Pardon my Cc'ing this to FoRK, but I think Rohit and Gordon (and
possibly Ernie and Tim) might find this blast-from-the-past very
interesting. You may want to skip straight to the >'s as what follows
is a longwinded, meandering tale of how FoRK got started, to provide
context as to why there was an FWF list and why I had posted your rant
to it back in May 1995.
Context for FoRK: back in the days before FoRK, which started in
December 1995, and back in the days before I was banned from posting on
Gordon's mailing lists :), Gordon ran several mailing lists. One of
these lists was FoG, for "Friends of Gordon", a list that would
ultimately inspire Rohit to form FoRK (despite the fact that Rohit
wasn't on FoG, I think...).
Another one of these lists was FWF, the acronym of which eludes me (too
many cache flushes). FWF was started in May 1995 after serendipity
allowed Rohit & I to find Gordon in a web search for people who actually
understood the naming problem --- quite a task in 1995 when very few
people had extensive Web pages! When we found Gordon in April 1995, we
invited him down to Pasadena for some adventures and some brainstorming.
So he left Sun for a weekend to come hang out in SoCal...
It was in the physics library alcove, between Rohit & Gordon & Tim & I
and giant pieces of paper and magic markers, that we mapped out the "Web
Universe" (the players, the technologies, the potential for the future).
In 1995, with the web still very much nascent (this was right as the Web
consortium was planting its seeds at MIT, which Rohit would join in
April 1995), this was not as difficult a task as it would be today.
Also in the alcove we discussed the pi-calculus and Gordon's idea of One
Namespace Everywhere (ONE before those idiots at Netscape coopted the
name) and Ernie's One Namespace Everywhere, Simultaneous Instances,
Multiple Uniform Searchspace (ONESIMUS, catch the Biblical reference).
Ernie's machine back then was named "pundit", which should tell you
Oh wow, I just found the ONESIMUS email Ernie sent, dated Apr 23 1995.
This is as classic as Rohit's OOFS email, Rohit's CELL email, and
Rohit's oSpace email. Darn, all of these predate FoRK so they don't
exist on the Web anywhere! Rohit, can we start up a "FoRK classics"
where we post old stuff that led to where we are today?
Where was I? Oh, in the physics library alcove. Between the
pi-calculus, and ONE, and ONESIMUS, and some of Rob Harley's comments on
security/cryptography, and Rohit's observations about how the Web
browser had unified all clients so why hadn't anyone unified all
servers, the groundwork had been laid for the ideas of OOFS (a truly
object oriented file system in every sense of the word object), CELL
(the manifestation of each "object" in a user's universe), oSpace
(a truly object oriented networked operating system, in every sense of
each of those words), *TP (star TP unites all the transport protocols so
that there can be a single unified server just as a web browser serves
as a single unified client), and Munchkins (goodness gracious great
balls of communication).
We parted ways but agreed to keep on discussing all of these ideas
-- from the Web to players to technologies to futures, Gordon from
Mountain View, Rohit from Boston where he had just accepted a W3C job,
and Ernie and me from Pasadena. So Gordon set up the FWF list for such
discussions, I think. Perusing the list
we note a few things:
1. You can see how the seeds were planted for a list like FoRK.
Even though the lifetime of the list was less than 100 posts, the
purpose of the list was bit transfer -- anything any of us read anywhere
that we thought might be relevant to future discussions was postworthy.
You'll note, however, how grounded in discussions of technology we were,
which explains why Tim Byars posted only once. :) Just teasing, Tim.
2. You can see that I hadn't mastered the art of choosing a proper
subject line. Then and now.
3. You can see that I had mastered the art of overposting pure noise,
something that continues to afflict me, and Rohit had mastered the art
of overposting pure signal, something that continues to afflict him.
This led to Gordon's observation,
Adam "obsessive compulsive email disorder" Rifkin - Adam and
Rohit are my two info junkie friends. Rohit is to Adam as
/dev/null is to /dev/zero. Rohit sucks. Adam blows.
How bad was my ability to spew useless crap? According to Rohit,
I have finally reached my breaking point. I am installing
a rules-based mailfilter that will summarily toss ANY mail
by you that is cc:ed to other people, into /dev/null.
