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Thursday, January 31, 2002


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.
1/31/2002 11:48:44 AM | PermaLink

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.
1/31/2002 11:27:52 AM | PermaLink


Wednesday, January 30, 2002

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.

1/30/2002 09:43:39 AM | PermaLink

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 www.googlewhack.com, or to where that address actually points: Unblinking.com.

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 dictionary.com; 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, google.com doesn't recognize boobytrap as a legit word, although dictionary.com.)

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 dictionary.com). 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 dictionary.com, 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!
1/30/2002 09:03:23 AM | PermaLink


Tuesday, January 29, 2002

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 getmapping.com 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.
1/29/2002 07:25:54 AM | PermaLink


Monday, January 28, 2002

You Can Never Have Too Much Fun

Contributed by James Smith or Laura Iveson

1/28/2002 11:27:29 AM | PermaLink

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, Ned Beauman nows 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.
1/28/2002 11:21:42 AM | PermaLink


Sunday, January 27, 2002

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.

1/27/2002 10:10:56 AM | PermaLink


Saturday, January 26, 2002


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 Covertaction.org/ 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.)
1/26/2002 12:10:56 PM | PermaLink

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.)
1/26/2002 11:01:05 AM | PermaLink


Friday, January 25, 2002

Replies to Katz

Thank you, b!X, for the reply to Jon Katz's review of my unpublished book. And thank you, too, Steve Giovannetti. And Mike "Question King" Sanders. (And, Doc, for blogging this and for well, being a mensch.)

Thanks also to those who have sent private emails expressing support and puzzlement (and occasional outrage) about Katz's premature, weird slashdotting.
1/25/2002 08:27:27 AM | PermaLink

Bone Dry Future, 2

I blogged about my anxiety about having to give a 3-minute presentation on some new trend, technology or company. I got a few thoughtful replies.

Tony Goodson writes:

Of course this is far from new, but if I look at the Weblogs and the sites I like to read and go to on a daily basis, I realise as I write my own Weblog that to have a paying audience would make a significant difference to time given to my Voice on the Internet. ...

I guess you get my drift. Artists of the world get paid for what you do! Surfers of the world pay for what you like! I don�t have a clear way forward on this, but you did ask.

I think Micropayments and the effect they have on the Internet will be the biggest thing, but then again when did a good idea and good technology ever get implemented. I wrote a project on Magnetic Levitation 20 years ago! Good idea. Good Technology. So what?

Yes, micropayments will be huge. Great point.

Halley Suitt counterblogged on the same topic as my original post: weblogs. Here's a taste: "They are turning a whore back into a virgin, no small task, and preparing the way for a completely new way to work, live, think and prosper." You go, Halley. (BTW, her blog is most excellent.)

Scott Christensen comes at this rather obliquely:

I hope everything worked out ok with the little talk but what I really wanted to comment on was Cheezits. I'm glad it's not just me that can consume a vast quantity of Cheezits when under stress. They're so damn addictive.

You sit and ponder stuff and they seem to fly out of the box into your mouth. It seems that sometimes they have a life of their own and that their only purpose is to be like the moths of the snack food world and leap to their death in your belly.

Of course, the worst thing about the Cheezit eating frenzy is the sudden overwhelming thirst that happens about halfway through the box. A parched desert landscape is better hydrated and I would know because I currently live in Tucson.

So, as I understand it, Scott's thought is that the most important new phenomenon facing us are animate Cheezits from Hell ... just as Bill Joy predicted!
1/25/2002 08:21:30 AM | PermaLink

New Googlewhack Leader, New Tool

We have a new leader in the Googlewhack Sweepstakes. (A Googlewhack is a pair of words that gets only one hit at Google. To score, you multiple the hits for each word individually.) The leader is RCassidy. The phrase is ... well, we'll save that for the end.

Kevin Marks, who gave us the Marks mark system of scoring, now presents us with a tool for automating the scoring of Googlewhacks. You can download it here. Pocket GoogleWhacker is perfect. Enter your words and it comes back with the score. Well worth the $0.50 Kevin asks in return.

Now, news from Googlewhack's inventor, Gary Unblinking Stock. His page devoted to the Art and Science of Googlewhacking has become quite lively. And, he is now the proud owner of www.googlewhack.com. Let's hope that this becomes the new international home of Googlewhackery. Finally, he's been in a colloquoy with the over-stimulated folks at Mornington Crescent. These are serious gamers who aren't happy until they've complicated matters to the point that the rules themselves become the game. Very amusing discussion.

Now, start up your QuickTime engines and imagine a drum roll. RCassidy gives us:

linux: 48,300,000
checkerspot: 6060
Total Marks mark: 292,698,000,000

Note: We use the Linux Constant since Google has a 5,000,000 point swing in its reported hits on "linux."

This tops Sam Dionne's previous high of 151,179,000,000 rather handily. It also beats Steve Ringo's excellent "hackleback linux" that scores 250,194,000,000. Congratulations Mr. or Ms. RCassidy. Well done!
1/25/2002 08:04:57 AM | PermaLink


Thursday, January 24, 2002

Premature ESlashulation

Small Pieces has been slashdotted. Jon Katz has written a goddamn strange review 2.5 months ahead of pub date. It seems to be based on the first 8 pages, although he never acknowledges that he hasn't read the whole book ... in which case: Tsk tsk.

While patting me on the head occasionally ("bright and observant," "The things he sees are new, interesting and significant") he puts the book into the Cyber BS category, that is, a book that thinks "that for the Net and the Web to be interesting, they must be portrayed as changing everything about everything":

... his book also reminds us that this age of Cybertheorizing began to die with the demise of the original Wired. This is bad news for over-heated tech writers and academics feasting on cyber-culture courses. In case Weinberger hasn't noticed — and he hasn't, if the book is any indication — the Web these days is mostly about sex, free news, entertainment and retailing. For better or worse, we remain the same people we were.

Ok, that's not an unreasonable point of view. I disagree with it, but what has me flummoxed is the following:

And he's quite correct in suggesting that the hyperlinking era the Web begins is astounding, even revolutionary.

If the "hyperlinking era" is astounding and revolutionary, then what's it changing? Katz seems to say that it's not changing anything:

In the post dot-com era, we see that the Net and the Web aren't changing everything about the world, just taking the things people have always liked to do — shop, read, yak, play, masturbate — and making them easier.

Doesn't sound very astounding to me. My book, on the other hand, argues that the Web is in fact changing the building block concepts of our culture. The ordinary happens to be astonishing on the Web. We get inured to it, but it's there, even in a simple bidding transaction at eBay.

Jon, Jon, where's your sense of wonder gone?

[Here's my reply to Katz at Slashdot.]

Thanks for the supportive blog, Doc.
1/24/2002 06:55:04 PM | PermaLink

Broadband Debated

Dave Rogers, whose blog is full of good stuff, writes in response to our "Free the Broadband" bloggerino:

I agree that great connections for all is a worthy goal that reflects the reasons we fought them Redcoats. "Connect and empower" is my mantra. Yet I'm not sure that the tech industry's approach is the right one.

Did you see this report from MSNBC? It sure makes me—liberal that I am—queasy. Queasy enough that I blogged on it myself right here and even responded (weakly) to your comments here.

My original bloggerino referenced a draft of a site that David Isenberg and I did, called "The Paradox of the Best Network." It has a set of suggestions quite similar to what TechNet has come up with.

The difference between Dave and me on this probably comes down to perceived facts. It seems to me that the current regulated environment props up aging telcos that refuse to allow competition in the broadband market. But we may also disagree on the solution: I think opening the market would bring about an era of innovation that would deliver broadband to the vast majority of houses in the nation (and the government ought to step in where the market lacks intrinsic incentives). I'm not sure if this makes me a liberal, a neo-conservative, or just plain wrong, but that's how it seems to me. There's also a telco meltdown coming that may require government intervention, primarily to let it happen without melting the economy down with it. And let me conclude this proclamation by noting that I don't know what the hell I'm talking about.

Davd Rogers also points us to an article by Lawrence Lessig that argues that the legal strictures on copyrighted material are holding up broadband acceptance. Much as I'd like to see changes in the copyright law, I'm not convinced that that's what's stopping customer demand for broadband.
1/24/2002 10:50:21 AM | PermaLink

The Textual Avatar

Jeneane agrees with what I wrote about weblogs being a way we're writing ourselves into existence. She adds that the self we're transforming isn't simply online:

That is the joy in it for me—not so much the voice, the self I have created through blogging, but how that unleashed voice is transforming me, the person, the flesh and the mind.

100% agreement. In fact, one of the themes of my upcoming book is that the Web is rewriting our real-world concepts. I do find it frustratingly hard, however, to point to real-world examples of effects because they are mainly anecdotal and one never knows what their actual causes are.

Jeneane extends her thinking to gesture toward and ecological view of web self and RW self that she says needs development. Go, Jeneane, go!
1/24/2002 10:27:05 AM | PermaLink


Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Tivo's Open Forum

There's a discussion on an open discussion board supported by Tivo about whether having such a forum is useful to Tivo even though people air every conceivable (and some inconceivable) gripe. Tivo's answer: Absolutely.

Full disclosure: I am a deliriously happy Tivo user. Everyone who watches TV should get Tivo the Liberator.

(Thanks to Todd Grinnell for forwarding this.)
1/23/2002 02:59:12 PM | PermaLink

Public/Private Play

Tom Matrullo blogs, beautifully as always, partially in response to my bloggerino about writings as the true avatar. He draws a comparison between blogs and the tradition of the "locus amoenus," the edenic walled garden into which the hero withdraws for "a brief respite from the shocks and artillery fire of everyday life." Tom's tenatively-offered conclusion:

If one attempts to account for the enormous investment of time, energy and other resources that is currently going into blogging, it's worth considering that more may be at stake here than meets the eye (or, I). The marketplace of messages in which we live is a kind of battleground from which we sometimes need to recuse ourselves in order to find again some notion of who we are. Because as Ariosto knew, this recreative entertainment of the self is not found in the clash of steel or the entropy of market dynamics. It comes alive in the folie of play.

