Octopus's Garden Issue Twenty

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HELLO, good evening and welcome to issue 20 of Octopus's Garden, the subzeen with its very own R.R. number, courtesy of RR Statschappie Tony Robbins. An html version of this subzeen is available on the Web at http://www.manorcon.demon.co.uk/octopus/index.html

pre-Round 2 (RR 1549 FR)


Railway Rivals (France)

Little Froggy FooFoo ChooChoo (LFFfCc) [orange] (Pitt Crandlemire, MA)
Orders on file
French Rail Emperors And Kings (FREAK) ["royal" purple] (W. Andrew York, TX)
Orders on file
Conrad's Absurd Names Create Acronymic Nausea (CAN CAN) [green] (Conrad von Metzke, CA)
Orders on file
The Blue Nosed Special (TBNS) [blue] (John Colledge, Scotland)
Orders on file
Railways Asserting Very Egalitarian Lines (RAVEL) [yellow] (Robin ap Cynan, UK ??)

Please will Berry Renken of the Netherlands stand-by for RAVEL/yellow. This will work the same way as stand-bys in American Diplomacy ; i.e. if Robin submits orders by the next deadline, then he keeps the position ; otherwise Berry's orders will be used. (The main difference from a Dip-type situation is that I have held the game over in the meantime, as an NMR! can ruin a game of RR, not just for the defaulter, but for the other players as well.) Other players can, if desired, make their orders conditional on who controls the position, although I suspect this is less necessary than in Dip. Orders already on file for other players will be used unless changed. (This procedure is all explained in the postal house rules.) Just a reminder that the Rolls for Round Two were : 4, 3, 6. Orders for Round Two by 23:59:59 Greenwich Mean Time on FRIDAY, 30th JANUARY, 1998, to Peter Sullivan. E-mail : octopus@manorcon.demon.co.uk PGP key available for the paranoid.


FREAK : Don't worry about getting older, some of us are far past the age of 30 and still plugging along, more or less (grin). And, you're not missing anything by not seeing infomercials!!

TBNS : I wouldn't worry about the lack of hair. My doctor pointed out that it was all my grandfather's fault when I went to see him at the tender age of 18. It wasn't bothering me, but my mum thought I should do something about it. As it is, short hair is all the rage these days. I just have what is left of mine that little bit shorter so you don't notice the difference between those bits that are covered and those that are not!

Sub-Editorial -- Creative Attention

One of the consequences of doing 7 flights in a 14-day holiday is that you end up exhausting your book supply (even if you take the annotated version of War and Peace together with how ever many volumes it is of A la recherce du temps perdu). However, this is no hardship, as it allows me to peruse the airport magazine stalls for delicacies not available in England (at least, not unless you are in London or search very hard).

Such as Wired magazine. I started reading the UK version of this publication when it bizarrely started appearing on Durham Railway Station's news-stall. I say bizarrely, because this bookstall is normally the epitome of populist -- a wide selection of women's titles (varying from those that tell you how to enjoy an orgasm to those that tell you how to knit one), the obligatory top shelf "gentleman's publications" and huge piles of tabloid newspapers. The only other out-of-place title is usually the Times Higher Education Supplement, but then this is practically compulsory in a University town. However, I was obviously one of the few purchasers of Wired UK, at Durham Station or elsewhere, as the UK edition ceased publication early this year. Looking at the American edition, it is obvious why ; it is twice the size, with most of the extra material being adverts. And whereas the adverts in Wired UK were almost entirely computer-related (or at least technology-related), Wired US appears to have broken into a much wider demographic, featuring the sort of advertisers who in Britain would grace GQ or similar "lifestyle" publications.

Anyway, what I really wanted to talk about was one of the articles in the aforesaid publication. Michael H. Goldhaber, in "Attention Shoppers," puts forward the thesis that, in the information economy, it is not information that will be the new "money" but attention. Economics only works where there is scarcity, and there is no scarcity of information on the Internet. What is scarce is attention ; the numbers of hours spent online multiplied by the number of I have probably done hideous damage to his argument by such a short abstract, but if you want to, you can go and read the whole thing. It's not, as far as I can see, on Wired's web site, so I'll just have to give an old-fashioned reference rather than a snazzy hyperlink ; Wired Vol 5 Issue 12 (December 1997), ISSN 1059-1028, page 182 op.cit.

One theme which Goldhaber doesn't really have time to explore is that, whilst the Internet is the most visible and largest example of an attention-based economy, it is by no means the first. Fanzeens in general, and Diplomacy zeens in particular, are probably one of the better pre-wired examples of these sorts of transactions.

When John Piggott appropriated his First Law of Fanzeens from S.F. fandom -- that all zeens exist solely for the benefit of their editors -- he was tapping into a universal truth. It's for precisely these reasons that most fanzeens publish at a loss. Editors from time to time moan about the loss they are making, but in the end they go on publishing, and the few zeens which have tried full-price pricing have rarely lasted long, unless they had enough of an edge to justify the extra cost. In Goldhaber's terms, the editors are trading cash for attention. However, the subscribers are also trading cash, in their case for amusement, entertainment, or whatever it is that you call that need to pick up the unopened zeen off the mat and read it on the train.

The wired world is a different sort of paradigm. I have no way of charging you for reading this web page, secure VISA channels notwithstanding, and in the attention-based economy I have no incentive to do so. The downside of this is that, in zeenland, I am one of the few fighting for attention. The number of zeens is finite, and unless you are a wide-ranging subber, this is probably the only zeen to drop on your doormat today. It's either read this or stare out the train window at the cows zooming past at 90 m.p.h. However, in the wired world, on-line zeens have to compete for attention with the professional media and sites where Gates McFadden allegedly gets her kit off. This is probably why the Diplomacy hobby on-line has not really developed a zeen-orientated model. The games are adjudicated by Judges, and what more general material there is (such as the excellent Diplomatic Pouch) tends to be more focused on the game and the hobby itself, rather than editor's flights of rhetoric about whatever takes his fancy.

Of course, by writing about his article, I am indulging in various sorts of attention-based transactions myself, trying to insert Goldhaber into your attention, and trying to siphon off some of that attention onto myself. In fact, once you start thinking along these lines, you can extend it to just about any situation in life. So, before I go too far, I'd better sign off and start paying attention to a nice cup of coffee...

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