May 30, 2000


JOHO Interval

I know these are supposed to be short, and I'm doing my best, really I am. But they just keep getting longer and longer. So, this issue is sort of between an Interval and a regular issue (known at Starbucks as a Tall and a Grande), and I promise you a bonus shorty shorty issue Real Soon Now! Really!


The Real Document Architecture

We are not the first age to think of knowledge as a building. Up through the Middle Ages memory was often thought of as a palace with many rooms.[1] But with the Web, we've taken it several steps further. We are turning documents into buildings.

This is hard to see if you're fixated on understanding the Web as a communications medium. But a medium is that through which something travels: Person A sends a bundle to Person B through the connecting medium. While we sometimes experience the Net that way, more often our language betrays us. We talk about the Web not primarily in terms of a medium I send things through but as a place through which I move. I surf, browse, visit. My destinations are sites, homes. The Web is a landscape through which I journey.

But we have a second commonplace set of metaphors for understanding the Web: pages. Most Web sites present themselves as some type of document, laid out like documents, using document conventions such as titles, headers, articles and multiple columns.

In fact, the two metaphors — places and documents — intersect. Web pages are themselves sites that we *enter* and that may have an "Under construction" sign on them as if jackhammers could be heard in the background. It's as if we've entered a world in which the buildings are documents, and the documents have taken on some of the architectural properties of physical buildings. For example, normal documents we carry around, store, file. But on the Web, we *go to* documents. Document become destinations. Going to a new page on the "site" often feels like going to a new place, rarely like flipping a page. And while real documents are published in multiple identical copies, on the Web there's only one authentic document, as public as a skyscraper in a city skyline.

The intersection of the metaphors of place and documents is not accidental. The objects in real space are structured according to the vagaries of geography, but that geography also provides the public way in which space is organized — your office is near the river, across the tracks, next to the Olmstead House. But there is no accidental geography in cyberspace. Objects — places — are organized by their meaning, as expressed in hyperlinks: two Web sites are "near" if I can get from one to the other by clicking on a link, and that link is there because the author saw some meaningful connection. And in our culture, documents are the way in which meaning is made public and given some persistence. So it's natural that documents have become the nodes of organization on the Web.

The weird thing is how easily we have grown accustomed to the hybridization of documents and buildings. Perhaps this is because an absorbing work of fiction draws us into its imagined world, so we already have a sense of books as portals to new places. The transition, weird as it is, is not as unexpected as it might first seem: books-as-portals have become documents-as-buildings.

This is where the real battle with broadband will be waged, for broadband (as envisioned by companies who still haven't gotten over TV) is a code word for "broadcast," turning the semantic landscape of the Web into a mere communications medium. We will have both document sites and Web-based programming. But only one will change the world.

[1]Jonathan Spence, The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci,

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Goodness Management

KM took off initially not as a technology, not as an application, not as a theory, not as a body of practice, but as a buzz word. Believe it or not, there was a time when the word "knowledge" actually struck the ear as charmingly out of place in the business context. In fact, much of KM's appeal came from the fact that knowledge had a venerable, philosophical history that gave our tawdry corporate lives a classical sheen.

So, let us learn from history so that we may repeat it, purely for financial gain. If Knowledge Management was such a hit, then think of the bucks we could rake in with Goodness Management.

Hmm, what could GM be? Given KM's success, defining the term carefully obviously is not a requirement for it to ascend to the firmaments at rocket speed. But, we need at least to wave our hands a bit so we can give a PowerPoint presentation about it and sound like we're not just speaking gibberish. (Oh, wait, that's obviously not a requirement either!)

So, what's GM? Here's the pitch:

A business is all about behavior. But as companies become distributed and as the pace of business increases (due to global competition, of course), there's more behavior than ever. Some of this behavior is useful, some is counter-productive, some is distracting, and some — a small percentage — actually moves the company forward. That is what we call "good behavior." To achieve global competitive advantage in today's distributed business environment, companies need to identify their good behavior and increase it. It's been estimated by [Choose one: IDC, Delphi, Gartner] that only 5% of corporate behavior is currently good. If companies could convert only one or two percent of their non-good behavior into Goodness, the gains would be immediate. [Pick a consulting company] estimates that the Return on Goodness could be as high as 147%. In fact, when [Choose one: Boeing, Dupont, HP] put in a GM system, it paid for itself in 3 days when [insert implausible anecdote].

