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The Internet

Running To The Internet (California Chapter) Two 85

The Running To The Internet Interactive Book Tour continues, heading west to blessed San Franscisco where you don't have to explain or defend the Web to pissed off Luddites in academic, media and politics. On the trip, Slashdotters pop up everywhere, my dog and I end up on the Today Show, the evil Sales Force is thrwarted again, and a there is a strange, only-on-the-Web convergence of spirituality, technology and community. Stop writing code and start praying.

I love the part of a book tour when you get to San Francisco, and leave Washington and New York far behind. It feels like home. In San Francisco, you never have to explain what the Web is or defend its existence to the angry Luddites dug into corporations, Academe, media and politics.

Media organizations sometimes invite me to appear or speak, under the guise of talking about my non-media book "Running To The Mountain." But of course what they really want is to talk about is the Net, in the hopes I can explain it, tell them how to make money off it (I can?t) or promise that it will go away. More often, they simply want to snarl about it.

I have nothing but bad news for them. The Web is like fire, I say, like the creation of tools. Stand in the way and you?ll be consumed.

At one appearance in New York last week, I was talking about Linux and Open Source. I was telling a bunch of slack-jawed media executives about the idea that media should be commonly owned, improved and freely shared. I was also telling what I thought was a happy tale of a woman from Ohio on ICQ Chat who put up a Web page offering "lovebeams," e-messages to make the world a cheerier place, along with "free stuff on the Web," and who got 500,000 hits in a couple of days.

Here, I said, were examples of a genuine revolution in information - people making, sharing and improving their own media.

In traditional publishing, journalism or broadcasting, I said, editors and producers have to fight for each book or newspaper that gets sold, each viewer that tunes into a broadcast. On the Web, a new participant named Nancy who?s bummed out by the negative vibes coming out of Washington can pull in a half-million visitors without leaving her living room. Which medium is rising?

"That proves nothing," snapped one veteran broadcaster dismissively, "except that people on the Web have nothing better to do." Another member of the group, a reporter on leave to write a book, joined in. "They always say young people are abandoning papers and network news shows. They always come back. Because they have to, they need us."

Guess what?, I told him. They never had the Net and the Web before. This time, they aren?t coming back.

Thus far, the Interactive Book Tour has taken me to Washington, Boston, New Jersey, New York and, this week, San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago. Slashdotters have appeared at two book signings and on three call-in radio shows. I start almost every interview with the story of how my book, a mid-list non-fiction memoir dissed by my publisher?s Sales Force as something they "didn?t get," went into four printings via linking on the World Wide Web, and after being excerpted on a Linux geek site.

At every appearance, from Boston?s "The Connection" on WBUR Radio to a luncheon at the Freedom Forum?s New York office, the talk turns to the Web. I can?t stop talking about it myself. I talk about Open Source, about the ferocious interactivity on sites like Slashdot, about the new kinds of messaging systems on ICQ and Hotlines. About Stinky.com I have a riff about MP3?s as a metaphor and warning as the revolution in information gathering steam on the Net is heading for most forms of creative media. And look, I tell them, what Jesse.net did for Jesse Ventura, and what e-trading is doing to the stock market.

The Web, I say, is about empowerment and choice. Interactivity isn?t a marketing tool, it?s one of the most intense political ideas in media. Everywhere online, people are demanding, making and getting more choices, pressuring institutions and corporations, breaking the choke-hold government and business has always had on information.

But usually, my listeners don?t like it or don?t buy it. Their eyes glaze, or they yawn, or they angrily disagree, wondering just who exactly will pay attention to politics, read books, pass budgets, set a coherent agenda, protect civilization. In San Francisco and northern California, home of the computer industry and birthplace of much of what is now the Net and the Web, it?s a different trip. They already know all this stuff I?m talking about, and more. The conversation starts from a high conscious about the Net and Web and moves on.

First excerpted in Slashdot, my book is itself something of a Web baby. My publisher remains bewildered by the books sold via linked Websites. Now in its fourth printing, "Running To The Mountain" has drawn an amazing amount of online traffic (my e-mail address is on the book jacket.) I?ve heard from men and women who have taken similar retreats or yearn to, from old high school classmates, and a former girlfriend, from the head of a giant publishing conglomerate, from a score of writers curious about how to reach their audiences via the Web.

Several mornings a week, a group of Trappist monks in a southeastern U.S. monastery, forbidden to speak aloud but permitted by their Abbot to e-mail, gathers in an ICQ chat room, and sometimes I?m invited. They are devout followers and admirers of the late Trappist Thomas Merton, who inspired much of my book and the journey described in it. They are sending me preserves made in their community. They are hustling my book on the Web, linking it to other monasteries and Websites. They pray for me and encourage me to resist fatigue, cynicism and crass commercialism. They are something very new in the world, a convergence of technology, spirituality and community. As part of their ministry, they are a floating online support group -- a digital conscience, a celestial marketing force. Everywhere I talk about them, people ask me for their URL (I can only give it out with their permission).

I?m amazed that they would rush to the side of an avowedly non-religious person in this way. How, I wonder, can they even go online?

Simple, answers Brother Joseph. "We go online after morning prayers. We?ve been up for hours at 6 a.m. Here, we can minister without leaving out their cloistered life. I invite them to look at Slashdot, but they flee in shock. This doesn?t challenge our spirituality, it allows us to practice it..."

Every turn seems to lead to the Web. My talking about these monks on a Boston radio station sparks a story in the Boston Globe about technology and spirituality.

I appear on the Today Show with my yellow Lab Julius (Julius enjoyed the limo sent by NBC to fetch us, and some of the bran muffins in the green room) sitting at my feet. By the time I get home from New York, a half dozen different a dozen different dog lovers and kennel clubs have e-mailed, inquiring about his lineage and disposition.

Slashdotters pop up almost everywhere, watching, reading, e-mailing, critiquing, offering kind words and constructive criticism: next time answer the question this way. Lurkers regularly apologize for flamers and ill-tempered geeks; I tell them that no apologies or explanations are needed or necessary. No place could be friendlier or more supportive. My book owes its life to the people there. In a way, it was born here. They still ask me if I?ve gotten online with my new Linux box yet; I admit I haven?t had much chance, but will return to the dread project once the book is ended. They remind me that I must. A bunch have arranged to come see me in San Francisco, Capitola and Mountain View, Calif. A few are meeting me in Seattle for coffee or breakfast.

jonkatz@slashdot.org

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Running To The Internet (California Chapter) Two

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  • Take a look at dict.org's dictionary server at http://www.dict.org/bin/Dict [dict.org], or my version at http://okcomputer.antiflux.org/~s uperfly/dict.cgi [antiflux.org].
  • pica wrote:

    C'mon now, why does Katz get to plug his book every week? Can I do the same for my favorite authors? Its only fair, after all.

