March 21, 2001




Joy of Connects: Is a new web of acquaintances gelling?
Schizophrenic Truth: Do we live inside of our own heads? Not on the Web.
XHTML and the Sixth Day of Creation: A standard may bring discipline to HTML
Misc.: 1. Introducing; 2. Earthquake drawn in sand; 3. Knowledge entropy; 4. Trailing indicators for Lotus; 5. All your link are belong to us.
Why Search Engines Suck: Multipart feature, including a search engine that may not suck.
We Still Think Bush Is a Moron: Your mail still shows a shocking disrespect for our "President."
Links to Love: You've been all over the Web and you've reported back what you've found.
Walking the Walk: nOrh has voice.
Cool Tool: Chat for free with people on your site.
Internetcetera: Why 'zines like this make the big bucks. Really!
Bong-Based Business Ideas: The bad ideas that have driven us to buy the bad domain names.
Email, Wheezing Replies, and Chagrin Made Public: More from you.
Bogus contest: Webabble: Too many translations
Contest Results



Inspirational Thought of the Day

Are our attention spans decreasing
or is life getting more interesting?


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Joy of Connects

It may be a coincidence and it certainly has something to do with the people I hang out with, but in the past couple of months I've had the same basic conversation — on and off the Web — with increasing frequency. We begin by talking about some of the cool things about the Web, and then about the fact that we're able to send email to anyone. Then we give some examples of people we never thought we'd be talking with who answered our message — the person behind a Web site we admire, the author of an article we liked. Our personal web of acquaintances and friends has been extended by one, with exponential results. In this conversation's final stage, we talk in excited bursts about how our lives have become more exciting, more stimulating, more fulfilling because of this staccato web of interchanges. There is genuine awe in our voices. We are amazed by our ability to connect. Something is in the air. A trend?

We are making new friends, but they're not quite friends. Not only don't we have the word for them, we don't know whether these exchanges are promiscuous, one-night stands or whether we're building a new type of persistent social organization. In the real world, the little interchange on some topic of the moment with someone you've never met — the person sitting next to you on the airplane, perhaps — would vanish like yesterday's breakfast, leaving behind nothing but a business card surreptitiously crumpled and left in the seat pocket. But in a world of digital communication and ever-cheaper hard drives, nothing vanishes. I'm carrying documents on my C drive from 10 years ago, and since every computer upgrade brings more disk storage than before, there's never an impulse to shed myself of them. So, the communications with a stranger years ago stays with me. Will these connections pop back up in a year, five years, ten years? What is the persistence of these intermittent friendships? Lifelong? Ask me at the end of my life and I'll let you know.

We are, I believe, at an "inflection point." We thought we were answering email but we were instead building a world.


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Schizophrenic Truth

Here's what makes me mad: People who, when the going gets rough in a conversation, say something like: "Well, that's true for you. Everyone has a different truth, man." Say wha'? Believing makes it so? This childish, fairy tale philosophy undermines not only the authoritarian control of experts (three cheers) but also the possibility of being interested in what another person has to say. It's the conversational way out of having to think. It is as insulting as the kid with the backwards baseball cap who rolls his eyes and says, "What-EV-er."

There's one other problem with this glorious theory that pervades our basic experience of the world: it's not just wrong, it's psychotic. Behind it is the cultural delusion that we don't see the world, we see representations of the world, like sitting in our own private movie theatre. Truth, then, is the correspondence of an internal representation to the actual way the world is. But since we can't ever see the world - all we see are pictures of it - we can't tell what's true. Hence, what's true for you is whatever you believe.

This schizophrenia explains why we tend to think of a virtual world as just like the real world minus the "little detail" of reality. Instead of getting our picture of the world through our normal sense organs, we'll instead "jack into" an alternative source of perceptions like Neal Stephenson's Metaverse in "Snow Crash." When you reduce the world to information, it's easy to imagine living in other worlds; just switch the bits, dude.

But suppose we were to go out on a limb and say that when we kiss our spouse, we are actually kissing our spouse, not kissing the sensation of our spouse (whatever that would mean). Suppose we were to acknowledge that we all see the world from different literal and cultural standpoints, but insist that we're all looking at the same world. Suppose we were to suggest that while we may not be certain of anything, some things are clear enough that we're willing to bet our lives on them.

Suppose we were to go further and say that you can't really build a world out of information. We don't just know things. We care about things. We have desires that start at the tips of our toes and move upwards. We have interests that engage us across the span of decades. We have passions that drive us to do things we can't even explain but wouldn't undo. A world that isn't inhabited by interest is a book that no one reads.

One step further: Even Adam didn't inhabit a private world. A world that isn't shared isn't a world we'd recognize, know what to do with, or care to visit. We are thrown into a landscape seen and tended by others. That's just the way it is. You didn't ask to be born and you certainly didn't ask for all those other people to be born. No Permission Marketing opt-in here. Welcome to the world.

Now, if this is close to an accurate characterization of the world - and, frankly, to deny it requires you to say the sorts of things proclaimed by people who are kept away from hard edges and pointy objects - then doesn't this mean the Web is as important as we suspect it is? It is a new persistent, shared place we inhabit because there we meet others who are interested in the same things as us but from different points of view? A shared place for shared passion. You can't be engaged in the life of the Web if you are listlessly watching a movie of the unreal unreel in your own private head.

No need to wait for virtual streets to be paved with virtual asphalt. The real inter-connections of the Web are already there.

