For those who need to understand how the Web is transforming the way businesses work, yada yada yada
Issue: June 15, 1999
Author/Editor: David Weinberger
Central Meme: Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy
Favorite Beatle: John. Duh.
Current Personal Crisis: Have referred three times to Aristotle in the past two days; am I backsliding into philosophy? Quick, call my 12-step program!
Home page: http://www.hyperorg.com
Contact information: Click here.
Windows 2000 Greatest Product since DOS 6!: We don't need an improved desktop. We need to have a web instead of a desktop.
Microsoft KM: Microsoft makes more Knowledge Management noises. Snorts, snores or derisive laughter?
Messages in bottles: Sometimes a human voice pokes through a product, and it's thrilling.
ThirdVoice: Is this new product a spray can for vandals or the great democratizer of the Web? And how could we possibly tell?
Why search engines suck: Part of the continuing series...
Misc: Airline food and other horrid topics.
Links I like: Miscellaneous contributions to take you away from this newsletter. ("Eyeball repellant"?)
Walking the walk: Jiffy Lube takes care of its customers.
Cool tool: Little utilities that actually work.
Email: The usual fascinating missives from you, our readers.
Bogus contest: No-ops
The Millennium Arrives Early!
Charles Randolph is the 1,000th subscriber to JOHO. (Well, not exactly. If you count people who have unsubbed, we cycled through the 1,000th person a while ago, but Charles put us at 1,000 current subscribers.)
For this he gets one big wet kiss and an hour phone call from RageBoy, Official Scourge of JOHO, trying to convince him to unsubscribe.
Windows 2000 Greatest Product since DOS 6!
"I have a nice perspective on what it means to be in charge of the most important project in the history of mankind."
Brian Valentine, Windows 2000 Project Manager, quoted in Boycott Microsoft http://www.vcnet.com/bms/
The Web's happened and all that Microsoft can figure out is that we want better Web publishing tools?
Nah, we want the desktop to die.
I happen to be a fan of the Microsoft desktop. Sure, it's got its quirks and annoyances (e.g., if you rename a file to something unacceptable, it doesn't remind you what the original name was, oh, and it crashes twice a day), but it's also pretty highly evolved and Does the Job.
But what we need isn't a better desktop for managing the butt-ugly file system hidden underneath it. We need no more file systems. Everything should be a web.
I'm no stinkin' system architect, so I'm not going to pretend to give you a technical critique. I don't even know if everything has to be a web to act like one, which is what I care about.
The problem with file systems is that they think I, as a user, care about where stuff goes. Like it matters to me which of my three drives a file goes on. I care about that as little as I care about which disk sectors the file occupies.
The desktop puts a shell over the file system so that I can give interest-based names to the structures of my file system; I can name a directory "JOHO Shitcan" for the stuff I decide not to use (yes, some stuff I write doesn't make it in) and I can name a partition "Writing Stuff" (although the desktop insists on reminding me that this is "Writing Stuff (D:)"). The desktop also lets me create "shortcuts" so I can seem to have a file in more than one spot, but it thinks I care which is the shortcut and which is the original when in fact all I care about is which operations are permanent. Then there is a set of hacked up tools for letting me do things like find the original on which a shortcut is based and locate all the shortcuts that no longer have originals. Ah, a good use of my time and limited mental real estate!
I mean, jeez, Windows and Windows 2000 still can't handle a simple web page that has a pointer to a graphic or tw --. Windows doesn't have the foggiest idea that the page isn't a simple, stand-alone file.
But far worse is the impression we're given that there are two, separate types of computer spaces: desktops and The Web. We think of desktops as primarily owned by individuals on local hard drives. The Web looks like a distributed publishing system with poor rules of ownership.
No no no no no no. My desktop should just be the closest corner of the Web, my personal web site that you need special permission to see. Then there is a large set of shifting group webs to which I belong, some based around work projects, some around hobbies, some around family, some around friends, some around local government, etc. These web sites usually are protected by the only true deterrent to hacking: a profound lack of interest.
Underneath my personal web there may be tools for dealing with the actual files. In fact, the Windows desktop may be underneath my personal web, just as DOS is under Windows. So, on my personal web a web page with 15 links to graphics appears as a single object that can be moved, cut, etc., without having to see all 15 graphic files. But if I go under the hood with Windows Explorer, I can in fact see the physical location of all the component files. The aim would be, however, to make it so you just about never have to resort to the desktop view of the world any more than you currently have to check the disk clusters of files. (But then the Web view would have to include powerful tools for managing sites, not to mention copy / paste / move, etc.)
