Joho the Blog » 2002 » January

January 31, 2002

MiscLinks Marek has a lovely


Marek has a lovely Dostoyevskian prose poem today about, well, his soul. Jeneane reflects on it.

Dahrl Stultz writes:

I laughed at the trumpet man coroner pic. Out of curiousity, I went to Goggle and quickly found he’s New Orlean’s ME. This article about him being accused of selling body parts caused me to shake my head and mutter, “typical Louisiana politician.”

I bought my first computer in 1983, a KayPro II. While checking the date, I came across a site that gives a history of the KayPro.

There you’ll find not only a scan of the original brochure, touting the “9-inch monster screen” (green character-based) but also a KayPro simulator written in Java as a class project. Ah, the familiar DOS prompt at last! And MBasic! (Actually, S-BASIC was bundled with the original KayPro, a structured form of Basic with subroutines and functions.) Do a DIR and you’ll see that they’ve included a few of the original KayPro games, including a character-based version of Space Invaders. What a flashback! (There are also links to CP/M information.)

Norman Jensen thinks that in light of my postings about the universality of truth we might be interested in an article that pits Nietzsche against Steven Covey (“7 Habits of Highly Annoying People”). The article’s author, Christopher Jenson, provides a useful explanation of Nietzsche’s aphoristic expressions. This is Nietzsche at his best, “arguing” by painting a new picture. In this case, his beef is with Kant and Plato (and Covey … putting him in rather exalted company) and others who postulate a real world that is both only indirectly knowable at best and supposedly the locus of all real value.

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Keep It Stupid, Simple! Kevin

Keep It Stupid, Simple!

Kevin Marks has blogged links to people who have written about why it’s important to “separate network transport from application protocols.” (Apparently, “The Paradox of the Best Network,” a brief piece I wrote with David Isenberg, helped to stimulate Kevin’s research.) These are useful links.

The general point Kevin makes is tremendously important: The Internet succeeded because it was deliberately built to encode only the minimal information required to move bits from point A to B. There is nothing in the Internet protocols themselves that encodes what type of bits they are. The Internet doesn’t know or care whether you’re sending email or video, a bill or pornography, copyrighted material or instructions on building nuclear weapons. It also doesn’t include bits that say what person owns, sent or cares about the bits. It is nothing but a bit pump. It’s a stupid network, in David Isenberg’s phrase.

Because it’s so good at moving bits, and because the Net makes no assumptions about the nature of those bits, applications can be written on top of it to do whatever you want with bits. Thus, one and the same Internet is used for email, telephone calls and video on demand. Attempts to make the Internet smarter — for example, by including in the transportation protocol itself information about the copyright status of the bits — will bit by bit erode the Internet as a medium for innovation.

The Internet is an idiot-savant. Let’s keep it that way.

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January 30, 2002

Anals of Marketing: The Problem

Anals of Marketing: The Problem with Voice

As an official Cluetrain Author(tm), I am all in favor of voice. One of the Web’s main attractions — in fact, perhaps its deepest spiritual attraction, IMO — is that it returns our voice to us. We can sound like ourselves again, shaking off the professional straitjacket we don at work. Companies that continue to talk in the safe-but-robotic soothing monotone we’ve come to expect will come to early ends. Yada yada yada.

But no one ever said this was unproblematic.

For example, Jack Vinson writes:

I have been wondering about the new Mini that BMW is producing. A mongst too much Flash at their website is a bunch of non-corporate speak. They are clearly trying to brand the Mini as a fun vehicle. Even their “user agreement” has silly stuff like “I agree to avoid ruts (in the street).”

And the page with information about applying for a job with them says:

If you’re talented, passionate and can name at least 60 of the best diners in the U.S., please send a resume, a cover letter and your best road trip story to us.

They have a page where readers can submit stories and photos and a humorous “license to motor” exam that is occasionally actually funny.

But then we face Jack’s implicit question: “They are clearly trying to brand the Mini as a fun vehicle.” Indeed. And thus the voice behind this site is suspect. It has to be, for two reasons. First, this site is still broadcasting to us: it is a single voice beaming itself to a multitude in hopes of affecting our buying behavior. It is still their site, not ours. We’ve be idiots not to be suspicious. (On our site about Minis, we’d talk with one another.) Second, it’s anonymous. Voices have to be attached to people. Committees, marketing departments and companies don’t have voices. Only individuals do. As RageBoy says in Gonzo Marketing, corporations have no corpus, no body, no sex, and no voice.

