October 20, 2000



When Q&A Goes Global: We go for generations without inventing new ways of talking. Now, it happens just about every day.
Tribal Knowledge and Objective Madness: Universal knowledge? Only if it's really really boring.
Misc.: Odd odds and ends.
Who's Tired of Being a Millionaire?: Oxfam can make better use of your money than you can.
Walking the Walk: FreightDesk.com just loves XML.
Cool Tool: Your handwriting becomes a font.
Internetcetera: Democrats and Republicans even browse differently.
Links to Love: Great sites a la your recommendations.
Email and Arbitrary Insults: The normal fabulous email.
Bogus contest: Switching Packets


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When Q&A Goes Global

The Web is enabling us, as a species, to invent new forms of discourse. This didn't use to happen all that often. Now it does. Inventing and discarding new ways of talking ... what could be cooler?

One of the new forms twists the Q&A format into something novel. Take a look at AnswerPoint at AskJeeves, a site powered by Quiq. (Are we that desperate for names already?) Here visitors can post any question they want, and anyone on the planet can choose to answer it. Quiq is actually aiming at the corporate intranet market where there is some form of control over the quality of the questions and answers — see http://askus.chipcenter.com for an example — and the Jeeves site is really just a "proof of concept" and a way of making some marketing noise. Still, it makes for an oddly interesting site.

I spoke with Kartik Ramakrishnan, one of Quiq's founders. Here is an edited Q&A with him:

JOHO: How did Quiq come about?

KR: I was in IT for half dozen years. I'm passionate about information management. But I also went to business school. Watching the Net, I was interested in how online communities can add value to a corporation. So I formed QUIQ with my brother, Raghu Ramakrishnan, a Professor of Computer Sciences at The University of Wisconsin-Madison, who has a keen interest in Information Management as well.

JOHO: Why a question-answer format?

KR: It's a basic human instinct. When we need help, we turn around and ask questions. We wanted to make it simple for other participants to share answers.

JOHO: What's different about the Q&A format?

KR: As soon as AnswerPoint was deployed, we saw that so much of the user experience is determined by the presentation modality. And there's a temporal element of information. If a question doesn't get answered in 3 days, the chances of it getting answered decreases exponentially. It gets lost. Usability studies show that. We want to resurface the older questions.

JOHO: Are these sessions moderated?

KR: Lightly. One reason questions don't get answered is because the people who looked at it thought it was superficial or not worthy of an answer. The moderator can raise worthwhile questions again. Also, they can watch for people using excessive profanity. And, the moderator can re-categorize a question if the person asking it put it in the wrong bin.

JOHO: Good, because I noticed at the Jeeves site that the questions in the Travel->Airlines category were wildly off base. There are questions such as:

"how do i deal with my 13 year old daughter?"

"how many years is"four score and seven"."

"where can i find a coleslaw reciepe"

"Can blondes tell when lighting will strike before it does?"

KR: That's because we default to Airlines->Travel if you don't categorize your question. We're fixing that.

JOHO: Too bad. It's very amusing. Does your system notice if someone has already asked a similar question?

KR: Not at the Jeeves site, but our core product offering does. We have developed a similarity search algorithm to identify prior similar contributions.

JOHO: What has the Jeeves site taught you that you hadn't anticipated?

KR: We need to provide a way to enable people to thank answerers. Instead, people use an answer to write a thank-you. So, a question might have five answers, but two or three of them are thank-yous.

Also, we were surprised that when we launched AnswerPoint in May, a bunch of people wrote questions asking why we didn't have a search capability. We do now, but I was surprised that they used the system to critique it.

Oh, and as the system was being used initially, you'd see the same question four or five times. Interviews showed that people thought they were in a chat room, so when there was no answer, they did what you do in a chat: you ask again.

The AnswerPoint site at AskJeeves strikes me personally as an oddity and not much more. You'd have to add a whole bunch of features to make it into anything like an efficient mechanism for getting answers (and the commercial version of Quiq seems to have thought this through well). But that's exactly why I find it so interesting. Take a simple idea that's suddenly enabled by the Web — "Ask a question to the world and see if anyone answers" — drop it onto a Web site, and see what happens. Will the "community" of users evolve mechanisms to make it more useful? Will spontaneous policing erupt? Will it turn into chat? Into comedy? Into a flame fest? Will it fall on its face? Who knows ... so let's give it a try.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I love the Web.

