Gosh I’m prolific these days. I guess controversy is a good source of
inspiration. I imagine those people used to the one-or-two-updates-a-month
ZedneWeb are in for a rude surprise the next time they show up, but that’s
why I have the calendar at the bottom of the page.
Fortunately, my readership is small, so I don’t have to worry too much
about inconsistent updating or complex syntax. Seriously, I read some
writing for a global audience, and I think I manage to break all of
them regularly. Idioms, complex sentences, puns, obscure references… we
have them all. (via WebWord)
Enough about that
Barring follow-through on those Constitutional amendments people are
talking about, these will be my last comments about the Pledge of Allegiance
flap. Consider the original wording of the Pledge, written in 1892 by
Francis Bellamy, Baptist minister and socialist:
I pledge allegiance to my flag and the Republic for which
it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
They replaced “my flag” with “the flag of the United States of America” in 1923
and inserted “under God” in 1954. Congress officially recognized the pledge in 1942,
and the Supreme Court ruled that children could not be forced to recite it in 1943.
I think the original version scans better (try reading it aloud a few times), but
the primary problem with the pledge is that its meaning has been dulled through
overuse. (The dulling of meaning, incidentally, has been used by the courts to
allow the phrase “In God we trust” to remain on our currency. Our government is
free to talk about God as long as it doesn’t really mean it.)
There’s been talk from the administration about protecting our children’s
ability to recite the pledge, but that of course is a distortion. No one is
preventing children from reciting the pledge, any more than from
praying. The point is that there shouldn’t be an organized, daily recitation.
The timing of this decision is unfortunate, as it gives a tremendous
fund-raising issue for conservative groups which don’t have the Clintons to
scare people with, and because it distracts people from serious violations
of the separation of church and state such as the Supreme Court’s recent
decision allowing public money to support religious schools. Lets pay more
attention to the important things the Bush Administration and major corporations
are doing. (There’s a pretty good conspiracy theory in all this, considering
that one of the judges was a Nixon appointee, but it’s more likely that he
voted for what was, after all, the decision that anyone looking at it
dispassionately would reach.)
The big rock candy access point
High in the Blogdex ratings is
an idea that has nothing to do with war.
It’s a set of chalk markings people can use to identify local wireless
networks, inspired by hobo-signs. A few people have marked their own houses
to identify open networks, and the CIO of Utah
is interested in it as a method of indicating locations where state employees
can hook up.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the hype or to discount it completely, but
wireless networking really is working out to be a Very Big Thing. It’s a pity
so much of the wireless spectrum is reserved for cellular phones and television
(both of which can be implemented more flexibly over wireless Internet connections,
but I digress). My own experiences are
surprisingly freeing, despite spotty connectivity in parts of my house and the
antenna limitations caused by my laptop’s metal case. I don’t plan to open up
the network, though, as it uses a dial-up connection and we only have one
phone line, but perhaps one day Internet access and IP addresses will be cheap and plentiful.
Then we’ll really see something.
What’s that, Cassandra?
Everyone’s favorite techno-monopoly
has announced Palladium, its scheme for ensuring trusted computing. To
a lot of people, this seems like a very scary thing, as Microsoft
has a poor record regarding security and a history of trying to control as
much as possible of everything. They assure us that they
will be fair and open, but the plan relies on special secured hardware. The problem
is, do you trust the hardware? How do you know it does what it says it does?
That’s not even the most serious problem. This is the same sort of technology
everyone hated when the CBDTPA was still
around. DRM is anti-consumer: it assumes
that everyone is a criminal and it levies fees on anyone who wants some
The frustrating part is that some sort of digital identity system is needed,
but I am suspicious of any system proposed by a for-profit organization.
Their priority will always be themselves, not the needs of the users. (via
“Deep linking” is in the news again, as the Danish Newspaper Publisher’s
Association is suing to prevent third parties from linking to
pages “inside” their site. Similarly, NPR
has claimed the ability to “withdraw permission” for
This is insanity, resulting from a fundamental misunderstanding
of web architecture, so let me clear something up: There is
no such thing as a deep link. I don’t care what
the courts say, and I don’t care what the lawyers say, the fact
is that every page on the web is potentially no more than one
link away from every other page. This is one of the core advantages
of the web, and a central reason for its success. No less an
authority than Tim Berners-Lee has stated that links carry no
liability and do not require permission.
The problem is twofold. First, people look at HTTP URLs, note that they have
define a hierarchy, and assume that this is significant to the web
itself. This is a mistake; it is impossible to determine the structure
of a site by looking at its addresses. For example, ZedneWeb’s address,
“http://www.eyrie.org/~zednenem/”, is subordinate to the
but they are not part of the same “site”, as a look at their
administration or linking patterns readily shows. A single second-level
domain may include dozens or hundreds of sites, or a single site
may involve elements from multiple domains.
Similarly, the site structure itself may involve a hierarchy,
as seen with ZedneWeb (particularly if your browser takes advantage
of site navigation). Thus, the Starcruiser
Anonymous cast page is three layers down in the
hierarchy, under the main page,
the library page, and the
Anonymous page. This does not make it any deeper with
respect to the web, only with respect to the site. The central
idea of hypertext involves the ability to jump from any point to
any other point.
The intelligent site designer understands this, and designs
pages with the expectation that people may be jumping in from
outside. The clever site designer encourages this, making it
as easy as possible for people to point out information in the
site that’s relevant to their readers. This is the
primary reason why frames cause problems: they make it difficult
or inconvenient to link to information.
There are ways to defeat “deep linking”. Extensive use of
frames can make life difficult, or servers can be configured to
give highly contextual URLs
which are different for each user
and which expire over time. But why go to this much trouble to
effectively lobotomize your site? Unusable sites tend to die
as soon as something better comes along, if not beforehand.