T H E  N E T W O R K  O B S E R V E R

  VOLUME 3, NUMBER 5                                      MAY 1996


     "You have to organize, organize, organize, and build and
      build, and train and train, so that there is a permanent,
      vibrant structure of which people can be part."

          -- Ralph Reed, Christian Coalition


  This month: Rethinking hyperlinking
              Libraries and collective cognition
              Advice for liberals
              High-tech marketing


  Welcome to TNO 3(5).

  This issue is a collection of footnotes on topics that will be
  familiar to regular readers of TNO.  The first article concerns
  the design of Web pages.  A major problem now is that it's hard
  to know what you'll get when you click on a hyperlink.  I think
  the whole model of hypertext is misguided or at least inadequate:
  just underlining or highlighting a word doesn't tell me what's
  behind it.  The key is stable, well-designed genre conventions.

  Next I continue last month's discussion of digital libraries.
  This month's version of the story overlaps with last month's,
  but it cuts through the issues from a different direction.  It's
  important to think about "digital libraries" as something beyond
  great masses of digital documents with a user interface on them.
  Instead, let's think about the diverse ways in which networked
  computing and professional librarians can support the diverse
  ways that communities think together.  I'm not a librarian, so I
  have limited authority to pronounce on these matters.  What I am
  is a heavy user of libraries who wants to ensure that the world's
  highly evolved library system is not ruined in a generation by
  the willy-nilly imposition of simplistic models of information
  derived from computer science.

  This month I have also assembled some advice for liberals.  My
  theory is that every social movement develops blind spots once
  its leaders have established a steady income for themselves.
  The problem is that these leaders' whole identity is defined in
  terms of the battles they won in the past, not the battles they
  face in the present.  As a result, they literally cannot see the
  new movements that arise from the grievances that their success
  has created.  In any case, *something* has to explain the dearth
  of cogent refutation by liberal spokespeople of the detailed
  arguments of the ascendant conservative movement.  Right now we
  seem to be at a lull, as Bill Clinton shape-shifts himself into
  the center and the conservatives stand about speechless at the
  destruction caused by Pat Buchanan's primary campaign.  But the
  fundamentals are unchanged.  Maybe the liberals will take the
  opportunity to rebuild, and maybe they won't.

  Once again I am collecting arguments against privacy for a future
  issue of TNO, perhaps in July.  The most common argument against
  privacy that I have omitted in previous issues, it would seem, is
  "you needn't worry if you have nothing to hide".  This argument
  is deeper than it looks, as I'll explain in the next round-up.
  In the meantime, please send me any arguments against privacy
  that you encounter.  I am particularly interested in arguments
  that pertain to specific issues such as medical or financial
  privacy.  I have concentrated primarily on *bad* arguments
  against privacy, but if I find any good ones then I'll mention
  those as well.

  A footnote.  This month I happened to see the last half-hour
  or so of "Johnny Mnemonic".  Skip forward if you don't want
  to know how it ends.  In the climactic scene, the leader of an
  underground organization broadcasts the cure for an AIDS-like
  disease, which a global pharmaceutical company has kept secret
  because it can make more money by treating people as they die.
  Preparing to bounce this video signal off a satellite by means
  of jury-rigged machinery controlled by a telepathic dolphin (of
  course), he prefaces the broadcast by telling everyone to turn
  on their VCR's and explaining that the company hadn't wanted the
  information to get out.  Despite my hardened shell of cynicism,
  part of me felt a ridiculous rush of identification with this guy,
  as if I were Fighting The Power by running a large global mailing
  list.  It's an excellent fantasy: the technoanarchist masses are
  out there, counter-hegemonic VCR machines at the ready, waiting
  to be activated by the right information.  No need to listen,
  no need to converse, no need to write articles or direct films
  that people can understand, no need to travel into neighborhoods
  where you can't get good coffee -- no need to do anything but
  uplink video.  The film pulls off this fantasy in part through
  the character of the underground leader, a hip-hop DJ type with
  strange facial markings.  His blackness is employed as a sign
  of political authenticity, even as hip-hop's appropriation of
  technology is transformed from an intricate cultural dialogue
  to a broadcast model that encourages the heroic nerd without
  requiring this nerd to go outside.  E-mail and video are indeed
  important, and information is important too.  But they have to
  be part of something.


  Rethinking hyperlinking.

