May 14, 2001
Value-Free Net: The Internet's design was based
only on engineering values, but somehow political values managed to sneak
in. Imagine that!
The Open Draft Project
Just a reminder that I'm continuing to write my book, Small Pieces Loosely Joined, posting each day's draft at www.smallpieces.com. You're invited to read these rough, raw drafts and to comment on them via the discussion boards there. (Warning: When I say they're rough drafts, I mean it.)
In fact, if you want to be notified every 2-3 weeks when I think the incremental, daily drafts have resulted in a substantially new chapter, just fill in this form or send an email to [email protected]
This column resulted from discussions at David "The Rise of the Stupid Network" Isenberg's BigHook Conference last fall (http://www.isen.com). I presented it there and have edited it to reflect some of what I learned from BigHook's spirited (= the word "asshole" was used at least twice) discussion of it.
Note: Before writing me angry email, please read the footnotes. Thank you.
Because the infrastructure of the Internet was designed by humans,it represents particular human values. For example, the Net could have been architected to ensure that intellectual property is protected, that all interactions are tagged so they can be traced to individuals, or so that some packets have priority and thus can be sold to those with cash to burn. (Actually, for the last apparently there is an unexploited Net capability.) But it wasn't architected that way. Someone decided otherwise.
Who? Ultimately, it was the Internet "long beards" who share some characteristics: generally white, male, Western, and all highly technical. These are the folks who (again, in general) continue to make decisions about the Net's technical future. Certainly there are organized opportunities for others to comment, but even though this lets in a somewhat more varied group, inevitably those whose comments count are also technically-minded.
Just as journalists tend to favor free speech, artists value creativity, and beauty queens like make-up, engineers tend to share some values. Engineers, for reasons rooted in what they found pleasurable about engineering in the first place, tend to value open communication, to listen to opinions that are fact-based, and to respect people for what they know and contribute rather than for what their business cards say. It's no coincidence that the network they built enables the open, uncontrolled sharing of information.
How explicit are the political values of the Internet? I had a chance to talk about this with Scott Bradner, a literal Internet long beard, at BigHook. While Scott admitted that the infrastructure is loaded with values, he maintains they are first and foremost not political values. The designers set out to build a system that doesn't require modification to be extended and configured for particular uses. The designers' aim was to move packets along briskly while enabling you to add your layers of censorship or IP protection or multimedia streaming or pornographic body suits without requiring the Internet infrastructure be rearchitected.
But, as Tom Lehrer has taught us, there's no avoiding the political values of science and technology. Lehrer — our finest lyricist until Eminem — wrote a song about Werner Von Braun, the German scientist who built rockets for the Nazis during WWII and for the US after the War: "Once they go up, who cares where they come down? That's not my department, says Werner von Braun." Lehrer's question holds for people doing AIDS research as well as for Nazis; it has nothing to do with the content of the politics.
To achieve the engineering aim of being capable of being extended without requiring changes to the core infrastructure, the long beards built a system with no built-in checks on the data being carried. Value free? Ask China or the Taliban or orthodox Jews or many Christian communities, all of whom see value in protecting their communities from "assault" by temptations and other bad influences. "For engineering reasons," the long beards in effect are saying "we've built a system that will provide open access to ideas and images you consider corrosive. Ok?" To many communities, the answer is a definite "No, it's not ok."
It only seemed ok to the long beards because the engineering principles that led to the Net's design were consistent with the basic free-speech libertarianism of its designers. If the Net subverts the plans of the Taliban, the Internet long beards will by and large cheer (as of course will I, but that is precisely not the point) while maintaining that the design of the Net was based on engineering, not political, principles. But the political principles are in fact in part responsible for the decision to build the Net in the first place. Had the engineers designing the Internet been members of the Taliban, they would not have found the idea of building an open, uncontrolled system any more appealing than most Western engineers find the idea of building a gun that can turn any material into an armor-piercing bullet "without requiring any redesign of the gun's fundamental architecture." The design values implicit in the architecture of the Net simultaneously instantiate a set of political values generally shared by the engineering community; that was part of the appeal of working on the Net project in the first place. The most important "unintended consequences" of the Net — a permission-free environment for creating and sharing information — are in fact predictable, foreseen and — one way or another — intended.