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Standards Soup:
XHTML and the Sixth Day of Creation

On the first day God created SGML as a way of structuring documents so that they would have something to live up to. (Any resemblance of God to Charles Goldfarb is unintentional.) Tim Berners-Lee was shown SGML and saw that it was good but waaaay too complex. So, on the second day, Berners-Lee created HTML and saw that it was good and actually usable. Because HTML had a fixed and determined set of elements (paragraphs, headings, bulleted lists, etc.), a browser could look at HTML and know what to expect: if it says "<li>" then what follows is an item on a list and should probably be indented and have a bullet next to it. Thus was the world of documents made simpler. Much simpler. Much much simpler. Too simple. Oversimplified. And inflexible.

So, on the third day, Jon Bosak, Tim Bray, Michael Sperberg-McQueen and some others created XML which, like SGML, enabled page designers to create their own types of elements and their own predefined document types. And they looked at XML and said that it was way cool and just what we need, for XML documents can be validated against their document type definitions (DTDs) and can be structured so that a machine can read them and know which piece of text is a part number and which is a dollar amount.

On the fourth day, the world looked at how the Web was developing and looked at XML and saw that maybe they needed something more. XML was unwieldy for some of the non-PC applications that were getting plugged into the Web — cable boxes to refrigerators — and that XML stuff was still pretty hard to do. Plus, XML isn't backwards compatible with the older Web browsers. Even HTML, because it's so flexible and people write it so sloppily, requires multi-megabyte interpreters (called "browsers") to be understood.

And so, on the sixth day (on the fifth day everyone downloaded everything they could before Napster was shut off), XHTML was created. XHTML is compatible with HTML 4, so if you develop your pages using it those pages will still work in browsers that aren't so old that they choke on javascript. And, of course, XHTML can be read by anything that can read XML, for it is technically an XML document specification. While XHTML is less flexible than the XML it's written in (for it has a fixed tagset), it's a stricter disciplinarian than HTML; browsers are currently happy to read even the sloppiest of HTML pages, but to be a valid instance of XHTML, authors have to remember to do things like match all their tags with the appropriate end-tag, only use lowercase for the tag names, get tag-nesting right and put attribute values into quotes (e.g., <img width= "200">, not <img width= 200>). The free ride is over. But this discipline is required if Web pages are going to be read by low-wattage applications like household appliances. (Yes, our toaster-ovens are now setting the tune.)

There are three initial basic types of XHTML documents. "Strict" is a minimal set of tags. "Transitional" will let you do all your fancy-ass HTML formatting tricks. "Frameset" is for the loser pages that use HTML frames. You can use style sheets with any of these, thus regaining formatting capabilities such as "<center>" that have been stripped out.

Will XHTML replace HTML? While some tag junkies may think so because they believe the universe is ultimately rational, there's not a chance in hell if only because the first browser that refuses to show you an HTML page because it's not properly done in XHTML is the browser you'll throw off your desktop. But XHTML is very likely to become the standard for people creating Web pages for a living, for it adds enough rigor to make their work reusable both by a wide range of devices and by computing applications trying to make sense of the
livable mess we call the Web.


General XHTML Reference:

XML resources:

Differences between HTML 4 and XHTML:

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Mail I Didn't Stop Reading in Time ... and Introducing


From: [email protected]
Sent: Thursday, February 08, 2001 12:28 PM
To: [email protected]
Subject: Action Required: (1)

...As you may know, the company formerly known as Andersen Consulting has renamed itself to Accenture. The New Media team has the monumental task of identifying and changing all references to Andersen Consulting on the WorldWide Web.

We need your help! We ask that you join us in strengthening our new brand by changing all Andersen Consulting references to Accenture and redirecting all links to our new website, Please use our rebranding toolkit for instructions on updating your website. The toolkit can be found at:

Thank you in advance for your cooperation during this exciting change for our firm. As the strength of our new identity is extremely important to us, we will revisit your site in two weeks to ensure this change has been made.

Polite and reasonable right up to the last paragraph. They're coming back in two weeks with their lawyers and baseball bats? Well, rebrand *this* Andersen: I've changed all references on my site to your old URL to a new one I just purchased: There you'll find the following dialogue that explains how an otherwise reasonable company came up with a name that is the sound of a company swallowing its own bullshit. [The domain name isn't propagated yet, but the link above works.]

Imagine, if you will, that you're at a Naming Brainstorming Session, with 5-10 top executives and marketing folks. They've spent eight hours filling large pieces of newsprint with names ("Ok, now I want each of you to come up with five names you might name a frisky puppy"). They're beginning their wrap-up...

Barry: I gotta say No to "Conclux." The "clucks" bothers me. But I sorta like "Rivenation" because it's got sort of a driven feel to it and implies we're an entire nation. But if I had to choose right now, I'd go with "Andersen Consulting and First National Rhythm Company." It's just so upbeat and unexpected...

Louisa: You're kidding aren't you?

Facilitator: Now, now, Louisa. Remember: No bazookas.

Louisa: Bazooka? That motherfucker needs 5 pounds of gelignite stuffed up its bubblegum ass.

Facilitator: Louisa! Let's play nice! Be positive. What names do you like?

Louisa: Ok, ok. After having wasted an entire day on this exercise, I'd say the only two that make any sense to me are ones that came up in the first fifteen minutes: "Andersen Solutions" because that's what we do and "Andersen Professionals" because that's who we are.

Joe: Look, Louisa, you know that we're beginning the first page of a new chapter in our history, as we continue to rewrite the rules of the consulting industry.

Louisa: But ...

Joe ... And this new chapter will tell the story of a firm that grows to become one of the world's leading companies, bringing innovations that improve the way the world works and lives.

Louisa: But ...

Joe: And you understand the real power of the new organization is the synergy between Accenture's traditional consulting and outsourcing business-with its channel strength, relationships and proven solutions-and the firm's venture capital business, operating companies and alliances-with their emphasis on new technologies and business models.

