John Wunderlich's Web Log
Tuesday, August 28, 2001

Site Move

After a break, the blog continues at my home page

Welcome to the machine!

Had my first encounter with the rest of the entering class for my MBA program. What a diverse crew! The next few years promise to be very interesting....and challenging.

Wednesday, August 22, 2001


If epistemology is the study of how we know what we know, then maybe wepistemology is the study of how we know what we know on the web. A recent story about a failed class action law suit may be of some interest here. Someone was silly enough to listen to a stock analyst during the dot boom, and was upset that they didn't get rich. Boo hoo.As a result of the dot bust, they sued the analysts that they listened to, trying to get rich by speculating on the market.

I particularly liked some of the judge's comments,

A collection of market gossip pervades the endless stream of news organization tidbits which are spread throughout [the suits]. Generally, these are expectable comments of the gamblers in the world's gaming pits depending on the season. They come during the inevitable sequel after market boom periods. Opinions turned sour by uncontrollable tidal waves of the economic cycle are substituted for considered standards of conduct.

It's way easy to fall into the second rate critic role, and just start lambasting everyone in sight. How stupid is the investor? What kind of slime worm lawyer sues over this kind of crap? Hell, the analyst in question was probably in someone's pocket all along. I'd rather not go there. The fact of the matter is that people like to work and act together. We are not sheep. We are social animals. No amount of invective, propoganda or surveys are going to change that fundamental fact of human nature.

Almonst invariably people will talk positively about a community saying, "everyone looks after one another here". Go track the hacker boards for a cyber equivalent. So what happens when social animals - that's you and me, get together in a fundamentally anti-social mileau - the stock market and most corporations? Look around you and you can answer for yourself.

Modern myths:

  • The stock market is a rational place.
  • You can get ahead solely by hard work and diligence
  • If you are wronged, a lawsuit will help

The people that launched the lawsuit against the wall street analysts can be excused for thinking that they had a case. The analyst, being a good social animal went along with the other analysts. Trite undertoned phrases about past performance not predicting the future were almost immediately contradicted by glowing reviews of companies and stocks that made sense only in the social context in which they operated....certainly in no broader economic or business sense.

The investors, following the rituals and taboos of their social grouping, really had no alternative to shuffle off behind the analysts and shovel as much money as they possibly could into the dot boom. There were feeding the myth by which they built their own dreams. It's so human as to be trite.

Along comes the bust. All the analysts, pundits and talking heads smugly spout about cycle, soft/hard landings, indicators and recovery. Have you ever been snorkeling or watched a nature show with shots of the schools of fish on a coral reef? Have you ever wondered how they could communicate with each other so well as to turn simultaneously without any apparent difficulty. The Wall Street analyst crowd could probably tell you.

How do we know what we know on the web? Look to the Judas Goat media, leading us to the slaughter. If you want to live, start listening around you instead. Blogs are part of the answer, unbiased search engines help, but most of all you can help yourself by casting off the broadcast mentality and realize that information is not given to you, but is something that you have to interact with. When you start doing that, then you will know how you know what you know.

Monday, August 20, 2001
Just took a look at the TAO site. Whole lot of talking going on there to.

Sunday, August 19, 2001
Spent a chunk of today, working on my own web site. It isn't overly fancy, but I needed a place holder for my C.V. and to be able to point people at. Took me a couple of hours with an HTML editor from evrsoft. Freeware on the web, and I like it. For site authoring, NetObjects kicks butt, but it's overkill for a simple site like mine.

Further on the God is an Iron topic. I brought up an old 19" T.V. from storage, since the big iron was being silent. The next day, that would be today, when a friend comes over and we're catching up on the Sopranos, I sit on the couch, and a nail pulls out. Clearly, a higher power does not want me watching T.V.......Cool!

Saturday, August 18, 2001
Just gave someone a blast on the cluetrain list. What is it about the whole educational system that just sends me around the bend?

Thursday, August 16, 2001
In the immortal words of Roger Zelazny, "God is an iron". After two and a half months without T.V. we purchased a satellite (see blog from 3 days ago). Today the sound on the TV disappeared. Do you hear the muses laughing?

Concurrent DOS....Amiga....BeOS

or the continuing triumph of marketing over technology

I remember running Concurrent DOS on an 8086 (no stinking 8088 for me!). I actually had access to a machine with a CGA adaptor, 128k of memory, PLUS a real Winchester drive. This was cutting edge stuff. At one point I remember having four windows open (text windows, not graphical) with WordStar, dBase II, VisiCalc and a command prompt. It was overwhelming. The fate of the invinciple companies involved...Digital Research, WordStar, Ashton-Tate, and VisiCalc might, by some, be taken to be an indicator that Microsoft's current position is temporary.

