I stumbled across an antidote for 2016 election blues. I'm slowly working my way through the first season of The West Wing. It happened by accident. I started listening to the West Wing podcast, and that got me interested in watching the show again.
It's surprising how much of the story still applies, even though political technology has moved a lot since 1999 when it first aired. And many of the things they debate were long-ago settled. You can see that a lot of progress has taken place, and presumably it's all that progress that's causing so much trouble now.
Sure, it's a fantasy version of what happens in the White House, but since we're already being forced to consider another actor's version, why not look at one that is overly functional and lovably fun, instead of nightmarish. The trance invoked by TWW is like a good trip down memory lane.
Man we had our shit together back then.
It's good medicine!
Slowly but surely we're rounding out the feature set of 1999.io. Now we maintain a monthly archive page for each blog.
The important thing is that all the text is there, and it's being maintained automatically by the CMS. And there was a tweak that gets the full months text pre-loaded when you start the editor.
Let's build one really great venue for summer sports, and one for winter.
And then build no more.
It's a luxury we can't afford. We already burn a huge amount of carbon to get people in and out every four years, but we spend a lot more building the venue, and for what purpose?
Sure, the Olympics is symbolic. Even though it consumes a lot of carbon creating the venues every four years, it's a tiny drop in the bucket. But it's time to make symbolic sacrifices to help lead the way to real sacrifice, which is coming whether we want it or not.
The Zika virus gives us pause to think. Enough with the Olympic extravagance. We don't rebuild the UN every four years. So we can make due with really great venues, but just two.
I'm still putting the pieces back from the disk crash that happened earlier in May. The rainbow cursor mess.
The other day I wanted to do some work with Electron.
There's an Electron version of the 1999.io app.
I wanted to have another look at that, and another project I'm working on that's also Electron-based.
So I needed to reinstall Electron. So I did. And nothing worked.
Now the question is, did I do something weird when I last installed Electron that I'm now forgetting. I looked back over my notes. Nothing obvious.
So I waited for a fresh start, and sat down with a nice glass of iced coffee, and set about figuring out what was wrong.
I'll save all the blind alleys and wrong guesses.
Two things changed.
Now, instead of this:
var remote = require ("remote");
var dialog = remote.require ("dialog");
You now say:
var remote = require ("electron").remote;
var dialog = remote.dialog;
Apparently I had an older version of Electron and there was a breaking change in an intervening version. I hate it when that happens. Look away for awhile and your app breaks in mysterious ways. Oy.
Anyway now it's documented.
I want to offer Scripting News via email.
I'd like to use an existing service if possible.
It should read my RSS feed periodically, and when a new item shows up, mail it to subscribers. With whatever options people like.
I would use MailChimp but they require that my physical address be attached to every email. I can't imagine this is really a legal requirement as they say it is on their site.
Hmmm, I just had an idea. I wonder if this could work via Twitter DMs? They are now unlimited in length.
PS: It would be extra cool if the service understood the Instant Articles feed elements to make the resulting email look even better.
I'm glad that Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay and tech billionaire has stepped up on Gawker's side. It's both opportunistic and correct. He's siding with the users. I wonder if anyone else in the Valley considered doing that?
In most industries and politics, the smart money tries to get aligned with the users, or at least appear to. Look at Slack's recent marketing. They talk about the amazing projects smart people do with Slack. Now think of what Thiel's funding of the Gawker lawsuit says -- "We really don't care what you know, as long as we don't get hurt." Assuming that Gawker has really hurt Thiel. If they did, why didn't he sue on his own behalf?
You'll know that tech has gained some maturity and has a vision when they compete to get on the side of tech users. As long as it's adversarial, their business built on a hollow foundation.
When the Mac came out Apple did something new for personal computers, they published a human interface guidelines document, a thick book, written in easy to understand English, but it was also technical. It was a guide for developers showing how to make Macintosh software that was as usable as possible for everyone. And while it made it more difficult for developers at first, over time it made it easier, because many of the design questions were answered. It was good for business too, because people could use more software if there was a consistency to its design.
I wrote a post boasting about the smooth new Story Page rendering in 1999.io, and wouldn't you know it, when I published the link that's when the page broke. Famous last words. Never be too boastful.
God'll get you for that Walter.
Here's the link and the page now is working properly.
PS: Thanks to tlepasse for helping me debug the problem.
I made a bunch of improvements to the way 1999.io generates story pages. The net result is that pages should now load more smoothly.
Here's an example of a story page.
Working in this area is complicated because, while the pages look simple, they are actually all these things at the same time:
Each of those features has conflicting needs and are there for different reasons.
Stories are editable with a single click, because that's how we like our blogging systems. The big innovation in the year 1999 was Edit This Page. In the 2016 version of blogging, it's even easier. Just click on the text you want to edit, and if you have permission, you just go ahead and edit. No menus, dialogs, nothing to remember other than click, edit, save. It's pretty much as simple as it can possibly be.
Pages are live because sometimes we edit after we publish and we want readers to have the latest version, whether or not they reload the page.
I wanted to brag a little, of course, but also want to let readers know to watch out for problems with display of stories and let me know if there are any. Thanks!
I know what Hillary should do. I'm going to tell you now.
And we have to hope it works. That's all we have.
It's very bad news in a bad news year to hear that Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel is bankrolling a set of lawsuits that likely will put one of the most despised and offensive publications, Gawker, out of business.
It's bad news because when people use money to control the press, that means the press, already in awe of people with huge money, will suppress the impulse to look into who they are and why they do what they do. It's only because of a small remaining irreverence for wealth that pubs are carrying the story of Thiel's new anti-speech venture.
But it's worse because it's the rich of Silicon Valley, which is more and more controlling our means of communication. At a time when the press is just starting to look at how they control discourse, to show so openly that they have so little respect for differing opinion, esp from an early investor in Facebook, that could have a whole new level of chilling effects on news about the inbred and highly sheltered tech industry.
It's precisely because Gawker is so offensive that they deserve protection. I hate what they did with Valleywag. I was a target of theirs, with stories they either completely made up or twisted to lead readers to incorrect conclusions. I saw them ridicule and try to destroy people for their humanity. Nothing scandalous about what they did. They just embarrassed people for being human. I was happy the first time Valleywag went under. And the second time. But I, like everyone who was targeted by them, endured it, and in the end it didn't make a difference.
