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The Web Is Flat-Out Boring!


Little boxes on the hillside,

From the song Little Boxes by Malvina Reynolds, copyright 1962 Schroder Music Company, renewed 1990. The song is about suburban tract houses and the people who live in them, but it applies equally as well to today's websites.

Oh, Sorry About That

ZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Huh? Oh, sorry about that. I was looking at one of my favorite blogs and I must have fallen asleep. That's happening to me a lot these days. I even fall asleep reading my own stories. [OK. No cheap shots please.] I've been trying to figure out what's going on. I don't think I'm becoming a narcoleptic; rather I'm coming to the conclusion that the whole damned web (internet) is one grand sticky monotonous mono-formatted blob of tediousness. I purposely lower cased "web" and "internet", because bad commoditization deserves no capitalization.

My mom always taught me to say something nice about a person or thing before discussing their or its faults. So, I'll do that, though I'm itching to punch webbie in the nose. Here goes; the good stuff, not the punch in the nose. The internet's greatest strength is the search engine. When done right search engines can help you find information about anything from an esoteric old computer to reviews about, prices for and vendors who sell the newest cybernetic wonder. Search engines can lead you to a range of engaging writings by historic and contemporary authors. You need to watch out for phony information, but if you're careful, you're sure to find something helpful among the spam that shows up in the best of search engines.

I guess the other major strength of the web is what looks like democratization of information dissemination. Pretty much anyone with a computer can find a way to publish his or her version of the truth. There's no guarantee anyone will ever see those publications, but some take solace in the mere fact of publication. I don't.

Woops, I'm slipping over to the negative, which is OK because I've got no more positives anyway. Consider this. From the beginning of it all, the internet was supposed to be a giant search engine. A year or so ago I was wandering the halls of MIT's new Frank Gehry poorly designed and weird Stata Center with some friends. We wandered into the office of a professor my friends knew well. The door was unlocked, but he wasn't there when we arrived. So we entered into a time honored tradition at many universities. We searched his book shelves until we found his doctoral dissertation.

That dissertation was a, maybe the seminal work on, you guessed it, search engines for what would become the internet. The concepts presented in that dissertation are the concepts that still govern the internet's greatest contribution to our lives: allowing us to quickly pull sometimes useful information from a multi-massive pile of meaningless data.

The MIT Stata Center houses the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Laboratory for Information Decision Systems and the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. That metal awning over the entrance collapsed from the weight of one of Cambridge Massachusetts's heavier snow storms.

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