    He gets to plug his book every week because he has something new and interesting to say about it every week. You can do the same for your favorite authors, but unless you are saying something new or interesting, I doubt the story will make it online.

    If you don't think that his writing is interesting, go to preferences, and click his button. His articles won't bother you again.
  • This was an ask slashdot story a while back I think. It comes from MS using non standard something or other for their "'s and in the conversion we end up with ?'s.

    So don't bash Katz for not using the English language properly, bash him for not using vi.

    -A

  • Is it even remotely appropriate or acceptable to stirringly proclaim on Slashdot, 'Stop writing code'?
    I was warming to Katz with the Enlightenment article, but this comes as a brutal shock. Was I that wrong to give him a break and lay off bashing? What next, 'Run Windows and embrace the void! Live on a mountaintop without a canopener!'?
    He can say what he likes, but for him to even say 'Stop writing code and start praying' is a wake-up call that he's not getting it, and should not be treated more significantly by Slashdot Central than any logged-in user (or perhaps moderator: I daresay he has access, and wonder how he moderates).
    Plus, there?s Katz?s use of Word?s ASCII again! Come on- must we get slapped across the face with this sort of thing? I'd just like to know if anybody else got to proof his work at all, or if he basically has 'write access to the Slashdot article CVS tree'. Slashdot is a resource, and it's not unimportant, and it matters that it make sense and carry a vaguely reasonable message.
  • He's using Microsoft Word. Compulsively. I could point him at a dozen alternatives for what he's doing, but he's not trying to find anything else. It has _nothing_ to do with his Mac. If you wrote stuff on a Windows box in Word and posted that, you'd have Jon?s posts? disease too.
  • Folks whose lives end up entirely centered around drugs I have little appreciation for.

    However, I live with a few folks who do more moderate amounts of drugs; It does have a negative impact on their work, yes, but not as serious of one as many might expect. "Worthless excuse for a human being" they're not.
  • A semi-religious (IIRC) group of fanatics which sought to halt the Industrial Revolution by breaking into the nascent factories and smashing the machines.

    That's the short version, anyway.

    Don Negro
  • Jon's best work is when he drops the pretension and just writes about what he sees.

    I get a lot more from his articles when he doesn't try and teach me but just lets me see through his eyes.

    When are we gonna get more of his Linux travails? I'd like more of this stuff as well. I'm so deep into the geek world I'm starting to have problems explaining this stuff to my family and co-workers.

    A peek into other points of view is more valuable to us than a thousand articles telling where you think it's all going or feebly trying to stir up controversy. We do that by ourselves :) In bucket loads.

    Jon: This is the first article of your's I've read word for word since the Linux installs. More of this PLEASE.
    --
  • Try this:

    http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary

    or this:

    http://work.ucsd.edu:5141/cgi-bin/http_webster

  • ...about a book called "Running to the Mountain" then the "Running to..." article titles will likely and IMO appropriately continue.

  • by marcus ( 1916 )
    Realize that the net will keep your promises since you are the one that is in control.

    >What mass media guys are saying resemble what it
    >was said about car or computers when they were
    >first introduced.

    And the basis of some of the predictions were true. That is, they both have brought about change. Some changes were large, some small and many of the predictions were completely off base.

    I agree that the net is not over-hyped. It is self-hyped. It cannot be a victim of it's own success because you the user that made it a success is in control. It does not matter if ABC puts up a site along with PBS, NBC, et al. You don't have to visit. While the net currently has more limited bandwidth than does TV, cable, or satellite broadcast, it _does_ have a point-to-point capability and so it has a virtually unlimited range of "channels".

    Cable tv has changed broadcast tv because it offers more choices. Those that want those choices accept the opportunity, pay the price, and reap the benefits. I for one hardly ever tune in to the big three or four networks anymore(except for sports) as there is always something more interesting on cable.

    The 'net is doing the same thing for me. I don't subscribe to the local paper anymore because they have an online site, and so does the BBC, NYT, CNN, and all the other news sources as well. I don't have my choices limited by what the local news stand chooses to carry. I can make my own choices from a much wider selection.

    One reason that the 'net _will_make_major_changes_ is because the 'net is an information transport system. Everything that we do revolves around the flow and analysis of information. We select our vegetables, breads, meats and dairy products at the local grocery store based on what information about foodstuffs we have received. Buy a car, house, pc, os, soundcard, stereo, tv, lawnmower, anything you purchase you choose to do so based on information. When printed and broadcast media controlled the major information sources, you had a limited choice. Where do you go to find information on lawnmowers? A few magazines that did reports or reviews could be found in the library and that was about it. Now, you can go online and read my review of my lawnmower/car/boat/housebuilder etc and get the information first hand. This is real hard data that has come directly from someone else that has already done something that you are considering. It is not a survey, or poll with a limited set of stilted questions. There is no editor or publisher in between that can limit or modify the data. It is a one-to-one comuunications opportunity. Imagine what the telephone system would be like if you could look up and call all of the John Deere lawnmower owners in your area that were willing to talk. Heh, imagine what voice mail would be like if you didn't have to transcribe all of those phone numbers and adresses that folks leave on your machine.

    Where will your kids go to school?
    What job offer will you accept after graduation?
    Will you propose to marry this woman or that one?( hint: do a background check).
    What food will you eat?
    Which beer will you drink?
    Where to go on vacation?
    Which airline to take/hotel to rent?
    What will you do for fun this evening?
    Which concert?
    Which movie?
    Which ISP?
    Vote for which candidate?

    The more information we have available along with searching and indexing facilities, the better choices we can make about everything.
  • If you don't like his articles, go to the prefs and filter them out. But if you like the articles and not the plugs, just read around them.