Two consequences follow from this. First, technical, architectural discussions always ought to occur within the context of the human and political values that inevitably guide them. Second, those of us who think that the values the Internet instantiates are good values ought to thank the long beards not just for their technical skill but for making the world a better place.
So: Thank you.
 Please keep
in mind that generalizations are true if they are generally true; a generalization
is generally not true in each and every case. Pointing out exceptions does not
prove the generalization false.
 See note #1
 That is, please don't write to tell me that the designers of the Internet aren't Nazis.
 I'm using "libertarian" in its original John Stuart Mill sense, not the Ayn Rand "Selfishness is good" sense. Before flaming me, please read Mill's On Liberty and include a book report in a nice binder. (Stapled submissions will be lowered one half grade.)
 If you haven't read Lawrence Lessig's Code, consider it a class assignment.
According to a recent agreement, eBay will make its underlying auction capabilities available to Microsoft's developers through the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP). This isn't proof of the SOAP pudding, just one more indication that SOAP is a durn important puddin', even more so with the advent of UDDI. It means that Microsoft's CarPoint site, for example, would be able not just to link to eBay.com but to use eBay's auction services to run auctions on the CarPoint site. And that's just for starters (well, also for distributors and carburetors): SOAP and UDDI head us towards a Web that knits together not just content but also applications.
SOAP is a way for one site's application to expose its capabilities to another site's applications through an API (Application Programming Interface). An API gives external access to the functions that make up a program. For example, eBay's programmers obviously have written a function that checks whether a proposed bid meets the minimum increment required for a particular auction. Let's say the name of that function is IsBidHighEnough. If another part of the eBay program hands this function an auction's ID number and the proposed bid amount, it will hand you back a yes or no. If one of eBay's developers wants to add a new capability to eBay that requires checking whether a bid is high enough, she'll simply use (or "call") IsBidHighEnough. Why rewrite code that works? Within eBay, the developer's code will be compiled and linked to establish the connections among the pieces. An API, on the other hand, makes these functions available to other programs not written by eBay without eBay having to link those programs in; eBay can allow other programs to integrate with its auction engine just by calling IsBidHighEnough and the other functions required. So, if an online market wanted to use eBay's auction engine, it would have an easy way to integrate at a low (i.e., efficient) level.
SOAP is far from the first attempt at making it easier for applications to interoperate in deep ways. In fact, SOAP started out as XML-RPC, a protocol designed by Dave Winer for his UserLand platform. Before then, Microsoft's DCOM and the Object Management Group's CORBA let you patch together different applications but they required both applications to be running the same standard. The Web being the free-for-all that it is, you can't count on that, or even that the two apps will be running in the same operating system. Just about all you can count on is that both sites will communicate via HTTP, the Web's communication protocol. So SOAP extends HTTP. A SOAP message (which should have been called a "bubble" but did they ask me?) consists of an HTTP header and then a request in XML to start up a function with whatever additional information is needed. For example, the XML might say that it wants to start up IsBidHighEnough for a particular auction at a particular price. The recipient app sends the result of the function back via a SOAP message.
Obviously, for this to work the requesting application has to know what functions are available and what information those functions require. That's where UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) comes in. UDDI provides a standard for creating a directory of business applications. Within an UDDI registry, a business — using yet another standard, WSDL (Web Services Description Language) — can list the functions it's making available over the Net. The canonical example is a site that offers to provide a stock quote to another app that sees that function listed in a UDDI registry. And here's where eBay could list "IsBidHighEnough." UDDI is being backed by the Big Boys; IBM has even "open sourced" its UDDI registry code.
SOAP and UDDI are making it possible to knit together all the cooperating applications on the Web with a minimum of integration work. That's called "distributed computing" — a web of functionality not just of content — and it has the potential to be remarkable.
SOAP vs. Biztalk:
Microsoft buys Great Plains Software and what's the first thing they do? Run a dumbass magazine ad. A sad-faced child looks at us while we read the heartbreaking headline: "To a nine year old, 'Out of Stock' means 'No birthday present." Well boo freaking hoo. Put this next to a picture of a kid who's got a real problem, replace the headline with "You want something to cry about? I'll give you something to cry about," and insert UNICEF's URL in 128pt boldface, and now you've got yourself an ad.
