access show, or rent some pub for your play, a lot of that creativity will now be channeled through the web and thus reach a much wider audience. It won't really matter though, at least in terms of somehow replacing, undermining, or even threatening Big Media (hmmm, Big Media = BM) because the web is so big you can't find it unless you know it's there.
Still, spend a little time at www.zefrank.com. He has a a couple of nice Flash playthings, made better by the fact that he encourages visitors to send him images of what they created, which he's put up in a a couple of galleries. There's what appears to be a genuine interest in his visitors, with several pages of Harper's Index-style stats, and he claims to have responded to over 5,000 emails since March 23. This kind of attitude is what we need more of.
I think the statistics you cite are indeed skewed the way you suggest. This is the result of massness and isn't necessarily a bad thing or a sign that the Web will be TV. If kids are spending 4 hours a day doing IM, that ain't TV. By the way, Zefrank is very amusing. Some great toys. Thanks.
Glenn Fleishman, freelancer to the stars, responds to several items in the previous issue. For reasons known only to him and his online confessor, Glenn has chosen to do so in Hamlet mode. The items he's referring to are, in order, a link to a worm site, a comment about all our old newsgroups posting being searchable, and a charitable suggestion from a reader.
Worms, worms, worms. Do you know me my lord? Aye, you are a worm wrangler: my girlfriend and I vermicompost with the help of many thousands of red wriggling friends. Our local municipality started accepting a variety of plastics in recycling, and between that change and our worm bin (into which we can throw practically anything but meat), our weekly trash hall is half a small container. Very satisfying. Also, watching the worms reduce food into beautiful, nutrient-rich, aerated, organism-heavy soil is a lot of fun. Go wrigglers!
To sleep, to be archived, to be searchable no more: not sure I understand your Google crack. The archives from 1995 to late last year were offline from Deja's sale until last week. So it is news that Google made them available because a) they're back and b) they're easily searchable. Deja.com was always (for me) a slow and frustrating site. With Google's speed, I can find embarrassing traces of a love affair told through seemingly innocuous posts from 1996.
My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go: KMO (who I believe I worked with at Amazon.com during my brief tenure) says that he and his wife are aiming at voluntary simplicity, but are keeping the SUV because of its relative safety. Uh-huh. This is like being a Nike-wearing, daytrading Buddhist monk. If you're going to try to simplify, start by reducing your impact on the earth. (I say this in a smug manner as my girlfriend and I have reduced to a single, tiny Honda hatchback from two cars after mine was crunched almost 1 1/2 years ago. We've saved lot of money and drive less, and walk and bike more.) Also, SUVs are *not* safe. How many times must people see the statistics? The automakers have spread the trope that drivers in SUVs are less likely to be killed in accidents. That's true: it's just that this is relative. Someone in an accident with you, however, is six times (if recall the stats right) more likely to be killed, however, than in collision with a normal sized car. SUVs are a blight on the world. It may be fun to torture orphans, too, but you have to stop behaving badly somewhere.
Since a man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm, we all end up as the Diet of Worms.
As for the google crack: All I was saying was that the idea that we may be embarrassed by our previous postings to Usenet is *not* a new idea. The crack was aimed at Wired, not Google. All hail Google!
As for the SUV rant: We're all in the position of Nike-wearing, daytrading Buddhist monks. But that doesn't excuse us. I bought a sandwich today for $6.50. Do you know how much good I could have done with that $6.50? And the pathetic thing is that there's no justification. I should have foregone the sandwich and added $6.50 to our charitable donations. And we should do this all the time until we're no better off than the worst off among us. (No, I don't know where that is, but I do know that I'm not close to it.) The fact that we don't do this isn't a justification for not doing it. That's why every response at www.AmIDamned.com will be "Yes, for all eternity. "
Kord Davis starts with a Cluetrain premise and moves ahead:
We know that markets are conversations, but what is marketing? Using (liberally) your vocabulary, it might be said that marketing is conversing. That is, talking in the sense of introducing products, features, benefits, and what have you...my dilemma is that I, and many other people, get a nasty feeling when they hear the word 'marketing'. I suppose, no actually I'm pretty sure, that it's because we've been marketed to death and feel that too much of our personalities/characteristics are the result of Coke and Nike and Ford molding our self-images against our will. That's the downside.