That should be enough to kick off a 3-year run of GM products, consulting practices, web sites, and conferences. And when the steam has finally gone out of GM, not to worry! We still have Truth Management and Beauty Management waiting in the wings, ready to go.


Walking the Walk

An excellent article in InformationWeek (Chris Murphy and Diane Rezendes Khirallah, May 1) points to companies that cherish failure, all in the service of innovation, of course. For example, Tandy — which from my point of view ought to try cherishing not creating totally ass-worthy electronic products— passes around a large toy gorilla as an affectionate award for outstanding bone-headed behavior. The article also talks about RedCart which has gone through three major strategies since early last year: cross-site shopping basket, shopping portal, and software supplier to search portals. They've managed to hold on to a workforce that otherwise would have been dispirited. How? By actually talking with them and telling them the truth. So whacky, it just might work!

Links to Love


Mary Rickman-Taylor points us to an article about what happened to 1-800-Flowers:

The florist screwed up by running out of Fiestaware pitchers for Mother's Day. The day before, it sent email to 158 customers telling them that their mothers were disappointment-bound, but they made the mistake of putting all the customers' names in the To field. The result: Instant political action committee. The customers started writing to one another, comparing notes, discovering that the company wasn't offering the same restitution to each of them.

I am a Networked Market. Hear me roar!

Ron Dagostino tells us about

... a site that I just started as a public service at — it is a very good Wiki Web product for the [Martha's] Vineyard community. I think it is a good demo of what the web should be like (although let's see whether or not it takes off).

If you don't remember our previous discussion of WikiWebs, you ought to try one out, and Ron's is a good place to start. Wikis let anyone who comes to your page edit the page. Sounds insane, and it probably is, but it's a really interesting way to stir up your group dynamics. Either people will keep adding to the page and correcting it or it will turn into a community whiteboard, with everyone having access to the markers and the eraser. (In fact, Fermat's Theorem was solved in 1984 on MIT's WikiWeb but it got erased to make room for an 128pt "Go Beavers!" message.)

Jeri Coates sends us to an article by Prof. John Hunt in which he points out that the Internet is actually important, despite what senior executives (in his experience) say about it.

Jeri comments (in part):

...I suppose I'm a tad concerned about the article because it smacks of gross generalisation and ageism. I can almost see a number of sweet, young things saying, "I told you so - off with the old farts' heads!" and some perfectly reasonable, over-somethings being relegated to the bread line. Oh my! Just when I thought we were getting beyond that sort of thinking.

Beyond generalizations? Never! There's no hope of understanding anything important without 'em! To reach higher up the understanding food chain, your generalizations have to get grosser. The highest wisdom: Things are. Generally.

As for the article, well, yeah, I agree with you.

Mark Hurst, editor of, points to a roundelay of NT companies (but not in the sense that you expect):

re the enormicom link, have you seen the NT Wheel i put together?

Here's a really disturbing site unearthed by Paul Dusseau. If I tell you what it is, you won't see any reason to go there:

Paul comments:

I don't know exactly what to make of this. That's not true - i know exactly what to make of it, I'm not sure how I'm supposed to respond to it. (aside from with overwhelming joy that I don't beat out html for the Texas department of corrections)

Assuming this site is what it claims to be, reading it was for me both voyeuristic and moving. And yet another reason to hate what capital punishment does to us.

Does anyone know if this site is for real?

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Karl Fast sends along this account:

At Intranets 2000 in San Jose this past February I gave 3 workshops. The first thing I did in these workshops was hand out a piece of paper listing 7 words that people were not allowed to say during the workshop...

There are the seven words you cannot say in this workshop (with apologies to George Carlin). We all know these words. They are empty, hollow, and thoroughly annoying words too often used with abandon and the very distinct sense that the person spouting them at you is doing so simply because they think these words make them sound important. Sure. The seven no-no words are, in alphabetical order:

e-anything (except e-mail)
enterprise (as in enterprise ready)
paradigm (or paradigm-shift and other derivatives)
synergy (or synergize and other horrors)


Other words were considered for this list. It was a tough decision, but eventually the following words were rejected, despite their ability to drive otherwise normal people to the brink.

virtual community

The mini-bogus contest: Come up with a sentence that uses as many of these words as possible ... but the sentence can't be about technology or the Web.

