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Permanent link to archive for Friday, August 18, 2000. Friday, August 18, 2000

News.Com: Napster pleads with court for survival. "If the decision of the District Court is permitted to stand, every new technology used to transmit, route, or exchange data subject to the copyright laws using the Internet--and many existing technologies--will be affected," the brief read.

Red Herring: Lawyers in Napster suit go after deep pockets. "Some lawyers, including one suing Napster, now say that Hummer Winblad could have more than its investment at stake. Because of the quirky nature of copyright law, the possibility of going after Napster's investors may soon be an option for the music companies and recording artists involved."

Tipster is a "protocol which aspires to enable easy, voluntary payment for digital content such as music."


Here's a screen shot of our newest Radio UserLand framework called nodeTypes. There's a narrative in the rightmost window that explains what's going on. Be sure to expand the window fully, don't miss the narrative, it's key to understanding.

This is the intersection of HTTP, XML and outlines. This is the unification I've been searching for for 20+ years. Everything on the Internet fits into a hierarchic view. Websites, email, chat, buddy lists, music playlists, presentations, script libraries, syndicated Web pubs, discussion groups.

We have a formalization that allows new types to be defined at runtime with user-level overrides. First we're covering all the big standards. Then we'll have a great playground to invent new modes and services.

It seems now that all the hard problems are solved. It's time to sharpen the edges, do a few deep knee-bends, stretch, and then go down the double-diamond slope, with confidence!

Background pointers 

I wrote a backgrounder on nodeTypes for advanced Frontier programmers. Please read it carefully, and please no newbie questions!

Another point not to miss, it's a writing tool too. And through upstreaming, writing for this medium is as easy as using the File menu and the Finder or Explorer. (If you recall, at one point I thought we'd have to change the File menu, but then figured out how to get two-wayness with a standard File menu. That's what upstreaming is about.)

All the XML files it creates are in outlineDocument format. We're discussing a couple of changes in this format with people who are using Radio UserLand. Whatever changes are made, all our software will continue to read the current format, for perpetuity.

I still have to figure out how to link this up with Manila and Zope and other "cloud-level" content management software. I want it to build off users' understanding of the File menu and how the file system works. It almost certainly will involve special sub-folders of the www folder, that route writing to specific Manila or Zope sites through an XML-RPC interface. I also want to teach Radio UserLand how to get to websites, through an outline interface, and through its Bookmarks menu. I write for about a dozen sites. I want to be able to go to "the site" by choosing a bookmark. I'm getting pretty close to figuring this out.

New terminology 

BTW, in writing about the Radio UserLand scenario, I get into trouble when I talk about servers. Since the user's machine is a server, I can't talk about "the server". What's the difference between the server on my machine, running at Exodus; and the server on their machine, running at the end of a DSL line or cable modem, or T1 line or whatever?

So I've taken a clue from AT&T, General Magic and LoudCloud, and I'm calling the common space "the cloud". It's the common space where all our stuff co-exists.

We plan to allow an option where the user chooses not to upstream at all, this might make sense for people with persistent IP addresses and big pipes, who want the full-metal experience of having a workstation that's also serving the public.

But upstreaming is there because at this point, most users would be wise not to open their machines up so fully.

Openness and competition 

BTW, we've reserved the name It'll stand alongside, and other interlinked music fan communities. We will specify all the formats we use, they're all XML and simple, and easy to support. We don't want an exclusive on operating clouds, we want competition, but we insist that be fair and respectful, as I discuss below.

Other UserLand domains we're going to use for music communities. and

A flawed decision 

About the decision in the DeCSS trial. The judge associates distributing a program that breaks copy protection with political assassination. That's a an extreme and unrealistic point of view.

In the 1980s, when copy protection was common in PC software, there were popular commercial products whose sole purpose was to circumvent copy protection. To a software developer, I'm sure it felt like assassination (I'm very sure about this). But to a user it felt differently.

There are legitimate legal uses of the DeCSS program. How are Linux users supposed to use DVDs? As far as I know the movie industry has not provided a way for people to do that.

Naked emperors 

On the flipside, about open source developers. I'm happy to work with people on a "Let's Share Our Ideas" basis, as long as credit is given. Open source has become a haven for people who, like patent abusers, have no respect for the creative process.

There are naked emperors in our midst. They don't want you to see their nudity, that's why they get upset when I talk about them. They want to do all the talking. Makes sense, because if we look at them we'll see that they talk the talk, but don't walk the walk. (One reason some people want you to release the source code is so that they can claim it as theirs.)

As Woz warns, the new bosses may not be any better than the old. On the other hand, there are good honest people who choose to make open source software. But their leaders are attaching all kinds of selfish "riders" on their work. In their naivete, the hard-working open source developers are contributing to the creation of another hardened fortress that we must route around.

Watch out for middlemen 

So, in software, as in the music business, watch out for middlemen. If a leader doesn't write software, or generate ideas for software, or respect the creative process that leads to software, stop following. You're selling out your brothers and sisters when you do that.

Ask the questions that pop into your mind. Listen to the answers and decide for yourself. Don't believe hype. Trust what you see. If they ship software that you love, respect that. If they talk a lot but don't deliver much, switch stations.

It's possible to be an open source developer with high integrity, I'm sure of that, I know people who do that. But it's not inevitable that all open source developers and middlemen have high integrity. Sorry, I didn't make the world that way, I wish it were otherwise. It can hurt to trust integrity that's not there. It's best to trust your gut, and ask questions and listen to the answers and use your mind.


Last update: Friday, August 18, 2000 at 8:23 PM Eastern.

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