an impossibly large, semi-persistent realm of items
January 8, 2015 10:07 AM   Subscribe

If you’ve ever said, “markets are conversations” you’re quoting the words of The Cluetrain Manifesto, the ’90s-era opus on the promise of the Web [previously]. David Weinberger and Doc Searls (two of the original authors of Cluetrain) are publishing another provocative work today called New Clues.

Full of great pull quotes but here are a few:

70 Web pages are about connecting. Apps are about control.
71 As we move from the Web to an app-based world, we lose the commons we were building together.
72 In the Kingdom of Apps, we are users, not makers.
73 Every new page makes the Web bigger. Every new link makes the Web richer.
74 Every new app gives us something else to do on the bus.


...
56 You're welcome to join our conversation, but only if you tell us who you work for, and if you can speak for yourself and as yourself.
57 Every time you call us "consumers" we feel like cows looking up the word "meat."
58 Quit fracking our lives to extract data that's none of your business and that your machines misinterpret.


...

100 You want to know what to buy? The business that makes an object of desire is now the worst source of information about it. The best source is all of us.
posted by Potomac Avenue (61 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
Forgot this gem: 67 When you place a "native ad," you're eroding not just your own trustworthiness, but the trustworthiness of this entire new way of being with one another.
66 And, by the way, how about calling "native ads" by any of their real names: "product placement," "advertorial," or "fake fucking news"?

posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:09 AM on January 8, 2015


Shit this is good. Thanks for posting.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:20 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


<3 this.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:23 AM on January 8, 2015


It's remarkably pertinent nearly 20 years later (even with the mention of Y2K embedded in there) :D
posted by surazal at 10:24 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: If the conversations at your site are going badly, it's your fault.
posted by Kabanos at 10:28 AM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hear, O Internet.

Sorry, that's about as far as I can get. What pompous assholes. Apparently the internet is powered by hot air. But they are not The Burning Bush.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:29 AM on January 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


A fun game to play with this is replace all the numbers with the words "Metafilter, because..."
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:30 AM on January 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yeah it's a very strange piece that has all the pomp and legitimate opinionated ideology of a manifesto interspersed with "Ouch, a cheap shot!" as a numbered item and references to Jennifer Lawrence.

Nevertheless, definitely some interesting points in here and a lot of pithy quotes.
posted by pahalial at 10:33 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I found this to be insufferable internet triumphalism.
posted by wuwei at 10:35 AM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Sorry, that's about as far as I can get. What pompous assholes. Apparently the internet is powered by hot air. But they are not The Burning Bush.

A pity, all you had to do was make it another couple sentences to "you and me and all our friends of friends of friends, unto the last Kevin Bacon" and you might've figured out it's not taking itself as seriously as you did.
posted by mstokes650 at 10:35 AM on January 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: We take things too seriously.
posted by COD at 10:45 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Web pages are about connecting. Apps are about control.

This must have been written by someone who never browses with javascript turned off. There are quite a few web pages that aren't documents at all but are instead software in their own right that communicates with one or more servers and interrogates your computer and surveils your activities as far as is possible. Indeed nearly every web page does this to some degree.

Wish I could remember which post it was but a front page link here on MeFi just in the last few days came up blank for me; when I looked at the source, the text of the article was there but was encoded or encrypted and presumably if I'd loaded and run the js it would have displayed. I didn't dig through the code to see how it worked but I wonder if it used Encrypted Media Extensions, the framework for implementing DRM in browsers that was created as a standard by the W3C and added by browser vendors during the last couple of years.
posted by XMLicious at 10:45 AM on January 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


The Californian Ideology
This new faith has emerged from a bizarre fusion of the cultural bohemianism of San Francisco with the hi-tech industries of Silicon Valley. Promoted in magazines, books, tv programmes, Web sites, newsgroups and Net conferences, the Californian Ideology promiscuously combines the free-wheeling spirit of the hippies and the entrepreneurial zeal of the yuppies. This amalgamation of opposites has been achieved through a profound faith in the emancipatory potential of the new information technologies. In the digital utopia, everybody will be both hip and rich.
or in other words: grifting never goes out of style.
posted by ennui.bz at 10:47 AM on January 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


So something that isn't interrogated here (and for good reason, because it's really really hard to think about) is whether or not there's something about hacker culture / the primordial culture of the web / liberal open-society hackerish ideals that inevitably leads to getting just completely totally rolled by organizations like Facebook.

