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Permanent link to archive for Friday, June 07, 2002. Friday, June 07, 2002

SaferSex.Org is a (high flow) Radio site.  

Adam Wendt is rendering RSS as a browser-based outline. 

Now, a theory on the disconnect over the Knight Ridder archive and even a plausible explanation why Dan Gillmor might have chosen not to go into it on his weblog or in his column. First a disclaimer, this theory hadn't occurred to me until I thought about various posts from K-R people on the Poynter.Org discussion thread. The posts said it was a business decision, not a technical one. I missed a fork -- I assumed this meant they wanted to keep the costs down, as did the other non-K-R people who posted. We wondered how much could it cost to maintain the old addresses. That's how I've approached it since the February outage, but I now think this is not the reason K-R didn't preserve the archive.  

Here's the theory. They charge for reading the old articles. Look at this page. "Searching is always free. There is a fee of $2.95 to view the full text of any article." If you don't pay the money, you can't read the article.  

Now, why might Gillmor have chosen not to write about it? To understand that, let's step outside the world of journalism for a moment. Imagine I have an ice cream truck (it's hot here today, humor me). It's a really good truck, a great refrigeration unit, a recently overhauled engine, the bells work, and I've got a route where the kids come out every afternoon to get their cool treat. So along comes someone and says "I'll give you a bunch of money for the truck. I'll even send you to Jordan and Israel, and China and Switzerland. I'll tell everyone you're very smart and pay you a bunch of money. And I'm going to use the ice cream truck to compete with Federal Express." You say OK, because the money is good, and you enjoy travel and all the other perks, but secretly you think the buyer is a fool, because it's a good ice cream truck, but he's going to lose his investment if he tries to use it to deliver envelopes all over the world overnight. He's a fool, but he's the customer, so you don't get to say that. Anyway, that's my current thinking. I thought I should share it.  

Now, if any of this is true, it's still a good question whether Dan made the right call. As a reader, it was horribly confusing. I had to devote much of my attention in the last couple of days reading tea leaves to piece this theory together, and it is still just a theory. A reporter is not an ice cream vendor, the calling is higher. I said to JD in an email today that all employees are not equal. A doctor is probably someone's employee these days, but would you want to be treated by a doctor who withheld critical information to please his employer? (No doubt they do it, btw.) Judges are employees too. So the struggle is definitional. How high a calling is journalism? How much information are readers entitled to, even if they're reading for free? In 2002, when the Web is part of the journalism enviroment, are we entitled to read what a columnist said in the past so we can use that to judge what he's saying now? Is it reasonable to pay $2.95 for that? Sounds like good fodder for a Dan Gillmor column, imho. 

Ryan Tate: "It seemed perhaps reasonable for journalists not to write about their employers when the employers were single, family-owned newspapers. But this moral compromise becomes increasingly untenable in a world of mammoth media companies and huge newspaper chains. If CNN and Fortune are not able to mount public attacks against AOL, they have no credibility. And if a journalist is shy about taking on small sacred cows, why should we think they will go after the big ones?" 

Sacred cow: "One that is immune from criticism, often unreasonably so." 

Progress on the Weblog Outliner. I have it working with Blogger, modulo an outage on blogger.com. As a fallback, I'm testing with a Manila site that emulates the Blogger API (note, they all do). Here's my latest post, and a screen shot of it being edited in the outliner, and a screen shot of the prefs page. 

Press release: "Knight Ridder Digital, a leader a local information on the Web, announced today that Sharon M. Mandell has been appointed to the newly created position of Chief Technology Officer, effective June 24." Welcome! 

Colin Faulkingham hits paydirt. Do a view source on this slide show. It's all in one file. He just added an XSLT style sheet to my OPML file, nothing more. Fantastic, synergistic, low-tech, leading-edge.  

Jamie Warner has a server-side app that converts an OPML document into a single-document presentation using style sheets. 

Sean Gallagher: "Eisner doesn't respect news as anything more than infotainment, and in the long term, he'll probably turn ABC News into some version of the Howard Beale Show." 

Brent Simmons: "I learned when I was a teenager not to be a perfectionist." 

Dori Smith: "There are only 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don't." 

Jon Udell: Onramps, offramps, Groove, and blogs

Salon: "The Federal Communications Commission is quietly handing over control of the broadband Internet to a handful of massive corporations." 

One year ago today: "The cool thing about the Web are the clean lines of separation." 

