TCS Daily


iConfused

By Robert McHenry - July 21, 2006 12:00 AM

I spend a certain amount of time reading things on the Interweb -- a newspaper, a couple of magazines, some blobs -- and I usually come away with the sense that I've managed to keep abreast of things, at least in the old non-virtual world, bedeviled as it is with, you know, matter. But lately I've been running into a variety of things that I don't understand.

Take this Web 2.0 thing. I can't find it. When Mosaic first came out, I recalled, you had to type in that http:// business each time you tried to connect to a website, so I tried typing http2://, but the browser didn't like it. Everything Google gives me is firmly situated in Web 1.0. (I guess that's what it should be called now, like The Great War becoming World War I after we managed to work up a second installment.) What is this about? Do I need two computers?

Then there is (are?) something called "netroots." Now beetroot I know, even though that's a Britishism, and cheroot, even though I don't smoke. And I remember Rootie Kazootie, though I'm pretty sure that's irrelevant. Is this something to do with genetic engineering? Or is it perhaps a new, ecofriendly way of fishing, like podcasting? Will it help save the dolphins? Is it OK with Jeremy Rifkin?

Apparently there is a huge body of people named David out there, marching about and doing marvelous things that I can't quite get a handle on. How did this get started? Shouldn't we organize some Bobs as well, as I bet we outnumber the Davids? And, of course, there are plenty of other names, too. Maybe we should put up little signs, like along the highways, noting that this or that bunch of so-and-so's is responsible for taking care of that or this little concern. "The next 6 miles of Tennessee coastline are combed by Glenns." Something like that. Lord knows there's work to be done, and I think this is a very neat Tocquevillean approach.

There is an unexpected new interest in things with long tails. At first glance this seems an odd category, mixing things like iguanas and kites, but it's actually pretty insightful. As the population in certain areas becomes denser and denser with retiring Baby Boomers, the problem of stepping on things becomes increasingly critical. Obviously, like a cat in a roomful of rocking chairs, anything with a long tail is in serious jeopardy. And not just those; think of your blue suede shoes. It was well enough to ignore this issue when the country was new and there was plenty of space -- "Go West, young hep cat," advised Horace Greeley -- but it's time for us all to be more careful. Of course this all merely amuses my wife, one of whose great-grandfathers came from the Isle of Man. The Manx, as you know, are tailless.

Now, as to this "singularity" stuff. If I have it right, we are rapidly approaching a time when there will be no more plurals. Like that one. I have to say: this campaign is doomed to failure, just like Colonel McCormick's "simplified spelling" that the Chicago Tribune used to promote so strongly some decades back. I can still remember when the Trib insisted on printing "tho" for "though" and "thru" for "tossed." They eventually came back to standard English, tho there were some union problems in the transition, what with all the extra keystrokes on the Linotype. To prove my point, let's rewrite that last sentence with no plurality. It would come out: "[He, She, or It] eventually came back to England, though there was discrete problem in the transition, what with the keystroke on the Linotype." Makes no sense, does it? This is foolishness.

And speaking of spelling reform, has somebody brought out a new keyboard with the letters in different places? How else to account for "vlog"?

Not coincidentally, we just passed the 13th anniversary of the publication of the famous "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog" cartoon in the New Yorker. For many people, this was the first they'd heard of dogs using computers. In fact, dogs have been deeply involved in programming ever since it was noted that, ignoring the dewclaws, which some don't even have, dogs have sixteen toes, the basis of those peculiar numbers with letters in them that computer people enjoy so because they confuse the rest of us. Like, 13th anniversary becomes Dth anniversary, if you can believe it. I think it's just snotty.

Robert McHenry is Former Editor in Chief, the Encyclopedia Britannica, and author of How to Know (Booklocker.com, 2004).

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3 Comments

Internet is just like fool`s pardise.
From last five years Iam acquiented to Internet. There
is one very charming website run by Nytimes namely abuzz,very wise debatable platform but soon people
missused it so Nytimes closed it.
Now I open web for aldaily. this is wonderful informative web cover art and literatures from world`s leading paper. I hate blog they are cancer to mankind, only fool are write on blog. this is fad and in short time people will fade up with this nonsense boring and they all shut down.
Very rearly google give correct references for that you to face lot of junk information .It is better read the printed books.

Internet Jargon
The jargon is pretty annoying, and double annoying if you're technically oriented, as the people pushing the jargon tend to be pushing the jargon because they don't have the skills to invent the concepts. Take "end to end" and "network neutrality" as prime examples, for which Andrew Orlowski wrote the definitive obituary here:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/07/17/net_neut_slow_death/

I think however, that we'll have new general paradigms of Internet usage pop up from time to time. While they will never be "the next only big thing" as their proponents will promise, they will occasionally be "another new big thing with some staying power". 10 years ago, we had web sites and e-mail. Since then, we've gotten blogs (dynamic web content created on servers) and P2P (file sharing, telephony, screen sharing and other serverless applications).

The best definition I can give for "Web 2.0" is a definition that is probably most aligned with Microsoft. These are non-browser desktop applications that incorporate data from the Internet. They combine the richness of the desktop experience with the dynamism of web-based data. I say it's the Microsoft definition because it keeps the desktop operating system relevant. By contrast, I don't see Google Earth nor various mashups as "Web 2.0", because they live in the browser sandbox and fail to achieve the richness they could by harnessing the full power of the desktop PC to interact with the user.

For an example of a true Web 2.0-ish application, check out RealeWriter ("Really Writer"). It lets kids of all ages create picture story books. It's associated web sites work with the product so users can find, download, and share content without fighting their web browsers.

http://www.realebooks.com

I'm kinda partial to RealeWriter, as I'm the developer guy, but it's still a great example of what "Web 2.0" applications can offer. And the best thing about it is that it doesn't make all your Web 1.0 favorites obsolete. It's just offers a little richer experience.

If it's a fool's paradise, what does that make you?
Blog's are a way to communicate. Many blogs are political. Many are cultural. Many are regional.
If you find that a blog gives you no usefull information, or no viable friendships, then don't return to that blog.

Just because you apparently get nothing usefull out of it, is not proof that people who have different priorities than you do, are also incapable of getting anything usefull out of it.

I do find it interesting how you repeatedly declare everything you don't like or understand, to be the latest cancer on mankind.

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