Louisa: But...

Joe: Now hold on a moment, Louisa. We've all agreed that Accenture is all about exceeding expectations as we provide market-ready solutions that will take companies to a successful future. So now we just have to find a name that captures that vision. To me that narrows our list down to one: Accenture. [Outbreak of murmurs of "Yes." "It's perfect!," "It's so exciting," and "It's the one I liked from the beginning."]

Louisa: And our new tag line can be: "Accenture: Our name means shit."

Joe: Change it to "quality" and you're really onto something, Louisa!

Barry: You know what sorta works for me? "The Accenture Rhythm Company" ...

Note: All phrases that sound like 100% corporate bullshit are taken from the words put into Joe Forehand's mouth in an Accenture press release.

The Visible Quake

Here's the most impressive picture you'll see this year:


It's a photo of a sand tracing pendulum in Washington affected by the Feb. 28 earthquake. (Might as well give the plug to the shop that took the photo: Mind Over Matter can be reached at 888-385-3853 or via e-mail at [email protected])

Knowledge Entropy

A participant in a mailing list I'm on found the following news report:

"They're losing the ability to remember new things, to pull out old data or to distinguish between important and unimportant information. It's a type of brain dysfunction," said Toshiyuki Sawaguchi, a professor of neurobiology. "Young people today are becoming stupid."[1]

By way of support, here's Plato (Phaedrus 275a-b):

If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks. What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminder. And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only its semblance, for by telling them of many things without teaching them you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they know nothing, and as men filled, not with wisdom, but with the conceit of wisdom, they will be a burden to their fellows.

And Steve "QuickTopic" Yost adds the following from Emerson's essay on self-reliance:

[The civilized man] has got a fine Geneva watch, but he has lost the skill to tell the hour by the sun. A Greenwich nautical almanac he has, and so being sure of the information when he wants it, the man in the street does not know a star in the sky.

Yes, writing things mean we don't have to memorize as much. And being smart won't equate to the megatonnage of facts you're packin'. What will being smart mean? We're still inventing it.

(And before you Bushites write in, let me hasten to add: while you can be smart without knowing a lot, you have to make up for it in other ways.)


Trailing Indicators for Lotus

A source who has entered the Witness Relocation Program writes:

"Raven spreads it wings over a new, multiuser frontier"

Wow... imagine my surprise to see such a headline on the front page of the Microsoft company newsletter. What on earth are they doing writing about Lotus products there?

Oh, no, wait! Reading further, it turns out this is the internal name for a new, internal tool to create "multiuser, social applications". The article reports that "team members are hoping that" the project" will enable them and others to create a wealth of exciting, empowering,synchronous, peer-to-peer applications".

Why does this matter? "Raven" is Lotus' knowledge management product. As our Source writes: "Either someone in Redmond hasn't done their competitive analysis, or they just don't care. Either way, it's a clear indication of Microsoft's attitude towards Lotus these days."

All Your Links Are Belong to Us

Felicity Jones sends us to a *very* funny site:

This site says it all about corporate culture. If you thought the movie "Network" was insightful and funny, then you'll love this site. I hated "Network" and I still love this site. Really.

Val Stevenson sends us "All your base are belong to us" findings in Ireland. For example:

She reminds us that the green ribbon is the symbol of the Provisional IRA. (She includes equal-time photo fabrications.)

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Why Search Engines Suck...or Not

Christopher "Rageboy" Locke writes:

This really is pretty slick. a COOL TOOL indeed, if you catch me drift, matey.

He's referring to, a search site that lets you drag in an entire document so that webtop can find other documents "like" it. This seems essentially like the capability offered by many other search sites; a little analysis of the word usage patterns, a honkin' big query hidden from the user, and, boom, up come some more sites. Webtop, however, lets you do this to documents on your desktop, not just documents that it's already indexed.

I downloaded the full text of The Book of Genesis[1] from the University of Virginia, and dropped all 125K, into their little text box. Webtop responded that a book much like it is Deuteronomy. Not too shabby. But the next 8 hits were to an Italian page about ebooks, very likely because all these hits (including Deuteronomy) were in fact due not to complicated pattern matching heuristics but to the fact that when I copied the ebook of Genesis, I accidentally left in the one-line attribution to the U. of Virginia. Page after page of the returns seemed to be keyed not to the content but to that single "U. of V." phrase. When I removed that line from the text, Webtop finally decided that a book much like Genesis is Genesis, and showed me other places that had that book. It also found some other sites that talk about Genesis. But it's good to know that given a choice between being smart and being stupid, Webtop unerringly went for stupidity.


Raul Valdes-Perez writes to tell us about a search engine that doesn't suck: may wish to acquaint yourself with the site

This is a "clustering" or "sorting" engine. You submit a query, then the site forwards your query to a number of search engines, just like metasearchers do. What's new is that the returned results are sorted into a nicely label hierarchy, which is created spontaneously...

Ours is a new company that spun out of Carnegie Mellon (USA), where I'm a faculty member in computer science. Our goal is to change the way search results are delivered on computer screens everywhere.

The clustering seems pretty damn good, and very impressive given that the categories are derived in real time.

Simone Fluter has found a bizarre site for search aficionados

Have you heard about the site Disturbing Search Engine Requests?

What's interesting is that the site itself is becoming a magnet for weird queries. This has the potential to go to multiple levels of meta-ness.

At this page you get to post odd search strings that led people to your page. Unintentional ironies abound. For example, "how to get a college degree in days" led to a page by someone "who's in year number six out of seven of undergraduate school." And "mooning photo album" called up a page that used those three words in a paragraph about Enya.

