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Newsletter Section 6

From the Net

"Spider Or Fly?" Contest

O'Reilly & Associates and the NETFUTURE newsletter are sponsoring "Spider or Fly?", a writing contest that seeks responses to the question, "Are we masters of the Web or trapped in it?" The best of the entries will be published by O'Reilly & Associates. First prize is $2500. Four second prizes of $500 each and five third prizes of $100 each are also offered. The contest judges are Dale Dougherty, President, Songline Studios; Leonard Muellner, Professor of Classics, Brandeis University and Supervisor of Production Tools, O'Reilly & Associates; Tim O'Reilly, President, O'Reilly & Associates; and Frank Willison, Managing Editor, O'Reilly & Associates.

O'Reilly editor Steve Talbott describes the focus of the contest: "Catching the dew and sunlight, and serving as an efficient means of livelihood, a spider's web is one of the glories of creation. Depending on your perspective, a spider's web is also a prison – the most delicate, flexible, and refined instrument imaginable for immobilizing life.

As you and I settle into the World Wide Web, are we in the role of the spider or the fly?

The "Spider or Fly?" contest invites you to illuminate the deep nexus between computerised networking technologies and the human being. Where, amid all the dizzying technical advances, do we carry responsibility for their social consequences? How can we exercise that responsibility? Have we been embracing it or shirking it? In other words: does the Web own us, or do we own it?"

O'Reilly's Web site contains detailed information on the contest in the "What's Up" section at http://www.ora.com .

Ballad of the spider and fly

(Gandalf Parker)

"Not now dear. Oh, I'm going online. Just for a minute. I want to look this one thing up while it's fresh in my mind."

Let's see... go to WebWideWalker search page... hit stop before the advertisement comes up... Rats! half an image and it looked kind of interesting... oh well, in a hurry, it'll come up again... put in word... hmmmm should I add others to tighten the search? no, in a hurry... just see what this gives me.

Arrgh! maxed out to the 150 matches... should have tightened search... some of these are interesting... huh? what does this page have to do with anything... just take a peek... oh very nice... barely mentions my subject though... wow I never knew that... I will have to come back sometime... save this site to my bookmark file... check it... blast that title doesn't tell me anything, edit it to something that will let me know why I added it... ok back to it... odd subject for a page... wonder about their link choices... NO! return to search results page... ok color change shows I already went there... moving on... wait that interesting page is flagged... 'more sites like this one' ... just take a peek... this one not nearly as good... wait, what does this link have to do with this page?... oh, I see... now THAT side of this I can understand... maybe if I search on this word I will find more pages on this that I can understand... save this link to my

bookmarks... and... or... then... some... other... NO! get back to search results... Aargh! rolled off the history... got to remember to set that higher... do it now... ok history higher... return to search results... oh yeah it's gone... what was I looking for? ... why am I so hungry? ... why is it so dark? ... wish my computer chair flushed...

"Dear? Do you remember what I was looking for? Dear? Hello? Are you in bed?"

I wonder if this is why they call it a web...

The WEB is a subtle sticky trap. It is misleading in its appearance of being simple and organized. You may seek to poke it with your finger in curiosity but it grabs your finger and won't let go. So you invest more fingers and attention to straightening out what you have gotten into. You soon discover that more fingers in the web simply gains you more web which requires more fingers which gains you more web.

I believe the World Wide Web to be quite aptly named. It is a trap of the most incredible proportions. It seeks to ensnare all, large and small. To include governments, corporations and individuals. All will be part of the web. Spiders and Flies at the same time. Sometimes feeling predator, at other times feeling prey. And both unable to escape the mesh that once appeared simple and inviting.

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