[joho] JOHO - October 15, 2003

  • From: "David Weinberger" <self@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <joho@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 16 Oct 2003 11:27:53 -0400

Journal of the
Hyperlinked Organization
October 15, 2003
Editor: David Weinberger (self@xxxxxxxxxxx)
Please send subscription requests or modifications
to self@xxxxxxxxxxxx Or use our Sub/Unsub form at
For the fully glorious illustrated and
hyperlink-saturated online version of JOHO, please
To view this issue correctly, please use a
monospaced font such as Courier and stretch your
window until it all makes sense. 

  | METADATA AND DESIRE: Metadata, that most    |
  | abstract of abstractions, is rooted in      |
  | human desire.                               |
  |                                             |
  | CREATE: The act of making public also       |
  | makes a public                              |
  |                                             |
  | WHY THE WEB HAS NO LEADERS: Little d        |
  | democrats rejoice!                          |
  |                                             |
  | CAMPAIGN: It's not about bottom up. it's    |
  | about person to person.                     |
  |                                             |
  | DESIGN BY KAFKA: Products with devilish     |
  | gotcha's                                    |
  |                                             |
  | BAYESIAN FUN: Filters that know how         |
  | spammers talk                               |
  |                                             |
  | WALKING THE WALK: Surprising metapors       |
  |                                             |
  | COOL TOOL: Guess what Bloglines aggregates  |
  |                                             |
  | WHAT I'M PLAYING: Will Rock rocks           |
  |                                             |
  | INTERNETCETERA: The tiny tidal wave of spam |
  |                                             |
  | POLITICAL MISC: Warning: Not W friendly     |
  | material enclosed                           |
  |                                             |
  | LINKS: You find 'em, we run 'em             |
  |                                             |
  | HACKING COUGHS: A single letter. Damn       |
  | weblog comments!                            |
  |                                             |
  | BOGUS CONTEST: Look-Unalilkes               |
  |                                             |
  | Three months in the making, I think you'll  |
  | find this issue especially disappointing!   |
  | It's got too much about politics because,   |
  | well, that's what I've been thinking        |
  | about. What, I should write about what      |
  | you're interested in??                      |
  | AHOY, WORD PIRATES!                         |
  |                                             |
  | Dan Gillmor and I have launched a site      |
  | called WordPirates where you can register   |
  | and discuss words that you feel have been   |
  | taken over by commercial and political      |
  | rapscallions who twist them to their own    |
  | nefarious purposes.                         |
  |                                             |
  | For example, people who share copyright     |
  | mp3s may be many things, but they are       |
  | definitely not "pirates." And when you      |
  | stay in a hotel, you are certainly not      |
  | their "guest."                              |
  |                                             |
  | So have at it, me hearties! And spread the  |
  | word.http://www.wordpirates.com             |
  | IT'S A JOHO WORLD AFTER ALL                 |
  |                                             |
  | I'm a commentator in the Sept. Harvard      |
  | Business Review hypothetical case.          |
  | Surprisingly, I came out in favor of        |
  | letting people blog about where they work.  |
  | Who'da figured?                             |
  |                                             |
  | Here and Now has posted the audio file of   |
  | my 8-minute segment about what emerged at   |
  | the O'Reilly Emerging Tech conference. I    |
  | talked about emergence, wikis, social       |
  | software and the Internet Bookmobile, as I  |
  | recall.                                     |
  |                                             |
  | The Guardian ran a column of mine           |
  | recently. It's on the DNS mess and Google   |
  | URLs.                                       |
  |                                             |
  | Go to the online version for the links...   |
  |                                             |
  | Pop!Tech conflicts with DigitalID World,    |
  | which was terrific last year. I really want |
  | to go to both, but physics is making that   |
  | impossible. Damn physics.                   |
  |                                             |
  | Fortunately, blogs defeat physics: Here's   |
  | live coverage of DigID world:               |
  | http://pronto.digitalidworld.com/           |

        RageBoy (http://www.rageboy.com/blogger.html) is
        broke, as in shut-off-the-phone, sell-your-
        laptop, no-more-meds broke. It's no joke.

        If you want to help, buy some stuff RB-brand
        (thanks to Gary Turner). RB gets about 75% of the
        cost of the items you buy. So far, items
        available include:

        2004 Calendar

        Men's T-Shirt

        Women's T-Shirt

        Commemorative Thong
        Or, if you prefer to contribute more directly,
        Euan has set up a PayPal account via a link on
        his homepage:

        These are short-term fixes. Long term, has it
        escaped the world's notice that not only is RB a
        fabulous writer of manic screeds, he is also a
        superb Web designer who can help give voice to
        what's interesting about your company?


This is no longer the Age of Information. It's the
Age of Metadata.

It was bound to happen because, well, Hegel was
right. As we have produced more and more
information, its very abundance has made it less and
less manageable. To survive it, we need information
about the information. Thus metadata becomes the key
to information management. In fact, it sort of
always was: 56,000 is only a datum in the HR
database because we know information about it, i.e.,
that it's Caryl Jones' annual salary, that it's
expressed in US dollars, that it hasn't increased in
3 years.

But something is different now. First, there's more
metadata than ever before: Metadata is the new data.
Second, with so much information around, privacy has
become a key issue, and it's metadata that
determines the rules for the use of information.

But the most important fact about metadata is also
its limitation. For metadata to work, it has to be
part of a "schema," a set of categories and
relationships that computers can make sense of. If
the metadata declares some datum "top secret" and
pertaining to "Iraq," then you obviously have a
schema that has predefined categories for how
confidential that data is and what it's relevant
to. Further, you're expecting the metadata
to consist of words such as "top secret" and
"public," although you might have chosen to express
them as numbers or -- in the case of national
security alerts -- colors. Without a set of
categories and expectations such as those, metadata
is meta but not data.

