The Brownian Motion theory of the Net
A new newsletter called WOT

"There are no measurable productivity gains from reading the New York Times, but I wouldn't want to give it up."

-- Noted Internet pioneer and author Jean Armour Polly, who first coined the "surfing" phrase in early 1992, in reaction to last's week quote about how surfing time isn't an economic output.

Thanks, Jean, the parallels are nice. I don't want to add up how much time I spend reading the Times, let alone the remaining trade rags that cross my desk. In case you'd like to read her original surfing article and get some perspective on how far we have come in the past (nearly) four years, go here.

And thanks to all of you as always who sent in your comments. It is refreshing to hear from you all. Of course, the range of opinion ran from agreement to abuse, which is what makes my job all the more fun.

Last week I had a realization that trying to predict where our industry is going is like looking at the bacteria in tap water under a microscope: there are many players, moving all about rather quickly, and with no apparent paths. In other words, the industry has gotten the Brownian motion model.

It used to be that you could be fairly comfortable with how things worked around here: products took about 18 months to develop, public relations and marketing people did certain things to get ink with us trade press guys, we went to certain trade shows at certain times of the year, and software engineers all coded in C++ when they weren't trying to extract that bit of performance out of their code in Assembler. Those days are over.

It is all random now. Brownian motion. Anyone, yours truly included, that can predict what is about to happen is just lucky. Three versions per year per product is now the norm, and if you can push more out the door all the better. Over 175 Internet-related trade shows in North America, according to a friend at Softbank (and they do about half of them by my account. Only kidding.) Everyone using the word Intranet in their products, regardless of its match or meaning. And so forth.

As an example, take some of the booths at Internet World last week. Big honking structures, from companies that didn't even exist a year ago, and just recently started shipping product (whatever that means, given that downloads du jour are the norm now). Did this inspire confidence? Nope: but then, I thrive on confusion. That's what makes me fully employable. So bring on that randomness!

WOT's up Doc?

Part of the Brownian motion is that now everyone and his grandmother has their own targeted newsletter that is connected to their web site to increase traffic and provide self-promotion. Okay, so I am grateful that you folks still want to read these missives, really I am.

Want a fresh perspective? Check out WOT, short for Web Open Technologies. In its third issue, the chaps Peter Judge and Christopher Ogg at Technology Appraisals in the UK are doing a smashingly good job at producing something about the web that no one else has done. The current issue talks about Novell's NDS, some intelligent debate on network computers (including the wonderful acronym WYGIWIGY for "what you get is what IBM gives you"), and sniping on various web mis-fires.

In short, WOT is a kindred spirit, and I urge you all to subscribe. Their web site has some nice resources as well.

Finally, speaking of Novell, an industry executive was talking to me about his new company and his plans to support this and that. "I was about a week into planning my platform rollouts, when it occurred to me that I had completely forgotten about what I was going to do with Novell!" Sad commentary indeed. Has Novell fallen and can't get up?

Self-promotions dep't

Busy doing my usual writing gigs: my "browser" column for Windows Sources Magazine on analyzing your web server log files.

And a feature article for Web Review Magazine on comparing the various push-publishing technologies. I think this is the most comprehensive collection of these things that I've seen, IMHO. The comparison table will be updated on my site here, as I come across new push technologies. Hey, everyone should have a hobby.

Happy holidays, for those of you celebrating or just enjoying some vacation. I'm taking a few days off in the sun and visiting family in SoCal. Of course, it isn't a complete holiday, as I'll have my laptop. Sigh.

David Strom
+1 (516) 944-3407
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entire contents copyright 1996 by David Strom, Inc.