September 12, 2002

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Palladium and the Real World: Microsoft's bid to make our computers secure will also make them vulnerable to thick-fingered copyright holders.
The 3 Rules of Digital Rights Management: There's nothing wrong with managing copyrighted materials, if you do it right.
Real World End User Licenses: Defaulting to Stupidity: The importance of leeway.
The Pop-under that Saved the World: Find Osama!
Why Vacations Suck: Ten reasons no one likes vacations.
Why don't we collaborate?: Why isn't every business using today's fabulous collaborative software?
The Anals of Marketing: Stamps, End User Abuse License, and protecting Godzilla
Walking the Walk: Maybe conversation actually is important.
Cool Tool: LeXpert and StartUpManager
What I'm playing: Clive Barker's Undying
Internetcetera: Spamming the dead
Scandal Central: A picture is worth 10-20 years.
4 Conferences, No Wedding: I'm plugging them, even if I'm not going to them.
Links: You found 'em.
Email, Random Slights and Unsightly Growths: Your excellent emissions.
Bogus contest: Open Source Conspiracy Theories
Contest Results


It's a JOHO World After All

All Things Considered ran a commentary of mine which you can listen to here.

I've also made it into a bunch o' notable journals. I keep a running list of publications here.


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Palladium and the Real World

There are two problems.

First, our computers keep getting infected with viruses, including the intentional virus called "spam," because they have no way of knowing which incoming stuff to trust. And they can't know what to trust until they know who to trust, and even if they did, they can't know that an attachment that claims to come from a trusted source actually comes from that source.

Second, people who want to sell us content and keep us from redistributing it have no way to stop us cold.

There's a way to solve both these problems at once. But there's a price. By securing our computers we will also enable — and, realistically, bring on — a regime that enforces the sort of strict copyright laws that, if applied to the real world, would prevent your child from clipping a picture from a magazine to put into a homework assignment.

That's the benefit and danger of Microsoft's Palladium project.

Palladium relies on CPU manufacturers to provide hardware identification numbers for each chip; Intel and AMD have apparently already said yes. It will enable a variety of biometric devices to be integrated so that a retinal scan (or whatever) could prove not only that this is computer #142341111215 but that registered user David Weinberger in Brookline is using it. (Palladium permits but does not require that the machine ID be linked to a known, secure personal identity.) A logical segment of the Windows operating system would be set aside as the Palladium "vault." Anything going into or out of that vault would be encrypted and tied to the ID number. The user could control what gets released from the vault, providing a new level of security, and the user could also specify that, for example, it shouldn't accept email that arrives without a valid ID. At the same time, however, companies selling content would know precisely to whom (= ID number) they have sold it and to whom they have not. They would also be able to set the rules around the use of that content.

Microsoft of course maintains that this is all intended to give the user control over a perfectly secure box. But it would not so incidentally provide the infrastructure for Digital Rights Management, i.e., the ability of content providers to control the use of their files after the files have been delivered to the machines of the people who bought them. Palladium could be used to prevent us from sharing creative works in the ways that we choose, and could even prevent us from doing simple things like copying and pasting out of documents we've purchased or copying an MP3 we've bought onto an MP3 player we own. "Could" doesn't necessarily mean "will," but in the real world — in this real world — it would be naive to think that greedy, frightened, powerful forces wouldn't take advantage of the technical opportunity to thwart the market's will.

So, it'd feel a whole lot better if Microsoft teamed news of Palladium with a statement that Microsoft will fight for preserving and extending fair use and will even pioneer new ways of enabling music to spread without putting a cent sign on every Play button. But, to the contrary, Microsoft is siding with the Hollywood bullies.

Why? For the same reason that "Palladium will run on every platform, not just Windows" wasn't the first thing that came out of Microsoft's mouth. They haven't said no to this, but their reluctance itself is scary. If Palladium remains available only to Windows machines, Windows would become by far the most desirable platform on which to deliver content, forging the unholy alliance between Microsoft and Hollywood that has been long feared. If that new White Snake CD can only be downloaded onto a Windows Palladium PC, Microsoft will have extended its monopoly into the content delivery arena.

So, we would end up with a system that provides our computer with a new level of security, but designed by a company that has no credibility — none — when it comes to building secure systems. It would enable micromanagement of digital content, speeding the day when the most repressive rules about use and reuse could be enforced, without balancing this with a commitment to enabling the fair sharing of creative works. As currently construed (i.e., no commitment to multi-platform support or to open sourcing it) it would extend the Microsoft monopoly into the world of entertainment and other content.

Palladium would make our computers more secure. But the price is too high. And even if it is to be built, Microsoft is exactly the last company on the planet that should be building it.,3973,261191,00.asp

Microsoft's technical FAQ:

Eric Norlin:
(Thanks, Eric, for help with this article, even though you mainly disagree with it.)

Dan Gillmor on copyright:

A letter to Ashcroft from some cowardly, skunk-assed members of Congress:

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The 3 Rules of Digital Rights Management

I've got no problem with a company selling me a work of creativity according to whatever rules it wants to establish. I can choose to accept or not. If they say I'm only allowed to listen to the music once or that I need to have a special player or even that I have to clean my ears with Q-tips before I spin the music up, fine. I have no problem with companies making the rules they've established enforceable. For example, if Microsoft builds in a mechanism that makes it impossible for me to load Office on both my desktop and my laptop, that's Microsoft's right. I can shop elsewhere if I don't like it.