And that means -- as we'll see -- that metadata
doesn't scale. And that means that the Internet will
never be a unified "information space" that can be
searched and utilized transparently. It's always
going to be lumpy, local and tribal. As Cory
Doctorow writes in MetaCrap [1], to presume otherwise
would be to presume

         that there is a "correct" way of categorizing
         ideas, and that reasonable people, given enough
         time and incentive, can agree on the proper
         means for building a hierarchy. ...

There's no natural taxonomy. Information seems like
a property of the world, something that arises from
and remains attached to reality. Metadata doesn't
have that pretense available to it. It is clearly
stuff we've made up in order to accomplish some end.
Every ordering we come upon is one that we've made
up to suit some purpose. The foods in the grocery
are grouped by type (fruits, pastas) but also by
type of container (canned fruits next to canned
vegetables) and impulse buys (chewing gum and The
Weekly World News) not because God has declared this
to be the right way but because it happens to accord
with the way we use and buy the goods for sale
there. Likewise, the order of phyla and species
works great if we're trying to understand the
genetic relationships among animal lineages but it's
of little use if we're trying to figure out which
ones will serve twelve on Thanksgiving.

So, while it seems perfectly feasible to map one
schema to another, it isn't always possible because
they have different purposes in life and thus
express life differently. There's no getting over
that limitation. Even if there were a natural
taxonomy, we'd still have to make lots of artificial
ones because we need them to achieve our
multifarious aims.

But that means that metadata, an abstraction of an
abstraction, is directly and intimately tied to
human projects and human desire. And what's desire?
Nothing but the way we're pulled into the world,
over and over, against our will and in ways that
surprise us. The increasing need for metadata pulls
us out of the world as our desire continuously pulls
us into the world.

Welcome to the rhythm of the modern world.

[1] http://www.well.com/~doctorow/metacrap.htm


Digital Rights Management offers what seems like an
irresistible proposal: Let artists come up with
whatever contract with their market they'd like. If
Hermans Hermits wants to let you listen to one of
their songs once and only once for $5, DRM will let
them. If Beck wants to let you listen as often as
you'd like but only make one CD copy, DRM will let
him. Artists can come up with whatever creative
licenses they want, and DRM will make sure that
they're enforced. Can't argue with them apples!

Oh yeah? There's nothing I like better than arguing
with apples...

The first three arguments I've made before. First,
having silicon enforce rules means that we lose the
fuzziness that enables the exceptions that are at
the heart of fairness [1]. Second, the dynamics of
the current market will prevent the invisible hand
from coming up with innovative solutions that
re-balance the rights of artists and users. Third,
the price for achieving this sort of control is high
and will result in the unholy alliance of a 
software monopolist (Microsoft) and content
monopolists (Hollywood).

So, here's a fourth reason: Artists don't and
shouldn't own what they create.

Now let me back off that overstatement.

The US Constitution establishes copyright as a
temporary monopoly on who gets to make copies of a
published work. Why temporary? Why shouldn't an
artist have that right in perpetuity? I'm no
constitutional scholar, but let me suggest two
reasons, one of which I'm pretty sure is what the
Founding Patrimonials had in mind.

First, we grant only a temporary monopoly because we
want to make sure that the fire of the public domain
is kept richly stoked. So, we balance the desire to
compensate artists -- to be fair to them and to
give them an incentive to continue creating --
with the public good of having public ideas and
melodies floating around freely. The existence of
copyright means that we don't think creators have an
unimpeachable right to their own creations.

Second, in publishing something, creators are making
it public. The work now exists not just in the
creator's head but in the hearts and minds of the
public that responds. And that's the point. I listen
to the song and I take it to heart. It shapes me in
some small way -- or in the case of some works, it
shapes us in a big way. A work is public insofar as
it makes us into something we weren't before. The
artist doesn't own that shaping. She can't. The work
is now out of her hands. She can collect royalties
for the term of the copyright, but the work isn't
like a good she can rent us and then take back.
Works put into the public reshape the public in ways
that the artist can't and shouldn't control.

That's what the artist wants and it's what we want
from the artist's work.

That's not to say that making something public by
publishing it means that the artist should have no
control over its use, and it certainly doesn't mean
that it should be made public for free. That's why
we have copyright. But DRM will tempt us into
thinking that in a perfect world, artists get
perpetual and complete control over their works.
Nope. It is essential by the nature of publishing
and essential to the purpose of building a public
domain that works escape the control of their

Dan Gillmor makes a similar point.[2]

[1] http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.06/view.html?pg=1
[2] http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/6364424.htm


[This is a version of something I wrote in response
to a request from a Turkish newspaper. I never heard
back from them after sending it in. I've edited out
some of the explanatory parts,indicated by ellipses]

Here's a quick way to judge how different leadership
is on and off the Web. Name five real-world leaders.
You are likely to have listed some elected
officials, perhaps an ancient king or emperor, and
maybe some prominent businesspeople. Now name five
leaders on the Web. I don't know how to begin. Is
Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web,
a leader on the Web? Only sort of. For example, he
has been touting a next-generation Web called "the
Semantic Web," but while we'll listen to him because
his prior achievement shows he's worth listening to,
no one follows Berner-Lee's new idea just because it
came from him. Who else might be a leader on the
Web? Bill Gates? Hah! Many people stay away from his
ideas just because they're his.

This is odd. Leadership is an important human
virtue, yet we have trouble finding it on the Web.
The Web is intensely social, with hundreds of
millions of groups already formed, yet this basic
virtue is absent. Why? And, more important, what
does this mean for leadership in the real world?

The answer to the first question -- why are there
no leaders on the Web? -- has everything to do
with the Web's architecture...