What I'm trying to say, and what I've been trying to figure out how to think about for years and years, is which of these two descriptions of the contemporary Internet and how we got here is more accurate:
  1. A bunch of super nice super awesome hackers built an open network based on the principle that every bit of information can be shared with everyone, but then a bunch of brogrammerly corporate marketing types wrecked everything by realizing that, despite those underlying open principles, they could make a load of money by carefully limiting what information people can see easily.
  2. Or if instead those underlying hackerly ideals aren't actually that good, because in practice they lead to a Facebookized world. The difference between this scenario and scenario 1 is that in this scenario, a walled-off appish Facebookized world isn't the product of a betrayal of hacker values, but is instead their inevitable completion.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 10:48 AM on January 8, 2015 [26 favorites]


Follow that up with Options/Clear all current history as soon as some temp permission starts dragging you down as you move on to your next tab
posted by infini at 10:50 AM on January 8, 2015


36. Women in Saudi Arabia can’t drive? Meanwhile, half of us can’t speak on the Net without looking over our shoulders.
posted by infini at 10:50 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


You Can't Tip a Buick: No real analysis of power differentials. This is also why they tend to fail the race question so hard.
posted by wuwei at 10:50 AM on January 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


Potomac Avenue: A fun game to play with this is replace all the numbers with the words "Metafilter, because..."

I started reading this by replacing every instance of "us" with "white people", or "rich whites". Though it seems like they might like to be talking about poor ethnic people, they're pretty much not.

But I still liked it.
posted by wormwood23 at 10:51 AM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


it's not taking itself as seriously as you did.

Nobody is as serious about themselves as manifesto authors like this.

At your recommendation, I read a few sentences further. They're totally serious. I stopped here:

we have up-ended titans, created heroes, and changed the most basic assumptions about
How Things Work and Who We Are.


There is an internet neologism for this sort of thing: "steaming pantload."
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:51 AM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah it's a very strange piece that has all the pomp and legitimate opinionated ideology of a manifesto interspersed with "Ouch, a cheap shot!" as a numbered item and references to Jennifer Lawrence.

Reminds me a little of Hakim Bey.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:52 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh and Doc Searles called me a troll the first time I either left a comment or sent an email, can't recall now after all these years.

tee hee I wouldn't know how to troll if you shoved me under the bridge. I was a frigging n00b and that was my first FPP
posted by infini at 10:55 AM on January 8, 2015


I started reading this by replacing every instance of "us" with "white people", or "rich whites". Though it seems like they might like to be talking about poor ethnic people, they're pretty much not.

Ironically and interestingly, the African twitterati manifest tangibly, as part of their inherent quality, the whole markets are conversations in great big vibrant bazaars rather than antiseptic white airconditioned supermarkets.

I'm lovin' it.
posted by infini at 10:59 AM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Web pages are about connecting. Apps are about control."

This must have been written by someone who never browses with javascript turned off. There are quite a few web pages that aren't documents at all but are instead software in their own right that communicates with one or more servers and interrogates your computer and surveils your activities as far as is possible. Indeed nearly every web page does this to some degree.
In this context, aren't web pages that "aren't documents at all but are instead software" effectively apps?
posted by twirlip at 10:59 AM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Apparently the internet is powered by hot air.

From my point of view as a semi-frequent participant on a site whose overweening ethos is throwing gobs of (often literate) commentary at a discussion about just about anything, I think it's probably more or less accurate to say that the internet is powered by hot air, or any other less loaded term one might choose to use to connote discussion that's both descriptive and participatory.

Or if that's too pompous: you're complaining on Metafilter that it's pretentious to write an essay that asserts things and has a winking literary reference? Really?
posted by weston at 11:01 AM on January 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


The internet being powered by hot air reminds me, what news on progress of blanketing Africa with free wifi?
posted by infini at 11:09 AM on January 8, 2015


2. Or if instead those underlying hackerly ideals aren't actually that good, because in practice they lead to a Facebookized world. The difference between this scenario and scenario 1 is that in this scenario, a walled-off appish Facebookized world isn't the product of a betrayal of hacker values, but is instead their inevitable completion.

This came across my RSS feed today, it seems relevant:

Computer Requirements at America's Biological Defense HQ (1957)

JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post

I've found an unusual, informal document; a rough, manuscript outline for a consideration on the computing capacities at Fort Detrick, in Frederick Maryland. Fort Detrick is a Medical Command, and was the seat of research for the United States' biological weapons program (1943–69, which is today a part of the U.S. biological defense system), and is today a very large facility (on 1,200 acres) devoted to biomedical research...