The point of the First Amendment is that it protects the most offensive speech. If there weren't any offensive speech we wouldn't need protection. And some thin-skinned billionaires find anything but fawning praise to be offensive.
Let's hope this inspires what independence is left in tech news to use this revelation as a call to look even deeper at the shallow and brittle personalities of Thiel and other tech billionaires who use lawyers to silence criticism.
These guys are doing it wrong.
First, I don't want their comments on my blog. I don't know them. I don't like that they didn't give me a heads-up their service was coming. And I don't like their attitude.
By being adversarial out of the gate, unless something radically changes, I won't promote their service. I won't incorporate what people say in their comments in my posts. I won't read what they write. I'm very good at not looking at places I don't want to look at. It's an acquired skill over many years of being flamed by communities of trolls.
Slice it however you want to do it. Be welcoming to trolls and hostile to site-creators, and you'll get lots of trolls and you'll be actively ignored by the people who take the risk of putting their ideas online. The other way might get you some intellect, some thinking and courage. You might help discourse. This way you're just another annoyance I have to avert my attention from.
Yes I know I've called attention to you by writing a post. Just this once.
I started to write a post about how the blogosphere needs a reboot.
As evidence, I said the political system also needs one.
As does news.
As does Facebook and Twitter. (Yes they do, even though their owners may not realize it.)
As does the way we treat our planet.
Then I started looking around.
And realized that everything needs a reboot.
And not the kind of crude America First approach that some Americans seem to favor. Problem with that is that everyone wants to be first.
And they really mean White America First. I can't get behind that.
As someone who is approaching senior citizenship (ouch, that was hard to write) I want more respect for people with gray hair.
Everyone wants more respect.
Everyone. But no one wants to give it.
I think maybe that's the reboot we need. We need a society that's run by and for adults, with love and consideration for those who will be adults. And people who need love more than most. Which is pretty much everyone.
Paywalls fragment independent news at a time when they need to be coalescing to compete with Facebook.
In June 2007, my friend Robert Scoble called me from the Apple store in Palo Alto. He was in line with his son Patrick to be among the first to get a new iPhone. He said if I got there with the cash, he would get me one.
I had planned on holding out as long as I could. I was pissed that the iPhone didn't run Mac software. I had hoped to put my scripting system on the phone and develop all kinds of mobile apps that ran on the device.
I was a Blackberry user. I thought I'd still be a Blackberry user after getting the iPhone. I really liked my Blackberry. But once I got my iPhone I never used the Blackberry again. Literally. Never used it again.
This weekend there was much ado about a Marco Arment post about how if Apple doesn't get its AI act together soon, they might be the new Blackberry.
Today I still use the iPhone. I hate it. It's the most unreliable piece of crap ever. I must use iTunes to get stuff onto the phone, and that's even worse.
What I'd like to add to the discussion is this -- Apple could be replaced, for me, by a phone that was somewhat elegant, hardware-wise, and had software that was as easy and reliable as it should be, nine years after the iPhone was first introduced. You expect a certain amount of bugginess at the outset, but over time the glitches should be out and the product should become part of the background, the focus being on what you use the product for. The iPhone resists that. Every time they come out with a new version of iTunes or iOS, it all breaks, and I have to find a new set of workarounds.
So the iPhone is far more vulnerable than Marco says. Give me a device that's reasonably nice and Just Works, and I'm outta here.
PS: I still am an Apple shareholder. Haven't sold a share. Wondering if that was the correct thing to do!
PPS: Android really isn't any better than iPhone. True, there's no iTunes. To copy stuff on the phone you just drag and drop, in the Finder. Rational. But otherwise it's a hot mess of changing UI. There are some other nice touches though that indicate it might someday be great, like the way you get news on the devices. But can you find it? It's a challenge.
Ask yourself this question about any Presidential candidate.
If they aren't re-elected after a first term, will they actually leave office?
For all the Presidents in my lifetime, I have no doubt that they all would have left office voluntarily if they weren't re-elected. Many of them did.
Nixon even left office voluntarily when it became clear that Congress would convict him and remove him from office, before his term was up.
Had Clinton been convicted in his impeachment trial, I don't doubt he would have left.
Had George W. Bush not been re-elected, even though he was a perfectly awful president, I don't doubt he would have retired.
Trump? No, I don't think he would leave voluntarily.
No point asking him this, or any other question, btw, because he never answers truthfully. Which btw, is something the press should take into account. Why bother asking him any questions. Seriously, why do you bother. You're giving him an air of legitimacy that he doesn't deserve. The man can't answer anything truthfully.
I have the feeling Facebook is blowing us off re linking and style in posts here. Really fucked up. This is a time when we need to communicate more than ever. This isn't a conservative vs liberal issue. It's about the proper flow of information and ideas, and using all the tools we have. To take linking out of the vocabulary of web writers would be like taking punctuation out of the language. Meaning is lost. Greed is okay kind of but not when it interferes with our future.
It's more than a feeling. We've been beating this drum for two years. Facebook isn't killing the blogosphere or the web, but they are crippling the people from organizing using the web. We really need all our tools. That Facebook withholds the ability to link from web writing, well that's really hurting the flow of ideas at a time when we need it to be functioning on all cylinders.
Another fascinating moment on MSNBC last night.
That wasn't surprising. I think and write about that a lot. We are going down a path that is well-understood. What was the point of studying history if it didn't inform us about the meaning of our own collective actions.
What was surprising is what Maddow said. I don't have the exact wording, so I'll paraphrase.
"A lot of people think that, even talk privately about it, but publicly? That's new."
Whoa! This is the story of the rest of the election. Has been for a while. I'd say the moment when it became this serious was when Trump denied knowing anything about David Duke or the KKK, or what the term white supremacist means. Watch the video. This is the moment, imho, when any sane reasonably educated adult knew exactly where we are headed.
"When people show you who they are, believe them." -- Maya Angelou.
Everything in this election is about this choice. Nothing else comes close.
So, when Bernie Sanders talks about corporate ownership of the electoral process, the right response is, why the fuck isn't he talking about the rise of fascism in the US?
When Hillary says Trump isn't qualified to be President shouldn't the follow-up be about the morality of even considering a man like Trump to be President. Even if he were qualified how can we consider a man of his morality as the commander-in-chief, as protector of the Constitution.
