Mental hyperlinking

It’s been said suggested that the Web caught on because hyperlinking is “how our brains work” Of course, I think this was said by a guy with attention-deficit disorder, but that’s another matter. And it just struck me how dated the term “hyperlinking” sounds. Never mind.

Anyhow, a few days ago, I was discussing with Jenny a little kerfluffle in the local blog-land that erupted as a result of that Chronicle article (for which I wrote a special blog entry a while back). In the course of which, Jenny mentioned a different issue: the supposed blogger vs journaler tension.

Aside: I wasn’t aware of “journaling” as an activity distinct from blogging until a journaler pointed it out to me. As I understand it, journaling is more writing about oneself; blogging is more writing about the rest of the world.

More specifically, Jenny mentioned that blogging apparently gets more media attention than journaling, and wondered why that might be. In male-answer syndrome mode, I speculated that the mainstream media has a certain fascination with blogs, because blogs intrude on their turf: this is the blogger vs journalist tension. A bunch of people writing about themselves is not news, perhaps unless they’re famous. Well, moby has a blog (I take it back, he calls it a journal), and he writes about not having anything to write about and cleaning his kitchen. So, ok, a journal may not be news after all, even when it is by a famous person. Where was I?

Right. Like I was saying: the media doesn’t see journalers as intruding on their turf, so they aren’t interested, meaning they don’t cover them.

Anyhow, today I see a pointer in Electrolite to “smart observations about the Laurie Garrett affair.” (which I know nothing about). Turns out Laurie Garrett is a journalist of some repute who wrote a lengthy and candid e-mail message about the WEF at Davos. This e-mail was intended only for her friends, but (obviously) wound up being distributed more widely. She was quite upset when she found out, but it’s an interesting read.

Where was I going with that? Oh yeah. As the “smart observations” post mentions, this “in a roundabout way, brings us to blogs.” When we read the unvarnished and unedited thoughts of a journalist, we realize how much the mainstream media sands off the rough edges of reality for us. Blogs provide us with those rough edges. Laurie Garrett apparently isn’t ready for blogging, but blogging is ready for her.

As long as I’m on the subject…

Patrick Nielsen Hayden occasionally writes about the south with some very clear insights. It was on his site that I found the best counter-argument to the southern-apologist position that “the Civil War wasn’t about slavery, it was about state’s rights.”

Right. The state’s right to do what, exactly?

Living down to a reputation

In what comes off as a comical act of pandering to those hypothetical repressed middle-American kids who look through the magazine hoping to get a glimpse of titties, National Geographic, of all magazines, has published a swimsuit issue.

When I saw this on the newsstand, it was next to a tattoo magazine. The woman on the cover of the swimsuit issue was underwater, with the ripples tracing pale lines on her. At first I thought I was looking at two tattoo magazines.

That’s a little too plugged-in

A lot of people use my favorite coffee shop, Flight Path, as their office away from home, as it were. They bring their WiFi-enabled laptops, their cellphones, etc, and set up shop (one guy brings a vase of flowers, even). Many people plug their headphones into their laptops to zone out to whatever they have cued up on winamp or iTunes.

Today, I noticed one such cyberdude, his sculptural little clip-on headphones in place, rattling away on his keyboard. His phone starts ringing. He can’t hear it.

Can’t go back to Constantinople

In an interview with the NY Times, Frank Gehry repeatedly emphasizes his age, and also mentions “I took 15 students to see the Haga Sofia in Constantinople”

I don’t care how old you are, Frank, you’re not old enough to remember when it was called Constantinople. There’s even a song to help you remember its current name.

Oh, and it’s spelled hagia.


Somebody (not even sure who) pointed to the nifty graphic at Ryze. The graphic shows relationships between blogs, based on their blogrolls (I think). Interesting to see how they cluster around a few stars. A map like this suggests that a better word than blogosphere, blogistan, or blogiverse would be blogalaxy.

Ryze, btw, seems like an interesting site for aggregating affinities.

Great Leader’s gift shop

The fact that a country as backwards as North Korea has an official website (interestingly at a .com address, not a .kp address) is kind of weird, but understandable. And sure, I can understand their Central News Agency having a site (at a .co.jp address).

But a gift shop? I will leave the jokes as an exercise for the reader.

Smart Mob = Lazy Web

Sometimes, the zeitgeist seems to cause an idea to crystallize in multiple places simultaneously. Hans Asperger and Leo Kanner both diagnosed autism (and named it the same thing) at the same time. Leibnitz and Newton both came up with calculus at about the same time. Likewise Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin with the theory of evolution. Elisha Gray invented the telephone at about the same time as Bell. And so on.

Two ideas that have been getting a lot of play in the blogosphere of late are “smart mobs” and “the lazy web.” These are both manifestations of the same underlying phenomenon: groups that are non-hierarchical and self-organizing.

With the Lazy Web, as illustrated by the case of the LibraryLookup, one guy comes up with a bright idea. He does some preliminary work, publishes that on his blog, and other people spontaneously decide to chip in and polish it up. The results can be interesting. There are obvious similarities to the open-source movement.

Smart Mobs have been defined mostly in the context of meatspace, that is, people in the street sending text messages on their cellphones to physically organize mobs. Smart mobs have been observed in the gaggles of girls that coalesce around Prince William, the protests in the Philippines against President Estrada, etc.

The main difference here is the venue — cyberspace vs meatspace. Also the results: the Lazy Web seems to be productive. Smart Mobs may fulfill useful purposes, but I don’t think we’ve seen a smart-mob barn raising. Not yet, anyhow.

Work is hell

Years ago, in its earliest days, I found on the Web some hilarious stories of tech-support hell. These stories have proliferated.

What would be worse than working in tech-support and putting up with people whose stupidity is almost aggressive? Working at a porn-video shop. Oh, much, much worse. Great stories, though.

You are not your toy

An article in today’s New York Times discusses the sense of outrage that many Porsche enthusiasts have at the fact that the maker of their dream cars is now making an SUV, the Cayenne.

Now, I’m hardly a fan of SUVs, and I think this is a dangerous adventure in brand extension for Porsche, but I still want to grab these whiners by the shoulders and give them a good shake. They’ve got too much of their identity invested in their cars. Their comments are telling:

“A Porsche S.U.V. will, perhaps forever, cheapen the brand…Which demographic will this thing attract? My guess is BMW poseur types.”

The existence of the Cayenne won’t change anything about the old 911, except the way 911 owners perceive other people’s perception of the Porsche brand. These guys (I’m guessing they’re almost all guys) imagine that they derived some kind of aura by owning a Porsche, and that aura will disappear once the company starts making such an unglamorous vehicle, and less worthy people start buying it.

I did a translation a few years back that gave results from a focus group study. A luxury-goods company showed the focus group members–already enthusiastic customers of the brand–a prototype sports watch. The reaction was so negative, and so uniformly negative, that they scrapped the whole project. I’m guessing that Porsche focus-grouped the Cayenne six ways from Sunday, and decided there was a market for it. But it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

Parsing problem

Spotted a banner at a resale shop today that read “Formerly Good Samaritan Thrift.”

The bad samaritans are more fun anyhow.


Another whacky fad from Japan. Inserting pearls in the penis. This article had a lot of fun with the topic

Shukan Taishu notes that while many ordinary women in their 20s tend to clam up when it comes to pearl implants, older women are more inclined to shell out a bit for the added sensation, meaning the artificial amorous aid can make the world a man’s oyster.

In the immortal words of Slim Pickens, Holy mother of pearl!