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Advice for Chris Messina Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named sink1.jpgIf you're interested in how formats and protocols evolve on the web, you might want to listen to Steve Gillmor's interview of Chris Messina on yesterday's Gillmor Gang.

I used to do roughly what Chris does, but I got tired of all the kitchen sinks being thrown at me because of my success from people who work at big tech companies. They have all kinds of techniques for thwarting success, but one simple motive, as I've come to understand it.

All big tech companies are basically the same inside, they all have too many people so they expend a lot of energy fighting with each other over who has the right to do this or that. There's always someone looking over your shoulder for a sign that you're blowing it, so they can tell someone at a higher level in management about your failure, so they can snatch the project for themselves.

When an independent developer such as Chris or myself is introduced to this mess, it's usually at the behest of someone very high up the structure of the big tech company because we tend to be visible to the outside world, relative to the typical grunt inside the BigCo. Our visibility and our introduction by the TopGuy immediately breeds resentment -- before they even meet you they don't like you, or worse, are committed to your failure. And while there may be penalties for hitting someone inside the corporate hierarchy, there's no penalty for offing the outsider. Inside the company they're playing a big game of musical chairs, but we outsiders can't play -- there's no mechanism whereby we can get a chair.

A picture named sink2.jpgBut no one lays it out for us this clearly. It takes years of trying to work with the BigCo's to figure out that while the TopGuy smiles and shakes our hand at conferences, and maybe even says kind things about us in a press release, there is zero chance that the people who actually make the decisions, the Ouija board of all the engineers and their managers, will work with us.

I should say almost zero instead of zero. I've had two examples of times when BigTechCos said they were working with me, and really did do the work, and several examples outside the tech industry, in publishing. In one case, with XML-RPC in 1998, it was because a handful of engineers who really were mavericks (unlike John McCain who just throws spitballs from the back of the room) and believed in something, and were respected enough inside Microsoft to cut through the corporate bullshit, but only for a very short period of time (really just two or three weeks). The machine eventually clamped down and turned it into a mess, owned by the W3C and IBM, Sun, and 18,000 other BigCos and BigCo-wannabes.

The other example was RSS, which only worked because the company I was working with, Netscape, evaporated into thin air in the middle of the project! So, if after getting a TopGuy to go for it, somehow you're lucky enough that the company self-destructs, you actually can get something done with a BigCo. ;->

A picture named sink3.jpgI recognize from Chris's rap on the GG podcast that he gets something important that most BigCo guys don't. The question, asked by the BigCo guy, isn't why invent another way to do standards, that's what Lakoff calls "framing" -- assuming something in the question that isn't actually what's going on. You don't start out trying to create a standard (and I'd encourage Chris to drop the word from his vocabulary) -- what you want to do is make a product, and allow others to compete with you, so you aren't locking your users in. That's the virtue of the development process Chris and his buddies are advocating. If a standard pops out, it happens later in the process.

Chris is an idealist and it's good to have them around, for sure. And it's also good to think of his work as the proving ground for standards work at the IETF and W3C that will come later, but unfortunatley I'm pretty sure they don't see it that way. When it comes time to reinvent OAuth they will probably try to break it. I say try, because if you play it right they won't be able to.

So my advice to Chris is, if it isn't already obvious, don't explain why the BigCos aren't following your lead, shrug your shoulders and let them do the explaining. Eventually if you do your job well, they will follow, they'll have to. They will never follow out of the goodness of their hearts, because (sorry to say) that's not what they do.

Update: is for sale, minimum bid $500K. Oy.

Watch-The-Debate-In-Berkeley 2.0 Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named gecko.jpgLet's watch tonight's debate together. Barack Obama and John McCain. 5:30PM at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St.

$5 suggested contribution to cover expenses. This is a non-partisan affair, you don't have to support either candidate.

Last time we had about 200 people, not sure how many will show up this time. The projection should be better this time. We're probably going to go with CNN, because of their fancy real-time polling tech, but I'll bring the EyeTV receiver with me, in any case.

Raines is arranging for Cheesboard pizza, as last time -- but instead of All You Can Eat, this time it's Pay Per Slice.

It was really nice last time to watch the debate with 200 fellow Californians, and people mostly didn't talk over the candidates, which of course is really good.

If you're in the area hope to see you there tonight. ;->

IRC for tonight's debate Permanent link to this item in the archive.

The debate starts at 6PM Pacific.


Seeya on the IRC! ;->


Last update: Tuesday, October 07, 2008 at 9:16 PM Pacific.

A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.

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On This Day In: 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997.

October 2008
Sep   Nov

Things to revisit:

1.Microsoft patent acid test.
2.What is a weblog?
3.Advertising R.I.P.
4.How to embrace & extend.
5.Bubble Burst 2.0.
6.This I Believe.
7.Most RSS readers are wrong.
8.Who is Phil Jones?
9.Send them away.
10.Negotiate with users.
11.Preserving ideas.
12.Empire of the Air.
13.NPR speech.
14.Russo & Hale.
15.Trouble at the Chronicle.
15.RSS 2.0.
16.Checkbox News.
17.Spreadsheet calls over the Internet.
18.Twitter as coral reef.
19.Mobs of the blogosphere.
20.Advice for Campaigns.
21.Social Cameras.
22.The Next Big Thing.
23.It's time to open up networking, again.
24.Am I competing?
25.Time to shake up conferences?
26.Bloggers working with journalists.

Teller: "To discover is not merely to encounter, but to comprehend and reveal, to apprehend something new and true and deliver it to the world."

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