David Weinberger's Weblog. Let's just see how it goes.
Saturday, August 31, 2002
Michalski jumps in
The redoubtable Jerry Michalski (the writer/thinker/networker, not the battleship) has started blogging and has put up a wiki. (Wiki, not Wifi. A wiki is a page that can be gang-edited, a digital act of trust.)
8/31/2002 11:20:37 AM | PermaLink
Top Ten Signs RB's on the Mend
Here are the Top Ten or So Signs that RageBoy Is on the Mend:
11. When he puts in a link to a bloody, angry, foul-mouthed CD, he remembers to put his Amazon affiliate code at the end
10. He's got enough strength back to type out all of "motherfucker"
9. Remembers that if he's a "babe magnet," he's got his polarity reversed
8. Uses elegant CSS definitions to put "Fuckhead" into 64pt green san serif font rather than messier inline notation
7. Drops "Big Lou Gerstner" from his blogroll
6. Winer and Lessig take out joint ad in Variety to complain about him
5. Hand writes a note to each of his EGR subscribers to apologize for not calling them fucking hosers enough recently
4. His blog entry on why the DayPop Top 40 eats motherfucking shit makes it onto the DayPop Top 40
3. When you click on his photo, it no longer takes you to a John Denver play list
2. RageBoy clips his page boy
And the number one sign that RB is on the mend ...
1. No one's safe any more
8/31/2002 08:46:27 AM | PermaLink
Friday, August 30, 2002
Chris Macrae's Wild Idea
Here's a discussion of Chris Macrae's "wild idea" that we should on our web sites encourage people to sign a pledge that says: Once a million people have signed up, we will avoid buying from global companies that spend more than $250M a year on advertising but won't spend 10% of that on making the world better. I'm suggesting that we called it "The Tenth Ad Pledge."
8/30/2002 08:30:53 AM | PermaLink
$80 Billion Phone Scam? Or: Making MCI look like a piker
TeleTruth.org has filed a complaint alleging that Verizon (and the companies that merged to form it) have vastly inflated the amount and cost of missing equipment to the tune of $20-$80B. Why? Presumably because this "vaporware" counts as an expense that can be passed on to the consumer in the former of higher rates.
This one, if true, would scrape the field clean.
The press release is here. There's a table of contents here. And, oddly, if you click on the link to the "Executive Summary," (http://www.newnetworks.com/auditexecsum.html), it actually takes you to the Microsoft security home page.
8/30/2002 07:56:51 AM | PermaLink
Thursday, August 29, 2002
How to Get into the DayPop Top 40
Doc blogs "In Praise of Breasts" which, in addition to raising questions about our culture's fetishism and about the ability of art to transcend the sexual, also poses the eternal riddle: Are there other sure-fire ways to crack the DayPop Top 40?
Yes, there are. Here are some titles guaranteed to shoot you into that vaunted heaven:
Open Source toilet kills 30
Large, Round UFO visible in background of photo of Bush and Blair
First entry in new White House weblog links to porn site
How to fold a $20 to see Martha Stewart topless
eBay auctions off Michael Jackson's nose
New Apple power cord to come in 3 colors
Which superheroes are the best hung?
75,000 missing votes from Florida recount claimed to have been stored in the WTC
Quiz: Which sort of shithead are you?
See you on the Top 40!
8/29/2002 08:34:46 AM | PermaLink
It's not super simple. It's not even simple. In fact, it's hard.
I don't know what the right answer is. I am hugely suspicious of arguments by analogy when the things being compared are different in contentious ways...like houses and software. I do think we'd get closer if we looked at some data. And I am 100% positive that the issue isn't super-simple because if it were, smart, well-intentioned people like Winer and Lessig would agree about it.
For a brief article from three years ago about why arguments by analogy fail when applied to the Web click here and page down to the subhead "Floundering Morality." It's about ThirdVoice. Ah, the good old days!
8/29/2002 08:23:49 AM | PermaLink
Number of Bloggers Doubles
Dylan Tweney in his newsletter ups the ante on the number of bloggers:
I asked Steven Levy where he got the 500,000 figure when he interviewed me for his Newsweek article. He said it came from Blogdex. It seemed low to me. I'm glad to see Dylan come in with new numbers.
Also, Dylan traces weblogs back to Douglas Englebart's Augment system, "a kind of hyperlinked, team-oriented online journal..." Interesting precursor. I'd never heard of Augment before. But because Modern Weblogs began not as team journals but as individuals publishing annotated logs of where they'd webbed that day, the historical line is at least dotted. Besides, don't the cave paintings in Lascaux count as a type of early weblog? And the tales told by the Homeric Bards? And Psalm 22? And, when you think about it, isn't the last warm breeze of summer, sending a chill through the sparrows even as it rocks them to sleep, a weblog? Isn't it really?
8/29/2002 07:11:45 AM | PermaLink
Wednesday, August 28, 2002
Too obviously ironic
Don't these folks have a freaking PR agent who could have whispered to them beforehand: Ix-nay on the aviar-cay!
8/28/2002 10:23:29 AM | PermaLink
Pat Robertson in Blakely's hands
I particularly enjoyed this week's missive from Hank Blakely. He turns from his weekly W bashing to the news from Pat Robertston:
8/28/2002 09:08:30 AM | PermaLink
10-Word Word Square
Word Ways, the oddest journal on the planet, and available only in print, has at last put up a website at www.WordWays.com. WordWays is a small-circulation journal for people who treat words as objects. They set themselves challenges and then create enormous word lists of, for example, all the words that can be broken into pallindromic sets. And that's one of the simplest examples.
The site is scandalously out of date, though! It runs Jeff Grant's 10-word word-square that relies on people's proper names but does not yet run the 10-word word-square in the current issue, the first such square with all authenticated sources. It's from Rex Gooch in Letchworth, England. Here it is, with the source of each word to the right:
A B A P T I S T U M Pulliam
B A H R A M T A P A in Azerbaijan
A H L E R B R U C H in Germany
P R E P A R A T O R Oxford Eng. Dict.