    Sorry, I couldn?t help the ??s ;-)
  • Now that customizable Slashdot is here, maybe we'll see if the ability to filter by author is going to cut down on the people burning crosses on Katz's lawn (figuratively speaking...) :)

    By the way, Jon, you've got that problem again with the single quotes turning out as question marks, just in case it had escaped your notice.

    I wonder what these people who say that people will keep flocking back to them are thinking. Seems to me, like people have been abandoning old forms of media for new ones for quite a while. Newspapers for radio, radio for television, etc... While nothing ever eliminates the old forms altogether, didn't television enormously cut into radio's popularity when all things were said and done?
  • hey a quick note to let everyone know that "Running to the Mountain" is not at the Waldenbooks store at my local mall. I've gone their twice now and had them check it up; they say their getting it soon. i hope so.. i think it's a great book. ill check for it in georgia while i'm down ther next week.

    P.S. just in case you haven't noticed, the mysterous question marks have re-appeared. :)
    --
    scott miga
  • rofl.. nicely done.. english major? when i was crusing my user page, i noticed 1 reply for this comment and i had to check it out. noticing it must be an AC, i changed my filter to 0 so i can view all the lovely AC comments. your comment actually made me laugh out loud. that happens rarely. o wait, back to the point, just in case you forgot.. slashdot comments are for posting whatever the heck people want.. weather it be about sex, drugs, or rock-n-roll(woo thats a song). sorry to displace you sir(ma'm?).. but you spent more time hitting reply and typing out your well-done comment that you spent most likely reading the article. congrats! :)
    --
    scott miga
  • I think this is an excellent topic and he's done a great job at capturing alot of the fear/hatred/ignorance that many people in all forms of media today exhibit. To many media companies react to the internet by "extending" there company to have a presence. There just sticking there feet in the water to test it. Companies need to start diving in. They need to embrace this new medium of communication and make it a core part of there business. This isn't going to be an overnight process for companies, but the transitions need to begin. Those that complete it first will be in good standing against there peers & competitors. Today you have companies poping up on a daily basis, building there entire company on the Internet, ground up. You have overnight successes on a much more frequent basis, companies selling themselves out for hundreds of millions after being in business for 2 - 3 years. These events are breaking the mold. Remember that old business guideline that says it'll take 3 years before your company is profitable? Forget it... howabout "it'll take 3 years before your a millionaire..."? This isn't all about money. It's just an example and My Humble Opinion (TM on how radical the changes are that are taking place within the media industries, and business itself. No wonder all your business scholars are frightened. It's changing everything they know... or once knew.
  • Sorry Jon, normally I don't read your posts, not because I find you inane [I don't], but your subject matter doesn't really interest me all that much. This article did [interest me] however and it was OK.

    I have one major problem.... I know you are a mac user, so I won't go *too* hard on you, but is it really all that difficult to open up your article in BBEdit and force translate all of those Microsoft ISO Nonstandard single quotes to standard ISO entities that we can *all* read? C'mon man, it doesn't take a brilliant man to QA his own work.

    Let me know when you fix the problem

  • I am worried that John Katz's newly self-appointed ambassadorship to the masses for "the geeks" is not what was originally intended. Or was it?

    How about a slashdot poll? "Should John Katz be our ambassador to the masses?"

    I have not yet formulated an opinion, however the fact that the question appeared in my mind says something. There are worse choices than John, sure. AFAIK, no one better has yet appeared.
  • I agree with you 100%! Thist is seriously cool. JonKatz, you are the man!

    On a side note, isn't it interesting how different peoples opinions can be? Such as the 'luddites' from above? To us it seems like the advance of the 'net is obvious, but they can't even see it...

  • I didn't mean to imply that he had a poor grasp of the English language. I know why they're happening, but they are certainly avoidable. What I was getting at was that spelling and grammar mistakes really do bother me. I usually look the other way (depending on the writer's mastery of the language).

    I would think that someone who has a good grasp of English, such as Jon, would be equally irritated that these bothersome question marks are littered throughout his articles. I doubt that he would accept them if they always showed up in printed text that way.

    And Jon, he's right. Use vi. If you need help learning it go here [vireference.com].


  • Personally, (no offense Jon) I feel Mr. Katz doesn't quite "get it" when it comes to the geek community. Too far rooted in classical journalism, he is not willing enough to jump in headfirst. If we are to elect an ambassador, it must be someone who will speak for us because they know us, not because we're "cool."

    Oh, and it would help if he learned how to use vi as an html editor. Something must be done about those apostrophes.

  • Is anyone else reminded of Ken Kesey saying that the west coast is way ahead of the east coast, in the drug revolution, which he imagined was going to completely change the face of america? (as Jon says coming to SF from the east, people are more cluefull here).
    In Kesey's case, the west may have been ahead, but only in as much as they are always ahead in the lastest fad (which seems silly a few years down the road). I wonder if this revolution will seem similarly hollow in another decade. Will it really change the way we live, or will we merely see the same power structures we have now, slightly modified to fit on the web?
    I would like to see a change in power. E.g. the local paper is a useless conservative rag barely better than the national enquirer. I'd love to see a web alternative, but I don't see it happening. With one paper dominating & a minority of people who get news online, it looks to be a long struggle.
  • Actually, if you've been following /. recently, CmdrTaco just put in a bunch of stuff that could be considered demoronizing filters. If you don't like Katz, go to user prefs and filter him out.
  • Ironically, using either IE or Netscape on a Mac, it still does the same =)
  • Mr Katz can no longer help the fact that he's written a book, and that it has become more successful from web exposure. What he can do now is meet and talk to hundreds of people, varying from the extremely non-technical, to Slashdotters. He is now our Dan Rather, reporting to us the "net effect" of the technology that fascinates us. He is on our team. A few years ago there was a great need for someone to write an open-source unix. These days, there is a need for well-spoken, technologically-positive people to get out there and "spread the word". You may not care about Jon Katz's words, but others apparently do, and that's a very powerful opportunity (for us as well as him) that shouldn't be squandered.
  • Jon, while some of your writing is boring to me, I really enjoy most of it.

    Many of us take the internet for granted because we use it so often. Thank you for opening a window to the world of the non-email addict.

    Keep up the good work!
  • If you've followed Katz's writings online for some time, you know that he's always had a thing for geeks and their culture(s). While it is of course legitimate to be a geek who doesn't give a rat's ass about what the rest of the world thinks about geeks or hears about geeks, the fact of the matter is that it's a near miracle that a middle-aged guy in New Jersey who originally came up thru the ranks of traditional mass media journalism -- and who therefore, to an extent, has a degree of credibility "out there" -- has championed the energy and vibrance of everything from kid's rights to geek culture.