But I do have a problem with fundamentally degrading the openness of the Internet in order to make the rules enforceable. And I do have a problem with narrowing the rules of fair use to allow license agreements that are unreasonable restrictive.

In fact, here are my Three Rules of DRM. Each rule supersedes the previous one.

1. Companies that want to sell us works of creativity can do so with whatever enforceable licensing agreement they want.

2. Fair use isn't just protected but is expanded in the face of the new reality.

3. The basic architecture of our computing and networking environment — which maximizes openness, connection and innovation — isn't degraded.

If artists want to distribute their stuff locked up so tightly that I can't sample it, share it, play in on every device in my house, or quote it in my weblog, then they should go ahead. And I hope we'll band together in not buying their stuff.

Let the market decide. Freely.

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Real World End User Licenses: Defaulting to Stupidity

Doc Searls points to a commentary by Ed Foster who writes in InfoWorld on the spread of end user license agreements to printed material. His example is a book on "Geriatric Care Guidelines" from Omnicare, sent unsolicited to physicians. A label warns you not to open the shrink-wrapping unless you agree with the license which, basically, forbids you from telling anyone what's in the book.

Lots of printed documents have had conditions attached to them. Consulting companies routinely put a footer on every page of their reports that forbid them from being photocopied. And nondisclosure statements routinely preface business documents. We usually don't feel there's anything wrong with that, perhaps because the inefficiency of the real world ensures a reasonable leeway: nobody's going to know if you distributed a page of the repor or if you told your spouse about the interesting proposal you heard today. In both cases, you're violating the license, but far from doing any harm, you are actually furthering the author's interests — the consulting firm is further entrenched and you have a chance to think out loud about the idea with someone outside your limited perspective.

The digital world affords the possibility of zero leeway, so, we're desperately trying to make the mistake of erring on the side of strictness. But the strict construction of communication misses its real point. "Moving my ideas into a purchaser's head" is only rarely the real intent of an author. Far more often the intent is much richer than that: to have her ideas make a difference, to be appreciated and even loved for her ideas, to have her ideas start an open-ended process of development.

What we thought was an undesirable weakness of the real world — its inevitable leeway — in fact is a strength because it accommodates the basic point of communication: to be ambiguous enough in meaning and scope to cause growth and innovation in unpredictable ways.

Digits don't know from that ambiguity. We — by which I mean the distribution industries, the government and even most of us "content creators" — are doggedly trying to reset the default to what is simple and unambiguous. But, defaulting to the simple and the unambiguous is the very definition of stupidity.

Besides, didn't James Bond defeat the evil forces of Omnicare in "You Only Play Once"?

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The Pop-under that Saved the World

I've created an Anti-Terrorist PopUnder that just might save the world. (Hint: Let it cycle through once. Can you spot Osama?)

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Why Vacations Suck

At last the summer is over. Here are the top ten reasons why vacations suck:

The better the vacation, the worse the bandwidth. It's a law.

Huge disruption in your schedule of daily activities.

Hourly encounter with non-human species.

The rest of the world doesn't stop sending you email.

Stephen King and Tom Clancy: ridiculous plots, stupid characters, a cliché a minute.

Bugs think they own your ass.

It's someone else's toilet.

If your real house hasn't burned to the ground by now, it's probably either been looted or has become infested with silverfish.

No matter how much you use, calamine lotion doesn't work ... and it tastes damn funny.

When you get back, people have no sympathy for what you've been through.

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The Anals of Marketing

Stamp out RageBoy

So, we're going to be allowed to print our own US postage stamps on our own printers. Why not let us create our own designs as well? Here are the first two I'd do:



End User Abuse License: 1-2-3

1. promises to be your online business networking network and it might be a great service, but I didn't get past the privacy policy. It begins well and then gets worse and worse:

Ryze Ltd. and Aereal Inc. share your concerns about personal privacy. Through the Ryze Web site, application and service, and through other contact with Ryze Ltd. and Aereal Inc. as a company, Ryze Ltd., Aereal Inc. and affiliates may collect personal information and data including, but not limited to, application and web site usage data, viewing data, file transfer and e-mail data, and personal contact information such as e-mail addresses, mailing addresses and phone numbers. Additionally, Ryze Ltd. and Aereal Inc.'s applications and web sites may use technological facilities for tagging and tracking including, but not limited to, Web cookies, login usernames and other technologies to track and correlate data. Ryze Ltd. and Aereal Inc. own and reserve all rights and all usage and distribution rights to any data it collects. Ryze Ltd. and Aereal Inc. may share user data with parties including, but not limited to, business partners, affiliates, customers and licensees.

Please compare the first sentence with the last sentence (emphasis added). The lying sacks of ordure!

2.. Jamie McCarthy is concerned about the Windows XP service pack 3 end user license agreement that gives Microsoft the right to install whatever updates it wants — including Digital Rights Management stuff — without asking you.

3. Udhay Shankar has found a site that has a VBscript that lets you install most software without having to agree to the EULA. I haven't tried it and don't know if it works, if it's legal or even if it's harmless, but there's a certain psychological satisfaction to circumventing the arbitrary demands of software EULAs.


By holding my thumb over the first letter of my JOHO business card, I have obtained the transcript of the recent strategy meeting at Toho Corp. as they discussed how to respond to the existence of a popular weblog called "Davezilla."

CEO: Tell me, my loyal subordinates, what our greatest asset is here at Toho.

CFO: It is without doubt Godzilla.