The upside is that I believe its true that people (consumers/buyers) sometimes need a little education about the benefits of a particular product or service. ... The issue is that unscrupulous sales and marketing types sometimes stretch the boundary of truth (the legal kind, not the metaphysical/epistemological kind). This sucks.
It sucks, in part because I kind of like the whole process of educating people and showing them how they can do things easier or better (one ex-manager of mine once said I have the "make it better gene writ large"...I took it as a compliment) and yet even I get confused sometimes about what's okay and what's not.
This isn't terribly clear because I have defined the problem very clearly. And that's part of the problem. Anyway, I just thought I'd drop you a line and see if you had any thoughts on the matter you'd share...
I take marketing to be something like: figuring out what a product is and then enabling other people to figure it out. (I personally generally do the first part for clients.) To enable others to understand what your product does, you have to let them know your product exists and then give them ways to find out more about it. One of the problems is that you usually can't know ahead of time who's going to be interested in your product, so you end up telling people about your product who don't want to hear about it. Thus does a marketer become a spammer.
Conversations are voluntary and they're among people who share an interest or passion. If you can get your marketing programs to share those characteristics, you'll be wildly successful; the best marketing is the one that one way or another brings together a set of people who can't wait to talk about the product.
John Davies writes:
We’re music fans and my wife and I are watching that really cool Mitsubishi commercial where people are singing in their cars on what looks like a Saturday night. She says “I wish I knew what song that is”. I figure no problem, just go to Mitsubishi’s site and query on the ad. Hahahahahaha. Log on to www.mitsubishi.com - how funny is that. So then I logged on to www.vw.com and found that cool Nick Drake song (my benchmark test).
But it got us thinking about what info I want from a big ticket purchase company. I used to own a land rover and now own a BMW – when you spend money, what’s the experience you want (from a marketing perspective, BMW’s winning hands down)? Although I did go to Tunisia 2 years ago, I’m not doing any of that Dakar stuff – I’m comfortable being in the 80% who buy these vehicles to drive their kid to school. But we started to look at car web sites and try and figure out what they are selling. It’s a fun game to play. Cars are lifestyle (at least in SoCal where I live). So why are these companies vending vehicles instead of selling life styles. I truly believe that is what people want to buy with their car (their expression of personality within a given price range). It’s fascinating to see how many car companies don’t understand that the physical vehicle is secondary to what it represents (OK, I bought my last car from Derrida and it was hard to tell exactly what he was selling me).
Jeez, do I disagree! It seems to me that car companies do nothing but sell lifestyles in their TV commercials. And they continue to do so at their Web sites through glossy photos that tell us whether the car is for Dakar wannabes, funkadelic students, etc. That's why when we were looking for a new car, I spent so little time on the company web sites. The info I needed generally was hidden behind glossy curtains and even then there was very little I trusted: price, government mandated mileage info, options lists. For real information, I went to consumer review and discussion sites, e.g. www.volvospy.com. (We upgraded from our '90 Honda Civic to a Volvo S60, also known as "the car that Cluetrain bought").
By the way, just try finding Mitsubishi's car page. I had to search by category and had to guess at "transport equipment." This led me to http://www.mitsubishi.com/MemberHP_e.cfm, which is a deadend page. I still haven't found their car page. You can probably find the commercials you want, however, at http://www.adcritic.com. And the VW Nick Drake commercial you mention is at http://www.vw.com/debut/
b!X writes in response to my saying about the "figlet" utility that prints big letters out of little ASCII characters "If you think this is really cool, you might want to ask someone to check your choice of wardrobe before you go out."
All the more so if you're someone who still uses figlet from a Unix command-line. Wait, that'd be me.
Also, if you reply to msgs with stage directions in brackets, it's time to rotate your pocket protector.
