Welcome to the newest member of the UserLand team!
Yes I'm still sick. This flu thing has migrated to my vocal chords and won't give up. Vitamin C, lots of rest, I feel happy, but tired. "Don't travel!" says UserLand COO, John Robb. Now he's sounding like a Jewish mother!
Robert Herrick: "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may."
A bit of philosophy. What happens when someone dies. People are kind to memory of the person. What a waste. The person you're being kind to is dead. Be kind to people who are alive. Blow their minds. See what comes back.
As I've said, without many details, there's been a lot of death around lately. On the Web too. In a sense, everyone who participates in the Web as a writing medium (not just reading) is going through a grieving process now, whether we're aware of it or not. The Web as we knew it is gone. The thing we shared, the vision, the hope, it's hard to find in all the confusion. But at some point the grief stops being everything, and you go on and find what's new and alive. One thing's for sure, if you're reading this, you're alive. So let's have fun!
Heads-up on a possible motto-change. I'm thinking that "It's even worse than it appears" has had a long-enough run. The point has been made. Murphy rules. I am His humble servant. I have an idea for a new slogan. "There's no time like now." It's a beautiful concise statement. Let's focus on the uniqueness of this moment. And let's do it instead of talking about doing it. Or trying to do it. It's Buddhist and in the spirit of the American frontier. Let's dig the hole now, we may not be here tomorrow.
Dan Gillmor has more questions about Smart Tags. He's going to talk with Microsoft about this. Thanks Dan.
More in Dan's column: "Microsoft, tone-deaf to the damage it's doing, seems surprised at the furor it touched off when CNet and the Wall Street Journal reported this latest attempt to grab even more control over desktop computing and online capabilities. At least the tags will be turned off by default, according to Microsoft, which also says Web sites will be able to disable their use when people are browsing their specific pages. Again, we'll see."
Dan, there's no question that this is wrong. You can't "disable their use" because the user can tell the software to ignore the meta tag. (Which I have put in Scripting News, view source to see how it works.) Even so, it's a huge cost to update all our sites to include the meta tag. Should we send the bill for this needless work to Microsoft? They have lots of money, I hear.
From a source who requests anonymity: "In recent releases of Internet Explorer 6.0 betas there's a 'Toolbar button' that lets you toggle the SmartTags on and off. So, it looks like it'll be very easy for end users to turn these on now."
Matthias Gutfeldt has a Smart Tag FAQ page.
Finally, confirmation from Microsoft's PR firm that they've been lying about the webmasters' power to opt-out of Smart Tags. In the same batch of email I got yet another product manager contradicting the screen shots. I sent an email to Charles Fitzgerald saying I would withdraw my objection to Smart Tags if they made it an opt-in by the webmaster in the HTML code for each page, not an opt-out. Otherwise the PR meltdown is just starting. The feature was a bad idea. Hit the reset button and let's start a conversation about upgrading the web by empowering webmasters instead of sending them scurrying on an expensive fire drill to turn off the latest Microsoft insult.
Cringely: "After the success of Netscape, every venture capitalist in the world wanted to fund an Internet company. They threw tons of money at anyone who could claim anything like a track record. Those people took the money and generally failed because they were fulfilling some venture capitalist's dream, not their own."
Wired: Is Salon the last one standing? Too bad Salon didn't embrace amateur journalism, the thing the Web is so good at. Instead they applied the print formula to the Web. It didn't work. Hey it's not working for print either, as the bean counters squeeze the journalists out and replace them with entertainment. It's more profitable. Like democracy, if journalism is to have any hope, it must become participatory. And of course the participants must be responsible. Maybe there's not much hope. You decide.
From the It's-So-Ironic Department. A menacing crowd on Metafilter said we had to provide a way for people to opt-out of the XML listings on Weblogs.Com. OK, so last Friday I did the work, wishing that the "feedback" had come while I was writing the app in 1999, or at least come in a friendly way now, almost two years later, since I don't remember all the assumptions in the code and had so many other things to do. Weblogs.Com is a free service, of course, done with love for the Weblog community. Oy, these people treat us like we're total slime. Whatever. So now they're complaining that the person who submitted Metafilter decided to opt out of the XML listings. I guess the moral of the story is that when you start designing other people's software you take responsibility for being a software designer.
However, I have the ability to add "house accounts" to Weblogs.Com, so I just added Metafilter. It will appear in the XML files associated with a UserLand mail address. If you use one of the services that reads our XML files you'll have to reconfigure your favorites, but you'll be able to get Metafilter changes through the XML interface once again. I think most people have figured out that if they want to use these services that they can't opt out. Sorry it's so complicated. It was simpler before. Oh la. It's Friday.
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