T A R A D A N O V A in Russia
I M B R A N G L E S OED
S T R A N G F O R D in England
T A U T O L O G I A qv in OED
U P C O V E R I N G OED
M A H R A S D A G I in Turkey
Congratulations to Mr. Gooch and all the little Letchworth Gooches!
8/28/2002 08:19:19 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, August 27, 2002
Hope for the despairing: Telcos vs. Hollywood.
Jonathan blogs about a Declan interview "with a lawyer from Verizon that has some very hopeful bits. ... The short story is that The sleeping giant of the telcos, has political clout that puts Hollywood to shame, but let's not forget that they may be out allies for now, but they ain't us, and their agenda isn't ours."
8/27/2002 05:54:36 PM | PermaLink
Lessig, Winer, Sifry, Lessig: The Quest for n
In a nutshell (i.e., annoyingly inaccurately), Lessig proposes a 10-year copyright for software, after which the source code would be released into the public domain. Winer thinks this would unduly damage small software houses: "If we have to publish our source code the users won't pay for it. Ten years isn't enough time to create a new market." And that would mean the end of the major incentive for innovation.
Sifry disagrees with Winer on this: "I can't think of a single example of software that generated revenue 10 years after it was written, unless you're talking about software for the Space Shuttle or some other old piece of hardware..."
That's the swerving point in this debate, the point at which the conversation starts to head into the weeds. All contending parties agree, I believe, that (1) the goal is to build a marketplace that encourages innovation and (2) that the way to do that is to let the market reward innovation. Unfortunately, to spread the value of innovation, two things have to happen that are contradictory from the market point of view: First, someone has to have a great idea for which she is rewarded. Second, you want that idea to spread and be built upon as raidly as possible and requiring that the creator be rewarded slows down the spread. Much butting of heads ensues.
So, the reasonable compromise (as I think all the disputants agree) is to set some number of years during which a copyright holds. The question is: What's the right number of years? More important, how do we decide the right number of years?
We can't merely be guided by individual instances where a copyright of n years would have been clearly too long or too short, for the essence of the compromise is that we'll tolerate some inequity in service of a larger growth in equitable innovation.
Further, n is going to be different for different industries, applications and hardware platforms: Some areas have the metabolism of hippopotami and others of hummingbirds. There is no n that is optimal for each body type.
So, how do we move forward? Some numbers would help:
What is the average/typical revenue curve (dollars vs. time) for software?
What's the curve in various industries, hw platforms application areas?
Do we have reason to think that the curve is about to change its shape or that it could change its shape in desirable ways?
What is the curve for software that we (subjectively) consider to be innovative?
I'm a humanities major and thus won't understand the numbers even if someone has them, but otherwise it's hard to see how the discussion can go much further.
Lessig's reply to Charles Cooper is a superb piece of rhetoric in the best sense: clear, persuasive, entertaining. He even uses one of Winer's proudest software creations as his example of why we want to limit the term of software's indentured servitude.
8/27/2002 01:03:19 PM | PermaLink
Monday, August 26, 2002
Ernie D'Attorney's Sensible Suggestions
Ernie the Attorney has some nonsensible suggestions for Congress. Hell, they're no more absurd than the actual proposed legislation...
8/26/2002 03:45:07 PM | PermaLink
Signs of life
The current issue of Vanity Fair has an article (by David Rose) on the crash of AA Flight 587 a few months after 9/11. The point of the article is that the FAA's explanation (pilot error in reaction to turbulence from the aircraft in fron of it) is very likely wrong. And the FAA is being suspiciously protective of the data it holds. In fact, suggests the article, there are structural problems with the aircraft. (I could swear I read this same article a year ago, maybe in the NYer.)
Anyway, the article supplements the data the FAA has released with information from a site where "a network of aviation experts, former crash investigators, pilots and engineers" analyze information from multiple sources, trying to piece together what actually happened.
Networked markets are smarter than the companies they're talking about and networked experts know more than the government wants them to know.
Conversation is In
Because I am a Cluetrain guy, I am unnaturally alert to the discovery of convesation, for the central idea of that decentralized book builds on Doc's insight that "markets are conversations." So are businesses (as Fernando Flores said, although in a different way) and so is the Internet itself. This idea struck us four authors as especially worthwhile given business' insistence on understanding the Net as a type of ultra-cheap broadcast medium.
So, it is almost certainly only a coincdence that in the current issue of The New Yorker (a double issue for Aug. 19 and 26), Adam Gopnick's excellent-as-usual article on cooking ends with this insight:
Not all that sensible, perhaps, because Gopnick should then equally enjoy the company of furniture makers and farmers. But, I like the reveling in conversation.
Then, putting that magazine down, I picked up the NY Times Week in Review and read an article called "The Selling of America, Bush Style" by Victoria de Grazia about the Bush administration's attempt to "rebrand" the US. She points to two obstacles. First, "there are now so many competing mesages..." Second,
Jeez, maybe Cluetrain was right! Is the Internet spreading the cult of conversation, which is, after all the second most basic form of human sociality.
8/26/2002 08:32:49 AM | PermaLink
There are some amusing plays on the Google logo at SomethingAwful.
8/26/2002 08:25:48 AM | PermaLink
Saturday, August 24, 2002
Spamming Dead Meat
According to a study by Address Guardian (and reported in MediaPost), 17 million US households receive direct mail and telemarketing addressed to a dead person. Four million get "a lot" and 53% of the mail is going to people who have been dead for a year or more. 6% goes to people who have been dead for 10 or more years.