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Tribal Knowledge and Objective Madness

Here's how to get yourself fired toot sweet from your job as a marketing VP at a software company. I know because I saw it happen. During your first week, mark your territory by coming in way early one morning and posting enthusiastic, morale-lifting slogans on every floor of the building, including where the developers dwell. These posters should say things like "We're not all in the Sales Department, but we're all salespeople," and "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog." The engineers will immediately think you're ridiculous, and it will only be a matter of time before you're laughed out of the business.

But why? All you did was tell the truth! It's true that we're all involved in selling our company's product even if we're not in the Sales Department, and it's true that it doesn't matter how big the dog is ... ok, so I'll put my money on the rottweiler going up against a Chihuahua rat-dog any day, but the sentiment behind it is at most guilty of excessive pluckiness.

It reminds me of a story told by Søren Kierkegaard, the religious existentialist philosopher. (Actually, you can be any two of those three things, but not all three.) He tells of a man released from an insane asylum after many years. He's desperate to be taken as a normal person. So he asks himself what it is that sane people believe. They believe the world is round! Aha! He puts a rock in his pocket so that the banging of the rock will remind him to say this true thing with every step. He happily walks through town, tipping his hat at everyone he meets, saying, "[Whack!] The world is round. [Bang!] The world is round. [Thud!] The world is round..." Kierkegaard calls this "objective madness," as opposed to the normal type of madness where the person suffers from too much subjectivity.

Truth is not enough. Knowledge is tribal. It has to be relevant to the tribe. It has to be expressed in the way appropriate to the tribe. It has to come from someone in the tribe or else it must be delivered in the way the tribe chooses to receive foreign ideas. Marketing slugs who post happy-talk on the R&D bulletin board are about as welcome as engineering nerds who call out sarcastic comments at the marketing VP's wake — even if everyone is only saying true things.

This is, by the way, why thinking that knowledge management is about building central repositories of true and useful information misses the point. It is objective madness.

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For the week ending Sept. 30, here are the top five searches on my site:

"better home living through anti trust family law"
"czech the logs d00d"
"flannel crisis"
"stowe boyd"
"database integration"

"Check the logs, dude?" Clearly someone is using my site's search engine to send me a message. Is this a harbinger of a whole new category? Search spam?

Speaking of spam, Lilly Buchwitz received a "personal" message from someone she didn't know touting the wonders of MSN. She reported the abuse to MSN and received the following:

Hello Lilly,

Thank you for writing to MSN Hotmail. I recommend that you kindly seek help associated with your e-mail program, in order that you may block/filter such e-mail address from penetrating your inbox...

I hope that this e-mail has provided you with the assistance you needed.


Hotmail Customer Support

A column by Hiawatha Bray in the Boston Globe a few days later explained the mystery. It seems that when you sign up for MSN Explorer, the program sends mail to everyone in your Outlook Express contact list announcing how durn proud you are to be a member and personally imploring them to make the same durn smart decision. (In fact, in Lilly's case the poor shmo had just asked to have his address changed.)

So, it looks like Microsoft did indeed learn some lessons from the Melissa virus.

IWon.com claims to be doing really really well: "We can't give you numbers, but we're less than a year old and we've exceeded our financial plan," says founder Jonas Steinman in a happy-happy interview in eWeek (Oct. 9). IWon.com, you may remember, gets people to their site by every day giving one randomly chosen visitor $10,000. Short of actually sending prostitutes to your house in return for clicking on your sponsor's banner ads, this is about as crass as it gets.

But, we must give the last word to co-founder Bill Daugherty: "We're on the cutting edge of what is certainly the future of marketing on the Internet."

Take your lips away from that VC's ass, boys. And don't go back to work until you stop believing your own PowerPoints.