    Don't knock it. It's not about having an ambassador, it's about having a friend who can deliver a sort of "the kids are alright, leave em alone" message to the outside world.
  • It's not just the presentation of the Internet to the media "experts" that causes people to scratch their heads in wonder. Try crawling into a RBOC for a few days. There are many inside one that always see the Internet as an exploitable "product" itself, not as a new medium of expressing thought and ideas and opinions. To reuse and already overused metaphor, the Internet is the telephone of the new information age, considering it's current and probable future impact. The old media models will not fall (some people will still have to be spoon fed), but a new model has arisen. Just as the power of the television to shape thought and ideas wasn't predicted in the 50's, the old-media experts cannot understand the new digital community that has sprung up in their midst, and such dismiss it as a passing fad.

  • I'm not so sure the internet can't be a decent source of traditional news. Reuters, via Yahoo, is pretty worthwhile, as is the AP site. Both of my local papers have web sites, which are quite close to the dead tree version. I can read them at will, for free, and catch up several times a day. Also, with the proliferation of sites that would be for a much more limited audience (can we say Tom's Hardware or Blue's?) you can have what would be, in the real world, difficult to find and possibly expensive to get. Since hobbyists are far more dedicated, and focused, and don't have problems that bedevil real media types, they can do more, more often and with a better chance of success. Course, we still have crappy sites, but, on the other hand, I've wasted nothing more than time sitting on my behind while doing about six other things anyway. Vive la Net!
  • The customizable slashdot won't cut down on figurative-cross-burning. The people who flame Jon will probably continue to do so. What's new is that you now have a figurative-burning-cross-filter (unless some figurative-cross-burner has a high score, which is unlikely, but could happen). Anyway, I like the new system, but it's important to point out that nothing is banned or censored, just filtered.

    --JT
  • Listen, sure the internet is not going to do ALL the things people think it will. It will also do a lot of things we did not expect. In addition, the open ended nature of the 'net has already caused it to become completely choked with silly grabage.

    The internet will change society in a lot of ways. I am sure of this. However, it will not revolutionize mankind or take us to the next evolutionary plane of existence like some future speakers say. It is a very open medium of media that will enable common people to exchange knowledge in ways we have not been able to attempt before. It is not the wired in mode of transportation to nirvana or hell.

  • I did not imply that news is the sole purpose of the internet. I have been using the internet for many years now. I believe the internet has some potential. But I view it from a rational and analytical light, rather than this emotional bubbling that it'll end inequality and bring the world closer together. It is simply another communications medium. One that perhaps facilitates small groups and individuals to spread their word more easily. eg: Open Source hackers. I was addressing the attitude that its going to take a bat to society as we know it. You might find a few new purely internet news sites that will pop up, but I assure you that the NY times, The economist, etc will still have a healthy readership. Nor do I believe that Open Source, which is effectively spawned by the internet, will kill commercial software.

    In regards to your news habits, I'd be willing to bet that most of those news sources are all main stream or derivatives there of. eg: the AP, Reuters, etc. If not, I say your news is probably something less than reliable. Of course, that is your perogative, but it is also my right to speak my mind and address what I regard as blatant hype.
  • Exactly

  • I never said the internet is useless, merely that it is getting far more press attention then it deserves. The internet IS basically just another communications medium. Granted, it has some advantages, but it also has some draw backs. My point is not that new services won't emerge on the internet, I believe they will, but rather that day to day life and what not is not going to be changed all that much. Certainly the internet as it stands now is not all that impressive. And no, I'm not talking about bandwidth or bottlenecks, or latency, or any other physical constraints. There is something to be said for an investment of capital and time. There are millions of books and other resources that are simply not even currently accessible over the internet. Most research can not CURRENTLY be done on the internet. Unless you have an account with an expensive database service. eg: Nexis/Lexis, etc. When is the last time that you tried to get your hands on a back publication of some academic journal published in London in the 20s? There is also a problem of indexing the data. I do not believe this free for all will ever work effectively. Some entities need to put it all in one place, and index it.

    I do believe that the internet is going to open the door to many niche companies and organization. For example, a database for professionals in field X. Where you might only have 100 or 200 people in every major city who can and will afford the money to pay for access. The company can now consolidate all of their resources into one server, and give access to people all over the world. I, however, don't envision seeing this happening on a large scale for the masses unless some commercial entity or the government gets behind it. Imagine the entire library of congress digitized? This, however, is only what the internet physically is capable of. It is not what it currently is right now. Which is a free for all.

    I do not envision the internet entirely replacing today's book store, library, magazine, grocery store, etc in its current state. More likely you're going to see existing chains and companies simply expanding their operations more onto the internet. My problem is not that I think the internet lacks potential. My beef is that those who speak of it in the most glowing terms are usually the least knowlegable. When they describe its future, they point to all the wrong reasons. eg: Everyone in the world can communicate with everyone, yadda yadda yadda. While this may be a strength in some aspects, its a major failing in others.
  • I see the internet more in terms of creating new forms of commerce and communication, rather than merely destroying or shifting previously existing entities. Granted, some things will get steam rollered. Such as standard snail mail, but this is already happening. I also can't envision the masses reading electronic novels in front of their computer screens. Hopefully, we'll have electronic reusable paper soon.

    While I think mp3 and the internet distribution might do those lucky few some good, I still hardly imagine is being brought down to the average users level. While it may now be technically feasible to distribute your music/word/etc to the world now, there is still the issue of attracting your audience and marketing. It would be nice to see music dropping in price, but even there someone will find a way to get the lions share of the profits. At least with Popular music. The billboard charts and MTV play a huge role in capturing the limelight. Not that i'm a fan of either, but thats just how it is. I can easily envision truely small time bands scratching their way to the top on some sort of 'community supported' web site, such as slashdot. There they would rate and distribute music samples of various artists in a given genre. I'd hazard a guess, but i'd say this would probably cut out the middlemen and agents. The top dogs will still probably keep most of their cut, and if not them, then someone else.

  • How many times do I need to say this?

    The internet IS overhyped by the mass media beyond that which it is capable of. That is my basic point.