In my will, I've specified that my heirs should keep my email address active and that all incoming mail should be automatically answered with a personalized response expressing my great interest in their products, services, offers of stolen government funds, webcam views of their hot coed selves and, of course, penis extenders.
Count it as my own web-based perpetual flame.
8/24/2002 07:14:41 AM | PermaLink
Friday, August 23, 2002
Note: I screwed up. Someone told me that NPR's "All Things Considered" ran a commentary of mine last night and I assumed it was on copyright. But I just found out that it was in fact one on the sociality of the Web. But, enough people have linked to the NPR commentary that didn't run yet that I'm posting it here as an unofficial draft. The transcript below is of the one that did run last night. You can listen to it here.
I'm not a tremendously sociable fellow. Like a surprising number of people in my age and socioeconomic group, I don't have a lot of friends I hang out with. I think -- I hope -- it's just the nature of modern life.
But then I think about my email life. I spend a whole lot of time engaged in really stimulating conversations with strangers. There's not a day that goes by that I don't get at least one email from someone I've never met -- messages on interesting topics from people who, through the constant hand-off networking of the web, think I might be interested in what they're interested in. I write back, the stranger responds, and this goes on for a couple of days. Then, typically, it peters out ... and sometimes we bump into one another again on the Web..
The exchanges always have their own character. Some are sober and direct. Some are wordy and formal. Most are jokey, sarcastic, outright funny. In short, the messages sound like their authors, but use the near-universal web attitude of irreverence and humor to cushion the stating of beliefs that may be directly at odds with your reader. "Hey, man, it's just a joke, it's got a smiley face next to it." Humor is becoming the format for intellectual content just as dry sobriety and rigor used to be.
The great thing is that this email arrives unasked for. Someone in the Netherlands, or Australia, or South Africa read some message I posted to a discussion board on the Web, the Web, or stumbled across my home page, or were referred by a friend or previous a correspondent.That's the nature of the Web, a network that gets its value from people stumbling around.
And I start conversations all the time. I read about an interesting a couple of days ago, so I found out a little more about it on the Web, got the author's email address, which she publishes, and I wrote to her to talk about an interset I think we share. An hour later, her reply was in my mailbox. A couple of exchanges and we're allies whose paths may well cross again.
Today I heard from a stranger who thought I'd be interested in something called "pattern language." He obviously cares about it a lot. So, he educated me briefly and gave me a perspective I might never have stumbled on. Two messages and it's over. Maybe.
This morning, a guy came across my site and asked me to comment on his. I sent him a message critiquing but now I think he probably just wanted me to say "Cool site!" and share his enthusiasm. So, I think I made a mistake. I haven't heard back from him. I have no idea whether he's sulking, found my comments helpful, or now thinks I'm a moron. Maybe all three. That's part of the conversation too.
What do I get out of this Clearly, stimulation. But it feels deeper than that. The world is coming unstuck in the very best of ways. We've lived under a rigid system for managing social contacts. The people you don't know are strangers. You don't speak unless spoken to. You stay formal until you get to know one another. Not any more. I sense a spiritual mandate to connect, a mandate so deep that it feels biological. We must find one another, now. We have to grip every hand that we see. This is the new evolution. We are building a world, we're building the real web, the one that uses technology for connection the way our souls use our bodies for awareness. It's just email. But it's joyous.
8/23/2002 09:03:11 AM | PermaLink
Joe Mahoney — whose weblog I'd missed despite the fact that Joe is an old friend, the most literate amateur I've ever met (as opposed to professional professors), an astounding musician, and a role model — and I ended up arguing in email about W's twisted psychology. Joe has run the correspondence. Although he says I trumped him, his last paragraph, with its Frenchification and Lacan reference, is a thoroughly enjoyable classic of intellectual rug-pulling.
Here's my "analysis." It is, as always, highly scientifical.
Go to Joe's site to read his concluding comment. Stay for the poetry and the voice and the ideas.
Based on nothing but what I saw this morning on the talk shows (when my family's away I snap on the TV first thing so I can hear voices I can ignore) the public discussion of Sami Al-Arian isn't asking the basic question: Is he a good teacher and scholar? If he's doing illegal things outside of the classroom — and according to Al-Arian, a judge last year declared that the groups for which he participated in fund raising were not supporting terrorism — then the legal system should deal with it and, if convicted, he should be bounced from the university. Otherwise, he should be free to say and do what he wants outside of the classroom.
Now, the nit in the ointment is that the University of South Florida claims he's in violation of his employment agreement and I don't know what that agreement says. Oh wait, I just found a copy. Sure enough, right there in Paragraph 32c it says: "Tenured professors can be fired if doing so enables Jeb Bush to look tough." Too bad, Sami. You shoulda read the fine print.
8/23/2002 08:55:22 AM | PermaLink
Thursday, August 22, 2002
Net at Work
That's good but not unexpected news for us Net boosters. But could you please tell me at what job you get to spend 30% of your "media time" watching TV?
8/22/2002 02:16:12 PM | PermaLink
The Two Reasons Marketers Can't Understand the Web
1. They can't tell the difference between a party and a market.
2. They think it's their party.
About #1. Marketers think that we on the Web are markets. They define a market as a group of people who will respond favorably (i.e., 2% will twitch their eyebrows in reaction) to a message. For example, "urban males 18-24" is a market if they will respond favorably to an ad with a babe touching a pen to her lips, and "people who read Parade and own a weimeraner" is a market if they respond favorably to a jingle that rhymes "wet good" with "pet food." These markets have no existence as a group except as a statistical abstraction. They are not real groups, much less communities on conversations. The Web, on the other hand, is a set of global parties where people are talking with others only insofar as we find one another interesting on some topic. Marketers look at these parties, these real groups of real people, and see only opportunities to deliver messages.