That seems to me to be completely right, at least for some category of blogging. (We shouldn't forget the teen-age boys who are blogging in order to impress girls.) And the introduction of play into the heart of the self comes with the Web: "The price of admission: Your selves." But, while I hadn't heard of the locus amoenus and loved learning about it, it seems too walled and private to be a metaphor for blogs. We blog in public. That's in fact where the playfulness enters into it: we try on ideas, moods, figures of speech, and personae in public.

Not only is the Web putting play at the heart of the self, it's also showing us — I hope — that our "real" self is not the self apart from others (taking a pastoral stroll, perhaps, in our walled garden) but is the self engaged with others.

Later... Some email exchanged with Tom and now I am enlightened. He's not claiming that blogging is a private activity like sitting in a garden - I knew that couldn't be what he meant! - but that in contrast to email, discussion lists, etc., blogging lets you carve out a time of your own. You can write about what you want, when you want, and not feel as if you're banging replies back like a shuttlecock in a hyperactive badminton game.

Halley points us to Eric Raymond on this topic, and usefully compares it to jazz riffing for the appreciative nods of the others in the band.
1/23/2002 11:15:14 AM | PermaLink

9-11 Dreams

Gary Unblinking Stock points us to a collection of dreams about 9-11. They range from the eerie to the funny to the possiblyphony.
1/23/2002 09:44:36 AM | PermaLink

On the Bus, But with Occasional Stops

Saltire blogs today about David Dwyer of New Riders, "Publishing Voices that Matter." Saltire praises Dwyer's passion and points to a quote from Dwyer that suggests a really useful criterion: "I care about your opinions as long as they've been formed by reliable sources outside of our building." St. Ken Kesey's idea that you're either on the bus or off the bus has a certain commit-or-be-damned feel going for it, but too much time on the bus can wear away at your evidentiary base (as Kesey certainly wouldn't have put it). And, although Saltire is nice enough to point out that the one book that Dwyer recommended in his presentation to Saltire's students was The Cluetrain Manifesto, the same has to be true of spending too much time on the Cluetrain. Yeah, markets are definitely conversations, and so is the Web and so is much of business. But they're also not conversations, just on the general principle that nothing is only one thing. Mysticism? Nah, the enabling ambiguity of language.

(By the way, the full text of the book, The Cluetrain Manifesto, is online here.)
1/23/2002 09:40:42 AM | PermaLink


Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Bone Dry Future

I'm going to a fancy-pants event tomorrow night at which each one of us — 20 in all — has to talk for three minutes about an impending significant technology, company, idea or trend. Since all 19 other attendees are certifiably smarter than I am — I can prove it — and since I am hypersensitive to what others think of me, I am having a small anxiety attack that has required me to consume my own weight in Cheezits in the past hour.

In the past, in my panic I'd blurt our "Love," but with "Love Is the Killer App" on the cover of FastCompany (and the founder of FastCompany in attendance), my fallback answer has been co-opted. Would "Hate" work? Can I get away with "Ginger" and a knowing look?

There isn't a chance in hell that I know about some trend, technology or company that these folks haven't either initiated or already dismissed with an imperious wave of their hands. So, I'm thinking about saying something like:

The importance of the weblog phenomenon isn't so much that it enables people to publish their breakfast menus or even their genuine insights. It's that we now know what our "avatars" on the Net are going to be: not graphical cartoon representations but our body of writing. You are what you write. On the Web we are writing ourselves into existence. This introduces into the self the same issues of control, inspiration, invention, deception and play as have always been present in the relationship of authors to what they write.

Hmm, sounds deep without actually meriting much thought, which is fine since by the time I'm done, they will have moved onto the next person in line. Vague, ethereal, and if said with confidence, may not have the tire-air smell of truly vapid ideas.

If you have something better, let me know quick!
1/22/2002 02:28:49 PM | PermaLink

Googlewhacking Embraces Complexity

We have a new leader in the race for the ultimate Googlewhack (a game promulgated by Gary Unblinking Stock). And he's only 15. Sam Dionne has come up with "linux hayrack":

linux: 47,300,000
hayrack: 3,110
Total Marks mark: 147,103,000,000

That's seems like it's not enough to beat Matt's "linux anemonefish":

linux: 48,300,000
anemonefish: 3,130
Total Marks mark: 151,179,000,000

But Sam reports a score of 157.6 billion and I'd believe him even if he weren't my nephew. The fact is that Google seems to vary in its count of a word depending on what color socks you're wearing. When Mark, Sam's father, looked up "linux" a couple of days ago, Google reported 45,300,000. Within a few minutes, I checked and it was reporting 50,500,000. Matt and Sam cite different counts for "linux." As a result, we have no choice but to resort to a Linux Constant and declare Sam the current leader ... although with a score several billion lower than yesterday's leader. Such is life in the digital fast lane.

Mark Dionne challenges our blithely writing off zero-hit Googlewhacking as a challenge for simpletons and unelected national leaders:

I'm not convinced that zero hits is easy with common words. Can you give a competitive example, over 1 billion?

Sam got 6 billion with "directory yestermorning"

I pass the challenge on to you. (However, I get two hits for "directory yestermorning," one of which is outrageously pornographic...and, no, these pages show up even if you turn on Google's anti-porn SafeSearch filter.)
1/22/2002 12:36:46 PM | PermaLink

New Small Pieces Page

I've updated the home page of my new book, Small Pieces Loosely Joined. What a pain in the tuchus, especially the part where I had to manually correct my electronic versions of the sample chapters guided by the print-out of the (almost) final version because the printing house now possesses the final final electronic version. (The way the process bounces back and forth between electrons and paper will someday seem quite amusing.)

Anyway, the page isn't done yet, but you can read the blurbs, the flap copy, and 2.5 sample chapters. Basta! (For now, anyway.)
1/22/2002 12:22:38 PM | PermaLink


Monday, January 21, 2002

Free the Broadband

TechNet, a consortium of industry CEO's, has issued a call for a national (US) initiative to get broadband to every household. The main thing the government has to do is get out of the way:

Government policies should foster innovation and reduce regulations — especially with respect to broadband applications and services;

Public policy should encourage new investment in broadband infrastructure and networks through competition and the removal of regulatory uncertainty and disincentives;

State and localities should promote streamlined laws and regulations that encourage broadband investment, and interstate consistency should be achieved whenever possible;

National spectrum policy should utilize market-based approaches that reduce the artificial scarcity of spectrum for valuable broadband applications;

Investment incentives, potentially including targeted tax incentives, should encourage broadband deployment to underserved communities and businesses;

Broadband policy should encourage innovation and government should not pick technology winners and losers.

The members of TechNet are:

John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems; John Doerr, Partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; Eric Benhamou, Chairman of 3Com Corporation and Palm Inc.; Paul Gudonis, CEO of Genuity; Tony Ley, Chairman and CEO of Harmonic, Inc; Rick Burnes, Partner with Charles River Ventures; John Young, retired President and CEO of Hewlett Packard; Les Vadasz, Senior Vice President of Intel; Bob Herbold, COO and Executive Vice President of Microsoft; Milo Medin, Chief Technology Officer of Excite@Home.

Sure they're self-interested. But they're still right.

An AP article by Brian Bergstein quotes Forrester Research analyst Carl Howe:

"There is no proof, in any way, shape or manner, that says if we give more broadband to everybody it's going to make us more productive,'' he said. ''It will make us more connected. It might make us happier. But I'm not sure it's a better use of our money than putting 50,000 more teachers in schools."

First, this isn't an either/or. Second, the broadband project is likely to cost less than a single year of paying 50,000 teachers a salary (figuring an optimistic average salary of $50K). Third, the aim is to enable the market to find ways to provide broadband profitably, with the government supplying incentives only where the market doesn't.

More important, no, there's no proof it'll make us more productive. But there's every reason to believe that high speed connectivity will bring forth innovations we haven't begun to imagine. If we give everyone instantaneous access to all of the digitized workds of humans and instantaneous, high quality access to the global conversation, we will change everything from broadcast TV to how we play music together to how gossip works. So, it may not make us more productive (although it probably will), but it certainly will make us more inventive, more creative, more inquisitive, more connective.

The obstacles are artificial. We need to clear them out of the way. This is a legitimate role for government. Let's do it because we don't know what will result. Hell, that's why we fought them Redcoats 225 years ago.

(David Isenberg and I wrote a rough draft of a similar call, based on an incisive analysis by Roxane Googin. You can read the draft of "The Paradox of the Best Network" at NetParadox.com.)
1/21/2002 03:49:12 PM | PermaLink

Spam's Absolute Zero

RageBoy's 'zine, EGR, while touting his marvelous new book The Bombast Transcripts (on which more later), somehow manages to point us at a shrine site devoted to Beaner, a dead dog. After poking around for a while — future anthropologists are going to have to re-evaluate our culture when they unearth this site — I found a related site for Ollie who has joined his dear friend Beaner chewing couch legs in the sky. Ollie's human life companions provide links to let us sign or read a site guestbook where we can record our thoughts of consolation and sympathy, preferably in all caps to vouchsafe our sincerity: "VERY INSPIRATIONAL FOR ALL LOVERS OF WEINIES". The very last message reads in its entirety:

Great site. Just surfed in. Visit our discount vacation site @ www.magicrates.com

Yes, this person has spammed a dead dog's mourners' guestbook.

