S U C K

"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 16 February 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
If I Only Had a Brain

 

[valentines day is, of course a joke]

Behind all great marketing copy,

there's a product that's

virtually useless.

 

There's no irony in that simple

truth, no lesson to be learned.

The best products are the ones

that are so amorphous, so

without objective or form, that

they can be repurposed to fit

almost any need and fulfill

almost any desire. The lack of

real product means unlimited

possibility. Think Sea Monkeys

without the sea, without

primates. Or the Network

Computer.

 

Enter The Brain. The Brain is "a

reflection of what's in your

mind's eye." The Brain is

"different for everyone." The

Brain "mirrors the way your mind

works." The Brain is a "New Era

of Computing." As Jerry

Michalski writes in Release 1.0,

"The Brain is about conceptual

space."

 

[im a relatively romantic person, but i think one should try all the time, not just on a consumer induced holiday ]

Let's get to the heart of

things: The Brain, from

Natrificial Software, is a

US$49.95 bookmark manager. You

can create links to sites, links

to files, links to links, and

type in notes about your links.

But it's also so much more -

it's a case study in choosing

the right metaphor.

 

Our Macintosh and Windows

desktops, we clutter. Nobody

wanted to walk across town to

pick up their mail in eWorld,

and nobody wanted to run down

the hall to use a reference book

in Magic Cap. Cyberspace? Mark

Pesce got there first and

littered it with polygons. But

thoughts. Thoughts are

everywhere, like the alien

conspiracy. And thoughts hover

and twirl, like the black

helicopters.

 

[buy someone you love flowers, candy, nice things anytime just for the hell of it ]

"Since the thoughts are arranged

exactly how you think, you don't

have to remember. You don't have

to dig. You simply do. And what

you want is there. Instantly."

Natrificial goes one step beyond

the planner cults (Franklin

doesn't sell datebooks, it sells

"life-management tools" that are

based on "natural laws") in

equating its information

management system with the

thought process itself: The

Brain doesn't promise to

organize your links, so much as

present them in their natural,

ordered state.

 

If The Brain truly mirrored your

thinking, it would simply keep

track of the Web sites you

visit, weighing the importance

of each one by how much time you

spend on each page, creating

automatic associations based on

your personal clickstream. (Or

if it were truly useful, it

wouldn't store bookmarks, it'd

delete outdated links and

display alert boxes and warning

lights when you tried to

bookmark useless sites.) It

becomes clear why Vannevar Bush,

in his seminal essay, " As We

May Think," writes about trails,

not links. A trail leads you in

a definite direction; a link

promises to collapse space, join

two things into one.

 

But The Brain doesn't track

usage patterns, and it isn't an

intelligent agent, because it

delivers on something much more

elusive, and, hence, much more

valuable: It lets users

experience bookmarks in an

unmediated state, outside the

stringent confines of

hierarchical, phallogocentric

folders or the chaotic,

unreasoned pseudo order of an

alphabetized Favorites list. Or,

put another way: Why put your

bookmarks in lists or folders,

when you can store them in your

Brain? The best metaphor is no

metaphor at all, as anyone who

ever flipped past Herman's Head

is bound to attest.

 

Unfortunately, as a general

rule, thinking requires thought.

But luckily, what few people

realize is that most ideas

aren't worth having anyway.

Letting them (free) associate is

clearly misguided - you'll just

end up spawning more ideas, and,

like the chinchillas of Wally

and the Beaver, you probably

won't have the heart to kill

them. And as everyone knows,

it's all about execution.

 

[or do something nice for them. put the effort out. itll pay you back in kind.]




courtesy of Webster