Hyperlinked Organization  Title

For those who need to understand how the Web is transforming the way businesses work, yada yada yada

Meta Data

Issue: March 15, 1999  
Author/Editor: David Weinberger  
Central Meme: Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy  
Favorite Beatle: John. Duh.  
Current Personal Crisis: Bought a new frying pan ... and realized it's probably the last one I'll buy before I die.
Home page: http://www.hyperorg.com  
Contact information: Click here



Diversity and the Web Lunch Table: Will the Web let dogs and cats play together, overcoming mutual prejudice? Or will it let cats find other cats and dogs find other dogs?
Filling out forms for XML: XML, the Great Document Liberator, will actually have us filling out more forms than ever.
Buzz Soup: OBI: Open Buying on the Internet, a standard explained.
Xerox: The Whatever Company: Knowledge management continues to prosper by not having a thought in its chipper little head
Microsoft's KM: Do Microsoft's leaked plans to put KM everywhere validate KM? Ha!
The Myth of Human Fallibility, Part 1: A new series featuring people and companies who never, ever make mistakes.
Tag line evolution: Sun's statements are eerily consistent.
Linux Vulcanization: News from the Linux and hardened rubber front.
Links I Like: Miscellaneous happy spots to visit
Email, Arbitrary Insults, and Suspicious Hacking Coughs: The usual wonderful email from readers.
The Bogus Contest: Personal Mission Statements


It's a JOHO World After All

I'm making myself sick with the self-promotion I do under the title "It's a JOHO World ...". So, until I come up with a better way to inflate my own standing, I'll just say here that KMWorld and Intranet Design Magazine both run columns of mine, and AIIM's Inform is using a bunch of stuff. Because I'm still so impressed with myself about the NPR gig, though, I will note in this space when they run a commentary. Ok?

People who really want to know more can apply for position of David's Mom, the previous occupant having come to a sorry end a few years ago.




Diversity and the Web Lunch Table

Note to our non-American readers: "Diversity" is a code-word we use to stand for avoiding the incredible coincidences that result in senior management consisting only of white men. I mean, what are the chances! But it does happen occasionally here in the States and maybe even other parts of the globe. Go figure!

Let's assume we're all decent people and want a diverse workforce and a diverse management team. Then, why don't we have 'em? And will the Web help or hurt?

A couple of weeks ago, a CEO of a small company raised the diversity issue with me. As he builds his company, he wants to ensure that the currently white-male team changes its stripes, so to speak. I suggested that the only way to do that is to hire people he doesn't like. This advice, obviously, can only be agreed to by not actually thinking about it.

This CEO is sincere, well-intentioned and genuinely disturbed by institutional racism and sexism. Even so, when the doors are closed and he's relaxing with his white male management team, the atmosphere is that of Delta Tau Techno, with sexist joking comments (nothing outrageous — just the usual male discomfort with women), one-upping banter, and lots of bravado about kicking other companies' asses.

So, now we come to the Web where no one knows you're a dog, male, white, female, short, ugly, raven-haired, skinny, brown, hairy-backed, Moslem, beautiful, pimpled, obese, one-armed, omnisexual, naked, Baptist, lisping, muscular, firm-gripped or Keanu Reaves. Sounds like just the thing for diversity!

Well, yes and no.

Yes, because for the first time we can have communities of interest that are founded purely on interests, without any of the superficialities that distract us small-minded humans.

No, because if there really are differences among groups, then in the frictionless world of the Web, it will be easier than ever for groups of like-minded people to cluster. But this clustering will exclude the unlike-minded, thus tending against diversity. We'll end up eating at lunch tables with people just like us (virtually speaking).

This is the ineluctable result of two premises:

First, there are real differences among groups. That is, some generalizations are true. (Remember, generalizations are true if they are generally true; they do not have to be true in every case.) Women and men generally do not approach problems the same way. Americans often have values and expectations divergent from Europeans, Japanese, etc.