Note from the realm of the obvious (Wall Street Journal, April 24, Martha Brannigan):
How Delta's Pilots Mobilized in the Battle Against Management
...The union can instantly reach nearly all its pilots through email, easily outflanking Delta, which still relies largely on the U.S. mail.
CIO ran a cover story by Matt Villano on how to fire people (April 15) that begins by recounting how Greg Suddreth who was fired in a heartless way learned to fire people more humanely:
He had to fire a technician for performance issues. Along with the ax, he also offered the man outplacement counseling, a hefty severance package and references for future employment.
I assume the references referred only to the man's exemplary kitchenette manners and his fresh minty smell.
All the News that Sucks
www.moreover.com is one of the more useful headline aggregation sites around. And it's not even US-centric. If you are looking for ways to add content to your site (unlike me who's looking for ways to remove content), they make it very easy to put a dynamically-updated listing of headlines on your own page. You can specify the areas you want to cover, such as politics or sports, or give it some key words.
On my home page is a link to a page where can see headlines for every current story that contains the word "suck." All suckage all the time. That's my pledge to you.
Danny Sullivan's Search Engine Report points usto http://www.ilor.com/. If you type in your search query there, it goes to www.google.com for the results, but adds a bunch of buttons in the results list. My favorite: "Add to my list." This adds the selected search result to a list in a separate window. Clicking on the links in that new window opens the destination page while maintaining the list in the "my list" window. (Go try it out if you're confused; it's really dead simple.)
A friend, Halley Suitt, said something the other day that reminded of Woody Allen's greatest line:
Want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.
Wanting to find exactly where he wrote that, I searched on the Web and found this gag attributed to everyone from Mother Theresa to Funky Winkerbean. Well, I can't blame the search engine. Heck, I always get Woody Allen and Mother Theresa mixed up. (The fact that they dated in the early 80s doesn't help any.)
We are, I'm afraid, reaching the end of our string of childish, anti-Bush invective. This may be the last time you'll have to skip this section. It's time to settle back for the next four years and silently luxuriate in Shrub's remaking of America in the image of Big Oil.
But not yet...
Jerry Michalski, industry goodguy, sends a an article by Tom McNichol from Salon (http://www.salon.com/politics/feature/2001/03/19/bushonics/):
March 19, 2001 — The day Lisa Shaw's son Tyler came home from school with tears streaming down his cheeks, the 34-year-old Crawford, Texas, homemaker knew things had gone too far.
"All of Tyler's varying and sundry friends was making fun of the way he talked," Shaw says. "I am not a revengeful person, but I couldn't let this behaviorism slip into acceptability. This is not the way America is about."
Shaw and her son are two of a surprising number of Americans who speak a form of nonstandard English that linguists have dubbed "Bushonics," in honor of the dialect's most famous speaker, President George W. Bush. The most striking features of Bushonics — tangled syntax, mispronunciations, run-on sentences, misplaced modifiers and a wanton disregard for subject-verb agreement — are generally considered to be "bad" or "ungrammatical" by linguists and society at large.
But that attitude may be changing. Bushonics speakers, emboldened by the Bush presidency, are beginning to make their voices heard. Lisa Shaw has formed a support group for local speakers of the dialect and is demanding that her son's school offer "a full-blown up apologism." And a growing number of linguists argue that Bushonics isn't a collection of language "mistakes" but rather a well-formed linguistic system, with its own lexical, phonological and syntactic patterns.
"These people are greatly misunderestimated," says University of Texas linguistics professor James Bundy, himself a Bushonics speaker. "They're not lacking in intelligence facilities by any stretch of the mind. They just have a differing way of speechifying." ...
John Erickson gives us an offshore perspective:
I spent New Year's in Ecuador, a middle-sized South American country with a high level of education and a relatively large (and, at the moment, economically besieged) middle class.
While I was there, I asked people their opinions of the US presidential election's outcome. Everyone did indeed have such an opinion — there is a general, lively interest in politics, both domestic and foreign, that seems to exceed that found in the United States of recent years — and no-one that I talked to viewed the American election as anything more than a fraud, buttressed by the sort of bogus legalisms they are familiar with in the region.
