The Revolution Will Be Blogged

It is hardly the first such look, but WebReview
has a nice piece on the web logging phenomenon, The
Blogging Revolution
. To my mind, web logging (blogging for short) is here
to stay and makes the Internet far more interesting.

Much of the media coverage of blogging treats it as a new phenomenon, but in
reality it goes back to before the web was born when Tim Berners-Lee saw the
web as integrating both content creation and browsing. Unfortunately, Mosaic,
Netscape, Microsoft and others delivered only half a solution — the browsing
part — but didn’t integrate any decent creation tools into the browser.

Today, however, there are starting to be an abundance of creation tools that
integrate with the browser — really are the browser. Blogger
is the best known of these. Blogger makes it trivially easy to keep a running
commentary news site. I used it for about three months at the end of 1999 to
keep my sites updated and found it an excellent tool for blogging. The only
drawback is it does not have more advanced content management features, but
most of its audience probably does not need those.

The tool I am currently using, Conversant,
not only lets me update my site daily but it lets me manipulate those daily
updates in ways that Blogger cannot. I can take this page, for example, and
make it appear as any number of static URLs, or include it as part of a newsletter
page, along with other entries, on making web sites.

But the point is not Blogger vs. Conversant (they are different tools suited
for different purposes), but rather what has come to be the traditional paradigm
of web sites, the .com phenomenon, with grassroots shoestring operations. The
conventional wisdom 18 to 24 months ago was that the corporate suits had all
but taken over the web. Boo.Com, Salon.Com and other top flight sites were going
to push the little guy aside. Instead, the little guy (or gal) is back with
a vengeance.

I have been arguing from the time I sent my first e-mail message back in the
early 1980s that the Internet is pretty much going to destroy the traditional
media model. Look, I want to buy my shoes from Nike, but I do not exactly want
to sit around talking to Philip Knight or his cronies for conversation. I think
Salon.Com is easily the best online magazine out there, and even it comes across
as boring and pretentious most of the time. It is better than most of the print
crap out there, but I actually spend more time reading blogs maintained by one
or two people in their spare time than I do reading Salon.Com.

Blogs also solve one of the problems that plagues traditional media — with
Blogs there is instant peer review. I watch a lot of television, for example,
and constantly see talking heads make basic errors of fact or reasoning. Writing
a letter of complaint to a major network to point out an error is a severe waste
of time. With a Blog, though, I can instantly link to the offending passage,
point out the error, and let readers decide. The person making the statement
may choose to respond in similar fashion. Contrary to the popular opinion that
online communities generate more errors, my experience is that they are no more
factually challenged than traditional media, plus they include tools to make
it easier to catch and track errors.

As the tools to create web sites become simpler and cheaper (could it be any
cheaper to create a web site?), the problem for media corporations needing to
make millions in advertising is going to skyrocket. This may be a pie-in-the-sky
prediction, but I think it is likely that in another 20-25 years the current
media system — where large conglomerates merge with each other to take advantage
of scales of economy — will gradually give way to a grand dispersal of the
media where a typical person’s daily newspaper is half a dozen small independent
feeds collated together rather than the product of a single business entity.

Why not beat the rush and try out Blogger or Conversant or even Manila.
They are all free, and do a good job of making blogging a cinch.

Battle of the Kooks for the Reform Party Nomination

Somehow I got on a mailing list for supporters of John Hagelin, the kook fighting certifiable nut case Pat Buchanan for the Reform Party nomination (not that it matters, since Reform Party is quickly becoming even more irrelevant than the Libertarian Party — who thought that was even possible?)

Anyway, I’m somehow getting these updates from Hagelin supporters and one of them sends me an e-mail today which includes the following claim about Hagelin’s extremely high intelligence which is presumably supposed to make him more appealing to voters:

Dr. Hagelin has already challenged the other two main candidates to a mapping of their brain waves (his brain wave coherence levels were in the upper one
percent of measurement), but his opponents have refused. I think we know why.