    As to the other issues, while some things may be technically feasible and while they may indeed be growing there are other limiting factors. I can see something as an internet grocer for example making off like gang busters. If done properly. But if you've ever studied marketing, you'd know that the vast majority of purchases are made on impulse. The internet simply lacks many of these impulses. So yes, I can see a busy upper middle class family making use of a grocer. In order to have certain staples delivered on a regular and scheduled basis. eg: milk, toilet paper, etc. But I don't see people taking much to the idea of buying fresh produce and a good steak online.

    My main beef with Katz is his suggestion that ol school journalism and what not is going to die. While it may supplant the likes of USA today or people magazine, I can't imagine it ever replacing good solid journalism that you see in the Economist or in the New York Times. It may be that the printed magazine goes out of Vogue, and they make ultimately take to the internet, but I don't buy the fact that people are going to start reading from some communal online magazine. I get the impression that Katz pulls most of these out of his ass. He is at the very least lacking in argument. The fact that some lady with far too much time on her hands generates happy joy messages and distributes them to thousands of users over the internet does nothing to further his statement.


  • It is not that I think it is impossible to find any good writing on the web, I just think you are less likely. How is one to discern good journalism from the bad on an 'open' forum? Would you really trust someone on slashdot if they told you that Intel was going to file chapter 11 in the next year, unless they could back it up with a RESPECTABLE url? Honestly? I also think the concept of an editor is still a valid one. While some may find it appealing to hear from just anyone, I'd rather hear from someone who actually knows what they're talking about. And what about research? While I'm sure a few niche magazines may thrive on an internet forum, I don't think these will detract from old school magazines. While it is possible that the transition from paper to electronic news may introduce some new blood, I believe that it'll eventually set up again. What you'll be left with is a few respectable internet news sites, which are essentially 'elitist' and unreachable by 'the people'. Those who enjoy the tabloids other sites


    As for the likes of Wired.com, I've had personal run-ins with them before, and I'm none too impressed with their journalistic skills. Their writing is none too impressive, it certainly offers nothing new, and their researching and checking of sources leaves alot to be desired. They'll print just about anything. When I saw the number of blatant factual errors in a few articles that I had first hand knowledge of, I swore off wired forever.

    All the rainbow story served to illustrate was one characteristic of the internet, not a reason why mainstream journalists should feel threatened.
  • by FallLine ( 12211 ) <fallline&operamail,com> on Wednesday March 24, 1999 @04:13AM (#1965449)


    The internet is far too over-rated for my taste. It may bring some new things into existence, but to say that it'll neccessarily alter other aspects of life is foolish. Do people really need interactive TV? TV on demand sure, but you don't need the internet for that. Does the internet obliterate the need for proper grammer and good journalism? I think not. Wired.com, nor slashdot, nor any other strictly internet source even comes close to providing the 'news' that I need. While the internet has most definetly facilitated open source growth, I don't believe that it is going to surplant commercial/propietary software and time soon. I wish people would re-evaluate the internet, and challenge these future seers assertions. Just my .02 ;)
  • Well, in fact, I share some of the points of view with Jon. What mass media guys are saying resemble what it was said about car or computers when they were first introduced.
    Furthermore, I don't think that The Net is over-hyped. However, the problem I see ( and not such an original topic ) is: Would the net scale up? I'm not talking about hardware supporting the net ( anyway I would end eating my own words like Bob Metcalfe ). The point is whether the Net would become unusable victim of its own success or not.
    I'm not the first to realize that search engines aren't able to cop with the big volumes of crap in the web ( well, in fact the user of those engines is the one having to extract some info from the pile of garbage brought to him/her in response of a request ). Ditto for news websites, etc.
    Maybe the answer is putting inteligence in the Net. Or that might just happen, whether we want it or not, but not in a planned way. Who knows?
  • Putting intelligence into the net is a misguided idea. We don't need smarter computers, we need smarter people.

    We, as a society, need skills for coping with the defining malaise of our time - "information overload." Naturally enough, hackers are some of the best equipped people for dealing with this. We know how to filter and parse information, how to find that one piece of documentation buried in an obsure man page or source file that will answer our question and perhaps lead us to some new bit of knowledge we didn't even know we were looking for. This skill applies directly to finding information on the net. The fact that people who are not hackers by disposition also require these skills is worth some attention.

    People with the ability to find what they are looking for (and what they didn't know they were looking for) without resorting to puerile advertisement-saturated portal sites are the people who are truly taking advantage of this amazing technology. These information filtering skills are valuable today, and will only become more valuable with time.

    It seems obvious that life on this planet is going to become more and more intensely information-saturated, and people lacking the ability to constructively deal with this flood of information will be left behind, shaking their fists at high technology and pining for the day when everyone else was equally ignorant.
  • I think the original poster was referring to news services that are purely web-based, as opposed to those "traditional media" services (like the Reuters and AP sites you mention) that also publish to the internet. Some internet news services, particularly those dealing with technical matters, may provide better coverage of specific, focused areas. However, I have yet to see a decent general news site that was not a counterpart to a print, TV, or wire media operation.
  • "Should John Katz be our ambassador to the masses?"

    Our only ambassador? Of course not; just as neither RMS nor ESR nor TO'R should be the only ambassador to what "free" or "Open Source" software is.

    Still, if there are guys saying, "This 'Web' thing won't last; eyeballs will return from the Net to TV and newspapers," John is participating in a necessary dialog. Sounds like he's not doing too bad a job.

  • Well, aside from the standard hatred of "?" marks instead of apostrophes, I must say I liked the article. No real constructive comments or criticisms here; merely general liking. :-)
    --
    Aron Burrell - ronnie@cflug.geeksanon.ab.ca
  • Okay, if you want, send flames -- I like reading Katz.

    If you've never been in a room with traditional media types, some of this message won't be as funny, but for me his description of the slack jawed or angry response was right on the numbers. I recently heard about a media campaign (targeted at college students) where the "do it by the numbers" media group spent about $100K in advertising and got just seven "form submit" responses. The same company placed about $10K with a smaller Internet marketing firm and got a huge hit count and about 100X as many responses. Really pissed off a few non-'Net guys in suits, let me tell you.

    Anyway, some complain that Jon gets kind of long winded sometimes. I say let him -- he's out there telling the rest of the world that this revolution is not only coming, it is here and it is fun.