This is something more than a public relations disaster for the US. More seriously, extremists of both the left and right have been using the outcome of the US presidential election as a purported demonstration that moderates' democratic ideals are foolish at best and deceitful at worst, based on now-revealed illusions and lies that have little relation to reality, in the United States or anywhere else.
The latest Florida ballot tallies seem to show that Bush indeed won a majority there, at least among those voters not misidentified as felons, confused by ballot design, or deflected by police roadblocks. Many of us thought that might indeed be the outcome and were astonished when Bush, in the process he unleashed, in effect fouled his own nest. Not to mention tarnishing the reputation of his country — and setting back the cause of democracy worldwide. No wonder that several Ecuadorians told me that, when they heard the Supreme Court's decision, they wept.
Maura "Chip" Yost reminds us that the new administration is frisking children:
Now, I know not to believe everything I read, but: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,3-114235,00.html
This reports that the toddlers who showed up for the annual Easter egg hunt on the White House lawn were patted down to make sure that their peeps weren't made of gelignite. Ah, the spirit of openness and trust that pervades the land...
The Web A-Hole of the Month goes to Ansett, an Australian travel site. In order to get "permission" to link to their site, you have to fill out a lenghthy form on their "terms and conditions" page. Failure to do so - as I just did - makes the linker subject to the wrath of the State of Victoria. All part of Ansett's Marketing by Neglect strategy. Congratulations to Ansett, winner of the new Web A-Hole Award!
Chris Worth has been writing remarkable letters from Japan. I especially recommend #18, on the importance of i-mode, which you can find at http://www.topica.com/lists/dreaming/read. Here's an excerpt:
...i-mode is a part of the Internet epitomized for handphones. It bootstrapped up from an existing cellular infrastructure, strapping IP servers onto the base stations and handing out handsets with an always-on 22Kbps web link.
The phones are amazing, in a thousand designs from plastic freebies to sleek clamshells with big full-colour screens and terrific sound. All grok a bite-sized HTML that can put up pages and script the action back at the server. And twenty million Japanese own them...
I-mode is going to be huge. Not huge the way TV and PCs are huge, but huge the way breathing is huge.
...You won't feel in your gut what i-mode's going to be until you've seen six sailor-suited schoolgirls standing in a group outside 109 or under Alta, each with an ear on their friends and a hand on their favourite I-mode site.
Chris' home page is http://chrisworth.com
Eric is, by the way, one of the founders of the Titanic Deck Chair Rearrangement Corporation: http://www.tdcrc.com. Chris "RageBoy" Locke is the other founder. This seems to be Chris' way to get some actual consulting dollars out of his new book, Gonzo Marketing: Winning through Worst Practices. I recommend in particular http://www.tdcrc.com/services.htm. You can read the first chapter of this book - I've read the whole thing and it'll be big - at http://www.gonzomarkets.com/intro.html.
Eric also sends us to http://www.sweetfancymoses.com/crowley_sins.htm where you'll find an article about the world champion attempt to commit all seven deadly sins in 32 minutes or less.
Finally, Eric has started a funny, snarky weblog at http://www.unchartedshores.com/blogger/blogger3.html.
You want dirt? The Web has dirt for you: http://www.dirtmarket.com/home.asp. You want worms? The Web has worms for you: http://www.wormdigest.org/links/webworm2.html.
(Worm Digest? Isn't that what happens to all of us?)
The Web as story space: National Geographic has created a site where participants in the Pearl Harbor bombing can tell their tales: http://magma.nationalgeographic.com/cgi-bin/pearlharbor/memory_book.cgi.
(One little problem. The window that pops up before you get to the site says both that National Geographic "does not review, censor, approve, edit, or endorse information placed on this forum" but also "National Geographic Online will review information placed on this forum from time to time and delete inappropriate material that comes to its attention as soon as it is practicable." Also, no word on the propriety of posting pictures of bare-breasted women so long as they are not white.)
Jerry Bono — "designer, illustrator, creative" — wants us to look at his web site: http://www.bonojerry.com. Object? Work. Some very nice stuff there.