About #2. The fundamental mistake business insists on making over and over on the Internet is to think that their Web site is theirs. Even if they have learned that the Internet is not driven primarily by business, just about every business thinks about its site as a piece of property they own. When we enter it, we are now subject to their rules and their messages. While this is legally indisputable, it's also what makes business sites feel so alien on the Web.
Scott Knowles, a marketer whose head is not up his ass when it comes to the Web, responds: "I think putting a "traditional" in front of "marketing" when your slamming it would make things more accurate. There really is a difference." Yes, there is. I assume a "traditional" in front of "marketers" in the screed above, but I shouldn't assume that all me readers assume the same assumption. (You know what they say about "Assumptions": they make an "ass" of "u" and "mptions."
8/22/2002 10:24:15 AM | PermaLink
Wednesday, August 21, 2002
Petition against the Iraq War
Will signing a petition do any good? Well, it's like to do marginally more good than not signing a petition.
8/21/2002 03:45:53 PM | PermaLink
In response to our call for names for the invasion of Iraq, Joe Mahoney writes:
I'm less enamored with Operation Oedipus than I was. I'd prefer something like Operation Oedipal Blindness or maybe Operation Oedipal Apocalypse.
Norm Jensen meanwhile suggests Operation Blatant Hypocrisy.
8/21/2002 10:54:07 AM | PermaLink
AKMA says he disagrees with me. I beg to differ.
At issue are the comments from Ha Jin I ran approvingly:
AKMA's beef (well, since we're both vegetarians, maybe we should switch to a different metaphor, perhaps something spatial) is that he has "little patience" for
In this there are two objections AKMA may be registering: (1) Cultural groups have tendencies; (2) These tendencies are deterministically determined by their language. The "read off" implies the second objection, as if we could look at a language out of context and "read" the intellectual and spiritual tendencies of its people.
AKMA then says that he doesn't think Ha is so dumb as to believe in #2, a simple and "tedious" linguistic determinism. But neither is experience independent of language. Rather, says AKMA, "I agree that social life, thought, and language are closely related , and that they affect one another." But, AKMA says, he rejects what Ha says because English speakers do manage to say earthly things and Chinese speakers manage to say speculative things.
It seems to me that this objection is to a third statement that Ha doesn't make: (3) The intellectual and spiritual tendencies language non-deterministically influences are not tendencies but hard limits. That is, AKMA seems to be taking Ha as saying that if Chinese is a more earthly language than English, then English speakers can't say earthly things.
I find it unlikely, based on the snippet I originally posted, that Ha is saying that English can't be earthly and Chinese can't be speculative. He is talking about tendencies and uses the comparative "more." So, I think AKMA is attacking a strawperson interpretation of Ha. And I thus am able to agree with AKMA's subtantial point while disagreeing with his critique of Ha's statement.
Now, this doesn't answer a question that seems to jab more squarely at the questions of language and translation: Are there things that can be said in Chinese that simply cannot be said in English, and vice versa? And the answer to this question is one that I again think AKMA and I are likely to agree on: That the question is totally screwed up is betrayed by my sloppy use of the word "things." In fact, this question is like waving red meat, um, I mean, waving a spatial metaphor in front of a postmodernist.
8/21/2002 10:30:39 AM | PermaLink
Lessig v. Winer
My opinion? We need to back Lessig and we need to develop 100 others who approach his passion, intelligence and stamina. His rhetoric at OScon is that of desperation, and we all want Lessig to win the struggle in which he is engaged. (Yes, I am now open to dispute from those who don't agree 100% with Lessig's aims. My response: "we" in the prior sentence means "those who want Lessig to win the struggle in which he is engaged." Try getting out of that one, Mr. Smarty-Pants Communist!)
(By the way, I've had the opportunity to spend a litte time with Lessig, and despite Alex's inference from Lessig's OScon presentation, Lessig is far from humorless. He's witty while also fully engaged with the people around him. A delightful person to be in a room with.)
8/21/2002 10:02:17 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, August 20, 2002
The FBI Owes Me Money!
[NOTE: I was a humanities major and thus am not responsible for accurate calculations. Further, I probably will not understand the corrections you send me. In fact, you should congratulate me for getting the numbers right up to whatever point I got them wrong.]
I have not been able to find a direct mention of how many videotapes are rented every year. But:
According to Blockbuster: "In 2001, an estimated average of more than 3 million customers walked into U.S. Blockbuster stores every day." [source]
38% marketshare in the US. [source]
" ...consumers still spend more than twice as much renting
movies on videocassette " [source
but interestingly: "...consumer spending on the purchase
and rental of DVDs and videocassettes is already up
13.3% to a whopping $8.79 billion in the first half
of the year." [source]
So, assume that at 80% of the people who walked into
a Blockbusters walked out with a rented videotape
(while the other 20% were there to argue over late
fees or just to enjoy the continental ambiance). That
means 876,000,000 tapes and DVDs were rented from
Blockbuster in 1991. With a 38% share, that means
2,303,880,000 tapes and DVDs were rented that year.
Assume that DVDs and videotapes rent for the same
amount, which means that the ratio of tapes to DVDs
was 2:1. So, 1,535,920,000 tapes were rented and 767,960,000
The FBI warning on videotapes displays for
approximately 30 seconds. Assume that you can fast
forward over it so that it only takes ten seconds.
Since the FBI warning is unnecessary to honest citizens
and is ineffective in thwarting thieves, that means
that last year the FBI stole 4,266,444 hours from
American citizens. Assuming an average (don't ask
which type of average) salary of $50,000 in the US,
that means the FBI stole $106,661,111.11 in lost productivity
just from videotape viewers. Since DVDs prevent you
from fast forwarding over the warnings, the total
is 6,399,666. hours, worth $159,991,650.00. And, since owners of VCRs and especially DVD players probably represent the higher income brackets, these numbers are undoubtedly low.
the Republicans say about taxes, "It's your money!
" (Actually, the point about taxes is that it's
our money, but let that slide.) I want it back!