  The WorldWide Web, for all its flash and color, still resembles
  the early days of radio: the sound quality may have been crackly
  and the reception intermittent, but much of the pleasure came
  from the very idea of it.  We look at the Web through special
  glasses that let us neglect the reality in favor of the fantasy
  of what it will someday become.  When this effect wears off, we
  will suddenly start asking whether those Web pages are actually
  useful for something.  A Web page can be cool in complete
  isolation, but it can only be useful in the fullness of mundane
  practical reality.  Right now we don't mind waiting fifteen
  seconds to follow a link because we think of it as a one-time
  thing.  But once we get back down to business we'll be waiting
  fifteen seconds once per day, or once per phone call, or once
  per page of an electronic magazine.  Then we'll mind.

  When that day comes, I think the Web will have to change a great
  deal.  I would like to suggest that we will want to change some
  basic categories of the whole hypertext paradigm.  Let's consider
  the hyperlink -- the colored or underlined bit of text that you
  can click on to jump to another Web page.  My big problem with
  hyperlinks is that I rarely have a clear sense of what I will
  get if I click on them.  That's okay when the ruling metaphor is
  still "browsing" or "exploring", so that getting lost is normal
  -- see TNO 1(10).  But it's not okay when I have a concrete goal
  and no extra time for Webspace tourism.

  How can Web page designers induce accurate expectations about
  their hyperlinks?  One obvious approach is to explain, with a
  brief bit of text, perhaps in the margin or on a bullet, what
  will be found at the other end.  And that's good.  Web browsers
  might be able to help in limited ways as well.  Ben Shneiderman
  and others have suggested that a browser display several lines of
  information for each hyperlink, the way that the URL now appears
  on the bottom of the screen in some Web browsers when the mouse
  passes over the hyperlink.  And that's good too.  But I want to
  back up and consider the question more fundamentally.

  Consider the front page of the Wall Street Journal.  It's
  tremendously well-designed.  It has a stable format from day to
  day.  It has six columns, and they always use the six columns
  in exactly the same way.  You always know where to find the
  feature articles, the humor article, the brief news items, the
  statistical graph (top center), the summary of articles inside
  the paper, and so on.  And we shouldn't forget the more mundane
  conventions that other newspapers share: you always know where
  to find the date, the page numbers, and so on.

  The WSJ's front page, then, supports expectations by always
  putting the same stuff in the same place.  But beyond that, it
  also supports procedures for finding what you want.  Business
  people value their time, and many of them have routines for
  reading the paper.  One common routine is to scan the column that
  summarizes company reports.  The company names are thoughtfully
  listed in bold type so the reader's eye can catch on companies
  that he or she does business with, competes with, wants things
  from, might look for a job at, or whatever.  Another routine
  is just to read the headlines.  Of course, the readers of many
  newspapers scan headlines -- that's why they're there.  But
  the WSJ provides several different headlines, in different type,
  summarizing the story in several different ways, but always with
  the same sort of "rhythm".

  The WSJ's front page includes many hyperlinks: the pointers
  to inside pages where continuations of stories can be found.
  Stories that start on the first page of a given section always
  continue inside that section, and the WSJ, unlike many other
  papers, tries not to string a long article across several pages
  to encourage you to notice as much advertising as possible.  The
  design conventions create strong expectations about what sort of
  thing you'll find if you follow each link to the specified page.

  We can think of these things in terms of "good design".  But some
  conceptions of good design are better than others.  We should
  ask, "good design for whom?" and "good design for what purpose?".
  The WSJ exhibits good design for people who read it frequently
  and as quickly as possible.  It exhibits average design for
  people who are reading it for the first time or who are just
  browsing and exploring.  It even embodies particular ideas about
  what the reader's interests might be -- for example, an interest
  in tracking particular companies.

  As regular readers of TNO will have anticipated, I find it useful
  to treat the WSJ's front page not as a singular artifact but as
  a genre.  When you buy an artifact like a chair, you can use the
  same chair repeatedly.  Artifacts whose main purpose is to embody
  information, though, are different: much of their value goes away
  after you use them once.  But your life is probably organized
  in cycles.  You will probably need other informational artifacts
  of the same general sort in the future, and so you will probably
  obtain a steady stream of them from the same source.  This, as I
  have explained in TNO 2(11), is the purpose of designing genres.
  The WSJ's front page is a genre in this sense.  Each of article,
  long or short or tiny, also instantiates a genre in its own
  right.  The overall structure of the newspaper, and the internal
  structure of each article, fit into certain kinds of activities.
  This "fit" has several aspects, one for each aspect of the
  embodied activity of reading the newspaper: goals, institutional
  relationships, perceptual affordances, properties of the paper,
  arms and hands, bottom lines versus details, reportage versus
  opinion, and so on.