Tom Shawk recommends a site that wants to throw in the towel when it comes to the War on Drugs:
www.stopthewar.com Excellent site focusing energy on ending what could be our 100 Years War at the rate it is going. ... The site opens up with the dreaded Flash movie but it is worth the wait. It is a vehicle to help spread the Idea Virus of Stopping the War. Who better than the Republicans to solve a problem created by all of those damn liberal Democrats. ... P.S. I originally registered the site name of www.stopthewar.org which these folks now have. It will probably be the first and last site I register that anyone wanted.
Bang the bong loudly, muh friend. And don't bogart that URL.
Jim Montgomery sends us the following breathless headline from Wired.com:
Google Restores Deja View
Everything you ever said in Usenet, back before you had a real job or kids to worry about, has now returned to haunt you. Popular Internet search site Google has made more than 500-million archived Usenet messages — an archive dating back to 1995 — available online again.
Well, duh. I think we knew about this already. Will someone please wake up Wired and tell them they can go home now?
More interesting to me is an article they link to about a movement to create an open source home for the Usenet archives on the grounds that they are a precious community resource: http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,41926,00.html
Amy Wohl has a new newsletter to which you can subscribe at www.wohl.com. In the current issue, she takes on Microsoft's badmouthing of open source software. Excellent. Doc Searls' weblog also has a really useful set of resources on this topic: http://doc.weblogs.com/stories/storyReader$715
Meanwhile, Rich Persaud points us to an article about the dangers of using Microsoft Word's revision tracking feature. It leaves in the file the text you think you deleted so anyone can simply backtrack the revs and see what bad ideas you had. In this case, it was a press release that had some alternative wording: http://morons.org/articles/1/188.
Anton Sherwood in a mail list I participate in points us to a site that collects sightings of letters that mimic the at-sign: http://cerulean.st/absurdnotions/interp.html. See if you can help complete the list, A-Z.
Dan Kalikow finds amusing an article on "assisted computing facilities" for the terminally clueless: http://www.satirewire.com/features/siliconpines/acf.shtml
Kord Davis has found a screen capture of an Amazon page that lists other books and DVD's that are like Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations: http://www.sylloge.com/misc_bin/ludwig_soprano.html
On Certainty by Wittgenstein, yes. Intentionality by John Searle, yes. The Sopranos: The Complete First Season, I'm not so sure about. Perhaps this refers to the famous quotation from Wittgenstein's Tractatus: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must fuhggeddaboudit."
Mike O'Dell points us to a page that lets you pop virtual bubble wrap: http://www.urban75.com/Mag/bubble.html. You would not know from this that he was until recently chief scientist at UUNet.
Greg Carter adds to our list of Unintelligibly Happy Songs: http://www.dextrose.com/pika.html. (The first on the list was http://come.to/hatten/.)
Thomas Vincen writes:
I came across this in today's slashdot http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=01/04/24/149257&mode=thread Scientists get the web, but then that makes sense since it was set up for them, how long until the rest of the world starts to get it?
It seems some scientists are actually demanding open access to information. Shocking! Next thing you know, people will be sending "electronic letters."
Mark Hurst writes in his excellent newsletter Good Experience:
For fun: This is one auction I'm sorry I didn't know about before bidding closed. Thanks to Christine for the pointer.
In the same issue, he points us to http://www.surfplaza.com/figlet/
...which lets you type in any phrase and get it back in dozens of Ascii fonts.
Using roman oooo .oooooo. ooooo ooooo .oooooo. `888 d8P' `Y8b `888' `888' d8P' `Y8b 888 888 888 888 888 888 888 888 888 888 888ooooo888 888 888 888 888 888 888 888 888 888 888 `88b d88' 888 888 `88b d88' .o. 88P `Y8bood8P' o888o o888o `Y8bood8P' `Y888P Using bubble _ _ _ _ / \ / \ / \ / \ ( J | O | H | O ) \_/ \_/ \_/ \_/ Using alligator2 ::::::::::: :::::::: ::: ::: :::::::: :+: :+: :+: :+: :+: :+: :+: +:+ +:+ +:+ +:+ +:+ +:+ +:+ +#+ +#+ +:+ +#++:++#++ +#+ +:+ +#+ +#+ +#+ +#+ +#+ +#+ +#+ #+# #+# #+# #+# #+# #+# #+# #+# ##### ######## ### ### ######## Using reverse2
===== ==== ==== ==== ==== ===
====== ==== == === ==== === == ==
====== === ==== == ==== == ==== =
====== === ==== == ==== == ==== =
====== === ==== == == ==== =
====== === ==== == ==== == ==== =
= === === ==== == ==== == ==== =
= === ==== == === ==== === == ==
== ====== ==== ==== ==== ===
If you think this is really cool, you might want to ask someone to check your choice of wardrobe before you go out.