Skip forward a few years, and share my excitement over the Amiga, now reborn as a variant of Linux. I was selling and using the Commodore 64, a computer I maintain to this day was the ideal home machine. It hooked up to your TV. It allowed you to run 'real' software for word processing or simple flat file databases. It had a cartridge slot for games. It was affordable. Then came the Amiga. Along with all the neat stuff from the 64, you now had a serious amount of processing power and a desktop metaphor OS. Atari ST's were also running a graphics desktop called GEM. Guess what? We were told that business was serious stuff and the green/amber monochrome IBM PC screen was appropriate for business. Who would ever want graphics capability in a 'serious machine'?

Now, today BeOS is being folded into Palm. Don't get me wrong. I like PDA's and had a lot of use out of my Palm Vx. But the BeOS, was another seriously capable AND COOL OS that ran on way fewer resources than it's competion. I'd love to see a WinCE killer in a BePDA. But the fact of the matter is that another one has bitten the dust. For more links on this check out Dave Winer's page on this topic. Links can be found at http://scriptingnews.userland.com/backissues/2001/08/16.

According to Doc, Be failed because of its silence. It's an open source - proprietary source thing. While there may be some truth in that, I think that the pattern is pretty clear. Microsoft's marketing department plays to win, and usually does. One is tempted to see a parallels between this and the kind of politicians we have. We have a theoretical democracy and a theoretical free market, but the voters/buyers are cajoled, bribed, browbeaten, intimidated, marketed, polled into perceiving choices in order to provide a win-win for the status quo.

It raises questions that need to be answered by the Gonzo marketeers and cluetrainistas, if we are to take seriously the possibility of fundamental change in the structuring of the markets that we inhabit.

Tuesday, August 14, 2001
Conversations, Voice and transition

When I first read the cluetrain manifesto, I think that the first thesis, "Markets are conversations" hit me between the eyes. Maybe that's because of where I came from. Whenever someone did something particularly heinous and I called them on it, they would just shrug and say, "business is business". I found that screaming, "BULLSHIT, MOTHERFUCKER!" was a counterproductive response, no matter how instinctively correct it felt.

I finally stumbled across this response. When someone told me, "What the hell, business is business." my new response was, "No...business is people." It's as offensively trite as business is business but it doesn't allow people to depersonalize their actions, in much the same way that, 'markets are conversations' takes on marketing.

Some of this people on the cluetrain list have been talking about voice and how to recognize an authentic voice in the market. Some have recommended Gonzo, but I'm here to tell you that writing Gonzo is bloody hard work. The apparently careless frothings of an Hunter S. or rageboy are the product of some serious skull sweat [and tequila].

Listen carefully. The voice you hear from the corporation may well be an authentic human voice. Human's can talk themselves into the most amazing belief systems. As I read this list, I'm starting to think that what we're really after is a voice that cares for the individual. That's what we're not getting...

As Christopher Locke says,

"Do you feel all warm and fuzzy inside when you get e-mail addressed 'Dear Bill’ or 'Dear Mary?’ Assuming, of course, that one of those is actually your name. (Not taking anything for granted here. This is the remedial paragraph.) Do you feel that the company thus addressing you understands you and is therefore in a better position to serve your deepest and most existential consumer whims? If so -- and I'd really like to be more gentle about this, believe me, but -- you are a fool." .... http://www.gonzomarkets.com/excerpts.html

You don't have to get people to lie for you. You just have to hire people that think the way that you want them to think. Just look at what passes for analysis at most newspapers. What this got to do with anything?

The end of the markets are conversations rap is that there is going to be a transition from here to there. Where there is is being shaped by the conversations that we are having, and by the nature of the power structures that are being changed. Cluetrainistas talk about how the conversations between the 'producers' and 'consumers' are going to change from one way to two way conversations.

Doing thinks over again and expecting the results to be different is a pretty good working definition of insanity.

Corporations answer to boards. Board protect their stock options, and 'shareholder value'. You can't just waive a magic wand and say, "Please redefine shareholder value to include these other things" Yes networking and communications are going to change things, but the fundamentals will still apply. To change the conversation, we need some new voices in the market.

Here's the question I've been leading up to. We already have the voice of the corporation. We are hearing our own voices, the voice of the 'consumer' for want of a better word. I'm thinking that there are at least two voices missing, neither of which participate in the markets of which we speak, but both of which we need to hear for the market to be fully human.

What about the people that aren't in OUR market, except by proxy. Open your computer. Look at the chips on the motherboard. Where were they made? Do the people in all of those countries participate in our conversations? They are certainly participating in our market.

What about the voice of the future? Who speaks for that? If we make our decisions based on conversations about this market today, and maybe tomorrow, where are we going?

That's the conversation that I think we need to have, "How do we get the other voices into the market". If we can figure that out, then we're ready for a transition.