That One Subway Story

Some time ago – back when I lived in Texas – I had food allergies and was allergic to wheat.  One day my co-workers decided that we should go to Subway for lunch and I went along.  When we got there I saw their sign advertising that they’d turn any sandwich into a salad.  I really like philly cheesesteak, so I decided that ordering that cheesy goodness on a salad was worth the awkwardness.  Once the salad was paid for I sat down and chuckled to myself.  My co-worker Blader asked what I was laughing about and I told him that if I came back I’d order the meatball sub because that would be ridiculous.  We laughed and moved onto other conversation.

The next day someone asked, “Where do you want to go to lunch?,” and Blader quickly answered, “Let’s go to Subway.  Randy needs to order the meatball salad.”  So we went.  As I approached the counter I said, “This is going to sound weird but I’d like to order the meatball sub as a salad.”  The guy didn’t skip a beat when he replied, “That’s OK, yesterday some person ordered a philly cheesesteak as a salad.”

Dude, There Are Geeks on the Internet

Creative Commons: The Eggplant - http://flickr.com/photos/eggplant/4491902/
Creative Commons: The Eggplant - http://flickr.com/photos/eggplant/4491902/

In case you didn’t notice, there’s a place called Wikipedia.  They have an outrageously large amount of data and apparently a good chunk of it is relatively accurate.  Take for example the entry on Pi.  That would be a reference to the mathematical constant.  If you wanted to, you could follow the links on that page to other references such as the Greek letter.  There is far more information about Pi on that page than any encyclopedia editor would allow.  That’s because an encyclopedia is about terse, rich data.  Wikipedia is about excessive information because its storage, retrieval and modification is so cheap that limiting the data is probably more work than just tacking on more information as its available.

Lets put this in perspective: the cost of printing any book could run into the millions upon millions of dollars depending on all of the people involved.  The cost of putting together a web page is non-zero, but its microscopic in comparison.  If web publishing were more expensive there would be far fewer ‘get rich quick’ sites.  Lets get back to Pi.  Apparently people have memorized thousands of the decimal fractions of Pi.  Most encyclopedia entries just don’t care about this data, but Wikipedia has further information and a line chart showing the rise in numbers memorized by an individual over time.  I have 2: 3.14.  That’s 200% more than I currently need due to the absence of circular math (so far) in my job.  I have to figure out many other formulas and algorithms, but Pi is distinctly absent from my daily, weekly, monthly or yearly math needs.

In case your encyclopedia is feeling small, just remind it that Wikipedia also has entries on such interesting topics as international Pi day (a day to celebrate Pi).  I think I would celebrate by eating pizza and pecan Pi.  There appears to be some discrepancy about what other days might be celebrated along with Pi because of rounding.  I’m not making that up.  Geeks, trivialogists, dataheads, nerds, and specialists all pile in more data so that if Wikipedia is missing something important you can go to Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft Live, Ask.com or any number of other search engines to get even more information.

Sadly, there is a space on the internet called ‘the deep web’ [of course you should see the wikipedia article] which does not know the love of the search engines.  It is a place that is undocumented, hidden, secret and fully of kitty porn [to my mother: that link goes to a humor site and is not naughty].  It is a place where people are trying to get to, apparently, because I have seen articles on how to find information on the deep web.  Here’s some irony for your wrinkled brow: if its unsearched, unindexed, and unknown you’re going to have a hard time using traditional methods to get to it.  Never fear!  There is the power of human search.  Mahalo, Twitter, Digg and the like all use humans to traverse the Interwebs and post links.  You may wonder why I mention Twitter, but the answer is simple: if you go to twitter, create an account, and then get enough followers that people all over the world at any moment could be reading your tweets: people all over the world will read your tweets and possibly reply.  Its human powdered search.  That which was untraceable is now so easy to find that even disreputable presidents who are mocked for not speaking in complete sentences could hammer out a 140 character or less question and get links back from the 14 people who follow them.

So, in short, which this isn’t, the Internets have lots of great content.  There’s the Internet, Web 2.0, and the latest news I have is that CSS3 is coming, and then we’ll probably start seeing early betas of Web 3.0 in 2009.  If web 3.0 gets too slowed down there is a good chance that the economic stimulation checks, bailouts, and IPO’s will help move things along.  And worst case scenario we’ll all be able to eat our free Pi from Wikipedia.  Of course you’d wipe your mouth with your pi tie.