I think we do know why — that might be the sort of thing to appeal to the nut cases in the Natural Law Party, but for normal people it’s a bright “KOOK” stamp on Hagelin’s forehead. Hagelin’s web site is hilarious since his main argument for president seems to be that he’s the smartest man in America (IQ 145 he claims) and, obviously, you want a smart scientist running the show. Unfortunately aside from his views on quantum physics, the 12 year old girl next door has more common sense and a better grip on reality than Hagelin.

‘Maybe He Was Just Trying to Scare Her’?

A woman in Florida is alive today because her father had the foresight to buy her a gun for personal protection.

Twenty-eight year old Maria Pittaras awoke to find her neighbor, Robert Metz, wearing a mask and holding a knife to her throat. She grabbed a gun she kept on her nightstand and shot him, killing him instantly.

Mitz had apparently recently begin suffering from manic depression and according to relatives and friends been sliding quickly into mental illness. Some unidentified associates speculated in newspaper reports that it was his illness that led to the attack.

Incredibly, though, there were neighbors who didn’t feel Pittaras’ shooting of Metz was justified. One of Pittaras’ neighbors, Maruice Strong, told the Tampa Tribune,

Why would a married man with kids pick that particular house? There has to be more to it than anyone is saying. He was the nicest guy in the world and wouldn’t hurt anyone. Maybe he was just trying to scare her.

Sure, he was just trying to scare her and why not just go ahead and charge her with a crime. Bizarre. But not nearly as bizarre as all of the gun control advocates who want to make sure women like Pittaras are unarmed and unable to defend themselves.


Ill man shot dead attacking neighbor. Candace J. Samolinski, The Tampa Tribune, August 9, 2000.


In a
on CNet today, Brian Livingstone reports that the World Intellectual
Property Organization is accepting comments on a proposal to disallow domain
names based on geographical areas, personal names, or tradenames. Of course
this is completely illegal, but the WIPO is a United Nations subsidiary — they
did not want to stop genocide in Rwanda, but apparently they want to make sure
I cannot register

The WIPO is a symptom of everything that is wrong with how domain name disputes
are handled. First, the ICANN guidelines clearly say domains should be taken
from users only when they are registered or used in “bad faith.” But WIPO and
others have simply decided on their own to take domain names from people if
they are tradenames. For example, it recently took Crew.Com away from a legitimate
small business and gave it to JCrew.

In addition, the ICANN guidelines are set up so that the plaintiff in a domain
disupte case gets to choose the arbitrator. So if somebody decides I should
not have, that person gets to decide which arbitrator to use. Most
choose WIPO, and what do you know WIPO returns the favor by favoring the plaintiff
in close to 90 percent of cases. eResolution, which favors plaintiffs only about
half the time, gets far less business. That is a process that needs to be changed

On the other hand, the good news is that if WIPO actually approves this, it
would create a ruckus not only from folks like me but from the big guys too.
They would have to get rid of all domain names that are geographical? The Amazon.Com
folks will just love that move.

Robotics Links

When I was in high school many years, as a class project we built a robot from a kit. The robot kits you can buy for under a $100 today put the expensive robot kit we used to shame:

  • ArsRobotica – portal-style web site for all things robotic. Update — this domain expired and was grabbed up by some lame marketer.
  • Robot Store – online source for all things robotic.


If you are a robot afficianado, Cognitoy
makes an excellent computer simulation of robotics called MindRover.
MindRover is a game of robots that battle each other or race to cross a finish
line or retrieve some reward, but unlike most computer games where you control
the onscreen action, in MindRover you configure your robot with the right equipment,
then use an intuitive visual system to program its behavior and let it go.

There have been a number of games over the years based on this concept, but
none of them delivered like MindRover does on both the graphics end and the
programming end. Most such games have programming paradigms that are excessively
simple or require you to be a programming wizard — MindRover strikes an excellent
balance between the two extremes with a system that is easy to get understand
out of the box, but can easily be expanded to handle more complex behaviors.

If that sounds interesting, check out the browser-based version of the game,
Mini-Mind Rover.
It requires at leaat IE 4.0 or Netscape 4.5 and gives a real sense of the sort
of tinkering you can do in MindRover.