My challenge to you: Find me a spammer lower on the scale.
1/21/2002 10:21:21 AM | PermaLink

Gogglewhacking: The Next Generation

The search for the Ultimate Googlewhacker continues. (A googlewhack, as you may remember, is a set of two common words that produce one and only one hit in Google. The score is computed by multiplying the number of hits each word returns on its own at Google.)

An entry from Andy Chen for one brief moment took the lead — snatching it from Dave Curley ("Dewpoint Beeped" = 15,982,900,000).

metronome : 115,000
dewpoint : 271,000
Total Marks mark : 31,165,000,000

Kevin Marks, inventor of the Marks Scoring System used in to evaluate Googlewhacks, points us to Mornington Crescent, a site where googlewhacking — invented by Gary Unblinking Stock (All hail Gary!) — is the subject of considerable conversation. There an entry from Matt puts considerable distance between him and the rest of the pack: "linux anemonefish." Check the scoring on this humdinger:

linux: 48,300,000
anemonefish: 3,130
Total Marks mark: 151,179,000,000

Ah, but should "linux" be "Linux," and as a proper noun be prohibited? Not according to dictionary.com that accepts both versions.

Kevin says: "I still claim the prize for having 2 on one page..."

Mark Dionne, p.o.ed about the no proper nouns rule is working on combinations with the word "windows," taking advantage of Google's indifference to case. Interestingly, however, "windows" only returns 39,900,000 hits, almost 10 million fewer than "linux."

Question of the Hour: Who will break the One Trillion Googlewhack Barrier?
1/21/2002 10:08:57 AM | PermaLink


Sunday, January 20, 2002

Real-Time WebLogRolling

I'm sitting next to Howard Greenstein at Jerry's Retreat. He's blogging via the wireless network as he sits here . When I read over his shoulder, I saw that he was actually bloggingsomething about me, the bastahd. So, I'm doing some real-time reciprocity. Just because I can.
1/20/2002 11:26:44 AM | PermaLink

AOL's RedHat Box

The rumor that AOL is negotiating to buy RedHat raises my resting heart rate to 37 beats per minute, a full 2 beats faster than W's. In my fantasy, AOL buys RedHat and comes out with an AOL PC aimed at the end of the market that still finds computers and the Net too complex. The AOL box is an incredibly well-integrated package that plugs into your TV and into the Time-Warner broadband connection that comes bundled with it. (Maybe it doesn't need the broadband. We'll let the marketing folks - and then the Justice Department - figure that out.) Flip a switch and you're on the Net and you're doing the Tivo thing, too. The GUI is designed from the ground up to be so simple that marsupials can use it to browse, write email, do basic word processing and play games. No user knows that it's Linux under the skin, just as Tivo gives no indication (why should it?) that it's a visitor from the planet Linux. But, in my fantasy, this is an expansible system in terms of hardware and software, thus creating enough of a market for Linux desktop apps that Microsoft is given a run for its (= our) money.

Don't tell me how wrong I am. Let me dream a little longer... (I refuse to acknowledge that the outcome might be a second locked down OS. Noooooooooo!)
1/20/2002 08:59:35 AM | PermaLink

Blogging Private/Public

Here at Jerry Michalski's "retreat" - about 50 of Jerry's closest friends talking for 2 days in NYC - blogs keep coming up. When setting the ground rules, Jerry asked that the journalists refrain from reporting on what goes on so that people won't feel inhibited. But how about blogs? And what about the journalists at the meeting who have blogs? Free Dan! Blogging feels different; being unable to blog would be akin to being unable to discuss the proceedings with one's friends, turning the retreat from something private into something secret. Jerry quickly came to what I think we all agreed was the right decision: Go ahead and blog but if you're going to get real specific about what people said, check with them first. By the afternoon, Dan had already blogged the morning.

In the afternoon there was a panel discussion about blogging. A "panel discussion" means that a few people - in this case, Dan, Meg, Peterme, and me - stood at the front of the room, talked for a few minutes and then talked with the audience. The conversation seemed to me to center usefully on the odd mix of private and public that is distinctive of the Weblog form, and that is distinctive of individual weblogs that range from the confessional to the quotidian to the demi-professional writings of fully professional authors.

Great mix of people here. And, in a confessional note, I will admit that one reason I'm blogging this is because I'm flattered to be here. (The World's Worst Blogsticker: "Go from Low to Rah! and you've turned Blogging into Bragging!")
1/20/2002 08:50:38 AM | PermaLink


Friday, January 18, 2002

Closed for the Weekend

Stomach flu permitting, I'll be away for the weekend and unable to blog. See you Monday.

1/18/2002 06:29:35 PM | PermaLink

New Joho out

As usual, I forgot to mention that I've published a new issue of my newsletter, JOHO. Much of the material you may recognize since I ran it here first. But not all, including a little piece on innovation that has a scientifical chart in it:

Here's the table of contents:


News Flash: Luuuuuub .... Duuuuubya
Possum Sites: Sites whose existence proves there's hope yet.
A World without Gray: Why Customer Support Sucks: We know how to help one another, if the lawyers -- and fear -- would just get out of the way.
How to tell a good idea: There are lots of ways a good idea can be good without being successful
Anals of Marketing: Dumbness from my marketing colleagues
Why Search Engines Have Gotten Too Good: For once we're not whining
Misc.: Dept. of Go To Hell and Rowling Weds Scarily
Two End of Year thoughts:A Christmas for Everyone and the Sentimental Existentialist
Links: Your idea of a good time
Email, Baseless Allegations, and Crumpled Envelopes from Caves: Your usual fabulous email
Bogus Contest: What not to say to a VC

It's free. Would it kill you to take a look?
1/18/2002 10:40:07 AM | PermaLink

Googlewhacking Heroes

The first Googlewhacking hero on any list must be its inventor, Gary Still No Blog Stock. We who are about to blog salute you.

A Googlewhack is a combination of common words (we seem to be settling on a combination of two words) for which Google returns only one result. As of yesterday, we have adopted the Kevin Marks scoring model that judges "commonness" by how many hits the individual words get. Multiply those numbers and you get your Marks mark.

Cinnamon Brunmier writes:

Ok...by the new Kevin Marks standards, I actually believe that we need to reinstate "schadenfreude" as a common word since it produces 19,700 results on it's own. Further, my revised Googlewhack of: schadenfreude carburetor has a total value of 3,900,600,000.

schadenfreude = 19,700
carburetor = 198,000

This would put Cinnamon's buns in the lead, if Gary Turner hadn't turnered in the following:

plectrum = 14,800
irradiation = 360,000
Total Marks mark = 5,328,000,000

Gary asks: "Do I win something?" The answer would be yes ... if Dave Curley hadn't twisted the following words:

Dewpoint = 277,000
Beeped = 57,700
Total Marks mark = 15,982,900,000

Yes, almost 16 billion points. Dave has set the bar high. But we have confidence that somewhere, someone with too much time on his or her hands will hold high the honor of our species.

1/18/2002 10:34:51 AM | PermaLink


Thursday, January 17, 2002

New mnftiu.cc

God bless mnftiu.cc where the truth is funny just because it's true. And angry.

BTW, at the bottom of the page is a Paypal button so you can make a donation to defray the site's bandwidth costs.
1/17/2002 07:27:13 PM | PermaLink

Top One Reason Not to Get Stomach Flu

Top One Reason Not to Get Stomach Flu:

1. It's not nearly as much fun as it sounds.

1/17/2002 05:37:58 PM | PermaLink


Shirl Kennedy responds to our request for dumb Flashes:

Check out these guys: http://www.skipintro.nl/eng/ They are a "a post-crash internet agency" which ran a Dumbest Intro contest. "Winners" are here: http://www.skipintro.nl/winner_of_nice_t-shirt/index.html

On a related note, our local County utilities department redid their website. Badly. Entirely in Shockwave. http://utility.co.pinellas.fl.us/pcuweb/index.html

Greg Cavanagh has unearthed Microsoft's next product.

On a positive note, Mark Dionne found a site that's actually helpful if you're trying to install a new car stereo. It's a model of clarity: http://www.installdr.com/
1/17/2002 12:27:20 PM | PermaLink

Googlewhack: The Breakthrough

Kevin Marks has hit upon the way to quantify Gogglewhack results. (A Googlewhack is a pair of common words that return only one hit when search for in Google.) The great flaw in the Googlewhack competition was the rule requiring words to be "common." (We have had, for example, "schadenfreude" proposed as a common word.) Kevin's brilliantly simple idea is:

make the score for a GoogleWhack the product of the number of hits on the individual words.

Given these values,
groundhog 122,000
epigone 28,500
viridian 53,900
nunberg 5,450
playability 82,500
epeus 629
meandered 34,900

groundhog epigone - 3,477,000,000
epigone playability - 2,351,250,000
viridian nunberg - 293,755,000
epeus meandered - 21,952,100

and the 2 you cite get

lambada (51,000) * opthlamoscopes (734) = 37,434,000 surinam (204,000) * creamchees (3,630) = 740,520,000

Thus is the new scoring system proclaimed throughout the land.

(Oddity: Google supports the OR operator. Shouldn't "groundhog OR epigone" return the same number of hits as adding "groundhog" and "epigone"? Instead, it actually lowers the number of hits to "about 111,000.")

Kevin also has pointed out that once someone blogs a successful Googlewhack, Google will index it and it will no longer be unique. Technically, yes. But we will not count pages about Googlewhacking. In short: "epigone groundhog -Googlewhack"

Kevin also has some entries into the context: "groundhog epigone" and "viridian nunberg." He states (rather disingenuously in our view) that of course proper nouns are acceptable. Not!