The single factor perhaps most important for the
success of the Web is precisely the fact that we
don't need permission to participate, to create a
Web site, to post a page. The Web is a
permission-free zone. In this it mirrors the
Internet that will move anyone's bits from one
point to any other point without needing to get
permission first and without having to consult a
central routing authority to find out how to do it.


This stands in contrast to the way companies have
done business for the past hundred years. Companies
have assumed that they are the ones who get to
speak about their products. They assume they are
the only ones with good information about their
products and they use the selective release of that
information to control their customers. Markets
have become masses of people characterized by
demographic data who are just waiting to "consume"
the messages being broadcast at them.

The very same model has held for leadership, and it
isn't an accident. A leader gets to speak to us,
but we are mere followers and thus don't expect to
be able to converse as equals with him or her. Like
broadcasting and marketing, leadership has been an
asymmetric, one-to-many relationship.

The Web isn't like that. And that's perhaps its
deepest appeal. A worldwide conversation has begun.
On the Web, we get to talk with one another about
what matters to us. That's thrilling. It turns out
that, put together, we know more about the products
we use than the companies that make them; corporate
Web sites almost always are far worse sources of
information than the most basic of customer
discussion sites.

And, put us together and we know more about what
our leaders are telling us.


And here's the scary part for leaders who have
forgotten how to talk like human beings, who are so
used to being in charge that they think they are
above the fray of human interest and human passion:
as we get used to more humane and egalitarian
conversations on the Web, we never want to go back
to those leaders and companies who only know how to
talk down to us.

So, what lessons do we learn about leadership on
the Web? That the people we pay attention to are
the ones who speak not at us and not to us but with
us. We listen to them carefully because they are so
interesting, so wise, and even so funny. We learn
that leadership isn't a quality that necessarily
spreads across all areas and topics: the person who
is worth listening to about, say, technology may be
just another jerk when it comes to raising
children. And we learn the lesson that is most
troubling to marketers, businesses and real-world
leaders of all sorts: We learn that we, talking
together, are smarter, wiser, and more interesting
than any single leader could ever hope to be.


[Disclosure: I am Senior Internet Advisor to the
Dean campaign, a title that sounds more important
than it is. No money changes hands, well, at least
not from them to me.]

At BloggerCon, a blogging conference, the people who
run the various campaign weblogs were beaten up
because the comments on the comment boards do not
shape the candidates' policies. That's wrong (in my
opinion) for an uninteresting reason and for a more
interesting one.

Uninteresting: Presidential candidates are not
representatives. They try to attract supporters by
holding positions. Especially at this stage in the
campaign, they should not be shifting too much to
suit their supporters.

More interesting: The Dean campaign in particular
has figured out how to crack the nut of mass-ness.
How do you connect a single candidate to several
million supporters in a meaningful way? You don't.
You enable the supporters to connect to one another.
And that's exactly what the Dean campaign has been
doing brilliantly. They provide a site where people
can initiate their own local projects and find other
local supporters. They've created open source
software to enable groups to form, complete with RSS
feeds...all completely decentralized. They provide a
facility where you can print up Dean posters with
your own message, not theirs. They don't censor the
comment boards on the campaign blog; the commenters
feel that those boards are their own blog. Even the
idea of having identifiable, enthusiastic staffers
writing the blog rather than the candidate feels
like us getting in touch with us.

Some stats: Over 60,000 people have planned or
attended over 6,000 local events, all without any
central coordination or control. About 13,000 people
belong to DeanLink, social software that lets local
people find one another. There are over 500
independent Dean Web sites and blogs. Over 105,000
posters have been designed by individuals using the
Dean site's facility. Over 140,000 comments have
been published on the Dean blog since commenting
began in June. They get over 1,000 comments a day
and over 2,000 on a good day. Of those 140,000+
comments, about 5 have been removed. Over 120,000
people have signed up for Dean MeetUps (real world
get-togethers), where in the past two meetings over
60,000 letters were hand-written to undecided voters
in New Hampshire and Iowa; the following week there
were significant jumps in support for Dean in those

The Dean campaign hasn't merely inverted the
broadcast pyramid so now the bottom is "messaging"
to the top. It's done away with it to a large
extent, relentlessly focusing on giving up control
of its message in favor of enabling supporters to
organize themselves.



I traveled with the Dean campaign on the first leg
of its four-day "Sleepless Summer" Tour. I went to a
rally in DC, traveled on the plane with the
Governor, the staff and the national press, and went
to another rally in Milwaukee. Pretty damn exciting.
(I am, I believe, the first weblogger to travel as a
blogger on a presidential campaign bus or plane.
Someone call Guinness!)

I got about three minutes alone with Gov. Dean to
talk with him about weblogging. Not a lot of time,

Here's what Howard Dean didn't do: Grip my hand in a
manly fashion, look me in the eye, and say "Hey,
it's great to meet you! So glad you could travel
with us as we campaign to take our country back."
Instead, after saying hello, the first thing he said
was that he was unhappy with his blogging on the
Larry Lessig site. He wasn't expecting the sort of
technical questions that readers brought up.

So, here's a presidential candidate who is capable
of talking like a human being, engaging on an actual
issue. More telling, from my point of view, the very
first words out of his mouth pointed to a weakness
of his. And then the conversation proceeded. He
listened, not in the patronizing "Listening Tour"
sense but the way someone with actual curiosity

I have to say I really liked the person I met for
three minutes.

Could I be wrong? Of course. Dean may have a shady
past as a porn star, he may be wanted in Nevada for
kidnapping, and his campaign organization may turn
out to be a front for the Russian Mafia. Hey, it's
American politics and we can never be certain that
things are as they seem. But to me he seemed like a
real person able to connect with others.


Step-by-step instructions for Outlook XP:

1. Open an email from someone not in your contact

2. With the cursor in the person's email address,
select "Add new contact"

3. Type in a business phone number

4. Click out of the business phone number field

5. You will get a window called "Location
Information" that will ask you for information about
your current location. Click "Cancel."