Second, people value those who are like them. (Beware: this is another generalization.) A group of white men who are sincerely trying to diversify while admitting "qualified" women and people of color will not feel comfortable and will not value precisely what is different about the people they want to bring on board. So, they may achieve diversity in looks but not in thought, opinion, values and action.

So, how can we achieve real diversity on the Web and in our organizations?

One of our two premises has to give. Either we decide that all people are basically the same or we make an effort to value what we don't value and to like people we don't like.

The first premise ain't going anywhere. It requires us to put our hands over our eyes and stop our ears with wax so we can believe that everyone is like us. How convenient. And then we're not achieving diversity but merely willfully decreasing our awareness of difference.

The second premise can be overcome by the principle of sympathy which says that in the history of the world, it is always a good thing to include wider and wider groups of people (and other animals) in the circle of beings we care about and value. You never go wrong by extending your circle of sympathy.

So, concretely, what do you do? You fall back on the truisms that have escaped from billions of lips in our time on earth: Try to find the good in people. You bastards.

You might also want to pursue some Diversity Tips:

Don't flame. We're trying to learn that not everyone who fundamentally disagrees with us is a stupid jerk. But flamers are ashholes, disagreeing just to get attention. So, don't flame.

Come on, everyone, out of the closet! We're never going to learn to love people like you unless we find out that you're a person like you.

Laugh at yourself. You are a really, really ridiculous creature.

If we can't learn to like — and learn to learn from — people we don't like, then there's no hope. So, keep hope alive! Take someone you detest to lunch today!

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Filling out forms for XML

Just as television diminished theatre, and cars diminished the scenery through which we drive, XML — certainly an important innovation — will diminish an important part of our current experience: writing documents. Instead, we'll be filling in more and more forms.

Imagine that you are using XML to drive an application for lawyers so that they can write up their notes on client meetings in a way that will make the notes searchable and reusable. Right now, the lawyers are using Word and writing them up any way they want. But you want to make sure that all these notes start with a client number, the date, the time, the length of the meeting, whether it was billable, the case number, etc.

XML lets you do this because it is an SGML application, so you can write a Document Type Definition (DTD) that not only specifies the tags you need to capture this data, but also the rules for what will count as a valid — acceptable — meeting notes document.

But how are you going to get your lawyers to follow the dictates of the DTD? Even if you give them explicit instructions, some of them are going to decide that before they write in the client name, they need to insert a note that the client is a subsidiary of some other company. So, they do so whether or not you want them to. (By the way, if this happens a lot, you designed your DTD wrong.)

You could now start writing Word macros that keep the lawyerse from doing the wrong thing. But you are now in effect writing your own SGML editor. You should first pluck out your own eyeballs and replace them with lemon-soaked golf balls before you agree to such an undertaking.

So, what do you do? Easy: You give your lawyers a form. You may design the form in Word or go with one of the dedicated forms packages (which are starting to output in XML). But a form makes it much harder for an author to stray.

Forms are the way we constrain writers. XML lets organizations benefit from structured, predictable documents. Thus, XML breeds forms.


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Buzz Soup: OBI

The big advantage of the Open Buying on the Internet standard is that it's not EDI (Electronic Data Interchange). And that may be enough to make it stick.

EDI's been around since money became popular and it has a bully's reputation. It enables a company and its supply chain partners to automate transactions by sending one another simple electronic messages that say things (in code) like:

Msg #33: "I'd like to buy 144 ballpeen hammers, my good man."

Msg #145: "Excellent! I happen to have 144 on hand. They cost $2 each but I can let you have a gross for $240."

Msg #122: "That is excellent news. Are they left-handed?"

Msg #289: "Dash it all. They're not."

Msg #205: "Just kidding. Send me a gross of your very ripest."

Msg #323: "Consider it done."

This type of exchange, which can take place tens of thousands of times a day for a major retailer, works very well but is durned expensive. The EDI systems are a bear to install and run over expensive leased lines. Worse, if you want to do EDI with your partners, you have to get your suppliers to adopt the same EDI system that you use.