(By the way, there’s been some good discussion of Gonzo Marketing at the Gonzo Engaged blog.)

Crusty John Dvorak in one of his PC Magazine columns points to a report by Charles Murray in EE Times (Nov. 30) about an effort by the entire Microsoft’s Talisker embedded OS team (30-50 people) to go into the Net discussions about it and listen to what people are saying. According to the article, the engineers have been pulled into frank discussions with their potential customers. The EE Times report is actually pretty favorable. Here’s a long quote:

…the new modus operandi represents a stark departure from business as usual at Microsoft, but they say it’s paying dividends.

“Historically, we didn’t ever want our developers out in news groups,” Morris said. “People would get ahold of our internal addresses and we’d get spammed, so we rarely used actual Microsoft addresses.”

But as part of an effort to generate Linux-like excitement about CE, the company encouraged its Talisker team members to use their real names and e-mail addresses. Now, the engineers who wrote the kernel are accessible to anyone who has downloaded a Talisker Emulation Edition Preview or is working with a beta version. Beta users are given an ID when they sign up, and can use it to enter a news group and “talk” with Talisker team members.

“Now, I’m out there and they can see my name and title, and they don’t hold anything back,” Morris said. “They quite bluntly tell me what they want changed in the kernel or in a menu. Sometimes the feedback is harsh but they can still give valuable criticism.”

To ensure that the developers truly address the users’ issues, Microsoft has even assigned its own people to watch the news groups as spectators and look for any questions that go unanswered. If issues are left unresolved, the “spectators” prod the developers to respond.

Sounds pretty durn cool, and highly voice-ful. Yet, Dvorak’s coverage of this begins by reminding us of the attack of the “Munchkins” when OS/2 was dying — Microsoft employees who fanned out across the newsgroups and message boards, boosting NT and flaming OS/2. Nasty.

The negative conclusion: Companies can easily abuse the openness of the Net by imitating “voiceful” communications. The positive conclusion: Companies can enable employees to participate in the global conversation in an open, honest way … and if they try to cheat (as per the Munchkins), we will find them out and will remember their betrayal for a long time.

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Googlewhacking’s New Home Actually, it’s

Googlewhacking’s New Home

Actually, it’s always been The Home of the Googlewhack. Gary Stock invented Googlewhacking and while I’ve been proud to have helped promote it, it’s now time for me to bow out. Why? Because we don’t want any forking of the great shining way that is Googlewhacking. And because I’m getting bored. So, in the future, please submit your entries directly to Gary at, or to where that address actually points:

One small exception: Gary isn’t tracking high scores. He’s much more interested in googlewhacking as a creative activity and has introduced what I think of as “semantic googlewhacking” which values the interesting juxtapositions of words. So, if you have a googlewhack that surpasses the current winner, let me know. Otherwise, talk to Gary.

Before claiming a high score, surpassing the 292,698,000,000 of RCassidy’s “linux checkerspot,” please keep the following rules in mind: Each word must be found in; no proper nouns; no hits on word lists; don’t search for the words as a precise phrase (i.e., don’t put quotes around the two words when you do the search). And remember the linux constant is 48,300,000.

Now for some updates before closing the topic on this site.

Gavin Quick suggests “keratinous nimrod” (8,035,500,000) which he says is a “scientifically correct addition to John Travolta’s opinion of Amanda Plummer’s partner (what was his name?) in the restaurant near the end of Pulp Fiction.” (It was Tim Roth. That’s why the Lord has given us The Internet Movie Database.)

Jacob Schwirtz has found “laud boobytrap” (369,495,000), a googlewhack clearly on the side of the aggressor. (Oddly, doesn’t recognize boobytrap as a legit word, although

Jeremy Brown likes “snarf dog.” So do I, but unfortunately, so do 2,110 pages. (Even “snarf dof” gets 38 hits.)

Andy C has found “pillows silages”, “wilderness slaggery”, “significance condimenting”, “trampy implosions”, “hobnobs stereos.” In his word: “Joyous.”

Dethe Elza, Chief Mad Scientist at Burning Tiger Technologies, writes:

OK, I resisted, but I’ve been drawn into the “googlewhack vortex” (42130000 Marks, but googlewhack is not recognized by What are we to do when our whacks point only to word lists, like “inflammable bibliomancy” (a mere 122,016,000 Marks, alas). Do these count or not? And an “andelusian pox” (27324000 Marks) on Matthew Baldwin for making it way too easy to waste time on this. I can feel my productivity being cut into “blepharon sections” (1401700000 Marks).

