For those who need to understand how the Web is transforming the way businesses work, yada yada yada
NEW: You want to read this in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format? Click here.
Issue: October 17, 1998
Author/Editor: David Weinberger
Central Meme: Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy
Favorite Beatle: John. Duh.
Current Personal Crisis: Randomness of It All hammered home by realization my life would be so much different if I were just named, say, Kiki.
Home page: http://www.hyperorg.com
Contact information: Click here.
Tim Bray on XML!: Will XML drive us to object-oriented databases at last? Will it drive us at all?
Convergence or Hole?: What looks like convergence to us old farts may in fact be a vacuum waiting to be filled by something new.
Why Search Engines Suck™: Latest in a continuing series...
Dumbass Advertising Someday we'll see 3D simulations on PCs! Imagine!
Collateral Marketing Damage (and Other Links): Serendipity strikes! Some happy sites.
Chicken Flickers Walk the Walk: 2,700 disgusting chicken restaurants achieve amazing productivity gains via an extranet
Cool Tool: A free web-tracking service
Internetcetera: What are people doing with their intranets?
Email, Rumors and Rude Remarks: The expected great mail from our readers
Enyart Bites the Big One: Pointless baiting of the innocent
The JOHO-Centric Universe
Since the last issue, we have delivered a special JOHO-ette devoted to an intellectual discussion of the nature and meaning of "information," featuring the comments of Chris "RageBoy" Locke and his actual, living, breathing sister, Liz Locke. You can get to it here. In fact, you can follow our entire sad history with RageBoy here. If you like RageBoy so much that you want step back from the threshold of this issue of JOHO and instead read his own 'zine, I suppose you could click here.
Because of a serious and still bewildering glitch with the software I use for sending out issues, some of you may have received the JOHO-ette twice, and some may not have received it at all. You may talk amongst yourselves to decide who are the lucky ones. In any case, I apologize. I am investigating changing web hosts to one that provides competent majordomo-style mail list support, and would appreciate hearing from any of you with good or bad experiences in this regard.
Also, we were on Cybertech, a web radio show, recently. You can get details below.
Tim Bray on XML
Tim Bray is co-editor of XML, without question the most important Web standard to emerge since HTML. While we at JOHO have been boosters of XML before there was such a thing as XML (and you can be assured that we are currently boosting whatever is the next really important standard to emerge ... we'll get back to you about which one that is, precisely), we need to take something of a contrarian position to satisfy our perverse emotional needs. So, we asked Tim:
Q: XML is a rich data format not only because its extensibility lets us intelligently tag the elements of our web pages but also because it enables a web page to be construed as a set of objects. But document objects can be very complex in their content (multimedia, various behaviors/methods, etc.) and their structure. How are we going to manage these elements? Clearly, the rows and tables of relational databases were designed for a very different type of data. So, is XML going to drive us, at last, to object-oriented databases?
A: Tim Bray: First of all, don't be too sure that XML is going to play that big a role in Web pages. We're just now getting fuzzified date-free commitments from the browser guys to put XML in their release 5 browsers. But as we sit, there are more release 3 than release 4 browsers out there, so it's going to be a while before you can build an extranet that isn't going to have to serve Plain Old HTML, even if you've got some XML.
As for storing and managing XML, you are absolutely correct that this proves a fairly uncomfortable match with relational technology. Given that, then what? OODBMS is maybe the answer, there are a few vendors betting on this. On the other hand, most OODBMS vendors tend to be tiny, unprofitable, and struggling.
So, one wonders: what's the minimum work guys like Oracle have to do to put in enough machinery to be able to handle XML properly? And do we think they're going to? And for a really blue-sky idea, how about the (still surviving) pre-relational DBMS vendors, (ADABAS, IMS) which have always been able to support trees and suchlike non-tabular things, and also tend to run faster than your average RDBMS?
Conclusion: XML remains an unpredictable inevitability.
Convergence or Hole?
I love being on panels because inevitably I say something stupid or half-assed and then I get an article out of it in which I get to say what I should have said in the first place.