...The document mentions two machines in particular, the "409-2" (with is the Remington Rand 409-2, an ENIAC style machine, produced in 1952) and the UNIVAC 120 (which is a release of the 409-2, done in 1953).


This is where it all started. The Internet was designed for military applications.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:12 AM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Damn, blast from the past. I had completely forgotten about that manifesto.
posted by edheil at 11:14 AM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


A bunch of super nice super awesome hackers built an open network based on the principle that every bit of information can be shared with everyone, but then a bunch of brogrammerly corporate marketing types wrecked everything

Just chiming in to second wuwei that the problem isn't who's "nice" and who isn't, it's whose technology is built on a naive view of power and whose isn't (a question of real-world politics and economics). Or to put it another way, there are two strains or flavors of California Ideology utopian: the altruistic dupe and the cynical huckster. People sometimes vacillate between the two positions as it's convenient, or evolve from one to the other, or switch from self-deluding to deluding others.
posted by RogerB at 11:31 AM on January 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


A pity, all you had to do was make it another couple sentences to "you and me and all our friends of friends of friends, unto the last Kevin Bacon" and you might've figured out it's not taking itself as seriously as you did.

This is the classic defensive gambit of bullshitters and woo peddlers.

Throw out a bunch of crazy crap framed as deep wisdom, searing insight, or mind-blowing revelations, but keep a light tone so if anyone ever calls you on anything you can just say "Lighten up, that was a joke!" and continue setting yourself up as a sage guru speaking the Truth.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:31 AM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Throw out a bunch of crazy crap framed as deep wisdom, searing insight, or mind-blowing revelations, but keep a light tone so if anyone ever calls you on anything you can just say "Lighten up, that was a joke!" and continue setting yourself up as a sage guru speaking the Truth.

That's kind of the point of Cluetrain since the beginning though. They are really blatantly obvious insights that say what we're all thinking, yet run counter to the direction we're actually heading. Of course "markets are conversations," but if we all knew that, why do so many marketers act like the obnoxious guy at a party you'd never want to converse with? The whole idea is to hit people on the head with a cluestick.

If you scroll on past the preamble, I don't see any "crazy crap."
posted by zachlipton at 11:42 AM on January 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


And, given that this document is basically a jeremiad for old-Web ideals of openness and against new-Web money and power, we should talk about this excellent question a bit more directly:

whether or not there's something about hacker culture / the primordial culture of the web / liberal open-society hackerish ideals that inevitably leads to getting just completely totally rolled by organizations like Facebook

Inevitably? No. But its naivete about politics was and is a major contributing factor to its political weakness. The "open" hacker culture has this terrible combination of altruistic idealism and faith in the technology's own power for social meliorism with simple naivete about how real-world political power works. They don't really know what they're against. That makes it easy for pragmatists and profiteers to roll the California Ideology, because its ideologues and their adherents don't know they're in a fight until they've already lost. Though it's a loss that takes the form of cooptation into a nonthreatening form (to capital, and to power) more than an explicit defeat.
posted by RogerB at 11:43 AM on January 8, 2015 [13 favorites]


RogerB, I would argue that the fate of Assange and his fellow cypherpunks is case in point. They attempted to challenge power without building a mass movement, and they have suffered accordingly. A clear analysis of power would have showed them weakness of their strategy-- and that analysis needn't have even been Marxist; they could have reached into the non-Marxist anarchist tradition too. But they didn't. Why?
posted by wuwei at 11:46 AM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Because the entire internet was a gigantic honeypot from the moment it was born free. Only now, the form is noticeably a venus flytrap.
posted by infini at 11:53 AM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Why?

That was probably a rhetorical question, but: building mass movements is hard, much harder than building software! Anyhow, I agree totally that the cypherpunks are a useful case in point here — and it's not just about what happened to those of them who retained or developed enough of a real dissident position to cause real political problems (e.g. Assange, Manning) but also the broader question as a case study in the politics of technology. I mean, let's ponder for a moment this techno-historical question: How come we're still all sending unencrypted email? Why hasn't PGP or any similar technology ever succeeded? It's not a case of "worse is better" in technological terms, but political expediency: "worse" is congenial to powerful political and commercial interests and requires only individual voluntarism, while "better" would require not just technology but organized political action to secure a public good (privacy).
posted by RogerB at 12:04 PM on January 8, 2015


Why?