6. You will get a window called "Confirm Cancel"
that warns you that failure to enter information
into "Location Information" may result in the auto-
dial feature not working.

7. Because you don't dial from Outlook, follow the
instructions and click "Yes"

8. In "Location Information," click "close

9. Go to step 6

10. Repeat until your fingers are nubbins.

When I bought the extended warrantee on my
daughter's HP laptop, I read the contract but failed
to notice what wasn't there. I'd seen that laptops
were excluded from the on-site service guarantee,
but now that her hard drive has died 7 months into
the contract, I've discovered that there's nothing
in there about how quickly they're required to fix
it. So, the company that provides the warrantee
services for TigerDirect has just informed me that I
will receive a box to ship the laptop within seven
days, should expect the repair (slapping in a new
hard drive: 5 minutes of work plus 40 minutes to
reinstall from the disk image on a CD) to take "a
few days" and then should allow another few days for
it to be shipped back.

So the "We'll send a technician to your house"
promise has turned into a "We'll eventually send you
a box and you'll be without your computer for two
weeks, assuming the guy at the local shop we're
sending it to isn't on vacation."

Life lesson: Remember to read what isn't there.

Note: Since writing that, the keyboard on the HP has
started failing. So far, I've been waiting a month
for them to ship the carton for me to return the
machine in, thus entitling me to state the
following: TigerDirect's warrantee service sucks.

I hate it when online documentation tells you
everything except how to do what you're trying to
do. For example, type "multiple chapters" into Word
XP's help box and you'll get taken to listings about
"master documents." So far so good. But the
explanation of what master documents are and what
you can use them fails to tell you how you create

Fortunately, we have the Web where a quick googling
turns up a very helpful site [1]. And its advice on
master documents is:

  How can I best use the Master Document feature?

  Answer: Don't use it. It has serious bugs and will
  corrupt your entire document at the most
  inconvenient time possible. (This advice to not
  use Master Documents reported as correct through
  Word 2000, SR-2.) John McGhie puts it succinctly
  when he says that there are two kinds of Master
  Documents: Those that are corrupt and those that
  will be corrupt soon.

BTW, this is exactly the type of thing Interleaf --
where I used to work -- was great at handling. Too
bad we lost to Word.

[1] http://www.addbalance.com/word/masterdocuments.htm#PageStart

Microsoft Word autocorrects "poppish" to "popish",
"Of or relating to the popes or the Roman Catholic
Church". Doesn't that strike you as a word that
probably shouldn't make it onto the Most Frequently
Misspelled list. Well, perhaps it's misspelled a
high percentage of times, but how often is it used?
(Google lists 37,900 hits on popish and 4,780 on
poppish. )

The corrections Word makes without asking are not
all on the list of AutoCorrections at Tools->
AutoCorrect options. Anyone know where this list is

This 404 was definitely not designed by Kafka. Not a
big deal, but a thoughtful and helpful page. (Thanks
to Paul Benkovitz for the link)



Ever wonder what your Palm Vx would look like if you
backed your car over it? See it in the graphics-
happy online version of JOHO.


As I've reported before, I'm a happy user of Popfile
[1], an open source Bayesian spam filter. Some

I was curious why an email the subject line of which
is "Watch these girls flash their racks for each
other" got through Popfile. Popfile is remarkably
accurate [2] at sniffing out the spammers. In this
case, though, the message consisted of a small
graphic ("sg-titties-graphic") -- with my email
address encoded in the link so if I click on it,
they know I'm alive and horny -- and some invisible
text that says:

     beefer segregates intrust yardsticks strangles
          RzneXfrysRzneXrivqrag.pbzRzneX ethel myrtle
          cruxes ceremonies disbands cooling computable
          hotly autopilots interrogating commencements
          halters clarified incidence cavern

Several people have noticed an uptick in spam that
includes strings of words unrelated to the topic of
the spam or to one another, apparently in an attempt
to fool Bayesian spam filters into thinking they're
legitimate. (Popfile is nonetheless capturing most
of them.)

I don't have any idea what program these randospamos
are using, but there are plenty of generators that
go the opposite the way, putting together words that
(based on a particular corpus) are likely to go
together. See "Fun with Markov Chains" [3] where
you'll find "Alice in Elsinore" [4], gibberish
generated by intersecting Hamlet and Alice in

[1] httP://popfile.sourceforge.net
[2] http://www.darwinmag.com/read/swiftkick/column.html?ArticleID=660
[3] http://www.eblong.com/zarf/markov/
[4] http://www.eblong.com/zarf/markov/alice_in_elsinore.txt

Popfile lets you query any word to see the
probability that it's a spam indicator. Some
semi-random scores based on the 700+ spams I
receive a day:

| Word     | Chance it's Spam | Chance it's for    |
|          |                  | my inbox           |
| Sex      | 0.53             | 0.71               |
| Viagra   | 0.91             | 0.0                |
| Behind   | -0.10            | 0.91               |
| Remove   | 0.90             | 0.03               |
| Home     | 0.53             | 0.73               |
| Becoming | 0.0              | 0.962              |
| Bush     | -0.61            | 0.75               |
| AOL      | 0.58             | 0.68               |
| Nigeria  | 0.98             | 0.0                |
| MIDDLE WORLD RESOURCES                           |


At the TTI Vanguard conference, I heard a
presentation by Lucy Nowell about knowledge
management at the National Security Administration.
She said that she thinks about intelligence analysts
as being like people building sand castles.

You don't often hear shoreside, almost pastoral
metaphors being used by the NSA so I thought I'd
mention it.


I've been trying out Bloglines, an on-line, free
aggregator. So far, it seems pretty good.