And when Repubs line up behind him, and as they go ahead with their nominating process, even though they are educated people and understand what they're nominating, shouldn't someone be publicly saying that this may be the single most significant thing any of them do in their entire lives.
Shouldn't there be a Wikipedia page where the names of all Trump endorsers are listed? These are matters of public record. These people should feel that in the future there will be no chance of spinning their way out of responsibility. (The Atlantic is maintaining a cheat sheet of Repubs who are supporting Trump and those who are not.)
Maybe Hillary should choose Weld as her running mate? Someone here has to have the guts to tell the truth. So far he's pretty much alone in that. That's a pretty good qualification, imho.
A lot of things become clearer if we decide to talk the truth, and not pretend this is a normal election. No matter how hard you try, you can't make Donald Trump into Mitt Romney. And that's exactly what the Republican Party, in its dying Weimar gasps, is trying to do.
Project into the future, assume Trump wins, and we endure whatever he has in mind for us. Historians of the mid-21st century ask if people knew what they were getting into, and they conclude that we did, but no one talked about it publicly.
What story does that remind you of?
Bernie supporters who aren't ridiculously utterly stupid will vote for HRC in the fall.
I remember the same thing going on about HRC's supporters and the 2008 vote. I went to the DNC that year. There were some diehard HRC protestors. Literally four of them. They camped out on the main commercial street in Denver, on one specific corner, and tried to have an argument with anyone who would argue with them.
By the end of the convention that was about it. They all voted for Obama, because they weren't fucking idiots.
If you still say you're voting for Trump, read this. And tell me without making me laugh too much that any Bernie supporter will actually pull the lever for Trump. If you do I will laugh at your silliness, and your belief in my gullibility. I am gullible, but not ridiculously so.
She's right. American never was great. Not in the way that people who support Donald Trump think it was. What they liked about America was to other Americans oppression, enslavement, death, genocide, ethnic cleansing.
What Trump really means is that he wants to make America white again. As it was before we had our first African-American president. It's a racist dog whistle. I should have seen it coming, we all should. For all the joy and relief in getting over the race barrier in 2008, for other Americans that was defeat. Seeing a President as someone who had power over you, and for that person to be black must have been too much of a stretch for some.
But the truth is the President doesn't actually have power over you. The President has symbolic power. We've seen how little actual power comes with the Presidency, after seeing the effect of Republican obstruction for the last six years.
Our challenge is to learn how to live with each other. Blacks, imho, have been amazingly peaceful given all the provocation. That's smart, of course. But amazing nonetheless. And white racists -- we have to make sure you don't get to run our country. Because then it wouldn't be America any more. The good things about America would be gone.
Also yesterday Carlick asked me to come up with an idea for Google's machine learning algorithms. I was unprepared, and forgot that I already had a ready-made application.
Here's the idea.
I've spent many years writing on this blog. I know there are just a few themes. I repeat them over and over in different contexts. All serial writers do this. Think about Jonathan Chait at New York, Matt Taibbi at Esquire, Paul Krugman at the NYT.
So how about a learning algorithm that turns my writing into a rough draft of a coherent book. Something for me, working with a great human editor, to turn into something people can take to the beach.
This would be worth a lot, esp if we can reboot blogging. It would give us away to turn people's ongoing stories into more usable forms of writing.
I've had a busy few days. Looking forward today to a bike ride, catching up on some development projects, thinking and ideating.
One take-away from the meetings: I want to find out more about the people who read my blog. It's very quiet over on my end of this "conversation." Some very interesting people are thinking about what I'm writing, and coming up with ideas of their own. And since so few people blog these days, the ideas don't flow back well.
When I posted that thought on Twitter, Fred Wilson, who has one of the most prolific comment sections on any blog, ever -- says his commenters keep him feeling the connection. It clearly works for him, we're different people, different temperaments, and different blog history. When I use his style of comments on my blog I get a different result.
I've found that when I have comments, I don't get very many, and a lot of them are spammy. What I want is to hear from people who don't speak publicly that much, just a few of their best ideas.
Yesterday at lunch with Dave Carlick, who I worked with at Living Videotext in the 80s, we talked about regcards. When we shipped a new product, we'd get back bundles of regcards in the mail every day. When they came in, I'd close the door on my office, and spend hours reading the comments and thinking about them. There were phone numbers on the cards, and sometimes I'd call people and ask followup questions. I kept reading them because I learned so much from them, they gave me narratives to go with my product designs. The stories could now include what it was like to use the product, with no inside knowledge of how it was made.
I want the web equivalent of a regcard. A way for readers to, when they have a free moment, tell me and only me who they are. Not a broadcast to the world. Just one person to another. As far as I know this doesn't exist today. The closest thing is the guestbook page.
Anyway I feel like I just came back from an exciting conference. I forgot how energizing they can be. Not the speeches and the time spent in the audience scribbling and checking email. The hallway and lobby conversations that give you ideas. That's the gold.
PS: I really wanted to find an image of one of the Living Videotext regcards, but I'm afraid they're all gone. Too bad. We put some amount of work in evolving them, to ask better questions that would get people to say more. And the cards themselves would have been interesting to read, 30 years later. I have to rely on my very imperfect memory here.
You could complain about how Facebook destroyed something or you could be part of creating the next thing. And learn from past mistakes. But...
Sometimes big companies park their fat asses on things they don't care about and stop them from growing. That's not destroying -- but it does hold back progress. Consider what Google did to RSS with Reader as an example. Not only couldn't we evolve RSS, but we had to stop using features of RSS they didn't support.
And then of course they killed Reader. Leaving RSS as a burnt out wasteland. Not destroyed, but hurting -- kind of like a chemical waste dump. (Never offered to help with the cleanup, or to help put things back to where they were.)
Facebook has its fat ass parked on top of blogging. And it isn't passing through the very most basic feature of the web -- linking. And like Google, they say it's a matter of limited resources that keeps them from supporting this feature. Well we didn't have that problem until they came along.
So this is a problem. It doesn't fit the model of destruction leading to creativity. We have to try to co-exist, knowing that if we succeed they will probably interfere with the success. Creates a horrible disincentive. I know this because I live it.
One of my favorite users on Facebook is Humans of New York.
Every day he tells stories of random people in New York.
Sometimes he focuses on certain parts of the city, and he's also traveled to different countries and applied the same method.
