Ben Langhinrichs

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Genii Weblog

Yertle vision

Tue 20 May 2003, 02:01 PM



by Ben Langhinrichs
In a previous post, I talked about Turtle Collaboration and how it might be a way to think differently about blogging and its opportunities.   Robert Basic follow up with a question, which I partially answered in comments.  To elaborate a bit on that answer, and talk more about Turtle Collaboration, I thought I'd reference a great short story/poem by Dr. Seuss called Yertle the Turtle.  You can read the whole text here, or I would strongly suggest you buy it, possibly from here.

Yertle is the king of all turtles in the pond, but he grows dissatisfied with his lot.

"I'm ruler", said Yertle, "of all that I see.
But I don't see enough.  That's the trouble with me.
With this stone for a throne, I look down on my pond
But I cannot look down on the places beyond.


He proceeds to order his subjects to stand on each other's backs, and he stands on the top.  The more he sees, the more he rules, from his perspective.

And then Yertle climbed up.  He sat down on the pile.
What a wonderful view! He could see 'most a mile!
"All mine!" Yertle cried.  "Oh, the things I now rule!
I'm the king of a cow! And I'm the king of a mule!


He keeps on piling up turtles to increase his influence, till a "plain little turtle named Mack" gets tired and burps, and "shook the throne of the king".

And today the great Yertle, that Marvelous he,
Is King of the Mud.  That is all he can see.
And the turtles, of course... all the turtles are free
As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.


So what does this have to do with Turtle Collaboration, Robert's question and blogging in general?  Turtle Collaboration is not about amassing a great deal of power and knowledge by seeing more.  It is about amassing power and influence by being seen.  Now, the analogy may not hold much past that, but the lesson we can learn from Yertle is that turtles should be free to roam and take their own course.  So, how do we apply that to software?  Not by making massive collections of information, I don't think.  Ray Ozzie raises the idea of introducing randomness into blog searching.  He says (emphasis his): "I look to blogs for serendipity, and I won't truly understand what's going on "out there" unless I mix it up a bit."  I think looking to blogs for serendipity is a powerful concept.  If we can harness the power of computers to help us in this search, by finding other posts related in concept or by parallel interest, that might be turtle collaboration.  We might also look to Amazon.com's success with the idea of "people who bought this book also bought" brought into a blogging and on-line news world.  What if we found "people who commented on this post also commented on these other posts"?  What if we found "blogs written referring to the same news source", the way Blogdex does?  What about "blogs written the same day last year by these same people" to show cycles?  I don't know yet how the paradigm will play out, but these are the themes I am exploring.

Copyright © 2003 Genii Software Ltd.

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