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We Still Think Bush Is a Moron

And apparently you do, too. Here are your latest thoughts on the topic. And, for those who find this tedious, objectionable, irrelevant and/or juvenile, here's a nice little link that will skip you over it all. But before you do, you might want to check the responses to my plea to be recalibrated about Bush. And be sure to read Jon Fagence's palindromic contribution. I mean, honest people may disagree about politics, but everyone can unite behind a palindrome.:

I thought you might like a couple more reversible digs at George "Deux Bières".

On the chad nonsense:

        "Sure" votes to idiot? O, idiot set over us.

and a special St. Patrick's Day commemorative palindrome, on the value of family:

        "Bejesus! Use Jeb!"

It took me three days to get Jon's "Deux Bières" remark. I understood that it means "two beers" in French, but if you say it with a really bad French accent it sort of sounds like "Dubya." But now that I understand it, I can write back to him that I enjoyed his palindromes but he shouldn't bother flying to Boston from the UK:

RE: Vote. Jon F fun. 'Nuff. No jet over.

Dana Parker writes:

Seems like a lot of people are committed to four years of disobedience - if it takes that long. Want some links?

And a whole webring

And in response my request for help tracking down whether it's true that Bush has only traveled out of the country twice, Dana responds:

I get three times, excluding trips to Mexico. See,2763,394412,00.html

I find the Guardian more accurate than many US media sources. The individual writers are also very good about answering email.

The indefatigable "Chip" Yost is a wealth of links. Here's just one communiqué, this one concerning a BBC report on the Florida "election":

Palast has done it again, this time pointing out that the scrub operation in Florida is racial profiling. But he goes deeper, too. Exclusive:SILENCE OF THE LAMBS: THE FAILURE OF U.S. JOURNALISM

...the transcript is at:

and the real video is at:

ABC's Nightline is the BBC network outlet in the US. Please ask ABC to show this important documentary by completing their form at:

Steve Telleen, non-Bush supporter, writes:

...we had an election both in Florida and nationally that had a difference between the two candidates of less than 1%. Given that the difference is well below the counting error of any counting method used, there is no way to have a winner for this election, other than an arbitrarily declared one.

Unless, that is, we listen to some of Brian Hayes' suggestions at the end of his article "How to count" in the March/April issue of American Scientist. One is that we acknowledge that we cannot discern a winner in Florida, and therefore in this election, and send it into the non-counting process for determining who gets to be president when no one wins. I don't know if we would have been any happier with Congress' choice, but it might have been more intellectually honest.

Or we could use the other non-counting method: Letting the courts decide. But first I have a small preference for actually counting the frigging votes. Call me a stickler. (I wrote something about the margin of error in a previous issue, fwiw.)

Layton writes:

"One must never miss an opportunity of quoting things by others which are always more interesting than those one thinks up oneself." - Marcel Proust

In that spirit, I leave you a third party's opinions of George W.:,8599,96942,00.html

This is a column titled "How I Learned Not to Underestimate George W. Bush" in Time magazine. I've read it and have been persuaded to upgrade him from" "that fucking moron" to "that frigging moron."

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Links to Love

Vincent O'Keeffe. the person behind "All Your Brand Are Belong to Us" referenced above, has a bunch o' funny stuff, including a net market for the burgeoning narcotics business (one that does well during economic downtimes ... a little tip for all you disappointed dot-commers trying to make payments on your Beemer): There's some funny stuff about Jakob Nielsen (done with Vincent's pal Peter) at And his weblog is at

I'm a little confused. Ok, I'm very confused. I think this link came from Tom Shawk via "Grimes." In any case, it's an article (by Ron Lieber in FastCompany) about how American Airlines confronted its frequent flyers when they distributed information that was intended only for the privileged few:

Val Stevenson has started up a worthy Web experiment over at publishing for free writing from good writers who write for a living. Some good articles there from people who love to write.

Catherine Brillson writes:

One book that I found to be titillating, crazy, overwrought, but definitely engaging was Erik Davis' 1998 book Techgnosis:  myth, magic + mysticism in the age of information. If you don't know this book, you might want to pick up a copy as part of your 'research.'  It's kind of like a cosmic wormhole of things ancient and internet, mythic and electric.  I guarantee it will provoke new ideas.

Look people, let me make this clear: If I were looking for more to read, I'd want to read that which confirms my existing narrow-minded opinions, not provoke new ideas! (I suspect that's why Catherine put 'research' in scare quotes.)

Andrea has the good sense to recommend the advice column by Garrison "Woebegone" Keillor: Very amusing.

Dan Kalikow forwards a funny and thought-provoking bit of Net humor which turns out to have had a real author and everything:

Apparently this was written by Terry Bisson and was published in Omni and made its way into rec.humor.funny (as opposed to rec.humor.mirthless, I suppose). It's a scene aboard an alien starship. The "away team" is reporting on us. The opening line: "They're made out of meat!"

Eric Hall, a contributor to a list I'm on, will be surprised when he finds himself mentioned in this issue. He sends that other group to:

It's an interesting approach to a 404 message. (And, by the way, view source if you want to rip off the code.) Udhay Shankar responds with a couple of more 404s of note:

Meanwhile, I continue my fruitless quest to get the palindromic "404! Page gap! 404!" used everywhere that a page fails.

Kevin Jamieson writes to the Cluetrain discussion at Topica:

"The 1000 Journal Project"

One thousand blank journals are traveling from hand to hand throughout the world. Those who find them will add stories and drawings. And then pass them along. This is an experiment, and you are part of it.

Anybody spotted any journals yet?

