The name of the book, Whelk, came to George in a dream back in March 2001. And frankly there's not much you can do to compete with that so "Whelk" it had to be. But we didn't get going on the book until, oh, March or April this year, ready for the two year anniversary of Upsideclown.
You wouldn't believe how many typos there are in web articles. There's something about the medium that renders them invisible on the screen, but when you've got 300 pages in Quark in front of you they manifest as an ocean of mistakes. Es fixed those. And typeset. And proofed. And proofed again, and again. She did a lot. That lasted for around two months. Arranging the articles into a well-rounded whole was like doing a jigsaw where all the pieces are square and the same colour, but it worked in the end. Flows nicely actually. Dory took the cover photo.
The most impressive thing: that's it's possible to get cheap printing-on-demand for such low runs. Instant Publisher [recommended by RavenBlack] install a special printer driver on your (Windows-only) machine that intercepts the print stream and sends it up to their server. It's simple point, click and pay to order any number of books. They're very good. (But tell them exactly what you want. As with any printer, there are a lot of variables you'll need to control.)
So we started almost four months ago, and now I have the final product in my hand. Print is fresh air after so long on the internet. Satisfyingly heavy, small enough to be clutchable on the underground, set in a bookish, resonant font (Sabon was used by Penguin in the 1960s -- it's that kind of deadly-serious space opera sci-fi feel I was after), and full of articles that suddenly work in a very different way on paper than they ever have on the www or in email. Whelk is On Sale Now. (And we're having a party too, if you'd like to come.)
Announcing: Whelk. The best of Upsideclown.
Being: A book to celebrate 2 years and 200 articles. Or, to be specific: A 7" x 4 1/4" paperback, with gorgeous colour cover. Over 300 limited-edition pages of 84 of our best Upsideclowns, quality printed on genuine dead tree. Alternatively: Recycled content in a form you can leave in your bathroom. But actually, it's more exciting than that. A book! It's a real life old skool book! A paperback! Man, it's like the web never even existed! Don't you feel all tingly? Subversive? Dirty?
Oh, and. Whelk is On Sale Now.
The sameness of topic maps and search engines | Have a skim of The TAO of Topic Maps [via haddock]. It's good. Topic maps are a formalisation of sitemaps, but abstracted from the site. They're a standards-compliant way of mapping a domain of knowledge. Handy. Very specific. When there are lots, even better. But better than a search engine, say Google? Don't think so. Each has its place. Calling the search engine big and the topic map small is wrong, I think, even though that's what I'm very close to doing. So: a few gut feelings:
Based on this, we need a new definition of size. The www feels fractal, but not in a containing kind of way. Each distance is equivalent. Domains don't contain pages. Information isn't contained in a single paragraph. References. Interlinks.
I suggest there are three dimensions to maps of the www: Addressing accuracy (to the site, or to the page); Semantic detail (meaning, or words); Wideness (how much of the territory is covered).
Search engines cover vast amounts of the territory (very wide), but don't address it very accurately (only to the page level) and don't have much semantic detail. Topic maps are accurate, detailed, but not very wide. The two are of the same size.
Running with these instincts, maybe there's a limit on the size of maps: Too much detail and the map stops being useful. Ditto wideness. And accuracy isn't helpful if you don't know much about what your looking for. And so maybe the www does work along these dimensions, maybe if each point was locally euclidean in these directions it'd be easier to find things. Maybe we should be thinking of the www not as a territory, but as a vast number of maps, all interlinked, because the distance on maps is more representative of the actual distance we have to travel moving about it.
Update | It occurs to me that there's probably some standard method in network theory for calculating the size of a map/network. Would it be possible to recast semantic specificness somehow so this could be done?
News for a Synergic Earth [via Tom, in conversation], a weblog tracking and cataloguing information about the future of planet plus ecology plus humanity. Sounds like the noösphere to me [humanity as force on geological scale; the merging of it with environment]. And another loopback to current preoccupations: they call themselves time binders. Very General Semantics, an understanding of the unique position humans hold as being able to understand reality within the context of time.
SynEarth also archive a lot of literature including a pointer to the book Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth by R Buckminster Fuller which I'll already been meaning to read (the Buckminster Fuller Institute archives yet more information), and many more which look equally interesting.
Kevan's doing some fascinating stuff with hive minds. Following the example of a theatre of 5,000 people creating symbols in the presence of a simple feedback loop, he's created The Smaller Picture. Go take part, and add your distinctiveness to its own.