  On this analysis, the key to good hyperlinking is not necessarily
  a detailed summary, though summaries are often useful.  The
  key to good hyperlinking is design that fits into the reader's
  routine activities.  If the genre includes stable relationships
  among its parts then the reader can form stable expectations
  and incorporate these expectations into routines.

  The problem with Web pages is that they do not have enough design
  conventions.  Except in unusual cases, a successful Web site will
  need to fit into a user's routine ways of life, either creating a
  new set of stable expectations or drawing upon expectations that
  users bring from their interactions with other Web sites or other
  media.  This means that Web site designers need to ask themselves
  many questions about their users and their users' lives.  I've
  listed some of these questions in TNO 2(11).  One such question
  is whether the materials are intended for users who use such
  materials regularly as part of a routine, or for users who will
  only use those materials once.

  Many other problems will have to get sorted out along the way.
  For example right now it's too hard to tell how a Web page has
  changed since the last time you visited it.  Web pages that are
  organized as regular publications can appear in entirely fresh
  "issues" on a regular basis.  But what about the nebulous middle
  ground of "living documents" that just change whenever the
  designer wants to change them?  If the Web server knows who you
  are then maybe it can synthesize a page that reflects what has
  changed since the last time you visited.  Or maybe not.  In any
  case, we need better conventions than **NEW!** icons on bulleted
  hyperlinks.  I don't think that these problems can be solved in
  a completely general way.  Each solution will depend on the uses
  people have for the pages and the genres that make pages useful
  by supporting stable expectations about them.


  Libraries and communities.

  The Internet allows us to define library work on two distinct
  levels: the individual patron and the patron community.
  "Community" is obviously a heavily loaded term, but here it
  refers to a set of people who occupy analogous locations in
  society -- or, put simply, people who have something important
  in common.  This approach has several virtues.  It encourages
  us to take a person's social identities and roles into account
  when analyzing their information needs.  It reminds us that the
  center of mass of people's lives is located somewhere outside the
  library, in the relatively stable pattern of relationships within
  which they negotiate their way in the world.  And it provides us
  a way of imagining a collective patron: an active, self-conscious
  social group, whether formally organized or not, as the
  beneficiary of librarians' assistance.

  The hard part is translating these concerns into design.  Once
  librarians do conceptualize their patrons' needs in this broader
  way, how can they shape the evolution of digital libraries
  in order to support the broadest conception of the work of
  librarians and patrons alike?  Do the necessary design strategies
  have consequences for basic architectural decisions -- including
  decisions that might already have been made for some systems?
  And how can these strategies be translated into a technical
  agenda and argued for in ways that win arguments in a technical
  domain?  These questions certainly seem important, and it is
  quite possible that they are *urgent* as well.

  To answer these questions, it would seem important to know more
  about how communities use information.  In particular it would
  seem important to develop analytical categories that let us
  talk about the uses of information in community members' lives.
  A variety of existing intellectual traditions provide useful
  hints in this direction, ranging from cultural and linguistic
  anthropology to symbolic interactionism and ethnomethodology to
  activity theory.  To provide some concrete sense of what it would
  be like to open up these questions in a powerful way, I want
  to briefly discuss a particular theoretical trend, namely genre
  theory.  A genre, as we all know, is a relatively stable and
  expectable form of communication.  Genres of documents such as
  research articles, subpoenas, menus, and Interstate Highway signs
  embody complex relationships between the people who create them
  and the people who use them.

  In particular, these genres embody certain *strategies* of their
  creators, and they *fit* into certain *activities* of their
  users.  The activities of writing and reading research articles,
  for example -- I take the case from Chuck Bazerman's book
  "Shaping Written Knowledge" -- are typified and orderly; they
  fit into the social system and the daily routines and the career
  trajectories of the research community.  When a researcher "needs
  information", the "thing" that they need isn't just "information"
  as a generic stuff.  Rather, their "need" is something defined
  within the categories of that particular community.  These
  "needs" are qualitatively different -- defined in different terms
  -- from the needs that come up in the institutionally organized
  lives of stamp collectors or political pundits or high school
  biology teachers or entrepreneurs.