  • Thank you for backing me up and ditto all the way about the computer as an extension of the brain... I started thinking the other day about how protective I am of my computer because it has all the important stuff in it that won't fit into my (absent-minded) head! People who are truly comfortable with computers start to think of them as extensions of their native faculties. Even those of us with really, really crappy dial-up service rather than the fast connection we would like to be able to afford. :)
  • I'm very amused by your comments - all of them. Okay, point by point:

    Like I said, I don't have much use for mainstream press. It makes very good sense to me indeed that they would dwell on the Internet because the Internet provides the same kinds of information they do about a million times better. They *should* be worried!

    In what way is the Internet unimpressive? People have unprecedented opportunity to influence and comment on media. If you need to access an expert in any field under the sun, in minutes you can find one to email directly, even people who are famous authorities in their fields. Hop over to eBay and find any gadget, doodad, or piece of crap that was ever made and have it delivered to your doorstep from anywhere in the world. Amazon is the third largest bookseller in the US and doesn't have a single strip mall facade. All this, the whole phenomenon of the web, has happened *basically* over the course of the last five years. Call me a rube, but I'm impressed as hell.

    Looking for obscure publications? I do all the time. On eBay and about a billion used and rare book sites. I've bought rare books and magazines that make me tremble with excitement to hold in my hands - for mere dollars - things I'd been seeking for years that weren't in any library I'd ever been to. More digitized texts become available daily and it is likely a matter of time before the sorts of information provided now by Lexis/Nexis will be freely available - Universities have always been a key component of the Internet. The future of the Internet is *not* going to lie heavily in paid content; only pornography is currently getting anywhere with that model. Information *does* want to be free (even computers want to be free appearantly, if you take the "free PC" thing halfway seriously).

    Of course brick and mortar stores aren't gonna be completely supplanted by virtual ones. But a significant segment of the population is already buying books online, and that is surely the future of catalog sales, which in the late 19th century also changed the face of consumerism at a time when not everyone had access to a wide variety of goods for sale locally. The Sears Roebuck catalog sold everything from buggies to cans of stewed tomatoes. Take a look at the web today and it's a weird kind of deja vous to see people buying automobiles at Carpoint and... well, cans of stewed tomatoes at Peapod. Even though these things can be bought locally, purchasing them from one's living room is even more local and that convenience can be priceless in a hectic modern life.

    As to the rest, you're full of crap.
  • Will you marry me, Moofie? ;-)
  • I've said my piece on the hype issue and if you don't get it that's okay with me. The one further comment I will make is that you seem to be deriding the Internet for not matching the rather odd picture painted of it by Old Media pundits who don't necessarily know what they're talking about.

    I don't think it is exactly a drawback to the Internet that somethings are best purchased in person. One would hope that it is still necessary or at least desirable to leave the computer desk occasionally.

    I'm not sure why you don't feel it would be possible for the same sorts of writers to write the same sorts of good solid stories for an online publication as for print media. I have read some wonderful stuff on the web - Salon is a fave of mine and there are a myriad of smaller, generally more specialized zines which are also good. There has always been the complaint that "people don't read on the web!" but I think that is becoming much less true - people are learning to. I for one read voraciously on the web. Gradually there will be more major, top-quality webzines. Plenty of print mags have their content available online for *free* - many of them may simply port their print publications onto the web. But focusing excessively on zines - a format which makes a conscious point of mimicking a revered and successful form of Old Media - tears away at the potenial of the web. It is *not necessary* to get all one's information from one site. That's why your vision of a "communal online magazine" is so outrageous - why would any two people read the same thing when they have almost an infinity of choices? A lot of online publications (notably Wired News) even go so far as to trade links to articles from other publications, underlining the choices available. While many companies entering the online market from traditional media (mark Disney's behemoth go.com, with nearly no outlinking) are paranoid about allowing visitors, once arrived, to leave the site - this is antithetical to the whole idea of the world wide web.

    Katz's example of the rainbow love beam lady was effective exactly because the site itself is so charmingly pointless. Witness the miracle of self-publication: give the world something mass media never would, and they will come. An untapped niche market for rainbow love beams, if you will. :)
  • Urrrrgh. I hate people like this. How did this moron find his way to Slashdot? What pisses me off about people who like to trivialize the Internet is thest they NEVER know what they are talking about.

    And re: news, which FallLine is tacitly assuming to be the main function of the Internet, I have gotten all mine from the Web for the past two years. I have no clue what he is talking about. Not only is there exponentially more information than I could ever hope to get from traditional media sources, I can get it when I want it, how I want it, and in as much or little depth as I desire. I make a daily circuit on the web actively gleaning information relevant to me from various sites. This may include not only tertiary sources but primary and secondary ones as well. I can get all the news I need in a liberal tone far more palatable to me than any traditional media. The only thing I can figure about people like FallLine is that they actually like being spoon-fed bite-sized morsels of information at regular intervals by an attractive and well-dressed robot who enunciates very clearly. Which brings me to *my* take on the real functions of the Internet and the differences between it and traditional media, which are to facilitate intellectual participation in information rather than acceptance of it "as-found" - communication with text - and of course interpersonal communication.