I think a large part of it is that "'open' hacker culture"/California Ideology is at its core antithetical to such movements. This is partly because there's a big dollop of libertarianism mixed in that discourages mass organization, but I think more importantly online culture has always been extremely elitist.

There's always been a lot of sneering at the "idiot masses", but it's exactly those masses you need on your side to win these fights. You see this again and again: the online world gets into a furor about some new law or development, and browsing around it seems like support is at a fever pitch, but in reality it's just the relatively small online community that's angry and most people don't really care.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:18 PM on January 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


The Internet is not a thing any more than gravity is a thing.

I'm pretty sure that gravity is a thing
posted by thelonius at 12:24 PM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Kumbaya sounds surprisingly good in an echo chamber. right after 93
posted by infini at 12:25 PM on January 8, 2015


Aphorisms work well in the age of phablet fingerfood for thought bubbles.
posted by infini at 12:26 PM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think a large part of it is that "'open' hacker culture"/California Ideology is at its core antithetical to such movements. This is partly because there's a big dollop of libertarianism mixed in that discourages mass organization, but I think more importantly online culture has always been extremely elitist.

The "hacker/California Ideology" wasn't born in Silicon Valley, it's the product of the military-industrial complex, which was largely aerospace. The internet is a military command-and-control system. It was built to carry encrypted messages like "Wing Attack Plan R," it is merely an accident that it can also carry encrypted messages like "Drink More Ovaltine."

Searls and his cronies want to be Generals issuing commands. They just aren't introspective enough to realize it.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:28 PM on January 8, 2015


charlie don't surf, I'm curious to know when was/what context/your memory of your first exposure to the concepts and works linked to in this FPP prior to crafting my reply to your comment.
posted by infini at 12:30 PM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Clue Train is partly descriptive and partly prescriptive.

The internet is a military command-and-control system. It was built to carry encrypted messages like "Wing Attack Plan R,"

A small Pentagon blue skies group funded it but it was never the stated aim - it was always an R&D network for think tanks and universities and anyone who justified non-profit use that would keep the US on the cutting edge of technology. No one foresaw exactly how it would be used or by whom, it was do this and see what happens next. Only after the fact did people start claiming it was a military invention, and most of the founding fathers of the Internet strongly deny that.
posted by stbalbach at 12:40 PM on January 8, 2015


(I really love the image at the top of their article: an armadillo in a harness tied to a banana-seat bike. What a slice of eclectic life!)
posted by wenestvedt at 1:06 PM on January 8, 2015


"Web pages are about connecting. Apps are about control."

"This must have been written by someone who never browses with javascript turned off. There are quite a few web pages that aren't documents at all but are instead software in their own right that communicates with one or more servers and interrogates your computer and surveils your activities as far as is possible. Indeed nearly every web page does this to some degree."


The point the Cluetrain folks are trying to make here is that apps are a closed system, or at least only as open as their makers/owners want them to be. You, as a third party, can't link to an app from outside of the app. You can't view source. You can't freely copy an app. You can't block ads. To even get the app you usually have to go through some kind of app store, etc...
posted by spudsilo at 1:16 PM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


The point the Cluetrain folks are trying to make here is that apps are a closed system, or at least only as open as their makers/owners want them to be.

In turn, the point that XMLicious is trying to make here, I think, is that web pages are now the same thing. A tremendous amount of the web simply doesn't work as "documents", and AJAX-driven "pages" are only as open as their authors want them to be (or, more likely, as open as their authors know how to make them). The difference between web pages and standalone applications has significantly decreased over the last few years.

Are there a lot of dedicated apps that really don't serve any purpose that couldn't be served as well with a well-designed web site? Sure. But the people creating these dedicated apps often don't have well-designed web sites either. Are there a lot of dedicated apps that only serve to keep users siloed? Sure. But that's less about the specific technology of apps vs sites, and more about the specific design intentions of the people who want your eyeballs.
posted by me & my monkey at 1:31 PM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm curious to know when was/what context/your memory of your first exposure to the concepts and works linked to in this FPP prior to crafting my reply to your comment.

My first exposure was probably in the late 1970s when I worked for a Federal agency and used the ARPANET.