Enter the Web. What does the Web do superbly well? Connectivity and standards. Further, the Web scales well, so it can handle a huge volume of small transactions.

So, the OBI consortium (www.openbuy.com) has built a standard that leverages the Web for business-to-business electronic commerce. It uses the EDI messaging structure, but wraps it in HTML so that all your suppliers need is a Web connection and the URL of your OBI server. The information about pricing and availability can be fed in automatically from your backend systems, and final payment can be handled through an outside and trusted payment authority.

OBI faces competition and overlap from XML EDI and the new cXML, but it also has big names like American Express and Netscape behind it. It's got a snowball's chance of surviving. And if not, something else will. It's too obvious a use of the Web...

  dividing line

Xerox: The Whatever Company

"We are thinking about being the knowledge-sharing company," he [Greg Cholmondeley, Xerox DocuShare product manager] said. "That's what you use documents for." Intranet World (Feb. 22)

"We are thinking of becoming the knowledge-storing company," said Craig Flarney, product manager for the IronDrawers 1000 line of filing cabinets. "That's what you use filing cabinets for."

"We are thinking of becoming the knowledge-restoration company," said Maria Klopp, product manager for the LikeNew line of finish restoration products. "People refinish their desks so they can do more and better knowledge."

"We are thinking of become the knowledge-occasioning company," said Felicia Marcus, Charmin' SoftSqueeze product manager. "People often do their best thinking while wiping their ass."

"We are thinking of become the knowledge-nourishing species," said Thad 10829563, a plankton swimming in the North China Sea. "Knowledge is at the top of the food chain, and there wouldn't be a top without a bottom."


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Microsoft's KM

Microsoft has let leak its "plan" to enter the KM space. An upgrade to Site Server, code named "Tahoe," will supposedly add document management, version control, workflow and searching. Some technology code-named "Polar" is supposed to add collaboration, workflow and "document tracking," using technologies from SQL and Exchange Servers.

The KM vendors immediately, of course, all issued press releases, bravely saying: "Microsoft's commitment to this field validates the KM market and the need of major corporations in today's competitive environment to aggressively embrace these new solutions no matter what the price and how murky the benefit."

But, in fact, Microsoft's entry into this field doesn't validate so much as denigrate it. These non-announcements are less like a serious endorsement and more like a "KM? Yeah, we do that too. Whatever." They're intended to do nothing but make it harder for Lotus to publish a checklist with a big red check in the KM box for them and a big fat nothing for Microsoft.

Forget the fact that Microsoft can't even get its leaks right — they announce workflow twice and count document management, document tracking and document version control as three separate things. The real issue is that document management is harder than it seems. That's why Oracle has failed three times to offer a credible document management product even though they'd love to build it into their "operating system."

In short, here's the bottom line, as they like to say where they have writing confused with general accounting:

Microsoft's KM efforts validate the KM market the way Microsoft Bob validated the artificial intelligence market.

(For a spin that's a little less jaundiced about KM in general, but is still pretty spicy reading, take a look at a column by Jim Montgomery of KMWorld: http://www.kmworld.com/feature.articles/index_articles.cfm?content=MicrosoftHere)


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The Myth of Human Fallibility, Part 1

We at JOHO are proud to introduce a new feature in which we discover people who are infallible or who work for companies that are. As we lesser mortals know all too well, most of us are full of faults and succeed as much by luck as by our talent and God-given good looks. But then there are the few who have achieved perfection and won't ever stray from it. Well, if you were perfect, would you ever give it up? Good for you!

Number one in our series is is Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com (which is, by the way, a prominent member of the JOHO Affiliate Program) who was asked by PC Week (March 8) a softball final question in an interview: " What would you change about Amazon? "

Bezos' reply:

"I do think it is the leader in e-commerce. The thing I would change is how long it takes the PC to turn on. The time it takes is completely unnecessary."