Everything should be a link to originals protected on a server (even if that server is my own hard drive). What does it mean to talk about an "original" when it comes to electronic files anyway? You're talking about the integrity of the information, not about where the magnetized bits happen to live.
Why would we want to bury Windows under a web view? Because having webs everywhere would constitute a major change in paradigm, like switching from DOS to Windows. Everything we created would be automatically part of the Web, although we could flip the switch to make it inaccessible to other people.
In the name of world peace and satori, I'm beggin' ya. One world, one web, one spirit! Give Web a chance!
The only thing keeping us apart is our desktops.
Tip o' the hat to Victor Panlilio for finding the opening quote.
Please don't write to tell me that the Windows "active desktop" already did this. The active desktop thinks we want our desktop to have some annoying web attributes; it doesn't replace the file system with a unified web view. But thanks for bringing it up.
Microsoft continues to claim to be The King of Knowledge Management, announcing new projects and initiatives. But the greatest advance we could make towards a truly KM-enabled computing environment would require either the demise or transmogrification of Windows itself...See article above
Here's what Microsoft has been up to in the past while:
It showed off "Platinum" at the TechEd developers conference in the last week of May. Platinum is the next rev of Exchange, based on NT. It provides a "Web Store" that lets objects such as files and email message be addressed via an URL (= web address). This is an important advance not because it's brilliant (document management and knowledge management systems have understood this since people were eating dirt) but because it's being built into the infrastructure. It moves us closer to a world in which you can save to the Web as easily as to your local disk, and then get all the benefits of being on the Web, including easy access from anywhere as well as common services such as searching (which Microsoft will provide via its "Tahoe" project).
Microsoft is also showing a "portal" called "Digital Dashboard" that coagulates a bunch of utilities into a single screen. Might as well call it "Digital Scab."
Far more important, Microsoft is continuing to commit to XML as a standard "save" format for its applications. Cool! And, they are building in more collaborative tools like the ability for teams to publish to a Web server. In short, Microsoft is trying to climb back into the ring with Lotus Notes by building Notes-like collaborative capabilities straight into their office applications.
Microsoft also demo'ed middleware code-named Babylon that will integrate windows apps with mainframes, Unix workstations and who knows what else. (Bet they got the code name from the "Whore of Babylon.")
While Microsoft's Web Store is important, it is a hack to make Windows and Exchange do what they should without making the deep change that really needs to be made. If we had a truly unified office / information / business / personal / group / web space which Web Store only begins to simulate knowledge would emerge ... faster than we could know it.
The moment the UPS guy left and I pulled the KayPro out of the box and turned it on this was in the early 80s I was hooked. Knowing nothing, I wanted to know everything and so, after a few months, I was poking around in the high memory of WordStar with a hex dump utility that showed me on the right the hexadecimal number of each byte, and on the left the ASCII equivalent if any. Way, way up in memory, where there seemed to be just gibberish, I was startled to find a message from one of the WordStar programmers: "NOSY ARENT YOU?"
For the 0.01% of users who would decide to page through a hex dump of the product, the programmer had purposefully inserted a personal note.
I don't remember a single line of the WordStar user documentation. I can no longer tell you what was on the on-screen menu staring me in the face for the several years I was a dedicated user. But I remember that one unexpected line clearly.
Why? Because I could see the imprint of the human hand on the product.
Another story. When I worked at Interleaf, FrameMaker was the upstart company that started to eat our lunch. We hated Frame and Frame hated us. But nothing irked me more than the fact that if you typed "interleaf" into a Frame document, their spellchecker would flag it ... and suggest "FrameMaker" as its replacement! Damn, I wish I'd thought of that. A little hostile, funny humanity was poking through.
A friend working in the technical documentation area told me recently that at a major aircraft engine manufacturer, there are pointed little jokes buried in the technical documentation - buried so deep that they made it through the QA process unnoticed.
Likewise, in a many products, if you know the secret incantation you can find a message from the developers. These "easter eggs" started as a way for developers to put a bit of themselves into a product, although these day they are not an assertion of individuality so much as a marketing requirement.
Humor is an act of human voice, an assertion of individuality in a managed, professional environment. It speaks clearly through the bland, efficient product that aims at meeting our requirements and nothing more. Behind every wooden paragraph and every beige, calibrated product are human hands and hearts.