Michael O'Connor Clarke suggests "lambada colposcope" and "surinam speculums"

All of these words are to be found at Dictionary.com

Kindly address me as "My Liege" in all future correspondence.

lambada: 50,200
colposcope: 4,700
Total Marks mark: 235,940,000

And Kirk Fleming adds:

inflective logarithms
zygomorphic rubric

You'll note that the hit on the first pair above comes from a site apparently devoted to lists of words of a specified length, so it may be possible to avoid getting a hit on the site by ensuring the words in a pair are of different length (since no two such words will appear on a single wordlist page at that particular site).

inflective: 856
logarithms: 97,200
total Marks mark: 83,203,200

zygomorphic: 2,420
rubric: 337,000
total Marks mark: 815,540,000

So far, "epigone groundhog" is in the lead.

1/17/2002 12:20:59 PM | PermaLink


Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Newfoundland: The Anti-Enron

Michael "The Liege" O'Connor Clarke points us to a story in Canada's National Post:

Newfoundland's government prepared to take "extraordinary action" against a publicly traded company yesterday, warning Fishery Products International that it is drafting legislation allowing it to veto nearly 600 layoffs planned by the company...

Michael comments:

Yikes. This seems to be almost the moral opposite of the Bush/Enron situation.

Enron = corporation large enough to be significant economic mover and driver of GDP. National government has its hands buried up to the armpits in a smelly, convoluted mess of inappropriate interests, campaign contributions and other conflicts. Corporation suddenly implodes after appealling to government for a bail out. Government takes "hands off" stance but continues to stack the odds in favour of Corporation's disgraced management.

FPI = corporation large enough (on a provincial scale) to be significant economic mover and driver of GDP. Implodes, threatening substantial (again, on provincial scale) layoffs. Government steps in, very definitely hands-on. Even going so far as to possibly create new legal precedent if required to support the local economy.

I agree with Michael's conclusion: "Crikey."
1/16/2002 11:25:42 AM | PermaLink

The Enron Smoking Gun

It's one thing to read the following news lead in USAToday:

An Enron financial official raised alarms about the company's precarious finances in August, two months before the energy-trading giant acknowledged publicly that it was in trouble. In a letter to CEO Kenneth Lay, she wrote: "I am incredibly nervous that we will implode in a wave of accounting scandals." The prescient seven-page letter, unearthed by House investigators, showed that Lay was aware of concerns about the company's financial problems at about the same time that he was reassuring employees by e-mail: "I have never felt better about the prospects for the company."

It's another to see an actual scan of the letter itself. Ten times more powerful.

Now we know what they knew and when they knew it.

[Thanks to Chris Worth for passing this along.]
1/16/2002 10:34:04 AM | PermaLink


Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Googlewhacking, Part 4

Michael O'Connor Clarke responds to the Gogglewhacking thread initiated by Gary No Blog Stock:

The Googlewhacking thread immediately brought back memories of a much earlier Internet Sport (BG: Before Google) called NetBullseye. The idea behind NetBullseye was simple - enter two search terms into Alta Vista and try to come up with exactly one search hit in the list. Googlewhacking seems to be essentially a fancier variation on the same theme.

The original NetBullseye site is still up, here along with some highly entertaining entries into the Hall of Fame.

Playing NetBullseye nowadays, with Google or even with Alta Vista (the engine of choice BG) is way harder than it used to be - but that just makes for a more interesting challenge. Most of the search combinations that worked in the old game no longer score a bullseye - and some of them were pretty tenuous anyway. The only Googleseyes I've managed to score so far are:

lambada opthalmoscopes
surinam creamcheese

I'm sure your readers can do better...

Now for the Grand Slam of Googlewhacking: Everlasting life and the crown of England shall be granted to the person who discovers a single page that supports two Googlewhacks. For example, if Michael's two examples both pointed to the same page, we'd be calling him Deathless King Michael right about now. Does the grail exist? Probably not, although it seems likely that a page that supports a single Gogglewhack is more eccentric in its word usage than most other pages and thus runs a higher probability of supporting a second Googlewhack.

Note: You could publish and submit your own page with double googlewhacks just to become an immortal monarch, but it would be wrong.
1/15/2002 08:00:55 AM | PermaLink

.Me Generation

With reference to the blogging yesterday by Dan Gillmor, Dave and (immodestly) me on the problem of there being more people than unique domain names:

Brits are about to be allowed to register their names as ".me.uk" According to an article from Reuters (in Canada's Globe and Mail) the domain names will be handed out on a first come, first served basis and will initially cost 50 pounds. (For those with self-esteem problems, an alternative punctuation is available for an additional 25 pounds: "Me? Uk!").

Jacob Schwirtz of Gazm.org, who has started blogging recently, points us to KevinKelly.net, an amusing site for people named, well, you figure it out.
1/15/2002 07:49:24 AM | PermaLink


Monday, January 14, 2002

The New Royalty

[This is a piece I've had sitting around for a while. Dan Gillmor's piece on Google's effects on domains (blogged by Dave) called it to mind...]

The year is 2090. It's 60 years since Arnold Schwarzenegger cinched his support belt one notch tigher, added 50 pounds to the barbell, pushed up ... and exploded, spewing formaldehyde and Viagra all over the Hollywood Gym. His site, www.schwarzenegger.com, has been maintained by his estate ever since. There hasn't been any new content added since the year 2047 and it's now mainly consulted by historians studying Arnhold's role in the Richard Simmons presidency. But now Arnold's estranged great-granddaughter has filed suit with 65 other of Arnold's descendants who feel they have a legitimate claim on schwarzenegger.com. The movement spreads among the progeny of other first generation web site name grabbers. "No Dots for the Dead!" becomes an international rallying cry. Their opponents begin to sport bumperstickers that say "Sure you can have my dot-com name...when you pry it from my cold dead fingers" on their levitating personal scooters ... because, um, Flubber turned out to be real.

I'm facing a version of this problem right now. I own www.weinberger.org. (Weinberger.com was taken by a company that mass-registers surnames.) There are lots of other Weinbergers in the world: If I use Google to look for myself, I find a rabbi in Israel, a car dealer in California, and a kid who writes record reviews, all on the first page of the results. So, as the sole owner of weinberger.org, when I'm dead and gone, which of my kids should I leave the Weinberger family org to, assuming I agree to be an "org donor." And which of their kids, lo unto the many generations will inherit weinberger.org... and which ones will be frozen out? And how about the poor car dealer's kids who'll never have a chance at inheriting their-name.org?

This question has been resolved in a hardheaded way in the business world. American Airlines owns aa.com, but everyone from Alcoholics Anonymous to Aukland Adventures would probably like to own it. The victory goes to the person who applied earliest or can afford to buy it from the person who did ... with trademark-owners trumping everyone. So what do the losers do? They register a lame variant such as "aa-Aukland.com" or "alcoholics- anonymous.org" that you might guess at after five wrong tries.

And adding new extensions besides .com and .org and the others doesn't really help. The fact is that there are lots more people than meaningful web site names, and it's only going to get worse as the generations increase.

So, the vast majority of us are going to be left out in the cold. You'll locate our sites by looking up our name on some web directory. On the other hand, those of us who grabbed our names early, we're going to the new royalty. "Hello, I'm David Weinberger ... of the .org weinbergers." Ah, it's gonna be sweet.
1/14/2002 11:31:35 AM | PermaLink

Enron Judge Conflict of Interest

Here's a forward (thanks, Chip!) that says that the judge in the Enron proceedings has a serious conflict of interest that has perhaps influenced her decision to hold off on freezing the money Enron executives skimmed before the megacorp flopped. I don't know anything about the apparent author, Brenda Pitts Bennett, but she cites her sources.

From: Brenda Pitts Bennett
Sent: Thursday, January 10, 2002 3:14 PM
Subject: Enron Judge's MAJOR Conflicts of Interest

1) Judge Lee Rosenthal (again, the judge hearing the case filed against Enron by angry shareholders and employees) says she has the right to freeze the funds of Enron executives, to keep them from hiding their ill-gotten gains, but needs further evidence first.

2) Judge Lee Rosenthal has herself held Enron stock until as late as the year 2000. Clearly, her ruling will impact her own financial future if she has to freeze her own funds!

3) Judge Lee Rosenthal was appointed to the bench by GWBush!! AND

4) Judge Lee Rosenthal, until her appointment to the bench by GWBush, practiced in a law firm, Baker & Botts. The "Baker" in Baker & Botts is none other than James Baker! That's right, the same James Baker whose financial records may be frozen, the same James Baker who may receive a subpoena for records on Friday from Congress for his role in Enron. The same James Baker who was on the Enron payroll and who used his political clout for Enron's benefit.The same James Baker who was hired by Enron at the end of Bush Sr.'s administration. The same James Baker that masterminded GWBush's post-election vote-count operations in Florida. The same James Baker whose wife, Susan, has been on the board of bush-supporter James Dobson's Focus on the Family.

Now, doesn't it appear that Judge Lee Rosenthal has just a few catastrophic conflicts of interest going on here? Not only is her own financial future dependent on one of the important rulings facing her court (whether to freeze the funds of Enron stockholders who sold large blocks during the time period that Enron was fraudulently inflating its worth), but her rulings will have a major impact on the powerful man (GWBush) who appointed her to the bench AND the powerful man (James Baker) who was a partner in the law firm where she practiced law before she was appointed to the bench.

Is this how the Enron court cases are going to go? Are the financially ruined Enron employees and stockholders going to be further assaulted again by Bush/Enron-toadying judges?

