The Web Runs on Love, Not Greed

Paul Prescod
Fri, 04 Jan 2002 16:26:40 -0800

JS Kelly wrote:
> > If I wanted to learn about, let's say, Uzbekistan, I would turn first to
> > the Web. From there I would get some references on printed books that I
> > should also pick up. What better source of content do you start with?
> ummm, an encyclopedia? the library? a good geography or history volume?

Which of those would give me the "latest news, current affairs and info
on Uzbekistan."

> OK, first of all -- i didn't say the web was useless, or that there's *no*
> content available. i guess 'wasteland' is too strong a word. sorry.

Agree. ;)

> of course for something like uzbekistan i'd start with the web. and i get
> a lot of my information online (who doesn't?). but compared with what it
> could be, it's still a disappointment.

I guess I have trouble understanding what that means. What it could be
if ... we lived in a universe where only correct facts were printed? If
RDF-heads ruled the Web instead of HTML-heads? If only smart people were
allowed to create web pages?

> besides, uzbekistan is a bad example -- hundreds (at the least) of pages
> on this will have sprung up since 9/11. 

Uzbekistan? It's a bit player! Okay, fine, use "COTE D' IVORIE "

> ... i'm constantly running into 404s
> and meager offerings when i do research on the web (on less 'hot' topics)
> -- this is one of the things that drives me to conclude that the web is
> particularly sucky. 

Yes, 404s are annoying. But they are the result of allowing people to
choose when they want to take information down. And that freedom is part
of the decentralized nature of the web. And a part of what makes it
scale so well. I don't think you can have a Web with all of the good
parts and none of the bad parts, any more than you can have "democracy"
with all of the good parts and no bad parts.

The same goes for meager offerings. Sometimes I put meager offerings up
myself, in the view that a meager offering is often better than nothing.
And sometimes you really do have those two choices: something meager,
from the Web, or nothing at all, from the print media.

> ... it isn't comprehensive, it isn't cohesive, it isn't
> consistent... 

It is precisely because it isn't comprehensive and cohesive that it
scales so well. Your standard university library isn't very
comprehensive or cohesive either. It will have both the communist
manifesto and "The mystery of capital" and neither book will contain a
wealth of cross-references to the other.

> ... most of it doesn't take advantage of the really wonderful
> things that the web/net is capable of...

There is no doubt it could be better in a variety of alternate
universes, and will doubtless be much better in the future.
Nevertheless, it is pretty cool as it exists today.

 Paul Prescod