CEO: Most assuredly. And what is Godzilla?

Jr. Mktg VP: It is a 110-foot high dinosaur imbued with the ability to breathe fire.

CEO (smiling indulgently): Foolish one. Anyone else?

CTO (hesitantly): It is an archetype called up by the Japanese in response to the deep guilt, shame and horror of having initiated the Second World War in the Pacific, which ended in holocausts that destroyed two of our cities as surely as the mighty Godzilla would have?

CEO: Not even close. Anyone else? No? I'll tell you what Godzilla, our greatest asset, is. It started as a movie so poorly made that when the man in the dinosaur suit rampaged through a city, we didn't bother painting the inside of cardboard buildings he knocked over. We then ran this character into the ground in a series of movies that consecutively lowered the production values and became famous for being so blatantly without originality. Because these movies were so bad, "Godzilla" branded as standing for cheeziness. He is a monster who exists only as a laughingstock.

VP Mktg: He is a brand.

CEO: Yes, but he is a brand unlike almost any other. Toyota is a brand, but they make cars that are the object of the branding. Sony is a brand but they make electronic equipment. Godzilla is a brand but there is no Godzilla.

Jr. Mktg VP: There isn't?

CEO: All Godzilla is is a brand. He exists only because people, oddly, remember the movies and continue to refer to him when they need to talk about something large, lumbering and rather ridiculous.

All: Ah. Very true. So wise.

CEO (intensely, as if in another world): So, here is your challenge. If we are to slay this mighty monster that has ravaged our land, let us today pledge to keep anyone from referring to Godzilla. Where the army has failed, where the navy has failed, let us bring on the lawyers. Together we shall rid the world of this scourge named Godzilla. And then, Toho's noble mission will have been accomplished.

CFO: I thought our mission was to increase shareholder value ...

CEO: Silence, mortal!

The transcript ends with the sound of a single gun shot.

But surely we can learn from the post-marketing brilliance of Toho which has understood that the true aim of marketing is to drive all thought and discussion of your product off the face of the earth, especially if your product has no existence outside of what people think and say. Markets are conversations? Then let's sue everyone into silence! Brilliant!

Jonathan Peterson briefly summarizes a new Forrester report on MP3s and the recording industry:

Forrester has a new report stating the obvious: the music industry needs to let customers decide when, where and how they listen to music. Unsurprisingly, Big Content isn't listening:

The music label executives we spoke with are so sure piracy is destroying their business, that they seemed strangely uninterested in the truth. After citing statistics about the sales of recordable blank CDs and threatening technical interdictions that would force pirates to reboot their PCs, one averred that "Research is useless at this stage."

Interestingly Forrester forecasts a $2.1 Billion business in downloadable music, lead by a reinvigorated pop single marketplace and big fans who are willing to snap up productized digital "bootlegs", singles, and live versions of major acts.

Fear makes people stupid. Unfortunately, we are all likely to suffer from the recording industry's fear.


Middle World Resources

Walking the Walk  

Because I am a Cluetrain guy, I am unnaturally alert to the rediscovery of conversation, for the central idea of that decentralized book builds on Doc Searl's insight that "markets are conversations." So are businesses (as Fernando Flores said, although in a different way) and so is the Internet itself even though business generally insists on understanding the Net as a type of cheap broadcast medium.

So, it is almost certainly only a coincidence that in the double issue (Aug. 19 and 26) The New Yorker, Adam Gopnick's excellent-as-usual article on cooking ends with this insight:

Searching for an occult connection between cooking and writing, I had missed the most obvious one. They are both dependencies of conversation...I enjoy the company of cooks, I realized, because I love the occasions they create for conversation.

Then, putting that magazine down, I picked up the NY Times Week in Review and read an article called "The Selling of America, Bush Style" by Victoria de Grazia about the Bush administration's attempt to "rebrand" the US. She points to two obstacles. First, "there are now so many competing messages..." Second,

...advertising messages in themselves have so little bite. They are like one-way streets. Effective cultural exchange, by contrast, depends on engaging others in dialogue.

Jeez, maybe Cluetrain was right! The Internet is spreading the cult of conversation, which is, after all the most basic form of human sociality. (Wait, does sex count as a social act?)

Cool Tool
For the Hyperlinked Organization

LeXpert is a software program designed to assist word game enthusiasts in expanding their knowledge of words. It offers more than 3,500 word lists and different ways of viewing these lists. Customized lists can be created based on patterns, cryptograms, anagrams, number of vowels, etc.


You know who I hate? Real, that's who. When you install the Real Player, at one point it shows you a list of newsletters and promotional gunk you don't want to receive. All the boxes are unchecked. Bravo. But, if you're blowing through the install screens so you can play your shared file of W getting the lyrics to "O Susanna" wrong, you may not notice that the box scrolls, and all of the items below the scroll are checked. That totally sucks.

What's worse, every time Real Player loads, it tries to put a program into your StartUp folder to automatically load every time you reboot. That sucks too.

You know what I love? StartupManager from Mike Lin. It notices whenever a program tries to sneak something into the StartUp folder and asks your permission.

It's free. It works. Thank you, Mike Lin.

What I'm playing

Clive Barker's Undying is a pretty dumb first-person shooter that's not nearly as scary as it should be, although I've been playing it with the sound down low so that my children will think I'm working. It's one of those games where the challenges aren't fun enough to make dying and restarting worthwhile, so, in homage to the game's name, I'm using a cheat that makes me pretty much invulnerable.