Judge: Enron Funds Could Be Frozen

Federal Judges' Financial Revelations

Judge Rosenthal appointed by GW Bush

James A. Baker's law firm

Brenda Pitts Bennett
[email protected]

I don't find point #2 very convincing: Rosenthal wasn't an Enron executive so it's not clear to me that she would have to freeze her own assets. But the rest of the picture is certainly disturbing. [Note: The first link Bennett cites was dead so I substituted a working link to the same AP story.]
1/14/2002 09:43:49 AM | PermaLink

Luuuuuuuuuuuuub ..................... Duuuuuuuuuuubya

White House physician Dr. Richard Tubb announces that President Bush's resting heartbeat of 35 beats per minute is insufficient to enable him to sit and chew pretzels at the same time.
1/14/2002 09:23:48 AM | PermaLink


Sunday, January 13, 2002

Doc's Brain

Doc blogged yesterday about having to retrace his steps painstakingly in order to find a misplaced item. "I felt like I was in a brain damage rehab," he writes.

You are in a brain damage rehab, Doc. I'm there with you. It's called "middle age." (Of course, some of us are still able to differentiate The Sound of Music from real life.)
1/13/2002 10:26:58 AM | PermaLink

Halley's Comment

Halley Suitt has started blogging. When I was writing my book online, posting each day's crappy draft, Halley was the most important critic and booster of what I was writing. She's got a keen eye and she don't take no guff.
1/13/2002 10:23:54 AM | PermaLink


Saturday, January 12, 2002


David Isenberg points us to a map of Scott McNealy's virtual Rolodex.. This is an interesting way to map a social network ... or the circles of Hell.

Strata Rose Chalup passes along a site that lets you search through a large body of AOL Instant Messaging transcripts that were recently made public. You should search for your name immediately to see if any of your sessions were logged.

[Note: Before you panic, please search again for a different name. Draw the proper conclusion. This is important. There really is no need to panic.]

Dan Gillmor breaks the news that Google has done it again. It now has a site that indexes several news sources in real time, aggregating the top stories.

Jeneane Sessum's main man is the bassist and producer of the band LeadBelly. One of their tracks is - today only! - featured at garageband.com. Go have a listen.

Note: After today, you can listen to the song here.
1/12/2002 11:44:47 AM | PermaLink

Friends Reunited and Aging Badly

Chris Worth writes:

...on my first visit to your blog I was gratified to note friendsreunited.co.uk. I hereby defy your scornful insight into the banality of British life (since you mention the area where I grew up, Northamptonshire): When I registered at the site, the first two entries of people-I-went-to-school-with went something like this.

'After leaving school I became a drug addict, then entered the porn industry, where I am still.'

'I am no longer known as Tim after undergoing sex reasssignment surgery in 1993.'

I didn't read beyond the first two. Well... my old school DID once make the front page of a national tabloid (religious studies teacher had been holding black magic sex parties in her home - rented from the school governor...)

And some people wonder why I dropped out at 16.

I actually didn't intend the two updates I quoted to be anything more than truly random examples. No scorn intended.

I came across Classmates.com, a site that does something similar for those clever enough to have been born in the US. But the real hook is the large album of celebrity high school photos on their site. I don't hide the fact that I enjoy celebrity gossip (well, except in the sense that I never admit it, deny it when asked, and claim that the copy of The National Star is for my teenage daughter), and this is a good site to feed that particular jones. Here you'll learn that:

  • Ronald Reagan and Mr. Rogers have never ever changed their hair styles
  • Fidel Castro wasn't born with a beard
  • Katy Couric was always perky
  • The guy who played Screech on Save by the Bell can see his future face foreshadowed in the young Lyle Lovett
  • Frank Zappa looks out of place in his mortaboard
  • Elvis was even more Elvisy in high school

As far as my own high school photo goes: you shouldn't ask.
1/12/2002 11:35:37 AM | PermaLink


Friday, January 11, 2002

CNN: Your Near-Miss News Source

Chris Worth points us to this illustration from a CNN story:

Artist's concept of a lethal space rock plunging into Earth

He writes:

Am I the only one to find the illustration and its caption somewhat surreal? Dunno why - it relates to the subject matter, and syncs well with American media's unstated aim of converging news and entertainment- but I can't quite grasp the mentality that felt this picture would add value. Then again, maybe I'm just losing touch.

Oh, Chris, it's all of a piece with other recent coverage in CNN:

Florida wineries seek help through GM grapevine

Women compete for national title at U.S. Chess Championship

Artist's conception of genetically altered grape gone bad

Artist's conception of Britney Spears thinking about chess.

CNN: "Sci, Fi, what's the diff?"

1/11/2002 05:54:08 PM | PermaLink


Gary No Blog Yet Stock continues to develop his "googlewhack" thread. Googlewhacking, you may recall, is the attempt to come up with combinations of two common words that return zero hits in Google. (Gary lists a number of variations.) A correspondent, Cinnamon Brunmeir, suggests "schadenfreude primp" which turned up one one hit for her and no hits when Gary ran it. (Google suggests we might mean "schadenfreude primo" and turns up 66 hits.)

Suggestion for a geekoid party game: "Guess the GoogleBeans!" Come up with random phrases and have everyone guess how many hits will show up in Google.

We used to play a game in college. One person suggests word. Everyone guesses what the word immediately before it in the dictionary is. I recall this as being tremendous fun, but I also recall watching a particular curtain rod drop shiny liquid golden pellets as tremendous fun too.
1/11/2002 04:13:52 PM | PermaLink


Thursday, January 10, 2002

Magic Marker, Baby!

A forward from a friend who forwarded it from a friend, and so forth until the path trails off into the mist:

Why not to give your child a MagicMarker for her birthday.

1/10/2002 06:14:49 PM | PermaLink

Bloggar Is Not a Misspelling

Jacob Shwirtz is using Bloggar to help produce his new blog. I've just downloaded it and am composing this message with it, and so far - one sentence in - it seems very useful. It installs a client on your Windows desktop that lets you compose your blogger entries and then uploads them for you. One benefit, as Jacob points out, is that if Blogger.com's servers are down, Blogger will update your blog when the servers are back up.
1/10/2002 03:54:11 PM | PermaLink


While Gary "No Blog" Stock hasn't quite started a blog, despite my incessant whining, he has pseudo-blogged the gogglewhacking fad he's propagating. (Gogglewhacking means finding combinations of ordinary words that bring up the fewest hits on Google.com)

Jacob Shwirtz, creator of the truly odd, upload orgy Gazm.org, has started a blog cleverly named Fuzzy Blogic.

Julian Harley points to FriendsReunited, a site that's apparently a big hit in the UK. You tell it which schools you went to with any comments about your life since being paddled by the upper form boys, and then you can see which of your chums have also registered.

Unfortunately, you have to register to be able to search for pals. If you do, you'll be able to see notes such as these from classmates at the Aspen House School in Streatham: "I have been married for 18 years to Andy and have two children aged 14 and 11. I live in Northamptonshire and work as a cashier at Sainsburys" and "I'm very happily married with two little girls. Jobwise I'm a Business Analyst with a large retail company." (These are probably more interesting if you actually know the people. True of so much of life.)
1/10/2002 12:55:40 PM | PermaLink

Talking Like a Human

Also from Peter "peterme" Merholz comes a small software company that hasn't gotten so successful that it's lost its sense of humor. Here are the Omni Group's software licenses for three of its products:

1. Once you are addicted, you'll doubtlessly want to spend less than $25 to buy a license. Buying a license enables you to add new items to and edit existing items in documents with more than twenty items. Click here to buy, and in the process help pull America out of this pesky recession. We guarantee we'll turn around and spend the money you give us!

2. OmniWeb 4 for Mac OS X can be used for free, but occasionally you might get little flashes of guilt while you use it. If this overwhelms you, why not buy a license at our web store?

3. Once you've used OmniGraffle for a while, we bet you'll want to edit documents with more than twenty items, and then you can buy a license to fully enable the app, and help get us that much closer to being _feelthy steenking rich_. Well, OK, maybe not rich, but successful enough to write some more apps you'll love. And, hey, right now Graffle's about half the cost of some other visualization tools. Also, we're a small company, like those juice guys, so when you buy an app from us it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling in your tummy, like if you ate some sweaters.

It really doesn't take much to connect with your users.
1/10/2002 11:11:52 AM | PermaLink

Place and Space

Peter peterme Merholz, noticing a blogthread between me and Jonathan Peterson, in an email points to a rich thread of comments on his site about whether it makes sense to think about the Web (and other "information spaces") as spaces at all. What a bunch of smart people! He suggests starting with the "Stewart's Chagrin" comment. (Peter also linked to my upcoming book's discussion of the Web as a place, which generated some good discussion too ... citing sources I didn't know about when I wrote the book. Ulp.)

Jonathan Peterson has counter-blogged:

Use of physical metaphors for information relationships far pre-dates the web, likely even written speech (memory palaces, etc.). While the creation of navigation metaphors based on real-world spaces is convenient, the "placeness" of much of the web cannot be attributed to navigation. Usenet groups have "place" though their metaphor varies depending on the user's choice of newsreader. Blogspaces are not planned but aggregate through interlinkage of interests. etc.

Good point.

