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Scripting News, the weblog started in 1997 that bootstrapped the blogging revolution.
Permanent link to archive for Saturday, March 30, 2002. Saturday, March 30, 2002

Happy birthday to Matthew McDevitt Donellan! 0. 

Happy birthday to Evan Williams! 30. 

Ingo Rammer spotted another .NET developer who started a weblog. Something's going on here. 

A picture named arafat.gifWired: "Sen. Patrick Leahy says a controversial proposal to embed copy protection in electronics gear will not become law this year. Since Leahy is the powerful chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, his opposition instantly boosts the difficulty Hollywood studios will encounter in their attempts to enact sweeping copyright legislation." 

Michael Bernstein reports on suicide bombings in Israel in real-time.  

It's so funny that Paolo made an OPML Easter egg. I've come to see it as an egg. How did he know? 

Protocol7 has an OPML => SVG viewer app. 

Thanks to the NY Times for the pointer to Daypop's aggregation of the top Amazon wish-list items by webloggers. Interesting stuff. Very futuristic application of weblogs. 

Trans or in? 

Oy I don't like the word transclusion, but it looks like it's sticking. The reason I don't like it is that it sounds icky, which is a word I like even less than yummy, but sometimes no other word will do. The word I like is inclusion. It's even in the dictionary. And it's got such positive meanings. Everyone is included. And it's like #include which is a key directive in C, and should be part of HTML. Postscript: David Davies says inclusion.

Instant outlining and Jabber 

Two other people I appreciate. Sam Ruby and DizzyD. Dizzy is one of the leads on Jabber. Sam spotted a comment by Dizzy about instant outlining. Sam got it exactly right. We're in total bootstrap mode. This is the third implementation of I/O in the last few months at UserLand. In October I built one that ran on XML-RPC and depended on the software that became Radio Community Server. We have behind-firewall users at UserLand and people who travel with laptops, so the software got complex, it works, but I didn't want to support it. The next revision, which I did over the new year holidays, used the publish-subscribe model described in OPML 1.1 (sorry no spec, just an advisory that it was coming) The third revision, the one people are using now, began with the most primitive HTTP-based polling. It just looks at the header and if the content length changed, it boldens the user and pre-caches the outline. It is so simple, yet reasonably efficient, and probably does scale pretty well. The problem with this approach is latency. It can take up to 30 seconds to learn of a change. In most circumstances that makes no difference, but when you're also talking on the phone with the person you're working with you feel the latency and it's bad. That's where Jabber comes into it. It's just lack of human bandwidth that's keeping us from doing it right now. Think of Radio 8 as a user interface for Jabber, that's where we're going. Instant outlining is also a killer app for instant messaging. We want to run on your network, we have no interest in duplicating what Jabber already does.

BTW, I've seen it said that cloning RCS is not a good idea since we're already offering it for $0. This is wrong. Cloning it will get a package of capabilities integrated into the Jabber server, probably first, and perhaps AOL's and Microsoft's instant messaging servers. It's a blueprint for services that desktop users need, and we've provided the chickens, so if your egg is compatible, you don't have to wait. Apps drive markets. Without users, the programmers have nothing to do but jerk off. (And that's why there's so much jerking off, we forgot how to seduce users.)

Open source redux 

Andre Durand still believes the hype about open source. The loop has closed on this, they were just theories, that if you said "create this for me for free" that thousands of programmers would show up and magically work together in some kind of utopian way. In fact giving the code away caused programmers to get less user-centered, not more. Why should they pay attention to what you want? It's hard work to make stuff for users. Why should they work so hard when you aren't paying them? Hello Andre. Here's where I think openness fits into the equation, and it has very little to do with whether or not you let other people use your source any way they want to. And while it may seem obvious that giving away code removes the economic incentive, some people insist that a kind of communist magic happens that changes something that hasn't changed. You still need money to pay rent and buy food and put the kids through college. There was a bubble that caused people to believe this kind of babble. The bubble is gone. Some people haven't got the message yet.

People I appreciate 

Two people I appreciate. 1. Jon Udell. What a mind. Our paths have intersected quite a few times on the journey through our individual explorations of the Internet as groupware. If you've been reading Scripting News you know Jon. It means so much to me that he's part of the loop on Radio 8. In a way I don't need any more success than to have someone of Jon's intelligence and drive to talk about this stuff with.