We sent Voyager out through space with a universal message of mathematics and Bach. The math proves we are intelligent. The Bach proves we have soul. Too bad they won't know that we can laugh. [Mini-bogus-contest: What could we possibly have included to convince aliens that we have a sense of humor? Shecky Greene tapes? The Seinfeld Soup Nazi episode? Windows 1.0?]
And if this morsel of human contact buried in the op codes of WordStar stirs us, imagine what a business could do if it put human contact at the forefront of their business, rather than forcing its workers to throw bottles into the ocean in order to connect.
You can find a list of Easter Eggs at http://www.eeggs.com/
1. The Net Defect
Someone tell me who ThirdVoice's PR company is! Within a week, I've read so many emails and discussion messages about this company that you'd think they were a hot Internet start-up. Oh wait, they are.
ThirdVoice lets you post sticky-note comments on any site you choose. The flyspeck markers show up so long as you have ThirdVoice's plug-in on your machine (and are using MS IE 4.0 on Windows). Click on a flyspeck and the note is fetched off the ThirdVoice server.
The ThirdVoice site says all the right things about bringing democracy to the Web, empowering voices, etc. Yet there's something sort of creepy about it, like posting notes on the Wailing Wall (ok, so they do that) or writing in a library book. Sure, seeing the notes is voluntary, but I still find it just a bit disturbing, evincing from me an atavistic Dirty Harry response along the lines of "Go ahead, post on my web site, punk!".
More important, though, is the fact that this is an application the works against the Net Effect the idea that some phenomena get much more valuable as more people participate. With ThirdVoice, how many notes have to be posted on a site before you'll stop reading any of them? A hundred? Fifty? Five?
The problem is that as we enter this new age of massed individuals, individual voices don't scale. There are too many of us to feel free to leave our info-droppings wherever we see fit.
How do we handle this? Don't know. Answers are emerging from the primal soup, though. Discussion groups handle it by fracturing into smaller and smaller topics, and by growing good search capabilities that let us find what we need. Smart filtering is emerging. Ultimately, the answer may lie in enabling systems to know who our friends and peers are, and using that to guide what we see; I'm much more interested in reading the notes of people I already know than the scribblings of strangers. (ThirdVoice lets you form groups presumably based on common interests and sensibilities, although it's not clear that you can choose to see only messages from your group.)
It's in this area managing the masses of individuals that we'll see the new social forms emerge that will transform our very sense of society.
2. Floundering Morality
The Web is so new, that we don't even know how to fight about it. Take the brouhaha over ThirdVoice (see article above).
If you're using the ThirdVoice plug-in to a standard browser, and you go to, say, www.apple.com or www.gm.com or www.whitehouse.gov or literally any site, you see the original page and possibly a blizzard of little markers; click on a marker and the full note is displayed. The markers aren't really part of the page that the Whitehouse posted they live on a site that ThirdVoice runs but the user can't tell that. So, from the Whitehouse's point of view, their page is getting pockmarked with notes that may be racist, pornographic, or Republican ... and Apple's page may have hate mail from Windows users and ads for Linux-based escort services. On the other hand, the marketing materials from ThirdVoice talk about the democratizing of the Web and freedom of speech, enabling dialogue, and other red blooded American ideals.
So, who's right? And, more important, *how* is the argument being conducted?
I went through a bunch of emails on the topic and found the following analogies.
It's like graffiti (and so it's bad).
It's like sticky notes (and so it's ok).
It's like you painting my house a new color because you didn't like the old one. No, it's like me wearing lavender sunglasses to change the way your house looks.
It's like a book review. No, it's like a web site that does book reviews, except it puts the original content right next to the reviews. No, it's like a newspaper book review that gets pasted onto the cover of the book you're reading.
No, It's like restaurant reviews ... except the reviews are stuck on the restaurant door, except they only show up if there's a special barcode painted on the restaurant without asking the restaurant's permission ... and you need a special set of sunglasses to see them ... except what you're seeing with the magic glasses isn't really on the door of the restaurant, it just looks like it ...
The fact is that although we're taught that morals derive from principles, principles are so abstract that figuring out how they apply is non-trivial. So, almost all moral reasoning is done by analogy. We take a case that in our gut we're sure about and say it's like a case we're not yet sure about.
