Paul Today's Visionary is Paul Jones. Paul became one of the first webmasters when he created and directed the Site Formerly Known As SunSITE. Now he directs the UNC MetaLab. He co-authored the Unix Web Server Book, and publishes actively in both computing and poetry.

» More Visions
 Seeing Paul Jones:
Like an elephant, Paul Jones is a multifaceted creature. Follow these links to find out about his work in computers, technology and poetry. If you feel these activities might require dangerously high levels of neural activity, cast your vote on the pressing issue of whom Paul most resembles--choices range from Doug Henning to the "Figure on the Shroud of Turin."

» Homepage

» What the Welsh and Chinese Have in Common. [Poetry]

» Can a web page be collectable? Paul has preserved this 1993 specimen as A Web Antique.

» Look-A-Like Survey
By Paul Jones, UNC MetaLab More Visions »

I see an elephant, but which elephant?

      " What is this anyway?" asked an otherwise generally clueful friend. Any one who has been to even a few different Internet conferences or seen even a few Web sites knows that she is not the only one confused about whatever she just stumbled upon. Describing the Net is an even harder problem than that faced by the seven blind men when they met the elephant.

       Seven blind men are taken to meet an elephant. Each grasp a different part of the animal: one got the tail, one a leg, another the side, another an ear, still another the trunk, and the last the tusk. Each then explained the elephant to the others: it is much like a rope.

I see an elephant...
"What is the Internet?"

       "No, like a sturdy tree."

       "No, a rough wall."

       "You're wrong, it's like a fan."

       "Fools, it's like a great snake."

       "Oh, it is smooth and cold; it's dead and we are feeling its bones."

       Then they fell into a complicated series of fights that only blind men could instigate.

       Even now people who are highly clueful in law, business, publishing, entertainment, investing, government, education, philosophy and, yes, even in technology are grasping at the Net and making pronouncements that make sense from the little information and experience that they have gathered and to their own equally blind tribe. But this time we are facing a larger problem than the blind men faced: we have a herd of different elephants and they are all in motion.

       Could the trick of the moment be to select one elephant, to understand it well–or even a small part of it–, to hang on tight to that elephant and to not be trampled? Sounds so easy and so sane. But which elephant?

 Copyright © 1999, 2000

contact | about | site map | home T-O