It just struck me that we should have a HONY for the middle of the United States. The world would love to hear their stories, I imagine. We don't know what to make of the Trump phenomenon. Maybe by putting a human face on it, through story-telling and photography, we could get a better sense of who the other Americans are.
I'm very far away from them in many ways. But I understand that we have to listen and hear what the individuals are saying, as people, not through a spokesperson who we don't like or trust. (An understatement.)
Let's figure out how to do this!
Plugins in 1999.io are basically single-page apps that have access to the server, and can do things on behalf of the logged-in user.
Through lots of factoring over many months, the code is extremely high level.
We use Twitter for identity and the local server file system to store JSON files.
Very lightweight and low-tech but also quite powerful.
It's all coming together nicely.
I was going to write a piece about how the role of journalism had changed because of Trump. The reason we have Trump is the mistaken idea that there are rules about what the press can and can't say. Those rules have stood in the way of the truth getting out to the people who need to hear it.
Reporters have a clear responsibility to what's true and important. So we need to have information that helps us understand what it would be like to have Trump as commander in chief, because that's one of the jobs he wants.
American journalism has a proper conflict of interest in that it must further the interest of America continuing to be America. That means the Constitution evolves, but does it slowly and with a lot of consideration. It means that there's a wide variety of conflicting philosophies that coexist. It means that individual rights are protected even if the majority doesn't agree.
Analogously, the San Jose Mercury-News, a news org based in San Jose, CA where I used to live, doesn't have to be objective about San Jose. They are in favor of it. And American journalists are okay if they favor America. We want them to have that conflict of interest.
It isn't up to Hillary Clinton to provide the reason we might or might not want Trump. That's the job of the press. It's one that they haven't taken seriously enough in the recent past. There's been a lot of false equivalence, leading to terrible things almost happening. Like defaulting on the country's debt. We, as a country, didn't fully appreciate the consequences of that, as it was about to happen. And that was a failure of the press. Luckily it did not happen because the Repubs weren't that insane. But it was only a matter of time before the insanity fully blossomed to the point that even the Repubs are scared of it. That's where we are now.
On last night's Chris Hayes show, not only did Hayes fully embrace his conflict of interest, in favor of protecting the US from the insanity of the Trump candidacy, but a guest, Bob Garfield from On The Media, said what I was planning to say -- it's time for the media to stop with the false equivalence. We are all threatened by the lunacy of the Trump candidacy, including the press. We all have to act to make sure the country survives this. This is not a failure of both parties or of the American system. It's a failure of American journalism. They don't like to look at themselves, or take blame for their mistakes, and that's okay as long as they stop making the mistake.
There's still at least one other big problem. None of these people listen to non-reporters or non-politicos. None of them will read this post or care that a software developer has strong, perhaps insightful and passionately held positions based on love of country. Only a few voices are heard and their thinking suffers from inbreeding and in many cases lack of experience. They are the reason we are in this mess, not Trump and not the Repubs.
So I conclude we need to reboot blogging. I am finding that message is getting through, not to reporters but to other people who care. And I'm going to keep pounding my fist on the table and banging the drum until we are all heard, until we all hear each other. That's the real fix for this bug, long-term.
Bottom-line: If the voters know what they're really getting, i.e. press tells real story, and the voters want him, then so be it.
Software is easy to debug if you treat it like anything else.
If you have what you think is a bad light bulb, but when you put a new bulb in the socket it doesn't work, you'd conclude the problem was in the socket, not the bulb. (Although it doesn't hurt to try a third bulb from a different pack if possible. Sometimes two bulbs are broken.)
Debugging a problem in software is usually just a series of those kinds of tests.
I don't know how you propose a new emoji, so I'm going to try doing it from a blog post.
It would be like retiring a number of a basketball or baseball player.
It's a classic. Instantly recognizable to a certain generation of developer. A memory of glory days when barriers were being broken in software usability every year. Not that progress isn't being made these days, but it seems so much s l o w e r.
And if there's room for one more, I'd like to see the icon of Steve Jobs in the Steve Sez dialogs also be preserved as a universally recognized emoji.
PS: Did you know that Clarus was named by people at Apple to mock the software spinoff named Claris, that was started by none other than Bill Campbell, the much-revered Silicon Valley coach who recently passed away.
On May 8, I wrote a blog post about upstreaming in Node.js.
I decided to create my own utility, it's a Node app that watches a folder, and uploads any new or changed files to a location on Amazon S3. You can configure how often it runs.
It does it with a recursive scan of the folder structure. It looks at every file's mod date and compares it with the last date. Very simple approach.
In other words, I will have to take another look at this, but right now I'm moving on. It's worth a blog post because I've posted the code, with setup instructions on GitHub. I'll be watching the Issues section of the repo so if you discover problems please report there. Thanks.
The press must treat Trump like a real candidate.
Use all the metrics, regardless of whether you feel his supporters will care. That's not even an interesting question, because until you report it, you can't know.
Over time the novelty of Trump will wear off. And people will be left with the reality of a loner, with no experience, trying to run a ridiculously huge and dangerous organization.
You have to give the electorate a chance to experience Trump as he is, with sobriety, and evaluate him not as a TV show, but as an administrator, leader, and military commander.
Trump is in every way a real candidate, and if elected will be a real President. Your job is to make the people feel that. If they still want to go with Trump, so be it.
The day Trump leaves the stage in disgrace, and sooner or later that's going to happen, will be like the day Nixon resigned.
Something interesting happened yesterday in the US Presidential campaign. We had a day when the press beat Donald Trump.
All of a sudden he didn't have talking points. His denials sounded like the lies they are. His rep on Chris Hayes could only say that the charges were old and that journalists couldn't say someone is lying. (!)
To be clear, if you are lying and the journalist knows it, they must say you're lying. The problem has been that journalists have not been saying it. You could see the panic. Oh no. Now what.
Well of course Slippery Donald is going try to slip out of this. Possibly with violence at a rally. Or stories about Bill Clinton's penis. Whatever it is, given that it's Trump, it will be demeaning, unsavory and highly un-Presidential.
The goal has to be to make this guy so miserable that he gets the clear picture of what it'll be like to be President. Permanently wipe the grin off his face. Some people are cool enough to handle it, like Obama and HRC. But Trump runs hot, he puts his ego out there, the chip on his shoulder is yuuuuuge. He's totally not built for the job. Soon, hopefully even he will realize that.