This time, the panel was a a broadcast of "Cybertech," a new web radio talk show, produced by Interdoc, the Montreal-based consulting company that also produces Documation Canada. The topics were document management, knowledge management, content management and management management, and my fellow panelists found themselves talking about the "convergence" of all these disciplines. Here's what I should have said:
This only looks like convergence to industry old-timers (like me and the rest of the panel). It'd be just as valid to say that it's not convergence, it's a hole in the market ozone layer, a vacuum, a rent in the fabric of technology.
The human mind is wired to assume the persistence of objects. We see a leaf falling off a bough and at every instance of its fall, we "assume" that it's the same leaf moving through the arc, not a series of instantaneously replaced leaves. Also, movies work. So, those of us who pre-date the Web (hmm, first comes pre-dating, then pre-nuptials, then pre-cocious babies?) see the separate management disciplines converging because we want to see persistence. But, if you came to adulthood with the Web (or what passes for adulthood on the Web), you don't see convergence: you see a BSH (big stinking hole) where there ought to be software.
Imagine you're at your corporate intranet site and you understand that this is the new platform for collaboration. You want to pull together a project team to build a new skunkworks product or pull some unhappy customer chestnuts out of the fire, or whatever is flipping your bits at the moment. What you're probably not able to do includes:
- Easily create a site and set permissions for those you want involved
- Find the experts in the areas that matter
- Find all the information developed inside your organization that bears on your project
- Institute and preserve a discussion thread on the related topic
- Post some initial documents and links to get things started
- Annotate documents from others as they are posted
- Have a formal -- or even informal -- process for the group to resolve issues
- Initiate and see-through a formal or semi-formal process for reviewing ideas and getting tasks accomplished
- Automatically notify all project members as important additions to the site are made
- Publish important findings to the right circles of interested parties, notifying them automatically
- Manage all the versions and revisions of documents (and their links) so that people default to seeing only the latest one
- Close and archive all project materials in a state of integrity
To the old-timers, all this functionality (and more) is covered by a convergence of document, knowledge and content management (with a soupcon of workflow thrown in). But it is not at all certain that this functional vacuum is going to be filled by old-timer software that somehow manages to "converge" all these needs.
All we know is that there's a hole. Talk of convergence subtly prejudges how it's going to be filled. It's just as likely that entirely new software with new strengths and weaknesses will arise. That's the point of market holes, after all.
To hear the Cybertech radio show, go to:
and click on "Educational Sessions."
(Perhaps I should say that in my opinion, the software that comes closest to meeting the needs listed above is Open Text Livelink. I worked there for 3 years, so I am hugely biased and very uncomfortable making this type of statement. Let the flames ignite!)
Why Search Engines Suck™
Let's say you have a mental block about the community to which Gertrude Stein was referring when she said there was no there there. You desperately need this information because you've written two whole paragraphs without referring to one of the three mandatory cliche-quotations of our era:
"There's no there there."
"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
"In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes."
(Therefore, by the way, the Quote of the Century is: "In the future, those who forget will be condemned to repeat "there" for 15 minutes.")
So enter this query, including quotation marks, into Hotbot:
"there's no there there" gertrude stein
Result: Error message.
Ok, so this is not a repeatable error (= it's working today). But it still gives you 0 hits. And
"no there there" gertrude stein
also gives 0 hits. You have to enter
no there there gertrude stein
to start getting hits (4694).
Of course, a search on
"there's no there there"
yields 0 hits, indicating that Hotbot doesn't index "stop" words (i.e., words search engines don't index -- a redundant definition). Yet, a search simply for "gertrude stein" (sans quotes) yields about 300 more hits than searching for "no there there gertrude stein," indicating that "no there there" has some effect.
Fortunately, we are well past the point where we care.
The unsigned "Hyperspace" end-of-the-book column in Inter@ctive Week on Sept. 7 pointed out the following amazing fact. Type "I'd like to see Bill Gates dead" into MSWord, select the text, and run the Thesaurus on it (Shift-F7), and you will be surprised what phrase it suggests. Heads will roll.