I cited a WSJ article about how the Delta pilots organized:
...The union can instantly reach nearly all its pilots through email, easily outflanking Delta, which still relies largely on the U.S. mail.
Milne, Bruce replied:
..... which, presumably, they turn off before the plane backs away from the terminal?
Especially if it's a character-based terminal.
Bruce Milne wrote:
Would that make them Palm Pilots?
I stopped writing.
been wondering about whether another Cluetrain piece might be in order, this time asking the tech industry to wake up and realize the broadband revolution is being strangled in washington...
Sounds like something you should write. The Cluetrain was a one-time deal. No brand extensions are in the works.
Avi writes about my quoting Tom Lehrer's classic song about Werner Von Braun:
Tom Lehrer stopped publishing most of his songs because Werner Von Braun sued him for libel (or slander) and won. So he went back to teaching math at Santa Cruz, though he did offer a songwriting class for a while, and one of my friends took it, which is where I got this information.
Imagine what he could do with President Shrub. Though I'm starting to recycle some of my old favorites, like the MLF Lullaby.
PS I agree with you about the implicit politics of the design of the Internet. In my experience, everyone thinks that *other* people have politics, *we're* just being practical and realistic.
I heard Lehrer interviewed on the radio about 2 years ago and he certainly didn't give that as his reason for withdrawing from public life. Braun is a public figure and shouldn't be able to sue for libel except in the most egregious cases, which I can't imagine this is; Braun was the standard example of a turncoat amoral scientist throughout the 50s and 60s, reviled in the press and even movies: Dr. Strangelove was modeled on him. Are we dealing with an urban myth here?
In looking this up on the Web, I found nothing, except for this translation of the lyric into Italian: "canta Lehrer, ... 'Una volta che i missili sono andati su, a chi importa dove vengono giù? La cosa non mi riguarda,' dice Wernher von Braun"." Lovely no matter how you say it.
b!X throws fuel onto the non-existent fire caused by my careful and accurate use of the word "Libertarian":
"There is nothing particularly innovative about short-sightedness and lack of compassion. Nevertheless, the way libertarians combine these elements is innovative." — Malcolm MacLachlan, In Formation, Summer 1998
Simon Winston forwards a long piece he wrote for another venue. This is just an excerpt:
Ashley Pomeroy wrote: I think there was lots of stuff, back when the Russian coup happened and people in Russia were sending e-mails to people in the outside world, about how the Internet would destroy governments and create freedom for all, and a world of peace. And I'm sure people said that about radio and the teletype a long time ago.
read the 'Cluetrain Manifesto' for the first time a while back - I found it interesting but for a different reason than I would have found it interesting 2/3 years ago or whenever it came out first.
The main theme is that "big business better watch out 'cos if you're not hip to der 'net you're going to get eaten alive, ha, ha, ha, suckers". Or something similar anyway. You get the gist.
... remember being afraid when it dawned on me how the Net was being perverted, raped, defiled by corporations. The Cluetrain Manifesto got it wrong - tragically wrong. In fact it's almost funny how wrong they got it. Just another Tragic Comic, much like Extreme sang (on Pornograffiti?). (WARNING: bad metaphor) The dinosaur of Big Business didn't get eaten alive by the small furry rodents that dwelt on the Internet It sat on them. The Internet didn't change business, business changed changed the Internet to suit it self. It was inevitable - the Net costs money to run and big businesses have money. You can't blame them; 'We' should never have gone after business in the first place but they did what was natural when they were attacked - they defended themselves. ...
Indulge me here for a second. It used to be that you could run a fan site or an online comic or whatever in your spare time on your home machine or your college web space. Bandwidth, space, time, whatever were not really a problem. It was fun. When you only have a few people visiting your site. When you get more people then it starts to become a problem but, up until the beginning of the end (arguably the September that Never Ended [tm]), there just weren't enough people for it to actually to be *too much* of a problem.