" ...consumers still spend more than twice as much renting movies on videocassette " [source ]
Irrelevantly but interestingly: "...consumer spending on the purchase and rental of DVDs and videocassettes is already up 13.3% to a whopping $8.79 billion in the first half of the year." [source]
So, assume that at 80% of the people who walked into a Blockbusters walked out with a rented videotape (while the other 20% were there to argue over late fees or just to enjoy the continental ambiance). That means 876,000,000 tapes and DVDs were rented from Blockbuster in 1991. With a 38% share, that means 2,303,880,000 tapes and DVDs were rented that year. Assume that DVDs and videotapes rent for the same amount, which means that the ratio of tapes to DVDs was 2:1. So, 1,535,920,000 tapes were rented and 767,960,000 DVDs.
The FBI warning on videotapes displays for approximately 30 seconds. Assume that you can fast forward over it so that it only takes ten seconds. Since the FBI warning is unnecessary to honest citizens and is ineffective in thwarting thieves, that means that last year the FBI stole 4,266,444 hours from American citizens. Assuming an average (don't ask which type of average) salary of $50,000 in the US, that means the FBI stole $106,661,111.11 in lost productivity just from videotape viewers. Since DVDs prevent you from fast forwarding over the warnings, the total is 6,399,666. hours, worth $159,991,650.00. And, since owners of VCRs and especially DVD players probably represent the higher income brackets, these numbers are undoubtedly low.
As the Republicans say about taxes, "It's your money! " (Actually, the point about taxes is that it's our money, but let that slide.) I want it back!
8/20/2002 09:08:17 AM | PermaLink
I am Spartacus! No, wait, I am Godzilla!
By holding my thumb over the first letter of my JOHO business card, I have obtained the transcript of the recent strategy meeting at Toho Corp.
The transcript ends with the sound of a single gun shot.
We have much to learn from the post-marketing brilliance of Toho. This farsighted company has understood that the true aim of marketing is to drive all thought and discussion of your product off the face of the earth, especially if your product has no existence outside of what people think and say. Markets are conversations? Then let's sue everyone into silence! Brilliant!
8/20/2002 08:30:06 AM | PermaLink
Monday, August 19, 2002
From a mailing list comes a quote from an interview in the spring issue of "Boulevard" (not available online). The interview is with Ha Jin, "a writing professor at Boston University and the winner of an enviable list of awards — including the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, the Hemingway/PEN Award, and the National Book Award..." (What, no Heissman Trophy?)
This would sound like an urban myth if it didn't come from such a durn good source. Amazing how different we can be while still being the same.
8/19/2002 11:26:21 AM | PermaLink
Sunday, August 18, 2002
Bogus Contest: Operation Whatever
We fought Operation Desert Storm. We're fighting Operation Enduring Freedom. What would be an appropriate name for the upcoming war against Iraq?
Your own suggestions are welcome.
8/18/2002 03:04:08 PM | PermaLink
Saturday, August 17, 2002
The Left Wing Texan
Doc, knowing that nothing brings me as much joy as mocking our "president," sends us to "The People's Republic of Seabrook," featuring the writings of the left-wing Texan. (Doesn't Molly Ivins count?) Doc discovered it at The Blogging Ecosystem, a useful place for browsing.
8/17/2002 03:23:38 PM | PermaLink
MiscLinks, and RB is my Daddy
Brian Dear has started a blog, called Nettle, about design and marketing.
Nollind Whachell has started a blog. His initial entries are dominated by personal thoughts about the promise and peril of the Net's openness. His professional background is in the gaming industry (Sierra, not Vegas).
Likewise, Mike Melduke has begun blogging, primarily about the financial side of life, such as a comparison of Elvis and the bull market.
Finally, Andrew Hinton has given Small Pieces Loosely Joined an excellent review (in both senses) over at Boxes and Arrows.In the first sense, it's a long and thoughtful engagement with the ideas in the book. In the second sense, he says things such as "... if you think you're an architect of anything vaguely Internet-related, you should read this book." Thank you, Andrew.
And, one-past-finally, Carole Guevin at netdiver.net blogs and recommends Andrew's review. Carole is also involved with AfterChaos, a new media collective: "Afterchaos is a new concept collaborative lab whose core vision + mission is to explore, theorize and prove new business models to apply to our new media industry."
Two-past finally, I've joined BlogCritics. The site's looking really good. Now I just have to remember to blog some criticism.
And finally finally, at blogtree I've listed RageBoy and Doc as my blog's parents. Careful readers will observe that the date of my initial blog — see the bottom of this page — predates RB's. But he has threatened me with an unspecified form of public humiliation if I don't admit he is my daddy. And it's certainly true that RB's holding me up as the posterboy of Not Getting It about weblogs (unmerited though that honor was) spurred me to start blogging seriously...after having watched Doc for years showing what a blog could be. Besides, who wouldn't be proud to admit that he's RageBoy's love child? So, thanks for the years of abuse, RB. I take it as an honor.
8/17/2002 03:11:30 PM | PermaLink
It's so hot that...
I'm back in dial-up, low bandwidth doldrums. It is so hot here. I'm reminded of a joke from Prairie Home Companion that my children resolutely refuse to find funny:
8/17/2002 02:30:32 PM | PermaLink
Friday, August 16, 2002
MegNut's new book is now available at Amazon. I haven't gotten a copy yet, but given Meg's experience and the fact that she is universally liked and respected (if you disagree, then shut up and go to hell), I'm looking forward to it.
8/16/2002 11:13:10 AM | PermaLink
Forrester on MP3s
Fear makes people stupid. Unfortunately, we are all likely to suffer from the recording industry's fear.
8/16/2002 09:51:13 AM | PermaLink
Thursday, August 15, 2002
Michael Jackson and Me: Separated at Birth?