(Unfortunately, it also works with variations such as "I'd like to see Ted Gates dead," "I'd like to be a monkey's uncle" and "I'd like to see Ken Starr's testicles floating in my martini glass" indicating that it probably exists as a bluff answer, not as a specifically-wired prank by a disgruntled Micro-monkey. Sentences that begin "I'm a ..." are thesaurused with "I appreciate that.")
AMD (Corporate mission: "We enhance our customers' business performance by hating Intel") is running a two-page spread with the headline "Add a new dimension to your child's education. The Third." The accompanying graphic is like this really cool set of screen shots floating in this really cool sort of sky but it's really sort of a cool hyper-sky, if you can dig it. Oh oh and there are also objects floating this hyper sky. No wait, like cool planes! No, like the history of planes -- you know a Wright brother biplane and then the Concorde, you know, with some sketches of planes on some of the screens. Wow!
I'm sure we'll all relieved that at long last we're going to be able to see pictures of 3-D space on our 2-D screens. You see, until now you've only been able to see flat things. But now, thanks to AMD, we may be able to see what the unexplored side of PacMan looks like. And maybe someone will invent a game they'll call Wolfenstein that lets you roam through 3D corridors. And who knows ... maybe someday ... we can dream ... we'll have Wolfenstein with ... stairs!
Oh, I understand (because I read the fine print) that AMD is bundling 3D processing into their AMD-K6-2 processor. But suggesting that this brings the third dimension to our kids ("Won't someone please think of the children?") is a tad, um, unimpactful.
Collateral Marketing Damage (and other links)
Occasionally companies come up with clever ways of marketing that have the happy side effect (called collateral damage in Just War theory) of giving us something fun or useful. For example, the original search engines.
Microsoft is hyping a cool site intending to show the power of SQL Server. Yeah, like who cares? But, let's hear it for the collateral damage: we get access to Soviet spy satellite photos of the 10% most populated patches of this old earth. (There are also US geological survey photos, but what sort of cachet do they have?) You can kind of see individual cars and thus perhaps can find some hot tailgate parties to peep at. See http://www.terraserver.com
Our second marketing bonanza comes from Trellix which ran the Starr Report through their engine, producing a far more readable version than the ones most of us sweated through. See http://www.gooddocuments.com/icreport
From TBTF, one of JOHO's favorite 'zines:
TechNet has a nifty summary of the half-life of the buzzwords that sweep over the Net media in ever-shortening waves: Community begets Push yields to Portal, which may be elbowed aside by Post- Content Transactive Agents.
Merry Sue Willis, Novelist, isn't sure she finds the following auto-Shakespearean-insult generator amusing or just irksome: http://alabanza.com/kabacoff/Inter-Links/cgi/bard.cgi
Hey, Merry, those two things are basically the same, or haven't you been following the career of Jim Carrey?
RageBoy also points us to: http://www.gvu.gatech.edu/user_surveys/survey-1998-04/graphs/#general to see how users find out about Web pages. He says: "The implications are interesting. and the graphs are pretty to look at." I'd insert "somewhat" before "interesting" and "pretty," but it's certainly worth a look.
For connoisseurs of the brutal, Ziff Davis has announced the winners of its butt-ugly Web site contest:
Middle World ResourcesA BiWeekly Compendium of Resources
Walking the Walk
InformationWeek (Sept. 7) reports that chicken flickers are profiting from an extranet.
AFC owns Churchs Chicken and Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits "restaurants" -- with 2,700 outlets for those with a hankering for dead bird parts that are finger-wipin' good (Tag line: "Buy a jumbo bucket ... and the infarction is on us!"). [Note: The Editor of JOHO is one of those obnoxious vegetarians who are willing to unleash their self-righteous invective even on smiling, uncomprehending, greasy-lipped children.] The "restaurants" (75% of them so far) are connected to the HQ of the merchandisers of avian death so they can coordinate events such as which coupons to run (e.g., "We're overstocked on chicken anuses, so consider running a 50-cents off coupon for our Tasty Fried Chicken O's!").