I think the "placeness" if the Web has something to do with the persistence of links. I can "navigate" through a dictionary by using the thumb index, but hyperlinks on the Web provide not just a random and arbitrary way to move, but an pre-existing way to move. I think it also has something to do with the fact that because Web pages are usually carefully formatted by their authors, they don't feel like information sitting in a database or file system waiting to be retrieved. They feel like they exist with "bodies," not as mere abstract information or bits. Or something.
1/10/2002 08:57:32 AM | PermaLink


Wednesday, January 09, 2002

The Shape of a Weblog Wave

Gary Turner's blogstickers have taken off. If you want to see what that means visually, take a look at some charts Gary's posted showing hits on his site until he gave blogstickers their own home.
1/9/2002 10:41:57 AM | PermaLink

Place and Voice: Talking the Walk

The Obvious? has some comments on my interchange with Jonathan Peters about the nature of the Web as a "place." He ties together walking and stories:

More and more I personally derive a sense of place in the internet through a narrative, a thread, making temporary, contextual sense of a sea of information. This is why, for me, blogging is so powerful. It's what I was getting at in my earlier blog about walking and conversations.

The rest of his entry is just as lovely and insightful.

Jonathan puts voice and place together. The Obvious puts walking and stories together. There's a coalesence here. I think we're seeing a good example of blog-style memic development ... or what used to be called thinking.
1/9/2002 10:38:46 AM | PermaLink

Oil Conspiracies and other Political Links

From Chip comes a link to a transcript of a CNN piece (Paula Zahn interviewing Richard Butler, the former UN weapons inspector) on a French book that claims that, well, here's a portion of the interview:

BUTLER: The most explosive charge, Paula, is that the Bush administration — the present one, just shortly after assuming office slowed down FBI investigations of al Qaeda and terrorism in Afghanistan in order to do a deal with the Taliban on oil — an oil pipeline across Afghanistan.

ZAHN: And this book points out that the FBI's deputy director, John O'Neill, actually resigned because he felt the U.S. administration was obstructing...

BUTLER: A proper...

ZAHN: ... the prosecution of terrorism.

BUTLER: Yes, yes, a proper intelligence investigation of terrorism. Now, you said if, and I affirmed that in responding to you. We have to be careful here. These are allegations. They're worth airing and talking about, because of their gravity. We don't know if they are correct. But I believe they should be investigated, because Central Asian oil, as we were discussing yesterday, is potentially so important. And all prior attempts to have a pipeline had to be done through Russia. It had to be negotiated with Russia.

Now, if there is to be a pipeline through Afghanistan, obviating the need to deal with Russia, it would also cost less than half of what a pipeline through Russia would cost...

Chip also points us to truthout.com where I found an entertaining column by Michael Kinsley resolving to end his post-9/11 self-censorship. (At least he doesn't say that if we censor ourselves, we've let the terrorists win.)

Hank Blakely hasn't had a problem with self-censorship. He has a "new home for the disgruntled" where you'll find his continuing satire of W. He's added a page of favorite sites where I am honored to find my newsletter in company with the Betty Bowers site who is, as you know, "America's Best Christian."
1/9/2002 10:31:23 AM | PermaLink

Googlewhacking -- Let the Games Begin!

Gary Unblinking Stock forwards a forward that forwards a forward, etc., that ultimately comes from Brooks Talley:

... OK, this is kind of embarassing, but I've gotten addicted to looking for combinations of common words which have the lowest incidence of appearance on web pages, as indexed by google. So far, I have yet to find a set of two common english words which do not appear together on any web pages.

The best I've done with three words is "orangutan popcorn fishwife", which yields only one result. With four and more words it's pretty easy to find combos with no results.

Gary responds:

Regarding your habit of googlewhacking (nice triple entendre there):
1: flatness strawberries magnification
1: jeweler parkways pathways
1: florists parkways practiced

This may be too easy: let's decide what the rules are! Options:

limit the number of letters, per word or total?
must be defined at http://www.dictionary.com?
pluralizations of nouns: valid, or excluded?
conjugations of verbs: valid, or excluded?

I'd nominate some categories, along with the elusive doublewhack:

triplewhack that all begin with the same letter;
triplewhack with words all the same length;
multiwhack beginning with sequential letters (1: applet badger catchy dabble)...

Probably not fair to acknowledge word lists (too easy to spoof) such as that last hit.

Here are the rules I'd like to see: Plurals and conjugations allowed, but the words not only have to be in dictionary.com, the value of the googlewhack goes up the more common the words are. (The exact metric for commonness will be announced later.)
1/9/2002 10:18:47 AM | PermaLink


Tuesday, January 08, 2002

Place and Voice

Jonathan Peterson blogs today about the relation of voice and "placeness." He says that this line of thought was spurred by one of the online chapters of my new book (ooh, two plugs in a day!) due out in April. I like his pulling together of these two notions, even though we have a semantic disagreement over what constitutes voice. Here's how I see what Jonathan is saying, from my point of view about voice.

A chapter of my book asks why the Web feels spatial. Here's what it says. (SPOILERS AHEAD! :) Real world space is an abstraction. Concretely, the RW consists of places, that is, areas that have meaning and emotional tone. The Web consists of places also. But RW places are in space while Web places (sites) aren't. On the Web, we see places and think "Space!". But the Web is in fact "place-ial," not spatial. Its sense of spatiality comes from the fact Web has places that are linked and thus traversable. The links aren't accidental the way nearness is in the RW; the links express human interest. It's thus a geography of interest and passion. (It actually is more interesting than that in the book. Really.)

Jonathan links this to voice by noticing the relationship of place and voice on the Web. Web places/sites are written and thus have some type of voice (even if its the phony, affect-less fake voice typical of corporate sites). In a sense, the Web is a spoken place, a "story space" if you prefer (and I don't). In fact, I like the way Jonathan puts it:

The "placeness" of the internet is the placeness of the marketplace, we know we are someplace when we are overhearing bits of conversation around us and able to step in, introduce ourselves and join those conversations at will.

He's also got interesting things to say about authenticity and personalization.
1/8/2002 01:18:17 PM | PermaLink

Passport Required

When a program crashes under XP, you have the option of pressing a button that sends a diagnostic report to Redmond. XP then tantalizes you with the prospect of being told when Microsoft has a fix for the problem. To receive this vital information, however, you are required to sign up for Passport (Tagline: "We called it 'Passport' because we're saving 'Stranglehold' for our next product").

Getting fixes for crash bugs is not a discretionary service. The Department of Justice (Tagline: "It's called 'Justice' to prove we have a sense of humor") ought to pay attention to this.
1/8/2002 01:05:25 PM | PermaLink

The Reluctant Egotist

Meanwhile, my book, due out in April, Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web, has become available for pre-order at Amazon where it currently resides at position #1,956,111, thus edging out such titles as Bryostephane Steereana : A Collection of Bryological Papers Presented to William Campbell Steere on the Occasion of His 80th Birthday (#2,101,446) and Lourdes Gomex-Franca's El Nino de Guano (#2,107,076), but outranked by the popular Burley Packwood's Bird turd peppers and other delights. Yeah, well, if I wanted to sell out like that whore Packwood, my book could be #1,467,919, too.

The blurbs have started to come in for my book, but I find I lack the requisite shamelessness. Aw, fuck it. Here's what Daniel Pink, author of Free Agent Nation, said:

"In the tradition of Marshall McLuhan, David Weinberger has offered a startlingly fresh look at a new medium. But Small Pieces Loosely Joined is more than a work of techno-analysis. At its heart, it is an elegant and ultimately hopeful inquiry into the human condition itself. Once you read this book, you'll see the web - and yourself - in a whole new light."

Pink is a really interesting guy, and not just because of the blurb. His book is hugely readable and subtle. You can read why he left his job as speechwriter to Al Gore to become one of this country's 33,000,000 free agents here.
1/8/2002 12:57:00 PM | PermaLink

Stately Plump Gonzo Marketing

To everyone's astonishment, Chris Locke's Gonzo Marketing has been chosen by the Harvard Business Review as one of the year's top 10 business books, serving notice that Western civilization has officially ended. Tom Matrullo blogs the appropriate commentary on this event.
1/8/2002 11:26:27 AM | PermaLink


Monday, January 07, 2002

Tech Exec Makes (I mean, Does) Good

My old friend Daniel Cheifetz is written up in the Chicago Tribune today:

Donors look past cash to aid community fixes
Tech exec funds Evanston project

By Rob Kaiser
January 7, 2002

The bars recently came off the windows at the Dollar R Us store on the corner of Church Street and Dodge Avenue in Evanston. Soon the store's sign will come down too.

A clothing store called Homefield Advantage is moving in and its owner hopes the surrounding neighborhood will also adopt a different look and feel.

"This corner is notorious for drugs and police stings," said Marcellus Johnson, the store owner who grew up nearby. "We want to change that."

That "we" includes people like Johnson, a 32-year-old promoter with connections to athletes and musicians; Lonnie Wilson, a 45-year-old social services veteran; and Daniel Cheifetz, a 54-year-old former technology executive who has poured more than $1 million into an effort to convert the corner of Church and Dodge from an eyesore into a center of community activity.

That corner is an unlikely location to find Cheifetz, a one-time struggling entrepreneur who became a multimillionaire after his software firm was sold and went public in 1996...

There's no one like Daniel. Too bad. We could use more of him.

[Thanks to Tom Gross for pointing this article out to me.]
1/7/2002 04:23:40 PM | PermaLink

Passion and Anger, Part 3

On the Cluetrain list at Topica, where Eric pointed to our "What is passion?" blogfest, Marek has once again exhibited his tendency to blurt out the truth beautifully. He writes:


passion=love+giving up anger+forgiveness


Follow the links. Really.
1/7/2002 02:26:55 PM | PermaLink

Passion and Anger, Part 2

Eric Mysterious Norlin counters my counterblog of his metablog about the nature of passion. He writes that I am

trying to enlarge the word *too* much. I would argue that one does NOT feel passion toward their children — unless their children are threatened. They feel love and enthusiasm and joy, but not passion. Passion occurs upon threatening because suddenly anger is thrown into the mix.