8/15/2002 01:13:56 PM | PermaLink
Lessig: America's Most Important Pessimist
Darwin "Print Is for Losers" Magazine has a pithy interview with the most depressing man in America, Lawrence Lessig. Unfortunately, Lessig — a national treasure — has earned his pessimism. In short, he's right. Imagine a prophet with a law degree.
The interview gives an excellent overview of Lessig's thought. Every answer is quotable, so, almost at random, here's Lessig on the threat to innovation:
(There's more on a related topic - Real World End User Licenses - right below...)
[I am very reluctant to mention myself in the same breath as Lessig who is, as I've said many times before, one of my heroes. But Darwin also today published a column of mine on the three precepts of digital rights management.]
8/15/2002 09:32:21 AM | PermaLink
Real World End User Licenses: Defaulting to Stupidity
Doc points to a commentary in the same general area of Lessigness: Ed Foster writes in Infoworld on the spread of end user license agreements to printed material. His example is a book on "Geriatric Care Guidelines" from Omnicare, sent unsolicited to physicians. A label warns you not to open the shrink-wrapping unless you agree with the license which, basically, forbids you from telling anyone what's in the book.
This is an egregious but not unique example. Lots of printed documents have conditions attached to them. Consulting companies routinely put a footer on every page of their reports that forbid photocopying. And non-disclosure statements routinely preface business documents. We usually don't feel there's anything wrong with that, perhaps because the inefficiency of the real world ensures a reasonable leeway: nobody's going to know if you run off a copy of part of the report to distribute at an internal meeting or if you tell your spouse about the interesting proposal you heard today. In both cases, you're violating the license, but far from doing any harm, you're actually furthering the author's interests — the consulting firm is further entrenched and you have a chance to think out loud about the proposal with someone outside your limited perspective.
The digital world affords the new possibility of zero leeway. The problem with digits is that they're so simple. That is also their great strength, of course. They're so simple that they can be tracked perfectly. They're so simple that we can't tell just by looking at them whether they are helping an author's cause or subverting it. So, we are desperately trying to make the mistake of erring on the side of strictness.
Why is this a mistake? Because "Moving my ideas into a purchaser's head" is only rarely the real intent of a creator. Far more often the intent is much richer than that: to have her ideas make a difference, to be appreciated and even loved for her ideas, to have her ideas start an open-ended process of development. Digits don't know from that ambiguity. We — by which I mean the distribution industries, the government and even most of us "content creators" — are doggedly trying to reset the default to what is simple and unambiguous. But, defaulting to the simple and the unambiguous is nothing but a definition of stupidity.
What we thought was an undesirable weakness of the real world — its inevitable leeway — in fact is a strength because it accommodates the basic point of communication: to be ambiguous enough in meaning and scope to provoke results, growth and innovation in unpredictable ways.
Besides, didn't James Bond defeat the evil forces of Omnicare in "You Only Play Once"?
8/15/2002 09:31:41 AM | PermaLink
Cory on the FBI
Doc also notes Cory's Argument by Analogy against the FBI advisory that warchalking may lead people to "steal" access via your wireless networks. Cory draws the analogy to windows (the glass things you put a blanket it over to eliminate the distracting glare of the real world). Well put.
8/15/2002 09:31:20 AM | PermaLink
Wednesday, August 14, 2002
If you want to see some really useful AI, read the interview with the people designing the AI system for the new edition of No One Lives Forever over at PCGamer.com
8/14/2002 10:27:47 AM | PermaLink
An Auto-Categorizing Search Engine
I spent some time on the telephone with the folks at Endymion who are excited about their ZNow search capabilities. And I have to admit, it's pretty durn cool in the non-flashy-but-useful way. ZNow is a search engine that does the usual stuff (indexes HTML, Word, PDF) but also does quite a reasonable job of dynamically suggesting categories by which you can refine your search. (Note: My comments are based on a few minutes of kicking at a couple of demo sites.) For example, at a demo site that uses the content of the Open Directory project for its contents, if you search on "Jazz," the right side lists the results but the left side lists about 20 categories by which you can further specify your search. The list is quite reasonable: arts, styles, dance, instruments, blues, band, performing args, classical, rock, guitar, etc.
Most interesting, the list is developed dynamically. Other engines suggest categories and folders but they require specifying the categories ahead of time. ZNow instead uses the word usage patterns of the pages in the results list to dynamically compute suggested categories.
It's designed for intranets and extranets and is competitively priced against Verity, which means that you're looking in the low hundreds of thousands for reasonable installations.
8/14/2002 10:25:51 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, August 13, 2002
Salon on Small Pieces and the Web
Scott Rosenberg at Salon uses Small Pieces Loosely Joined and Bamboozled at the Revolution (by John Motavalli) on which to hang a State of the Net address. Excellent essay, not that the nice things he says about my book influenced me at all.
(Scott, I'm ready to have your babies. Call me.)
8/13/2002 01:11:10 PM | PermaLink
Monday, August 12, 2002
Gillmor on The Right to Listen
You go, Dan!
And then, in case Dan's rant has lifted your spirits, go re-depress yourself by reading the letter to Ashcroft from some cowardly, skunk-assed members of Congress.
(I still stand by my 3 precepts for Digital Rights Management.)
8/12/2002 11:58:32 AM | PermaLink
The PopUnder that Ended Terrorism
Click on the fragment of an image below to see my pop-under...one that might just end the threat of terrorism. [Hint: Can you spot Osama?]
If you don't have the Flash view, click here (350K) to see a Gif version of it.
Note: Yes, this is the same as the entry from Sunday. But I pushed it down the page by adding more entries, so I'm rerunning it.
8/12/2002 11:42:37 AM | PermaLink
By the way, Mary Lu is in Palm Springs looking for a Wifi connection on which she can piggyback. Does this make her a WiFampire? or a WiFasite? (But only in the best senses, I assure you.)
