Re: Web Diaries. Also, more on bits, vision, and clue.

I Find Karma (
Thu, 16 Jul 1998 17:50:58 -0700

Regarding my exhausting post yesterday about Web Diaries at

a FoRKer wrote to me in personal email:
> Wow, a mind-boggling post. Of course, it raises the question of how
> you can write a post like this in an afternoon, yet a Ph.D.
> dissertation seems like an insurmountable activity. :-)

Hey, if all a PhD dissertation required was unsubstantiated wild
speculation and a signa-like usurping of the poetic license, I could
probably do that in an afternoon, too. :)

I think ultimately, though, writing a dissertation comes back to
attitude. When *I* am *ready* to do a careful, principled analysis,
design, and post-analysis, then I believe my thesis will all fall into
place like a jigsaw... Kind of like Truman Burbank in _The Truman Show_
who has the ability to leave the geosphere any time he really
fundamentally desires to do so, or like Daryl Zero in _The Zero Effect_
who can break out of his shell and carefully intervene when he is ready,
or even Dorothy in _The Wizard of Oz_ who has the ability to go home any
time she truly wants it. But you cannot rush readiness. Like marriage
or any other rite of passage, it is the individual who must set his or
her own pace, and there are rules of engagement that must be obeyed
(see, Connolly, you *did* get through to me, and all it took was a death
threat or two :). You cannot rush progress, you cannot rush innovation,
and you cannot force a pace on an individual whose personal value system
renders that pace unsustainable. These are the axioms of the world we
live in, and life in general.

---- push

Wow, two Wizard of Oz references on FoRK in one day. What are the
chances of that?

---- pop

Meanwhile, I continue to collect bits, vision, and clue. I find it
somewhat discouraging that the people on dist-obj are only now asking
the questions about the Web as a software architecture that I myself
asked 1-2 years ago, but I guess I have to listen to my own advice: we
all have to take these journeys at our own paces. I still firmly
believe that it is the journey itself, and not just the destination,
that is the reward.

I truly no longer believe that the Web is a distributed object system in
any general sense of the word "object": it is well-suited to particular
kinds of objects. I do believe that the Web does an extremely good job
of doing what it set out to do -- evolvable interoperability of
distributed hypermedia at the Internet-scale -- and that its ongoing
history holds several crucial nuggets of wisdom with the potential to be
applicable to any other system that wants to lay claim to being
"Internet-scale." A key insight I'm grasping is that Internet-scale !=
wide-area-network scale. There are many other issues at play once you
scale out that big or further.

But it's not something I have the time or energy yet to spell out
completely. This is where the careful thinking really does come in, and
that cannot be downplayed. No offense to Rohit, but I want something
more profoundly thought-out than the average (or even above-average)
FoRKpost, and I want to do it mostly through offline discussions and

Why offline discussions? Because it keeps people without the full bits,
vision, and clue, from getting just enough information to jump into the
arena before it has been fully cultivated, thus spoiling the potential of
a well-principled approach with a hacked-up shadow that is good enough.
The good enough is the enemy of the great, and I will not be party to
anything good enough any more. (Rohit, does this count as my
Emancipation Proclamation? :)

---- push

For fun, let's do the Altavista search
"+bits +vision +clue":

Top Dollar is Going to the Visionaries [first mention of the b/v/c
trinity on FoRK, and first attempt to describe the Khare Ontology (KO);
man are CIOs and CTOs for the most part waaaay overpaid]

A Study in Psychic Transrelational Posting Modes [a snapshot of the FoRK
membership in April 1997, with several now out-of-date descriptions]

And Another Thing... [one of several Ron-climbing-clueful-mountain
posts... look for his bragging that dist-obj is low traffic... :]

If You Wannabe a FoRKer [a painful rehashing of Spice Girl lyrics]

And HotBot found us two others that Altavista neglected to index...
[Of course, Altavista had three that Hotbot neglected, dammit...]

Are You A Snob? [response to a Cosmo article in defense of elitism]

No Enlightenment [response to Ernie's Four Koans of FoRK]

And of course there's always the FAQ...

Rohit's Rules of Order [an endeavor to elucidate (by yours truly) the
full fledged body of the KO, in its current form]

But I think that's everything about bits, vision, and clue that's ever
been documented online (and the rehashing of the Spice Girls shouldn't
count :). The rest you simply gotta grok

even if you must do it, as Rohit always does everything, en charette

---- pop

So meanwhile, I continue my personal quest toward that Holy Grail, to
collect bits, vision, and clue. Actually, as I discussed with Rohit
last night, I continue to hone three metaphorical skills:

1. INFOSPONGING -- the cultivation of bits. This skill involves
careful listening; harvesting, filtering, and aggregating information;
and creating well-thought-out connections where there previously were
none. Note that this last process actually fulfills the role I once
perceived as a magical fourth force -- my own so-called forced I called
"the glue" -- that binds the three primary forces (bits, vision, and
clue) together.

2. KUNG FU FIGHTING -- the cultivation of defensible vision. This
skill involves employing bits and clue to make well-reasoned, airtight
persuasive arguments with which to take on all oncoming opponents. It
requires discipline, and the ability to avoid angering other people
and the ability to continually refine one's
position on ideas, as well as understanding deeply the interconnections
gleaned from infosponging.

3. ARCHITECTING -- the cultivation of clue. This is by and far the
hardest skill, as the number of people who can actually do principled
design is painfully small. I am unconvinced that good design ever came
out of a group-oriented approach; even in the cases where a committee
gets the credit, it is usually one or a few individuals responsible for
driving the core of the architecture and then defending that core from
everyone else ruining it. The main problem with design is that far more
people think they are good at it than actually are good at it.

I've come to understand that honing these skills is very much an
individual training regiment and not something that can be taught an
army platoon at a time. In fact, I believe that one's ability to
improve these skills drives both the pace of the journey and the place
of the destination.

So it's not like my sharing everything will help anyone unless they're
currently at the same place, moving at the same pace, toward the same
place. But there are some things I can share that can help many people
in many places at many paces, and those are the things I FoRKpost.
If I could FoRKpost more, I would, but I think I live by a presently
sustainable momentum given the parameters and constraints of my life.

By the way, Connolly, the next time you threaten to kill me, I'm gonna
kick your ass. :) Meanwhile, live assured in the fact that I have made
an immutable pact with you that I will not break. My word is good, and
my aim is true.


It's like this. There's guns and some guy in a bulletproof suit and
explosions and then there's Mel Gibson cracking jokes and then they blow
some shit up and then Danny Glover strips down to his boxers and does a
chicken dance and then there's more explosions and they're blowing up
more shit and then there's like this story line, because the one chick
is pregnant, and then there's more plot 'cause like the other chick is
pregnant and we don't know who that father is, so I'm like crying, and
then they do more humor so then I'm laughing and suddenly they're
blowing still more shit up... and that's just in the first scene! This
movie has so much of everything, it's an exhausting experience...
-- paraphrasing Tim Byars' review of "Lethal Weapon 4"