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Notes From The Flip Side: 05.27.2001

I shouldn't have to say this anymore, but the Web is a new media. It is entirely unlike any publishing media that came before (unless you want to talk about HyperCard technology - and I don't). Its strength lies in the network of links and contacts, in the variety of paths that people may follow to reach a destination and the information they may discover along the way. It is about finding information immediately and spelunking for new ideas, exploring the caves of nearly countless sites and finding strange and wondrous things that dwell in the darkness. It is not about choking the free flow of information in order to maintain corporate org charts.

I'm writing this because I've stumbled across a few things lately that attempt to apply old media thinking to new technology. Like this application to "establish a hypertext link from your web site to the Ansett Web Site home page." Like the terms of usage for Maharaji.org (as a side note, I initially tried to view this site with cookies disabled; a brusque note informed me that "Cookies are harmless to your computer and do not compromise your privacy in any way or manner." Yeah? Tell that to DoubleClick). And, just for shits and giggles, like Edelman Public Relations Worldwide's (Apple's PR firm) response to Joe Clark's request for an interview about localization in Mac OS X.

  1. I don't need to submit an application to initiate a process that may result in obtaining permission or approval to "establish a hypertext link." In point of fact, I don't know of a single law that currently exists anywhere in the world that provides for such a process or requires it. As a courtesy, I typically establish links to a site's primary point of entry, even if it features a lame splash page / Flash intro / .WAV or MIDI file. In this case, I'm actually engaging in some mildly deep linking to prove a point - this behavior is ridiculous. Typically, people will only deep link to a site if they have specific interest in what is there or deep and abiding fandom. The best example that I currently know of is a cease and desist letter sent from Universal to Movie-List. It seems to me that movie studios, in this example, would happily relinquish control over the distribution of a movie trailer if it was being viewed by people who were likely to see the movie. It's a simple business principle - don't alienate your customers. On the Web, anyone can be a customer. In Ansett's case, they are making it exceptionally difficult for people to refer customers to them. (Addendum: As an appropriate response to Ansett's application, I will note that I am a U.S. citizen, subject to U.S. law. As such, I consider myself to be protected under the fair comment and criticism statues of said body of law. In addition, I do not consider myself to be subject to their terms since I did not create or establish a link to their home page, fill out their form or click their submit button.)
  2. I don't like terms of usage. It seems ridiculous to attach strings to otherwise readily accessible information. Isn't the information supposed to be used by the public? Why keep people from learning about it? Anything that prevents people from accessing information quickly acts as a barricade to learning. Anything that acts as a barricade on the Web fails. And the claim that cookies are harmless? I suppose that might have been the case before they were invented, but since their invention, they have provided a means to surreptitiously spy on visitors as they browse the Web and I really don't like spying. (As yet another side note, privacy on the Web is one of my personal crusades. I've never gotten around to publishing this site's privacy policy or what information I track because I don't track any information that specifically identifies any user. I only collect aggregate information - traffic and hits per day. I do not use cookies. I do not track users. I don't know what your IP address is or what browser you're using. I don't even know what pages you look at.)
  3. Finally, I'm a little miffed about how PR firms handle interview and information requests for independent media. I went through this with my second issue of STM when I tried to set up an interview with Joey Ramone. Putting something in print required slightly more work and skill; the advent of the Web and free Web hosting transformed the nature of publishing. Suddenly, anyone who could type <html> could be a publisher, a writer, a journalist without printing costs. They could report their news, their issues and what was happening in their communities. They didn't bypass the gatekeepers, they simply tore the fucking fences down. Who needs formal training when you have passion? Freelancers posted their clip files, activists posted eyewitness accounts of political actions, fans started sites that became leading sources for industry news. And the PR flacks responded by running around like extras in a disaster movie and calling for credentials. Suddenly, their traditional pals - the Grey Lady's minions and their ilk - weren't the only game in town. A new breed of writer was coming up through the ranks, a writer who might not have gone through j-school (I never did) and might actually be better than their credentialed counterpart. These writers are the rogue set, choking out the mainstream media. They publish in forums such as Plastic and Slashdot. And PR firms don't know what to make of them. They don't have to. Yet.

After all, who cares about the Web? The Web is nothing, it's insignificant. No one gets news or ideas on the Web, no one forms opinions. I hope they keep thinking like that. If they do, the Web will belong to the people once again instead of the corporate influences that swooped in to transform our medium of communication into one of commerce. Regardless, they are destined for the dustbin of history. They are already obsolete.

Site Updates

I've added Erik's comments from the Dillinger Four interview. I am still working on Patrick's section. If this helps you understand how long the interview was, I've transcribed about half of it so far and the raw text (before typesetting and the like) is currently hovering around 20 pages. Mercy.

I added more archival reviews as well as more links.

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Last modified on Wednesday, March 26, 2008