  It seems to me that a central opportunity and challenge of
  digital librarianship is comprehending, valuing, and supporting
  the qualitatively distinct kinds of needs that arise within
  different communities.  How can tools be fashioned that are
  responsive to, for example, an entrepreneur's needs -- tools
  whose design allows them to fit into the practical activities
  of actual entrepreneurs' lives?  And I think it's important to
  *frame* this question in a broad enough way.  It is a commonplace
  that a networked society allows for the strengthening of ties
  based on commonality of interest, so that "communities" in our
  sense of the term can engage in collective thinking, collective
  working, collective organizing, and both old and new forms of
  mutual assistance.  The tools that digital librarians can provide
  will only be useful if they are useful in *that* context -- the
  context of a *community's* collective life as organized through
  mailing lists, conferences, newsletters, social networks,
  traveling consultants, issue campaigns, rumors, parties, and
  personal correspondence.

  These might seem like great demands -- adapting the tools of
  digital information access to the qualitatively diverse needs
  of thousands upon thousands of different communities, each with
  its own categories and customs and geographic distributions and
  skills and typified forms of activity.  The good news is that
  a networked society also provides the means to *address* these
  diverse needs.  The future of librarianship, I want to suggest,
  involves *the collective work of networked librarians to support
  the collective lives of networked communities*.  Digital library
  systems will enable this radically new style of librarianship if
  they support three crucial functionalities:

   * building indexing and retrieval tools that can take account of
     the meaningful formal features of diverse genres of materials
     in diverse media

   * permitting distributed groups of library professionals to
     develop tools for particular communities by building upon
     a common substrate through the assembly of object-oriented

   * integrating digital information resources with the collective
     lives of communities, for example through mailing lists and
     community-specific computational resources maintained by
     professional societies and the like

  Librarians have always adapted their methods and resources to
  the needs of a diverse patron community.  The networked society,
  though, both enables and requires us to throw this active
  adaptation to diversity into high gear.  A significant danger,
  I believe, is that emerging digital library architectures will
  embody a one-size-fits-all philosophy, or else analysis on the
  level only of tailoring of interfaces to the preferences of
  individuals.  Only once we study and appreciate the profound
  qualitative diversity of communities' collective lives, genres
  of documents, and occasions for using these documents in
  routine typified activities will we be in a position to design
  information system architectures that are truly responsive to
  social needs.


  Advice for liberals.

  My liberal friends need a lot of help right now.  Many of them
  are living in the past, fighting a different decade's fights.
  Getting hammered has its advantages, though, and one of them is
  that it clears the ground for rebuilding.  Much of the problem
  is simply realizing that there's a problem, and that's the
  starting point for some advice that I've been formulating and
  reformulating for years now of reading and talking to people:

  (1) Wake up.  Something is happening and you don't know what it
      is.  Accept that you are getting hosed, and that things are
      going to get much worse from your perspective before they
      get much better.  Forget about implementing any more of your
      policy agenda for the foreseeable future.  Concentrate on
      defending what's worth defending, abandoning the rest, and
      getting used to being the opposition.  Yes, the polls look
      good for Bill Clinton now.  But he's selling you down the
      river.  And presidential polls have little to do with the
      district-by-district shifts that determine the structure of
      Congress.  You simply must face the fact that you are losing
      the South, which is at least one quarter of your coalition.

  (2) Read conservative publications, lots of them, and regularly.
      Don't just shake your head and say "we know what's wrong
      with that", because I'll bet that you actually don't.  You
      might start with Friedrich Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom".
      Subscribe to Policy Review, Christian America, and The
      Standard.  Read an anthology of P. J. O'Rourke's humor
      columns and get used to the idea that you are being mocked.
      When you're ready for the really heavy stuff, read a journal
      called "Heterodoxy", which focuses on the academic left.  You
      will feel a powerful temptation to blow these people off as
      nuts.  Resist -- what matters is whether the ideas are useful
      in assembling a new coalition or fragmenting yours.  Instead,
      internalize the arguments, admit to the grains of truth they
      often contain, and learn not to present such a big target.

  (3) Get beyond identity politics.  Theories of marginality
      really are self-fulfilling prophesies.  Some people really
      are divisive.  A focus on words and symbols, beyond a
      certain point, really does draw your attention away from
      the actual *things*.  Restore your focus on the skills
      and processes of empowerment, articulating ideologies that
      forge inclusive coalitions based on democratic values.  You
      may think you're doing this, but you're not.  Attack your
      enemies, not your friends.

  (4) Refuse to be stereotyped.  Pay attention to the explosion
      of new stereotypes aimed at your allies ("environmental
      wackos", for example).  Constantly enumerate the stereotypes
      and identify them for what they are.  Note that they are not
      principally the racial and sexual stereotypes of olden days.
      Assertively use the media to teach people to recognize the
      rhetorical devices of stereotyping and the forms of public
      relations work that depend on stereotyping, and use real,
      current examples.