By this path, one *does* feel passion toward one's spouse, but this treads onto the always dangerous ground of Senor Freud — passion towards one's spouse does involve mixing anger and love, just as passionate sex *always* (don't lie to yourselves kiddies) involves sublimated violence.

As for compression algorithms, etc: I would argue that those things fall more under "enthusiasm" than "passion".

So, yes, we are using the word differently. Let sleeping semantics lie. I don't know what exactly Eric would count as examples of passion other than the ones he gives — passion towards a spouse, passion upon a threat to one's children — but it seems to me that the word applies wherever feelings are strong and — except in the case of "making passionate love" — persistent; you can have a passion for art, but not if it lasts for thirty minutes. Anger isn't the only strong feeling. Let's hope.

Passion = (Deeply caring about something) + (time)

As for whether passionate sex "*always* involves sublimated violence," well, maybe in the Freuds' household it did, but there is a possibility of mutuality (not the same thing as simultaneity) which is the opposite of violence. (Do really have to talk about this in public?)
1/7/2002 02:09:23 PM | PermaLink

Cheesy Flash Cards

David Herman responds to our request for cheesy corporate holiday Flash cards with this one from Forrester. It's actually not quite as cheesy as some, but it remains a mystery who they thought they'd be pleasing with it.
1/7/2002 01:34:07 PM | PermaLink

Passion and Anger

The mysterious Eric Norlin said in an email that he's cracked the code:

Passion = Love + Anger

he wrote. I asked him to write a bloggerino on this so I could respond, so instead he meta-blogged as follows:

I wrote in an email the other day: Passion = Love + Anger. The good doctor disagreed and asked for a blog so that he might counter-blog....the stage is yours, David.

The small point is that this is obviously wrong. Passion is sometimes love and anger, but there are lots of things we don't need anger to be passionate about, including (in no particular order): our children, our spouses, compression algorithms, and marzipan in the shape of small household objects.

The larger point is: Why does Eric's equation seem plausible? It helps that it's sometimes true. It helps that it's true for some of the most prominent of passions, including for Linux and Open Source which wouldn't be nearly as much fun if Microsoft weren't around. But it is also distressingly true for so much of what passes for passion on the Net. With so many voices clamoring for attention, the Web has a natural inclination towards flaming. And anger adds a moral gravitas to one's outrageousness: you can grab people's attention if you dress in a tie-dyed shirt, a fake boa, and no pants, but if you burn your draft card at the same time, you're a rebel, not just a flamboyant asshole.

That's one reason I so appreciated Gary Turner's "sentimental" blog entry the other day. No histrionics, no hiding behind the protection of a good head of self-righteous indignation.

Don't get me wrong: there's nothing I like better than a bout of sweet, foam-in-your-mouth-not-in-your-hands self-righteous indignation! But this isn't the only form of passion ... and all too often it's merely a self-indulgent, look-at-me fit in the guise of passion.

Back to you, Eric!
1/7/2002 10:42:32 AM | PermaLink


Sunday, January 06, 2002

David Isenberg's current Smart Letter quotes extensively from a 1998 article by David Reed about why outmoded accounting techniques are leading to a telcom meltdown. David says:

The local telephone companies could well have to replace their old switching technology to keep up with newer competitors that have a more efficient approach. Such replacements, while cheap to buy, would entail huge write-offs, given that existing switches are almost worthless and yet are carried on the books at fantastic sums. The central office switches and line cards of the phone companies could become the nuclear power plants (the "stranded assets") of the telecommunications industry. We could wind up with a debacle on the order of the S&L problem ...

David follows this up with an intelligent update and discussion, and then lots of reader mail from a gaggle o' gurus.

1/6/2002 10:43:13 AM | PermaLink


Saturday, January 05, 2002

The Mathematics of Gonzo

Interesting thread at Gonzo Engaged started by the preternaturally smart Clay Shirky who challenges the math behind Gonzo Marketing. Will it cost more and achieve less than traditional marketing? The responses generally don't take on the math but instead challenge his premises.
1/5/2002 11:31:56 AM | PermaLink

Blogstickers and the Value of Sentimentality

Gary Turner says some incredibly nice things about RageBoy, Doc, me and some others in his blog today. Way over the top. And it's great. Gary gets a little self-conscious towards the end and writes: "Trying desperately not to over-senitmentalize this posting (too late) ..." No apologies accepted, Gary! As much as I love cynicism, irony and post-modern meta-nihilism, after a while it gets a little predictable. It's a relief to have someone express actual sentiments — other than anger — without guile. Gimme more!

Gary continues his collection of weblog bumperstickers. (My current favorite is "My other blog is a newspaper column.") Here are some suggestions:

  • I blogged at the office.
  • I'd rather be blogging.
  • Blog me, baby. Blog me hard.
  • You are what you blog.

Post-modern ironic meta-commentary on pop culture bumperstickers without a shred of sentiment or honesty? Gimme more!
1/5/2002 11:23:12 AM | PermaLink

Words of the Years

Michael Quinlon's weekly emailer, World Wide Words, today summarizes the awards by the American Dialect Society last night in San Francisco:

  • Most Outrageous: "assoline", methane used as a fuel.
  • Most Euphemistic: "daisy cutter", a bomb used by US Air Forces in Afghanistan (not new, but definitely a distinguishing word of 2001).
  • Most Useful: there was a tie between "facial profiling", videotaping a crowd to identify criminals and terrorists, and "second-hand speech", overheard cell-phone conversation.
  • Most Creative: "shuicide bomber", a terrorist with a bomb in his shoe.
  • Most Unnecessary: "impeachment nostalgia", longing for the superficial news of the Clinton era
  • Least Likely to Succeed: "Osamaniac", a woman sexually attracted to Osama bin Laden
  • Most Inspirational: "Let's roll!", the words of the late Todd Beamer, who mobilised passengers on Flight 93 on 11 September to overcome the terrorists who had hijacked the plane.

Previous awards are viewable here. Previous Most Likely to Succeed were:

2000: muggle (27). Other candidates: m-commerce (14), buying and selling over a cell phone, and WAP (3), Wireless Application Protocol, a specification that enables wireless devices to connect with one another.

1999: dot-com (31) company doing business on the World-Wide Web. Others: portal (9) entry site to the Web, e-tail (7) retail business conducted on the Web, baby Bills (2) companies that Bill Gates' Microsoft might be broken up into as a result of the government's antitrust lawsuit.

1998: "e-" 25 votes. Others: "rage" as in "road rage," etc. (18); "moment" as in "senior moment," "Kodak moment" (12).

1997: "DVD" (30) Digital Versatile Disk, optical disk technology expected to replace CDs. Others: "handheld" (4) (noun) handheld digital device; "push" (2) automatic delivery of customized Internet content to one's desktop; "be dilberted" (2) to be mistreated or taken advantage of by one's boss.

1996: "drive-by" (25) designating brief visits or hospital stays as in "drive-by labor," "drive-by mastectomy," "drive-by viewing." Runner-up "nail" (7) to accomplish perfectly, as an Olympic feat, election victory, or movie role.

1995: "World Wide Web" and its variants.

1994: No Most Likely to Succeed but Most Promising was Infobahn.

1993: Quotative like with a form of the verb be to indicate speech or thought.

1992: snail mail , s-mail, mail that is physically delivered, as opposed to email.

1991: rollerblade , skate with rollers in a single row.

1990: notebook PC , a portable personal computer weighting 4-8 pounds, and rightsizing , adjusting the size of a staff by laying off employees.

Not a bad record, although choosing a word as most likely to succeed because the technology it denotes is likely to succeed strikes me as a bit craven.

Here are the group's Word of the Year awards:

  • 1990: Bushlips (insincere political rhetoric)
  • 1991: Mother of All
  • 1992: Not!
  • 1993: Information Superhighway
  • 1994: Cyber, Morph
  • 1995: Web, Newt
  • 1996: Mom
  • 1997: Millennium Bug
  • 1998: E-
  • 1999: Y2K
  • 2000: chad

In 2000, the group widened its scope for its awards:

Word of the Year 1999 was Y2K.
Word of the 1990s Decade was web.
Word of the Twentieth Century was jazz.
Word of the Past Millennium was she.

Yes, she, the feminine pronoun. Before the year 1000, there was no she in English; just heo, which singular females had to share with plurals of all genders because it meant they as well. In the twelfth century, however, she appeared, and she has been with us ever since. She may derive from the Old English feminine demonstrative pronoun seo or sio, or from Viking invasions.

So, before 1000, there was no direct way to differentiate between a reference to a woman and a reference to a group of indeterminate sex? That is very weird.

In response to my challenge to come up with neologisms, Ken Meltsner writes:

I came up with (I believe) ""netstalgia"" — musings on how the Internet used to be.

Joe Murphy writes:

There's a thread on Plastic.com about this very topic. Do you Plastic?

My favorite so far is:


A combination of neologism and jism meaning the end result of this particular type of linguistic masturbation.

Oh. My other favorite is:

For Canadians only: A friend of mine refers to our far-right newspaper as the Notional Past.

Yes, Rich Hall's 1984 Sniglets lives (and was followed by More Sniglets, Sniglets for the Soul, Who Moved My Sniglets and this year's Gnozo Sniglets). (If you haven't had enough, you can go to The Atlantic Monthly's Word Fugitives compiled by Barbara Wallraff.)
1/5/2002 09:01:45 AM | PermaLink


Friday, January 04, 2002

Web Journalism

Tom Matrullo has a superb piece on journalism and weblogs in which he enlarges the context, opening — so to speak — a magnificent vista. (Tom is replying to a thread begun by the Weblog King of Questions, Mike Sanders.)
1/4/2002 01:01:18 PM | PermaLink

Media Unspun Groks the Media

As mentioned in yesterday's blog, the folks behind Media Grok have reemerged with Media Unspun. This is from their FAQ:

What is Media Unspun?

