Algorithm and blues

Are you to blame for the hideous dot-commification of planet Earth? The algorithm method could prevent further contributions to this mess.


Thomas Scoville
March 18, 2000 10:00PM (UTC)

March 18, 2000

March -- April 2000

Hey, Geek! Have you noticed? The dark orbit of shameless commercial self-interest has intersected with your electronic paradise. The signs are everywhere: Brazen patent grabs and rapacious domain-name squatting have created an atmosphere of manic scarcity. There's a drive-by intellectual property lawsuit every 90 seconds. And ever since the dot.commification of everything under the sun it's been the lawyers, bankers and MBAs who are having the most fun -- let's face it, folks, these are not the kind of people who are known for their innovation.

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The question is, Mr. or Ms. Geek, are you part of the problem or the solution? I propose a simple algorithm for calculating your share of the blame:

1) Count how many times you say "merger," "shareholder," "IPO" and "BMW" over the next 72 hours.

2) Add the number of shares you hold in Microsoft and Amazon.com.

3) Multiply by the amount -- in U.S. dollars -- spent on your desktop operating system.

4) Add 500 if you're reading this on Explorer for Windows. Subtract 1,000 for Lynx.

5) Divide by the square root of the number of times you've edited a file with "Emacs" or "Vi."

Greater than 5 million: Satan/Gates country

1 million -- 5 million: Complete sellout

30,000 -- 999,999: Soul in escrow

500 -- 29,999: You're "only following orders"

1 -- 499: Innocent bystander

0: You're Richard Stallman

Overflow error: Impostor! You're not a geek

Aries (March 21-April 19)

Unbridled industry enthusiasm for your New New Thing turns out to be nothing but a Wall Street cargo cult. In the wake of the spectacular comedown, you're left with the uncomfortable job of changing your stripes. Begin with your company logo: If it were a true symbol of your current condition, it would look like a silhouette of a crushed bug. But you'll restyle it as the illegitimate love child of the international biohazard sign and the Nike swoosh. Bravo! Heroic!

Taurus (April 20-May 20)

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"Insanely great" or merely insane? Argumentative Sagittarius pushes for new technical direction that appears to be considerably more than one standard deviation away from common sense. Wait until the 15th, when tectonic shifts in the industry crust strand him on his own private Tasmania. Then you can continue to evolve into the mainstream with the other higher mammals. Here's to opposable thumbs!

Gemini (May 21-June 20)

Epic programming frustrations stimulate your innovative nature: After elegant solutions elude, you find yourself inventing a new variation on the old theme of work-related stress -- I'm christening it "code rage" -- as you pummel your cubicle-mate's life-size, pneumatic Godzilla toy into a deflated heap. Alas, your passion is wasted; this vigorous commitment to digital excellence goes largely unnoticed by superiors: Perl before swine. Try to make your techie tantrums count for something next time.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)

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'Tude alert! Experience-to-piercings ratio among the technical staff drops to dangerous new lows. Beware the pernicious conceits of this new breed of cyber-fashionables; the only thing "extreme" about them is the number of bugs you'll find in their code modules. Soon you'll be pining for the bygone days of Brylcreem, polyester, pocket protectors and engineers who thought more about the hardware in front of their faces than the hardware stuck through their faces.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22)

Profound techie insecurities tyrannize your hypothetical spirit. Locus-of-control anxieties launch into orbit as impending group effort raises terrifying specters of collaboration and delegation. I can hear your deafening mantra from here: "If you want something done right, start by killing everyone else on planet Earth and gluing all loose objects to a flat surface." Doesn't leave much room for felicitous accidents, does it?

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Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22)

Your latest paddle into amorous waters is swamped by the same old WYSIWYG concupiscence that continues to leave your geek friends all wet when it comes to the opposite sex. Tired of the old romantic drag-and-drop? Try something new: flowers, a cuddly stuffed manatee or some other completely random, nonlinear love peripheral. You have nothing to lose but another Saturday night in the veal pen.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22)

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Hyperlinked to distraction! High-speed information saturation has turned you into a jittery facsimile of Evelyn Wood on crystal meth. Pernicious info-aphasia leaves you unable to remember what you read five seconds ago. Pernicious info-aphasia leaves you unable to remember what you read five seconds ago. Seek out sensory isolation chamber or environmental equivalents.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21)

You're not usually the superstitious type, but the conclusion is inescapable: There is bad medicine afoot, and it's severely hexing your geek mojo. You must perform sacred ceremony to drive away evil spirits: Start by mounting your project manager's head on a stick, then ceremonially brandishing at all affected areas. Continue with ritual data sacrifice: Reformat crucial file volumes and de-gauss backup tapes. See? Evil spirits all gone. Besides, starting from zero, you'll achieve your goal much more quickly than if you'd continued dragging all that dead code weight.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21)

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Your pedantic, prickly personality and questionable grooming practices have bottlenecked your economic bandwidth on the company pay-scale: In other words, management thinks you're a loser. Think "camouflage," and borrow a recipe for success from the slippery sales staff: Start with a little Dale Carnegie, add some Stephen Covey and a slice of musty, well-aged Tom Peters. Mix vigorously. Garnish with words like "synergy," "value chain" and "incent." Finish with hairspray just prior to serving. Bon appetit!

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 19)

Arrogant Aries competitor seeks to participate in your latest industry-unifying standards gambit, offering nothing in return except a crocodile smile. Beware, it is a Gatesian plot to pollute your vital bodily fluids. You throw him off the trail with elaborate and confusing Power Point presentation of terminally tangled info-paradigms and hopelessly warped business models -- sound and fury, signifying www.nothing.com. When in doubt, obfuscate.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18)

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"X-Files" alert! You've managed to convince yourself that the industry's failure to embrace your precious new technology is all part of an international conspiracy. But despite those "Men in Black" who seem to be shadowing your every move, you've got only yourself to blame: Those gratuitous assumptions you thought were leading you to IPO-ville turn out to be completely arbitrary. You're hosed! Game over! ROTFLMAO!

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)

This lunar cycle will find you yearning for the "good old days" of eight-bit processors and 64K memory as compounding complexity exponentially increases your chances of total failure. But you'll dodge the bullet when chest-pounding alpha geek rescues your product cycle with all-night bit-bashing session. Venus alert: Implausibly romantic traffic mishap precipitates phone number -- this low-speed, reverse encounter in company parking lot will give new meaning to the words "backward compatibility."


Thomas Scoville

Thomas Scoville is either an Information Age savant or an ex-Silicon Valley programmer with a bad attitude. He is the author of the Silicon Valley Tarot.

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