I have. Unfortunately, the entries seem to be mirroring the Net itself:

13% Pamela Anderson drawings
8% "Clever" variations on "All your base are belong to us"
3% Singing hamsters
76% Spam

Massimo Moruzzi is among those who forwarding's campaign to support the Spirit of the Web by buying more crap online:

if Cluetrain is Luther (it is!, but a happier version: a mix of Luther and Oscar Wilde :-), this is the Roman Catholic Church posting up a 'manifesto' saying they are right and asking for more money from the same people they blinded with their dubious practices! ...

Donate to the Dalai Lama, the United Nations Childrens' Fund, or ... Yahoo!

Please tell me this is a joke

We can only hope that this "meme" is spreading because people think it's such a stupid idea that their friends would get a laugh out of it.

Reader Tom Maddox has started a free zine on privacy that can be found at He also has a twice-weekly 'zine with news and commentary:

David Ritchie sends a link that

shows you what Fermilab is doing with the General Colloquium and other talks now, given the state of the web and technology...

See: on the link to Mike Turner's talk about "what the universe is made of" that appears on that page. The truly notable development of this link is the synchronization that is shown between the Real Video presentation and the slides presented side-by-side in the web browser.

First they split the atom. Then they synchronize Web presentations! Is there anything that FermiLabs *can't* do?

Michael O'Connor Clarke sends us to a page with complete instructions for uploading your brain, well, once we're over a few of the little technical hurdles. (Quick, put FermiLabs onto it!)

Michael, btw, has begun blogging:

Laugh, hurl, sue - whichever:

Alert reader and full-time brother Andy Weinberger points us to a newsletter about words: For people who use words.

Gary Stock, reflecting on Cokie Roberts' reference to a "300-pound gorilla" — or possibly on which he also recommends— sends us to a site about the mangling of that particular cliché:

Chris Sanders has found

an article discussing how computer viruses have evolved into something not unlike parasites.

Next step up the evolutionary ladder: Computer parasites evolve into the rich-by-inheritance.

Greg "LinuxMan": Cavanagh writes:

be your own big brother

No, this does not involve a time machine and telling your young mother that she's got really "honest eyes." It's a highly scalable signal processing system that "may have some similarities with USA's IUSS (Integrated Undersea Surveillance System)." I got myself two and am currently listening to what you're thinking.

Greg Roelofs found this and told another list about it:

Those of you prone to utterances like "bitchin" may want to avoid this link:

For the rest of us, it's an autonomous robot with teeny little tank-treads,various sensors.

It's about a quarter inch high and wide. Think of the uses as a surveillance device. In fact, suddenly nose hair stylin' becomes a real possibility!

Be prepared to waste some time at a site Kathy Quirk has unearthed that lets you send an email with an animated head that robotically reads the text you've written:

have been having too much fun with it making them say things that aren't very clean.

File this under " Business Plans Requiring a Bong to Seem Attractive."

If you want to see the type of egotism that only a monarch could think is acceptable, go to this site (noted by John Dvorak in a column):

(Unfortunately, the send-a-greeting-card feature craps out.) RageBoy, you've met your match.

Middle World Resource

Walking the Walk

Nick Usborne, Marketing Guru to the Stars, recommends, a site that sells loudspeakers handmade in Thailand. (If this conjures images of little hands holding tinny speakers in one hand and a glue gun in the other, forget it; these seem to be made with respect for the craft and are physically unique and lovely). Nick writes:

Check out the site today and you’ll find that its heart and soul still lies in its writing. One moment you’re reading a simple product description:

The nOrh 3.0 will be 87 dB sensitive. The frequency response is 75Hz to 20,000 Hz. Maximum constant power is 20 watts.

Then a few moments later, Michael is sharing some thoughts he has on his business:

I have now begun to realize that if you take the profit motive out of a business, it becomes an individual endeavor and this is how you can excel. It isn't all that different as it is with athletes or any other people who want to excel...

From an 'expert' point of view, everything about the site flies in the face of today’s usability and design conventions. If you’re a professional developer or designer and take a look at the nOrh site, you might be tempted to dismiss it as the work of an amateur. Before you do that, consider this. In 2000, the site generated sales of $570,000 with a profit of $150,000. That’s a profit margin of over 25% on sales. In 2001 sales are projected to be $1.7 million.

This is one of the most persuasive product marketing sites I've seen. I don't care about high fidelity — at my age everything sounds like it's coming through a kazoo anyway — but it has me wanting to find a way to buy from this guy. It's all in the voice, all in the voice.

Cool Tool
For the Hyperlinked Organization

I found HumanClick to be cool and almost useful for 24 hours. Then it was time to hit the uninstall button. But, of course, my needs may be different than yours. (For example, do your needs include hourly ingestion of salty snack foods?)

HumanClick is a free service that puts a GIF on your home page offering to put visitors in touch with a real human being. If they click on it, a client window opens on your desktop and a browser window opens on your visitor's, enabling you to chat (i.e., type at one another). If you upgrade your HumanClick service, you get a bunch of features that let a support group use it. (At a minimum, you'll want to deep six the cartoon of the big white guy in the GIF on your home page.)

Even if no one clicks on the offer, HumanClick audibly dings every time someone enters your page and shows you all the info that can be captured, including the referring site, the type of browser, and whether they visitor is wearing underwear or not. It sure feels like Web peeping tom-ism.

I uninstalled it because the unalterable GIF wasn't going to stimulate anyone to chat with me, and, besides, I don't want to spend all day chatting, although I did have one very interesting hour-long conversation with a new reader. Makes me wish I had something to sell other than a morbid humanism and an obsessive dislike of Shrubs for Brains.