Middle World Resources
The Feds are beginning to use peer-to-peer to get more efficient and responsive. The U.S. government is a statistics hog, gathering information in 5,9000 categories from 3,000 counties, according to an article by Mark Roberti in The Industry Standard (Apr. 23). The traditional method consists of local workers in an agency writing numbers down on paper forms which are sent to the agency's state office, where they are typed into a computer, laboriously and randomly moving decimal places by hand and manually transposing street addresses simply to vex a complacent citizenry. With new technology from NextPage, the county representatives will enter data on a handheld and move the file to a local server, making the information available in real time in a "distributed content network;" NextPage provides a type of server-to-server peer connection so the data can be stored globally but searched and accessed from what seems like a single point of access.
Macromedia Dreamweaver 4 is a useful upgrade from 3, although $129 is pretty steep for any upgrade. Still, it gets you some very useful features. For me one of the best is a very low-tech addition: you can split the screen between code view and WYSIWYG view. In version 3, you could open a code view window, but having it actually attached to the WysiWindow makes it much more convenient. In addition, having customizable keyboard shortcuts lets the tool fit my hand much better. ("He said 'tool.' Heh heh." Oh, please.)
Kevin Werbach, editor of Esther Dyson's Release 1.0, reports on a recent study:
To read more of Kevin's comments go to www.edventure.com
KMO writes, referring to a snarky comment of mine about SUV's:
You can reach Childreach at www.childreach.org. You can see KMO's comic about the joy and ethics of owning a Lexus (including swiping the occasional elk) at www.c-realm.com/comix/daily/view.cgi?date=13%20Apr%2001
Send us your own favorite charity. Is there any reason to hold back? "If everyone finds out about this charity, it'll just be so not 'in'"?? C'mon, people! Smile on your brother!
Ideas that Embarrass Us
We continue our quest for URLs that we bought with truly half-baked business ideas in mind. Kevin Cole writes:
Subliminal? More like invisible. You might as well have gone for anagrams of the combined letters, in which case you'd be telling us that you named your company:
IS COSMIC FORT, CO.
Send us your own tragic errors so we can make fun of them in print. What could be better?
Gary Stock denies that he was the author of the piece in the previous issue about MrEShopper.com.
Based on preliminary analysis of specific vocabulary and word duplet/triplet frequency, I estimate with 69% certainty that I did not write this excerpt. Witty as I may be, and deserving of praise and honor, I defer to another...
I direct you to whois:
Registrant: Gary Turner
Since I have never made a mistake, I am afraid I'm going to have to accuse Mr. Turner of impersonating Mr. Stock. Sorry, chaps, but you understand.
While we're talking about domain names, the following arrived from Chris Heathcote (or possibly from Gary "Turner" Stock):
Wrt domain names, I tend to buy them just because I like the sound of them, no business plans attached. Being able to negotiate Network Solutions website when I can't even focus on the monitor tends to help. I have near-perfect.com, which has ended up being the name of my mail server, and badhomosexual.com, which I bought just because I liked the image of standing up in some kind of Homosexuals Anonymous group and saying, "Hi, I'm Chris, and I'm a bad homosexual"....
Well, keep practicing and I'm sure you'll improve. (Note: Chris' business's homepage is http://www.unorthodoxstyles.com, a very lively page.)
Chris also writes:
I'm amazed how so many people working "online" seem to spend so little time there themselves. I do searches on people I meet, just to see quite how involved with the Internet they are. Do they have an email address? How about a personal web page? Their own domain name? Do they use Usenet? Mailing lists? Are they proud of their Internet usages, or do they confine themselves with what they have to do for work? Do they have cease-and-desist letters from major children's authors? Ahhh, that'll just be me then....