By the way, those who are looking to short Amazon stock should take heart from Bezos' strong reaction to the initial question "Will Amazon become a Web department store?"

"I disagree with that premise. We're trying to innovate in the electronic commerce arena. We ... can't be pigeon-holed. We defy easy analogy. It's not a vision that can be communicated in a sound-bite. Come and discover and buy anything online."

Hey, Jeff, we go to Amazon because it's a friggin' book store, ok? Try to stay on message, ok. It's not a really complicated vision. In fact, it's sort of like a sound-bite.

(And, if Amazon's a place where you can buy anything, isn't that pretty much what we mean by the phrase "department store"?)


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Tag line evolution

Scott McNealy, 1987:

"The network is the computer."

Scott McNealy, 1999:

"You already have zero privacy — get over it."

When JOHO confronted Mr. McNealy with this juxtaposition, he replied:

"Juxtaposition? Wouldn't the two statements have to be different to be in juxtaposition. Hey, get over it."


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Linux Vulcanization

There's too much Linux news for us to pretend to capsulize it. Basically, everyone who hates Microsoft now officially loves Linux, including cabbies stiffed by Bill Gates and two ex-product managers who sold their shares too early.

The big news is that there's now an attempt to agree on a Linux Standard Base (LSB) to ensure that applications are portable across different Linux distributions. The idea comes from Transmeta, the incredibly vaguely named ("Acme Zenith Corp.") employer of Linus "The Originator" Torvalds, but is now being embraced by Intel, Silicon Graphics, HP, Compaq and IBM — and by four major Linux distributors.

But the real reason to care about this is that it enables us to cite Bob Young, CEO of RedHat who was quoted in PC Week (March 8) as follows: "LSB is a valuable exercise, but over time, we've always seen Linux merge back to one standard without the assistance of some overriding standards body. That Unix-like vulcanization doesn't happen in the open-source world."

Ah, I hate it when a standard turns into hardened rubber — resilient while inflexible. Alternatively, I hate it when standards cross-breed with Leonard Nimoy.


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Links I Like

Steve Telleen of GIGA points us to:

where Bloomberg of the Bloomberg Report opines on why everyone will always be eager to pay him $1,200/month for his news feed. Yeah, and in the year 2005 we'll still be paying $18 for a CD...

By the way, if he lost the final G of his name, would anyone ever have taken him seriously? The Bloomber Report? I don't think so.

Jerry Jongerius sends us to:


which shows you not only a list of routers standing between you and your Web destination but a map of the globe with lines drawn to show the geophysical location of the routers, giving you a warm glow of One Worldism.

The ubiquitous Jim Montgomery sends us the following from The Industry Standard:

Wondering where you rank in the media's pecking order? If you write for online pubs, and you believe PC Mag's gregarious John Dvorak, you're basically a bottom-feeder.

Wait a minute, we're lower on the ladder than John Dvorak, a man who writes multiple monthly columns about how Intel's next generation microcode will blow goats, because his self-centered, whining words are on paper and our self-centered, whining words are on totally recyclable electrons?

Well, I guess he's right.

In response to the ubiquitous posting that "President Clinton of the USA" anagrams to "To copulate he finds interns," an article by Timothy Noah and Bruce Gottlieb in Slate points to an anagram server at http://www.anagramgenius.com/ that tells us that the same phrase also anagrams to:

"Nice flaunter, pot dishonest"

"Counterfeit dishonest plan"

"Rats! Telephone disfunction"


"'Let's fornicate' not punished!"

BTW, shouldn't that first one be "Nice pot, dishonest flaunter!"?

Apropos of just about nothing, Mark Schenecker sends along the following hoary anagrams:

Dormitory Dirty Room
Evangelist Evil's Agent
Desperation A Rope Ends It
The Morse Code Here Come Dots
Slot Machines Cash Lost in 'em
Alec Guinness Genuine Class
A Decimal Point I'm a Dot in Place
Eleven plus two Twelve plus one
To be or not to be: that is the question, whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. In one of the Bard's best-thought-of tragedies, our insistent hero, Hamlet, queries on two fronts about how life turns rotten.