Tom Steinert-Threlkeld, Chief Content Officer at Ziff Davis (hmm, does that mean he's the happiest member of ZD's management team?) writes in [email protected] Week (Feb. 12) about a claim by that email newsletters are more cost-effective than advertising banners. The survey[1], about which the site provides no information, is folded in with some other research:


ClickThrough Rate



Email Newsletters





Rented Email Lists





Web Site Banner Ads





Conclusion: I'm doubling my rates for mentioning your lame-ass blogs and newsletters. The free ride is over, people!




Bong-Based Business Ideas

Rex Hammock responds to our plea for domain names we bought on impulse with some vague but ridiculous business idea in mind.

My favorite personal story in the pathetic category is when I registered

In November, 1997, I read one morning that a new influenza called the chicken flu was threatening to invade the U.S. from Hong Kong. It was going to be a pandemic, the story said, the worst to hit the U.S. in a century. I immediately registered the domain name and decided it should be the definitive repository of all things related to the chicken flu. The chicken flu portal. The destination site of all thing chicken fluish. Don't ask me what I was thinking: I'm no doctor and don't even play one on TV. But I knew a good pandemic when I saw one.

Yet the next day in the newspaper, the chicken flu was suddenly no longer being called the chicken flu, but the avian influenza. I immediately developed a conspiracy theory: Had the Tyson's Chicken people intervened with one of those Texas cattlemen-Oprah lawsuit threats; don't call the disease chicken flu or we'll sue you?

And then the pandemic didn't pan out. Which is good. Except for my pathetic domain name.

Hey, Rex is CEO of If he can humiliate himself in public this way, so can you! Let's hear from y'all!



Who Doesn't Want to Be a Millionaire Anymore?

I'm still interested in hearing about the charities that you think are worthwhile.

Meanwhile, Joan Harrington points us to a site maintained by the Massachusetts Attorney General's office that has an excellent list of links for vetting the ones you're contemplating giving to:




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Email, Wheezing Replies, and Chagrin Made Public

Our response to a complaint (from "grimmelm") that one of our articles lacked sufficient manly philosophical rigor drew many replies. For example, Andrew Hinton writes:

Your comments on academics had me stomping in anger and chuckling at the same time... The anger was just from the post-traumatic body-memories I still harbor at certain academics whom I trusted as a graduate student, whom I even looked to for self-esteem and approval, and who disowned me when I didn't take the hallowed path they'd set before me...

I've found the tribe as a whole to confoundingly embody both open-mindedness and tight-fisted fundamentalism. The culture is suffused with a kind of inside-out puritanism: right-thinking (polit-correctness in its worst sense), clean-living (tofu, natural fabrics), established orthodoxies strung like guerrilla tripwires through the halls. I once made the hideous mistake of making fun of Derrida in a campus newsletter, and apparently 1992 was a BAD year to do such a thing in an English department. I still don't understand what happened.

Funny thing is, I'm probably as liberal as you are, but being among those goons sometimes made me want to get all out of joint, start acting like a philistine, just to get a rise out of them.

Anyway, I now help to build actual STUFF that actually makes a difference in people's work-lives, helps them to do things better and make more money and be more successful (oh, sorry, wait, that's EVIL), helps them communicate better with customers in a more enlightened web-centric manner, lots of great stuff. I am no longer hammering collaborative-revision techniques into complacent or downright hostile 18-year-olds who are 99% cuter and better dressed than ME!...

I'm not saying academics are all bad... most of the ones I had as teachers were decent people, and taught me a lot, but on their bad days they shared the same insecurities and fanatic devotions that left me running away in fear. I'm convinced a lot of them still manage to do some good.

But, Dave, just don't be ambivalent about leaving academics. It was the RIGHT thing to do...

I'd only add that I noticed a real difference in many academics when they were with students (open, giving) and with colleagues (closed, competitive). I saw virtually *no* collegiality within the liberal arts disciplines. "Pursuit of truth" my ass!

I do have residual 60s guilt about not contributing enough to others. Writing about the Web and helping companies market their stuff doesn't mean a lot when you raise your head up from the keyboard. It'll be interesting to see what God says about it all when I die. I can't wait.

Please, no replies about me and my life. Really. But I'm interested in how you handle this problem, how you explain why *your* miserable life isn't so self-indulgent and willfully blind to the suffering of the world that you deserve to roast in Hell forever. May I recommend an article by philosopher Peter Singer: He raises the issues well, and it's damn hard to wriggle out of his conclusions. Singer may not be the deepest thinker this age has coughed up, but he is an admirable public intellectual doing exactly what most academic philosophers can't and don't.

Kord Davis (whose blogger is at commiserates:

have, largely, gotten over my frustration with the masturbatory nature of professional philosophy. I also have learned to make a very clear distinction between the discipline of philosophy and the practice of philosophy. That said, rock on...

Lourens Ackermann continues the masturbatory theme:

I think you are being to sensitive about the grimmelm issue. He sounds like a wanker. A book I read recently by Jacques Barzun makes the point that intellectuals used to be:
1. people who knew things which ordinary folk didn't
2. could explain these things they knew in a way in which ordinary folk could understand, or at least grasp the significance of what the intellectual were up to.

Post-modernism and deconstruction are the gravestones of modern intellectuals, philosophies which shout from the rooftops the lack of authority felt by intellectuals. The web contributes to this. I don't have to ask a teacher, I'll look it up on the internet. The response by academia has been more than churlish. It has been shameful. They have deconstructed and post-modernised with one aim only, to stay relevant by making what they say unintelligible. Cleverness is measured in degrees of obscurity. ... Plato is read, and will continue to be read because the cave metaphor can be understood by ordinary people thinking hard. Can one say the same for Derrida?...Place Derrida or Foucault next to Feynman or Einstein. It's like comparing sulky kids with adults cheerfully doing their best with what they have.