... But, when business has finished remodelling the Internet into their own image the masses will flock (or just never leave) there leaving the rest of us shuffling round, kicking our heels (WARNING: more bad metaphor, excessive cheesiness is bad for your health and may damage your unborn child) under the off ramps of the information superhighway. And it will be just like it was before. The masses won't want to start rummaging around in the rag tag collection of unbranded sites that make up our world. Even if they did they probably wouldn't be able to jump out of whatever web tv portal gateway digi box walled padded garden system they've subscribed themselves to - if they do manage it then they've probably got a clue anyway.
This is the 'Hinternet' Jo was talking about a while back. The back alleys and the dark, unregulated bits of the Internet
I think it's going to be harder to keep those two Nets separate, even for the "masses," for the Web — so far, and understanding that the early adopters aren't typical — gives the masses a taste of non-mass, personal connection, and once you've sipped from that cup, it's hard to go back to the Kool-Aid. Or so the sunny side of me says. As for the dark side, well, I keep that pressed way way down in a lightless hole the sides of which bear the scratchmarks of an evil entity trying to claw its way up by sliding, shrieking, back to the dank bottom, over and over until eternity sets it free. (Please proceed directly to www.amIdamned.com)
Craig Allen has a a veritable miscellany of comments:
I, too, have been, from time to time, afflicted with "gotta register this wonderfully clever domain name RIGHT AWAY" disorder: witness my stillborn CMreview.com, which was going to be the authority on content management, till I realized I didn't really have much to say that anyone would read... However, being of mongrel Scot/Yankee stock, I can't stand paying list price, so I have found some cheaper alternatives to Network Solutions. Most recently (my knodal.com P2P brain attack) I used domainstore.com, which is $20 for a year, down to $100/10 years, or cheaper if you're buying the handy kilopack. They have an adequate web UI for those handy DNS provider changes, like when Central Information Services decided that their free DNS service was a pain in the patootie and they froze everyone's data, referring us to their fee-based plan if we wanted to make an update. (I now use zonedite.com, which is free for up to 5 domains.)
Unfortunately, cmreview.com really isn't very embarrassing. Can't you do better?
I have registered domain names at $15/year places and have likewise lost access to them because, in one case, I mis-typed the password when I created it and the company has no (zero) customer support. On the other hand, I recently used www.liquidpages.com and was shocked when they replied to my email within hours.
Headline: "JOHO reader denies M is letter". "...Sicoricsoft.com which contains all the letters from Microsoft and Cisco." Huh?
Yeah, I thought so too when I first got this msg. But the "com" counts.
Please don't stop with the "malign W" campaign! You know the right-wingers would NOT be lightening up on Al right now (or ever) if he'd won.
I have mixed feelings, but basically it's just losing its entertainment value. I'll still run letters and links when they're worthwhile in their own right/rite/write.
... For example, Gary "Not That Gary" Stock notes an entry at http://nowthis.com/log/2000/10/16.html:
Debate question it amuses me to contemplate, courtesy of Dave Taylor, former bandmate:
"Governor Bush, do you think it is possible that in your term as governor you have let stand the execution of someone from whom you obtained illegal drugs before 1974?"
Gary passes along the following from CNN:
"The ill-prepared president doesn't seem troubled by the state of his preparedness. There's no indication he's staying up late to make up the work. He isn't even aspiring to on-the-job training. The White House simply pretends that thoughtlessness is thoughtfulness, and that the president is governing when he is gaffe-ing..."
Lourens Ackermann writes from Another Country about our esteemed "president":
before you sign off on Bush, a comment my friend's mother used to make. You decide whether it is apposite:
It is alright being stupid, one just mustn't make misuse of it.
If you want the real facts behind the Bush Administration's energy policy, then go to: http://www.GrandOldPetroleum.com
No taxation without lubrication!
Bret Pettichord is distressed that we're wrapping up the special anti-Bush featurette section of JOHO:
am reading your newsletter on a plane. It's bad enough that i can't click through the URL's. But now i see that you are restricting distribution of your snide Bush commentary. This has me all pissed off. Don't let up on this guy.
One of the funniest Bush jokes that i recently came across was an article in the Onion. It had Bush quoting Cicero and acting in the most witty and urbane manner imaginable. Sorry, i'm offline, you'll have to go search for it yourself. (Actually it wasn't Cicero, but some other Roman guy whose name i forget.)