And speaking of undying...

According to a study by Address Guardian (and reported in MediaPost), 17M US households read direct mail and telemarketing addressed to a dead person. Four million get "a lot" and 53% of the mail is going to people who have been dead for a year or more. Only 6% goes to people who have been dead for 10 or more years.

In my will, I've specified that my heirs should keep my email address active and that all incoming mail should be automatically answered with a personalized response expressing my great interest in their products, services, offers of stolen government funds, webcam views of their hot coed selves and penis extenders. Count it as my own web-based perpetual flame.

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Scandal Central

Forwarded via Tim Hiltabiddle, here's a map of the unfolding scandals. (Click on the snippet below to see the entire illustration.)

(Thanks to Mark Dionne for finding the original source of the diagram. Let it be noted, however, that Mark is disappointed that Lernout & Hauspie once again is ignored by those listing companies wounded by lying, scheming, greedy bastards.)

And Greg Allen writes:

While I realize you didn't create the map, but it's worth noting how much more central Jack Grubman is to the whole scheme. He was a literal "kingmaker," the hub of many telecom partnerships (Juniper/Worldcom) and CEO transfers (ATT > Qwest). And as the NYTimes reported recently, he also doled out IPO shares to client/potential client CEO's and other telecom Execs.

Of course, when I posted on my weblog, about Jack Grubman, it was the shocking theatrical aspect of Grubman getting accosted by (of all people) a CNBC reporter on the street.

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4 Conferences, No Wedding

I told four conference organizers that I'd pimp for them. Here goes...

1. I went to Pop!Tech a couple of years ago and had an excellent time. It brings together social-minded, humanistic technologists (generalizing rather broadly) for a couple of days of presentations in the lovely Opera House in the lovely Camden, Maine. I'm going again this year as a participant, not a speaker. There are still some seats available.

I'll blog from it, of course, but I think a semi-official blogsite is being created for it by other blogging attendees. And so blogs, inevitably, become topic- and event-based as well as based around individuals.

2. I'm going to the DigitalID World conference in Denver on October 8. Looks like it could be seminal. In fact, I'm moderating (or would extreminating be a better approach?) a panel with Microsoft on Palladium. (Note to Microsoft with regard to the lead article in this issue: Just kidding! Ulp.)

3. Halley Suitt is encouraging us to go to the "Next Generation Growth" conference put on by Harvard Business School Publishing in Cupertino on October 3. I'm not going to be able to make it, but it looks interesting.

4. I am keynoting a Delphi Group conference on "The Integrated Enterprise" in Reston, VA on Oct. 28. Apparently this has to do with technology, not race relations.

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Steve Yost has a nicely written meditation on Borges' critique of the reification of the self, complete with a twist "Aha!" ending.

David Reed is no fool so if he's excited — positively — about possible changes to the FCC's policy on licensing spectrum, then so am I. His blog entry has links to lots of comments filed with the FCC, including his own.

To see why any good news from the FCC shines brighter than it should, read Dan Gillmor's balanced assessment of that organization under the leadership of Michael Powell.

Tom Poe is in the front of the pack creating a free recording studio to encourage the distribution of alternatively-business-modelled music.

Darwin "Print Is for Losers" Magazine has a pithy interview with the most depressing man in America, Lawrence Lessig. Unfortunately, Lessig — a national treasure — has earned his pessimism. In short, he's right. Imagine a prophet with a law degree.

The interview gives an excellent overview of Lessig's thought. Every answer is quotable, so, almost at random, here's Lessig on the threat to innovation:

The reality now is that every new innovation has got to not only fund a development cycle and fund a marketing cycle, it's got to fund a legal cycle during which you go into court and demonstrate that your new technology should be allowed in the innovative system. In that context, there's an extraordinarily high burden on innovation ..

Dan Gillmor and Doc Searls blog from the Open Source Conference where Larry Lessig and Richard Stallman gave keynotes.

Back in the 20th century, if someone had accused you of copyright infringement, you enjoyed that quaint and now seemingly archaic guarantee of due process. Today, due process is a lot harder to pursue, and the burden of proof increasingly is on those accused of copyright infringement. For the copyright act, in essence, makes the owner of every Internet service provider, content host, and search engine an untrained copyright cop. The default action is censorship.

There's a conversation on Digital Rights Management at Kevin Marks' MediAgora (and at Eric Norlin's site). And here's a Chronicle of Higher Education article on "Copyright as Cudgel."

Jonathan Peterson provides some perspective:

Take a look at TIA, there are bigger fish to fry than mere copyright clampdowns.

TIA stands for Total Information Awareness, a secret DARPA project that has some folks, like the EFF, worried.

Some high visibility folks talk about "Technology's Impact on Democracy" at the e-thepeople site.

And the British government herself has posted a site with ideas for how to use the Internet to make democracy work better.

Meanwhile, Matt Oristano points us to a remarkable report that would read better as a premise for a cheesy sci-fi movie than as a serious statement from the National Science Foundation and Commerce Department. It's called Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance. Says Matt:

It includes lots of helpful government recommendations for enhancing our brains with nanotechnology, according to standards that presumably the government would set. It's quite amazing.

He especially commends to our attention a section on "memetic engineering"where they propose to engineer our culture in a Darwinian mold as well."

Rageboy's right: Halley's piece on her son's theatrical performance is NYer-worthy.