Wordlists don’t count, and if googlewhacking isn’t in, it just doesn’t count. Nice recursive try, though.

As for Matthew Baldwin, he created an online googlewhacker that checks your word pairs and computes the score. All hail Baldwin.

Gary Stock himself has used googlewhacking to report on Bush’s Stake of the Onion Address last night:

pseudonymous cockatiel:
Who was the primary author of the 2002 “State of the Union Address”?

necrophiliac cockatiel:
…obviously the same bird who wrote that address.

miasmic frenulum:
…obviously the technical term for that same bird’s hyoid disorder.

cockatiel colonoscopy:
…what Tom Daschle was picturing during the entire State of the Union Address.

macaw colonoscopy:
…I think you get the idea!

bibulous encomiums:
…it’s as if every whack refers to that entire speech!!

Remember, future googlewhacks go to Gary, the creator and keeper of the whackerflame. All hail Gary!

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January 29, 2002

The New World I’ve heard

The New World

I’ve heard from two of you with stories about how the Net is changing your world.

The first is small but telling. Chris Worth writes:

Had an email conversation today with a friend in Kansas. (He’s never been to London, I’ve never been there.) Mentioned my new address.

Next email, he’d looked up my postcode on and seen an aerial view of my nieghbourhood. Asked about the ‘metallic moated fortress’ southwest of me, across the Thames.

I happened to have a snapshot of the view from my balcony, so emailed it back noting, ‘Yeah, you’re probably talking about this thing.’

The building he’d seen from above was obvious and evident in my more horizontal view.

In that email, two separate worlds became a single platform of understanding. Yet none of this would’ve been possible for non-techies even five years ago.

The potential the Internet adds for shared understanding – on a level that was never possible before except to the most talented of writers – is, I think underhyped even by the worst 1997-1999 Internet standards.

And Jeneane cites an idea from her Hyperlinked Mom weblog about a more direct effect:

With the advent of the Internet, physical distance and asphalt highways no longer separate work life and home life. Instead, within the networked landscape of the Internet, individuals, businesses, and customers are seamlessly connected. Technologies like Instant Messaging—which allows my clients to pop up urgent questions, and the occasional good joke, on my screen in real-time—erase distance. Here is there, and there is here, all at once.

Jeneane says “I don’t think i’m going to keep it up as a blog, but who knows?” Perhaps if we all clap together, she will. Come on, you at home — yes, you! — clap! (Jeneane also has a blog at which she publishes dictation from her four-year-old. How connected will that kid feel when growing up!)

I love this stuff.

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January 28, 2002

You Can Never Have Too

You Can Never Have Too Much Fun

Contributed by James Smith or Laura Iveson

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Googlewhacking Miscellany Matthew Baldwin has

Googlewhacking Miscellany

Matthew Baldwin has introduced a Web-based Googlewhacking tool that rivals Kevin Marks’ client version.

Stefan Ritter writes:

Stefan Ritter I’d like to note that I think better Googlewhacks are ones in which the terms can be strung to impart perhaps some meaning. But I’ve only been at this a few minutes; I am sure this has been considered.

So sooner said than done. In the same batch of email was a notice that Gary Stock, the creator of Googlewhacking, has introduced a type of semantic googlewhacking in which you are rewarded for coming up with googlewhacks that sort of make sense even if they are low on the Marks scale. He writes:

Thanks to all who are in the Whack Zone! I’ve posted some of your efforts: Examples from the first hundred or so:

What do you get when you add a pound of sawdust to a gallon of gasoline?
jerkwater plastique

What’s on the front of the Rutabaga Railway’s “Lettuce Locomotive”?
vegan cowcatcher

What does a gerontologist call the walk from the parking lot to the office, and back?
nonagenarian biathlon

Some of these, I’m just not sure about:

banana circumcision
What is the most extreme form of…

…no, let’s not go there :-)

E-Brake, however, isn’t afraid to go there. She recognizes that her entry is low-scoring with a a mere 5.6 billion Marks mark, but she puts it forward for its sweetness on the tongue: “Microsoft vomitories.” (Also, Microsoft is a proper noun.)

Likewise, [name removed at the person’s request] knows that his half billion score for “spermatozoa astroturf” won’t win any prizes, but, he says “Imagine the hockey they could play!” (Ned apparently isn’t deeply into sports. Even I know that hockey is played on AstroIce, not AstroTurf.)