Meanwhile, in the miscellaneous world, I hear that the Danish Board of Technology has published a positive review of Small Pieces ("Små elementer løst forbundet") on their Web site. Since my knowledge of Danish is limited to "med syltetøj" and "udder syltetøj ," I'm afraid I'll have to take the editor (Mette Bom) at his word...
Ole Andersen responds quickly to my Danishism:
1. Damn online dictionaries!
8/12/2002 10:39:12 AM | PermaLink
The Web World Is Real
Martin Roell has blogged a pithy quote from Curt Cloninger in an article that responds to the cry: ""Man, you dudes are taking this online stuff waaaay too seriously. You need to unplug, turn off your computer, and go for a walk or something. Get some perspective."
That's not a bad way of summarizing Small Pieces Loosely Joined. Of course, the interesting thing about the Web is that it is also a game of Mario Brothers and an infinite variety of possibilities not real enough for the Real WorldTM.
An unrelated fact (except in the way that everything is related by metaphor): Martin also has a photo of an open-air theatre in Dresden that has become an underwater theatre because of the overflowing of the Elbe.
8/12/2002 10:13:19 AM | PermaLink
Sunday, August 11, 2002
The Internet Multicasting Service claims to be the only non-profit group bidding to run the .org top-level domain. ICANN will decide this in September.
I don't know enough to feel like I couldn't be fooled, but if you do, then let me know if I am. Or whatever.
Mike O'Dell, who, as former chief scientist at UUnet, is orders of magnitude harder to fool than I, responds:
8/11/2002 01:36:46 PM | PermaLink
Homeland Security Camera
Click on the fragment of an image below to see my pop-under...one that might just end the threat of terrorism.
If you don't have the Flash view, click here (350K) to see a Gif version of it.
8/11/2002 12:40:55 PM | PermaLink
Saturday, August 10, 2002
A Kind Word for Mr. Heston from Mary Lu
Mary Lu covers Charleton Heston's announcement that he has Alzheimer's with more grace and understanding than I would have. So, I defer to her...
8/10/2002 11:43:52 AM | PermaLink
Read Dan Pink
8/10/2002 11:36:04 AM | PermaLink
Through a Glass Suckily
Dave Rogers is taking his need for glasses as an omen for advancing age. Yo, Dave, the real sign of advancing age is that everything becomes an omen of advancing age.
And I've got more bad news for you, Dave: Wait till you get bifocals. After I got my first pair ten years, I went back to the optometrist twice because they weren't adjusted right. He conscientiously reground the lenses. But still I'd get fisheye effects looking at near things through the top and blurring looking at far things through the bottom and funhouse mirror effects off the sides. "So," said the weary optometrist who by now had lost any possible profit from his work for me, "you're telling me you'd like your eyes to work as well as they used to."
Ten years later and bifocals still suck.
8/10/2002 11:07:12 AM | PermaLink
Trellix, a pioneer in easy-to-use online authoring tools, has integrated weblogging straight into its Web site design set. Why doesn't every web site creation system come with blogging tools? Seems so natural.
You can read Trellix founder Dan Bricklin on the new offering here.
8/10/2002 11:00:45 AM | PermaLink
Smart Mobs, Old News?
Yikes. I even read that book lo these many years ago but didn't make the connection. Thanks, Joseph.
8/10/2002 09:22:05 AM | PermaLink
8/10/2002 09:03:45 AM | PermaLink
Friday, August 09, 2002
Back to Bandwidth
We are leaving western Massachusetts this afternoon, ending what I would not allow to be a vacation.
I hope I'm very proud of myself!
8/9/2002 08:32:06 AM | PermaLink
Mike O'Dell has been psychedelicized by The Technical Web of Sound, a "60's Psychedelic Radio." For example, 'twas there that he heard the marvelous tune, "The Gong with the Luminous Nose." (Mr. O'Dell has confirmed that this was not a mis-typing of "The Bong with the, etc.")
Paula Hatch-Sato points to the "Engrish" site that displays infelicitous uses of her mother tongue by speakers of her adopted tongue.
Meanwhile, I can't believe that the local Friendly's restaurants still have signs up that advertise "Free Sundae with Chicken."
8/9/2002 08:30:35 AM | PermaLink
Thursday, August 08, 2002
From Masha Geller's MediaPost:
And then this afternoon, as if to confirm user-driven ads are an Official Trend, I heard a snippet from a broadcast of the California Commonwealth Club (?) on NPR. It was someone saying how the downward trend in TV watching and the emergence of TiVo-style recorders and the Net will mean that we will have to be enticed to watch political advertising because it's entertaining and interesting. And who should this enlightened person turn out to be? Dick "The Whore" Morris. (Sorry, I meant no offense to providers of outsourced sexual services.)
8/8/2002 03:12:45 PM | PermaLink
Routing around EULAs
I recently noted Jamie McCarthy's concerns about the Windows XP service pack 3 end user license agreement that gives Microsoft the right to install whatever updates it wants — including Digital Rights Management stuff — without asking you.
Udhay Shankar responded to Jamie with a site that has a VBscript that lets you install most software without having to agree to the EULA. I haven't tried it and don't know if it works, if it's legal or even if it's harmless, but there would be a certain psychological satisfaction to circumventing the arbitrary demands of software EULAs.
8/8/2002 03:06:59 PM | PermaLink
Wednesday, August 07, 2002
AKMA is back riding on an old, cantankerous nag. Nope, not Dick Cheney. He's concerned that the spatial metaphor just isn't apt when applied to "cyberspace." He is, as always, right. Yet, I still manage to find something to argue about. I argue because I love, as either Don Rickles or Nietzsche said.