And Astronomers = Moon starers. I am certainly looking forward to the next lexical fad to hit JOHO, which will probably be palindromes. (Or should I say I'm looking forward and backward to it...)

Greg Cavanagh passes long these two links:

www.x86.org for "awesome processor info," and

http://www.x86.org/News/HotNews.html   "The register files at the bottom are interesting." Well, everything is interesting if you care enough.

Middle World Resources

A Compendium of Resources
Walking the Walk  

Lockheed Martin is using an extranet to manage the design of a new fighter aircraft. All the suppliers involved — eventually 200 companies — have to move to online documentation if they haven't already done so. (They also are being asked to stop buttoning the top button of their sport shirts, but that's just for aesthetic reasons.)

The result is that instead of sending papers around, there is a permanent pool of information (don't forget to shower before you enter) that is available to everyone with permission. In fact, Lockheed Martin's customer for the project, The US Air Force, also is able to watch the project develop and thus can influence design decisions early on, such as where the cup holders should go.

Lockheed Martin is using Open Text Livelink for the system. Open Text is my alma mater, but JOHO remains an equal opportunity plugger and you can rest assured that no "money" has "changed hands."

Cool Tool
For the Hyperlinked Organization

Keith Dawson's newsletter, tbtf (http://tbtf.com), points us to one of the coolest spots on the web: http://www.bookmarklets.com. Here you'll find a bunch of ultra-slim JavaScript utilities that you save as a bookmark and execute from your bookmark list. Each is under 256 characters (the maximum size for a bookmark) but lets you do some pretty useful things, such as:

Hide the background image of a page you're visiting

Put a temporary bookmark within the page so you can jump around

Place selected text into an editable window

See the size of the page in terms of the number of windows it'd take to display it

There are dozens more at this site, all free. And even if they weren't useful, the idea is just too cool. 


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Email, Arbitrary Insults, and Suspicious Hacking Coughs


The always affable, remarkably beautiful, and under-attorneyed Peter Merholz replies to last issue's running of a frame-jacking contest entry from him:

Um. David. I sent you no such email.

Of course he didn't! No no no. It was from Gershom Bazerman. JOHO apologizes profusely to both of you, without, of course, acknowledging any blame, responsibility or damages.

And while we're noting the oddly endearing fallibility of JOHO, last issue I wrote:

"They site Forrester research as follows:"

Jeff Mann replies:

It is a sign of the faith I have in your publication that I actually read this as trying to say how they had put Forrester stuff on a web site, instead of citing it.

Yeah, that's what I meant. And make me #2 in the series Myths of Infallible People.


The real Peter Merholz writes, in relation to the special issue on virtual vs. real reality:

If you go to http://www.magicaldesk.com/, you'll note that they offer you "your personal virtual desktop," which is a service that allows you to manage core personal computer needs—email, address book, calendar, file storage, file viewing, etc—through a Web site. I visited the site a few times before I realized the semantic leaping of their phrase "virtual desktop." Think about it for a sec. By virtual, they mean, "over the Web," and in doing so suggest that your computer's desktop is "real." Ahem.

Does this mean HCI people will stop worrying over the verisimilitude of the "desktop metaphor" as it's no longer metaphorical?

And since you may already have a virtual desktop, i.e., a scrollable desktop that is larger than its viewing portal, this would be a virtual virtual desktop. This is becoming a virtually useless term. Really.

By the way, you can read the original article at:

Clinton Glenn also responds to our article on virtuality vs. reality:

Are you saying Monopoly money isn't real? Tell that to your friends and/or family after you've wiped out their last Monopoly dollar, kicked them out of their plastic houses and hotels, and taken their last deed to Ventnor Ave. Look at the disgust for you on their faces and tell me my Monopoly money isn't real.