But you probably meant Searls and the clueboys. They were annoying long before they ever did their cluecrap. The only thing more annoying, is businesses taking them seriously. They are in the business of manufacturing their own relevancy. That just proves they're irrelevant.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:51 PM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


The idea that the fact that ARPANET originated as a military project makes the Internet inherently authoritarian or anything else is about as cogent as the idea that microwave ovens are militaristic because they came out of radar development. If you want to consider what ideologies might be written into internet technologies it makes a thousand times more sense to look at the directions they have gone recently and are going in the near future. Commerce, audiovisual razzle-dazzle, easier "content" distribution for established media players - see that sounds about right.

How come we're still all sending unencrypted email?

Who is "we?" There are a few things going on. This has a lot of truth

I think a large part of it is that "'open' hacker culture"/California Ideology is at its core antithetical to such movements. This is partly because there's a big dollop of libertarianism mixed in that discourages mass organization, but I think more importantly online culture has always been extremely elitist.

A sizable number of "hackers" don't actually care about freedom and privacy for everybody, only freedom and privacy for hackers. In fact they probably rather appreciate being overlooked in favor of easier targets. And the genuine idealists (or supporters of technologies like meshnets or Tor which do benefit from "strength in numbers") tend to be more interested in (and better at) writing code than convincing people to use it - or more importantly convincing players with real influence in the software industry to make it the default. Which to be fair, is a really really hard thing which shouldn't really be the "job" of the technologist (unless they're in a position to pull a Snowden). But I think very few tech people really know how to get together with movement builders, and a lot don't trust the idea of a movement at all.
posted by atoxyl at 2:45 PM on January 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


In turn, the point that XMLicious is trying to make here, I think, is that web pages are now the same thing. A tremendous amount of the web simply doesn't work as "documents", and AJAX-driven "pages" are only as open as their authors want them to be (or, more likely, as open as their authors know how to make them). The difference between web pages and standalone applications has significantly decreased over the last few years.

That muddies the waters a little bit, but I think most of the fundamental criticisms of apps apply to web apps as well, and there's at least some hackers (myself included) who've been speaking about the problems that the "Single Page App All the Things!" and "The Browser is Just a VM!" approaches present.
posted by weston at 3:02 PM on January 8, 2015


Dave and Doc and Chris Locke (who wasn't involved in this new manifesto, which is too bad, because I think it could use a touch more of his fanciful and slightly manic hilarity) were part of the weblog gang I ran with back in the early days of the thing, a decade and a half ago.

Back in those days, there were loosely-affiliated weblog tribes, loose constellations of people who tended to talk online through their journally sites to one another or for one another, or so it seemed to me. I was mostly aware of two of them -- the one that included the cluetrain guys and a whole bunch of other people like Shelley Powers and Mike Golby and many many more, and me, and one that (as I recall) included our own Matt Haughey and folks like Meg Hourihan and Jason Kottke and Anil Dash many others, many of whom were involved in Pyra Labs and the birth of Blogger and a lot of other important internet stuff. There were others, of course, too, but overall the weblog world was a lot smaller back in those days.

The tribes overlapped and everyone was, in the early days, pretty much one big happy family exploring the possibilities of the new medium. It was kind of a golden age, in some ways. I've lost touch with pretty much all the people who made up the tribe I counted myself part of, in part because I think I lost faith in weblogging as a Thing (and started to think weblogs were a bit too loosely-coupled, to use one of Dave Weinberger's phrases, to support real community), gravitated more and more towards Metafilter and its constellation, started to get as much or more pleasure out of designing and building sites as I did writing stuff for them, and because things like Facebook and Twitter and their ilk started to suck all the air out of the room. Where room can be read as 'home-grown web community', I guess. Not long after, I launched MefightClub, my own attempt to build a web community I could be proud of being a part of.

Anyway, that's a very truncated pocket history that popped into my head after finding out that Doc and Dave had launched this New Clues thing.

And although I have nothing but respect for what they had to say, at least a decade or more back when I was actively reading what they had to say, Dave in particular, I have to admit that although the original Cluetrain stuff felt to me like (some) Important Things That Needed Saying, this new iteration leaves me cold.

It just feels a bit perfunctory to me, on first blush, at least. I love enthusiasm and I love professions of almost-embarrassingly-sincere positivity, I do, enormously. But I think if you're going to do something like this, you need to have something new to say or some new or particularly engaging way to say it -- it's possible (and this is where Chris Locke might have come in, good ol' Rageboy) to talk in positive ways about a better world and a better way of doing things with your teeth bared and your fists clenched.