The second guy is someone who I've only written about once, in a DaveNet last year. We fell out of each others' loop as I was beginning to work on Frontier in the late 80s. Last week I got an email from him, and I was shocked and surprised, but most important very pleased to get back in touch. I don't think he knows about Scripting News or weblogs, so if I write about him, this might be a way to get him to take a look, and when he does, this guy's going to get it like no one else ever has.

Adam Green 

I love Adam's mind the same way I love Jon's. Adam became the leading dBASE guru in the 80s, we talked endlessly about the politics, economics and design of software. dBASE was a good testbed for all the pits and foibles, all the marketing idiots who thought they ran the show. They endlessly frustrated Adam, who believed in the software, and in people, but we were both disappointed by human nature when we were younger. Now we're not so young anymore. (He's about the same age as I am.)

Adam didn't make the switch to the Mac as I did, that's how we lost touch. I walked away from the PC, so thoroughly. There was a day in 1986 when we did a deal with Apple to replace every PC in the company with Macs, one for every employee and board member. At that point we talked over a chasm that was too deep. Adam wrote the manual for Ready, the least famous of my three 80s outliners, but still a very nice product, made much better by his contribution.

Adam sent me an email because he had discovered SOAP and was tripping out over its subversion. Luckily my name hasn't been completely erased from the record by the Bigs and their friends in the press, so he knew that his old friend played a major role in making it happen. That's good. One of the reasons I like to be credited for my accomplishments is so that loops like this can close, when the time is right.

Now here's the trippy part that proves what a small world it is. Adam was the CTO at Andover, the company that acquired Slashdot, then took it public, then merged with VA Linux. At one point Adam was worth $20 million, on paper, of course. He did manage to cash out, a good-sized sum, and now is independent, but that's a silly thought -- because Adam is and always was and always will be an independent thinker.

Now I have to figure out how to entice him to try Instant Outlining. His mind will explode when that happens, and that will be something to behold.

Postscript: Bing!

A picture named adamgreen.gif

Instant outline rambles 

Now, at the same time that I'm writing so much about outlining, it's so exciting to me to see these ideas begin to take hold, I'm also aware that many people using Radio may wonder what the heck I'm talking about. Reading this piece by Ernie the Attorney brings it home. "I see a lot of us are still struggling to define what 'blogging is, and also what it has the power to be. I guess I am struggling too." I so admire Ernie, I kid you not, and I also think I know that outlining will be the logical next step after weblogs. I think in many ways they're the same thing. But please don't feel you have to understand what we're doing now. Scripting News is about the leading edge, and the road at the edge is pretty rough. It will probably be a few months or even years before this stuff is fully baked. But we sold a lot of outlining software to attorneys in the 80s, and I believe I know how deep the connection is, so eventually I think it will be relevant to them.

As we explored instant outlining at UserLand starting in November we learned that some people are good at it, and some people are very good. I can't judge my own work, because so much of the art is in the use of other people's outlines. For some people this will be their first experience on the other side of the fence, most people just use computers, very few people create things for other people to use. That changes with Instant Outlining. I've already written a bunch about how to create usable outlines, not published yet. Talking with Jon yesterday the question came up about who does it best. And hands-down that would be Brent Simmons, who is no longer at UserLand. Brent's outline was always the model of clarity. As his manager I knew exactly where my input was needed, what he was planning to do, and what he had done. That's what managers want, imho. Clarity, and a sense that the person knows what he's doing and is in synch with the rest of the team.

Now, if the past is a guide, there will be naysayers -- people who say Instant Outlining isn't for everyone. The last time we had this discussion, in the 80s, I didn't have a weblog, so I couldn't explain the subtle point, that it's OK if it's not for everyone. Organizations will form where good outlining skills are a requirement. UserLand is already such a place. We can't employ people who don't narrate their work in outline form and collaborate with others. In many organizations, where people jealously guard the information they accumulate, group outlining will be seen as a threat. But my belief is that organizations that try to compete with ones that use this tool will lose that competition. Teams that communicate with care, and focus on helping each other will win every time. So it's OK if it's not for everyone.


Last update: Saturday, March 30, 2002 at 6:44 PM Eastern.

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