But we're having trouble finding cases that apply to the Web starting with copyright protection issues and moving through sticky note graffiti and even how much we should be allowed to pretend about who we are. Our moral floundering here isn't a sign of weakness. It's proof of the *profundity* of the Web's newness. And we won't get better at moral reasoning on the Web until we, as a culture, develop a richer range of Web habits ... in large part simply by living there longer.
Thanks to http://tbtf.com, one of my favorite 'zines, for being thought-provoking.
At AskJeeves (www.ask.com), ask "How much ecommerce will there be in 2000?" and it gets parsed into the following suggested questions:
Where can I find general information about the year 2000?
Where can I find a company that provides ecommerce and web hosting services?
Where can I find AiC Interchanges, which specializes in ecommerce
Where can I get a Magic 8-Ball reading?
You also get the Magic 8-Ball answer in response to the question "How many asdfs will be asdf in 2000?"
No, I don't think it's a joke. It shows up as the lead entry on a pull-down of psychic resources that includes Ouija board readings, Tarot cards, biorhythm analysis and other tools in the Industry Analyst Emergency Kit.
Lycos, "The Really Sucky Search Site," has announced it's going to partner with Intelliseek to direct users to search sites that are specific to particular topics. They're spinning this as an "expansion," when in fact it is a surrendering of Lycos' initial positioning as the engine that indexes more pages than anyone. Rajive Mathur, Lycos' director of search and multimedia services (now there's an incoherent title for you!) is quoted as saying:
"Over time, the industry has learned that just having the biggest catalog of Web sites in the world does not pay off. The real value comes from guiding users to the places where they can find the right answers."
Let me translate:
We never had the biggest catalog. In fact, in last year's study in Science, it turned out that we had by far the smallest catalog among the majors, with just 3% of the Web indexed, as opposed to Hotbot with 30%. So now our real value comes from guiding users to places where they can find the right answers ... that is, not at Lycos.
Proposed new slogan:
Lycos: We Don't Have the Answers,
but We Think We Know Someone Who Might
United Airlines now gives out on their meal trays a booklet of their airline recipes. Included are:
Heartland Sunday Braised Beef
Orange Grove Chicken
Bedeviled Brisket and Minty Torellini Alfredo with Ham
Not on the list are favorites such as Stinky Eggs with Styrofoam Bagel, Slimy Beans in Vomit Sauce, and Sorry We Served You the Freshness Towel for Dinner.
Star Wars: The Phantom Racist
Much as I liked the new Star Wars special effects, light sabers, no gratuitous character development I was disturbed by its racism. Granted that George Lucas has never, ever created a character that doesn't derive from some previous standard character and that requires more than six words to be described ("James Dean with a hotrod spaceship," "Stan Laurel as a droid," "spunky, bra-less princess," etc.), the characters in the new movie seem outrageously stereotyped.
Do you have any doubt that Jar Jar Binks is a stereotypical Jamaican? And the slave-holding, trader wasp is Middle Eastern? And the fish-headed invaders are Asian? And the ruling class all have British accents
It's not enough to have Samuel Jackson playing Mace Windu (literally "Jedi Who Rubs His Chin") to escape racism. I say we start a movement to get Will Smith to play Anakin in the next version!
Links I like
From IKM, a small KM consulting firm, comes a comprehensive and well-designed KM resource site:
Steve Telleen, JOHO reader and industry analyst for GIGA (although his business cards states these in the reverse order) has an insightful article on ecommerce at:
Ted Weinstein steers us to
where you'll find a compilation of attempts to graphically map topics and information. These conclusively prove, at least to me, that attempts to graphically map topics and information all are more confusing than refrigerator magnet poetry.
Dick Vacca recommends:
Philosophy News Service (PNS) http://www.philosophynews.com/ Updated daily, this site offers links to online philosophy news and articles from a variety of sources, though most seem to be located in the US or Australia. Recent items included pieces on the ethics of Kosovo, philosophical counseling, Noam Chomsky and Edward Said, an audio symposium on "Genes, Genesis, and God," and several notices of professional interest. Additional features at the site include PhilosophEye, a special essay with related links offering "philosophical perspectives on matters of public interest," a philosophy calendar, a Question of the Week with posted responses, and related links. The PNS also hosts a mailing list, PNS-List, which shares research and professional announcements for philosophers and philosophy students.
In response to our Feb. 5 article on stories as the highest form of knowledge, Daniel Clemens (no small surname in the story-telling biz) points us to two sources:
1. Storytelling Foundation International's Institute for Storytelling and Business Excellence. This organization was formerly, under a different name, part of the National Storytelling Association. They have a temporary website at www.scenemaker.com/anon/2030/cover.dhtml .