  (5) Do vastly more opposition research.  The fact is, the right
      has a better mastery of the art of politics than you.  Stop
      dismissing them as stupid, backward, oblivious, hate-driven,
      or conspiratorial.  Some people do, of course, have any
      combination of those qualities.  But you'll blind yourself
      so long as you stereotype your whole opposition in those
      terms.  The fact is, they understand you a whole lot better
      than you understand them.  The main reason they are winning
      is that they have read you and listened to you and found real
      weaknesses in your accustomed modes of argument.  You need
      to do the same for them.  This will take time, and it will
      not be fun.

  (6) Stop surrendering powerful words such as family, nation,
      truth, science, tradition, religion, merit, responsibility,
      and character.  If your opponents have given these words
      false meanings, persistently restore their true meanings.
      That is to say, contest the signifiers.  Use the words!
      Forget the whole strategy of the counterculture; be the
      culture instead.  Repeatedly say things like: children
      need families; crime is bad; our country has many positive
      traditions; science and technology contribute much that
      is beneficial; people are responsible for what they do.
      Use the words right and wrong, true and false, good and bad.

  (7) Train many more activists.  Teach them organizing skills,
      media skills, basic listening skills, and coalition-building.
      Build a much better infrastructure to support your activists,
      connect them to one another, and supply them with tactics and
      arguments.  Build networks to recruit activists, especially
      in churches and on college campuses, and then use these
      networks to help activists develop their skills and projects.
      If you're already doing this, do much more of it.  Yes, this
      will probably require you to divert resources from putting
      out fires in the short term, but you'll have no future unless
      you invest in it now.

  (8) Build your network of intellectuals.  Insist that your think
      tank people produce their materials in a form that activists
      can use -- no more long reports that sit on shelves.  Direct
      funding to those organizations that formulate clear, useful,
      tested messages backed up by a steady stream of reliable
      facts -- and reevaluate funding for the others.  Sustain
      frequent, substantive contacts, based on equality, between
      activists and sympathetic academics.  Tell the academics
      who express themselves in flamboyant intellectual codes to
      imagine what they'll sound like quoted selectively in the
      newspaper.  Build and sustain new media that provide channels
      of communication between intellectuals and activists, and
      among activists themselves.

  (9) Read the Bible if you don't already.  Pretend that it's the
      Middle Ages and that all political arguments must be couched
      in theological terms.  Maybe that's not quite true yet, but
      by the time you catch up it will be.  Commence historical
      study of the original transition to a secular culture, to
      help everyone recall why this once seemed like a good idea.
      Don't beat up on religion -- beat up on political abuse of
      religion.  When the right presents Bosnia as an example of
      multiculturalism, present both Bosnia and Northern Ireland
      as examples of religion in the public square.  Spirituality
      is primarily a liberal force, even when -- especially when --
      it is coupled with a strong ethic of personal responsibility.

 (10) Learn and teach logical argument, clear writing, and critical
      awareness of grammar and rhetoric.  Forget the postmodernism.
      Draw public attention to illogical arguments right away,
      and I mean instantly.  Don't just let them slide.  Once they
      become part of the culture, it will take two generations to
      undo them.


  Wish list.

  The street numbers of homes and businesses are usually not very
  well marked.  Looking for a given street address while driving
  a car is therefore frequently dangerous.  This may seem like a
  petty thing, but it really bothers me and it's interesting (it
  turns out) to think about.  Consequently, I wish for a device in
  my car, perhaps attached to the dashboard just above the steering
  wheel, that tells me which street numbers can be found to my left
  and right.  This device might use some sort of simple digital
  wireless protocol to talk to other devices mounted alongside the
  street, or else it could use GPS or some other positioning scheme
  together with a digital map of streets and numbers.  In a simple
  form, the display could look like this:

		      |        |        |
		      |  319   |   320  |
		      |        V        |

  meaning "number 319 is to your left, number 320 is to your right,
  and the street numbers are decreasing in the direction that you
  are driving".  More elaborate displays could include additional
  information such as the street name, cross streets in front and
  behind, current compass heading, speed limit, and distance from
  a desired destination.

