Dear LazyWeb

LazyWeb: The idea that if you wait long enough, someone will implement that wacky idea you had . . . (or already has!) —IAWiki

Dear Lazyweb,

Here's how it works: I describe what I want; I tell you the problem I'm trying to solve. Then you either tell me that an answer already exists, or you post a message explaining what to do. Alternately, you create the thing yourself and share it with the world. Or, possibly, you forget you ever heard about it.

But maybe you misunderstood the deal. This is what I wrote in my blog, six months ago: “I'm looking” I wrote, “for a dedicated word-processing component inside of Protégé that also works with GATE.” What I did not write—did not write— was: “Hey, LazyWeb, I'm looking for you to come over and fuck my wife.”

I'd been looking at the sites for a while, LazyWeb. I'm a freelance forensic linguist, and in my line of work you have to stay current. And also business wasn't going so well. I'd put on a tie, go to the office, fire up the browser, and wait by the phone. What I'm saying is, I had time to read. And read. And the more I read the more your name popped up.

Dear LazyWeb,” said one site, “is there a way for me to ssh into a Squeak instance?“ Or another: “Is there a monad that deals with JSON?” Or: “Has anyone got ZFS working over wireless mesh on Sugar?” Acronyms, product names, requests. To someone from my background it seemed selfish—still does—to ask strangers for help like that. But then I'd watch as the replies poured in. People can't wait to help each other in that crowd. I guess they have to show what they know.

Me, see, I don't sign on to all this communication. I believe you keep your mouth shut. That's one of the things a career in forensic linguistics does to you. When I started at the precinct fifteen years ago—I was there ten years, in fact—I left a note on a bulletin board asking if anyone had a room to rent. I was that green, but one of the old-timers, Kripke, he took me aside. “Listen, kid,” he said, pointing to the note, “That's fine for flatfoots. But—look at me when I talk to you—you're Linguistics. You don't leave your lexemes where anyone can see them.” Poking me in the chest. I wish he'd been in the room six months ago when I logged in to the little blog that I use to promote my business. Why not? I thought. Let's see what LazyWeb can do for me. That's when I asked my question, and that's when you anwered.

Dear LazyWeb,

Is there a way to get back everything you've lost?

Dear LazyWeb,

Does she call out “Lazy” when you make love?

Dear LazyWeb,

How many three-dollar bottles wine can you buy with one unemployment check?

When you wrote to me and said you had the answers I said: great. We got to talking, didn't we? My wife is one hell of a cook, I said. Me, I do the dishes. Make yourself welcome in my home, you paragon of virtuous generosity. Put your feet on my ottoman as you tell me about resolving technical issues for strangers. Honey, this is LazyWeb. He's an altruist.

I guess she had a problem you could solve, huh? You've got all the answers, all the wisdom of crowds, right? So riddle me this: why am I sitting in my dad's old Dodge, drunk at 7:30 in the morning? Why am I parked outside the house (the one I used to own), looking at my old Ford Explorer (the one I paid off just last year) in the driveway, and my old cat Baxter in the window? And why are you walking down my driveway, in my bathrobe, with a pissed-off look on your face?

Before you answer those, you might want to answer this one: what, LazyWeb, will your chest look like when this well-oiled 24-gauge shotgun loaded with tungsten polymer birdshot goes off at close range? And how, I wonder, will it sound to you when I drive off (at the speed limit, so as not to draw attention to myself), down Route 43, straight out of this miserable pit of a town, with fifteen thousand bucks in a shoebox—too bad my wife never learned the value of a decent password on her bank account, but what the hell, it used to be my money anyway—and a brand-new identity? (By the way, I thought of using the name “Webb Lacey.” But all in all I'd rather forget.) Oh, and one more question—where, I ask you, in the name of human decency, is my blogging component inside of Protégé that works with GATE?

You're almost to the car now, wearing a big frown. I can see my wife's shadow looking out from behind the screen door (I hung that screen door). I can't help but laugh, LazyWeb, as you knock on the car window. Because it looks like the tables are turned. It looks like you don't have all the answers after all. In fact, you're asking me a question. And that's just perfect. Because I've got your answer right here.




Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

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10 Timeframes. (June 20)

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Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

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