But we'll see how stiff the spine of the press is, and whether their bosses will let them bring down Trump, which should be very very easy for them, if they choose to do it.
What I learned in the aftermath of my Rainbow-Cursor-From-Hell experience with my iMac.
We should settle down and put some of our effort into finishing the development of technology so many of us depend on for our work and creativity.
In 1996 I wrote a review of the then-new Pointcast, calling it CNN on Your Desktop. I thought it was a miracle. I was a contributing editor for HotWired, the first website of Wired Magazine, and at the time was a pretty influential place to write.
Later when I went to an InternetWorld trade show, on the show floor, much to my surprise, was a huge two-story banner, above the Pointcast booth, with a quote from my review, and my name under it. It said:
The most compelling app I've ever seen for a personal computer.
Apparently I had written the most glowing review of the product, and it had appeared in Wired, and it contained a solid pull quote, and all that added up to a two-story banner.
The point of this vignette is that I understand the rush that editorial people feel when their judgement makes or breaks something. When your attention is sought by entrepreneurs and PR people. You don't make very much money for this work, but at times you can have huge influence.
That is what has been slipping away from professional journalists year after year, and now it's almost gone. Publications that used to have large influence like Time and Newsweek are now shadows of their former selves. BusinessWeek is gone, swallowed up into the Bloomberg machine. Even the Internet-embracing TechCrunch feels like it's going through the motions.
Facebook is hiring journalists, and like it or not, they're doing the same job for a tech company that they were doing for publishing companies. The resulting product is no more or less conflicted or valid. It's the same product, at a much larger scale.
In 1996 I got the rush, but I wasn't seeking it, I wasn't even expecting it. And I knew immediately that it wasn't mine, and it wouldn't last. If I had written that only as a blog post, they might have included it in a quote sheet, but they never would have put it in a banner. That belonged to Wired. My name was just going along for the ride. That was the one and only time a quote of mine got that kind of play.
But I think there's an even bigger rush available to journalists who stick with it. Electronic distribution of news now, 20 years after Pointcast, isn't that much more developed. It has a long way to go. We need social networks of news makers, and imho neither Facebook or Twitter has done that yet. And that's just the next step. I think there are many after that.
Imagine you were a lover of movies in 1932. Sound had just been introduced. Movies were great. You could feel the potential. But there was still so much more to do! Gone With The Wind and Wizard of Oz wouldn't come until 1939. And there was The Godfather, and Spielberg and Scorcese, Meryl Streep and Al Pacino. Leonardo and Jennifer.
What's over then? The 20th century system of news, with powerful gatekeepers whose names are displayed above trade show booths in 2-story type. That's gone forever. But what comes next will give you bigger rushes than any of that. I know because in other contexts I've been privileged to participate in those kinds of developments. And I yearn for more to come.
If you love news I believe strongly there's never been a better time to be alive.
I don't have an opinion about the first part, but I know the web is not destroyed. On that Hoder is just plain wrong.
Here's what I do think.
We could really use Hoder's voice in the blogosphere.
He could set up a WordPress blog, or a Tumblr blog. Whatever he likes.
He would find that a lot of his influence would return, and more important, instead of giving up as he has done here, he would be helping the open web.
He doesn't know that it's over. Like a lot of journalists, he clearly for some reason would like to believe it is. They are wrong. We do not know that. I'm using the open web right now to write this, and thousands of people will read it, again through the open web. That's pretty good for something that's supposedly "destroyed."
Of course Facebook should add links to Facebook posts. That would help as much as getting an excellent blogger like Hoder back in the flow.
Come on guys let's get to work!
Here's a step by step guide for getting into the news feed world.
Repubs who don't repudiate Trump, you'll feel the pain for years if not decades to come. Americans who love freedom won't forget.
A few days ago everything on my Mac got a lot slower. Lots of rainbow cursors. Esp when I do something that does stuff with disk. So launching the GitHub Mac client is excruciating. Dropbox is unusable. At first I thought it was Dropbox, but I haven't been running it here for days. The machine is still very bad.
It's like that famous Mac-vs-PC commercial, only the Mac is behaving like the PC.
I don't have any ideas short of backing up the files and paving it.
PS: I kind of hope people will assume that since this has been going on for a few days that I've probably tried the obvious things.
I repaired permissions on the internal drive with Disk Utility, but that didn't help, so I rebooted and the machine became unusable. So I rebooted again and again, no help. So then I decided to reinstall the OS on the internal drive. No help. So I installed the OS on the internal SSD drive. And now it runs smooth. Unfortunately now none of my apps are installed. That's okay. I've gotten new computers before. It's actually kind of nice. And it performs crisply.
Normally it doesn't matter that the world is run by a ouija board of selfish mediocre people, until it does matter.
I was reading this piece about how Charlie Rose and Obama's speechwriters laughed about how they lied to us about ObamaCare, and realized at that moment what the appeal of Bernie Sanders was to young people.
That turned into an 18-minute podcast.
Fox News doesn't take Trump's bait, but MSNBC does.
They show Trump over and over saying that Hillary did something to hurt Bill's ex-lovers. Nothing specified. Just a bunch of hand-waving.
This speech was repeated three times in one evening, as the opening segment on three shows: Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow. I didn't stay up to watch Lawrence O'Donnell, but I expect it was the opener on his show too.
I don't imagine that Hayes or Maddow wanted this. Maddow showed us how the idea is the teaser for a book being written by a guy who wears a joker hat who lives in Austin, and a hack friend of Trump's. He's selling the book. Presumably it has names in it of women who say shit about HIllary.
Fox News didn't carry this. MSNBC did.
I am so disgusted. None of this stuff works if the TV people don't pick it up. It's nasty, irrelevant, has nothing to do with the decision we have to make, and it leaves us with nowhere to turn for an evening's worth of political bullshit (yes we know it's bullshit) that doesn't make us feel used and dirty.
And Hillary. Get smart. You need to fill the air with nasty shit about Trump. You can't do it personally. But we have to get people who can. Comedians. For the 80th time we need the Democratic Comedian Corps, every day and night, to compete with this crap. Beg Jon Stewart, just for six months, put it on Periscope, YouTube and Facebook. Live stream. Let's get everyone excited. And make Trump into the footnote of media history that we need him to be.
Last night on Chris Hayes on MSNBC they had a clip from a Trump interview where he walked back his bit about how the US could always negotiate a "haircut" for creditors as a way of getting out of a credit jam. The way a bankrupt casino would. Or a tech startup that was having trouble making payroll.
