His Web Scissors project

His Web Scissors project

As so often happens in Silicon Valley, Jos made an invention that his employer was not prepared to put into production. On the other hand, Jos really could not run with it on his own because it was so intimately related to the company product.

His invention was a method by which ordinary people accessing the web with their television and WebTV units would be able to assemble a scrap book of images they would find on the web. This was not simply a gathering of the links, but a gathering of the images themselves. Although people with computers in 1999 could do this, it required specialized skills. Jos brought it to the masses. In the future we can expect this functionality to be widely available, but when Jos invented his webscissors, he said his employer was not willing to accept the responsibility for customer service of it.

Want to try it? It is easy.   Go to WebScissors.

You should have been able to grab the images off this page. If you are browsing from a WebTV box, the images should now be in your personal scrapbook. (Otherwise, you'll get a "file not found".)

Jos gets help

Although Jos conceived this product, he was not able to assemble all of it by himself. His parents recall their Sunday (laundry) nights with him. Jos would be bubbling with enthusiasm at the privilege it was for him to work with the incredibly talented people at WebTV. [Popster regrets that he is unable to regale you by quoting Jos's exact language and says that when Jos ran out of superlatives in English, he would switch to Spanish.] Jos really felt so happy to have these people in his life. If anyone ever thought Jos merely put on a show for public, they just didn't see him at home with his parents. He felt what he said.

Webscissors becomes Jos's secret personal project

Andrew Levin writes about the early history of Web Scissors. He adds a history of email that illustrates

Emily Wilska writes about how they intended to help users over this difficult period, and how,

"Despite Jos's insistence on keeping the authorship of the site anonymous, it has his name all over it:
PageBuilder is probably a registered trademark of WebTV Networks, Inc. WebTV Networks neither provides nor endorses this site. Use at your own risk. Do not look directly into the light.
Even those who never knew him will surely smile at his disclaimer."

The term "transloader" sounds awfully techie so they chose the term "Image grabber." Jos says, "Well, I'd pull for "Image groper", but I guess I can live with "grabber"."

Noel Morrison fills us in on more details telling us that

Jos registered webscissors at his parent's address. The bills for the web hosting provider were going to his personal credit card.

Internet "culture"

Jos and his colleagues were chagrined but amused at the way many WebTV users were using the web in general, and his Webscissors tool in particular. He interpreted his logs to mean

And, as a special treat, here are the last 200 pages "scissored":
I particularly like the fellow who went from trying "godslove.com"
to "illegal teens. com".
Oh, God's in the log.
Right next to "teen whores. com" and "teen sluts. com", you'll find
And you know what's funny? The scriptures saith NOTHING about
"pink teens. com".
Popster hates to cast doubt, but the logs left in his files are actually ambiguous. Two very different users could be using Webscissors at the same time; and the "access" logs would interleave them. The "referer" logs were not found in his files, but he might have seen them; he might have been right for the right reasons.

Installing Webscissors at an outside web hosting provider

To get webscissors up and running outside of WebTV, Jos set up an account with a web hosting provider. The provider, James Ownbey writes:

The weekly total hit count was 65 thousand in January 2000. The home page accesses (plotted nearby) are about half of that. These are not people browsing; these are people extracting useful services, about 35,000 services per week.

If each of those users contributed a dime to Jos's charity it would amount to $3,500/week.

Many have remarked that they'd like to live their lives more the way Jos did, but they don't know how to begin. They might begin by reading some email from Jos to James and Jasmine.

Tears and dreams

The originals of these of his webscissors files are dated his last afternoon before he died.

***many many tears of grief and despair***.

When he died his webscissors email box had been emptied (and it immediately began refilling). His webscissors page looked beautiful. After our shock receded (despair undiminished) we removed his mail drop and added a dedication to his memory. Ray Hill, Andrew Levin, and another, have offered to guide me in keeping webscissors alive while it remains useful to WebTV users.

After announcement to the user community, many kudos appeared on the pagebuilder community newsgroup. SecretAdmirer "Beth" gave a welcome gift to the community.

Almost two years later, she writes

Every morning I get to play "Jos" by logging into the Hotmail [webscissors queries] account. When I press the "login" button I get an adrenaline rush. I remember my promise to think like Jos as I read the e-mails and I try to answer the e-mails with humor and compassion. I'm truly the better for it because sometimes my "Jos" personality stays with me after I sign out and I get to have a better day with a great attitude. XO, Beth

Beth Candy also wrote this tribute on behalf of WebTV users.

Visitors began appearing here from Roxy's home page (signatures) where we found this lovely commemorative gif.

Visit the amazing Life of Jos Claerbout.