Two years ago today, I released UserLand's RSS 0.91 spec, with comments on Scripting News. I intended it to be a baseline for collaboration among content developers and CMS developers and people working on aggregators. 

A picture named donquixote.gif"Silence, friend Sancho," replied Don Quixote. "The fortunes of war more than any other are liable to frequent fluctuations. Moreover I think, and it is the truth, that the same sage Frestón who carried off my study and books, has turned these giants into mills in order to rob me of the glory of vanquishing them, such is the enmity he bears me. But in the end his wicked arts will avail but little against my good sword." 

FDR: "So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." 

Comments on yesterday's piece 

Yesterday's DaveNet piece is rising on Blogdex and Daypop. The first comments I read said that I should have disclosed that Dan Gillmor used our Manila software to edit his weblog, and is now using something else. It's true, but there are related things I could have disclosed, for example that we didn't charge Knight-Ridder for the service we provided, even though they ran ads on his site, and if Dan had wanted to take Manila or UserLand to task for technical issues, he could have kept his site, and his job. We did quite a bit of free development for Dan and the Merc, our compensation was learning, and having a great example of a pro using our technology to publish on the Web. No regrets about doing it, and when it came time for Dan to try something else, no regrets about that either.

People who focus on the Gillmor part of the story are missing the big picture that I laid out in the second section. Had I not said who Mr X was, I probably would be getting shit about that. That's the way it goes. In the end I felt it would be disrespectful of my readers not to put names on the symbols. But the problem is much bigger. If you expect profesional reporters to investigate their employers, you will be disappointed, because they don't do it. The Gillmor/Knight-Ridder story was just an example. While the media industry is working in Washington to dismantle the Internet, we can't depend on the pros, who work for them, to investigate. Let that sink in. Maybe it's not news to you, but it should be discussed. Is anyone watching them? Hmmmm.

A picture named jd.gifI'm reading all the comments. Interesting stuff. JD Lasica basically confirms everything I said in the second part, but I wonder if he gets that he is doing that. It's all about point of view. Circle the wagons. He says Dan is just like everyone else who takes a paycheck to be a journalist. Uh huh. And as readers, we are not being served by them. I can just imagine Dan railing about software developers who don't care about users. The pros have been above criticism for far too long. Can't trust them. It appears JD agrees.

Eric Norlin: "The journos seemed -- well -- shocked that Dave would rail like this.."

Scoble: "I think Dan really got screwed by business and technology decisions at Knight Ridder. Whoever is their CTO should be shot, in my estimation. We witnessed a horrid desecration of a good brand."

The comments section on Steve Outing's post developed quite a bit. More comments from Knight-Ridder people, but still no one is saying how the outage happened, or if it's going to get cured. A post from a system manager at the Washington Post about their policy about archives. It was interesting to see that the K-R people did not understand that the NY Times track record on averting linkrot is about as good as it gets (perfect, in my estimation, but I haven't exhaustively tested it). Murphy's Law dictates that linkrot is inevitable. There could be valid reasons for the archive disappearing. But if it was just carelessness, and if the archive can be restored, then exposing the issue would be good for K-R. Further, it would probably be good for the systems people at K-R to hear from real users of their product.

One more loop-close. Paul Andrews, who I respect and admire (he's one of the pros who leveled with me about the relationship between publishers and reporters), made a totally bonehead comment about Macromedia's weblogs in an article that appeared in the Seattle Times. "Macromedia's bloggers want to have it both ways. They don't want to be seen as shills. At the same time, they are loath to bite the hand that feeds them. As one Macromedia manager told me, he would never criticize the company or tout a competitor's products on his blog, 'or I'd probably be fired.'"

Fact is, the Macromedia bloggers have been criticizing their company, they acknowledge bugs, and work to fix them. Andrews' and Gillmor's profession could learn a lot from software developers. We've been through the ringer, and the survivors know that you can't sweep problems under the rug. As we learn to practice their craft, and they learn to practice ours, there's going to be a bunch of new points of view, and mistakes made. Get used to it, there's more coming. That you read this on a software developer's weblog should tell you something. We no longer trust the pros to tell the story. They haven't deserved that trust for a very long time.

In the meantime, the faceoff between the media industry and the computer industry continues unabated and unreported. This is the business scandal of our generation, and professional reporters appear to be complicit.

     

Last update: Friday, June 07, 2002 at 8:06 PM Eastern.

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