    Sound about right, Katz?
  • I do think you imply in your first post that news is the most significant purpose of the Internet, or perhaps the most useful one. And I'm not sure I see what argument you're making with your "simply another communications medium" comment - implying perhaps that all communications media are created equal and this one is not especially differentiated from the others. I think that's a disingenuous assumption. The Internet is more versatile and far-reaching than any communications technology that has come before in terms of the types of information it can deliver and to whom, far more so than print media, radio, or TV. That's a pretty solid fact. And as I was saying, the ways people interact with the information on the Internet differ significantly from the ways people interact with "old media" - they have the option of either saying "uh-huh" or changing the station or channel or turning the page. Allow me to illustrate. Perhaps you and I both watched the Academy Awards on Sunday. Perhaps you got fed up with the ebulient Roberto Benigni about the time he was climbing over people to get his statue for Best Foreign Film and flipped over to CNN. Perhaps I got a kick out of him and stayed to watch the whole show. That's about the sum of the comment we can make on the Academy awards. No one asks us whether we think Roberto Benigni deserves an award, or whether Whoopie looks good in feathers. Then, this morning you and I both read an article by someone named Jon Katz. You disagreed with its premise - then instead of leaving you said so. Not to youself, but to hundreds, maybe thousands of people who will see your comment. Probably the author himself will see it. I saw it. Now, I have been following Jon Katz around the web for some time now and am rather fond of the guy, I've even emailed him a couple times (try emailing Whoopie). I wanted to respond to the article too, in support of it, and did so by flaming you. So a conversation started. Every damn person that reads the original article can read what we have to say about it if they so desire. Try getting yourself as big a potential audience as the emcee at the Academy Awards. You don't think that changes anything? Some people argue that it doesn't really because Katz's article is still at the top of the page. Well, do what so many other people have done - make your own page. The personal website is not dead, and those which have had some effort put into them and provide content people want to look at can get some pretty respectable hit counts. Regarding the personal site, unquestionably the web has become more commercialized and centered around corporate mega-sites (go.com anyone?) but the fact that people *can* publish pictures of their cat to the entire world ensures without any reasonable doubt that they *will.* And by golly other cat lovers will surf in and coo at how cute Fluffy is.
    Back to news again, you're still looking at it from an extremely narrow angle. Let me explain again. Perhaps I am getting some of the same AP newsfeed you are, but from there I can go to any of a million supplementary sources and take my understanding of that piece of news in any direction I want. *I* control the way I experience it. The way to use the Internet effectively to acquire information is not to visit one site, but to travel, to surf. Wired News (not actually a general news publication BTW, but focused on particular types of news) may give you an article summarizing an issue, then give direct links to company websites, etc. where in many cases the ordinary reader can get further information straight from the horse's mouth - from the newsmakers.
  • Intelligence is definately the way to go. I know a number of people are working on more intelligent search engines (including me). The problem is that we are a long way from a perfect seach engine which would require that the engine actually understand the text on the pages. I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for this to happen. We can, however, do a much better job than current search engines by looking at phrases and attempting to cluster the results more effectively. By using the results of previous searches, ie. two words frequently searched together become linked, data clustering may become very effective. Primitive techniques like this are already in effect. It will be very interesting to see how well all this stuff works out in the next year or so.

    Right now, one of the major problems is sheer scale. Clustering techniques work great for smaller document collections but the sheer volume of the web makes things ugly. Another major problem is preventing "spamming" the engine. Since we are not yet ready to test our engine, we have no idea how bad this will be.

    Anyway, I think search techniques will greatly improve over the next few years. This may have the potential to help the web scale more successfully.

    Sam Mulder
  • This is very strange... I'm running MSIE (at work; no choice) on a Windows box with MS' "embraced and extended" character set-thingie, and I'm still getting the ?'s instead of ''s...

    I'm beginning to think it's a different problem this time, although I can't imagine what...
    --
    - Sean
  • You misspelled "grammar."

    Nitpicking aside, no the net doesn't obliterate the need for proper grammar and good journalism. But who's to say it can't also deliver them? Okay, most journalism these days sucks, but I don't think the web variety is any worse off than traditional media in that regard.

    I get most of my news these days from mailing lists (no, News of the Weird doesn't count ;) and various news pages. I'd agree that /. and Wired don't cut it, but I really don't think they claim to. They are both very limited in focus, do what they do well, and don't try to be anything different.

    I really don't have a need to watch the evening news, since anything they say I've usually already heard about and read up on excessively. That, and the evening news is on at the same time as "The Simpsons." ;)

    I do still watch the nightly news, and I catch news on the radio on my way in to work. So yes, the more traditional media are still quite useful (until we get an affordable technology that lets me log in from my car and have CNN read to me while I drive), and aren't in any grave danger of becoming extinct yet. But I would believe that fewer and fewer people are relying on them as their primary sources of information.

    Just my 2 worth. Or it might be a plugged nickel.

    --
  • Cliff Stoll wrote a book by that name a while ago... basically bemoaning the fact that the Net had taken over his life, and that it wasn't all it's cracked up to be.

    The truth is somewhere between Stoll and Katz.

    The problem is there's a fine line between using the net as a tool for expanding your horizons and using it to escape reality. Jon seems to be treading the hairy edge, where Cliff found himself way over the line and scrambled back over the precipice, as it were...

    I've been on the Net in some form since '86, and I've seen a lot of stuff. I've flown 2500 miles just to meet folk face to face, and discovered folk right under my nose, including my lady wife. But I haven't forgotten what camping and hugs and just getting out of the house are like. I keep up with my brother in law on the net... the same one who taught me the simple peace of fishing last summer. The point is here there's a balance between hours spent on the keyboard, and hours with *somebody*. The suits haven't figured out how to do the former, and the supergeeks are missing out on the latter.

    Ah, well, c'est la guerre...
  • Ah. Let me see if I'm following your reasoning.

    Posit: The only reliable news sources are "main strem"
    Posit: "Main stream" news sources are available in fora other than the internet

    Conclusion: The internet is completely useless and overhyped.

    Wow. You're really really wrong. Whether the Internet (is this supposed to be capitalized? I could go to an online style guide if I was feeling compulsive) generates radically new forms of information exchange (other than the text that I use to great effect almost constantly) has little or nothing to do with the Internet's utility. The internet is my only source of news, because I like having the power to browse and pursue topics in as much or as little detail as I like. This luxury is not currently afforded by any other news medium.

    Now, on to what I REALLY use the internet for. Specifically, learning stuff. I read a LOT. The Internet allows me access to a really incomprehensibly big encyclopedia about anything I want to learn about. Why the hell would I want to waste my time watching CNN (or reading on their web site) about where the President puts his ding ding if I can read about how to raise octopi (or whatever interesting topic has caught my attention)? On-demand information retrieval is a Good Thing, and it's something interactive TV is simply never (in the forseeable future) going to be able to provide in any depth.

    That in and of itself would be a "killer app", but I also use the Internet to keep in closer touch with family and friends. Geography is becoming less and less a factor in maintaining interpersonal relationships, and I think that's just ducky.

    If you don't like the Internet, and don't think it's useful, that's certainly your prerogative. I think I'll keep using it all the same.
  • I disagree. I'm not overloaded by information. I can almost always find exactly the datum I want. The Internet's not more difficult to use than a big research library, and it's WAY more accessible. Is this going to get better? Yes. The way it's going to get better is to make the threshold for getting intelligent search results lower. If somebody won't obtain these skills, they're going to have a hell of a time competing, especially when I have a terminal on my wrist that I can use to obtain any useful fact I might need. (I REFUSE to believe that anybody who can read "can't" learn to use the Internet) The Internet is in many ways a swap-file for my brain, and it's going to get faster and more efficient every year. Is it going to be full of dreck too? Of course. But it's not difficult for me to recognize the wheat from the chaff.