A very bad idea for many reasons.
Then the next day, presumably after having been told by advisors about how bad an idea it was, he said something that was true that you almost never hear anyone say on TV. He said hey we can print more money any time we want.
Not only is it true, but it shows why most of the talk about government finance on TV is nonsense. The only reason not to print money to pay debt is that it might cause inflation. But that is not even remotely a problem now. Maybe it will be later. This is a great time for us to be building infrastructure in the US. Money is super cheap. And with no inflation to worry about we don't even have to use tax revenue to pay it back. We can borrow and when we have to pay it back, just use some freshly printed money. There's no catch. It works.
And btw, the total national debt is not a problem. The numbers are huge but our economy is even bigger. (If it were a problem, creditors would insist on a more interest. These days the interest rate on US govt debt is basically zero, meaning people are paying us to store money for them.)
But all this, while interesting is not my point.
Hayes commented that Trump was being refreshingly honest for a politician. Here's the thing that's really totally outrageous. Why does Hayes need a politician to go first? Why shouldn't this be part of every analysis, every story he tells. Why should he perpetuate the myth that somehow US debt works like the debt of a country that doesn't control a currency, and not just any currency by the way, but the most valued currency, the one true safe place to store value -- our dollar?
Amazing how much the reporters just go with the flow. Someday they might decide to go for broke and just tell the true story. It is their job.
Sign-in with Slack looks cool, and would be easy to support.
But here's an important question — is storage provided along with the user’s identity?
What does that mean? Let’s say I have a few JSON files, the user’s data with my app, will you store that for us, or do I have to find another place to put it?
None of the major APIs except for Dropbox, provides storage. If any of the others did it, even with a small amount of data, it would make a huge difference in the kind of apps an individual developer could create.
I've done it for Twitter, with nodeStorage. It really is lovely, liberating, enabling. Swear to god. This is one of those things like blogging, or RSS -- or Slack -- that once you have it you wonder how you got along without it.
Update #1: People are confused. Suppose I'm writing a Markdown editor for WordPress posts. It's going to generate HTML -- that goes into the post, but the source, the Markdown stuff, needs to be stored somewhere. We're talking about the users' documents. Basically every app that works with documents needs a place to store them. That's what I'm talking about.
Update #2: No storage.
I just found a bucket in my S3 collection that had 40 gigabytes of crap I put there six years ago. I had no idea it was all there. Lots of high rez photos I used to test FlickrFan, a software snack from long ago. This is stuff that I'll never ever get back to even if I live to be 150.
What's amazing about it is that my AWS bill for this account is about $30 a month. There are probably a lot of these archives buried in little nooks and crannies up there. Never to be looked at by anyone.
Did Facebook tilt the news?
Top-line: I think it's pretty unlikely.
But whether they did or didn't, though, it points to how unwise it is to trust one big company with the flow of news. And there's no reason to. It's not very hard or expensive to set up alternative systems. News people seem to assume that Facebook has it locked up, but I don't think they do. They may act like they do, it's a smart competitive posture. But tech is cyclic, and layered. To think that Facebook represents the best tech for all time for distribution of news, well they're not even the best tech now!
Imagine if a sports team gave up at the beginning of a season. It wouldn't make sense. This is a competition. There will be many ways of getting the news through computer networks. I'd bet good money on that. History is most definitely on my side.
One more thing...
The crisis journalism is having now is the same one that the political parties are having, only a little quieter and more private.
What changed? Gatekeepers have much less power. This has been true ever since discourse moved to the net. Because networking is so cheap, you don't have to be a political insider to do it, and the reporters have to compete with everyone with a phone for getting the news.
Journalism has to make the same transition that politics has to make. I've been saying this, as has Jay Rosen, for a very long time. The journalists, like the major parties have resisted, so instead of the change coming gradually, it's a very rapid disruption.
Last time around the Repubs nominated Romney. This time Trump. It doesn't get much more discontinuous than that. They're both rich. Next time the Trump-equiv won't have to be so rich. Like Bernie Sanders.
Journalism had to open up to allow the readers to publish under their banner, with the help of professionals to turn it into a product that's usable. They didn't do it so Twitter and Facebook stepped into the void. So now news flows through them instead of the big news brands of the 20th century.
Didn't have to be that way, for either politics or journalism.
What comes next, what will be different in 2020 and beyond? TV news will be online as well as the written word. Four years from now we won't be going to our set top box to watch the talking heads. And they won't be the same talking heads we're watching now.
"Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential “trending” news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project. This individual says that workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site’s users."
There's a chorus of criticism from reporters who object to Facebook deciding what stories readers see.
I tweeted: "Reporters are concerned that employees of Facebook, a company, decide what we see. But this is the way news has worked for decades."
Who decides what goes on the front page of a newspaper, and what goes on the inner pages, and what isn't newsworthy enough to get reported on? Is there a non-subjective way to determine this? No, of course not. And on individual stories, who decides which points of view are repped and which are omitted? The very same people Facebook hired. But if Facebook hires them that's worse than the NY Daily News or MSNBC?
The reporters' complaint really is they used to be the gatekeepers and now they aren't. I understand that must be frustrating, but it's something we all have to deal with. It's the competitive market. This is why I've been saying for many years, over and over, that the news industry had to compete with Facebook, Twitter, etc. They couldn't assume the tech industry would manage the news flow the way they want them to. Instead, they thought they would appeal to the government for protection. I heard this said out loud on a panel at the UC-Berkeley journalism school in 2009.
The moderator, Susan Rasky, asked the panelists, if they were god what would they do. Hire lots of reporters, one panelist said. Get the new President to pay our salaries, said another. Tax these things, Rasky said, holding up a Macintosh laptop. And the batteries. One panelist said things aren't so bad and the Chronicle will continue to print for the indefinite future. Others said Bill Gates should pay, or Google
The same ideas are repeated again and again after future-of-news conferences around the world. It's ridiculous. You don't even try to compete, and you expect the rest of us to stand up for you, when the service you offer is exactly equivalent to the one being offered by Facebook? Did you think you had a monopoly? Why would taxpayers support that?
