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I Get Letters. I Put Them in Boxes.

EWeek e-mails me to ask, "How's your Wiki?" Don't ask, I think, and I won't tell. I tried the Wiki. I tried the Blogger and the rest of the social networking tools. I tried Current, but I fell behind. If I keep trying out software designed to hook me up with people, I'll never be able to keep up with my e-mail.

I get almost daily invitations to be LinkedIn or Facebooked or MySpaced or Metup, and for someone who graduated from a little country school in a graduating class of fifty, I seem to have an awful lot of Classmates. Dot. Com.

Biz Stone e-mails to ask if I owe someone a beer. Gee, I dunno, Biz. But if I were a Twitterer, I guess I would. I don't Twitter. If I owe you a beer, you're not getting it.

I'm not totally unclued, I swear. I watch one out of every ten YouTube videos e-mail-linked to me, and every day I read dozens of blogs and (to use an arcane term from a couple of technology waves back) websites. I track with great interest the ongoing seismic upheaval of journalism as bloggers expose the clay feet of the mainstream media, and I root for the bloggers even as I self-consciously tuck my own feet a little farther under the desk and go back to checking my e-mail.

Eweek is back again to tell me that nobody's doing business in Second Life, information that would have come in handy back when I was investing precious hours learning how to bump into virtual furniture. I don't SL much these days. What do I do? Recently, I Ning. And hey, check this out: No sooner do I set up a Ning site than Apple does the same. Seduced by coincidence, I joined Apple's Macworld Expo Ning, became a ningber, thinking maybe it means something. I think it means that I'm going to get a lot of Ning pings from people asking me if I'm the Mike Swaine who writes for Dr. Dobb's. I am, but I'm pretty sure the James Taylor who e-mails me to ask if I got the copy of Smart Enough Systems that he sent me is not the James Taylor who recently played the Troubador in LA with Carole King.

Ted Nelson, the Ted Nelson of Xanadu fame, e-mails to say that he's just testing the line. That's a funny line. Someone called Brouwer e-mails with an anagram for Xanadu: Nada UX. Hmm; is that funny, do you think? I'm just testing the line.

Joe Firmage of Sirius, Novell NetWare, AppWare, USWeb, ManyOne Networks, and Digital Universe Foundation fame assures me that if I follow the link he's sent me, it'll be worth the hour of my life it'll consume. Now that's thoughtful. I decide to check it out when I have a free hour.

My recent column titled "Since I Didn't Ask" seems to have inspired an inordinate amount of replies. A lot of irony out there, isn't there? Mostly, these correspondents want to answer my question about why art students told to focus on quantity would produce higher quality work than those told to focus on quantity. I guess I did ask, after all. The answers were all good, but no better than what you'll come up with if I leave the question on the table.

Jocelyn Paine of DDJ AI Expert fame e-mails to ask a favor, which I gladly grant when I get a chance. Also in the AI vein, Dennis de Champeaux e-mails about my recent article on AI. He's not as optimistic about AI as I am, although he has written an AI-like program for solving and generating Sudoku puzzles. More or less meanwhile, a crossword puzzle author e-mails to offer his services to the magazine. I'm intrigued. I love crosswords—especially the British cryptic kind. They represent a different sort of problem in dealing with letters, a problem you solve by putting the letters in boxes.

But wait: What did Dennis send? Aha! Finally, something I need—a link to a fast Sudoku solver algorithm.

Well, maybe. What I really need, I suspect, is not an algorithm but a 12-step program. It would do me good to kick the Sudoku habit. And since we are now getting too close to the real reason I'm falling behind in my e-mail, I'll just sign off. And place a few more digits in boxes...

Michael Swaine


[email protected]

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