It's a new newsletter published by the team that produced Media Grok for the Industry Standard. Now, as then, our goal is to keep our readers up to date on the most important business news, show how different news outlets interpret the same information in different ways, and, if we're lucky, entertain you.

The same team? Really?

Yes, 100 percent. Deborah Asbrand, Michaela Cavallaro, Keith Dawson, Jen Muehlbauer, and David Sims are still the writers. Jim Duffy is still the copyeditor. I'm still the editor. I appear to be the publisher, too, since no one else has volunteered.

The first two articles in this daily send are about the Democratic probe of Enron and the media's sudden enthusiasm for Nasdaq.

Welcome back! You've been missed!
1/4/2002 11:46:43 AM | PermaLink

No, I Want to Be Britney Spears' Boyfriend!

Jack Vinson writes:

So, I was listening to our local college radio, where they talk too much and play good music. The particular duo I enjoy are Michael Stephen and Producer Nick. Michael has his own cheesy website, and they were joking that Producer Nick doesn't have his own site. As it turns out, there is a producernick.com. He is apparently a Berklee music student who really likes Britney Spears. Check out his "hit song": "I Want to Be Britney Spears' Boyfriend."

I found it quite amusing for the first 1.5 minutes and then it degenerates into a repetitive techno-groove (or whatever the kids today would call it). But I do enjoy people declaring their songs hits regardless of how many people have heard it.
1/4/2002 10:52:08 AM | PermaLink

Speaking Volumes about Traffic Tickets

A former boss of mine came into work one day in 1987 or so, jubilant. He had done a lot of research about how he could contest a speeding ticket he felt he didn't deserve. At the hearing, the judge asked him for his story. My boss took out the giant law volume he'd been studying, and began: "Well, Judge, according to..."

"Case dismissed!" said the judge.

It sounds like times have changed, unfortunately. Perhaps the Web has made so many traffic violators into pre-jailhouse lawyers that a show of expertise doesn't have the effect it once did.

(The National Motorists Association apparently has a helpful site for the Wrongfully Accused and/or Cheap.)

1/4/2002 09:21:44 AM | PermaLink


Thursday, January 03, 2002


Doc writes:

Dave points out how a Google search for "intelligent Weblogs" goes to an "interesting place." So I thought I'd search for "smart weblogs" and hit the "I'm feeling lucky" button. At first I though there was some kind of problem, but it turns out I really am lucky. Incrediby lucky, in fact. And I mean that literally.

So, Dave blogs Doc's blog:

Doc discovered how insightful Google can be. Not!

So, I go to Google and try Doc's search string — "smart weblogs" — to see what the fuss is about and hit the "I'm feeling lucky button." Where does it take me? Back to Doc's blog entry where he talks about how amusing it is if you enter "smart weblogs" at Google and hit the "I'm feeling lucky button."
1/3/2002 02:17:55 PM | PermaLink


Chris Pirillo's Lockergnome recommends a compelling download: Anti Mosquitoes v1.10b, a 261K app that causes your sound card to emit a sound mosquitoes find repellant. [Insert your own joke here about whatever musical group you don't like.] Chris hasn't tried it and neither have I; as Chris says, this is "for those of you who've already downloaded everything."

Chris's blog is as spunky as he is, and comes recommended by no less than Doc, which means there's an alternative universe better than this one in which it is compulsory reading. Doc also points to Gretchen Pirillo's blog; she and Chris are husband and wife, although there's an alternative universe in which they are wife and husband.
1/3/2002 01:47:43 PM | PermaLink

Media Grok Redux

From Jimmy Guterman, formerly with the Media Grok newsletter of fond memory:

Do you miss Media Grok?

The team that produced Media Grok will launch a new newsletter tomorrow.

See you then.

Alas, there are no details. I suspect from the email address that it will be called Media Unspun and that you'll be able to find it at Topica.com. Of course, I could be just plain wrong. (Not that that's ever happened before. Sigh.) But we'll know more tomorrow. And not a moment too soon!
1/3/2002 01:37:45 PM | PermaLink

Dept. of Thanks a Whole Hell of a Lot

Noted: This explanation in Office XP (Standard) errs on the side of caution, skipping the part where it's actually helpful:

As Ring Lardner once wrote: "Shut up," he explained.
1/3/2002 01:07:53 PM | PermaLink

Opossum Sites

In my weekly column for Darwin Magazine online tomorrow, I'm going to talk about some sites and services that I like beyond their intrinsic merit because they remind me that the Internet will survive our commercial attempts to subdue it ... like an opossum I saw on our suburban sidewalk a couple of years ago that somehow managed to last through our paving of its habitat. The examples I'm pointing to are:

  • Google
  • UseNet
  • Sites where you can get technical help from amateur experts
  • Arts & Letters Daily as a straightforward aggregator

Do you have your own examples of sites that get it so right that you not only like and use them, but are actually grateful to them for existing?
1/3/2002 11:29:01 AM | PermaLink

Complete Mozart

Chris Worth points us to a funny review at Amazon of the complete works of Mozart.
1/3/2002 10:56:03 AM | PermaLink


Wednesday, January 02, 2002

So What

Luke Seemann beat me by 1.5 years to a discussion of the use of the word "So" to begin a story. Very amusing.

[Thanks to Peterme for pointing this out to me.]
1/2/2002 02:59:26 PM | PermaLink

The Age of Assholes

Pardon the brief cross post. This was part of my response to an excellent bloggerino from Steve McLaughlin at Gonzo Engaged. He was responding to my response to a Chris Locke rant.

The canvas the Net gives us let's go nuts about ourself and our viewpoints. I can sing myself electric to the entire bloody world. That's exhilirating, although also delusional and egotistical. It changes the old equation where a handful of us were broadcasters and the rest of us were audience members. It's no accident that the Age of Conformity came into existence as TV sets went into everyone's home. It's no accident that as Web access goes into everyone's home we're entering the Age of Assholes. And I mean that in the very best sense :)
1/2/2002 09:08:24 AM | PermaLink

Story Tellers, Authors, Places

Pardon the rambling. Or better yet, straighten it out and tell me what I'm trying to say...

Before there were books and scribes, there were singers of stories. Every time Homer's tale was told, it was different depending on the voice of the teller. Intonation, tune, rhythm, even content varied with each telling. What counted was the way the story was told that night.

Writing nailed the words to pages; the words became the Platonic form of the story. The words may be rendered differently by each edition — the new edition of a book may be set in a different typeface than the previous one — but the two editions are editions of the same book only if the words are the same. And with the fixing of words on paper, we also get "authors." Authors own their words in a way that the previous generations of story tellers could not. Printing leads to "authorized" editions indeed.

On the Web we have authors and story tellers. But we have something else as well: places. For the first time, a place can constitute the "what-ness" of the discourse, not the story, not the author, not the words. The work can be the place where authors, tellers, stories, voices and words meet. It is the place that has permanence, it is the place that makes the discourse into a work. And the place isn't owned the way authors own words, and it isn't possessed the way a voice possesses a singer or teller. It is public, it is shared, it is ours.

"Ours" isn't a possessive here. Books, embodying Platonic works, exist without us. Stories, on the other hand, need us as listeners to exist; a story untold is like a dance undanced. The Web's new places combine the permanence of books with the needfulness of stories...

[Crap. I hate this type of writing. Nice words instead of real ideas. Shoot me before I write more.]
1/2/2002 08:46:28 AM | PermaLink


Tuesday, January 01, 2002

Demographics Askew

Ah, just in time to close out the old year I get this brilliant bit of marketing from FHM, one of the burgeoning EBN ("Everything But Nipples") men's magazines:

You've been chosen as one of the select few to receive this exclusive invitation...

Why you? Because we've gotta pretty good hunch you're just the kind of man we're looking for.

Someone who loves beautiful women. Loves great clothes. Loves new gadgets. And loves getting the most out of life.

Hah! Why not come right out and say it: "Our research shows that you're a serious masturbator." There's your target demo.

Sorry, pal, but if I want dirty pictures, I know a newsgroup or two that'll pitch in for free.
1/1/2002 01:22:54 PM | PermaLink

The Story of Ping

Gary Stock, who really should start his own weblog, refers us to the first review at Amazon of the children's classic, The Story of Ping:

"...As good as it is, The Story About Ping is not without its faults. There is no index, and though the ping(8) man pages cover the command line options well enough, some review of them seems to be in order. Likewise, in a book solely about Ping, I would have expected a more detailed overview of the ICMP packet structure..."

Gary points out that the review is not only helpful, it's durn popular: "4412 of 4511 people found the following review helpful..."
1/1/2002 11:15:48 AM | PermaLink

Blue Hydrangea

Blue Hydrangea

Like the green that cakes in a pot of paint,
these leaves are dry, dull and rough
behind this billow of blooms whose blue
is not their own but reflected from far away
in a mirror dimmed by tears and vague,
as if it wished them to disappear again
the way, in old blue writing paper,
yellow shows, then violet and gray;

a washed-out color as in children's clothes
which, no longer worn, no more can happen to:
how much it makes you feel a small life's brevity.

But suddenly the blue shines quite renewed
within one cluster, and we can see
a touching blue rejoice before the green.

Rainer Maria Rilke
William H. Gass, trans.

The translator points out that the color of hydrangea blooms depends upon the acidity of the soil. Gass writes: "My grandmother buried nails near her hydrangea, and they bloomed as blue as jeans." (Reading Rilke: Reflections on the Problems of Translation, p. 148.)
1/1/2002 08:59:06 AM | PermaLink

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