  Why are street numbers so hard to see?  Maybe because visible
  street numbers are a public good.  Having provided visible
  street numbers to one passer-by, you've made your street numbers
  visible to everyone.  People can use your street numbers to find
  addresses besides your own.  And if my house is number 207, it
  is only in my interest to make my number visible enough for my
  own guests to find, and not for people who are looking for other
  houses on the street.  In many cases these may be the same,
  but in other cases they may not be.  Few shopping centers, for
  example, seem interested in helping people find them by street
  address.  And some people just don't have guests, or they give
  directions by the color of the house and expressions like "third
  house on the left with the Chevy on blocks in the driveway".

  Another problem is that street numbers are most often attached
  to houses by builders, who sell houses based on how they look
  to people who haven't bought them yet.  Such people usually have
  much bigger problems than discerning whether the street numbers
  will be visible from the street at night.  Much better if the
  street numbers aren't too obtrusive, marring the overall vista of
  the house.  Then once the house is purchased, more things happen.
  Plants often grow up covering the street numbers.  Guests to the
  house may be reticent to complain about the trouble they had in
  finding it.  And even if one house does get more visible street
  numbers, it will probably necessarily break the convention on
  that street for where those numbers are located and what they
  look like.

  For all of these reasons, visible street numbers really should be
  provided collectively.  The town I grew up in actually paid for
  street numbers to be painted on the curb in front of every house,
  on the grounds that drivers of emergency vehicles needed to find
  them quickly.  But this only worked because cars were not parked
  densely along the curbs in most parts of that town.  Would it
  be worth setting up a street number grid in the wireless ether
  so that emergency vehicles can find storefronts?  Would delivery
  services like FedEx be willing to pay part of the bill, provided
  other other competing services don't get a free ride?  And then
  maybe companies wanting to offer value-added services based on
  that grid would pay some percentage to maintain or extend it.

  A larger theme is that the whole world is becoming encased in all
  kinds of digital representations.  Every person, place, and thing
  of any interest to any powerful organization is developing what
  I've called a "digital shadow" that tracks it in real time.  The
  maintenance of digital shadows ultimately requires a coordinate
  system to be laid out upon the whole world.  That is what GPS
  is about, but it is also happening in thousands of other ways
  as well.  Perhaps all of those thousands of representational
  practices will converge and we will all be knitted into a
  global representational grid.  This will have many advantages,
  particularly when regular people consume representations, as
  in my thought-example here.  But it will have many disadvantages
  as well, particularly when others consume representations of us.
  We do have time to make choices about this prospect.


  This month's recommendations.

  Mary Karr, The Liars' Club: A Memoir, New York: Penguin, 1996.
  The hype when this book first appeared was deafening, so I waited
  for the paperback to read it.  I read it just in time, it turns
  out, because the hype has gotten even louder.  The New York Times
  Sunday Magazine, for example, just reported that "the age of the
  literary memoir is now" and presented Mary Karr as Exhibit A.
  For once, I can report, the hype is right.  (I suppose that means
  that it isn't even hype, if "hype" is short for "hyperbole" as
  I have always supposed.)  "The Liar's Club" is the true story
  of Mary Karr's spectacularly dysfunctional childhood in a swampy
  Nowheresville in east Texas.  Her stories are so amazing that
  I don't think they would work as fiction.  She recounts with
  shattering clarity the perceptions and feelings of a little girl
  trying to figure out why her mother is so crazy.  It's all in
  east Texas dialect, with sentences such as "I shit you not" that
  produce great incongruity when she offers her occasional comment
  in the voice of the grown-up writing teacher that she has somehow
  become.  And a fine teacher I imagine she must be.

  Sara Diamond, Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and
  Political Power in the United States, New York: Guilford Press,
  1995.  American liberals who find it convenient to imagine the
  right as a batch of marginal nutcases or a monolithic machinery
  of fascists will benefit from this discerning history of
  right-wing social movements and their relationship with the
  government.  Diamond traces the emergence in the 1950's of the
  "fusionist" strategy that somehow unites a powerful coalition
  of authoritarian and libertarian conservatives today, while
  also tracing the formation and decline of the more extreme racist
  branches of the right.  Her book is no substitute for reading the
  original texts and ongoing published debates in the conservative
  movement, but it does provide some necessary context for them.