Unlike the other aggregators I've used, this one has
no client software. You just got to their site and
tell it which blogs you'd like to aggregate. Not a
lot of options and preferences, but I'm pretty happy
with its defaults. And for reasons I couldn't really
articulate, I seem to prefer to read my aggregated
blogs in a browser than in a special client. But now
we're way down into the subrational.

Anyway, it seems to be worth a look... 


| WHAT I'M PLAYING                                 |
|                                                  |
| Will Rock has gotten surprisingly mediocre       |
| reviews Sure, it's styled closely on Serious     |
| Sam, the Croatian hit. But there are a million   |
| games styled on Quake and they don't lose        |
| points for it. Will Rock happens to be -- IMO    |
| -- a terrific game. As in Serious Sam, you       |
| are an adventurer on some forgettable quest      |
| that requires you to mow down wave upon wave of  |
| bad guys. As with Serious Sam, the enemies are   |
| cleverly conceived and executed. And the rhythm  |
| of the game is on the mark: just as you think    |
| you've shot down your last arrow-shooting        |
| flying tough-guy baby along comes a fleet of     |
| flame-enhanced hatchet-throwing gladiators.      |
| And, as in Serious Sam, there are small puzzles  |
| -- usually finding switches, but sometimes       |
| figuring out that that Trojan Horse isn't there  |
| as decoration -- along the way.                  |
|                                                  |
| The graphics are first rate, the fights are      |
| laced with humor, and watch out for the statues  |
| of Atlas holding the earth because they aren't   |
| what you think.                                  |
| INTERNETCETERA                                   |
|                                                  |
| From an article by David Adams:                  |
|                                                  |
|   A study last year by Rogen International and   |
|   Goldhaber Research Associates found that in    |
|   1995, employees sent an average of three emails|
|   a day and received five. By 2002, employees    |
|   were sending 20 a day and receiving 30. (The   |
|   same study also found that about half of an    |
|   email user's time was wasted dealing with spam.|
|                                                  |
| Oooh, 30 emails a day! It must take hours to go  |
| through all that spam!                           |
| http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/05/19/1053196515705.html


Republicans for Sharpton [1] is a pretty funny site.
And the video in the upper right of this page [2] is
somewhat satisfying to the likes of me. (Thanks to
Jean Camp for the latter link.)

[1] http://www.republicansforsharpton.com/
[2] http://www.silenceissedition.com/

The ACLU is backing the Freedom to Read Bill [1]
that would tell the government to back off from
routinely watching what we take from libraries and
buy from bookstores. As Cory says in BoingBoing [2],
"Let's get this bill passed and then take on the
rest of the evil PATRIOT act."

[2] http://boingboing.net/2003_05_01_archive.html#200287277

The American Library Association celebrates Read
Banned Books Week [1] by listing the books by the
most frequently challenged authors in 2002 [2] and
the 100 most challenged from 1990-2002 [3] .

The most distressing thing is that the home page [3]
of the ALA is now dominated by politics,
demonstrating just how politicized the freedom to
read has become.

[3] http://www.ala.org/

Mr. Poon, whose blog I found via Ernie the Attorney
(nee Ernselor the Counselor) [1], writes about a
recent airing of 20/20 [2]:

  They have a heartwarming story about a "bubble
  boy" who gets a stem cell transplant to be able
  to have a better-functioning immune system.

  While showing scenes of the baby finally going
  home from the hospital, the reporter gives us a
  voice-over question: "So were prayers answered,
  or was it science?"

  Lady, let me explain something: A lot of the
  people out there who thinks this was prayers
  being answered want to make sure that stem cell
  transplants don't happen.

That's some lousy journalism on 20/20's part, and a
remarkable lack of a sense of irony.

[1] http://ernieattorney.typepad.com/
[2] http://blog.tstern.com/weblog.php?id=P1087

John Ashcroft had the chutzpah to stage the Boston
leg of his pro-PATRIOT Act road show in Faneuil
Hall, where Sam Adams proclaimed the liberties he
was ready to die for. Apparently, this is the first
time Faneuil Hall has been closed to the public for
a political event since it was built in 1742.

Here are some of the signs I enjoyed:

     The Bill of Rights is the real Patriot Act
     Take your empire and shove it
     Boston knows patriotism. This is no
     patriot act.
     Hey Mr. Ashcroft, Little Brother is
     watching you!
     Time for another Tea Party
     Ashcroft is more evil than Steinbrenner

Here's a slick piece on the scrubbing of the voter
roles in Florida. If you like Katherine Harris, you
won't like this piece. Note: It is neither fair nor


Salon has an article by Farhad Manjoo [1] recounting
how the venerable IEEE's committee on electronic
voting standards went off the rails:

  ...some members appear to have been accorded
  preferential treatment; the committee's leaders
  have used some technically legal but not very nice
  parliamentary procedures to prevent opponents from
  expressing their views; and when critics of the
  industry have managed to make comments, they
  appear to have been summarily ignored.

  ...But some members of the committee are
  reluctant to put all of the blame on voting
  industry officials...

Here's a page (by David Dill) that clearly explains
the difficulties and what a "voter-verifiable"
process might look like: the voter gets to see the
paper record of her vote before she presses the
electronic plunger to record it.

And here's [3] an EFF petition.

[2] http://www.verifiedvoting.org/
[3] http://www.eff.org/Activism/E-voting/IEEE/

According to an article by Anne Geske in the Utne
Reader (Sept-Oct):

  A map showing percentages of adult movies in
  the home-video market by state 'bore an eerie
  resemblance' to the 2000 election, remarked
  Pete du Pont in a recent Wall Street Journal
  Web site column. A survey conducted by the
  Sexuality Information and Education Council of
  the United States also found that the vast
  majority of states that voted for George W.
  Bush are states that are less responsive to
  issues of sexual rights and sexual health.
  Criteria used in this survey included the right
  to engage in sexual behavior in private, the
  right to express one's sexual orientation, and
  the right to sexual information and health

Scott Rosenberg [1] has written an excellent
appreciation of J.S. Mill's On Liberty. Scott gets
past the standard "take-away" that one person's
liberty ends only where another begins. He writes:

  Mill's eloquence on behalf of liberty was inspired
  by what he saw as a deadening sameness of opinion
  infecting his contemporaries. He looked around at
  mid-century England and saw it filled with
  "conformers to commonplace, or timeservers for
  truth." His fellow citizens had become containers
  of received wisdom, receptacles of "dead dogma."