Also, IBM Global Services developed a training program that walks franchisees through the process by which a restaurant is opened. (Most frequent answer on the qualifying exam: "To get to the other side.") They report that the extranet has cut the time to open a restaurant by 30-90 days (Step One: The lack of a consistent No Picking and No Scratching policy means there's no point in having employees waste their time washing after using the rest room.)
AFC is finding that the extranet enables the franchisees to find the information they need, enabling each field rep to support 40 franchisees, rather than the previous 8. Yes, the extranet has quintupled the productivity of the field reps, enabling them to have their stomachs pumped during work hours instead of having to wait for the weekends.
Without a touch of irony, AFC is also building a Java app to help franchisees "do more accurate food cost and waste analysis," namely determining once and for all which is which.
My failing web hosting service -- latest thing to go: technical support -- is forestalling putting in access to statistics about site usage by directing us to the fxweb site which will track your web stats for you. For free.
All you do is put in a linked gif (after signing up, of course). Every time your page is loaded, the link communicates back to the fxweb site. As the site owner, you can at any time see the hits for the week, broken into useful detail. E.g., 41% of JOHO readers use Netscape 4.0 and 40% use MSIE 4.0. And 50% of you use Win95, 13% use win98 and 26% use NT. 5% of you are carefree bastards riding the Mac to perdition. 1% use Linux. And we are pleased to announce the our readership is 100% OS/2 free.
(By the way, if you know of a competent web hosting service, let me know. And for now, regrettably, I'd recommend you steer away from www.iwebb.com.)
According to an online survey by InformationWeek (Oct. 5) of about 1,000 IT managers, here's how organizations are using their intranets (all percentages are only my best guess at interpreting a bar chart):
66%: Policies and procedures
60%: Document sharing
58%: Corporate phone directory
48%: Human resources forms
46%: Training programs
45%: Search engines
34%: Customer databases
34%: Product catalogs and manuals
31%: Customer records
28%: Document routing
28%: Data warehouse, decision support access
27%: Image archives
24%: Purchase orders
16%: Enterprise suites
13%: Travel reservation service
11%: Live meetings
So, fully one-third of organizations have intranets with no policies or procedures posted? And fewer than half provide search engines? Next time the survey needs an initial question: "How many of you answering this survey have actually looked at your intranet?"
Email, Allegations and Misdemeanors
Doug Cohen writes:
As you can see from the attached letter from the Websters folks, my dreams of adding a word to our language largely depend on you! I hope I can count on you to make a concerted effort to use it as part of your daily speech. Tell your friends! p.s. it is pronounced "mbwua" (but the m is almost silent), and means ambivalent or apathetic - somewhere between disinterest and disgust
From Monique C. Daviau, at Merriam-Webster
Thank you for your recent lettter regarding the newly coined word mbois. Unfortunately, we are not able to enter your word into any of our dictionaries at this time.
In order for a new word to merit entry into our dictionaries, there must be evidence that it has been used by a considerable number of people for a considerable amount of time ...
Don't let this discourage you! If you can encourage the English-speaking public to start using mbois in everyday speech, then in a few years Merriam-Webster's editors might find it in print and give it a place in the dictionary. If you can provide us with evidence that the word is currently being used in print please do not hesitate to send it to us.
I'm not sure that use in JOHO counts as being in print (and I'm not even sure our readers count as the English-speaking public), but please feel free to forward this copy to Ms. Daviau as evidence of the entirely splincteritious use of this meritronious word. And remember that as providers of the first use, we require a royalty for the following sentence being extracted as "the first known citation":
When it comes to the introduction of "probes" as a replacement for "suck,"
I am entirely not mbois.
Might as well go for the dictionarial two-fer...
Australian Ron writes:
I knew thong sucked. Didn't even matter that it was a noun - it just sucked. Which was kind of a neat closure, if you're into that sort of thinking.. But any connection from thong to probe was entirely unfathomable except by wildest conjecture.. :-)
then I found this while vacuuming behind the virtual fridge..
