"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 8 January 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

The Rule


It's been a while since we first

met Greg, and though he's left

his deep-fry specialist position

for more digital pastures, his

stoic misanthropy seems as

healthy as ever. Greg's peeve

with the incestuous machinations

of the social pyramid has left

him with a Big Mac-size chip on

his shoulder, but that doesn't

go far in helping us determine

whether this most recent

communication is meant as a

sidebar curse to "The System" or

a cutesy-pie plea for help. No

matter - the truth is always good

for a laugh, and we see a bonus

punchline in short-circuiting

Greg's "Ode to the Loner" with a

Suck-size introduction.

Everybody, meet Greg. Greg,

meet everybody...


"There's no such thing as the

kindness of strangers."


So you thought the Web would be

different than real life, did

you? You thought that you stood

a chance - maybe, if you were

good - to be known, to be

somebody. You thought that with

raw talent and a driving

ambition, you could march into

the great wide Web and

accomplish something?



And you thought this while

working your day-job at





If all you've managed to do with

your pathetic, squirming little

real-world existence is eke out

a living at some fetid

hash-house - or as some grunt

coder in cube hell, like me -

then you sure ain't gonna get

any farther than that on the



Because they're run by the same

Rule, you monkey. Exactly the

same Rule.


This whole Web thing is just as

incestuous and crony-driven as

real life. Don't kid yourself.

There is one Rule, and one Rule



1. Who you know.


Somehow I suspect that doesn't

work in your favor.


And if you haven't gotten the

hang of that little gem in the

real world, then you're going to

get just about as far on the

Web. You've got a home page?

Great! But you're still the

McDonald's fry-guy. And, likely,

that's all you'll ever be.


Hits are what count, m'boy.

They're the currency of the Web,

the high-tech penis-inches in

the WWW locker room, and you

don't get the hits without

links, and you don't get the

links without knowing somebody.


What? You think people are going

to link to your page because

they like it? People who matter,

anyway? Go back and read the

Rule again.



Two years ago I began mailing out

stories to a small group of

friends. One of them collected

the stories and slapped together

a Web page, and called it An

Entirely Other Site. My friends

have entirely too much free time.


The page languished. A few hits a

day, max. And half of those were

from me poking around. I suspect the

other half were from the guy who

created the site.



Then, out of nowhere, my page

gets a mention in an

up-and-coming on-line 'zine.

Bang! The hits jumped. Then it

gets listed as the "most

entertaining" site on the Web in

a prominent national magazine.

Bang again! The hits bounded.

And early next year it will be

featured in one of those how-to

computer books from a big

publisher. Bang bang bang! I

expect another increase.


All told, the site is now running

at roughly 5,000% of what it was

before all this started. Nothing

significant in the world of the

big boys, yeah, but a lot better

than most self-indulgent look-

at-me pages. And it's a truer

count since I've stopped looking

at the damned thing - the

writing's kinda dull.


A fairy tale, you say. A miracle.

A beacon to every other hash-

and/or code-slinger out there

who wants to get known, to

become someone. A testament to

the democratic power of the Web.

It must mean something if I can

up my hit-rate 5,000% just based

on my talent, just based on the

sheer brilliance of my writing.

It's good, you say, that quality

gets found.


Except that it's all a crock.

Those wonderful references were

all from people I know. Friends

of mine. Go back and re-read the

Rule again.



One of the editorial cheeky chums

at Suck knows the guy who

maintains the site - a friend of

a friend. The person who created

the "most entertaining" list for

Infoworld is an old buddy of

mine - I sleep on her sofa when

I visit.


And the book author is somebody

I've known from eons ago. He

recognized my name, so he threw

it in. He could have used any

other site on the Web, but he's

using mine. Because he knows me.


That's it.


Nothing magical, nothing special.

Nothing, even, about the site

itself beyond, maybe, a few

one-liners and the requisite

self-importance needed to think

that an archive of my writing

has any place on the Web.


It all comes down to who I had

the good fortune of meeting

years ago, who I spent time with

in college - who I know, and who

the people I know know. That's

the Rule; it's the way the world

works. I got my job that way, I

got my car that way, and I'm

getting many more hits than I

rightfully deserve that way.


My page isn't better than yours,

my life isn't more interesting.

You just don't have my friends,

and they'd rather be nice to me

than to you.


Ha ha ha.



And I get free movie tickets from

a guy at Paramount, too.

courtesy of An Entirely Other Greg