I don't like that Facebook controls this. But also don't like that reporters are aloof and condescending, and only listen to big companies, and rich investors, and other journalists, when it comes to tech, and to insiders and other journalists when it comes to politics. When you bet heavy on the established way things work in a time of great change, you have to expect to be obviated. Well now it's happened. It was totally foreseeable. That's the way it goes.
For sure, Facebook swore that it was all algorithmic. So they lied, or maybe the leaking ex-employees lied. Doesn't change the fact that journalism can be practiced by tech companies. Even if they said they wouldn't. There's no requirement that competitors have to tell you everything they're doing.
A Node.js question --
There was a folder structure that it watched where it stored all the users public data. When a file appeared in the structure, or a file changed, Radio copied the file to a user-specified public server location.
It's how publishing worked, also how it shared data.
I was wondering if there was a Node.js app that does this.
If not, I'm probably going to write it. Should be simpler in Node and it performed fast even back in 2002, it would be amazing today.
Let me know. I'm @davewiner on Twitter or comment on Facebook.
PS: See the update for this post.
After writing the bully pulpit piece I turned on the voice recorder on my iPhone and talked for 18 minutes. The result is a rambling diatribe that touches on Steve Jobs, Doc Searls, Joe Trippi, Zuck, linked lists, trees, social graphs, hacking, Doug Purdy, journalism, Twitter, Trump, Bill Gates vs the Internet, minicomputers, mainframes and much much more.
I'm actually kind of pleased with how it came out, but it's rough. But I hope regular readers of this blog will stay with it, because we're coming to the point where tech and politics are fully one and the same, and we aren't well integrated. That means there's lots of stuff we can do, and we'll have to do it if we want to avoid the dreaded Trumpocracy!
Let's have fun!
I saw Trump on ABC this morning, and if I didn't know about the campaign he just ran for the Republican nomination, and the things he's saying in his speeches now, I would think "Wow I could vote for that guy."
This is what I was scared of. He will do well in the debates with HRC. He's more fluid and confident, and never dips into themes that put you to sleep. He's got my full attention. But I know it's an act. That two seemingly polar opposite people can be in one body, with no moral limits on what he'll say or do. He is a genius. But he's of course totally unacceptable in a position of power.
More important than ever that we organize. Create new online social tools that we can use quickly. We can do this, but people have to be willing to listen to each other, tech and politics. So far, not much indication that anyone will listen. Journalists still only listen to politicos and other journalists. Techies don't seem to have a clue either.
BTW, do not underestimate the degree to which journalism controls the outcome of this election. People may say they don't trust the news, but they believe what's said on the news. That's how all the crazy ideas that got Trump nominated turned into a foundation you can build a national campaign on.
People really think China created climate change as a hoax. That Obama is illegal. That ObamaCare kills jobs. That ISIS is already in the US. That HRC wants their guns.
And now that we have to listen to Trump much more seriously he will use his 1/2 of a bully pulpit to further reinforce those ideas, and more.
If you're a journalist you have a responsibility to give people accurate stories, not just conventional wisdom. And it will be much harder to do that in the coming months. Get ready.
One year ago today Heroku changed their pricing for what had previously been a free tier. It went to $7 a month. Doesn't sound like much, right? But for the year before that I had been creating all sorts of little apps to do little things, and with each one at $7, the bill would have been hundreds of dollars a month. Today the same work is being done, all of it, on a $20 a month server at Linode.
At the time I thought Heroku had a great idea. I was puzzled by the economics, but I know how much they must spend on facilities and salaries, and figured they thought this was a good long-term investment. A way to build relationships (and lock-in) with developers who were smart enough to adapt to their radical idea for software modules. Maybe they still are, and that was just a detour. But I got off their bus and was reminded never to invest in platforms you can't quickly and easily migrate off. The most expensive part of the transition was the time it took away from work I wanted to do.
I was surprised when this post showed up in my Memories on Facebook and it was only one year ago. Feels like much longer.
There are a few troubling things about this Buzzfeed piece saying that LinkedIn is creating their "own version" of Instant Articles.
If you've been wondering what the fuss is about 1999.io, here's your chance to find out.
The development and bug-fixing process continues. Still more docs to write.
I'm interested in knowing what you think. It's designed to be easy to get started with, and posting quick short notes is what it's optimized for. So please use 1999 to talk about 1999.
Now that the software is public, I'll start posting notes about new features and fixes, and also point out the important features. You'll get lots of chances to learn about it, if you're a regular reader of this blog.
So here we go, pouring new power into the Open Web. Exciting times!
Hope you like the software!
When Obama was elected I thought I understood something that I didn't.
First, I supported Obama. Gave the max. Talked him up on my blog and on social media as it existed in 2008. Went to meetings. Voted for him. Was overjoyed when he was elected.
One of the reasons Obama's campaign was so successful was that it was distributed. Obama supporters met in people's living rooms and canvassed together, knocking on doors, networking with people in their neighborhoods, for two-way communication. Not only did ideas flow from the center to the edges, but they went the other way too. This was amazing. It was the model for how blogging networked. I thought I was looking at a campaign that got what I got about software, but with politics.
So I expected that when the transition started, the Obama campaign website would turn into the White House website, and would continue to organize us. That the new President would apply the same ideas that won him the job to: 1. Doing the job, and 2. To spread the love all over the world. I fantasized that Obama, visiting a world leader, would bring with him binders of facts about the leaders' citizens, because we knew more about what they needed, because they were on our network. I imagined the Obama campaign system would spread all over the world.
Further, I thought that when the President hit an obstacle in Congress, he would tap into his network of supporters, still activated, and have us campaign within the electorate to get the message to our Senators and Representatives that we want them to work with the President. I couldn't wait not to just be a contributor and supporter but to being part of the political system on a daily basis.
I loved the idea, because I, like everyone else, am searching for meaning. I want to help in my own way to solve the world's problems. To feel effective, to feel that I was working with other people to make the world better. That there was an exciting reason to get up every day. This is at the core of what I desire. And what is so damned difficult to do.
Obama went the other way. The campaign website shut down. When the new White House site was unveiled there were very small ways for people to participate. It didn't organize. It didn't give us a way to do for our communities what we had done for Obama. His campaign, in other words, to me -- was a lie. I was angry for a while, and then I went back to my normal mode with respect to politics, I ignored it. And went back to writing software. And while that was happening I watched all the stuff I had built be torn apart by big tech companies, and trashed both with PR and with their products. So much of the good I had done in years past was undone. And I watched Obama's Presidency wrecked by Republicans, a President who would be difficult to challenge if he demonstrably had the people on his side, but there was no way to show that. Just the normal "approval rating" polls. So much for a transformational President. What could have been if only he believed in us.