    What else are you going to do? Make everybody who wants to use the net take a class and get a license?
  • There are a lot of things that get more press attention than they deserve (like, for instance, the goings-on in the President's trousers). That's a problem with the PRESS (and another reason I don't agree with your assesment of main stream media outlets being the only reliable ones...partly because they're neither only, nor reliable), not with its subject matter.

    You're right. Five years after the popular growth of the Internet started, it hasn't demolished all other information retrieval mechanisms (we can debate chronology of the Internet all night, but let's accept this as a not-awful starting point). However, it has made SUBSTANTIAL inroads in the traditional media worlds. Just look at the furor over MP3's as an example. Is this irrelevant? Don't you think that it's pretty darn amazing to look at what the Internet HAS accomplished? Look at this discussion we're having here. It simply isn't possible to have this sort of interaction in the conventional media. "Just another communications medium"? Sure, in the same sense that a nuclear aircraft carrier is just another boat. What else should it be? The Internet allows information to be transmitted from one place to another. The critical difference between the Internet and other media is its accessibility. I can buy a $500 dollar box that allows me access to a staggering amount of information, AND LET ME SHARE MY OWN AS WELL. I can't make a TV news program for $500. Hell, I probably can't keep Peter Jenkins in hair gel for a year for $500. Cable access is well and good, and I'd probably use it if I could get the data I wanted when I wanted it. Every time I turn it on, though, some nutcase from a commune is talking about comparitive pharmacology.

    I think that the Internet's great strength is that it IS a free for all. Key words: "free" and "all". The Library of Congress WILL be digitized, probably within 15 years or so. OCR technology is going to make it silly NOT to digitize every piece of paper than one can lay one's hands on. The only problem TODAY is that it is hard to quickly, cheaply, and non-destructively transcribe dead-tree-ware to electronic formats. I LIVE for the day that I can scan my Wall O' Books into my computer, and access 'em all from a portable, backlit, waterproof tablet. Is it a revolution? Depends on your criteria. It is THE medium for the next century, just as the printed word has been THE medium of the previous millenium. We just haven't quite figured it out yet. I absolutely believe that the Internet is a Gutenberg-level change in the way information is disseminated.
  • You said:
    The internet IS overhyped by the mass media beyond that which it is capable of. That is my basic point.

    I say:

    True statement. That is indicative of the fundamental problem with modern journalism. Flash and hype, with no analysis and substance. I DEFINITELY get better-researched information about cars and bicycles and computers (the three things I've taken the time to learn about on the Internet) than I get in Bicycling, Car and Driver, or any of the paper PC rags. I'd rather go into a forum and DISCUSS politics or economics or philosophy than read what some talking head in The Economist has to say. So much better if said talking head participates in the discussion, as they probably know a hell of a lot more than I do. Nevertheless, for ME, the interactivity is worth more than the expertise.

    New medium for commerce and communication? What else has it been billed as? It's not going to feed the hungry or stop warfare (whether the community enabled by the technology does these things or not is yet to be seen, but I frankly wouldn't be surprised), but it WILL bring about fundamental changes in the way we deal with information.

    Your point about online groceries is an interesting one. Impulse buys are absolutely a factor. Don't you think that my grocery store would like to be able to capture my "DAMN! I need to remember to stop by the store and get toilet paper" impulse AT THE MOMENT I HAVE IT, rather than hoping that I remember what I came to the store for? I'd LOVE to be able to have an account with my grocery store, where every time I remember something I need, I can email them and add it to my list. Maybe I'll tell them that "I'll be by at 6:00 tonight to pick it up, would you mind having it all ready to go?" I'd pay $10/month for that, no questions asked. Is that not a Good Thing? I'd MUCH rather do that than spend an hour trekking up and down the ailes, trying to find coriander. This WILL impact my buying habits, and those of the younger generation of humans. Marketing models based upon the buying of habits of baby boomers WILL BREAK DOWN. I don't have an MBA, but you can take that to the bank.
  • No, but I'm glad somebody liked it. Can't get me no love from the moderators. : )
  • You're not seriously telling me that modern edited journalism is objective and accurate, are you? I have insufficient expertise in the fields of political science and economics to do a point-by-point rebuttal of a Wall Street Journal article, but I know they don't know SHIT about technology. The point is, if they purport to be accurate about one thing, and they are demonstrably incorrect, why should I believe them about anything else? Mainstream media's problem is that I, and many people like me, simply don't believe the crap that they're shoveling anymore.

    Wired is fluff. NYTimes is fluff. Newsweek is fluff. Time is fluff. WSJ is fluff with stock quotes (which are their own variety of scary bad juju). Every once in a great while, I come across an interesting, insightful article in one of these publications. Most of the time, it's dreck. I'd MUCH rather have a discussion with somebody else on current events than to hear about 'em from Ted Koppel. We'll BOTH learn more, and I don't have to look at Ted's creepy toupee.
  • I've never been an avid JonKatz hater, but I've also found most of his work to be a little self-serving, and usually way too fanciful.

    This article struck me as thoughtful and insightful, and it was a pleasure to read. Like another reader mentioned, this is one of the first JonKatz articles I've read all the way through, and stayed interested.

    I think Katz represents a small but vital portion of the media that wants to understand and embrace the so-called "new media." While sometimes his efforts are awkward and even poorly expressed, he is showing a real affinity for this medium, and I think there's more than enough room for his vision of the future.

    So keep it up, Jon! Continue to preach to the masses as well as the converted (if only so we can keep you grounded in reality once in a while!). And just so the message doesn't get lost in all this criticism, let me say again that I thought the article was excellent.

    -zack

  • check out this link luddite def [ucsd.edu]
  • Well, after reading the article above and the resulting semi-flames, I figure it'd be pretty interesting to see Mr.Katz speak/read from his book/whatever.
    He name-dropped both San Fransisco and Seattle, cities that I will both be in this week. However, Mr. Katz did not mention when and where he will be in these cities.
    Does anyone have this information? (or did I just miss it?)

    - FR

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