  The antidote to such stagnation, he maintained,
  was not simply toleration of nonconformists but
  vigorous engagement with "heretical

I love On Liberty -- although I haven't read it in
an officially Long Time -- because of its elegant
and radical reframing of the question of rights.
Rather than being legislated by kings, God or
nature, they are simply the default, and their
limits are defined operationally: how long is your
arm and where exactly is my nose?

But I don't share Mill's optimism about
rationality.... [MORE in the online version]


Fittingly, while checking the spelling of "das
Mann," I came across a lively debate over
Heidegger's Nazism.

Here's a site that lets the world vote in the next
US presidential election.

Since the world's vote counts about as much as that
of a confused elderly Jewish lady in Dade County,
Florida, it's too bad the site is only publishing
the results after the US polls close when it can
have absolutely no effect. (Thanks to Wiebe de Jager
for the link.)



AKMA [1] has a nice rant about how little the RIAA
gets it, in response to my Wired article [2]. 

This is an issue that matters so much to so many
people that occasionally I have hope that we'll beat
the bastards down. 

And then the drugs wear off.

[1] http://akma.disseminary.org/archives/000449.html
[2] http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.06/view.html 


Warren St. John has a good article in the NY Times
about what blogs are doing to privacy. I get quoted
as follows:

  "All writing is a form of negotiation between the
  reader and writer over what constitutes
  responsibility," said David Weinberger, author of
  "Small Pieces Loosely Joined," a book about the
  Internet. "Because blogs are a new form, the
  negotiation can easily go awry." Mr. Weinberger
  said the confessional nature of many blogs had
  "redrawn the line between what's private and

On the next page of the article is the following:

  Indeed, for many bloggers being noticed seems to
  be the point. John M. Grohol, a psychologist in
  the Boston area who has written about bloggers,
  said they often offered intimate details of their
  lives as a ploy to build readership.

I believe that except for the use of the word
"ploy," we're saying basically the same thing.


JiWire [1] is a directory of hotspots in North
America and Europe (so far) with some marked as
"certified," meaning that it's been vetted by an
actual human being. The directory shows useful info
about each hotspot, including whether there's a
power outlet nearby. The site is aiming at being the
leading place for info of all sorts about
wirelessness. And they've snagged Glenn Fleischman
[2] as their editor-in-chief, a coup.

By the way, Glenn has a clear explanation of a way
to bridge wireless networks, Wireless Distribution
System [3].

What will they think of next!

And who are "they" anyway?

[1] http://www.jiwire.com
[2] http://glennf.com

Want to hear something extraordinary?

I was at a small conference/seminar sort of thing
where Howard Levy was engaged as the in-house
musician. He's a pianist and harmonica player of
vast experience. Howard gets a full three octaves --
sharps and flats -- out of a plain old 20-note
harmonica, something no one else does. And it ain't
no stinkin' parlor trick: he is a remarkably
inventive and expressive musician.

So, after he played a three-minute solo version of
Amazing Grace on the harmonica, I asked if he'd let
us post the recording the conference had made of it,
to be distributed free.

So, here it is, an MP3 of Howard Levy playing
Amazing Grace (3.7MB), recorded Sept. 12, 2004.


Here is Howard's home page:


My friend Paul English [1] doesn't write a blog. But
he does write blog-ish essays on topics which he
then aggregates on his site. It's like a blog turned
sideways and sorted alphabetically by topic. See,
for example, this on judging people by how they
treat waiters [2].

He has an idea about how to turn conspicuous
consumption into a good thing [3].

[1] http://paulenglish.com/
[2] http://paulenglish.com/waiters.html
[3] http://www.paulenglish.com/watch.html

Jane Black at BusinessWeek has written an article
about why Voice over IP isn't normal telephony and
shouldn't be regulated in the same way, despite the
nefarious intentions of the incumbent telephone

  The rush to lump VOIP in with phone services
  obscures the larger problem: The 100-year-old
  regulatory structure for telephones is no
  longer adequate for today's advanced telecom

Scott Bradner has written on the same subject, and
is particularly scathing about the hook regulators
are trying to hang VoIP providers on: They don't
offer 911 service. He writes:

  Maybe these regulators should insist on truth
  in advertising, such as requiring ads to say
  that 911 is not provided, and let customers
  decide what they want. That seems to work in
  many other areas.
[2] http://www.nwfusion.com/columnists/2003/0825bradner.html

Jeff Angus, who has written about tech and business
for just about everyone, has started a blog called
Management by Baseball on a topic suitably odd: The
lessons business can learn from baseball. His thesis
is that:

     Everything You Need to Know About Management
          You Can Learn From Baseball. It applies lessons
          I learned as a baseball reporter and management
          consultant. The work takes those lessons and
          shows how people can become better managers in
          any kind of organization by applying lessons
          learned from the National Pastime.

Find out why Black People Love Sally and Johnny.
It's bad taste, it's satire, and it's a little bit
funny...sort of like Saturday Night Live.


The always interesting Scott McCloud [1] talks in his
graphical column in Computer Gaming World about
what it'll take to give characters in games the
gift of gab:

     We need systems that can understand
     random sentences, formulate replies, and
     act accordingly.

Yes, but that leaves out the really hard part:
creating characters who know what to care about.

