Web Informant #81, 28 August 1997
(Era of Bad Feeling)


Quote of the week: The movements of a great nation are connected in all their parts. If errors have been committed they ought to be corrected; if the policy is sound it ought to be supported. It is by a thorough knowledge of the whole subject that our fellow-citizens are enabled to judge correctly of the past and to give a proper direction to the future.
-- Second Inaugural Address of President James Monroe, March 1821

Back then it was called the Era of Good Feeling: we were between wars, prosperous, had acquired lots of land, and in general times were good. Well, the events of the past month seem to indicate that we are about to enter an Era of Bad Feeling as far as the Internet is concerned. I guess this was bound to happen, but it is sad nonetheless.

Witness the events surrounding this summer's various email hoaxes such as the fake Vonnegut MIT commencement speech and the Dysson "murder" story. And to top it all off, this week I heard about an Australian company with the fetching domain name of internic.com. They are trying to spoof the clueless into paying them for registering domain names. The irony of it all is that the Aussies had to apply to the Virginia-based Internic to obtain their own .com domain name.

You can't trust anyone these days, and even the august New York Times weighed in with an editorial on the matter. (As a curious and unfortunate aside, the editorial was quite awfully titled "www.internet.anarchy" - even though it cited examples dealing exclusively with email and very little with the web as the title implies.)

I just had to call chief hoaxster Joey Skaggs and catch up with what he has been doing. Skaggs makes his living plying the gullibility of the mass media. He generally is razor sharp in finding his targets, and often gets ink by convincing a small-town reporter that he is legit and then building on that coverage.

He has "created" a dog bordello (cat house for dogs), a bicycle-riding priest taking his confessional around New York City at the time of the last Democratic Convention (Port-o-Fess), and a company that sells virtual-reality sex (this last one I wrote about for Wired back in 1993).

Skaggs has managed to get airtime on national TV, and even CNN at one point thought he was legit. Skaggs was amused about all the fuss over these latest hoaxes but he didn't offer any real words of advice, other than be skeptical. In the meantime, he is working on his own web site that will document some of his clips, as well as his next hoax.

Do I long for those days of yore (say two or three years ago), when it was a lot harder to pull off email-based stunts? Not really: I enjoy the progress we have made technologically, not to mention all the competition for services that I enjoy with lower access prices and better service. And not to mention better software, although I wish my Netscape software was more stable. Lest we forget, even three years ago getting your browser, IP stack, and assorted other Internet tools to work together wasn't for the meek and timid. Some may argue it still isn't.

Meanwhile, I'll try to cheer myself up by reading the rest of Monroe's speech.

Site-keeping and self-promotions dep't

As usual, I have been busy writing. An extensive review of the web clients of both OpenText's LiveLink Intranet and PC Docs' Docs Open document management products appeared this week in ComputerWorld.

And two articles of mine are in the latest (September) issue of Windows Sources: my usual Browser column looking at how you create a multihoming web server and an NT Admin feature on push publishing, concentrating on three technologies: Intermind, Wayfarer's Incisa, and Astound's WebCast.

David Strom
+1 (516) 944-3407
back issues
entire contents copyright 1997 by David Strom, Inc.