By the way, check the rules for www.grab.com which is giving away one billion dollars. Yes, a billion. The odds are 1:2,404,808,340, but the payment schedule ("a balloon payment of $620,000,000 in the fortieth year") makes the lump payment of $170,000,000 an overwhelmingly attractive alternative since I'm 2.55 trillion times more likely to be around in 40 years than www.grab.com is. (Note: Canadians have to answer "a 4-function mathematical skill testing question with a 2 minute time limit and without electronic or calculator assistance to win the prize," although buying the Mathematics Department at Guelph University apparently is within the rules.)


From the annals of the self-obscure comes this strongly worded advisory note on a ball of green Wellington Nylon Twine:

Caution: Not recomended [sic] for use when personal safety or property is involved. Not intended for any other use.

It brings to mind the warning my son noticed on a fire log (you know, the repackaged, treated sawdust for those who can't figure out how to make wood catch on fire): "Caution: Risk of Fire"

For those of you who have held off making up your mind who to vote for until you've checked in with me, let me make it clear that I'm voting for Gore. Although I do agree with Ralph Nader on many, many issues, there are three reasons I won't vote for him:

1. Lacks breadth on the issues
2. Could not govern if elected
3. Has never gotten laid

Now that Gus Hall is dead, it looks like I'm stuck with Al.

JOHO mentions Steven Seagal's weird mix of ultra-violence, hyperbolic self-absorption and selfless devotion to the path of Dharma, and the very next week his album is scrapped:

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Three investors in Steven Seagal's still-unreleased album have sued the actor, alleging that he had no intention of completing the project. ... The plaintiffs seek the recovery of their [$600,000] investment plus additional special and punitive damages to be determined.

So maybe there is something to this karma stuff after all ... but only if I get to inflict some of the punitive damages.

Who's Tired of Being a Millionaire?

Got a dot-com million you want to give away? Or ten bucks? I'm starting a new feature in JOHO, highlighting The Charities We Care About. If you have a charity that you think we may not have heard of and that you respect enough to give your hard-earned or ill-gained cash, let me know.

To kick it off, I'll mention one that has been at the top of our giving list for years, although it probably shouldn't count as obscure: Oxfam. Founded by Oxford philosophy professors, it builds sustainable resources in places that need them — low-tech water purification systems, etc. www.oxfam.org

Here's another about which I know much less: Seeds of Peace. It brings together Israeli and Palestinian children, hoping that a new generation might be able to get past the hatred if they get to know one another. (One of the children was killed in the recent riots. You can read about it on their site, if you're willing to have your heart broken.) http://www.seedsofpeace.org.

The Better Business Bureau runs a useful site that aggregates information about the larger charities. (At least it seems useful to me. If you know of something better, please let us all know): www.bbb.org/reports/charity.asp


Middle World Resources

A Compendium of Resources
Walking the Walk  

FreightDesk.com is one of those tedious services required to make modern life possible but which lead retirees to look back at their lives and wonder what were they thinking. According to an article in InformationWeek (Oct. 16, James Gasking), FreightDesk manages the supply chain for shippers, and, in particular, freight forwarders who manage the movement of freight into and out of particular regions of the globe. FreightDesk, in short, is where red tape flocks for the summer. But now they've gone totally XML-crazy. They use it internally in their databases, and they translate every transaction they touch into XML ... and then put it back into their customers' own databases and tracking systems. They even translate EDI into XML. "We reduce errors and cost and eliminate 80% of repetitive data entry and messaging costs...," says Rob Quartel, CEO. Nevertheless, he noted, his industry is still really really boring.

Cool Tool
For the Hyperlinked Organization

I stumbled across this product in a bargain bin at CompUSA (The "Sorry, I Can't Help You" Store) where, at $20, it seemed a real find. And, indeed it was, although the $20 bargain price represented a whopping 0% savings over the MSRP.

I'm talking about "Your Handwriting" from Data Becker which lets your turn your handwriting into a TrueType font. The software prints out a grid within which you write the alphabet and other symbols and which you then scan in. The program includes a pretty spiffy font editor (that only works on the fonts you scan in, unfortunately) so you can clean up that "i" that looks like a "j" and squish your sprawling "k" into something presentable. Hit the "save" button, drop it into your font directory, and soon your printed documents can look as bad as your hand written ones. Progress? Only in a reverse, double flip of the POMO ironic sense. But isn't that good enough?