If we take John Austin's point, then we only talk about "real" Monopoly money if we are drawing a distinction with some sort of illusory Monopoly money. Monopoly money might be said to be real compared with imitation Monopoly money but toy compared with real currency. And while there's counterfeit real money, is counterfeit Monopoly money a possibility?

Just one of the many faux-Wittgensteinian questions I used to ponder when we lived on Ventnor Ave. — the real Ventnor Ave. (No, not all the houses are green.)

We also received a reply to the virtuality-reality article from Marty Heyman:

The present writer humbly submits this in hopes of not aggravating the Doctor's aggravated nervous state. The article seems based on an assumption that is quite difficult to accept: digital things are accurate or trustworthy "records," in the sense that a birth-certificate or automobile title or passport or airline ticket is accepted as a "record." While any of the above can be forged, the incidence of such forgeries is relatively infrequent. It's hard to do a passable forgery and most people lack the patience, tools, and skills.

Not so with digital artifacts. It is relatively trivial to modify a digital artifact unless they are sealed in some signature format. Thus most people have no idea if a document is a "record" of some consequence or if it is one of the many insignificant versions of some file of that name. Aside from signed messages, we are unaware of any widely accepted technology that creates a "record" from digital content that can be reliably transmitted and provably correct content retrieved. This would seem to be one of the weak spots on the road to the cultural shift you're (rightly, in our opinion) advocating.

Marty goes on to do the Full Disclosure thang, pointing out that his company is working in this area. And God Speed to him and his ilk, for digital records still are (in many instances and many ways) the "real" record of which the paper version is merely a print out. The fact that these digital records aren't very secure is the type of fact we need to keep ignoring if we're going to get this digital economy off the ground.

Sir Kyle of Patrick writes:

I found that hyperlinked fiction page ... (http://web.uvic.ca/~ckeep/elab.html) very ironic. It's an awful page, just because the people who wrote it have no concept of context for their links. Excuse me? These are supposedly people well versed in the literary theory behind hyperlinks, and here they made a page less navigable than half of Geocities...

Yes, it's a bad site for interesting reasons. Too many links, not enough context, not enough structure. I defy anyone to willingly visit more than 5 pages of this site.

...Or is it .... The Future???

Tony McKinley, sends us the following Fun Fact:

Scanning service bureaux are noticing an increased demand for scanning emails printed on paper which then need to be OCR'd and cleaned up back into ASCII.

Now *there's* a job breeding secretaries running their fingers longingly along the business end of their letter openers.

Ted Froberg sends us the following in our series "Satanism: The Other White Meat":

Your declaration of "open season" on IBM's Global Services ad (People who think. People who do. People who get it.) reminded me of an ad I recently saw in the latest issue of Discover Magazine (I believe it's the March issue). The double-page spread appearing on pages 2 and 3 is an ad for an upcoming ABC television special titled The Century with Peter Jennings.  The ad features a strange graphic image of Earth's full disk. Why strange?  If you rotate the page 45 degrees counter-clockwise you'll notice the cloud patterns form an eerie image of a human skull just above the letters ur in the word Century. ...

Yes, that's Ur Skull, The Scourge of Y2K! Flee before it's too late!

David Isenberg sends the following:

OTTAWA, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Finance Minister Paul Martin said on Tuesday he was expanding efforts to make Canada the most wired nation on earth with hundreds of millions of dollars in new technology spending, including establishing experimental "smart" communities among Natives and in the Arctic.

Among new initiatives, Canada will spend C$60 million over the next three years to set up one so-called "Smart Community" demonstration project in each of the 10 provinces, in the North and in a Native Indian community.

. . .

One government official said such projects could involve experiments that would allow police departments to electronically notify a household if a child had gone missing or social workers could develop digital voice mail to stay in touch with the homeless on the streets. . . .

I can see it now . . . "Buddy, can you spare a micropayment?"