I read TheOnion article (www.theonion.com/onion3713/bush_regales_guests.html) at the time and it had me laughing out loud, although the premise when described doesn't actually sound very funny. I loved that he translated Virgil into French because the French ambassador's Latin was rusty.
I have two problems with my snide Bush commentary. First, it feels like an interruption of a zine that is supposed to be marginally *about* something, although what JOHO is about has gotten pretty hard to discern over the years. Second, it's just not entertaining enough. You know, bushorchimp.com never really struck me as very funny.
I am happy to announce, however, that I am accepting contributions to a new mini-feature called The Logic Behind the Rationale. (On June 13 or 14, I heard Bush explaining that it wasn't that hard to change the European leaders' minds about the Militarization of Space Initiative (whoops, I mean the Missile Defense Shield). They came around, he said, once they saw the "logic behind the rationale." This featurette will highlight blatant lapses in logic from the Shrubster, including prevaricating explanations. Here are the first two:
1. We're told over and over that drilling in the Alaskan wilderness is necessary in order to end the US's dependency on foreign oil. Yeah, but any oil taken out of the ground in Alaska will be sold in the world market, increasing the oil supply available to Americans by about 1.25%.
2. When asked what he's going to do about rising gas prices, Shrubya replied that his tax cut will help people pay their fuel bills. In fact, the increase in energy prices will wipe out the majority's tax "relief." Why not just transfer the money directly from the government to the oil companies?
Please forward your own. And to beat on me about these, please go to QuickTopic:
Donna Berry has a style suggestion:
This is my first issue of JOHO —I found out about it from the Cluetrain Manifesto. Being a bookish sort with curmudgeon tendencies, I just want you to know that I thought the book was great and I think JOHO is pretty good but MUST YOU MAKE ARCHITECT INTO A VERB?!?!?!?!?! Well, ok, now that I've go that off my chest I can go ahead and enjoy the zine.
Yes, I must. There isn't a suitabe replacement. In fact, it IMPACTS the essence of JOHO. So I won't be OBSOLETING it soon. I won't be TRANSITIONING "architect" as a verb. You'll just have PRIORITIZE it as you see fit and I'll keep ADMINSTRATING as best I can. After all, I'm sure you want JOHO to be as IMPACTFUL as possible.
There, that oughta hold you.
Scott McNiven writes:
In 'net writing', just as we use capitals (used to indicate shouting), asterisks (used in place of italics or underlining), question- and exclamation marks (btw, what are the real terms for these? In math, '!' is called "shriek"...), there should be a sign for "duh" or "that's *so* obvious."
In this article, let's use "#" since, afaik/ttbomk, it has no use other than as an abbreviation for 'number'; and the two should not easily be confused. Like the former, # may be used doubly, triply (or even multiply) to signify comments ranging from "that's obvious" (#) to "THAT IS ***SOOOOOOOOOOO*** F*CKING OBVIOUS, YOU DROOLING MORON!!!" (############)....
P.S. Please excuse my punctuation; this has been tough!
This is an excellent idea, but I think the symbology is off. Clearly "#" should be reserved for "You double-crosser, you!" Let's put our noggins together and come up with more symbolic punctuals. For example:
Yadda yadda yadda
Illegal Operation (dividing zero by zero)
^ -> ^
Well, anyway ... (onto the next point)
More signal, less noise (no-ess)
Yech. Please do better. Please.
Andrew Hinton recalls an old but still vital contest:
remember once upon a time you were accepting nominees for domain names that inadvertently sound triple-X.
Try this one, connected with the Star Wars merchandising behemoth: http://www.rebelscum.com/
If you don't get this, I ain't gonna explain it to you.
By the way, www.triplex.com was the site for a small art house theater in Great Barrington that's pronounced Tri-Plex. The site now redirects you to Tri-plex, a recording company.
And now it's time for me to redirect you to your normal lives, already in progress. Pardon the interruption.
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