4. One thing I have improved on is sending comments with bits,
thereby adding to the intrinsic value of what I forward. Used to be
that I would just forward something without any commentary. Rohit has
taught me the value of the suck-aggregate-spew cycle.
The last post to FWF is dated November 1995, and FoRK started the very
next month. By that point we still hadn't met many of the people on
FoRK, and admittedly shifting from FWF to FoRK meant several
1. The shift from discussions of technology to discussions of, well,
everything, since we now believe in the interconnectedness of all things.
2. The willingness to go out on a limb with outlandish and unpopular
3. The Attention Deficit Disorder shotgun style of moving from topic
to topic at the drop of a hat. This lack of focus meant that we could
entertain ourselves a whole lot better by aiming the bit and clue
firehoses at whatever we pleased, but it also meant that we lost the
focus of pursuit of the next potential killerApps of the computer age
(ONE, ONESIMUS, OOFS, CELL, oSpace, *TP, Munchkins).
So now that you have context about the FWF list, we can jump directly
into this email I just got from Jim; do not pass go, do not collect $200.
> From firstname.lastname@example.org Wed Jun 18 22:27:32 1997
> Organization: Mind Your Own, a division of None Of Your
> X-Mailer: Mozilla 3.0 (Win95; U)
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: Note of appreciation
Context for Jim: I'm Cc'ing this to FoRK, the mailing list I so
painfully described above. If you'd like to peruse the FoRK archives,
they are at
We even have a FAQ that seems to change everyday at
> Thanks for updating your home page links to point to my new location.
No sweat. 403s amd 404s are our enemies. Gold links like yours are our
> And thanks for posting this old note of mine that I recently
> (re)discovered at
> <URL: http://www.base.com/gordoni/web/email/fwf-tech/0029.html >
Wow, thanks for calling my attention to it. That note, which calls for
strict conformity to rigid HTML specs, was quite on the mark looking
back in hindsight.
You talked about why it was desirable to emphasize the information
content aspects of semantic markup (e.g., metadata), instead of just
having publishing control (e.g., style sheets). And I quote, "One of
the more powerful means of attending to this information glut will be
structurally-aware software agents that will know how to find things
inside of objects on the Net." Wow, it's as much a dream today as it
was in 1995! But, strides have been made: several useful metadata
approaches have evolved, each useful for different things (WebDAV for
authoring and versioning, PICS for content rating, the Warwick
conventions for searching and naming, and XML for custom markup with
automation of tasks in mind, to name a few).
Unfortunately, in the two years since your post, orders of magnitude
more information has become available on the Web, so it's kind of like
the metadata efforts are trying to hit a moving target. It's true that
tools will be able to help with the insertion of metadata in all the
right places, though, and we have to be patient and remind ourselves
that the Web is still in its infancy.
Still, the argument for writing markup that is strictly comformant to
the specifications -- whether they be written by hand or generated by
tools automatically -- is as relevant today as it was two years ago.
Your words were germanely prophetic.
> I particularly enjoyed the title
> "Never mind that he originally spells it HTLM..."
:) Because although the title had a typo, the rest of the rant was
> I'm extremely dyslectic and I think I'll use this as an excuse to start
> a new web page on dyslexia.
This calls for some plagiarized oneliners.
* Dyslexics of the world UNTIE!
* If you're cross-eyed and have dyslexia, can you read all right?
* A dyslexic policeman spent Friday night giving out IUD's.
And Brad Templeton's personal favorite,
* I'm an agnostic, dyslexic, insomniac. I sit up all night wondering
if Dog exists.
> Interesting isn't it that the software that posted this had
> trouble converting the <p> tags to HTLM, errr... HTML.
Welcome to the Hell that is Hypermail. As is usually the case with
software, you get what you pay for. In this case, nothing.
> That's precisely the issue the article was trying to address. Wheels
> within wheels...
It's turtles on turtles on turtles, all the way down, Jim.
It's what inspired us to want to create a company called Terrapin
software. As Ernie would say, The Turtle Stops Here.
If a turtle doesn't have a shell, is he homeless or naked?