The files available in FRAGMENT.ZIP comprise 9 extracts from a 12 volume report entitled 'A System Specification for PROfiling BEhaviour - PROBE', an IT infrastructure developed between 1986 and 1995 to support psychologists working within the English Prison Service.
I'm pretty well sure I don't want to know a single sentence more about probing in the English prison service. Thanks for not sharing.
Kyle of York has this to say about our attempt to add "thongs" to the dictionary (right behind probes, so to speak):
Sooooooooo........what the hell's with "thongs"? I'm damn fond of the probes idea, as it has a lovely ring to it and the force of all the unpleasant UFO abduction stories we've ever heard. But JOHO is going to diffuse its influence over the Mother Tongue if it supports too many attempted alterations. Just take it easy and build up public confidence. Besides, what kind of turlingdrome would be caught saying "thongs"? You grok? It has no punch behind it (and it's not derived from any verb I know).
Well of course "thong" has no punch. The question is: does it have snap?
Priscilla Emery of AIIM writes:
Finally got a chance to read a whole issue without an interruption (I've locked the office and muffled the phone). Anyway, note your comment on the Information Week Stats
InformationWeek (Aug. 17) reports on a poll by Andersen Consulting that found that 71% of senior executives use the Internet at least once a week, but only 36% say they're comfortable doing so. This is a positive indicator. If they were comfortable with it, it would probably mean that they have no idea what they're doing.
We only wish. They're only uncomfortable because that's like actually admitting that they (daresay) touch a keyboard. It sounds more like a typical snotty attitude to me. It's like admitting that they do their own laundry, pick up their own phone, etc. They do it but it's very uncomfortable. After all they usually get other people to do this kind of stuff. Now I guess I'm being snarky.
Oh, you underestimate today's busy executive. He (and usually it is a he) is very comfortable surfing the Web, if only in search of stain-removing tips. Why do you think at the "Top 21 Holiday and Party Stain Removal Guide" the most requested search term is "blue dress"?
Jeffrey Mann writes:
The "Lewinsky Affair," er I mean "Not-an-affair-and-not-sexual-relations-but-something-the-same-but -legally- different with That Woman" could have a hidden benefit. It could show how incredibly boring it is to read other people's email. ...
Ah, yes, as we have long said here at JOHO:
Indifference: The Ultimate Security
Andy Moore, evil impresario of KM World magazine, writes:
Since you're as obsessed by this Lewinksy crap as we all are (JOHO, Sep 25, 98) I thought you'd enjoy another humorist's (yes, I mean you; no, it wasn't meant as an insult) view of said subject (this supposedly came from Scott Adams...a PR type sent it to me)
By the way, color me human, but the snarky comment about being snarky was kinda snarky.
Or was it? I'm kinda confused now...
The Lewinsky article Andy forwards is fairly amusing, although I wouldn't bet a TWA crash conspiracy or a Vonnegut commencement address that it was really written by Scott Adams. You can get to it here:
Chris Locke has discovered a very useful and accurate e-commerce counter at http://www.mmgco.com/ [insert your own sarcasm here ___.]
MMG E-Commerce Clock
1998 YTD E-Commerce
I suggest you go to your favorite site, buy something, and watch the ticker go up. Fascinating!
Enyart Sucks, Probes, Thongs and Bites the Big One
Chris "RageBoy" Locke tells me that he gets one more referral per day from JOHO than from Bob Enyart's site. Here's how RB describes Enyart:
Enyart is probably THE most mad-dog "Christian" right-wing "evangelical" on television today. A real motherfucker. I trashed him in EGR once and he linked to the issue:
EGR Release 0.16 - Welcome to The Weather Channel
I never heard of Enyart, but if it'll get me referrals from his page, I'm perfectly willing to one-up RageBoy's trashing of him. So:
Bob Enyart: This One's For You:
Bob Enyart is a even madder, even doggier, extra-extremist right wing, grandmother-fucking, ""evangelical"" in double-scare-quotes.
Yeah, and Yahoo! wears combat boots!