2. Walter Fisher's priceless (mainly because it's out of print) book, Human Communication as Narration: Toward a Philosophy of Reason, Value and Action.
Beth Israel surely isn't the only hospital to use the Web to post baby photos. But if you feel like window shopping, go to:
Awww, aren't they cuuuute? (And best of all, no ThirdVoice notes are attached yet!)
Middle World ResourcesA Compendium of Resources
Walking the Walk
Jiffy Lube is doing its part on behalf of the new frictionless economy.
According to an article by Lauren Gibbons Paul in CIO Enterprise (May 15), Jiffy Lube's system suggests that you return for an oil change 3 months after your second visit. (The first visit counts as a fluke, like stumbling onto www.hyperorgasm.com instead of www.hyperorg.com and then finding yourself on yet another pornographic spam list.) That's your basic 1:1 marketing.
Even better, Judy Scholl, the vice president of customers who initiated the system insists that all contact from customers be returned personally. In fact, she even likes to take a turn under the cars. To her credit, she says, "We de-emphasize corporate jobs and try to emphasize the importance of the front lines."
Thankfully, the article says: "In addition to receiving personalized oil-change reminders, customers are also greeted by name when they drive in, which can seem downright creepy." Right on! Who wants to feel stalked by the Jiffy Lube guy?
Regrettably, to accomplish all this, Jiffy Lube moved from mainframes to a client/server infrastructure and thus does not yet merit further discussion in the webby pages of JOHO.
For the Hyperlinked Organization
Here are two little utilities that make easy some things that should have been easy in the first place.
First, Startcop is a PC Magazine utility for Windows and NT that lets you adjust what's getting run automatically when you start up the OS. Without this, you have to navigate down to the Startup folder and, what's worse, parse the registry in search of recalcitrant self-starters that are probably the source of all your woes from the kazoo-like sounds emanating from your speakers to the fact that it hurts when you pee. Startcop not only shows you all your start-up programs, it also lets you disable 'em permanently or temporarily so you can try life without 'em and restore them if you prefer.
Second, associations.exe is a dumbass utility that shows you which file extensions are associated with which applications, something that Windows ought to make easy but instead makes hard so you'll appreciate it all the more. You can sort by extension, unlike the Windows version which only shows you the file types sorted by their "description" so to find .html files you have to know to look for "Netscape Hypertext Document" instead of "HTML file." (Associations.exe is dumb enough to sort ASCII into capitalized and uncapitalized extensions, but, oh well.)
Once you've found a file type, you can change the association (although you can't change the icon, which you can using the Windows utility).
Not rocket science, perhaps, but both of these utilities are actually utiliful. And free. Not shareware. Free.
Both are available at zdnet:
(And PC Magazine's Freedom of Association freeware is also pretty good and available at that site.)
Jim Champoux writes to insist he's not Jim Montgomery, despite the fact that I credited JM with JC's contribution to the previous issue.
It's my pleasure to issue a passive-aggressive apology, according to the terms of which I say I'm sorry in a resentful tone of voice that hints at retaliation.
Email, Arbitrary Insults, and Suspicious Hacking Coughs
Amy Wohl, Fulltime Luminary, writes:
Maybe we could require press releases be accompanied by a filled out form? Then we could throw out the press release and keep the form if we needed it.
Killer idea, Amy. In fact, here's a link to a truth-in-advertising press release form I created. We can split the royalties.
In the previous issue, constant reader Clinton "Glenn Clinton" Glenn expressed concern that he had actually understood the issue before that one. We were awash with sweat that we had actually unintentionally said something meaningful and you can imagine our relief when the following arrived from Clinton:
I see that you feel much better now. I have no idea what you are talking about in at least half of this issue. I guess I should have paid more attention to what Aristotle had to say when I was in college. On the other hand, if this is a sample of where his mind was, I would have given up on him anyway......and I thought Plato was strange! At least you guys haven't gotten into quoting Karl Marx yet!
A new objective! Excellent! I'll try to rise to the challenge, comrade!
Marianne Sawicki writes:
About your idea of tipping over a hierarchical structure, and the difference hyperlinks make (which I saw yesterday on JOHO): I was writing about the U.S. Kosovo bombing this morning, and realized that bombs fall top-down while the Serbs are marauding horizontally, carving out their own links, sort of. Making them more effective.