Adina Levin, one of the smarter people around, has started a weblog, mainly about what she's reading. She is a keen reader, as her opening essay on the books Nexus and Linked makes clear.

Jeff Gates notes the dovetailing of my "Pray Faster!" bumpersticker and his own recent achieving Jewish manhood (at the age of 53) as chronicled in his weblog.

Off of his OuttaContext site you'll also find Dichotomy, a nicely done site keeping a human perspective on 9/11. And you'll find a link to Jeff's story about selling his demographic data on eBay. to civilization.

Mike O'Dell (not to be confused with Michael Dell) recommends, a UK site that sells hard-to-find albums such as:

3-Hürel - Hurel Arsivi - LP, £12.00 Similar to Erkin Koray this early '70s three piece Turkish band's album is a mega rarity but at last has been reissued on 180 gram vinyl in a high quality sleeve. Superb Middle Eastern style psych / progressive with loads of ethnic instruments jamming with fuzz wah-wah guitars etc.... Bargain Price.

And Mike has been psychedelicized by The Technical Web of Sound, a "60's Psychedelic Radio." For example, 'twas there that he heard the marvelous tune, "The Gong with the Luminous Nose." (Mr. O'Dell has confirmed that this was not a mis-typing of "The Bong with the, etc.")

Mike also points us to, a collection of the sayings on a whiteboard at Fusion Marine Technology. Kitsch? Found poetry? Who knows what was going on in Mike's fevered head when he recommended this site.

Mini-Bogus Contest: Find other such collections of quotes deemed by some company to be worth a "Do not erase" notice on a whiteboard.

There are some amusing plays on the Google logo at SomethingAwful.

Mark "SpassMeister" Kelly points out an article (the link to which doesn't work any more) by the always-interesting Joel Garreau on cell-phone swarming (or what Howard Rheingold calls "smart mobs"). A taste:

This is the precise opposite of a 1962-style "American Graffiti" world. Then you had to go to a place — the strip, the drive-in — to find out what was going on. Now, you find out what's going on by cell phone, and go to the place where it's happening.

I like Rheingold's upcoming book, by the way. From Perseus, The World's Greatest Publisher.

Joseph Zitt points out:

Larry Niven, in a sense, predicted this in 1973. Linking it with teleportation, he called them "flash crowds". It's already in the Jargon dictionary

Yikes. I even read that book lo these many years ago but didn't make the connection. Thanks, Joseph.

Gary Unblinking Stock tells us that's new Get Your War On is out. The strip proves the genius of telling the truth.

Gary also points us to a complement to Steve Himmer's now-famous RATS page (which parodies the TIPS program). It's a public service reminder of who exactly needs to be turned in.

Brian Dear has started a blog about design and marketing.

Nollind Whachell has started a blog. His initial entries are dominated by personal thoughts about the promise and peril of the Net's openness. His professional background is in the gaming industry (Sierra, not Vegas).

Likewise, Mike Melduke has begun blogging, primarily about the financial side of life, such as a comparison of Elvis and the bull market.

Andrew Hinton has given Small Pieces Loosely Joined an excellent review (in both senses) over at Boxes and Arrows. Thank you, Andrew.

Carol Guevin at blogs and recommends Andrew's review. Carol is also involved with AfterChaos, a new media collective: "Afterchaos is a new concept collaborative lab whose core vision + mission is to explore, theorize and prove new business models to apply to our new media industry."

There's a good article, that not so incidentally says nice things about my book, by Charles Leadbeater in The New Statesman. Charlie is the author of The Weightless Society and is an advisor to Tony "Anthony" Blair.

I've joined BlogCritics. The site's looking really good. Now I just have to remember to blog some criticism.

At blogtree I've listed RageBoy and Doc as my blog's parents. Careful readers will observe that the date of my initial blog — see the bottom of my blog page — predates RB's. But he has threatened me with an unspecified form of public humiliation if I don't admit he is my daddy. And it's certainly true that RB's holding me up as the poster boy of Not Getting It about weblogs (unmerited though that honor was) spurred me to start blogging seriously...after having watched Doc for years showing what a blog could be. Besides, who wouldn't be proud to admit that he's RageBoy's love child? So, thanks for the years of abuse, RB. I take it as an honor.

Paula Hatch-Sato points to the "Engrish" site that displays infelicitous uses of her mother tongue by speakers of her adopted tongue.

Meanwhile, I can't believe that the local Friendly's restaurants still have signs up that advertise "Free Sundae with Chicken."

Gotta love Gary Turner's sleazeball scandal rag parodies.

And speaking of Gary, Frank Paynter has a long interview with him that, as always, gives a great sense of the Person Behind the Blog. Also, he's interviewed Jeneane Sessums and Denise Howell, prominent bloggers all.

The Complexity Digest is a good resource for finding what's being written about, um, complexity.

David Farnham is (was??) keeping a blog about his service in Afghanistan. He writes: "One of these days I'll get back to my life as a web architect, but for now I'm trying to get online and post whenever I can. Have a look." (David has checked in since I posted this and says that he's back writing, "a little more cynical, and a lot more pissed off.")

At David's home page (which is no longer up to date) you can read about his participation in the Army's SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) School.

Mark Feldman points us to a collection of children's art maintained by PaPa iNk, a nonprofit he heads. Some beauty, not just cuteness.

MegNut's new book is now available at Amazon. She and her co-authors are releasing it incrementally at their website. I just read the chapter on "Using Blogs in Business," an excellent overview of the hows and the whys.