Lourens also reminds us that the witticism I put into the mouth of RageBoy I inadvertently stole from elsewhere:

his comment to Tutu that they should have the Truth and Reconciliation Councils as long as they hang the bastards afterwards ... was Churchill's comment before Nuremberg.

Ack. I always get RageBoy and Winston Churchill confused.

Stuart Rubinow writes:

1) ...what the "grimmer" is doing is the intellectual's equivalent of snorting and pawing the earth and shaking your antlers and peeing on trees. It's all testosterone driven — he wants to show that his throbbing lobes are longer and stronger and thicker and quicker than yours. But you've been an academic, you know what that's about.

2) Original thought is like original sin: it all happened a long time ago to people you and I will never meet. (That's not an original thought with me, I stole it from Fran Lebowitz)

How recursive of Stuart! He also feeds my palindromia:

Aibohphobia — morbid fear of palindromes

Excellent. Mini Bogus Contest: Can you identify these phobias? (Answers at the end.)






We welcome back to these pages Kyle, Lord of Patrick:

...I was annoyed by the fellow's response, as he implies that a) the fact that many philosophers have commented on similar issues trivializes those issues, b) you should've written a who-said-what academic paper citing all those dead bastards instead of expressing your own trivial opinion on the issue, and c) the ability to recite is more important than the ability to create. (a) is silly, if anything it demonstrates the relevance of your article,instead of somehow invalidating it. (b) is what you discussed, that things like metaphysics are the eminent domain of dead philosophers, and no one else can touch them. (c) is a general problem of you humanity academics.

Ken Powers pulls together the article in the previous issue about grimmelm with one ragging on professionals:

...As for grimmelm, his "sort" are by no means limited to philosophy. He is obviously just another "professional"...

Amy Wohl responds to correspondence in the previous issue about my banging on Lotus:

Must tell you that you were right on about Lotusphere. Absolutely nothing was happening there. You can use your own metrics. My favorite was noticing that almost no one applauded during the demos in the first morning keynote. Remember in the old days when Ray Ozzie would show the good stuff that was coming soon and get interrupted every 20 seconds by thunders of applause and a few standing ovations? Not even once. Instead we get bad jokes from Al Franken and an embarrassing interview with an aging movie director. Perhaps we were to think that no news was good news?

The most exciting news at the conference was that an internal memo of Al Zollar's had somehow (?) gotten leaked to the press and it was clear there were going to be lots of layoffs to contain costs. Al, of course, denied all.

Shall we agree it was terminally boring?

We shall.

Jason Gollan has found a palindrome too huge to check:

Adam? I'm Adam! Moody, me? Dam it (sic)! Are we all? I know Ada. I saw Ada. Ah, a short symbol to no denial: Eyes omit naive dog-desserts. Evil right, old-name diets. A tree-bonnet foliate,relax: If Ada did pull order, read. Ada had a foe, fire-rose facade tool, too-hot yard Iraq: arid Elijah at a haj. I lead a reviled noose, Canadian! It is coded, on a pistol by Rome, "Man is an ardor pelt, tactiler, sad." A tacit sin, a rude Roman enema. I ran; Agnus Dei, Dada lived on. I, a gap,a zero monad, Ada's nose: "Rift on, evil royal pilots!" I pass a nasal acolyte. I pondered, now idle. His flack: late no-no's, tits, a cow. Two-cow, to tenor of God! A sin is a sign, ignoble udder-cases! La femme fatale gnawed at a phone-post, also lost call, eh? She'll act solo, slats open. Oh, pat a dew-angel at a femme false. Sacred duel, bonging is a sin; is a dog? For one to two-cow two, cast it so none talk calfs! I held, I wondered. No piety local as an ass. A pistol (I play, or live not) fires on sad Ada. "No more!" Zap! Again. O devil! Ada died, sung an aria. Men, enamored, uranistic at Ada's relit cattle prod, ran as in a memory blot. Sip an ode, Doc; sit in. Aid an ace, soon deliver Ada! Elijah! At a haj, I led Iraq (arid ray to hoot), looted a cafe sore, rife of Ada. Had Ada erred? Roll up. Did Ada fix ale, retail? Often. "No beer taste," I demand, "loth girl! I've stressed! Go, deviant!" "I mosey!" "Elaine, Do not lob my Stroh's!" Aha! Ada was I; Ada won. Kill a ewe, racist. I made my doom: "Madam, I'm ADA!"

Gollan: anal log? Palindromes never lie!

Rob Beairsto has found the world's record palindrome: Unfortunately, it has the bad judgment to be in French and to be more complex than "deux bieres."

Dave Anonymous writes about our article griping about professionalism:

Ouch. It hurts. It hurts because it's true. Sort of...I work for a certain Web shop (ahem, Internet professional services firm) that went through a branding exercise. Clients and employees were interviewed and one of the questions was the eponymous "If this firm were a car, what kind of car would it be." A lot of the clients answered:"reliable, smart pick-up truck." Well, you can imagine what the salesy/marketing folks thought of that. Their visions of Mercedes and Jaguars did the crash test dummy dance. But that's why they loved us, one client contact said. They loved the trusted, no b.s. way we worked with them...

Shen Mansell responds to our article about strangers:

I think you are a bit off target with the following statement:

...In the real world, the sound of footsteps behind us on a dark street sets our pulse racing in fear. On the Web, the sound of footsteps sets our pulse racing in anticipation. The Web's value comes from strangers.

... People are comfortable talking to others on the Web because there is a shared interest and less perceived risk. The internet back alley equivalents would be spam or programs like back orifice. It would be interesting to see how the rise of back orifice and other methods of inappropriate internet touching will effect people's willingness to interact with strangers. Are you still going to want to argue (uh I mean discuss issues) with someone if there is a chance they will wipe your hard drive.