Interesting. But the analogy runs into trouble pretty quickly. Bottoms-up bombs are what, land mines? On the other hand, the difference between a centrally controlled army and a guerrilla band does fit the hyperlinked model pretty well, and perhaps explains the FBI's intense interest in JOHO, its finances, and, yes, its readership. (Remember, if the FBI calls on you, you have the right to remain silent, the right to a lawyer, and the right to be beaten vigorously by commie-hating, cross-dressing federal agents.)
By the way: Yo, FBI agents! you might want to take a look at the recent travel and browsing activity of one Clinton Glenn. In recent correspondence with me he expressed a fascination with Karl Marx. Say no more...
John Miller read the Cluetrain Manifesto and writes:
Your ruminations on marketing make me think (dangerous, I know, but some risks must be taken)- does the noble company indulge in any marketing at all? Can a company survive without marketing (I think Petzinger comes close to answering in the affirmative)? What the hell is the noble company anyways?
Maybe marketing becomes a conversation with the market. Is it still marketing? I dunno. What's the sound of one hand spamming?
As for the noble company, this would apparently be akin to the no-bull company, i.e., one helmed by the towering mythological figure Mithras, not spotted since the 3rd century BC in Thermes, well, except by RageBoy who he thinks it might have been his neighbor's cat anyway.
Re: your latest JOHO, isn't turning Knowledge into Information what management does?
Seems to me that every time I get CEOish - like when I start networking, attending conferences and venturing CEO type opinions to industry analysts - I end up actually trying to *manage* my staff. My experience with this is that trying to quantify and measure and *manage* what they do really mucks up productivity, pisses everybody off, and gets me in trouble. For the most part, I've stopped doing this. Now what I focus on is hiring right, making sure everyone is resourced properly to get their jobs done, and checking in periodically to see if we're hitting our agreed upon targets.
What this means at a personal level is that most of the time I'm working hard to stay out of their way. This lets me catch a movie every now and then and gives me the time to read and respond to stuff like your Journal - which gets me thinking CEOish again and starts the cycle anew. :-0
And does this mean I'm on the clue train? And if so, is the train going round and round or is it actually heading somewhere? Can you give me a simple statistic spread out over time that tells me something beyond 'Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus'? If not, let's make one up. My thinking is that being it's the web, if enough of us want a Santa one will appear. Call it the magic of frictionless free markets.
The aim of management is y'all should listen carefully to avoid surprises. One way to do this is to know everything that will happen. Since that job's already been taken by Larry Ellison, the sole remaining option is to have only one way of understanding things. Then you can respond to every event and every person in the same way, achieving unheard of efficiencies, albeit it in a universe totally of your own making. Congratulations, you are now executive material!
The rest of the management process consists of bending all corporate efforts to enforce a state of denial, via company meetings, press releases, and overwork, creating a self-reinforcing perceptual system that would be clinically described as schizophrenic, i.e., so hermetically sealed that not only can't reality intrude but every anomoly is in fact interpreted as further evidence of the truthfulness of the beliefs. This seems to work for Marxists, fundamentalists of every stripe, Freudian analysts, and all males.
Layton Payne writes, apropos of something or other:
"Words are but symbols of symbols, therefore twice removed from reality."
Keep up the fun and thanks for exposing how Aristotle contaminated thinking for thousands of years. An amazing feat! E-Prime solves that problem.
Fascinating site. It recommends that any sentence that uses "is" as a copula should be translated in such a way that the "is" is no more. Here are some examples from the page:
ENGLISH: Marty is an asshole.
E-PRIME: Marty frequently says things that make me angry.
ENGLISH: Religious fanatics like David Koresh are dangerous. (Makes the implicit assignment "David Koresh was a religious fanatic.")
E-PRIME: The government considered David Koresh, whose followers believed he was God, a danger to their authority. (Talks about who holds what beliefs.)
E-prime is clearly the work of a good-hearted crypto-fascist control freak. Oops, I mean E-prime frequently has me talking like an jerk.
Jim Meyer comments on the "personal crisis" that begins every online version of Joho, but which I strip from the email version. In the previous issue, I noted that my personal crisis was in a box labeled meta-data, and that the comment itself was meta-meta-data, etc.
Your personal crisis on "meta-meta-meta data" was completely explained as a necessary condition of systems which are by design consistent, but then incomplete. Truths exist which cannot be proved.