For a shorter, lighter-hearted expression of the Hermeneutical Dilemma, read Marek's digital rendition of Hamlet.

Chip has unearthed a short Flash commercial that's set to the tune of The Monkees' "Money" and that should bring comfort to registered Democrats all across this great land of ours.

Martin Roell blogs enthusiastically about some thoughts inspired by Gary Turner's site where he has recorded the voices of a handful of his readers and co-bloggers. "I could suddenly feel the Internet," writes Martin.

(Martin blogs in German, which is something of an obstacle for many of us, including me, even with the absurdist help of Google's translation tool. On the other hand, where else are you going to see the word "faktenfaktenfaktenreichen"?)

Martin also blogs a pithy quote from Curt Cloninger in an article that responds to the cry: "Man, you dudes are taking this online stuff waaaay too seriously. You need to unplug, turn off your computer, and go for a walk or something. Get some perspective."

But the online world is not a game of Mario Brothers. The online world is networked, which means there are living PEOPLE out there. Yes, the computer is the interface to this network, but the network itself is comprised of people, not computers. Any place where people share beliefs and concerns and humor and friendship and commitment — that place is a real world.

That's not a bad way of summarizing Small Pieces Loosely Joined. Of course, the interesting thing about the Web is that it is also a game of Mario Brothers and an infinite variety of possibilities not real enough for the Real WorldTM.

An unrelated fact (except in the way that everything is related by metaphor): Martin also has a photo of an open-air theater in Dresden that has become an underwater theater because of the overflowing of the Elbe.

If you want to see some really useful AI, read the interview with the people designing the AI system for the new edition of No One Lives Forever over at

Bob Treitman (of the lovely SoftPro book mini-chain) forwards a stunt contest from Gregory FCA, a Philadelphia PR and investory relations firm. We are to rewrite the annual report of our favorite disgraced corporation in the voice of an author of our choosing.

I doubt haikus count, but then I'm not really entering, am I?

Harken! The bush moves
unaware of its motion.
Crows do its thinking.

White water almost drowned
one president. This one swims
in barrels of oil.

Mini Bogus Contest, of course.

I've complemented the truly scary page that documents Michael Jackson's facial transformations with a pictorial chronicle of my own facial shenanigans.


dividing line

Email, Random Slights and Unsightly Growths

Glenn Fleishman, who says he's an Unsolicited Pundit but is actually a Responsible Journalist, reacts to my not caring about Amazon's practice of offering used copies of books on the same pages where they offer new copies.

Hundreds of books — and sometimes it's thousands — can dash the future of a title because of returns from resellers who give titles very brief windows, especially for midlist sorts of books that might only sell 5,000 copies over the course of a year.

A promising book that lost several hundred sales in its initial days could go into remainderhood rather than backlist, and prevent an author from selling future works.

You should really read some of the Author's Guild's statements on this. There's a business case to be made that authors are being killed with this individually and collectively.

I may have drunk the blue soup on this, but I would like to not allow used or new-condition sales until at least the shipping date of the book, or maybe a week afterwards, to allow some new books to go out.

The fact that makes MORE on a used sale than it does on the new sale (without carrying cost of inventory, depreciation, etc., to boot) makes their "freedom to resell" arguments sound a little silly.

James McKenna adds:

As I recall, the request authors are making of is NOT to cease listing used copies next to new ones. It's to WAIT A DECENT INTERVAL after a book is released before doing so. A couple weeks is the interval I remember hearing mentioned...

For aggressive, snarky folks like you (and, probably, me), "tough sh_it" is an okay response to this complaint. But a lot of authors are out there slogging away creating the stuff of which we make intellectual meat loaf, and many of them aren't the gregarious, "steal and steal alike" type. It doesn't seem out of line to offer a limited reprieve from the instant-distribution olde booke shoppe, at least long enough to sell a few books and let the launch-party hangover to fade from memory.

Another argument, less sentimental and more to the point, is that, unlike the RIAA and the big five media conglomerates, authors don't have a war chest to buy lawyers to enforce their "rights."...

And third, Phil Smith III piles on:

While your "Tough sh_it" comment is of course reasonable as far as it goes, it's worth noting that at least some of these sales are bogus. My sister's novel, _She_Let_Herself_Go_, was published this spring. Even before she had her author's copies — before any local bookstore had it — Amazon was listing it as available used, at half the cover price...

I think it's highly likely that they were review copies. FWIW, review copies are marked with a "Not for resale" stamp, which I think it reasonable to ask Amazon to honor.

That said, I still don't give a sh_t about the legitimate practice.

Prof. T.D. Wilson at the U of Sheffield writes about my criticism of Hubert Dreyfus' book on the Net:

...I think there's one point you may be wrong on:

"But it's hard to find people who believe that the Internet could entirely and loss-less-ly replace real world education, so the chapter isn't very compelling."

In fact I think it's easy to find university administrators who believe exactly this. They assume that courses can be converted by academics in their 'spare time', without support staff, without training, and without effective software support. Of course, these aren't the guys (they're mainly guys!) who are going to read either Dreyfus or JOHO!

I like university administrators as little as the next guy — don't get me started — but I'm surprised to hear that they could be so shortsighted, ignorant, and uninformed about the value of their own physical plant. In other words, you're probably right.