[1] http://www.scottmccloud.com/

Speaking of Scott McCloud, Akma [1] points us to
his online comic [2]. I signed up with BitPass; you
use PayPal to give them, say, $5, and they pay
McCloud $0.25 for each of the three chapters you

Totally worth the quarter.

But then there's the always interesting Clay
Shirky's argument [3] about micropayments to
consider. Clay take Scott's BitPass comic as his
lead example:

  This strategy doesn't work, because the act of
  buying anything, even if the price is very
  small, creates what Nick Szabo calls mental
  transaction costs, the energy required to
  decide whether something is worth buying or
  not, regardless of price.

[1] http://akma.disseminary.org/archives/000593.html
[2] http://www.scottmccloud.com/comics/trn/intro.html
[3] http://www.shirky.com/writings/fame_vs_fortune.html

Dewayne Hendricks (according to an article from
Motorola) is heading up a project partially funded
by the state of California to bring 1 gigabit
broadband access to every person in the state by the
end of the decade. The article says:

  Hendricks believes that unless the FCC loosens
  its spectrum restrictions, other less-regulated
  countries quickly will exceed U.S.
  technological innovations.

  "You'll see technologies move to countries
  where there aren't incumbency issues," he says.
  "Places like Tonga will deploy technology that
  makes us look like cave people."

Jon Walz has an amusing blog.

JD Lasica writes [1] about the "We Media" report [2]
on participatory journalism and "How audiences are
shaping the future of news and information." It's by
Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis, edited by JD, with a
foreword by Dan Gillmor. I've skimmed it and it
looks like it'll be the reference point for any
serious discussions of this topic from now on.

[1] http://www.jdlasica.com/blog/archives/2003_09_16.html#001586
[2] http://www.ndn.org/webdata/we_media/we_media.htm

The Village Voice reports [1] on Invisiblog [2], a site for
anonymous blogging. It uses as its example
dissidents within the Hasidic community. (Thanks to
Bill Koslosky [3] for the link.)

[1] http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0329/oshea.php
[2] http://www.invisiblog.com
[3] http://radio.weblogs.com/0120454/


Tim "Co-Father of XML" Bray has written a clear,
concise and understandable introduction to SOAP and
the REST of the ways of talking to a Web server. The
question is when it makes sense for a program to ask
another program for information by sending it a URL
or a more complex bundle of data. And this basic
process is central to how we're going to build Web
services over the next few years.

<asbestos> I make no pretense of knowing who's right
in the issues Tim raises. </asbestos>

Tim's been floating lots of great ideas over at his


The latest Denouncement continues the proud Net
tradition of mocking AOLers:

  Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, and Sen. Maria
  Cantwell, D-WA, announced today that the
  "Blogosphere Purity Act" would in effect ban
  America Online "from encouraging, facilitating,
  or otherwise supporting the creation of web
  logs, or blogs, among its users."


Hossein Derakhshan lists all the English language
Iranian blogs he knows of. (He was unable to get a
visa to attend BloggerCon.)


Steve Talbott's fabulous newsletter takes on Rodney
Brooks' new book, Flesh and Machines: How Robots
Will Change Us. In particular, Talbott argues
against the idea that humans are "just machines."
Talbott's aim in this relatively brief essay is to
remind us of how non-machine like we are. It's not
just quanta that are non-machine-like; cells
themselves cannot be understood solely at the level
of molecules:

  Moss is one of many researchers looking at the
  complex chemical dynamics of the cell as a
  whole, and noting that there is no one-way
  chain of cause and effect determining the
  cell's order. This order (which is passed from
  one generation to the next) is irreducibly
  manifested in the cell as a whole, with each
  part (including the DNA) being effect as well
  as cause.

I like that Talbott then broadens the question to:
Why are we so willing to hear that we are machines?
He proposes an answer:

  In a society where the cry echoes from all
  sides, "You are nothing but a machine", we can
  rightly ask whether what we are really hearing
  is "I sense that I am becoming nothing but a
  machine and, dammit all, I won't tolerate
  anyone else being more than I am".

I am a big fan of Talbott's.


Jerry Ash has opened up his Knowledge Management
site to anyone who wants to see what's there;
previously it had been open only to members.

Isn't it nice to see the world trending in the
right direction every now and then?


BoingBoing points to a fabulous site for people who
have mastered doing the Cats Cradle.


There's a good article by Elizabeth Armstrong in
the Christian Science Monitor about the blogs of
the young.


Give this four seconds and it will make you laugh.


Jason Kottke's got a classic example of how a little
trust can double your business. It's exactly the
sort of math that so many businesses never think of
computing. (Thanks to Chris Worth for passing along
the link.)


Peter Kaminski [1] points to a site about
digiscoping [2], that is, shooting digital photos
through a telescopic device. The difference [3]
between the snapshots you're taking now and what you
could be doing if you were willing to lug a
howitzer-sized scope with you is pretty dramatic.

[1] http://www.istori.com/log/archives/00000303.html
[2] http://kotisivu.mtv3.fi/mr/ds/
[3] http://kotisivu.mtv3.fi/mr/ds/power_of_ds/power_of_ds.htm

Peter di Pietro points to Newstran, a service that
aggregates and translates world news.

The translation can be pretty rough, although this
is from Chinese and thus predictably is sense not
much making going to:

  ?center port politics has the research ?Wang
  Yaozong ?with the above ?law, ?refers to Hong
  Kong ??weak ?, ?caused the Beijing port
  altogether to govern ?, but the port ?entire
  ?Deputy to the National People's Congress
  ?strength ?????law owed the principle ?, ??on
  "?the system" ?is fuzzy is the matter ?, but
  politics "?the system" ?had ?.