Still, your version is much catchier and probably a more effective meme.

Oh yeah? Well my meme's father can take your meme's father! I mean, um, yes, that's a good point. (And, yes, I am guilty of overstatement and over-optimism. It's my disease. Do not shun me.)

Old Bogus responds to my article about why the Web is fundamentally a place of optimism:

Are we on the same internet? Try these for optimism:

Or, for a sample of the less reality based: and its cousin

Maybe you need to reevaluate some of your basic premises

I'm really confused. With the exception of (which is no longer working, by the way), these are sites that expound fringe political beliefs (and some aren't that fringe in my view) and some wacky UFOlogy. You mean there's some bad information available on the Web? No! But my article on optimism in fact begins "All the bad things we hear about the Web are true." My point was that the bad things that happen are enabled by a framework that is deeply social, optimistic and hopeful.

Bill Seitz responds to Michael Heim's suggestion about how to cram an entire issue of JOHO up your Palm Pilot's tiny hole:

Michael Heim seems to be missing a nice feature of iSiloWeb. You don't need to save a page to a local HTML file. If you hit Alt-Insert, up pops a dialog box where you paste in the URL (having copied it from your browser). Then iSiloWeb will download the page itself, do the conversion, etc. Excellent.

And now you have an issue of JOHO that displays two words to the line, creating a scrolling file over 3.7 miles long.

Halley Suitt, loyal reader of the Small Pieces draft, provides a random anecdote:

When I worked in sales at a big company based in Ohio, they brought in some totally weird new French marketing guy who would make these Napoleonic speeches to the sales force, with a heavy French accent, yelling at us "What we need is more 'fuck-us' groups!" Yeah, right.

All of marketing summed up in one trenchant Gaullism. Excellent!

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Bogus contest: Webabble

Jim Montgomery writes:

Remember Kevin Weatherston? He once wrote to JOHO (see issue 4 Feb 1998)reporting on a project of his — he would wring a phrase through Altavista's Babelfish translator a few times, with nearly unintelligible (and therefore funny) results. Good fun. Now there's an automated way to do his dirty work:

Lost in Translation

Remember Kevin Weatherston? He's here with me right now. Yo, Kev, pop a brewski and take a load off! Anyway, this is a fabulous site, running text into and out of 7-10 different languages. I ran some well-known Web-related phrases through it and here's what it came back with:

1. Where you that you appreciate to go today?

2. The hour is safe for the effect of the Window

3. They have the office of the post

4. If the miracle does not have any simply, he no.

5. Blue of the visualization that damaged one

You have two tasks: First, tell me what each of these phrases started out as. (Answers at the end.) Second, send me your own attempts so others can be amused.

Contest Results

Several of you contributed subtitles for the book I'm writing, including the inappropriately punctuated b!X:


That's your subtitle right there: "An Experiment". You've already picked the best one out and didn't see it. You say we should see the web as an idea, like we think of democracy as an idea. We also tend to think the democracy as something of an experiment.

So there's your subtitle.

Claudia Carlson:

I haven't had a chance to read any of the chapters yet (glanced through chapter one, and all of your disclaimers on the book-in-progress URL) but here's a subtitle that popped into my head on reading your list of possibilities:

Small Pieces Loosely Joined: The Way of the Web

It's probably too Zen-like, but I liked the alliteration.

And this from Karen Morrione:

As I was reading your subtitles, it occurred to me that you were really tiptoeing carefully around the obvious seussian connection..."oh the places you'll go" springs to mind. So does, "And to think that it happened on mulberry street" (and to think that it happened in cyberspace?). Although surely you'll do something much less obvious, I have long thought, and this is a compliment, that dr. seuss played a role in your early development, as he did mine...

Yes, oobleck scared me much more than Hannibal Lecter ever did. Bartholemew Cubbins' too many hats terrified me out. And I believe that early exposure to The Cat in the Hat is responsible for the precipitous drop in early reading skills. Too freaky-deaky, man!

Kevin J has his own set of pleonasms (redundant terms):

Writing about the process of writing
Creating an HTML Help file in HTML
Using a map to locate the store that sells GPS receivers
Using FTP to get an FTP client
Using a KM system to run a library
deleting voicemail on your mobile phone as you're putting the trash out

So tired, so tired.

True facts all. ("True fact" is, of course, a pleonasm.)

Puzzle Answers

Answers to Phobia Questions:



fear of vowels


fear of twins (and you thought it was fear of fear!)


fear of things that stick up


fear of nothing


fear of self

Answers to Multitranslation Questions:


Where you that you appreciate to go today?

Where do you want to go today?

The hour is safe for the effect of the Window

It is now safe to turn off Windows

They have the office of the post

You've got mail

If the miracle does not have any simply, he no.

So simple no wonder it's number one

Blue of the visualization that damaged one

Blue screen of death


Good bye. Or, as the multi-Babelizer would have it: "In order to live well." Makes a little too much sense...

Editorial Lint

JOHO is a free, independent newsletter written and produced by David Weinberger. If you write him with corrections or criticisms, it will probably turn out to have been your fault.

To unsubscribe, send an email to [email protected]. Make sure you send it from the email address you want unsubscribed. There's more information about subscribing, changing your address, etc., at and In case of confusion, you can always send mail to me at [email protected]. There is no need for harshness or recriminations. Sometimes things just don't work out between people.

Dr. Weinberger is in a delicate nervous state, but if you want to send positive comments to him, his email address is [email protected].

Any email sent to JOHO may be published in JOHO and snarkily commented on unless the email explicitly states that it's not for publication.

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