I think this is what's wrong with our political system. It's organized to get people elected, then the people we elect do the work of big companies. And their work is to squeeze every bit of value they can out of the natural and intellectual resources of the world, and keep it for themselves. If they can kill something that's worth $100 to reap $1 of value from the corpse, they see that as good business. That's the approach that has got our species into the climate change corner we're in. If you burn everything all you'll have left to breathe are smoking corpses. That's where we are in everything humans do. That's why we feel a void for ourselves, collectively. We blame the government, but we're the ones who believe the lies. We know they're lying but we believe them anyway.
Obama may have had the germ of the idea. Maybe. Or maybe he just had a good way of getting elected and never thought of using the same approach to running things. He was just refining the approach used by the Dean campaign in 2004. So maybe he didn't even understand why it worked, just that it did work.
When I look at the outcome of the 2016 election so far, I think a lot of other people see it the same way, though they come to different conclusions about what needs to be done.
What I think needs to be done -- involve people in doing good work, with others, to make the world work better for everyone. Sort of a Uber for helping put the human race back on track for success. A Tinder of good deeds. Find me something I can do to help right now, close to home. And another thing and another.
The candidate who really gets this won't wait until he or she is elected to begin the good-doing. It would start during the campaign, so even if they don't win some good will come from the campaign. That's how you'll know you're looking at the real deal.
Today, I think we may have an opportunity, in the wreckage of our two-party system, to form a new party. I think of it as the Getting_Shit_Done Party (or more politely as it appears in the title of this post). I don't care whether you're a conservative or a liberal. We're all humans before any of that. We all breathe and sleep, and yearn for love and acceptance, and we want to help. I really believe that. We depend too much on others to solve our problems. What we really need is help organizing so we can solve the problems. That's how it will work, when it does.
Here's why my blogging tools don't have delete commands, basically until the users drag it out of me.
In the early 1980s, I ran a computer bulletin board out of my living room in Menlo Park, CA. It was called the Living BBS or LBBS for short. I wrote and maintained it myself. It was written in UCSD Pascal and ran on an Apple II with an external 10MB hard disk.
I thought I understood security but I didn't. Once the system got to a certain critical mass of users, someone started hacking me. They figured out how to get around the password and could delete messages that didn't belong to them. Whoever it was, kept deleting the root of the tree, and when I'd come back there was just a welcoming message written by the hacker, and maybe one or two confused messages from users who had stumbled on the LBBS in its humbled state.
Eventually I realized the first answer was to disable the Delete command, thus making it more labor-intensive for the hacker to destroy my humble server. It worked. The asshole went away.
Then I brought the Delete command back, but made it just set a bit in the message that was being deleted. Nothing actually got reclaimed. So the hacker thought the message was gone, but all I had to do was run a script that visited all the nodes and flipped the bits back. Database restored.
Okay today is the day that 1999.io gets its Delete command. I just wanted to explain why it took me so long to do it.
So on the Sunday talk shows Bernie Sanders said he's going to challenge Clinton at the DNC. He keeps changing the story. I don't think it's because he has changed as some people think, rather he's seen his own contribution numbers, numbers we can't see, and they tell a story. The story is that (just guessing) his backers think he's given up so they aren't contributing. So if he wants money to keep flowing he has to sound like he's fighting, even if he isn't.
What story must his numbers tell? Well, we know that they're down dramatically in April. It's likely that they are down week to week within April, though we don't see those numbers. In other words he probably raised more in the first week than he did in the last week. Which probably says that May is going to be even worse unless he does something to stimulate the giving.
Why should he care if they contributors keep giving, you might ask. I ask that too. I can only guess, and I'd rather not do that. But it seems that if the campaign is winding down, he doesn't need more money.
Bernie Sanders asks -- if Denmark can have universal health care and free tuition for college, why can't the United States?
I've heard him ask it many times, and hadn't realized until I read this Vox article that there is actually a reason why, and it's not something you can wish away with the kind of sarcastic comebacks that Sanders is famous for.
In order to pull it off these stars have to line up:
But even that, as rare as it is, is not enough. The Democrats in the Senate have to all be progressives. For example, when the Affordable Care Act was passed, the 60-vote majority included independent Joe Lieberman who often acted more like a Republican who is owned by the insurance industry. The single-payer option was the big thing his support cost.
So it's rare in our system that the planets line up in a way to get big things like ObamaCare passed. Even the stimulus was highly contentious, when the Dems had both houses of Congress and the White House.
And huge changes like the ones proposed by Sanders, no matter how desirable they are, require a super-majority across all branches of government, and they pretty much never happen. The normal thing is a split government. Lately having a split government has meant that almost nothing changes.
BTW, it's even worse than 1, 2 and 3 -- there's a 4 and 5 as well. The Supreme Court has to be cooperative as we found out with ObamaCare. And as John Bredehoft points out in a comment on Facebook, if the people love the feature, when there is a Republican super-majority, they won't be able to get rid of it because the voters won't let them. We love our benefits (like Social Security, for sure, and almost certainly ObamaCare, so you can forget about repealing it).
You could argue as to whether it was designed this way, but this is the way it is. And European democracies are not like the American form of government, they are parliamentary, which means that when governments form they control everything until there are new elections, when a new government forms that controls everything. So they have been able to get progressive policies like universal health care and free college tuition and lots of other things, because it's possible in their systems where it's virtually impossible in ours.
This isn't something anyone alive today set up. So you can't find someone to blame. It's just the way it is. Everything is a slog, and it requires compromise to get anything done.
So Bernie's question does not have the answer he wants it to have.
The consensus is that the Chicago Cubs are the best team in baseball this year. I've never been a Mets booster, though I am a lifelong Mets fan, but please, the Mets are pretty incredible this year.
We have great pitching and this year great power.
Neil Walker, who was our second choice for second base (the Cubs got our first choice), is now leading the league in home runs, last time I checked.
And Cespedes, who every day looks more like Willie Mays. We got really lucky there, or maybe it was fate.
I like the Mets this year, not only the way I love them every year (as the philosophical, lovable losers) but I like our team this year for spirit, humility, heart and pitching and hitting.
Let's go Mets!