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Permanent link to archive for Friday, June 23, 2000. Friday, June 23, 2000


Toronto Star: "Outspoken rockster/actress Courtney Love has launched one of the most intriguing and articulate arguments yet on the online music piracy battle."

News.Com: hits new 52-week low. "We believe that the combination of negative cash flow, poor working capital management, and high debt load in a hyper-competitive environment will put the company under extremely high risk."

2/28/00: "I own 100 shares of Amazon.Com, and I wonder if you can tell me what it is exactly that I own."

LA Times: Concocting Satiric Counterpoint to Conventions.

What is ShadowConventions.Com?

Greg Aharonian on British Telecom's linking patent: "This patent's strength is up there with wet spaghetti."

WSJ: Napster talks with record labels. "Any payments by Napster to record labels presumably would be higher, since users would be, in effect, buying the music at the same time they were downloading it." Hmmm. They should check their assumptions. Napster can easily be used to download music that the user has already paid for.

The role of outlines 

For twenty years I've been waiting for Microsoft to take an interest in developing tools for people who think. They've worked all around this area. Everywhere they look they see hierarchies. But they've never thought to organize the whole user interface around an outliner, which is nothing more than a hierarchy browser/editor.

Now they're going to say that they did that! Their file system browser is an outliner. The Registry Editor is an outliner. So are Excel and PowerPoint, as are their development tools.

But if we're starting anew, why not start simple. Let's create a sharable, browsable World Outline and let people link into it, anywhere they want. That's where you hook in your tools. And of course we'll use XML, which by the way, is an outline too. This is the Next Generation Web, imho.

An investment in core technology here would propogate to every corner of their product line with huge power.

And this is a place where we could use Microsoft's "bulliest of pulpits" to get the world's attention.

Of all the companies they mentioned yesterday (and Linux which is not a company), Microsoft is uniquely positioned to understand this idea.

What is SOAP? 

On the SOAP weblog, Kishore Balakrishnan asks a fairly obvious question that has not yet been answered.

I think I can do it, in 28 words, not 25. (Note this is derived from the answer to the question on the XML-RPC website.)

"SOAP is a specification and a set of implementations that allow software running on disparate operating systems, running in different environments to make procedure calls over the Internet."

Next question: What is a procedure call? 

7/14/98: "Inside every computer, every time you click a key or the mouse, thousands of 'procedure calls' are spawned, analyzing, computing and then acting on your gestures."

Dan Gillmor 

Now, please go read Dan Gillmor's piece on Microsoft's press conference, but please come back here and read the rest of Scripting News. It relates to everything Dan writes about.

Lessig and Andrews 

So much stuff on the home page yesterday, and there will be more today, for sure.

I got a call at around 10PM from Paul Andrews of the Seattle Times for a piece he's doing on Sunday. He pointed me to a piece he ran on Tuesday, quoting Lawrence Lessig and myself, about Microsoft and the courts. A very key idea, one that's been oft-repeated, but just as often not-heard at Microsoft. The issue is trust. Microsoft could probably get off with a behavior-based consent decree, with no "structural remedy" if the court trusted Microsoft management.

Andrews also gave air to my proposed remedy, but got the second half wrong. I wasn't saying that Microsoft should port the Office apps to Unix. That's their choice. What I was asking for was an Emancipation Proclamation for developers who code to the Win32 APIs. A not-subtle difference.

Also interesting in the Andrews piece, Lessig is moving to Stanford in July, which is just down the street. This is good, I totally enjoyed talking with him at Esther's and we're on the same side of almost every issue, esp the tough ones.

Excited about buzzwords 

Yesterday I said: "The Microsoft people talk like Jeff Bezos, highly animated in a disturbing way. They talk in bursts. Loud exclamations. Hands wave. They explain how excited they are but the things they're excited about are buzzwords! I wish I remembered some of them. I wonder if this is the way they always are or if this is something they're doing just for the press people."

A source at Microsoft says: "The MS people speak like that because the speaking trainer tries to make them speak like Steve Ballmer. I know, because I went through the same training. After a few really sucky speeches, I went back to my own style." Thank you!