There are good important ideas here, but I don't think many if any of them are insights to anyone who spends any time thinking about the web, or has been using it as a medium for expression or community for any length of time. I guess it's an indictment in and of itself of how badly things have gone in the past decade that Dave and Doc felt that these ideas, close to the beaten path as they are, I think, needed to be formally laid out. But without a touch more passion, this long list just kind of sits there on the page for me.

Anger, as ol' grandpa Lydon used to say, is an energy, although Point #113 (that's WAY too many bullet points, guys) says 'Anger is a license to be stupid. The Internet's streets are already crowded with licensed drivers' I am compelled to suggest that stupid people are going to be stupid whether they're angry or not. What we need more of, on the internet and everywhere else, is angry smart people. Angry smart people who understand that fury is not incompatible with kindness and good work, support for diversity and tolerance, being good to people while kicking the corporations in the knees, all the good stuff, and acting for the Good calmly and rationally and with a quiet energy fueled by anger: that can be worth more than manifestos.

I dunno. I think that there are a lot of young and not-so-young folks out there on the wide web who could read these clues (with not a goddamned chance they'll get through all of them -- attention spans just don't extend to 121-point lists these days, guys) and benefit, see the web in a different way, achieve some new insight and get inspired. I suspect very few of them will. More's the pity, I guess, but that's just the way things are. I still write the occasional screed on my own weblog thing when I get a wild hair up my ass -- I just don't expect that anyone other than a few other greyhairs and diehards are actually going to read it.

I wish Dave and Doc luck with this new thing -- I just wish it had a bit more zing.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:02 PM on January 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


Also: I am aware of the irony of me telling Dave and Doc they needed to edit for length in such a ridiculously long comment here. That is always the way of it.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:06 PM on January 8, 2015


The line is certainly blurry, yes, but that doesn't make the discussion pointless.

Is Wikipedia (on the web) an app? It's a web application that runs on WMF servers, one that basically pulls content out of a database, turns it into HTML, and displays it. We don't think of it as particularly app-like because it is document-based, permits deep linking through normal URL structures, does its processing on the server, and provides programmatic access and database dumps so others can make use of it. It's that openness that has allowed numerous people to develop native apps for Wikipedia. Would we still think of it the same way if it was a single page web app that used AJAX calls to fetch articles and rendered the wiki markup client-side?

Now what about Gmail? It's a single-page web application that does most everything client-side, doesn't provide document-like URLs, but it also provides free programmatic access through POP and IMAP. This is not really any different from a native mobile app, through the programmatic access leads to more openness. Part of the reason we think of Gmail as less open than, say, Wikipedia isn't technical at all: we trust (and have licenses that provide for) WMF to maintain Wikipedia in a certain way that doesn't apply to Google, which could at any time discontinue POP/IMAP support, force you to sit through video ads to get to your email, or do any number of other horrible things.

So yes, it's not nearly as simple as web=good, native apps=bad. As a shorthand, the distinction highlights the kinds of issues some of us are worried about as the web and native apps have developed. More importantly, the real distinction is between environments where the network effect makes the web as a whole better for everyone and those environments where the network effect helps a particularly titan advance in an intergalactic game of 8D chess against other titans. When you edit a Wikipedia page to add a citation to a reliable web source, you're a pawn helping the web advance in a small way. If you build an app on the Amazon App Store that uses Amazon's APIs to let users buy Amazon Coins, it doesn't take a whole lot of imagination to see whose pawn you are and that you're slowly setting up an attack against someone else you have no desire to attack.
posted by zachlipton at 4:12 PM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


There are good important ideas here, but I don't think many if any of them are insights to anyone who spends any time thinking about the web, or has been using it as a medium for expression or community for any length of time. I guess it's an indictment in and of itself of how badly things have gone in the past decade that Dave and Doc felt that these ideas, close to the beaten path as they are, I think, needed to be formally laid out. But without a touch more passion, this long list just kind of sits there on the page for me.

You are right, of course. But while these ideas should be obvious, they so blatantly aren't translating into reality when you consider how people actually act. The same went for the original Cluetrain.