Richard Dillman writes about the Dreyfus article where I argue that "good enough" results from search engines are fine in an economy of information abundance:

You've probably bumped into Herbert Simon's notion of "satisficing", the strategy of selecting the first option that works, as opposed to "optimizing", or selecting the very best option. Gary Klein quotes Simon in a new book, which if you haven't seen already, might interest you: Sources of Power (How People Make Decisions.)

The book is 300 pages, mostly reports of field research on decision making by firefighters, ER nurses, and other such professionals. Klein's conclusions struck me as a bit simplistic (not necessarily a bad thing!), but the detailed interviews provide observational data about human experience and intuition that generally support the claims that Dreyfus makes in Why Computers Can't Think.

I hadn't heard of satisficing and sort of wish you hadn't introduced me to it. I will forever think that it means "Taking pleasure in self-sacrifice," as in "Mama Nachama was satisficed to walk in the rain so her sonny wouldn't have to hunch under his umbrella."

Tim Bray responds to my chiding the Oxford English Dictionary for requiring a print-based verification of the first use of "blog" when in fact it was coined online by Peter Mead. Tim wrote the software that indexed the OED's electronic version.

...some years ago, I took up the issue of net citations with John Simpson, chief OED editor, who is a certifiably Smart Guy (tm) and I pointed out that lots of neologizing is happening here on the Web. This discussion was maybe 1995-7, but I think the arguments still work. He said they were sticking to print citations for two reasons:

(a) the OED is scholarly, in the formal sense that the info about a cited quotation should provide sufficient information to enable the curious scholar to dig up the original in a competent research library and check out the context, accuracy, and so on. The expectation that something first appearing in 1996 is going to still be there in 2006, let alone 2366, is not that great. But it would be surprising if the research libraries ceased to function. Yes, it's reasonable to be deeply concerned about the ephemeral nature of the net environment, but that's just how it is right now.

(b) how much delay do you incur by requiring a printed citation? I don't know when PMe allegedly coined blog, but I bet the first printed citation (which the OED gang is pretty darn good at tracking down) didn't lag by more than a few months. So what's the big deal?

I'm not sure I 100% agree with John, but he's a guy who's worth listening to.

So is Tim. But the big deal has to do with giving credit where it's due. Peterme invented the term and so it thus ought to be recorded.

Steven Aukstakalnis writes about my article on the embarrassment that is the Homeland Security home page. (A version of the article ran in the Miami Herald as an op-ed.)

Given your comments, I wanted to illustrate an example of just how powerful a tool the internet can be in this regard. I call your attention to the following resource page we administer:

National Homeland Security Knowledgebase

This resource is effectively one part of a three tier information system covering the broad, fluid and evolving subject of homeland security...

The site provides a free database and two free newsletters, among other services.

Madeleine Begun Kane, Humor Columnist, gently informs me that I've been scooped with regard to my Google Top Ten First-Name award:

I enjoyed your comments about Google's first name top 10 and thought you might be amused by my piece on a similar subject written 3 or 4 years ago back when Madeleine Albright was Secretary of State:

Surfing for Madeleines

Meanwhile, Mark Dionne would strip me of my award for minor, perceived technical breaches. He writes:

I checked Google for "David" and on the first page I get:

JOHO the Blog
... W. David Stephenson, with whom I wrote an op-ed for the Miami Herald about why the Homeland Security page sucks, has two followups: ...

It would seem that David Stephenson gets the award, not you! And it's number 9, not number 8.

First, it's only #9 if you count the sub-page hit for The David and Lucille Packard Foundation. I choose not to.

Second: No freaking way! The link is to my blog, not W. David Stephenson's. It's not even a link to the particular blog entry that makes the now-obvious mistake of mentioning W. David Stephenson: it links to this blog's home page. So, if W. Stinking David Stephenson wants to make up an award for himself that says "Mentioned on a Google Top Ten First-Name Page," he can. Otherwise, the prize is mine mine mine mine and not you nor a platoon of embittered loser Davids can take it away from me. And if you try, I'll just change the rules again.

Victory is sweet.

Luigi Bertuzzi is distressed to find out that the Italian version of Small Pieces Loosely Joined has been titled "Archipelago Web":

I walked into a bookstore this morning and recognized "Small Pieces ... " from the graphics on the cover. The title did not match. Arcipelago Web ? ! :(((( I read your name twice and could not believe my eyes. Even 4 letter words take more text to be rendered properly in my language ..... Arcipelago !!! ??? A set of bloody islands !!!! ???? Mamma mia che ca__ta di titolo (= bul__it title )

Well, it's better than what the book is known as to my children: Small Pizzas Loosely Joined.

Joshua Boyd ways in with an answer to a question I posted way back in December: When you close a closet door, why does it get dark? After all, the same amount of light must be entering as is escaping through the crack under the door.

Well, to put it simple, and without math, light gets absorbed by the surfaces, which means it is being turned into heat. Some of the light gets absorbed by air, and it heats the air, and other light gets absorbed by the surfaces of the room, thus heating the walls.

Hahaha. I of course knew the answer all along. Yeah.

And Harry Angel, Commander, Able Company (578 Engineers) responds to another article from December about my trip to West Point:

I am glad you saw some Army leadership in action. But there is much you did not see. I recommend you visit the Army Center for Lessons Learned. Also, visit a National Guard unit, preferably a combat unit. You will see a really weird dynamic; civilians coming together seamlessly into a hierarchical organization. Contrary to the military cliché, our Army actually trains with this tenet: centralized planning and decentralized control....[T]his country has eschewed hierarchical leadership for so long that we, as employees, have forgotten how to put aside pride and defer to leadership. We have democratized what should not be democratized.

