Flood Control

Sunday, October 16, 2005

First Turn Of The Wheel

So, new blog.

Normally, this would be the time to make sort of self-effacing comment about how very few people will be reading this and it'll all be a big waste of time. That's true enough, although writing can be very therapeutic when there's an idea in your head and it just won't come out.

I'm not hugely sure that sort of argument is relevant in the age of the Internet. You don't really need to subscribe to 12 months of blog just to get the few good articles every year, and many blogs, big blogs, have gotten so big and influential because they can hit some high notes on interesting issues, and they're read. So long as you keep writing interesting things that other people find worth pointing out, you can at least be a C-list celebrity. You're not exactly a household name, but you've affected opinions, and then those people can go and affect other people and so you become an unwitting founder of an idea, and that does so much more for you than firing off letter after letter to the newspaper in order to get your two inches to affect public opinion. (I don't ever recall reading a letters page in a major newspaper that felt like it pulled its weight. Then again, I don't read a whole lot of newspapers.) There's a whole economy of scale here where ideas can slosh around and sort of turn up, more a product of the collective than any one person.

An example - the idea of Intelligent Falling, which is basically a riff on Intelligent Design, that hot topic of the Internet ever since the Flying Spaghetti Monster made its debut. Intelligent Falling postulates that because quantum physics can't reconcile with Newtonian gravitational theory, which is itself broken in the face of Einsteinian gravitational theory, the whole thing's obviously a load of bunk. Here's a better and simpler theory - an Intelligent Agent makes things fall down. It's intelligent to make sure things fall the right way down, like we expect them to, and so things go around each other and so on. This cute little theory first turned up in the left-wing-to-a-fault webcomic I Drew This, and after doing the rounds of the Internet, was the subject of an article in the satirical newspaper, The Onion. (A quick article pointing out the apparent plagiarism, and a reply from The Onion, can be found here.) The collective will of the Internet has basically decided that they're sick of ID, and out come the satirists, assembling a collective response. This is even more apparent with the Flying Spaghetti Monster, where the fiction of the piece has been greatly expanded by everyone else who was both amused by it and slightly bothered at Intelligent Design.

As to what I think of Intelligent Design, that seems like good fodder for another day. (But as to what I think of the Onion, I think they're geniuses for coming up with the Fun Toy Banned Because Of Three Stupid Dead Kids article. No discussion involving the Onion is complete without it.)

So, what's with the name, "Flood Control"?

There is a computer game company named Valve. They're doing pretty well for themselves. Their name comes from trying to think of something unthreatening and completely devoid of testosterone and hyperbole. There's been a few other companies that have done something similar, and so I figured that I'd want something similar for a company name - unusual, but memorable.

I kind of strayed from that, I think, with "Flood Control". It sounds like bureaucracy crossed with white stencilled on a dam wall, which is admittedly probably better than what I was aiming for - it's ridiculous hyperbole, and a company that calls themselves Flood Control for no good reason makes a definite statement about what sort of people they really are and what they think of companies.

So then I decided to use it on a blog. Go me!

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