With regard to the lawsuit, my legal advice would be don't take the bunny to any more raves. 'Nuff said.
A reader who is miffed but wishes anonymity sends along the following missive:
Special newsletter upgrade from ZDNet AnchorDesk
In a continuing effort to keep you on the cutting edge of technology, we have upgraded your subscription to our new quick-loading HTML version. ...If you prefer to continue receiving your previous plain-text version of the newsletter, simply click the "Text Format" button.
As you can see, without asking permission they've rolled readers over from the good-old-nothing-wrong-with-it text version to the slicker-and-ooh-we-can-put-more-flashier-ads-on-it HTML version, ostensibly "to keep you on the cutting edge of technology."
This is the sign I've been looking for that it's OK to stop having to publish a text-only version of JOHO. Thanks for the tip, Anonymous! Your ad-filled HTML version of JOHO is in the mail!
Sean Forman writes:
...I had a little brainstorm about a way companies could turn themselves inside out to their customers.
Essentially, they should put unique urls on each of their products and then those urls lead people to links to the folks responsible for the products, bulletin boards about the product and similar type things. It isn't a complicated idea, but it also isn't something I've seen anyone do either.
Certainly plenty of products have their own home page. Unfortunately, companies tend to view these as Selling Opportunities. Does anyone know of product pages that include access back to the people who built the product, as well as discussion amongst users and makers?
Victor de la Vieter writes:
In the wild days of domain name hypes I bought my own name (www.delavieter.nl). I expected domain name pirates to go crazy over people's names and reselling them. Not much is heard of that anymore. Next I expected a strong urge to build a website round that name coming up from deep inside of me. Nope. Then I expected lots of Delavieters calling, mailing and harassing me to get the name, building a big Delavieter community. Nothing. So there it sits, costing me about NLG 100 per year. My hopes are now for Steven, my 7 year old asking when he can... ...etc
I know the feeling. Not only do I own david-weinberger.com and weinberger.org, I also own www.christopherlocke.com.
Tony McKinley writes about my note that Google will do a telephone book lookup of names and addresses:
Google doesn't work the way you say, at least for my name. But it did show me the happy conclusion that Google indexes PDF content. I did not know that!
Well, it works for many of us. And, yes, Google is continuing to be the world's coolest search engine.
Donna Beaton pooh-poohs the Google phone book lookup:
There are many phone books on the web that do exactly what the Google book does. I have even used some of these searches although they are good for the US and not so good for Canada. I understand there may be some security concerns here but I think you would have a hard time getting yourself removed from all the internet phonebooks.
Google of course uses those phone books. I don't know how you get yourself delisted. Maybe you should talk with Tony McKinley.
James Wills is still sending text to the multi-translator at http://www.telalink.net/~carl/multibabel/ to see how it flummoxes our lovely language. Here's the path the site generated for James, in backwards order:
Translated back to English: When the new age of I, today very new, I never had necessity plus no one of that he stops helping of definitive way.
Translated to Spanish:
Cuando la nueva edad de I, hoy muy nueva, yo nunca no tenia necesidad mas ningun uno de eso el para el ayudar de manera definitiva.
Translated back to English:
When I new age, today very new, I never did not have necessity plus any one of that he stops helping in definitive way.
Translated to Portuguese:
Quando eu era novo, hoje muito novo, eu nao tive a necessidade nunca mais qualquer um do que para ajudar em maneira determinada.
Translated back to English:
When I was young, much young today, I have not had need never more anyone than to help in determined way.
Translated to Italian:
Quando ero piu giovane, tanto piu giovane oggi, non ho avuto bisogno mai di piu chiunque di aiutare in determinato modo.
Translated back to English:
When I was younger, as much younger than today, I needed never more whoever to help in certain way.
Translated to German:
Als ich junger war, soviel junger als heute, benotigte ich nie whoever, auf gewisse Weise zu helfen.
Translated back to English:
When I was younger, so much younger than today, I never needed whoever to help in some way.
Translated to French:
Quand j'etais plus jeune, tellement plus jeune qu'aujourd'hui, je n'ai jamais eu besoin de quiconque pour aider de quelque facon.