Godel made it clear earlier this century, that no system is complete and it requires a bigger, more comprehensive system to explain the current system. But then that bigger system is not complete and so yet another, incomplete system is required.
We all know the "whole numbers" aren't enough. Fractions aren't enough. Rationale numbers aren't enough. And as a graduate in mathematics, I know irrational numbers aren't enough and complex numbers aren't enough. And Godel proved, what we all know..."it's never enough". Hence, the rationale for metasystems and metaworlds becomes clear.
You'll be surprised to know that there was a period of ten minutes in which I actually understood the formal proof of Godel's theorem: our logic prof spent a 2-hr session reconstructing it, from memory, over the landscape of three blackboards (back when blackboards were black), ending with a chalky Q.E.D., the three periods at the very end sounding like nails being driven to hold the whole contraption down.
I held the proof in my head until a woman in a tight sweater walked by, and I knew that some day that woman would be my wife. Well, that didn't work out, but my RAM had been completely over-written anyway.
Frank Schmidt offers the following etiology of knowledge:
at first there is noise, then i decide what noise is useful and i call that data, then i decide what data is useful and i call that information, then i decide what information is useful and i call that knowledge, then i decide what knowledge is useful and i call that wisdom, then i decide what wisdom is useful and i call that enlightenment
so.. is human enlightenment the ultimate goal of the web? of all those grinding cpu's processing noise/data/information/knowledge/wisdom?
I actually think there's a disconnect between info and the rest of the chain. "Information" is stuff that we massage into a shape that computing apps can accept traditionally, fielded data that fits nicely into rows and columns. The spur for Knowledge Mgt is, I believe, the recognition that for all our info, we don't have more *understanding.* Understanding isn't, in my view, yet more info or better info. It's something else. (Hey, don't ask me! You know what it is. I'm not using the term in any special way.) So, I think the chain breaks there.
As to the ultimate goal of the web, I'd reply, what's the ultimate goal of the alphabet?
Empirically, of course, we'd have to say, based purely on the evidence of statistic analysis, that the ultimate goal of the Web is Pamela Anderson.
Frank also writes:
winograd and flores, somewhere around 1986, wrote "understanding computers and cognition" and seemed to have concluded that human collaboration is the real name of the cpu game well before the web actually made things really start to go in that direction - they had a lot to say about something called "throwness" which, i think, has something to do with cognition and knowledge and learning and throwing things
Flores was a Heideggerian and in Heidegger "thrownness" refers to the fact that we find ourselves already thrown into a context (a world, actually) and thus don't have the luxury of starting from scratch, building completely rational world-views, escaping from our historical position, etc.
I hope that's sufficient to give the false impression that I've read the Winograd/Flores stuff.
Dan Clemens, after recommending books on narratives, writes:
Something just clicked as I went to the cluetrain site (www.cluetrain.com) Fisher says in his book that, "narration is the foundational, conceptual configuration of ideas for our species." This explains (or is one key part of an explanation) the growth of communities the language they speak is narration (they have a human voice, as the cluetrain says).
It is certainly the case that in my family and my wife's family (and I suspect just about all families) a lot of what ties us together is our participation in the old stories. And to become accepted into a family is to learn the stories. And, at the other end of the spectrum, to be an American means to know the stories of how we were founded, etc. That's going to integrate you into the country faster than memorizing the Bill o' Rights. Basically, a story is "what's worth remembering," isn't it? So, yeah, sounds like it should be a big part of what holds a community together insofar as communities necessarily grow from a shared past.
Greg Wallis is like totally unhappy with my dissing of PNG:
I'm sure you're a nice guy but you've got to be crazy. Seriously!
The ping graphics format is without doubt far superior to either gif or jpeg. Okay, anything new takes a little while to become accepted. Consider this though:
- Macromedia, Corel and other big players are taking ping VERY seriously and spending large sums of money integrating it with their products and also promoting it
- Web designers LOVE ping and will therefore start to use it in their pages because 4 series browsers and above can display it
- The compression algorithms are far superior and there is a flexible 8 bit alpha channel
I said in the article that it's a useful, well-intentioned standard, but can we honestly say that it's catching on? PNG will happen. But it's taken longer than it should and will take longer still.
In the previous issue, I said that a certain Hollywood director whose initials are "SS" was negotiating with us Cluetrain authors for the film rights to our upcoming book. Chris "RageBoy" Locke (http://www.rageboy.com/index2.html), fellow Cluetrain author and rascally 'zine editor, responded:
HEY! you never told any of US you were talking to Steven Seagal!!!
