Halt and Catch Fire: Tonya and Nancy
September 11, 2017 2:59 AM - Season 4, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Joe cuts his hair and brainstorms with Gordon the next step for Comet as they deal with the internet's growth. Cameron has a number of small accidents that changes her life. Rover's team struggles with differences, until Donna steps in and Boz gets some help from an old friend.
posted by lmfsilva (9 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
So Rover is the property worth billions, and Comet is Wikipedia?

Anna Chlumsky is a great addition to the cast, and I love her styling. I would have wanted to be her in the actual 1994. I heartily approve of her as a love interest for Gordon too.

I don't fault Cameron for helping Rover, and I really don't think that Bos manipulated her into helping them.
posted by gladly at 7:31 PM on September 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Comet is early Yahoo. Rover is, like, Altavista? There were a million crummy algorithm-based search engines back in the day. Then Metacrawler searched all of the crummy ones at once, and then Google buried everyone else with black box magic.

Or something like that, anyway.
posted by absalom at 8:20 PM on September 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

I take Rover to be Webcrawler, which I think was the first search engine to index full text of web pages, and was eventually bought (and sold) by AOL back in the 1990s. And Comet is definitely Yahoo!. Of course, they're probably just condensing all the crappy pre-google search engines into one company for story sake.

This is getting very interesting as the web (unintended, but allowing it) gets even more and more tangled. I cannot for the life of me predict how this may end up, but probably bad for many of our protagonists.

I...didn't notice that Joe got a haircut.

Also did a spit-take when Cameron said "Are you skating people now?" Skating was a weirdly big part of pop culture in 1994, and I can't explain why.
posted by General Malaise at 10:46 AM on September 12, 2017

but probably bad for many of our protagonists.
If they wanted to end the series on a real downer, they'd have the last episode on the early aughts, as everything bursts to oblivion.
posted by lmfsilva at 11:40 AM on September 12, 2017

Cameron's weird wilderness not-quite-midlife crisis is so perfectly, tragically Cameron in every way.
posted by colorblock sock at 5:31 PM on September 12, 2017

I was seeing Rover as a stand in for Inktomi.
posted by mikepop at 10:58 AM on September 18, 2017

Now there's a name I haven't heard in a while.

If Comet is Yahoo, it would be one hell of a plot twist if they buy Rover. It's that for all the "Gordon and Joe are DOOOOOOMED" because while crawlers are almost universally the best way to find anything (the other often being searching wikipedia) 23 years after the show , Yahoo had enough of a head start to still remain as a billion-dollar company, despite being better known for shooting themselves in the foot for over a decade.
posted by lmfsilva at 9:42 AM on September 19, 2017

This article from 1996 pairs perfectly with this episode: Seek and Ye Shall Find (Maybe):
But recently there have been hints of entirely new ways to classify knowledge, new systems for sorting and storing information that avoid the pitfalls of the past and can work on unimaginably large corpuses. The long-moribund fields of knowledge organization and information retrieval are, once again, showing signs of life. The reason, of course, is the Web.


The field of information retrieval, which focuses on automated techniques like keyword indexing for searching large databases, isn't much more encouraging for those trying to organize the Web. The simple reason: even humans are poor at deciding what information is relevant to a particular question. Trying to get a computer to figure it out is nearly impossible.
The author visits the Comet Yahoo! office:
Their cramped office, jammed full with dilapidated desks covered in stacks of manuals, seemed at odds with the lighthearted image Yahoo! projects online. But the disarray clearly reflected the company's rapid growth.


These categories form what the people at Yahoo! a bit pretentiously refer to as their ontology – a taxonomy of everything.


Yahoo! works like this: First, the URLs of new Web sites are collected. Most of these come by email from people who want their sites listed, and some come from Yahoo!'s spider – a simple program that scans the Web, crawling from link to link in search of new sites. Then, one of twenty human classifiers at Yahoo! looks the Web site over and determines how to categorize it.
Then it just starts reading like an outline of the episode!
Really, the only hard part – the only part that your average high-school geek couldn't do – is developing the classification scheme. The ontology. Dividing human knowledge into a clean set of categories is a lot like trying to figure out where to find that suspenseful black comedy at your corner video store. Questions inevitably come up, like Are movies part of Art or Entertainment? (Yahoo! lists them under the latter.)

To solve this problem, Yang and Filo hired Srinija Srinivasan as their "Ontological Yahoo!" Another former Stanford student, Srinivasan is unfailingly helpful, quick to answer any question in her relaxed California accent. Perhaps that's why Newsweek claimed she was trained in library science when including her among the 50 people who matter most on the Internet.
Then they get to talking about Inktomi's methods.
The real problem is that Web spiders spend most of their time waiting to connect to the Web site. It's a problem familiar to anyone who has tried to go to a popular site in the middle of the afternoon.
Maybe if they had some sort of waiting room algorithm...

In conclusion,
But after using Inktomi more, I started to wonder if an index really satisfied my desire for organizing knowledge. I could usually find what I was looking for, but I felt as if I was poking around in the dark. I remembered something Jerry Yang had told me at Yahoo!: "The difference between a catalog and an index is that a catalog provides context." That made sense now.
posted by mikepop at 8:39 AM on September 22, 2017 [8 favorites]

The "subject matter guides" concept reminds me of About.com? But that site probably didn't hit its heyday until the early 2000s, IIRC.
posted by Clandestine Outlawry at 7:23 PM on January 2, 2021

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