An ex-Microsofter says: "When you work outside of Redmond you get more in touch with your customers. Yes, the execs travel to visit customers. When you visit a user group or trade organization you hear what people are thinking. A customer visiting Redmond, or one with Bill Gates in their conference room will use much nicer language to describe a problem than one in a user group environment where he can express his true issues."

I think this is very true! It's so weird that I didn't feel comfortable asking or answering questions yesterday at the press conference, but at the same time, had no problem typing honestly into my outliner for the world to read on Scripting News. The Web does compress everything, there are new opportunities to communicate and understand. Quite a few people at Microsoft were reloading Scripting News while the press conference was going on. I found this out later when a bunch of MS people quoted me at the lunch following the press conference. That's compression!

Zope, Frontier & Vignette 

David Brown finished his training on Vignette StoryServer, and has more comments on the differences between Zope and Frontier. Paul notes that Vignette's big selling point is caching and wonders how or when Frontier will get that feature.

Vignette is pretty safe with their caching stuff because of a patent. Is it non-obvious? Of course not. But not wanting to give them a way of shutting us down with lawyers, we have decided not to chase them here. We're winning where we want to win, and can do it with static rendering instead of caching, so leave them alone, I say.

Dilberts and PHBs love Vignette because it helps them feel like they "get" the Internet. I don't want those people as customers. High overhead. When and if they're ready they'll find out that powerful Web content management is not expensive or difficult or mysterious.

In the meantime, sensible and creative people are choosing our product. Those are the people we want.

More mail from Microsoft 

I love Microsoft! If only for their persistence. They're so pessimistic! That's the striking thing. Until Ballmer came on stage, I don't think a single Microsoft person even cracked a smile.

Off-stage, they constantly profess a belief that they could disappear at any time. There's no reason to believe this is true. Big companies do not disappear, no matter how bad it gets, no matter how hard they try to self-destruct. Look at Apple and IBM. Bet the other way. I did that in 1983, based on the advice of a board member who said that big companies like Apple don't disappear overnight. So true. Back then Apple didn't even have a billion dollars in annual sales. But they lived to get it right. By 1986 Apple was booming, and a couple of years later they were back in loser mode. Seventeen years later, Apple is still here, and doing quite well.

I also love Microsoft for what they were, and possibly someday could be again. The curiosity that was the hallmark of Microsoft in the 80s appears to be gone. No one at MS has asked me to back up my claims that we're there now, that we have their vision delivered in a form that the journalists in the audience would have had orgasms over, yesterday, not in 2005. We've got the development environment, the browser-based interface, and the GUI writing tool that shows very clearly why the browser-based interface is the innovation of the last decade. The old Microsoft would never have let me make such a claim without demanding a demo.

They're lucky to have Steve Ballmer. I would recommend that Gates go on vacation. Take a massage class. Go deeper into what's bumming him out, and let it go. Find people in the company who think the outside world is friendly and fair, and give them the keys to run the show. There are a lot of smart, young and ambitious people at Microsoft, who want to add something great to the world.

PS: There's no way to recapture the dominance of the early 90s. So few of them have even heard of BOGU. I'm sure Ballmer remembers. Teach them Steve.

Thanks, but two mis-spelings 

Here's a transcript of Steve Ballmer's remarks yesterday. If you search the document, you'll find my name, but you have to spell it the way they did. Search for Dave instead. They also mis-spelled Don Box's name. It happens. I bet they fix it quickly.

Lawrence Lee, the scribe of our Web, says it's fixed.

Feature request 

Yesterday I got a lot of good pics of Steve Ballmer. I wish a great graphics person would honor Ballmer as Partykeller iconified Jakob Nielsen.

Brian Kelly did one! 

Today's song 

If we had the Music Web of the Future, today's song would be Uncle Albert by Paul McCartney.

"We're so sorry Uncle Albert. We're sorry if we caused you any pain. We're so sorry. Uncle Albert. But there's no one left at home and I believe I'm going to rain."

Love, Dave


Last update: Friday, June 23, 2000 at 4:21 PM Eastern.

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