Bogus Contest: TradeMocks™
When creating a product name, you have to consider how your competitors will childishly refer to it internally, occasionally letting it slip hoping that it catches on. For example, I've heard Netscape referred to as "Netscrape" by senior executives at other companies. Not to mention "Microsuck." Why, continuing the theme, we used to refer to Infoseek as "Infosuck" when I was at a competitive company.
So, we are going to begin a new feature here at JOHO in which we collectively provide the schimpf words for newly announced products. For example, Interleaf has announced Bladerunner, an XML content manager. Interleaf's competitors undoubtedly will be referring to it as:
- And the winner: Limpboner
Let's not pick on Interleaf alone. How about the Norton Utilities?
- Ignore-us Utilities
- Snoring Puke-tilities
- Enormous Humilities
- Norton: You Hillbillies!
- And the winner: Gnawing Futilities
Your challenge -- and it is one that will never end -- is to provide dumb ways of referring to some known product. (In this first edition of TradeMockery™ you may use products only relatively new. I mean, I don't want to hear about "Win-doze" and "Eunuchs" but feel free to take a poke at XML (X-smell), Linux (Linsux) and other products and apps of that vintage.
The previous issue provided you with some straightlines to which you were to provide Disraeli-like ripostes.
From Kyle Patrick
Scott Cook(Intuit) to Bill Gates: Sir, how dare you compare MS Money to Intuit! You had to make your software almost free to entice people to use it.
Bill Gates: A problem with which your female relatives can surely sympathize.
Marc Andreeson (Netscape) to Bill Gates: Being a man of honor, I would rather fail at producing good software than win at shipping dreck.
Bill Gates: So be it, Jedi.
[Note from Kyle: This one doesn't fit the witty form, but the reply fits very well, given the situation (and my preference of Netscape).]
Steve Jobs(Apple) to Bill Gates: You, sir, have stolen and then squandered an insanely great idea.
Bill Gates: I'm sure that Xerox would agree with that accusation, if not with its direction.
[Editor: Apple stole the Xerox Star GUI for the Lisa and the Mac]
Kirk Wagner responds:
Scott McNealy (Sun) to Bill Gates: Tell me, sir, is the sequel to Windows 98 -- Windows 00 -- named that to indicate its value?
Bill Gates: Wow! Do you think people will pay 1900 dollars for it?
Kirk explains that the joke refers to the specious theory that Microsoft originated the year 2000 problem in MS-DOS. So, in the joke, the $2,000 MS is trying to charge has rolled over to 1900. Once I understood the premise, I quite enjoyed this entry.
Kyle Patrick again, this time on our request for emoticons expressing the "Color Me Human" expression of mortal fallibility:
Color-Me-Human Smiley (the quality of this really depends on the font used):
There we have the semi-colon, representing the winking eye of the unrepentant, the twisted smile of the damned, and the all-powerful shrug demonstrated in the squiggly brackets. ASCII just doesn't do this art justice.
Dinah Sanders, who owns the excellent www.metagrrrl.com domain name, writes:
Here's my emoticon for CMH:
little shrugging person, sort of, and the question mark makes it go nicely with "So? You don't make mistakes?"
If only, Metagrrrl, if only. But that note of humble imperfectionism is the perfect tune to whistle on the way out of this issue of JOHO which, now reluctantly, comes to a close.
Until next time, fellow sufferers!
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@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 the JOHO may be published in JOHO and snarkily commented on unless the email explicitly states that it's not for publication.
Note to distributors: If you are interested in reselling the popular Hyperlinked Organization brand line of memorabilia, please contact our manager of JOHO Channels, Divad Regrebniew. (The JOHO corn dog attack vehicle with lifelike action figures is no longer available, and will return once we fix the eject button and pending the outcome of the lawsuit.)
The Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization is a publication of Evident Marketing, Inc.
"The Hyperlinked Organization" is trademarked by Open Text Corp. JOHO gratefully acknowledges Open Text's kind permission to use this felicitous phrase.
For information about trademarks owned by Evident Marketing, Inc., please see our Preemptive Trademarks™™ page at http://www.hyperorg.com/trademarks.html.