I share many of AKMA's feelings about the inadequacy of spatiality as a way of talking about and understanding the Net. But, I'm still stuck on the point I tried to make waaaay back when AKMA first initiated a blogthread on this topic: Like it or not, space is the lead metaphor we (= English speaking culture) have come up with. In some ways it is terribly inapt, and it's important to flush out those ways. E.g., when we "enter" a Web site, we aren't making the same type of commitment as when we "enter" most real world spaces. But, I don't think we have a choice about using space as a metaphor. We don't get to throw out a metaphor that's as pervasive as space is to cyberspace just because it's inapt. After all, all metaphors are inapt. We await a poet to give us a better way of seeing and speaking. Language speaks us, as either Charlie McCarthy or Martin Heidegger said.
So, I really like the way AKMA is poking at the metaphor to remind us of what it obscures, but I do not think that we humans can engage in the project of coming up with a new metaphor any more than we can dig ourselves out of a hole.
8/7/2002 04:12:31 PM | PermaLink
Mark Dionne has found the source of the Scandalous Diagram I ran a few days ago: http://www.markpoyser.netfirms.com/diagrams.htm. Mark is disappointed, however, that Lernout & Hauspie once again is ignored by those listing companies wounded by lying, scheming, greedy bastards.
Greg Allen writes:
8/7/2002 08:34:07 AM | PermaLink
Why They Hate Us
Hank Blakely's weekly letter about the doin's of our "president" today looks at the question most troublin' W: Why do they hate us? After rejecting notions that perhaps it might have something to do with our behavior...
And while we're on the topic, isn't there something wrong when a president of a country that's fighting a war on terrorism and is in the midst of an economic collapse is in the best physical shape of his life?
8/7/2002 08:27:54 AM | PermaLink
Digital ID World, Here I Come
My spidey-sense - which heretofore has resulted in nothing but an intermittent diet of houseflies - tells me that the Digital ID World conference that Eric New Orleans (or "Eric Norlin" as he insists it be pronounced) has been touting could be important. So I'm gonna go. And I'll be blogging about it for Boston.com, the Boston Globe's online cousin. See you in Denver?
8/7/2002 08:17:21 AM | PermaLink
Tuesday, August 06, 2002
August began in western Massachusetts this morning at 3:18 AM. That's when Canada, after holding its breath all July, exhaled, banging the canvas awning next to our bed on the second floor screened-in porch. Whitecaps rattled the lake. Branches brushed their neighbors. Something vinyl blew off our shore.
This morning I opened the third drawer in my dresser for the first time and put on a sweatshirt. We'll have to dangle our feet off the dock to get used to the newly chilled water and before the swim is over it will be time to take our children shopping for their new notebooks and bookcovers. My son senses this. He has formed the blankets around himself to trap the warmth as he reads in bed.
8/6/2002 08:40:23 AM | PermaLink
Windows XP Trojan License
Jamie McCarthy writes to a particular newsgroup:
In an email giving me permission to run this tidbit, Jamie adds:
Consider it added.
8/6/2002 08:17:16 AM | PermaLink
Monday, August 05, 2002
Jeff Gates' Context
In fact, there's too much on Jeff's site for those of us still stuck with 19.6bps dialup connections to explore. But I'm bookmarking it for when I've returned to civilization.
Adina Jumps In
Adina Levin, one of the smarter people around a strategist for a Well Known content management company, has started a weblog, mainly about what she's reading. She is a keen reader, as her opening essay on the books Nexus and Linked makes clear.
Speaking of writing about books, my sister in law, the novelist Meredith Sue Willis, writes a newsletter about books worth reading that is enhanced by contributions from her readers. It's very personal and personable and is infused with the love of reading.
Top Form HalleyRageboy's right: Halley's piece on her son's theatrical performance is NYer-worthy.
8/5/2002 10:36:09 AM | PermaLink
Sunday, August 04, 2002
In These Dangerous Times, an Urgent Message from Us Heathens to You Believers
8/4/2002 02:08:19 PM | PermaLink
Removing One More Tentacle
If you're using XP, you may be wondering why your image files open with Microsoft Picture and Fax Viewer even though you have repeatedly used the File Types tab of the Windows Explorer options menu to tell it to use ACDSee (or whatever) to open them. No matter how many times you set the association the way you want it, Windows XP will open images in the Windows viewer.
Select a file of the type you want to do, e.g., "MyPhoto.jpg"
From the right-click menu, choose Open With -> Choose Program
Choose the program you want to use to view images with and make sure to put a check in the box for "Always use ise the selected program to open this type of file."
Done and done.
8/4/2002 07:35:38 AM | PermaLink
Saturday, August 03, 2002
Steve Yost has a nicely written meditation on Borges' critique of the reification of the self, complete with a twist Aha ending.
8/3/2002 11:27:34 AM | PermaLink
Many Scandals Loosely Joined
Forwarded via Tim Hiltabiddle via an unknown source, apparently initiating somewhere in Juniper Networks, here's a map of the unfolding scandals. (Click on the snippet below to see the entire illustration.)
8/3/2002 07:55:17 AM | PermaLink
Friday, August 02, 2002
People Paying for It
Masha Geller, in her daily MediaPost mailer, writes:
I'd point you at the source of this data but I'm still too bandwidth-challenged to do Google searches. Sorry!
8/2/2002 12:41:51 PM | PermaLink
Thursday, August 01, 2002
Global Death Match: Oedipus vs. Saddam
MoveOn.org, an email-based political group formed during the Clinton impeachment years ("Censure and move on!"), is asking us Americans to call our senators to register our protest against the upcoming war against Iraq. Although I can't find anything good to say about Saddam, W's longing to overthrow him seems to me to have one clear, under-riding motivation: We are watching a titanic Oedipal struggle over which of the George Bushes gets to sleep with Barbara.
Here are the operative bits of the MoveOn message:
8/1/2002 08:55:23 AM | PermaLink
Blog Reviews of Small Pieces