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Email, Arbitrary Insults, and Suspicious Hacking Coughs

Last issue's article on the intersection of technology and magic drew a number of responses. Chris J writes:

I tell everyone I know that I work in magic, not science. No one in the broadband industry really knows how this stuff works. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't, and sometimes all you got to do to fix it is turn it off and on. It's ridiculous, you really can't get a straight answer from anyone.

In a similar vein we heard from Bryant Duhon:

In the comic strip "Shoe" (the one with the birds), the computer repair dude always appears dressed as a wizard robe, pointy hat, and wand. Not trying to make a point, just always thought it was funny because this computer stuff always seems like voodoo magic to me.

I don't mean to panic anyone, but these are two guys who are supposed to know what they're doing. It looks like that Y2K stash of guns and kerosene may come in handy after all.

Johan Lindstrom points us to a brief article on his own site,, that takes Clarke's formulation one step further: "Any sufficiently common magic is indistinguishable from an appliance, and is treated as such."

Tony Cocks gives a thoughtful (= multi-paragraph, no jokes) response to the technology/magic article: you I don't agree with 'ol Arthur about seeing advanced technology as magic, or at the very least it being indistinguishable.

It involves what some people have termed the 'socialisation' of technology, the point at which stuff that's considered 'techie' becomes part of our everyday lives, and we no longer have to think about how to use it. John Seely-Brown uses the example of the motor car. Despite the fact we're not allowed to drive until we're in our late teens we have already spend years indirectly learning how to drive. We sit in cars for hour being driven to the sea side, to the shops, to school, so when we eventually get behind the wheel we already have a pretty good idea of what to do, and all things considered the car is a far more difficult piece of technology to use than say the VCR, the washing machine, and dare I say the Web.

The second aspect of 'socialisation' is reliability. By and large we don't think about the reliability of the modern motor car, we get in, we drive. The PC, the Web and it's associated stuff just ain't there yet. One day I tell day.

Fortunately for us in the UK, Tony Danza is a particular, or do I mean peculiar, American phenomenon. Didn't he do some low rent sitcom with Suzanne Sommers?

What are they teaching you over in the UK? Tony and Suzie? Not hardly! They're not even in the same league. Suzanne Sommers is as close as 'Merkans get to Shakespearean-quality actors, while Danza is noted for always playing characters named "Tony," apparently because you can't count on him to remember to answer to someone else's name.

Marina Streznewski tells us an illustrative tale:

When my nephew, Ziggy, was not quite two, he wanted to visit Grandma and Grandpa (my parents - he's my brother's kid). So he asked his mommy. She told him, "We'll visit them in the summer." Ziggy asked why. She explained that they lived far away (Ziggy is in Maine, my parents are about 40 miles north of Philadelphia). Ziggy said, "No, they don't live far away. They live in the phone house." Since he always talked to them on the telephone, he thought they lived inside it. :)

Now he is four. Now he tells me stories about how I have to watch out for the monsters that live under the street in Washington DC. They smell, and they're sticky, and they have throw-up eyes. (They also write skanky anonymous reviews for Amazon, but Ziggy does not know that yet.)

Oh, your nephew is right, except the chthonian monsters are better known by the name "lobbyists." (Yeah, it's a cheap shot. But isn't that why we have lobbyists in the first place?)

Finally, on the technologic magic thread, one reader who shall remain anonymous, wrote as follows:

p.s. i know you'll get a gazillion msgs on this, but the quote is from asimov, not a.c.clarke. (asimov in "the foundation trilogy")

I, of course, haven't read the source of the lines I quoted. So, in order to resolve this, I went to google. com. The results?

"indistinguishable magic technology asimov": 233 hits

"indistinguishable magic technology clarke": 1305 hits.

QED. Democracy at work.

Prof. Bob Morris writes about the notion that the Web is our best source for product expertise:

Yah, yah. But even when you find an authentic expert (which is harder, not easier, than looking in the Bell Atlantic Yellow Pages where at least the experts have to pay a non-trivial amount of cash to come to your attention), even when you unambiguously understand their incantation, even when it's utterly, clearly tautological—- you might /still/ have no idea why the hell the expert uttered that incantion. For example: "This page intentionally left blank". Why not "The previous page intentionally left blank" or "The following page intentionally left blank." or "This is the only sentence on this page"?

