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Scripting News, the weblog started in 1997 that bootstrapped the blogging revolution.
Permanent link to archive for Sunday, August 13, 2000. Sunday, August 13, 2000

DaveNet: What is Leadership?

Radio UserLand: How to Write for Radio UserLand.

Hat-tip to MacWEEK for explaining how powerful users can be. "Adobe is risking a public relations disaster. Macromedia's graphics products are popular -- even among many users of Adobe software -- and fans of FreeHand, Flash, FireWorks and Dreamweaver won't take kindly to a lawsuit that aims to disable those programs' interfaces."

David Brown's musical autobiography.

Red Herring: Linux stocks land in the poorhouse.

Here's the evidence in last year's War of the Bees.

Being kind to the jungle 

This evening I'm working on the Bookmarks menu for Radio UserLand. I prefer the name Bookmarks, because that's what they feel like to me.

So where did the term Bookmark come from? That's what Netscape called them. Then comes MSIE, the second browser, and they call them Favorites. They do exactly the same thing. They are exactly the same thing.

So why did Microsoft have to give them a different name? This may sound trivial but it introduces confusion in a concept that should have been rock solid.

And when I do a Bookmark menu, when I look at MSIE on a prior art investigation, I am reminded that for some people the term Bookmark will be unfamiliar and for the rest of us it's got a twinge of unease.

For all I know their lawyers told them they couldn't use Netscape's term, but no matter, someone wasn't being kind to the jungle here.

A maturing format 

Heads-up to developers who like XML.

The outlineDocument format is getting pretty firm. Almost all the files in the Radio UserLand "cloud" are outlines in this format. There's an attribute system where each node has a type, and attributes that are appropriate to the type. When the user edits the outline, the attributes are visible only in a special leader character. There's a Get Info command that interprets the attributes in a user-understandable way.

It's a really nice open architecture, I've been adding functionality along these lines for the last few days, you can easily intermix different types of nodes in one outline, and when you 2click a node to expand it, it does the right thing.

Eventually, I believe there will be a developer community around this format as there are now developers using XML-RPC, SOAP and various XML-based syndication formats. This new format is mostly orthogonal to these formats, and it has an advantage that few XML formats have, there's a usable editor that generates, edits, and browses the format. No one has to guess what an editor for this format looks like, because the editor came first.

Clearly the tool-first model works better. I believe it's why the W3C-centered XML community is stalled, there are no tools for users to use. No one even knows what one would look like. In my experience, you can wait forever for tools to "emerge". It never happens.

On the other hand if there were spreadsheet artists today, as there were in the early days of PCs, I bet a great XML format could run under a spreadsheet, something simple that could be understood by all spreadsheets and programs that want to process spreadsheet data. I'm no expert in spreadsheets, but I could probably design a simple XMLization in a few hours. It wouldn't be hard.

Same with vector graphic programs, and in fact, such an XMLization exists, and has made its way through the W3C.

Is it sticky? 

So, what makes an XML format "sticky"? I admit I don't know. But I've done two to four sticky formats, depending on how you count, I think that's more than many others can claim (except the people who did XML 1.0, who laid a great foundation).

Even though I can't explain why, in a formal way, I think outlineDocument could be quite sticky. Please if you like doing networked applications, have a look at the spec, and let your mind wander into the things you might be able to build if there were a lot of documents in this format. We've got an editor, it's not perfect. But it communicates and it's usable and it will get better.

Another thing that makes a format sticky is content. That's one of the reasons I can start new formats -- I don't have to wait for "content people" to support them. Scripting News is available as an outlineDocument. And there's a folder of archives starting 7/20/00. All the files in my Radio UserLand folder are outlineDocuments. Here's an outline of my entire MP3 collection, organized by artist. So if I want to develop applications using this format, there's no chicken for my egg to wait for. And here's the key point, you don't have to wait either. If you're looking for cool stuff to do with XML content, more of it is coming online as the new tool rolls out.

So I've never promoted a format without shipping a tool first, and immediately generate content. I think that's the only way to go. That's why I'm a developer who likes XML, not an XML developer. It's a subtle but important distinction.

Today's song 

Once again I'm an Englishman in New York.

I don't drink coffee I drink tea, my dear 

Screen shot of Radio UserLand browsing users' upstreamed outlines. Lots of firsts in this screen shot, also quite a few rough edges. Even so, it's working. I can open history.xml to see what you're listening to. I can open text files and see them in the outline, without a separate window opening, and when I'm done reading, I can collapse to restore the context.

The Giving Birth Through Conversation thread continues. "I'm listening to a Sting song now, and it begins with Stevie Wonder's harmonica signature. For all I know it *is* Stevie Wonder, it's so much his. Now does Sting have to pay Stevie? You gotta be kidding."

As I was finishing late last night I posted thoughts on music on the Internet. Summary, it's music not file sharing that's powerful. And community is at the core of the power. Assume that people have music and are on the Internet. Now how to tell everyone else what you like. Someone who has every Sting song in their collection might be a good guide if I want two great new (for me) Sting songs every day for a month.

I had to look twice 

I got an email from Jeff Bezos. He wants my help testing a new navigation system. But I'm not an Amazon customer. You know, the patent thing. So thanks, but I'll have to pass.


Last update: Sunday, August 13, 2000 at 9:53 PM Eastern.

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