I asked for clarification about whether "Centralized planning and decentralized control" is a bad thing and got the following:

...It is a good thing. You see, the plan is based centrally: ONE commander's intent. The execution of that plan is delegated with a minimum of interference from a higher HQ. If you screw up, that is, fail to meet the higher commander's intent, then you get chewed on. This would work well in the corporate world and is actually used by some companies. Shell kind of uses this model with its Limited subsidiaries like Aera. Shell says, "We want you to make X amount this year; make it happen." Aera does it with their own plan. That is at a really high level, though. By decentralizing control, you allow junior leaders to innovate and lead when things get rough. Leaders get killed, injured or are often out of communication. By knowing the commander's "intent" the mission can go on without them. This stuff is all on, by the way.

Jon Pyke responds to my "complaint" that libraries make my book available to people who haven't paid for it.

1 [C]ertainly in the UK authors are paid a form or royalty (not as much as if someone had bought a book) for having it placed or accessed by a library - but it all adds up - this may not be true of course in the US but - hey.

About the OED complaint he writes:

2 Word usage and the OED - well worth reading a book entitled the Surgeon or Crowthorne (which I think was published as the Professor and the Madman in the US - both published by Penguin) to see how it was first done

I have read it. I think it's being made into a movie now. Quite the ripping yarn, if you ignore the bloated, overstated, boring parts.

I asked for guesses about when the first journalist would be fired for what he or she wrote in his or her weblog. Mark Dooley wrote in a week later:

I happened to come across this shortly after reading your newsletter.

He didn't' get fired, but it's hard to tell 'cause the paper is insisting on keeping its process opaque.

Kevin Marks (I think...could be another Kevin) points to the same story in a different journal:

We've got a winner. In fact, we have two of them.

dividing line
Bogus contest: Open Source Conspiracy Theories

I don't believe the Bush administration's stated reasons for invading Iraq. They've made up their mind ahead of the evidence. So, I figure something else is going on. This issue's Bogus Contest asks you to come up with your own theory, while staying away from the the more obvious (and those more likely to be true) reasons such as supporting the West's oil interests even to restore democracy to the beleaguered Iraqi people.

My theory, which I wrote in response to email from Joe Mahoney, whose weblog is eclectic and immensely literate — tends towards the psychomological:

The Bush family is dominated by Babs, a classic passive-aggressive parental tyrant. Jeb was the favorite. W was the drunk ne'er-do-well who had to be propped up by his father's cronies; W knows his only validation, as a "successful businessman," came through his father's largesse, which he hates because he hates his dependence on it. So, he has to do Poppy's job better than Poppy did.

That means beating the only two people who have ever caused Poppy to fail: Clinton and Saddam. Having beaten Clinton (via Gore), it's on to Saddam. W has a love/hate deal going with Saddam because although Saddam humiliated the father who never loved him (i.e., Bush Sr.), Saddam has also given W the opening he needs to win Mommy.

Bush wants approval, not revenge. His overwhelming need to be liked is all too obvious, right down to the juvenile nicknames he gives people. His infantilizing of global politics (viz. Putin is "Pooty-poot" and the comic book rhetoric of "evil doers") goes back to his failure to win approval as an infant. He is stuck there.

The Oedipal nature of the Iraqi threat implies that W will penetrate Iraq violently, preferably by inseminating it with sperm sprayed from above . He wants to "shove a smart bomb up Saddam's ass" to degrade him (= Poppy) sexually so that Mommy will prefer him. W's no bush! He's a bomber!

But, W has surrounded himself with his father's cronies, out of fear that he will otherwise fail. But following their advice makes the victory hollow. So, he's going to have to go further than Poppy's advisors want him to.

Thus did civilization end.

Your own most farfetched conspiracy theories are most welcome.


Contest Results

Norm Jensen responds to our request for code names for the upcoming Iraqi invasion:

Operation Blatant Hypocrisy

Dave Scocca meanwhile prefers:

Operation Recover Poppy's Manhood

Sean Kirby enters our contest that asked which of our current practices will be held as morally reprehensible by our grandchildren:

I guess none of us can say for sure how the world will change in the next 50 years, but here it goes:

I predict that 50-75 or years hence, theism itself will be seen as something akin to sacrificing virgins to fertility gods or praying away viral infections - nothing but tribal superstition. I wouldn't be surprised if only ten percent of the world's population still practiced faith based religion in anything resembling the level of devotion we see today. For right or wrong, people will look on Islamic terrorism, Christian fundamentalism and other things as all part of the same problem: our foolish, barbaric beliefs in mysterious, invisible gods, rather then cold, hard science. God will quite simply be relegated to the dust bin of history, to be remembered as nothing more then a crutch to get us primates out of the cave."

If I weren't married to an orthodox Jew, I'd be more inclined to agree with you.  

Ted Weinstein writes:

...My pick for the next big ethical change: the tipping point in the growing belief that it's NOT OK to eat animals. (Incidentally I don't share that belief. I agree that since humans are just one species of animals we should treat animals the same way we treat humans. But I just see that as an argument for permitting cannibalism...)

That reminds me: Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to attend that dinner party you invited me to.

And Lourens Ackermann goes with the sentimental favorite answer to the question "What current behavior will seem immoral to our grandchildren?":

George W Bush as president?

See you in Iraq!

Editorial Lint

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