Guest Gleaner Ralph Brandi

Today the Ernie Kovacs-lovin’ (God love ’em for it!) Ralph Brandi writes the second in a series of […]

Today the Ernie Kovacs-lovin’ (God love ’em for it!) Ralph Brandi writes the second in a series of guest-created Gleanings. Happy surfing.

— Noel


>From deep in the heart of Jersey (New Jersey, that is), it’s the Gates

Brown memorial edition of Gleanings. In this edition, Gleanings is about the

nature of community on the net, prompted by the recent revelations of a

net.hoax, a marketeer who gets it, then a little levity (not on,

though), followed by some links about a personal hero of mine, and closing

with the usual unrelated but neat stuff.

Is it still Gleanings if I don’t use the same headers as Christina?


Erin Malone muses about the nature of community on the web and what makes a

site a community. A few of us pile on.


When I read this, I was reminded of a paper that Teresa Roberts presented

at CHI 98 called “Are Newsgroups Virtual Communities?” She postulated that

communities have six defining characteristics:

* Cohesion

* Effectiveness

* Help

* Relationships

* Language

* Self-regulation

She concluded that newsgroups can indeed be communities.

<read it here> (1.1 MB PDF file)

Julian Dibble has a chapter from his book “My Tiny Life” that explores the consequences of severely anti-social behavior and deception online, specifically about one particular incident that took place in LambdaMOO, a MOO/MUD run by researchers at Xerox:

Katie Hafner’s article about The Well from Wired back when it was still

marginally worth reading is an interesting exploration of function and

dysfunction in one of the earliest net.communities:


I first saw Jim Sterne speak at Internet World in Boston some years back

(and they haven’t held it in Boston in a long time, so it was quite a while

ago, probably around 1995 or 96). He’s a marketing guy who really groks the

web. In his talk back then, he earned my everlasting admiration for ripping

apart the web site of my then-employer. I went up afterwards and thanked

him for giving me ammunition for my running battle with the artists I

worked with, who, incidentally, had designed the site he had spent 15

minutes dissecting.

Jim’s Full Sterne Ahead newsletter comes out monthly and is filled with stories of marketers who get it and, more amusingly, marketers who don’t.




(Thanks PeterMe)


I’ve long felt that the web is just waiting for our very own Ernie Kovacs to finally show us how this all should be done. Who’s Ernie Kovacs, you ask? Basically, he was the first person to make television as television, rather than as radio with pictures or plays in front of cameras. He was a comic genius, and invented much of the visual vocabulary of television that we take for granted today. His “Eugene”, a half-hour completely without dialog, was absolutely amazing, and the sight gags he invented to take advantage of the medium are still being recycled to this day.

The best page I’ve found about Kovacs’ mad inventiveness with the medium is a transcript of an interview he gave the Canadian Broadcasting Company in 1960.

That interview is part of a truly wonderful site, Kovacsville On-Line, about his whole career, from his entry into local Philadelphia television in 1950 until his untimely death in a car accident in 1962.

The Ernie Kovacs Site has a nice bio of Ernie and covers the basics.

The Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia have a page devoted to Ernie and particularly his early, Philadelphia-based career, including a picture from a 1952 show, some great stories, and some insight into the tricks he used to get the effects he desired on virtually no budget. There’s also a RealMedia clip of some 8 mm film footage from March, 1952, of Ernie and company clowning around in the studio.

The best photos of Kovacs (well, only two of them) are on the still-under-construction Ernie Kovacs – Nothing in Moderation site:



Ernie also did some movies, but as he says in the CBC interview, his heart was really on the other side of the camera, and TV was his medium.


I think about Ernie every time I’m faced with a problem when putting a web site together and am trying to come up with an innnovative solution. Kovacs was a visionary; I’m still waiting for one to show up on the web and provide the conventions that will seem blatantly obvious in retrospect.

“Television, a medium — so called because it’s neither rare nor well done.”

–Ernie Kovacs


The site for the movie “The Dish” is one of the few sites where I’ve

enjoyed the use of Flash. I think it’s a clever interface, a little artsier

than I usually like, but entirely appropriate given the subject matter:


I really want to see this movie; I think anyone who grew up watching the

Apollo space program would want to. I remember going to my grandmother’s

house to see the moonwalk because they had a color TV and we didn’t. Of

course, the video feed from the moon was in black and white, but no matter.

I hope the movie eventually opens in a theater closer than an hour and a

half from my house….

And for good measure, here’s the site with the original Australian trailer:


(Ralph Brandi is a webmaster and user advocate for a really cool research

lab trapped in the body of a large telecommunications firm. He has been on

the net since 1987 and building web sites since 1993. He will rant about

the importance of the user for hours to anyone who provokes him. Gates

Brown was the best pinch hitter in the history of the American League, and

played for the Detroit Tigers for 13 years in the 1960s and 1970s. More

info on Gates at <>.


Ralph Brandi write: gleanings at visit: <>