ZDNet News reports (Sept. 28), in an article by Ben Charny, that Republicans and Democrats have different surfing habits:

Republicans check out their money while Democrats hunt for free stuff, according to a Media Metrix, Inc. survey...

...The site with the highest concentration of Democrats was Colonize.com, with 1.17 unique visitors in the second quarter. The site offers, among other things, special offers and shopping deals. Free advice on Askme.com drew 1.3 million Democrats, the second-highest concentration of Democrats on the Web. Rounding out the top five were Ehow.com, which also dispenses free advice; Arcamax.com, which offers free e-zines and low-cost software; and Ezsweeps.com, which enters people into contests for free.

Financial news site TheStreet.com, whose audience during the second quarter was nearly 45 percent Republican, topped the GOP list. Other sites in the top 10 included investment research site Bigcharts.com, which was 43.7 percent Republican; real estate market site Homeadvisor.com; Schwab.com; E*Trade.com; and Fidelity.com. Not that it's all money for Republicans. The site with the second-highest concentration of Republicans was high-end toy retailer eToys.com, and a close third was sports site Cnnsi.com.

Well, we can only hope that come November 8, the Republicans are clustering at www.whatthehellhappened.com.

Links to Love

David Reed, one of the genuine founders of the Net — and a heck of nice guy — has an article on his site that points out something that's obvious as soon as he says it:

Networks that support the construction of communicating groups create value that scales exponentially with network size, i.e. much more rapidly than Metcalfe's square law.

That is, the real value of the Net isn't so much that it enables networks but that it enables groups. More at http://www.reed.com/dprframeweb/dprframe.html

Chris "RageBoy" Locke was the first to point us to the latest gotta-see-it site: http://www.avionfilms.com/TEMPLATES/directors.cfm?DirectorID=5. Click on "Truth in Advertising." It's a funny video about life in a company where only truth is told.

Brian Millar has a delightfully easy to understand explanation of how domain names work: http://www.topica.com/lists/myrtletips/read In fact, this will take you to a list of many, many articles Brian's been writing recently explaining topics hither and yon, all pithy, all with the patented Myrtle light touch.

Stowe Boyd reminds us about http://store.yahoo.com/demotivators/.We've mentioned this line of demotivational posters before, but their not-quite-as-amusing 2001 model line is now out.

Remember ThirdVoice? Arguing about it was once all the rage. Jeffrey Ballinger sends us an article in the Christian Science Monitor (Sept. 21, Tom Regan) that reports on what's become of the former is-it-graffiti-or-fair-comment site:

Once you download and install the new version (which is available at www.thirdvoice.com), key words on every Web page you visit are highlighted in orange. (The words aren't highlighted on the actual site. The ThirdVoice software has a "dictionary" of more than 2 million words or phrases that it searches for...)

Click on a highlighted word and you'll get additional information and links about that word. It seems a bit like Alexa, now part of Netscape 6 ("The Final Episode"), and also like the amazingly annoying Kenjin download formerly available from Autonomy . (Alert the irony department: www.autonomy.com has no search engine on its site.) These three products have their differences but they all fall into the same general category: Distraction Engines.

Jeff also points us to www.sucks.com, a site founded by the people who brought us whitehouse.com (the porn site), to let angry customers sound off about companies they hate. So far, it's an under-engaging site with very few customer contributions. For example, in the alphabetical listing of companies from S to U, there are only a handful of corporations with any posts, and the most is Sears Roebuck with 9. But the real gauge is that United Airlines only has one complaint and it's that all of its times are reported in Eastern Standard Time. This is like saying the problem with ptomaine poisoning is that it's hard to spell.

Unfortunately, www.suckssucks.com is taken.

Mark Dionne, who is clearly having too much fun tracking down spammers and reporting them to their hosts, points us to http://combat.uxn.com/ which has a fat set of tools for tracking down those who plague us with their unrequested missives.