Ah, my secret ambition has been unmasked. When my life story is filmed, I would like Steve Seagal, Jean Claude Van Damme or Linus Torvalds to play me.
My article on the "Y2U" bug the fact that Unix systems will time out in 2038 drew more mail than it warrants. Isn't it ever so?
I suggested that one way out would be to recompile the errant code on 64-bit processors. Not so fast, warns Bob Morris, esteemed U Mass professor:
Don't count on it. Just because there /could/ be enough bits doesn't mean there /will/ be. In fact in the non-unix world, there were enough bits for 4 character years all along. Anybody who asserts that just recompiling on a 64-bit system solves the problem is asserting that they know that in any unix system whatsoever, nothing else than things which use the C library time buffers can possibly have a 32-bit time lurking in them. But it is trivial to write code that will intentionally circumvent such an assumption, just as it was to write code with two digit years. Do your informants claim that there is no such code in any unix system anywhere?
My informant has since been busted on a morals charge involving giving two bits to Eunuchs. I'm sorry I brought the whole thing up...
Gordon Benett, editor of Intranet Design Magazine (http://idm.internet.com) for whom I write an occasional column, comments on the Y2U bug:
Wired not long ago did a story on assorted post-millenial worries, of which this - the so-called Unix End of Time - was but one. My own favorite was "Y10K." When those four digits roll over, baby, we're gonna party like it's 9999.
And here's another critical date for your calendar: GPS Rollover, August 22, 1999. The geosynchronous satellites that run the Global Positioning System measure time in weeks, and this August the count reaches 1023 from the GPS origin (Jan 5, 1980). Since international commerce relies on GPS timekeeping to calculate interest to the millisecond, a 20-year burp might cause markets to crash, wars to break out and Swatch to buy Microsoft.
Why 1023? Gordon explains for those of us who foolishly insist on thinking in Base 10:
1023 = 2^10 - 1
According to Wired, the GPS clocks rollover (to zero) at 1024, suggesting they used 10-bit counters, which was par for 1980. I think we can protect ourselves by not hiking deep in the Maine wilderness this August with only a GPS locator for navigation.
If only the problem were that easy to fix! I personally use a GPS on an hourly basis just to tell my ass from a hole in the ground. As of August, who knows what sort of irresponsible crap may show up in JOHO. You've been warned!
Bogus contest: No-Ops
It's long been rumored that some elevator "close door" buttons are in fact no-ops, i.e., they don't really do anything. (The phrase "no-op" comes from assembly language programming where it refers to an instruction that does nothing. No-ops are used sometimes as placeholders for subroutines yet to be written, to affect timing, or to bloat code that's being paid for by the line.)
It is certainly the case that extendable antennae on cellular phones are only there because men aren't happy unless they can whip it out. Unextended antennae work just as well.
This led us to think about the presence of Web no-ops, stuff put in just to give us a sense of control. Here are some suspected Web no-ops:
"Don't send me email" checkboxes on site registration forms
Unsubscription instructions in spam
"Please notify webmaster of any problems you have with this page"
Surely you have your own favorite no-ops. Send 'em in. You won't win a prize or anything ... which I guess makes the Bogus Contest a no-op itself!
(Next issue's lead article: "This Article Is a Recursive No-Op".)
The previous puzzle asked you to recast a classic as a modern business book.
Robbert Baruch (yes, he spells his name with two B's, making his nickname "Bbob") :
Classic: Politeia, Plato
New Title: Who's the boss
Subtitle: Why you are right and in the right position if you're smart, and democracy in decision-making is counterproductive.
John Miller suggests:
Old title: I Ching
New title: The Power for Change Lies in You!
Subtitle: Use terse, general language to give yourself the appearance of wisdom and vision and to empower your employees to do your work for you.
Plato, the Book of Changes ... ah, JOHO readers are an educated lot, soaked in classics, comfortable with canons to the left of them, canons to the right, forward they charge, the past the path on which they tread, time itself the landscape through which they move, the nooks and hahas formed of the occurrences of lives, the mountains made of the events of nations, the great seas bounding the eons as the frigid Styx demarks the moral realm, all progress measured in rambles that unfractally form patterns from senseless steps, not the least of which is letting a 'zine meander on one paragraph too long. Sigh and goodnight.
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