Subject: Re: MSIE "Smart Tags" -- what's the real deal?
From: Glen Starchman <glen@enabledventures.com>
Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2001 13:05:03 -0700

On Tue, 12 Jun 2001, Ian Lance Taylor wrote:
> Don Marti <dmarti@zgp.org> writes:
> 
> > > Most of the people complaining about Smart Tags are focusing on how it
> > > subverts the relationship between a Web surfer and a Web author when
> > > they are working for separate organizations.
> > 
> > Everything interesting that ever happens on the web happens because
> > someone subverts the relationship between a web surfer and a web
> > author.  Without subversion, the Web would be like fax-on-demand,
> > only faster.
> 
> Well, yes.  Why is that bad?  My personal web pages says what I
> personally want them to say.  They are intended to convey a particular
> set of information when viewed by a web browser.  It's OK with me if
> somebody uses a third party annotation service when it is clear that
> that is what they are doing.  It is not OK with me if the web browser
> itself changes the presentation.  It breaks the implied contract I was
> expecting when I created the web pages.  It makes me say something
> other than what I intended.

When you author a book, for example, the reader is allowed to modify
its contents in whatever way they deem desirable within their
imagination. Your "intent" as the author is nearly meaningless, unless
the reader shares the same views as you do. Likewise if you produce and
air a television program. Considering that the WWW tends to be a forum
very similar to both printed and televised materials, this so-called
implied contract you speak of has little merit. Would you be offended
if a reader of the Autoconf book you wrote crossed out a few words,
made notes in the margins,  even tore out some pages and rearranged
them? Maybe, but there is really nothing you can do about it.

What about if Cliff's Notes did an annotated version of your book? That
seems to be to be a reasonable approximation of the sticky tags in web
pages. It's a tool that while not completely sanctioned by the author,
helps the user comprehend (and hopefully enjoy) your work.


> 
> > > So how do corporate customers (ostensibly) benefit from Smart Tags?
> > 
> > The "stickier" a site tries to be, the less useful it is.
> > Corporate web users, like all web users, are sick of rat holes.
> > Smart Tags are an attempt to put the links where they belong.
> > Hooray for Smart Tags, and too bad Free Software didn't get
> > them first. It's catchup time.
> 
> I've wanted a good annotation service for a long time.  Based on what
> I have read, Microsoft is providing a bad one.  That is not a step
> forward.

MS doesn't always create bad products. I am not implying that you, Ian,
in particular, have your opinion of Smart Tags because of this, but way
too many people in the FS movement tend to view anything that comes out
of a proprietary company to be worthless. Part of the reason that MS
has been so successful has to do with the fact that they at least make
an attempt to make it easier for the *end user* to use certain software
services. While I am not going to support their corporate directives
and business practices, I cannot deny the fact that people (eg,
uneducated end users) *love* MS products because they are easy to use.

Until there are offerings from the FS community that are stable and
useable enough to deploy massively across the desktop, and users are
able to use them without  recompiling their kernel, or building it from
source, or downloading 50 different libraries, bad-mouthing MS from a
technology perspective is nothing more than a software case of penis
envy.

-- 
Glen Starchman
Enabled Ventures/Enabled Technology Group
glen@enabledventures.com
206.234.7330