Marina Streznewski points out the existence of http://www.e-thepeople.com, a site that lets you start up your own petition as easily as tanking your dot-com ("179,876 electronic signatures on 3,498 petitions"). Here you'll find petitions on topics ranging from banning amalgam dental fillings (1 signatory) to "We, the undersigned ... hereby declare the Governor [Bush] to be a big smirky doofus" (67). And the great thing is that no matter how few names you get on your petition, when you send it to the relevant power broker s/he is guaranteed to fall into a gibbering sweat and do whatever it is you and your six, illiterate, drunken frat brothers insist. Power to the e-People!

Rex "The King of Swing" Hammock recommends his own site: www.smallbusiness.com, a "knowledge sharing community," now in preview. It's got some good stuff on it for — guess what! — small businesses.

Keep those self-serving self-references comin' in folks!

G.S. Chandy writes:

Do try out "The Wonderful Wankometer", which measures, I believe, something called the 'wankyness quotient' on any website or piece of writing submitted. The "Wankometer" is available from: http://www.cynicalbastards.com.

I do not know the basis on which 'wankyness' is measured - nor how reliable the opinions of the wankometer (or its creators) may be - but here are the results of a few measurements taken today...:

1) The JOHO site: wank quotient: 0.69 (low)
2) www.harvard.edu: 1.69 (considerable)
3) www.microsoft.com: 4.71 (considerable)
4) www.ibm.com: 2.61 (considerable)
5) www.oxford.edu: 0
6) www.brandeis.edu: 0.71 (low)
7) www.cynicalbastards.com: 0.00 (low) [no comment, but this is their own site!!]
8) www.zdnet.com/anchordesk: 0.93 (low - but higher than JOHO!)
9) www.sun.com: 0
10) www.cambridge.edu: 3.26 (considerable)
11) www.zdnet.com: 0.99 (low)
12) www.mit.edu: 1.95 (considerable)
13) www.linux.com: 0.61 (low)
14) The word "strategic" by itself: 10.00 (no comment offered)
15) the words "vision statement" by themselves: 5.00 (high wankyness) 16) the word "decision" by itself: 0
17) the words "decision maker" by themselves: 0
18) the words "strategic decision" by themselves: 5 (high wankyness)
19) the word "stragetise" by itself: 11 (OFF THE SCALE!)
20) the words "information technology" by themselves: 5 (high wankyness)
21) "infotech": 0 [HOW COME]

The WankoMeter is clearly in rev 1.0. The phrase "Knowledge Management" by itself practically breaks the meter, so a page like mine that uses that phrase to disparage it finds itself wanked way higher than a completely wank-off site such as Rageboy's. On the other hand, a site such as www.whitehouse.com which is explicitly designed for wanking registers a 0.0.

David Miller, book agent and pal, sends us to the most provocative site of the month: http://www.clonejesus.com/. However, it seems to be permanently down. You can find the same line of thought at www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/8611/page2.htm, arguing that we really ought to clone Jesus. They suggest using the genetic material on the Shroud of Turin. And if that fails, we can always hope that Mary Magdelene saved that infamous blue dress of hers.

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Email, Arbitrary Insults, and Suspicious Hacking Coughs


Kerry Nitz contributes to our new thread, "True Tales to Curdle the Blood":

Reminds me of when I worked for New Zealand's Ministry of Agriculture forecasting dairy industry prices. I had this big spreadsheet for determining the price to farmers from world prices. Essentially the last part of the sheet contained the fudge cells where I picked the figures that I liked and then altered the fudge factor till I got them. How did I pick the figures I liked? I made up a story based on what the dairy industry was saying and then chose figures to match - as any practising forecaster will tell you, it's the story that matters, the figures are just there to give the media something to grab onto.

(This was the same organisation that went from being the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to just the Ministry of Agriculture but kept the acronym of MAF and associated logo because of its 'international recognition'. Of course a couple of years later they merged with the Ministry of Forestry 'got back the F', and dumped the old 'internationally recognised' MAF logo.)

You obviously were out of the U.S. during the run of the insanely popular Fox show "MAF Men," with David Duchovny as Max Fisher, Agriculture and Fisheries Agent. Maybe you heard the show's theme song, which hit #1 during the peak of the show's popularity, "I'm Free (Like a Fish in a Field of Rye)."