You have to be concerned when the examples are so farfetched. It reminds me of the mid-80s when the PC manufacturers were telling us that there'd be a PC (i.e., a $5,000 green-and-black PC-AT) in every home because you could tell it how many people you were having for dinner and it'd print out recipes with just the right amounts of ingredients! This was back before we understood that the real driving force behind the computerization of the American household would turn out to be a little somethin' called Pamela Anderson.

A couple of people forwarded the following to me:

Dear Internet User:

To start let me say this, I'm tired of the porn email in my email box and all that click here crap. ... I've spend [sic] seven hours or more a day for the last two months researching the topic of Spam on the Internet.... In this time I have practiced everything I have learned in blocking this crap mail they call professional advertising and in the last few weeks I have not yet received one piece of Spam. ...

....To order my detailed report and provide your help in fighting spam send $15 to the address below and lets [sic] all, together, put a stop to spam once and for all.

K.C. Smith
10 East Louisiana
Evansville, IN 47711

In fact, Paul Dupuy writes:

Not sure how this should be categorized: "very annoying, recklessly stupid Spam", frame-jacking, or both.

I'm not sure either, but since I'm now getting spammed with anti-spam spam, I am certain that we've entered the Monty Python Hall of Recursion.

David Horwatt writes about our article on using narrative as a way to communicate knowledge:

It reminded me of my early days in direct sales. Our managers made sure we heard the Damon Runyon stories from every race horse in the company. We endlessly discussed the ruthlessness of the world, the loneliness and courage of the entrepreneur, the bond we had with Natty Bumpo and Don Corleone. Once out on the trail, loaded up with sales caffeine, we told incredible lies with such conviction (no pun intended) to any of the apartment dwellers we could get to listen.

Great. Just great. If JOHO has managed to make the world even a little bit more susceptible to lying salespeople, well, then we'll end our days with a smug smile of satisfaction.

From Bryant Duhon, editor of AIIM's Inform magazine:

After you read a buttload of blather, I've arrived at the following point of view. KM can be boiled down to Sesame Street wisdom — sharing is fun, sharing is good, sharing is caring. You think I'm off-base with that?

Hey hey hey! We won't have any of that purple Teletubby talk around here! Sharing is hard. Sharing is long and hard. And mean. Sharing is sweet vengeance. Yeah, that's more like it!

Jim Montgomery sends the following, for no discernible reason:

Is there a real difference between backdating a check, and the practice of forward-dating a print magazine? (e.g. People Magazine claims it's for the week of....next week.) One is immediately recognized as unethical, or at least kinda shifty. (I do it regularly for paying off my school loans and am appropriately ashamed.) The other I've never heard a peep about.

Seems to me that in an attempt to seem really on top of things and "cutting edge," print mags have for years artificially inflated their cover dates. Readers get the mag and think "oh my my my my, this is hot stuff!" When in fact it's older stuff. You've just been had.

The Net, with its ability to bring the hot stuff to you really really not, exposes this shady practice to all, I would think.


Kind of a stupid waste of brain cells, I guess. But I needed to flush this out to make room for new, more worthwhile thoughts. (Like how to get bits of Smartfood out of my keyboard.)

I regret to say that I've actually spent time on this problem myself, particularly in relation to the question of when the millennium starts. How are you going to have your big "Welcome New Millennium!" issue with a cover date of March, 2000? Makes no sense. So, let's say Redbook decides to get its cover date synched with its pub date on the occasion of the millennium. The cover date is 3 months ahead. So, on Jan 1, 2000, they publish an issue marked Jan. 2000. But they already did that 3 months earlier. So, there are going to be 3 months of redundant dates. Still, this is better than the other alternative, which is to wait until the cover dates get far enough out ahead of the pub dates that they actually lap themselves. (I once tried lapping myself, but I got a leg cramp. Dogs don't know how lucky they are.)

Jim follows this up with:

Say I'm given some new information. For example, the ID number and password for a NewsEdge account. I combine that information with their instructions on how to order stories: ID#, password, then the ID#'s of the stories I want.

