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The Independent Culture
Third Voice

Most websites offer some sort of interactivity, but usually on their own terms. This new plug-in, however, enables visitors to add comments and dialogue independently to any page on the Web. Having downloaded (for free) the Third Voice browser modification, users can attach a sort of online Post-it note to a specific line of text within someone else's site. Subsequent visitors can see tags indicating previous messages and add to them, creating a sort of site-specific chatroom. All the notes are held by the Third Voice browser without altering the original page, and are only visible to those using the service. Once enough people register, though, the way seems open for a riot of graffiti, marginalia and uncontrollable consumer feedback. One can always hope. However, "features designed to promote responsible uses of the service" are promised for next month, and one or two voices have suggested the system could be open to serious abuse.

HM Prison Service http://www.hmprisonservice.

According to this site, there are currently 64,519 prisoners in England and Wales. Few of them, for security reasons, have Internet access, and so these official pages are aimed more at the public, prisoners' families and researchers. At times, the tone is still a little incongruous: "Where will I serve my sentence?" asks a heading in the "Lifers" section, as though explaining options for a possible lifestyle choice. Dominant hues are corporate blue and beige, and there is an air of quiet reassurance that "there is much, much more to prison life than simply doing time". But an online news section offers a reality check, with its ongoing details of the Wormwood Scrubs assault charges. A FAQ offers random statistics: it costs pounds 23,982 to keep someone in jail for a year, but very little of that goes on food: the daily allowance per prisoner is only pounds 1.42. Disappointingly, a slang page offers more official acronyms (APS - Accelerated Promotion Scheme) than jailbird nuggets such as "jam roll" (parole).

Jargon Scout

For more inventive slang try this page from an industry newsletter, shamelessly out to beat Wired to the latest Net neologisms, as well as coining some of its own. Current Jargon Du Jour includes "FBC" - Fully Buzzword Compliant - and to "Jarjar", meaning to pad out a program with superfluous features.

Some of the terms could lead to violence: "Macwater" is "the stagnant technology pond to which the Macintosh faithful have consigned themselves". Watch out especially for "Netopaths", the most deranged type of Net abuser, who may also be suffering from "Internesia" - the tendency to forget where in cyberspace you found something. And "dog-food" has become a verb - used by software developers to mean actually making use of one's own product in order to test it, as in "We have to dog-food this puppy before we release it".

Prayer Wheel


The medieval pay-per-prayer tradition is brought up to date at this site, where computer power can be enlisted to intercede on behalf of yourself, a sick relative, a departed loved one, or World Peace - all for a fee, of course. Three prayers a day for a whole year will cost $19, five a still reasonable $29, and credit cards are accepted. The texts run continuously, but users are encouraged to log on and meditate while watching their petitions scroll by. Catholic, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu and other options are available.