Stuart Rubinow comments on RageBoy's pointing out of www.boring.com:

...I had to check out Boring Business Systems, mainly because it reminded me of the (Edwin G.) Boring History of Experimental Psychology I so loathed in grad school despite the appropriateness of its name.
But I digress.  The home page of Boring Business Systems today has the date "October 4, 3900."  Gives you LOTS of faith in their products and services.

My friend Jeanne, on the other hand, was reminded that she was in an office building in downtown Boston recently and noticed a Dr. Finger who is, unfortunately, a gynecologist.

By the way, the date on the Boring Business site has been updated. As of today, it's October 18, 3900.

Ross Wirth sends the following example of PFMB (Perspective-Free Moronic Behavior):

A company that shall remain nameless is running their annual United Way campaign. The executive inducement this year is to have the top five executives spend some time in the dunk tank if the employees pony up sufficient contributions. The flyer announcing the dunk tank opportunity has a large heading reading "Royal Flush" over a royal flush with pictures of the executives on the five cards. And to be sure that all employees see the announcement they are posted in the most obvious place. That's right, on the door to the restrooms.

When I replied that this might be an example of a company comfortable enough with itself to have purposefully made the pun, Ross answered:

This is a company that has flushed employee morale by the new management team being out of sync with the organizational culture. Whereas the culture was highly customer oriented, the mission put in place by the new management team focused entirely on profitability for the parent company. (They clearly know who writes their bonus.) ... They are now trying to build back employee morale by games such as the dunk tank. Rumor has it that one of the dunkees does have a copy of Cluetrain. But it is unknown if someone gave it to him and whether he actually read it.

Well, we explicitly tried to make the book a highly flush-worthy bathroom read.

Rob Charlton writes about our article on the use of precision as a bogus sign of reliability. In particular, I countered an Industry Analyst's figure of 2.7 trillion somethings with my own straight-from-the-rectum figure of 2.55 trillion:

I'm a bit worried about the article entitled "Number Mysticism". I mean, how dare you doubt Gartner (or was it Forrester)? These founts of all knowledge couldn't possibly confuse fact with prediction, nor certainty with probability, could they? (I'm 99.3452987453% sure about this!) Then I spotted the obvious problem in your arithmetic and all became clear....

The US, of course, has not yet adopted the metric system, so I know most of you are unaware that there are (very) approximately 2.55 cm to the inch (rounded up in the second decimal place and fiddled just a little). It was that realisation that indicated that you had, in fact, tried to convert Gartner's (or was that Forrester's) estimate to metric but had used the conversion scalar rather than the converted result. Hence your incredibly exact figure of $2.55 trillion !! Obvious in retrospect....

Nice try, Rob, but certain factors I couldn't possibly explain to you have caused me to lower my original estimates to 4. Please adjust your PowerPoints accordingly.

Here's Dylan Tweney, author of a fine zine (www.tweney.com), on Stowe Boyd's explanation of the role of luck in management:

This is exactly why I give no credence to "how to succeed in business" type stories / books / speeches by people who have only ever been successful in their line of work. If they've never failed at something, how do they know what part of their success comes from talent, skill, or smarts — as opposed to luck? You need a mix of success and failure before you can really start learning what works. It's the scientific method.

25 years ago, a weird rich guy in Toronto thought about hiring me to ghostwrite a book for him about the power of the bell curve. He considered the curve to be a law of nature, and of course the people at the front of it think they got there by merit and the people at the back of it more accurately think they got there by luck. Not you and me, though. Nosiree!

Don Darragh responds to the same article:

...If we accept your proposition that correct decisions (knowledge) is a random event, then the probability of any decision being correct is no better than any other decision being correct. Or, dumb luck is better than skill? And finally, at least on knowledge/truth; the best validation I know of is this: "The truth shall set you free. But first, it makes you miserable".

Ooh, deliciously cynical! The operative rule on the Web seems to be: Believe what makes you happy. That's why I read alt.showbiz.gossip.