Although you have to love a site that has as an
entry in its pull down menu:


It lets you use either Babelfish or WorldLingo as
your renderer. Some of the languages are translated
well enough to get a sense of the article. And when
they don't, you're treated to tantalizing bits such
as this from the Berliner Morgenpost:

  Hans's acorn field man stands to Josef In the
  preliminary investigation around compensations
  with the assumption of man man by Vodafone
  Hans's placed itself acorn behind German bank
  chief executive Josef field man

It turns out that Hans Eichel is opposing Josef
Ackermann. "Eichel" is German for "acorn," so this
is akin to Germans rendering a US headline about a
cabinet meeting as "Grain Food advises Small Leafy
Plant to Continue Policy towards Actually Exists."


Here's a PDF [1] of a report that argues that:

        The presence of this single, dominant operating
        system in the hands of nearly all end users is
        inherently dangerous. The increased migration of
        that same operating system into the server world
        increases the danger even more.

Dan Gillmor [2] cites a Washington Post story [3]
that one of the contributors to the story was sacked
and that CIO Magazine refused to rent its subscriber
list to the group that sponsored the report once the
magazine saw the contents, which the magazine deemed
"too one-sided." This feels like the implicit power
of Big Advertisers at work. [Disclosure: I'm a
columnist for Darwin [4], a "companion site" of

Anyway, the report is worth skimming/reading.

[1] http://www.ccianet.org/papers/cyberinsecurity.pdf
[4] http://www.darwinmag.com

Give this four seconds and it will make you laugh.



Jerry Michalski has a piece in RedHerring about why
the explicitness of social networks such as
Friendster get in their way. So true. And a theme --
the price of explicitness -- that's looming larger
and larger in my own thinking about stuff. That and
confusing clarity with truth.

My new bumpersticker:

            | Ambiguity sort of rulz! |

Seth Gordon suggests that the metaphors by which we
talk about computer security are misleading. It's
not war and it's not a disease. It's a con game.


David Isenberg in his excellent new blog comments on
the push to charge more for some bits than others.
He's right on the mark as usual: "Price
discrimination in the middle of the network is a
risk to new app discovery and to free speech."


At Darwin, Jonathan Zittrain has a superb article on
what's wrong with copyright law. Here's a bit of it:

  For example, bars and restaurants that measure
  no more than 3,750 square feet (not including
  the parking lot, so long as the parking lot is
  used exclusively for parking purposes) can
  contain no more than four TVs of no more than
  55 inches diagonally for their patrons to
  watch, so long as there is only one TV per
  room. The radio can be played through no more
  than six loudspeakers, with a limit of four per
  room. That is, unless the restaurant in
  question is run by "a governmental body or a
  nonprofit agricultural or horticultural
  organization, in the course of an annual
  agricultural or horticultural fair or
  exhibition conducted by such body or
  organization." Then it's OK to use more

IMO, it's a must read.



Dan Bricklin [1] points to an Appeals Court's
opinion [2] on fair use. The court found that it was
indeed fair use for a search engine to display
thumbnails of copyrighted images in its search


Michael O'Connor Clarke [1] writes:

  Could P2P music sharing actually be considered
  legal in Canada [2]? This tech journalist
  thinks so, and he makes an interesting
  argument. He's not a lawyer, of course - but
  it's an entertaining thought.

Five years ago Canada may have legalized [3] copying
of copyrighted material for private use, levying a
fee on blank CDs and audio tapes of of $0.77 CDN and
$0.29 respectively to compensate the studios. So
far, that's raised $70M. According to the article:

  In Canada, if I own a CD and you borrow it and
  make a copy of it that is legal private copying;
  however, if I make you a copy of that same CD and
  give it to you that would be infringement. Odd,
  but ideal for protecting file sharers.

There's debate over the meaning of this statute.
But: Wow.

[1] http://michaelocc.com/
[1] http://techcentralstation.com/081803C.html
[3] http://www.cb-cda.gc.ca/news/c19992000fs-e.html


I wrote this [1]:

  "Learning from experience is the worst way to
  learn." That's one of the many right things
  that Clay Shirky [2] said in his keynote [3]
  yesterday morning. Learning by reading is far
  preferable, he said. Absolutely. Yet, he said
  when it comes to the behavior of groups, we
  keep making the same mistake: we don't come up
  with a "constitution" early enough.

Bob "Prof" Morris replies:

  The premise of the first part ["Learning from
  experience is the worst way to learn"] is
  widely known to be false if stated universally.
  There's wide agreement among learning
  specialists that there are learning styles and
  even for a given thing, some people may learn
  best by experience, some by reading, some by
  hearing, some by other visual means.
  Furthermore, I don't believe for a minute that
  you can learn many motor tasks by reading about
  them. I doubt that few if any of even the most
  literate adults could learn to walk a tightrope
  or do a head stand by reading instructions for

  Probably you don't even mean to agree with
  Shirky categorically and probably he didn't
  mean it categorically.

Bob is categorically correct.

[1] http://www.hyperorg.com/backissues/joho-jul17-03.html


The Boston Globe reports that face recognition
software failed 38% of the time in a test at Logan

On the other hand, it's always seemed to me that
there ought to be many more doubles than there are
now. There just aren't that many variables to play
with. But, apparently I'm wrong since we can almost
always tell celebrity look-alikes apart. Nature
seems to have made us extra-sensitive to faces.

In fact, here are some snaps from some sites
offering look-alikes. Can you guess who they're
supposed to be? Hold your mouse over the image for a
second to see the answer.

[Photos are in the photo-enhanced online version of

Ok, so this is more like a quiz than a contest. But
you guys never really enter anyway, grumble grumble.

As for those of you who wonder why I don't write
JOHO very frequently any more, take a look at my
weblog: http://www.hyperorg.com/blogger. I'm writing
every stinking day. Why? Beats me. Let me know if
you figure it out...


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  • » [joho] JOHO - October 15, 2003