Of course, the original Cluetrain attained a fair bit of success as a general interest business book, which at least got its ideas in the hands of marketers and executives who needed, and still need, a clue. This list is probably only preaching to the converted.
posted by zachlipton at 4:25 PM on January 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


You, as a third party, can't link to an app from outside of the app. You can't view source. You can't freely copy an app. You can't block ads. To even get the app you usually have to go through some kind of app store, etc...

There's no fundamental reason why any of those things have to be possible in a web page. EME wouldn't be a very good DRM system if it let you freely copy the page, for example.

The EME spec currently says,
Media data processed by a CDM [Content Decryption Module] may not be available through Javascript APIs in the usual way... if media data is not available to Javascript APIs then these APIs may behave as if no media data was present at all.
...I'll bet ad blockers at some point will need to be run as trusted or authenticated code before they can modify the page.

There'll always be ways around restrictions, at least at some level of technological sophistication, but the dichotomy drawn between web pages and apps seems misleading to me.
posted by XMLicious at 6:02 PM on January 8, 2015


When I was young and green, the Clue Train Manifesto left some powerful insights behind, influencing and enhancing my perspective.

When I step back from this Clue however, the essential takeaway can be summarized by this comment of mine from a couple of days earlier, say, for example.

The real question is How do you make change happen, IF that is what you're asking (and its not really clear what the Ask is here) given that the situation today is nothing like the late 1990s, especially in teh technosphere.

What are they asking of us, their readers? What changes or outcomes are the aim of this?

The lack of clarity is sad because any of us here could easily answer the above two questions if asked the same about The Cluetrain.

This will be perceived as a warm and fuzzy "101 things you know about your internet" thingie common on the web by the generation now hanging out in the digital world. This year's netizens are nothing like the founding fathers and I'm not sure if this will be picked up by the 20 somethings running the virtual world today. They were still learning how to read when the blogosphere and technorati and "link love" were at their peak.

I listen to an ambitious 24 year old CEO of a community engagement platform a few times a month. She's my eyes to a present and future version of the internet that I will never perceive in all my menopausal glory, she's a real life digital native. She was born in America to parents who came over from West Africa. She personifies to me the face of the Internet today, and one of the drivers of its future. She will be part of shaping what it will become. None of this granny talk is going engage her, nor will it be a clue.

Not to tumblr crowd, who rattle cages shrieking for change. Not the youtubers who passionately declaim on lipstick, languages and teach you how to do just about anything. And not to the ever increasing "third worlders" sweeping the floors and mopping out the mensrooms of the infrastructure and underpinnings of this virtual world.

Now, if that's your audience, how will you catch their attention, long enough to listen to what you have to say?


That's the clue, hidden in plain sight.


And, btw, what were you trying to say?
posted by infini at 11:25 PM on January 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I kind of think they missed the chance to call this "The Protocols of the Elders of Cluetrain," though I can see why they might not want to do that.
posted by chavenet at 4:09 AM on January 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also: I am aware of the irony of me telling Dave and Doc they needed to edit for length in such a ridiculously long comment here. That is always the way of it.

You didn't have time to make it shorter.
posted by phearlez at 8:48 AM on January 9, 2015




I am Kevin Kelly, radical techno-optimist, digital pioneer, and co-founder of Wired magazine. AMA

Which contains the following gem, perhaps the best nutshell distillation of the ideology's inherent contradictions that I've ever seen. Asked "What advice would you give your 25 year old self?", Kelly replies:
I'd tell my DIY 25-year-old self that you don't have to do EVERYTHING yourself. You can hire others to do things (like programing) that I don't do well myself.
Doing it yourself not feeling so liberatory anymore? Hire servants!
posted by RogerB at 11:21 AM on January 11, 2015


The person who changes my oil - something I used to do myself - is not my servant. The DIY qualifier he uses there is meaningful.
posted by phearlez at 1:29 PM on January 11, 2015


A bit late to the party but in talking about DRM and webpages, I have noticed that Wired's Galleries won't work in Chrome when I've got an ad blocker running. So, they are effectively DRMing their website from me because I am choosing to not look at ads. I suspect more and more of this will happen moving forward.
posted by drinkmaildave at 10:47 AM on January 12, 2015


I think the problem there is more that although Wired used to farm out their web design and development to an editor's middle school nephew, they've had to cut corners, and now it's done by Duane the janitor. Duane's a nice guy, but he's got a lot of toilets to clean, so, you know: priorities.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:38 PM on January 12, 2015


[NOT JANITORIST]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:38 PM on January 12, 2015


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