David Landgren writes:

Am I the only person who appreciates the delicious irony, or rampant cynicism, of the following message? I subscribe to the Alertbox mailing list to learn about new additions to www.useit.com/alertbox [Jakob Nielsen's newsletter]. That was, in theory, the sole purpose of the mailing list.

Jakob Nielsen's new Alertbox is now online at: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20001015.html

The Web requires us to reverse the traditional direction of marketing. Instead of messages that a company generates when it wants to reach its customers, request marketing establishes a connection when the users ask for it. Request marketing is especially suited for the mobile Internet where intrusive messages are especially aggravating. Permission marketing is no longer enough to satisfy customers: request marketing is the next wave.

Last day to save $70 on the registration fee for our Web usability conference in the two first cities is

New York: TODAY, Friday - http://www.NNgroup.com/worldtour/cit_ny.html Chicago: MONDAY, Oct. 16 - http://www.NNgroup.com/worldtour/cit_ch.html

Other cities and general confernce info: http://www.NNgroup.com/worldtour

At first I thought David was being a bit cranky. I mean, Jakob's telling people who have indicated interest in his thoughts about his doings, so big deal; it's just basically a sig at the end of an opt-in mailing that has some real content. But, I think David's right: the content of this particular message does indeed make Jakob's ad ironic.

For me the really big news is that Jakob's site now has *some* graphics, a change from what used to be a point of pride. But the "Why this page has almost no graphics" link acknowledges only the tiny arrows used to indicate where you are in the hierarchy, whereas Jakob's home page now has a prominent graphical logo to advertise his World Tour. See, you let one graphic onto your page and there goes the neighborhood!

Valdis Krebs corrects my explanation of his weirdly wonderful map at www.orgnet.com/DEMO/socialcapital.html

When two books are bought together at Amazon, or B&N, they are linked together in my book network. People 'vote' which books are related by their buying behavior. IMHO, this shows the community of interest surrounding a book — and a picture/visualization of buying behavior at Amazon, B&N. ... Emergent topic clusters are revealed — these maps can be used to buy other books [see my brief white paper on the subject at www.orgnet.com/booknet.html].

I had assumed the map showed something like linked footnotes or reciprocating dust jacket blurbs. Well, actually, I didn't get past the fact that Cluetrain wasn't on the map.

David LastNameLess was the first of many of you to point out that many of the links in the previous issue were broken when first published. This was mainly due to my overly-zealous selecting of text to strip and turn into URLs, resulting in the inclusion of %20's where there were trailing spaces. David writes:

What should've been:


Was really: http://www.hyperorg.com/backissues/font%20face='Courier%20New,%20Courier,%20Mono'%20color=navy>http://www.disturbingauctions.com%20http://www.disturbingauctions.com

If you're Mr. Big Hyperlinking Expert Guy, where does that leave the rest of us little people? ...

Mr. Big Hyperlinking Expert Guy? I must have been promoted. Last time I checked my pay stub, my title was Mr. Big Asshole with a Zine Guy. Wow! Picking up my boss's laundry really seems to have made a difference!

Don Darragh has a question:

Whaaaasssssuuuuuppppp with you & Rageboy? Not sure if the two of you are the best of friends & enjoy each others mental skewering. Or. You're arch rivals/enemies locked in mortal combat.

Chris "RageBoy" Locke is the official Scourge of JOHO(tm). At www.hyperorg.com/misc/rageboy/rbhome.html you can read an outdated set of writings documenting RB's unprovoked series of attacks on my good name and reputation. For the briefest introduction, I recommend My Dinner with RageBoy. http://www.hyperorg.com/misc/rageboy/rageboydinner.html

Jim Montgomery's reacts to my link to the Encyclopedia Britannica's weekly explanation of Dennis Miller's cracked references:

in response to your Britannica/Annotated Dennis Miller query, "Remember when the Britannica had some dignity?" I say to you: Remember when Monday Night Football had some dignity??

Strictly speaking: No.

Jeffrey Mann of the META Group writes:

More weirdness: Frank Wills, the security guard who discovered the Watergate burglars in 1972, died of a brain tumor this week. He was only 52. I suppose it's a coincidence that it's an election year, and the Republicans are in trouble. Yeah, right...