  Gordon Cook, National Information Infrastructure: The Dark Side
  in Washington State.  This is a special edition of a newsletter
  called The Cook Report on Internet-NREN, which is perhaps the
  best independent voice on directions and implications of Internet
  architecture.  This particular issue is, to my knowledge, the
  only study of the full range of privacy-threatening technologies
  under development in a single geographic area.  Although the
  details are specific to Washington State, most of the trends that
  Cook finds there can also be found throughout the United States.
  Cook's newsletter is one of those high-price, low-circulation
  publications that everyone hopes will become viable on a lower-
  priced, higher-circulation basis once such publications can be
  distributed effectively on the Internet.  Which is to say, it's
  not cheap.  The writing is not exactly polished, and much of the
  book-length report is taken verbatim from dozens of interviews
  that he conducted over a few weeks.  Still, it's a unique and
  important accomplishment.  For details on ordering the report or
  subscribing to the newsletter, see the Cook Report Web page at

  Geoffrey A. Moore, Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling
  High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers, New York: Harper
  Business, 1991.  I adore this whole genre -- book-length business
  cards by management consultants conveying their astounding vision
  and what they'll do for you once you hire them.  They're written
  by extremely persuasive people who have had a lot of experience
  refining their sales pitches, and as a result they are incredibly
  compelling.  When I get done reading one of them, I feel this
  appalling urge to get myself out there and conquer some markets.
  They have an interesting property that sociologists have noticed
  in more organized professions: the knowledge they contain is
  formalized just enough to be convincing and comprehensible, but
  it's not formalized enough that simply reading the book actually
  qualifies you to do any of it.  (See, for example, Andrew Abbott,
  The System of Professions, University of Chicago Press, 1988.)
  Moore's particular book is concerned with the life cycle of a
  high-technology product.  He observes that many companies fail
  to grow beyond their first few customers.  The reason, he argues,
  is that high-tech markets are divided into innovators (the people
  who love gadgets and will buy anything cool), early adopters (the
  people who are strongly committed to a vision and are willing to
  buy and unproven product that supports that vision), the early
  majority (the people who want new stuff but want it to come in a
  safe, reliable package), the late majority (the people who don't
  want to buy new stuff, but will buy it anyway once everyone else
  has), and the laggards (who actively resist buying new stuff).
  If you have cool technology and a vision to back it up, he says,
  then it's easy to get your first few customers.  Then comes the
  great chasm: to sell to the early adopters, you need a totally
  focused, totally disciplined strategy.  That strategy is to pick
  a niche market that's big enough to provide a year's revenue,
  connected enough to provide a beachhead into much bigger markets,
  but small enough that you can concentrate a lot of energy on
  providing just what they need, in the total tailored package
  that they need it.  This explains a lot, and I was impressed
  with the analytical rigor with which Moore explains it -- little
  wonder that the book has been so influential in the industry.
  Even though these books encode the self-interested viewpoint of
  a consulting firm, I find it useful to see what follows if we
  treat them as descriptions of reality.  I am struck, for example,
  at the gate-keeping function of the innovators -- those gadget-
  oriented people who like the technology for its own sake and
  have the resources to buy one of everything they find cool.  What
  if the world badly needs various gadgets that are deeply useful
  but not deeply cool?  I am also struck at the uselessness of
  classical economics for analyzing the matters that Moore writes
  about.  He is heavily focused on the construction of meaning
  around these systems.  His market analysis is psychographic
  all the way: segmenting people based on how they think, and
  setting strategy in a way that provides each segment with the
  facts and stories they need to make decisions according to their
  own particular style.  The point of selling to innovators, for
  example, is not just that they provide easy money, but that they
  provide useful technical feedback to the company and valuable
  referrals to the early adopters who respect their technical
  sense.  Likewise, much of the purpose of a niche strategy in
  approaching the early majority is that you need to be selling to
  people who talk to one another so that you can create a clearly
  defined, sustained "buzz" that positions your product to the
  exclusion of others.  In the end, of course, all books like this
  one, however compelling, are only single-factor theories.  Heaven
  knows how each of these crucial single factors interacts with
  the crucial single factors described in all of the other books.
  Everything sure seems clear-cut and invigorating from that kind
  of distance these books provide, but let's keep in mind that
  the day-to-day reality of business is much closer to "Dilbert".



  Since I ragged on The Red Herring in TNO 2(12), it has gotten
  somewhat better.  Its newsstand price has come down by a third
  and its copy, now written in large part by venture capitalists,
  is less self-serving, or at least less obviously self-serving,
  than it had been.  Meanwhile, a friend pointed out that the
  magazine's title is not completely meaningless; Silicon Valley
  types refer to a preliminary prospectus for a start-up company
  as a "red herring", after a section of legalese that must appear
  in red type to scare away the naive.  Still, I really do not
  understand the enthusiasm that TRH stirs up among some in Silicon
  Valley.  It's as if the computer industry has fully internalized
  the culture and language of hype, so that the very idea of real
  professional journalism cannot even be expressed.  Very strange.