Similarly, David Stephenson writes:

the Googlewack stuff reminds me of a band that a friend was going to start while we were in grad school: Sarsaparilla Sorcery — taken from the first and last words in one volume of the Brittanica. The only deterrent was that none of us could play anything or carry a tune.

Jonathan Peterson pursues the self-referential meta-Googlewhack with “googlewhack schadenfreude,” a reference to one of the very first Googlewhacks.

Terry Dooher is all whiny about the fact that Google is wildly inconsistent in its hit counts, costing him many points for “microbicidal linux”:

Damn Google. I had 15,900 for it, then 12,800, now I’m getting 4,110. It’s easy to see how a word might have a 5% tolerance in its score at any given moment, but dropping 70% of its hits in the space of a week is a bit weird.

Now, Terry, the Pillsbury Bakeoff results are subject to variations in atmospheric pressure, chess players are sometimes disturbed by audience members with hacking coughs, and Olympic runners have to contend with inconsistent doses of street steroids, so I don’t see why googlewhacking should be any different.

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January 27, 2002

BlogThreads: A Request for Product

BlogThreads: A Request for Product

Peterme blogs today about the nature of cross-blogging — what Peter usefully calls “bloghopping” — using an interchange between Tom and me that was kicked off by my saying that on the Web we’re writing ourselves into existence. He also points to entries from Jeneane and Halley. Peter comments:

Now, I’ve attempted to codify these threads because they expose one of the things I’m currently loving about blogs… free-ranging discussions hopping from page to page, with little structure apart from the hyperlink… Such discussions can be hard to ‘follow,’ but I think attempting to ‘follow’ them misses part of the point. … [T]he anarchic nature of web hyperlinking is part of the reason we can have these kinds of discussions… There’s a free-for-all quality that lets the thoughts roam in all manner of directions, spiralling tendrils across the hypersphere… Standard discussion forums would only constrain this.

Much as I like threaded discussion forums, it is certainly the case that blogs serve a different need. By their nature, blog entries tend to be more self-contained, more fully developed, and less hectically composed. (Of course there are exceptions.) But, precisely one of their weaknesses is that the thread itself isn’t apparent the way it is on a discussion board. That is, I know that Tom counter-blogged because I check Tom’s magnificent weblog just about every day. Besides, he sent me the link. Besides, it shows up when I ego-surf daypop. But, not only might I easily miss someone’s counter-blog, it can be difficult to reconstruct the sequence of blogs. What we need is precisely what Peter has provided in his blog entry: a “codifying” of threads, a mechanism by which the trail of linked blogs can be easily discovered and followed.

Wouldn’t it be cool and useful at the end of a blog to have a link that takes us to a list of all the blog entries that refer to this one? This should be automatically and dynamically updated. Does such a thing exist? Am I just missing it? Daypop, are you listening?

One of the commentators on this blog entry of Peterme’s writes: “…if David and Tom keep at it, they just might eventually figure out everything that Rebecca articulated over a year ago,” pointing to Rebecca Blood’s history of blogging. Rebecca’s piece is seminal (yeah, yeah, I testify it’s a sexist word) but, with all due respect, it doesn’t really get at what Tom and I have been on about. Nevertheless, it’s brilliant, it’s clarifying, she anticipates many topics that we all keep talking about, and it was good to be prodded to reread it.

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January 26, 2002

MiscLinks In response to my


In response to my query about sites whose existence reminds us of the real value of the Net, Vergil Iliescu cites The Edge where (in Vergil’s words) “you can watch some of the famous names in science discuss a whole range of issues.” Vergil points out that, unfortunately, it is not much of an interactive cite. (Who would decline the opportunity to be guided by Vergil!)

Gilbert Cattoire sends us to FusionAnomaly, an odd linking of disparate concepts.

Bob Filipczak points us to a very amusing interview with Jonah Peretti, the guy who tried to get Nike to customize his sneakers (excuse me, his “machines for walking”) with the phrase “Sweatshop.” He’s now launched “The Rejection Line,” a phone service that says no for you.

Tom Gross thinks we might like Playdamage where new-agey music accompanies a too-static lightshow. He says Playdamage reminds him of Superbad, a site of that seems more involving (or, as we used to say, “bongable”).

Tom also points us to a page at the Playdamage site where there is a “Market-o-Matic” tool that constructs marketing bafflegab based on your selections of nouns, verbs, etc. Very MadLibs.