Unless Wills was sitting on evidence for the past 30 years that showed that Dick Cheney left genetic material on The Pentagon Papers (hey, let's clone Dick Cheney!), I'm not sure exactly what threat Wills could have posed to the Republicans. But I'm willing to spread the rumor, if you'll all pitch in.

Kyle Lord Patrick responds to Bob "Prof" Morris's math joke "1 + 1 = 3 for a sufficiently small value of 3," which I still don't get:

Ugh, don't think the 1+1=3 thing is entirely farfetched.  Taken-entirely-from-one's-ass approximations are a standard tool of physics.  More or less, if the problem is too hard to work out, you look for stuff kind of like it that's easier to solve (sound like business questions?).  The problem I've always had with this is that it is based on very half-assed conventions.  For example, we were informed by our phys301 prof that something small times something else that's small makes something tiny, which can usually be disregarded from the equation.  Of course, small and tiny are always relative to the situation, so only wise old physicists know how to do this properly, and even they are bullshitting more than half the time. 

And this is why there isn't much gray area between math and physics.  Mathematicians would start convulsing violently when asked to accept that sqrt(1+x) is close enough to (1+.5*x) to switch the two, and physicists would be severely beaten if they ever claimed that sin(x)=x for small x in a math class.

And as for self-aggrandizing tag-lines....
"David Weinberger publishes an influential Web newsletter...." (italics mine, words yours)
<insert any sentence from rageboy.com>
<insert any sentence from cluetrain.com>
Oracle-"Big Business-Small Business-All Business"
And so forth.

...Anyhoo, have a nice autumn, and try to enjoy the Olympics.  Just not the same without the Cold War...

So I'm reading along about math and physics and a bunch more number stuff that apparently is quite amusing although I'll never be able to tell, leaving me with the temporary illusion that I must be smarter than I am, when I get to an out-of-the-blue assault on my integrity, character, and, yes, my mother. JOHO isn't influential? I don't suppose you remember "little" effects JOHO has had such as: the recall of the 1963 Corvair, the popularity of reggae, and the discovery that dilithium crystals have a pleasant orange-y taste when dissolved in water. Just because in the previous issue I compared myself to Colin Powell and Peter Jennings — which I promise you I intended as a post-ironic, self-deprecating remark — I now have to contend with these accusations from the likes of Lord Patrick.

I've had it. I quit.

dividing line

Bogus contest: Switching Packets

I recently made a fool of myself in front of Very Important People arguing that the very nature of TCP/IP is political. This isn't an original argument — please read Lawrence Lessig's The Code — and it was only more mortifying because Lessig was there. The argument hinges on the idea that the decision that, at its most fundamental level, the Net protocol won't encode any information about the content of what's being transmitted itself expresses a political value. Freedom, man! But, I found myself saying that if a particular religious community were designing the Net, it might have added a bit to flag if the content were heterodox. A wag in the audience said that if Orthodox Jews designed the Net, every packet would have a commentary field.

Thus was a bogus contest born. For example:

If Escher had designed the Net

a packet's header could also be seen as the tail of a different packet

If Harry Houdini had designed the Net

every packet would have a password hidden up its tail

If Timothy Leary had designed the Net

packets would be distracted for 6-8 hours by stucco wall patterns

If Aristotle had designed the Net

the end of every packet would be contained in its beginning

If men had designed the Net

300,000,000 wriggling packets would struggle to get through but only one would

If men had designed the Net

every packet would have its length noted (Oh, wait, men did and every packet does!)

Now it's up to you.

Contest Results

Mark Hurst of www.goodexperience.com has Yet Another funny-ish URL:


i.e. "look at those poor saps, trying to be designers."

It makes you wonder if anyone told SAP that their name in English is at best unfortunate. Not like "JOHO" which we extensively researched for cultural cross-cognizance and linguistic interpalliation. But the job's not done. Be assured that we here at JOHO will not rest until we're certain JOHO is gibberish in every language on the planet.

Editorial Lint

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.

"The Hyperlinked Organization" is trademarked by Open Text Corp. JOHO gratefully acknowledges Open Text's 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/misc/trademarks.html.