Original English Text:
When I was younger, so much younger than today, I never needed anybody's help in any way.
Philip Austin Franco is among the many who really hate the anti-Bush portion of JOHO:
...as I subscribe primarily because of the Internet/computer-related content, I'd appreciate if you'd stick to that range of topics.
Your digs of our President, love him or hate him, are unseemly at best. At worst, they are the squatting, grasping comments of the Molly Ivins school — full of angst and no passion.
Thank you so much for the comparison to Molly Ivins! There's no one with whom I'd rather squat and grasp. That's so nice of you!
First Molly Ivins and now Dave Barry! David Seaman points to a Dave Barry article about companies changing their names to suckier ones, including Accenture:http://www.miami.com/herald/special/features/barry/2001/docs/apr8.htm
Clearly there's no other explanation except plagiarism. Does this mean I get a part of Barry's Pulitzer?
Bruce Milne has spotted a Funny Namer in InformationWeek: International Truck and Engine Corp.'s VP of IT is named .... Art Data. It don't hardly seem possible.
Tony Delgrosso is also on the trail of those with oddly appropriate names:
The official spokesperson for Rochester Gas & Electric (the local utilities company here, duh) is named...
...wait for it...
(p.s. Slightly less funny, but equally true: my wife's physician's name is Dr. Coral Surgeon..)
Actually, I think Coral Surgeon is much funnier than Mike Power. Now, "Spike Power" would have been funny!
Craig Allen was so inspired by Peter Merholz's letter pointing out the sarcastic reviews of Family Circus books that he writes:
The reviews of the Family Circus book inspired me to make my own small contribution, which, if it squeaks past Amazon's censors, might show up in 5 days or so....I can assure you that even if Amazon (or Bill Keane) sent me a complimentary copy, I would not deign to read it, tho I must confess that I do read all the comics in the Sunday Globe (tho I do skip over Mallard on weekdays). But the way to beat depression really had me howling, till me wife made me stifle myself.
Having hit the age of 50, I now feel free to limit my Sunday comics to Doonesbury (a cultural mandate for my generation) and Dilbert, which the Boston Globe conveniently groups on the first page. Robotman renaming itself "Monty" severed whatever loyalty to The Comics remained. I am now, officially, an adult.
Craig has to get in his shot, though:
BTW, as a Linux-Mozilla user, I am obligated to refrain from humor when I sadly assume that you must be employing some Borgish tool to write your web pages, as hyphens are being rendered as little squares.
After much disparagement, I now generally use the Unicode em dash. Here's a test to see how With-it and Groovy your browser is:
Unicode em-dash: —
Dumbass em-dash: -
Procedural em-dash: <start>horizontal line the width of an "m"<end>
Meta em-dash: This is an em-dash
Surreal em-dash: This is not an em-dash
Esperanto em-dash: emmy-dasheroo
Anti em-dash: |
Auntie Em Dash: Clara Blandick running 500 yards
Rich Persaud sends us to http://www.salon.com/tech/inbox/index.html where we read [well, we would if the link worked or if Salon's frigging search engine let us find this article]:
... today, we learned that "Sesame Street" already engages in a much more pernicious promotion with America Online than we could ever have invented.
America Online now ***sponsors the show***, with ads announcing before the program that "Sesame Street is brought to you in part by America Online." One ad shows a schoolgirl in a classroom, while a voice-over brags about AOL's ***educational value***. After the credits roll, we're referred to the AOL keyword for Sesame Street.
... One character in the Elmo's World segment of "Sesame Street" is a computer, which bursts out of Elmo's closet and runs around shouting *** "You've got mail! You've got mail!" *** Elmo has to chase the computer to read mail from his friends.
There must be many more places where Web companies could do product placements. For example:
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Fourth help line: Two-word query on Google
Jerri uses Jeff Probst's Palm VII to order life-sustaining gift basket from HarryAndDavid.com
Paulie kidnaps Russian, uses Fedex.com to track progress of his victim's ear.
All the friends submit photos to AmIHot.com and much hilarity ensues when they try to come out on top by getting other people to rank them high.
Cokie Roberts feeds ad libbed policy statement from George Bush into multi-translator, and it comes out in perfect English.
Place away, y'all!
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