A List Apart (always worth reading -- if you've never been there, make sure you check out the Top 20) has put up another rant about the sorry state of the web:

Bob Jacobson wades in with this basic point: Dot coms have overwhelmed the search engines and the web.

And they've overwhelmed bookmarking, and the idea of digital community, and ... and I got to the bottom of the page and was surprised to not find a MORE button. That's it? Okay... I'd hoped for a little more than a quick statement of a problem. Especially since his bio says he is author of Information Design, and is now "Culture Champion" at David Siegel's new outfit.

(I love David: he is never dull. Culture Champion. Wow. I guess now that Information Architect is getting common, we had to come up with a new Mystery Title. Makes me think of yogurt and the wearing of wrestling masks. I wonder if he meant that?)

Being neither Information Architect nor Culture Champion, I will extend a couple of points.

First, I'm glad the net is hitting unmanageable overload. See that mouse beside your keyboard? Why is it there? Because Doug Englebart read an article by Vannevar Bush and decided to commit his life to making the world better.

In 1946 the world was already suffering because there were no tools to deal with information overload. To put it in an acorn, the world's problems were too big to manage with the tools we had. We fought a bloody, high-tech, world war because we could not figure out any other way to solve our problems. Engelbart took Bush's work and set out to turn technology to manage massive amounts of information so we could think our way through things.

That mouse is part of a much bigger idea than click-thru to make an e-purchase.

So let the net jam right up. If enough monkeys have their hand caught in a jug because they won't let go of the banana, then we might get one or two who'll think up better ways to get the banana out. Being civilized monkeys, we'll reward the smarter monkeys for sharing these new tricks, and this will encourage smart monkey tricks in general.

I may sound a little harsh in tone about the intelligence and motives of my fellow monkeys, but, really, if we were more together, Engelbart would not be a virtual unknown and a lot of people would be putting in long hours on the projects he started. And for better reason than click-through. But we're not more together. So I think it's great that the banana is stuck in the web because some serious effort will be put into building tools that will extend Engelbart's ideas. I don't care that it happens semi-accidentally. Me brushing my teeth on early mornings without putting an eye out is more luck than skill. I admit that. I'll take all the happy accidents I can get.

Another thing I keep thinking about with the sheer size of the web and the tininess of any access point like my computer or my eyeballs, is astrophysics. Astrophysicists have mapped similarly enormous amounts of space in great detail from our infinitesimal dust ball. They have developed remarkable tools to be able to do this. Can we adapt some of these tools -- these systems, these ways of thinking -- to deal with the enormity of the ever-expanding web? It seems to me there's a rich resource here, if someone can think of how to access it. (Talking to a computer geek pales compared to talking to an astrophysicist.) So I say to heck with the Information Architects -- bring me the Information Astrophysicist. How about it, David?

This site is strictly personal. I give no guarantee to the accuracy of my facts or my fictions.
© 2000 Owen Briggs
last modified on 05 May 2000