Hallo again to all.
This week the Olympics are in full swing, the fate of the Maltese Siamese twins Mary and Jodie occupies much of the attention of people who would read church news, and the world's Anglican newsmakers are resting. So there is not a lot of what we would call 'hard news'. The schism situation in ECUSA continues. The sharia situation in Nigeria continues. The financial crisis in the Anglican Church of Canada continues. British government officials are all trying to avoid responsibility for the Millennium dome. In other words, everything is about the same as it was last week, only it's a week later. Details in the News Centre. And all that's new but not news is in New This Week (and that's a lot).
It's good that news comes in pulses and bursts, because the pauses in between give us time to think and pray and plan. So what have we been meditating about? Anglicans Online is the world's leading online Anglican publication; we serve online readers and we have a large listing of online resources. We are more focused on the future of our Anglican traditions than on embalming their past. We offer public congratulations when we see things done right, and in rare circumstances we offer public criticism when we see things done in a way that we think wrong. In general we leave theological and ecclesiastical criticism to others; we critique technique and communication.
One of the defining properties of the internet era is that symbolic names are important and global. People choose names for their children based on family, tradition, and culture, understanding that a bad choice of name will be harmful to the child. And people select nameslogin names and domain namesfor their internet presence. We're sure you've seen the press reports that 'valuable' names have sold for high prices. Every time a parish or diocese or province goes online, it must have a name, and often the names are chosen haphazardly. Names convey meaning, and the person choosing the name must be aware of the meaning that will be conveyed by it, both now and in the future. An entire field of academics, semiotics, is given over to the study of symbolic meaning in text. And at present the biggest fight in the conflict-ridden world of the internet is over control of top-level names beyond the familiar dot-com and dot-org and dot-countrycode.
A few years ago Brian wrote an essay about the deplorable state of naming in the Anglican communion. Many people read it, understood it, and followed its recommendations. Some people read it, brushed it off as irrelevant, and didn't follow its recommendations. Others probably never found it or never read it. This week, though, something happened that makes us realise that perhaps the next Lambeth conference ought to include a resolution on internet naming: the Diocese of Melbourne proudly announced that it had converted to a real ratzinger of a name, 'www.melbourne.anglican.com.au'. Save for the correct spelling of the word 'melbourne', this name violates every rule both of common sense and domain semiotics. It doesn't work without the 'www'. It is a subdomain of a fictitious higher-level domain. It is in com.au and not asn.au or org.au or org. It is too long. It does not have a parallel structure with parallel entities. And, the manure on the cake where the icing should be: it is hosted on a server that does not permit alias naming, so we can't even point the name 'melbourne.anglican.org' at that server.
Many of you will read this and wonder why we are making such a fuss. We are making a fuss because we've been doing internet naming for a long time, more than 25 years, and we recognise how critical it is and how hard it is to change away from a bad name. Names aren't quite forever, but they last a long time and they are very hard to get rid of. 'Decently and in order' is a hallowed Anglican concept: let's see if we can translate that concept to Anglican names on the net.
See you next week.