Phil Jones sends us to a nicely done but predictable child’s eye view of W.

W. David Stephenson writes:

…thought you’d enjoy my opus in the Homeland Defense Journal on how we need “Internet thinking,” (empowering everyone, closing loops, and linking everything) as much as Internet technology to deal with this problem.

There’s an interesting article in the WSJ about The Jewish World Review. The JWR publishes from the point of view of a socially-aware orthodox Jew. As a result, it tends to range from conservative to neo-conservative. But, since I’m not a religious Jew or conservative or neo-conservative and yet the JWR occasionally publishes my stuff, I admire the editor’s (Binyamin Jolkovsky) open-mindedness (as well as his orthodoxy). This is a one-person enterprise that deserves to survive, but is struggling right now.

The constant Chip suggests we might enjoy these “principles of popaganda,” or at least the introduction. (No, “popaganda” is not a typo.)

Charles Munat is exercised by what he considers my naivete and sends me to for an education in our American blindness to the reprehensible acts of our own government. He was set off by my saying that “Terrorism is a tactic adopted by people who can’t afford armies, so they fight real dirty” since that excludes — and, thus, he thinks I think, exculpates — big countries that deliberately target civilians, as the US has done with disgusting frequency. (I currently have a two-part column in Darwin Online discussing Charles’ views on design.)

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Universal Truth Denied! Jeez, I’m

Universal Truth Denied!

Jeez, I’m trying to do some time-wasting BS (it being Saturday an’ all) but I keep getting really interesting email. Will it never end? (Lord, let’s hope not!)

For example, this arrived from Jeff Chamberlain in response to my blog about the nature of religions that claim to be universal:

I don’t think that it’s as black and white as you say. I would point you to the statement of principles by the Unitarian Universalist Association. There can be universal truths, e.g. “The inherent worth and dignity of every person” that translates to “love thy neighbor as thyself” in the Judeo-Christian heritage or the overarching theme of compassion in Buddhism.

The problems comes in when we attempt to find ways for humans to achieve these universal truths. At this point, the religions diverge and attempt to say that their way is the only way to these truths. Enter the wonderful power of dogma. I believe that humans forget that the power of the universe is still beyond their comprehension and that their “truth” is really just a finger pointing at the real truth; it is a symbol that represents something greater than ourselves.

Don’t worship the finger. Instead, revel in the varieties this world offers us to explore. The mysteries of the universe can be found in the multitude of religions people have created just as easily as watching the beauty of a sunrise.

The idea that there is a universal truth expressed by all religions strikes me as, in turn, rather black and white. For one thing, it’s self-referential since we will rule out any set of beliefs as not a “real” religion if it doesn’t support the purported universal truth.

Second, a statement as innocuous as “The inherent worth and dignity of every person” is so broad as to be meaningless. If my religion believes that the individual ego is an illusion and is the source of pain and needs to be seen through, the sense in which my religion believes in the worth of every individual is vastly different than that of the Judeo-Christian tradition. (Note: Talking about the JudeoChristian tradition denies the radical differences between these two religions. It always bothers me. You hit my button, Jeff!)

Third, even if that universal truth could be unpacked (Inherent? Worth? Dignity? Person?) successfully across all cultures and times, its implications are hardly universal, as you note.

Fourth, the way in which a religion unpacks such statements is central to the nature of the religion, and differs widely from religion to religion: Buddhists meditate in a bunch of ways, Jews argue with one another for millennia, some whacko Christians handle snakes and wait for The Word to strike them. So what good does it say that there are universal truths? Where does it get us? And, in particular, wrt to the Friedman article I was blogging about, I believe that it puts a false unity on the face of real diversity.

There are certainly universal truths. Math is full of them. There may even be universal truths about values and morals. I wouldn’t want to try to argue anyone out of a belief in human dignity or the right to worship the way we want. I am not saying that nothing is true, and I’m certainly not saying, along with Dostoyevsky, that “God is dead. Everything is permitted.” I am saying, however, that religions that believe they are the only true religion need to knock it off. Finding a universal ground for all religion reduces us to mouthing abstractions so vague as to be meaningless and ignores what is most distinctive and most important about each religion. We’ve got a whole bunch of religions. They’re genuinely different. But we only have one earth. There’s yer universal truth for ya.

(BTW, if you’re a Christian snake handler, I meant no offense. I’m sure it’s a perfectly fine way of worshipping.)


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