  In response to my wish for a universal event calendar in TNO
  3(4), Steven Hodas <steven@review.com> pointed me at Metrobeat,
  which covers New York City.  As he observes, it's pretty great.
  To me, though, it also points to the necessity of critical mass
  in such things -- even assuming I lived in New York, I doubt if
  I would really make Metrobeat a routine part of my life unless
  it included many more event announcements.  Its entertainment
  coverage is good, though, and you should check it out at

  My article on libraries in TNO 3(4) elicited two primary types
  of objections.  The first, probably best articulated by Larry
  Etkin <lae@gra.mes.umn.edu>, is that my call for "information"
  tools differentiated by community and genre may cause unnecessary
  incompatibility and confusion.  Having learned the tools (e.g.,
  catalog systems) for one genre of materials would no longer, as
  now, enable someone to use the tools for other genres equally
  well.  The result would be that insiders to a given field have
  an even greater advantage over outsiders than they do already.
  This is, of course, a legitimate concern.  We should recognize
  how far things have already gone in this direction, given the
  proliferation of proprietary article indexes which must often be
  searched independently of one another with different interfaces.
  In this way and others, greater heterogeneity of library tools
  is inevitable.  In response, I think it's important for everyone
  with a stake in the matter to codify and encourage good interface
  design practices.  Perhaps more importantly, we need interface
  guidelines like those that came with the original Macintosh, so
  that users can carry over as many expectations as possible from
  one interface to the next.  I use the University of California's
  online catalogs quite heavily, but that does me little good when
  I am in another library.  This situation might well get worse.
  Unfortunately it takes a lot of politics, power, and/or luck to
  get standards adopted across a whole industry, particularly when
  many of the players have already made investments in incompatible
  interfaces.  I know that many librarians are aware of this whole
  problem, and I wish them luck in developing the concepts and
  alliances they will need to fix it.

  The second common objection to my article, well articulated by
  Paul Doty <pdoty@staff.uwsuper.edu>, is that (contrary to what
  I say) libraries do not treat information as a homogeneous stuff.
  After all, they already deal with diverse patrons with diverse
  needs for diverse materials.  Catalogs, moreover, reflect the
  insights of cataloguers into the keywords and conceptual systems
  of the communities that are interested in particular kinds of
  materials.  That's all true and important.  I just think we
  can go further and do better.  Catalogs currently make explicit
  very little of the internal structure of documents -- not least
  because internal structure varies by genre.  They also do not
  make explicit (though, of course, they reflect implicitly)
  the institutional structures that the documents come from and
  participate in.  Library information is still poorly integrated
  with the information maintained by professional societies,
  individual research groups, publishers, volunteers, and so
  on.  As more categories of documents move online; and as more
  categories of representations *of* documents move online;
  as collaborative work online becomes easier; and as network,
  database, and data-interchange standards make it easier to
  interlink online representations of documents, it will be
  possible for libraries to collaborate more intensively with
  one another and with the communities whose work they support.
  This will be good.

  Web picks.

  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa has its
  home page at  http://www.truth.org.za

  Jamie Boyle from American University has written a comprehensive
  refutation, signed by scores of law professors, of the bogus
  legal claims that the Dept of Commerce has circulated in support
  of its famous "White Paper" position on electronic copyrights.
  David Rothman <rothman@clark.net> has put this material on the
  Web at  http://www.clark.net/pub/rothman/boyle.htm

  The Computer Underground Digest is a just-about-weekly digest
  of current information on Internet-based political activism.
  Subscription information and archives of past issues can be found
  on the Web at  http://www.soci.niu.edu/~cudigest/

  Paul Edwards <pedwards@pcd.stanford.edu> has gathered a set of
  well-documented Internet history material on the Web.  Here is
  his list:


     (uses Netscape 2.0 frames)

  Paul's valuable institutional history of artificial intelligence,
  "The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in
  Cold War America", has just appeared from MIT Press.

  The US Department of Education has published a series of fairly
  useful White Papers on "The Future of Networking Technologies
  for Learning" at  http://www.ed.gov/Technology/Futures/toc.html

  Phil Agre, editor                                pagre@ucla.edu
  Department of Information Studies
  University of California, Los Angeles         +1 (310) 825-7154
  Los Angeles, California  90095-1520                FAX 206-4460
  Copyright 1996 by the editor.  You may forward this issue of The
  Network Observer electronically to anyone for any non-commercial
  purpose.  Comments and suggestions are always appreciated.

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