This brings me to an important new Insight into the New Economy. I got this Insight because I am recovering from major surgery and have a short attention span. That's the only time I think about the Dismal Science. My last major surgery was when I had my tonsils out at age 6 and I think I had an Economic Insight then too, but it's faded into something like: "When you are allowed to have all the ice cream you want, your throat hurts too damned much to take advantage of it." Here's the new one. Please forward to Greenspan, because it explains why interest rate manipulation will no longer reliably influence inflation:

It is impossible to predict depreciation rates for the value of information.

Per above, I am falling asleep now though it is 3:30 in the afternoon and leave further elucidation to you. However, I observe this relevance to your column when interpreted in economic connections: the Shannonist position would predict that the more widespread is information the less value it has, but this is not universally true, as would be shown by a constructed example such as "eating sand cures AIDS". In fact there is no way to know the relation of the value of a bit tomorrow to its value today. All future value prediction in the New Economy is impossible. A given informant may be revered today and useless tomorrow. It is futile to resist. Good night.

p.s. Since I never read Joho or primary cluefulness sources to their end, I have no idea if my Insight is new, though I do know that its value is Unknowable. If it is indeed new, please send my DC (Doctor of Cluefulness) to my home address

Oh, you get your DC just for never reading JOHO all the way through.

As for the value of information, I suppose it depends on whether you're talking about the good the information does or the price the market will pay for it. The former may remain constant but the latter may decrease as it becomes widespread. But it's the correlation of these two types of value that cause all of the world's woes — the medicine that will do me the most good is the one the pharmaceutical company charges me the most for. That's why Marx was right, although he has been poorly implemented, possibly because he never made public his APIs. But now I'm going to get a whole bunch of flaming mail, to which I preemptively reply: Yes, you're absolutely right, I have no frigging idea what I'm talking about — thus proving Bob's point that "a given informant may be revered today and useless tomorrow," except for the "revered" part.

Ken Lyon responds to our article about trade shows:

It's actually quite fun being outside the booth at a trade show.... IF you're one of those folks with a real problem or two you're trying to solve. The attention you get from most of the booth-ers is wonderful. And sometimes there's actually someone there who can get beyond the canned spiel—that is, someone who actually knows the product and what it can do.

What's boring is visiting a show with nothing in mind but writing a review.

Yes, engagement is the requirement for (is co-extensive with?) interest. Nevertheless, a high percentage of booths are about as exciting as holding your breath.

Tony McKinley writes:

...Right now, the Web is like a stodgy library compared to that 50-year-old world mind - TV. With satellites, TV is much more immediate in time, rich in detail and much more "real" than the Web, which is just a Digital Library. TV is cooler than a library.

I think the Web is like American TV right now, the current Web is I Love Lucy translated into the local languages. After the wave rolls around the world and the Web is as big everywhere as it is here in the USA, maybe things will change, maybe not. TV rolls around the whole world, movies, music, stars roll around the whole world in other media.

Will the Internet be different?

Yes, because even if there are broadcasts of dumbass sitcoms, there will always be a way for the rest of us to route around them.

Suppose they built a vast wasteland and no one came?

A reader whose nom de joho is "Sam Hopkins" contends that, in writing about the affecting VW ad, I've missed the future of advertising:

I haven't seen the VW Cabrio ad (let me snootily add that I live in London), but I think you guys are missing the point on the future of ads. A company some friends of mine know about here (in London, that is) makes software that can point at the TV (say, Jennifer Aniston's dress), and tell you who made it, how much it cost, and yes, allow you to buy it then and there. So the future of ad-making might not be relevant - it's the future of making movies, books, etc. with ads cleverly placed therein. So there would be no "de Medici Foundation" tagline on the Mona Lisa (located in Paris, which is not far from London), but Leonardo might have worked, say, a portrait of Cosimo in the background (which, interestingly, was something he did on occasion. Hmmm.) It was hot. Very hot. She said, "So I say the hills look like white elephants and you agree." Nick thought about this. Yes, they did look like white elephants. But didn't they in fact look more like white SUV's? Ford Explorers. Eddie Bauer designed. The creamy white version, which was white like cream - at least until they threw that first cape buffalo on it. Ah, if they hadn't had the braking power, they wouldn't have spotted the beast and Robert Jordan wouldn't have bagged it. Shame about Mrs. Jordan, though. But even her body fit comfortably in the trunk with all that room. He looked back at her. "I'm sorry. Did you say something? You say you wanted to let the air in?" He stood up to open the window. Strange what these women wanted.

