Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Blessing #4 - TheWebster

If you're interested in transforming the world, here's a good place to start ... may 2010 be the year we set free the "imprisoned lightning."

The Webster's Twelve Laws

How to Use the Web to Transform the World, by Ralph Benko

Here are the Webster's 12 Laws of how to use the Web to transform the world.


1. Pulitzer’s Law: "Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so that they will remember it, and above all accurately so they will be guided by its light."

The very best "mission statement" for the Web, composed an eon ago, still applies.

And the Webster's corollary: Give them easy, simple, direct ways by which their voices may be heard and by which they can, individually and in concert, take action.


2. Nast’s Law and (Boss Tweed’s Complaint):
"They can see pictures."

As Boss Tweed famously said, “Stop them damn pictures. I don’t care so much what the papers write about me. My constituents can’t read. But, damn it, they can see pictures.”

The Webster says:
Use compelling graphics.


3. Clarke’s Second Law: "The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible."

Credits: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration
Learn from our predecessors, but try new things and find out what works now.


4. Beecher’s Law: "No great advance has ever been made in science, politics, or religion, without controversy."

The Webster says: Controversy is golden – interesting, draws attention, drives traffic, and excites the community. But use common decency.


5. Lazarus’s Law: "Unleash the imprisoned lightning."

On the Statue of Liberty is engraved a sonnet by Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus.

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles….

photo credit: by Tengis, of replica statue near Ulaanbataar, Mongolia, hosted at

The Webster says: The Web can be our means of unleashing “the imprisoned lightning” of millions whose voices have been exiled and who deserve to be heard.


6. Metcalfe’s Law:
"The value of a communication system grows at approximately the square of the number of nodes of the system."

source: A Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community: The Wiki and the Blog, by D. Calvin Andrus, Center for the Study of Intelligence vol 49. no. 3, CIA.

A single telephone or a single fax machine has no communication value. Two phones have a little value. A thousand phones have real value. A hundred thousand has great value. A million or more, extraordinary value.

The Webster says: The more people we enroll and connect with one another, the more powerful we become.


7. Bianchini’s law of Viral Loops: "When your currency is ideas, people become emotionally attached."

"Chen calls a viral loop the 'most advanced direct-marketing strategy being developed in the world right now.' *** [I]f you create something people really want, need, or merely enjoy, then your customers will grow your business for you. Users, just by using a product, are, in essence, offering a testimonial 'When your currency is ideas, people become emotionally attached,' Ning's Bianchini says. 'Then you become a public utility like Blogger, YouTube, or Facebook.'" (Emphasis supplied.) Source:

photo credit:

The Webster says:
Offer something people really want, need or enjoy.

8. Hoffman's Law: “If you ship your product and you’re not a little ashamed of it, you shipped too late.”
The Webster says: As uber-designer Knox Bronson says, you can always tweak the design as you go along, but your content is durable -- and is what will bring visitors to, and back to, your site.

9. Trippi’s Law: If you pay attention to the community you’re building, then the community will step up and do the work."

The Webster says: The essence of the modern Web – and of developing the power to transform the world – resides in building community rather than broadcasting information.
photo credit:

10. Blades' Law: "We need women in leadership and specifically, we need mothers."

The Webster says: empirical review of all advocacy Web 2.0 success stories show women in positions of authority. (Most women intuitively appreciation collaboration better than most men. It's a DNA thing.)
photo credit: Carlo Crivelli, Madonna con bambino, ca. 1470, detail


11. Pariser’s Law: "This is not about us, it’s about you."

The Webster says: If you are all about serving your community with passion you will succeed.
photo credit: Hogarth: Chairing the Members (from The Original Works of William Hogarth. London: John & Josiah Boydell, 1790)


12. Cage’s Law:
"Begin anywhere."

The Webster says: It can appear daunting, the Webster knows. But just listen to John Cage, the greatest experimental composer of the 20th Century – and a profound philosopher – and begin. You will discover what you need as you go.

photo credit:


  1. These are great, Joyce.

    I especially like #12, as I've listened to a lot of Cage and watched Merce Cunningham dance to his music. Begin anywhere, indeed.

  2. Joyce! These are awesome. Thank you so much for the inspiration at a time when I am harried, going too fast and wondering, when will I have a chance to breathe -- you remind me, I always have time to breathe. Breathing is essential. and then.... begin anywhere, indeed!


  3. Instructive and helpful.