Fast-forward to a year later. I'm still using NewsEdge. But now the process for ordering stories is practically habitual. I've memorized the short ID and password, as well as the pattern in which I have to add the separate news story id#s. I could do it in my sleep (and sometimes do.)

Say I have to teach this process to someone else. I then give them the information, along with the instructions on how to arrange that information so that NewsEdge can make sense of it.

Here's my question: is this merely a transfer of information: password, ids, specific patterns of numbers? Or is it now something else — am I now transferring my knowledge of the process to a subsequently enlightened individual? Does the combination of information (id#) with secondhand Newsedge instruction (i.e. add the variable story id's) raise this to a level of knowledge transfer?

I tend to think it's not knowledge transfer. But I'm naturally self-depreciating. I'd like an unbiased opinion. Wanna bite?

What we have here, ladies and germs, is the very phenomenon so many of us warned against, the apocalypse of epistemology. If this is knowledge then is wisdom knowing all the lyrics to "Crystal Blue Persuasion" and is genius the ability to do armpit farts?

Wanna bite?

dividing line

Bogus contest: Personal Mission Statements

InformationWeek (Feb 22) ran a very amusing little quiz asking you to match up seven corporate self-descriptions with the companies that issued them. For example, would you have guessed that the description "provides the industry's leading open, highly scalable, and cross-platform management solutions that span networks, systems, applications, and business-to-business E-commerce" belongs to Tivoli?"

So, get out your easels, your oversized newsprint pads and a set of scratchy dry markers, and let's write mission statements! Could anything be more fun?

But let's write them for individuals. For example:

"To be the the warmest, most productive, and most sexually depleted U.S. president since JFK."
Guess who?

"To have swum around the world in hotel pools by the time I am 50."
Esther Dyson.

"To become so rich and powerful that any idea I propound, no matter how transparently stupid, will spawn industries that will self-destruct within 24 months."
Larry Ellison

"To maintain my glittering reputation as a polymath genius above the fray while being a senior executive at the most reviled company on the planet"
Nathan Myhrvold

"To maintain my glittering reputation as an outlaw genius while becoming a senior executive at the most ridiculed company on the planet."
Marc Andreesen

Hey, I know these suck! But I suck only so you will surpass me!

Contest Results

Jim Montgomery responds to our call for URLs that are only a letter different but worlds apart in content:


Jim notes that there may be "a connection between the last two..."

Gershom Bazerman responds to the same contest, writing:

www.maximag.com delivers cars, sports, and busty women.
www.maximmag.com is for feminists.

Our call for deflations of the annoying IBM ads showing

"People who think.
People who do.
People who get it."

called forth the following from Gershom Bazerman (aka Peter Merholz):

People who think that people who do are people who get it.

People who think. People who do. People needing people.

We also heard from Lilly Buchwitz:

People who think they think usually think wrongly.

People who can, do.
People who can't, don't.

People who get it, have it.
I have it.
Get it?

Victor de la Vieter points to one of the ads I conveniently ignored, featuring a burly man with a way manly beard:

People who think.
People who do.
People who get big beards.

Victor points out that the ad copy credits the man depicted with saving the world from a conspiracy to cripple the earth's supply of kryptonite or something (I may not have read the copy closely enough), which leads me to another possible formulation:

People who think.
People who do.
People who save the world.
The IT League of Justice

Finally,Robert Beairsto writes:

Proper understanding, as always, is a matter of punctuation:

IBM Global Services people. Who? Think "People who do 'People who get it.'"

And so, thinking — nay, desperately hoping — that we might have gotten it without knowing it, we blindly steer our oxen moronically, thinking, dewlapping, getting shit (do I BM?) in the peepholes, balls glowing, ice serving — no, we don't get it at all. No matter. The issue is done. To bed. Too bad. Tubed.

Palindromically, A bye? No money? Ba!

Editorial Lint

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