Oh, it's strange alright. But I think we can pinpoint with some accuracy exactly where the drugs started kicking in.

As for the future of ads, yes, the click-on-the-product-placement strategy will be tried, and, I believe, will fail. To succeed entertainment has to engross us, and clicking on Jennifer Aniston's breakfast to get a coupon is too distracting. (Clicking on her dress is a different matter. Don't go there, girlfriend!) Instead, ads will have to become so entertaining that the ad drops out of it, and we're into the world of sponsorships. I think.

Daragh Fitzpatrick writes about our mentioning that JOHO isn't in the Open Directory Project's Yahoo! competitor:

I saw your last JOHO, referring to not being on dmoz. so I went there, and did a search for "JOHO" - no luck, except for some stuff in Kyoto!?

"no way" says I - It MUST be there - so I tried "hyperorg" - bingo. "Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization" was there.

Anyway, I submitted a change to the listing to add the "JOHO" acronym. Hope it goes through, since it has to be okay'd by the original submitter.

And so begins a new JOHO feature: Why Search Engine Users (=me) Suck. Wait a minute while I register the domain...

Bogus Contest: Bogus Fontest

Surely you must be as tired as I am by terms such as "vortals." So, hey, I know what! Let's make up a bunch more!

A "vortal" is a "vertical portal." Your assignment, should you accept it, is to come up with other jargon terms that can be made even more jargonny by changing a single letter, preferably the first one. Then, naturally, you have to say what the new term means. For example:

Original Term





Portal for beings such as we


Humor portal


Meta-portal ("door-tal" ... get it?)


Portal of ill-repute

Legacy system

Begacy system

Legacy system that desperately needs maintaining because everyone's been paying attention to the Web instead

Megacy system

Huge legacy system

Negacy system

Legacy system that costs more than it's worth



Keeps new employees out of advanced info areas where they could hurt themselves


Keeps senior managers out of advanced info areas where they could hurt themselves


Tactic of keeping a site so messy that no one can find anything


Firewall around the marketing department


Contest results


Pat Bush enters our contest calling for Movie of the Week plot summaries:

Movie of the Week Title: Computer Healing: Zap me, baby!


Newest method of remote healing uses the emissions from your computer to "fix what ails you". Log onto Sigh Winder's website, plug in your email address and ZAP an electronic barrage flows to your computer with the precise wavelengths to reconstruct your DNA and remove your chakra blocks. "Better than Viagra", claims Hugh Downs as celebrities log on in fantastic numbers. Interviews include those who are now able to time travel as well as revisit past lives. "A terrific ascension tool", comments Shirley McLaine.

(I think I've been in Sedona too long!)

It's a million dollar idea! "Please put your infected body part up against the screen..."

Jenny MacKinnon has a suggestion or two for what to name the two new Microsofts:

WinGod WinBible (note the subtlety of the marketing campaign to follow)
FrictWIN WINertia (Thus causing crashes at high speeds, especially using Excel)
WINd MIthane (This suite will blow people away)
Whendows SoftWhere  


Kenneth Meltsner plays our perennial game of finding ambiguous URLs:

Current favorite keeps appearing in all of my geek magazines:

They try to fix their thinko by putting NT in a different color, but I can't help reading it as "we aren't hosting"

One great big D'oh goes to the folks at wearenthosting, and a big collective thank-you to Mr. Meltsner. Excellent find!

Until next time, which I promise will be shorter. Really!

Editorial Lint

The following information was found trapped at the top of my washing machine when I ran some issues of JOHO through it.

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

Subscription information, or requests to be removed from the JOHO mailing list, should be sent to [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].

Dr. Weinberger is represented by a fiercely aggressive legal team who responds to any provocation with massive litigatory procedures. This notice constitutes fair warning.

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.

The Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization is a publication of Evident Marketing, Inc.

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