|stating the obvious||archives | about|
Stating the Obvious turns five today. On August 1, 1995, I published my first piece under the obvious title (but not domain -- that wouldn't come for another few months), Apple's Salvation, where I argued that the Internet was (pre iMac) Apple's ticket to ride. The site's name, and the site's slogan, "all meta, all the time" fit that first piece perfectly -- in an incredibly awkward and halting way, I was basically agreeing with things that Nicholas Negroponte and Dave Winer had recently said.
It took me until late 1996 to realize that publishing other people's writing was not only less work than writing my own stuff, but that it usually produced much better results. My first victim was none other than Jeff Bezos -- who patiently answered some incredibly off-topic questions about how they were using email for customer service. Since then, I've had the privilege of publishing some of the best minds on the web, thanks to writers who have donated their pieces, and those intrepid souls who have been victims of the deceptively simple "just one question" interview format. (Note -- I have it on fairly good authority that The Industry Standard did borrow that from me. But then again I borrowed the format, if not the title, from G. Beato's Soundbitten, so who's complaining.)
To avoid having to write an actual piece this week, I've copied and pasted some of the best guest quotes from the last five years. They're in chronological order, so if you squint real hard, and suspend all notions of disbelief, you could almost imagine them as a history of something.
"Our plan is to ultimately make it as easy for customers as possible to do as much as they would like by web form. Right now, the only thing you can do on our site is check the status of your orders. We'll add customer accessible features over time. There will always be a place for email because customers will want to ask that question that just doesn't quite fit into the things you've anticipated." -- Jeff Bezos, answering emailed questions about using email as a customer service tool
"7. Run puzzlers, with the answer in next month's issue. Sample puzzle: 'If you have 300 gallons of neon green flourescent ink, but only 220 pages to spill it on, how many ounces of ink per page?'" -- Unknown contributor to 101 Ways to Save Wired
"It really doesn't make much sense to rearchitect GeoCities. Anyway, it's good to have a morass around to do one's virtual slumming in; I say leave it be." -- Lou Rosenfeld, answering just one question about how he would architect GeoCities.
"Giving away your source code opens up all sorts of possibilities for end-user browser-customization. But it does not relieve you from your primary responsibility as a "platform" vendor: listening to your developers, and providing a stable code base full of features that will enable us to deliver on your crossware vision." -- Steven Champeon, in An Open Letter to Netscape
"Tactical inaccuracies have a long history in the negotiation of schedules and assignments, and by simply pre-planning and coordinating these efforts, a development team can easily define the course and future of an entire company." -- Greg Knauss, in Grass Roots Terrorism
"I'd been planning a collection of web-based fictional stories for a very long time. I wanted to produce the type of content that took chances and risked jostling the reader's sensibilities by its very nature, whether that was erotic, or violent, or simply unusual. I've always been attracted to pulp, to stories that are out of the norm, difficult to categorize and sometimes difficult to read, and those have always been the types of stories I've told myself, or written down, or imagined." -- Magdalena Donea, answering just one question about her then new site, COLORS
"Contrary to 'unique needs and wants,' much of what we desire is hugely influenced by what others have, and whether or not we want to have it -- or can get it -- too. Choosing "the daily me" will also include inventing "who do I want to be today?'" -- Vivian Selbo, responding to a piece of mine on the one to one future, in Michael, are you Serious?
"The Internet is a social network, and it's that aspect that makes it so different from previous media. And yet, because there aren't any fundamentally new aspects to the 'cybereconomy,' business is still business, and remains focused on the bottom line. What counts in culture and the arts are illusion and imagination -- but these fluid, untamed elements are precisely what is endangered now. We clearly cannot revert to visionary sales talks or neo-luddite anti-technological persuasion. The time has come for radical forms of media pragmatism -- living paradoxes rooted in a messy praxis, unswervingly friendly to the virtual open spaces that are being closed everywhere else." -- Geert Lovnik, in Radical Media Pragmatism
"TCP/IP is inherently seditious. It undermines unthinking respect for centralized authority, whether that 'authority' is the neatly homogenized voice of broadcast advertising or the smarmy rhetoric of the corporate annual report." -- Christopher Locke, answering just one question about how TCP/IP has made the inside of companies look so much like the outside of companies.
"Andover.Net betrayed Slashdot's founders by selling to a Linux company and removing its greatest asset -- editorial distance. Anyone who believes that Slashdot is still an independent voice about the stuff that matters should get back to me when Microsoft buys VA Linux." -- Rogers Cadenhead, in The Cash-Out Effect
Other pieces about miscellany: