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Scripting News, the weblog started in 1997 that bootstrapped the blogging revolution.

Permanent link to archive for Thursday, January 29, 2009. Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hugs to Forbes Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Big hugs to Forbes for saying I'm one of the 25 nicest people on the web. You guys are the greatest. Love ya all, Dave ;->

Love on the sidewalk Permanent link to this item in the archive.

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Big hugs to all the she-geeks gathering in Mtn View! ;->

New policy on interviews Permanent link to this item in the archive.

I've gotten so fed up with reporters that I decline all interviews. I've occasionally made an exception when I was sure I'd be treated fairly, but even those have gone sour.

A new policy: 1. No interviews. 2. No exceptions.

But that doesn't mean I'm giving up because I'm not.

I think many reporters just don't know how awful they are with their sources.

I have a positive suggestion for reporters: Interview each other the way you interview your subjects. Your eyes will open.

Permanent link to archive for Wednesday, January 28, 2009. Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Today's fortune cookie Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Observation: If you can not or will not laugh at yourself, everyone else will.

Wait a minute there's more to it.

If everyone is laughing at you, hard as it may seem you could join in the fun. You'll probably get a really nice hug if you do. ;->

Permanent link to archive for Tuesday, January 27, 2009. Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Radioshift from Rogue Amoeba Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named uma.gifI've been wanting to record some NPR shows that don't have podcasts, and I'd like to record FreshAir as soon as its available, so I've been looking for software that runs on the Mac that will do this, and this evening I stumbled across Radioshift, and installed it.

I decided to go with this app because I use Audio Hijack Pro and really like it, and figured this would have the same fit and finish, and so far it's even nicer that Audio Hijack Pro

I'm curious if anyone else is using this app and if so what do you think of it?

Do you use some other software on the Mac to record Internet radio?

I was able to set up a subscription to FreshAir in a couple of mouse clicks in less than 30 seconds. It's hard to believe it's that easy, but if you think about it, why shouldn't it be that easy? Here's a screen shot of what the subscription looks like. If you choose to edit the subscription this is what you get. Choose Preferences from the File menu.

In other words, if you use AHP, it's exactly what you would expect. Nice work! Now let's see if it does its job tomorrow morning. Maybe I can find something to record in the middle of the night. Yup. I've got it programmed to record three shows, with the first starting at 3AM.

Permanent link to archive for Monday, January 26, 2009. Monday, January 26, 2009

I now understand the financial crisis much better Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Back in September when the credit freeze was first becoming a matter of public discourse, I listened to a fantastic episode of This American Life that explained in layman's terms, what the crisis was about. This was followed up by a great FreshAir interview with NY Times financial reporter Gretchen Morgenson. Both highly recommended.

After those two shows I thought I understood, but the other day I had a flash of insight that brought it home in a much more personal way.

I'm lucky in many ways, one of those is that I have a good savings account that basically allowed me to retire at a very young age. Managing this nest egg is super important for me, it's what I live off. So in January I got the willies about the stock market and sold everything, moved it into cash. I did eventually start buying stocks again, slowly, but let's keep it simple and assume everything I own now is either in government bonds or the most conservative money market fund possible.

A picture named ron.gifTurns out I was early, I saved a lot of value by selling in January, because later in 2008 a lot of other people did the same, causing the market to crash. At that point I never once entertained the thought of buying bonds or stocks of any kind. Never mind the explanation of not knowing which banks had a dishonest balance sheet or toxic assets, I was basically keeping my assets in a shoebox under the bed. I was and still am totally risk averse. I won't lend my money to anyone, I'm keeping it all for myself. I don't care if I earn zero interest, or even negative interest. I want to hold, hold, hold. As close as possible. I'm scared, freaked out even by what I see in the financial world.

There you have it. I'm not lending money to anyone. Same with everyone else. That's exactly why the economy is stuck.

You want to go first? I don't. ;->

That smiley is there just so you know that there's still something worth laughing at in this crazy mess we call an economy.

BTW, what made me think of writing this up was an email I got from Citibank this morning offering unprecedented rates on a CD to which I said out loud "Fat chance buddy."

A special BMUG meeting on Thurs Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named mac.jpgIn the earliest days of the Mac, there were two big stops on every rollout tour, Boston and Berkeley. The two biggest international Mac users groups were in Boston and Berkeley. It made a lot of sense cause the two yearly Mac shows were in Boston and San Francisco and of course Berkeley is just across the bay from SF, and honestly it's even more Mac than SF is. ;->

It's been a long time since the Berkeley group met (the Boston group still appears to be meeting), as far as I know, but on Thursday in Berkeley Raines Cohen, one of the BMUG founders, is hosting a revival of BMUG at the Hillside Club of course, to celebrate 25 years of the Macintosh.

We'll take "A look back, a peek at some Mac history movies, conversation and insights," says Raines. $20 suggested donation, net proceeds benefit Alameda County Computer Resource Center. 6-9PM with a Chinese dinner after.

Permanent link to archive for Sunday, January 25, 2009. Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sometimes 140 characters is enough Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Just figured something out.

People confuse passion with anger.

When I get excited I speak loudly and fast.

I'm not angry I'm happy! ;->

Podcasts on FriendsOfDave Permanent link to this item in the archive.

The three FriendsOfDave channels on Twitter, and FriendFeed now have a few podcast feeds. Several of them update on Sundays. Here's the full list of the sources we follow:

A picture named rss.gif.

I highly recommend this feed, there aren't too many updates and all the writers are interesting people who travel the world intellectually, creatively and physically (a few are in Davos this week in Switzerland).

Over 400 people are following on Twitter.

Also the Wired feed on Twitter is powered by F-O-D software.

My new mission Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Ever had this experience?

You think you know someone, you have them typecast as this type or that, and boom out of nowhere they do or say something that makes you wonder.

What do you do then?

There's no right answer to this question, but I think the answer reveals something about the person who answers it. Are you curious, forgiving, flexible, creative, imaginative, sympathetic? Actually I guess there is a right answer. ;->

Yesterday I wrote on Twitter something pretty heavy, but I had just gotten off the phone with a very loving friend, and decided to confront something head-on that's been lurking in the shadows. I keep hoping it'll go away, but it never does.

There's this idea out there that I'm rude and angry and do things to deliberately hurt people. Nothing, I mean nothing, could be further from the truth.

This is what I mean by confronting it head-on.

In order to be a successful communicator, which I am -- you have to have a high degree of empathy. You have to be able to jump out of your own body and into the body of the reader, and imagine what it's like to read the words. The writer already knows what he or she is trying to communicate. The only way to judge writing, and thereby improve it, is to learn from people who are confused by it, who draw the wrong conclusion. You don't assume that they failed, quite the opposite, you try to learn how you failed. And then you incorporate that learning into your process.

The same is true for software design, for getting adoption for ideas like blogging and podcasting, and developer relations -- pushing for RSS, OPML, XML-RPC and SOAP. It's all about communication (at its most mundane) and about empathy. Without empathy, none of this could happen.

Now for their own reasons, there have always been people who try to stand in the way. You can't get something new done without that happening. This is a lesson I never wanted to learn, but I've had to. It started pretty early in my career, but not at the beginning. When I was a grad student, working on my first outliner, everyone at UW was very supportive. They didn't necessarily understand what I was doing (one prof introduced me as the guy who does great error messages) but they thought it was good that I was trying to create new stuff.

The roadblocks first showed up when I shipped my first commercial product. And the second, and so on. In the market, people are always trying to make you stumble. It's called competition. I don't do it much anymore, but I used to do it, a lot. I didn't care if my competitors didn't like me. That's part of the whole thing.

But at UserLand I stopped being so competitive, I think that's part of the problem UserLand had, and why it failed. I was more into the open source philosophy like Rodney King, why can't we all just get along. People thought I was a hypocrite, even though I wasn't competing, I guess people thought I was. Maybe that's the only model they have for human behavior.

So yes, I am one of the most hated people on the Internet, but I honestly don't believe what people hate is me, I believe they hate what people have told them to hate.

And I'm beginning a campaign, a relentless one, to reverse that.

How Twitter makes you a better writer Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Twitter forces you to write concisely, and that makes for crisper, more direct, easier to read copy.

I was reminded of this when reading a piece written by Dan Santow at Edelman PR, who offers a list of phrases that can be replaced by single words without loss of meaning.

I realized you never see these phrases in Twitter-talk because there's no space for flowery prose with only 140 characters to express an idea.

Thanks to Steve Rubel for the pointer.

Permanent link to archive for Saturday, January 24, 2009. Saturday, January 24, 2009

What made the Mac different Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named mac.jpgRex Hammock: "It's hard to convey to my kids how radically different the Mac was from any consumer-oriented computer that came before."

So here's a list of things, off the top of my head, that made the Mac radically different from any other computer, 25 years ago, from my point of view.

1. Guy Kawasaki. He's going to think I'm stroking him for saying this, but he got me my first look at the Mac, and my first Mac. Up until that point, there had been platform vendors who sought out developers, but they were of a previous generation, and didn't even remotely speak our language. Guy came to us, asked if we would develop for the Mac. Of course we would. We would have begged to, we would have barked like dogs to get a pre-release Mac, but he didn't make us. A proud developer who feels appreciated can make great software. One who has to swallow his pride to get the gig -- not so much.

2. Guy Kawasaki. Now he's really going to think I'm stroking him. Guy not only spoke our language but he spoke Apple's language. When we needed to get things done inside Apple, he managed them on our behalf. Believe me that was necessary, because while a small number of people inside Apple wanted developer support, the company was leaning toward the very big developers, Lotus, Microsoft and Software Publishing. Guy believed in the little guys, like my team, and it turned out he was right and they were wrong. The products that made the Mac were ones no one had heard of: Aldus Pagemaker, Adobe Photoshop, Quark XPress, Filemaker, BBEdit, Macromind Director, 4D, Think C and Pascal. Borland, Ashton-Tate and the other BigCo's, the ones that Apple management courted, with the exception of Microsoft, never shipped anything worthy of the Mac. (Microsoft shipped a number of good products for the Mac: Excel, MSIE/Mac, and eventually Word.)

A picture named guy.jpg2a. I almost put Guy here again, so I could say it's like "Location, location, location" -- but I thought that would be too much, even for Guy. ;->

3. A graphic display. Every pixel could be programmed by software. Before this, computers displayed grids of 24 lines with 80 characters each. That was considered a fancy computer! Many of us used computers that displayed 40 characters per line, all upper-case. And we thought they were pretty cooool!! ;->

4. User interface guidelines. At first I thought they were retarded, then I became a believer. There were pros and cons. The pros: Every app interacted with the user the same way. If you learned how the menus worked in one Mac app you knew how they worked in all Mac apps. This is a principle I apply to this day. The cons: They were designed the way word prcessors work. If your app had a different model, as our outliners did, the UI guidelines forced an inconsistent conceptual model on the user. In the end this wasn't as big a problem as I thought it would be.

5. 32-bit linear address space. A very hidden feature, like Guy Kawasaki, users couldn't see this one, but it meant that the Macintosh could grow to support huge graphic apps like Photoshop and Quark without the horrible complexities of memory expansion on IBM-compatibles. I came to believe that this reason alone was the reason the Mac continued to sell through the early-mid 90s. Without this advantage, Apple's famous bozo-osity could have spelled the end.

6. The clipboard. There was a standardized way to move data between apps. I thought this was so important I asked for and got a meeting with Bill Gates in 1985 to urge him to add a clipboard to MS-DOS (it was totally possible). He said they were working on a new operating system that would have one, which turned out to be OS/2. Almost no one used it. The Mac was the first PC to have a clipboard, and the only one for a very long time.

7. It didn't look like a computer. This may be the hardest thing to describe, but I remember the first moment I saw a Mac. I was being led into a conference room on Bandley Drive for a demo and on the way to the room I saw a Mac on a table in another room and was struck. It was upright, where most computers were modular and sort of sloped. It was small. Most computers were white, it was beige. But it just looked strange but really interesting. (Kind of like the reactions I get to my netbook these days.) Marylene Delbourg-Delphis, the French entrepreneur who started Acius, says: "It looked like an appliance made for normal people."

I'm leaving room here for other ideas as the come along, if they do. Feel free to add your own in the comments on this post.

How blogging was born Permanent link to this item in the archive.

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Thanks: gapingvoid. ;->

25 years ago today Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Update: What made the Mac different.

Permanent link to archive for Friday, January 23, 2009. Friday, January 23, 2009

Actors and non-actors Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named obamasOnTV.jpgIn journalism, there's a big difference between the actors and the non-actors. The actors are trying to create an effect, you're not hearing what they really think, you're hearing what they want you to think they're thinking. Non-actors try to play it straight. They want to communicate their ideas accurately and persuasively, and strive to find better and better ways to do that. It's true in journalism and it's equally true in blogging.

To explain the idea to a journalist friend I thought of two people he would be likely to know, two extreme examples: Scott Rosenberg and John Dvorak.

Rosenberg is the former managing editor of Salon, film critic at the SF Examiner. Dvorak is a longtime tech columnist, I read him 30 years ago in Infoworld, then PC mag. Now he's a blogger and podcaster. Rosenberg and Dvorak are very different sorts of reporters.

In person, Dvorak is a gentleman and really nice thoughtful guy. On the web and in his podcast, he's an actor playing the role of a cranky, thoughtless clown.

In this video Thoughtful Dvorak explains Dvorak the Actor:

Rosenberg on the other hand, if you met him in person, would say the same things he says in his online personna.

That analogy exists in the blogosphere as well.

If you were to meet me in person, like Rosenberg, I would say the same things that I say on the web. There aren't two Daves. This is me, I write more formally here, more thoughtfully, I can revise my writing, but you're getting my actual opinions, not a simulation.

However, some of the people I have interacted on the web with are not playing it straight. I don't want to name anyone specifically, because that would just invite the kind of slapstick they use to build traffic. But they do exist, and they often admit privately, as Dvorak does openly, that they don't really believe what they say in their online writing. Whether they want to declare it or not is their business.

However, I think it's important to understand the difference. An apparent pie fight isn't always what you think it is. Sometimes it's one of the clowns of our medium trying to cover up something real they don't want people to look at.

Dvorak's sleight of hand is harmless, almost everyone knows he's doing it. But the other kind is not so harmless. A good journalist must dig past the surface and figure out who are the actors and who's telling you what they really think.

Update: Actors can be realllly entertaining. ;->

Why was yesterday a Blue Thursday? Permanent link to this item in the archive.

I know it wasn't just me -- yesterday was a pretty negative day for a lot of people. Nothing seemed right. People picked yesterday to deliver bad news they had been holding on to. To tell others what they really thought of them. Even if nothing specific happened the general mood for some was suppressed if not downright depressed.

In hindsight it would have been better to stay in bed yesterday, call in sick, just sit it out. ;->

Why yesterday?

In the middle of the night I figured it out.

For most of us it's no longer Yes We Can, it's Yes We Did.

It's not Change You Can Believe In, any more -- instead The Change Happened Now Get Back To Your Life.

A picture named obamasOnTV.jpgWhile we watch from afar, we see people who have great meaning to their lives, who every day have something to do that excites and inspires them, for the rest of us -- we know the feeling, we used to have it, until Thursday morning, when it all came crashing down. Reality reinvoked, our normal humdrum lives reappeared, and we have to live them. There are taxes to pay, appointments to make, charges to answer, etc etc.

And there's Camelot on TV, but that's someone else's life, not ours.

If only we had been lifted out of our lives permanently.

But today's Friday. Thursday is behind us now.

Maybe that was the worst of it. ;->

PS: Think you have it bad? You could be John Kerry.

Permanent link to archive for Thursday, January 22, 2009. Thursday, January 22, 2009

Something strange and geeky Permanent link to this item in the archive.

I've been working on an app that archives the tweets of the people I follow in OPML. I want to plug this into the Instant Outliner at some point, that's why the format is OPML. So then the question is, how will I know which users have updated and when. I thought about it and thought about it and then it hit me in a flash. I have a format for that. It goes back to 1999, and it scaled up to millions of changes every day.

It works. ;->

Now this is only going to make sense to people who really followed this stuff. There might be 25 such people in the world. But for a few of them it's going to be fairly delicious. (Not

This land is your land Permanent link to this item in the archive.

"This land was made for you and me." -- Woodie Guthrie.

"This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." -- Abraham Lincoln.

"We the People of the United States..." -- The Constitution.

Our new President has said repeatedly, and correctly -- we can't wait for someone else to do the job, we must do it ourselves. That is so totally consistent with the philosophy of the country, and perhaps not unremarkably -- the web too.

Go back to the beginning, the web was created in that spirit, and whenever it runs out of juice we go back to the well, draw another bucket of irreverence and gumption, and create something new.

It's not the nature of the US to wait for someone else to do the job, and it's not the nature of the web.

When I looked at the Clinton, I felt no urge to get involved, these were the people who promoted the Communication Decency Act, which failed to extend First Amendment to the web. (And that's being generous.) They were the enemy of freedom, their website was not something I wanted to help.

Same with the Bush, although I gotta say, the people who claim the Obama is so innovative must not have looked at the Bush website. They had all the technical innovation of the Obama one.

As I said clearly, I supported Obama. So quickly people forget. But that website, until I give up, is mine and yours as much as it is the webmaster's. If they construct it in such a way that that's not true, then they have failed to live up to the promise of the United States and the promise of the web. And since the web is the hub for idea exchange, it means that everything else they try will be crippled, the attempt to restart the economy, to create a spirit of volunteerism, to get health care and education working, to promote our revolution of individual freedom to the rest of the world.

A lot of people who use the web these days don't know how to create a web, they know how to use what was created. In some ways, some times change must come incrementally, and patience is the right course of action. But sometimes, and this is one of those times, it must come in one big discontinuous spurt and then we figure out what happened in subsequent years.

The people who tell themselves and others that they run the world are placeholders, if they urge caution and safety. These are not safe times. Those people are going to be swept away by the change that's on its way. This is not a time for caution, it's a time for courage, intelligence and creativity.

Update: The Washington Post says the Obama team found a White House in the technological dark ages when they arrived on Tuesday.

Permanent link to archive for Wednesday, January 21, 2009. Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The White House website Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named whiteHouse.gifThe new is a nice looking site, it's centered around a blog. They promise lots of media, podcasts, videos, etc. In 2001 or 2004 even, it would have been a wonderful breakthrough and I would be singing its praise. But this is 2009, and we know so much more about the web.

Look at it another way. I don't know about you but I gave to Obama, I prayed for his election because we desperately need new approaches to the problems we face. We've postponed this day for too long. We must stop driving gas guzzlers, we have to invest in education, health care. We must prepare for the economy we now live in, not the one we used to. We have wars to end and bridges to build, "political wedges" to undo. All of this will require a very efficient flow of ideas and exchange of perspective. That's where, of course, the web comes in.

But violates the most basic rule -- "People come back to places that send them away." The White House should send us to places where our minds will be nourished with new ideas, perspectives, places, points of view, things to do, ways we can make a difference. It must take risks, because that is reality -- we're all at risk now -- hugely.

I don't advocate a blogging host like the Obama campaign website. There are already plenty of places to host blogs. But I do want the White House to be a public space, where new thinking from all over the world meets other new thinking. A flow distributor. A two-way briefing book for the people and the government.

We need the minds of industry, education, health care, government, people from all walks of life, to connect. It doesn't have to be, but why not, why wait?

We're all watching the new President very carefully. It makes sense that he's open to ideas from Republican columnists and Republican preachers. I get it. Inclusiveness. But when it comes to the best ideas of the web, the sign on the President's door says "Please wait" instead of "The fierce urgency of now." I think he was right the first time. You need the web Mr. President, now, and we need to get in there and do our work.

Update #1: Der Spiegel piece on (In German.)

Update #2: NYT roundup of reviews of

Today's NY Times front page Permanent link to this item in the archive.

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Good morning USA Permanent link to this item in the archive.

It's a new morning in America.

The house on the hill.

A thousand points of light.

It's the economy dummy!

Compassionate conservative.

Yes we can!

PS: Yesterday's special home page is archived.

Permanent link to archive for Tuesday, January 20, 2009. Tuesday, January 20, 2009

By dawn's early tweet Permanent link to this item in the archive.

My first tweet of the day, unedited: "Really feely unhinged this morning. There was some security in GWB's mediocrity. Now, there won't be an excuse, it' s now -- not later."

It's true. I've had an unsettled feeling. Can't deny it, can't wish it away.

On the radio this morning, while the coffee is brewing, news that the milk market has collapsed and dairy farmers are selling their cows.

China is asking for immediate talks with the new US president, about security and the shape of the world economy. Everything is up for grabs in the latter. This time it's not about the power of the military, but which economy will emerge in what kind of shape after the reshaping that's going on. Profound changes ahead. At stake is the western style of life. The inaugural could be our last great party with all the bells and whistles? I don't know.

After dinner the other day, driving down a main street in the East Bay, I asked my date if she thought this street would look more or less the same in a year's time. She said yes. I said was not so sure. I wanted to believe it would.

But for the next few hours it's time to measure all we've accomplished. Aretha will sing America The Beautiful from the steps of the Capitol in a few hours. Do you need any more symbolism than that? We've come of age, my generation. We're running the world now, what's left of it.

This may be the apex, the climax of America, the top of the mountain Martin Luther King dreamed of. Where can we go from here?

It's a potent moment.

A picture named byeByeSaysDubya.gifShortly after our previous President took office I wrote: "Now I'm not a Republican, far from it, most of the things Republicans stand for are things I'm against. But there's something satisfying about the Bush Presidency, and for a time I couldn't put my finger on exactly what it is. Now I think I get it. If this guy could be president, anyone could. He bumbles along twisting around his mouth when he speaks, with his Texas accent that I don't believe. I imagine him on the scene of The West Wing, reading his lines, and sipping his coffee saying "Oh this is really good coffee, thanks." He gets his cues from Dick Cheney, but he could just as easily get them from a TV series director. Smile here. Say something nice about America. Good job Dubya. Excellent."

Suffice to say I have higher hopes for his successor.

Test Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Permanent link to archive for Monday, January 19, 2009. Monday, January 19, 2009

The 24-minute news cycle Permanent link to this item in the archive.

I woke up early this morning, about 4AM.

Went downstairs, turned on the radio to KQED-FM. They're interviewing Newt Gingrich, talking about the 24-hour news cycle, a major innovation they're adjusting to in DC.

I went upstairs with my coffee, did a few hours work, came downstairs for a break, turned on the radio, exactly the same bit is playing. Gingrich talking about the 24-hour news cycle.

Then I thought back to a moment, on Wednesday, when Twitter was carrying the instant news of Steve Jobs's leave of absence. At the exact same moment, came news of the death of Ricardo Montalban. I should have taken a screen shot, because there were constant tweets from people saying Did you hear about Steve Jobs. Did you hear about Ricardo Montalban.

I thought at the time, forget about the 24-hour news cycle, we have a new concept -- a news cycle measured in minutes. What made me think of it was in the midst of all this I saw a lonely tweet from a company I know announcing a contest for developers. I thought "too bad, no one's going to notice that."

This is what we're all working on -- have been for a couple of years -- how to make sense of news that flashes by at such a rapid rate that it pushes the envelope on human ability to notice things.

We may be lining up to eat at soup kitchens in 2009, but we'll have the fastest news cycle ever to keep us informed.

Update: Cross-posted at Huffington.

The interactive living room of 2009 Permanent link to this item in the archive.

There's an interesting piece on TechCrunch today that's in part about using laptops while watching TV, something a lot of people do, and more will certainly do in the future.

A picture named livingroom.jpg

This is the system I like. I've explained how it works over on Flickr. Click on the pic to go there.

FriendsOfDave in XML Permanent link to this item in the archive.

First, a common request -- people have asked for an OPML subscription list for the FriendsOfDave Twitter/ feed. Done.

But while I was doing this I had a thought that it's a micro-nano version of before it became a ping-server. If you recall, it used to poll for changes among a small set of weblogs. This method became unworkable because there were eventually too many blogs to poll. But FriendsOfDave is, by design, always going to be a small number of blogs. So I thought what the heck, let's have it generate a changes.xml file of its own.

An old friend! ;->

Now, why this is interesting? It's a key feature of the "real time web" that so many of us are thinking about. If every feed had someone watching out for them, along with 100 or so other blogs, then if a subscriber wanted to know if you changed, it would just have to watch the changes file. Of course if only one person they followed was represented in that file, no economy would be achieved, but if you group similar sites, ones that are likely to be followed by the same people, then you do get the economy.

Somehow the feed has to tell followers where their collection point is. Way back in time we used a category element at the top level of the feed to create this linkage. As far as I know no one build features on this, but they could have.

Will anything become of it this time around? Probably not, but it's still kind of interesting, if only for the nostalgic value. ;->

This Land is Your Land Permanent link to this item in the archive.

For me this was the most emotional moment of yesterday's concert at the Lincoln Memorial: Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen leading a chorus of This Land is Your Land.

All those people singing, and Pete Seeger after all these years -- he can still lead a crowd in song.

Permanent link to archive for Sunday, January 18, 2009. Sunday, January 18, 2009

I like my sex (and scifi) with mystery! Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named soap.gifI think it's true of all literature, media and sex -- that it's not what you say that creates the attraction, it's what you don't say. Or don't show. Or don't know.

The imagination may be the most pleasurable or pleasure-seeking organ in the human body.

A naked woman isn't necessarily as sexy as one wearing clothes, something many visitors to a nude beach are surprised to discover. It's not a turn-on to see the naked bodies, full disclosure isn't sexy. It's the path, how you got there that creates the excitement.

It's something we discovered in the early days of podcasting, something that was known to our parents' generation, that listening to radio programs activates the imagination in ways that television and movies never can. It's almost physiological. The human brain can't help itself, it must fill in unknown detail. So if you tell a story with words and no pictures, the imagination takes over and tells the rest of the story.

Have you ever been shocked to find out what a favorite radio talk show host looks like, how different it was from who you imagined him or her to be? That's the effect.

In this way, the remake of Battlestar Galactica has been one of the most smashing successes of television scifi. Every time they fill in a blank, they reveal five unknowns to take its place, and your mind takes off wondering who or what is behind the next set of doors.

But now the series is in its final run of episodes, and last night was the first installment of that run, and now we know a lot of what we didn't know before. The characters are all depressed, as we are -- because the fun is over? What could possibly be next.

Heather Havrilesky, writing in Salon, says it's always like this. We remember the first Star Wars in 1977 (I sure do, I saw it at a packed theater on Capitol Square in Madison in the middle of a raging snow storm with a half-dozen room mates). "There's an evil guy and a princess (a princess!) and robots and planets with three suns. Suddenly, the whole world feels like it belongs to you!" Three years later I'm in Sunnyvale, watching the next installment with a business associate, but it's just not the same. The magic isn't there.

Maybe the same with Battlestar Galactica. But only maybe. We don't know how this is going to turn out.

But now maybe I'm seeing the wisdom of the finale of The Sopranos. Maybe I don't want resolution of everything, maybe the series should end on the Mother Of All Cliff Hangers, the greatest imaginable, and one that never gets resolved.

We've already got a tease of what that might be, but there's still nine episodes to go, and I plan to watch each with the hope to not know everything, and to be delighted by the mystery.

Permanent link to archive for Saturday, January 17, 2009. Saturday, January 17, 2009

A URL Czar for Google? Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A simple idea in a twit.

Google should hire someone to beautify their URLs. Seriously would make their products 100 percent more attractive and usable.

I'm always cleaning up their URLs. Why can't they do that for me?

For example -- a Google Map link to the Empire State Building:,+New+York,+NY&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=46.36116,66.708984&ie=UTF8&z=16&iwloc=A

And if you don't sign out first, they include your home address in the URL. Oy. Talk about security leaks. Geez Louise. Someone at Google, please get a clue!

Anyway why shouldn't this be, simply:,+New+York,+NY

I just filled out my profile. Its url is:

Why not:

And on and on.

Lady Bird Johnson had a program to beautify America's highways. Google needs someone to beautify their information superhighway.

Permanent link to archive for Friday, January 16, 2009. Friday, January 16, 2009

Instant Outlining gets discovered Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named girl.jpgThis is quite an article. Very gratifying.

Twitter asks What are you doing? the Instant Outliner asks you to Narrate Your Work.

It's a project I developed in parallel with Radio 8, in 2001. We used it internally at UserLand to coordinate work among the people on the team who were in California, Seattle, Boston, Vancouver and Germany. We were spread across a lot of time zones and geography, but our work was remarkably well coordinated because we had what I think is the best management technology ever. As the manager of the team, I can tell you I never had a better read on what my guys were doing. I could see progress on various sub-projects, get feedback from everyone, build consensus, spot problems.

The reason why Radio 8 was such a great release was because we had a great workgroup tool -- the Instant Outliner.

We tried to release it as a product, but it didn't catch on. Partly, I think, because people were using Radio as a web server, and it was confusing that it was also an outliner. The mode flip blew up the suspension of disbelief. You had to really understand the technology to make the switch.

You also had to have a workgroup ready to use it, and that may have been the biggest reason it didn't gain traction. It wasn't hard for us to find individuals who were turned on by the idea, but when they in turn had to convince their co-workers to use the tool, that's when it fell down. It worked at UserLand because: 1. We were all techies. 2. I made it a requirement. 3. I was the boss. 4. But more importantly, I had their respect. And for some people it was impossible for them to get on board, they just weren't that organized or systematic in their work, but that may not have been apparent before we started using the Instant Outliner, it certainly became very apparent when we did. And it helped me, as the manager, know where I had to focus some attention, to help keep the individuals on track. Wouldn't have known it otherwise, esp in such a geographically diverse team.

Anyway, if people are interested, esp now that things like Twitter and FriendFeed are out there, we could try again. I actually have been working on and off on the I/O tool since we started NewsJunk last summer. During the Christmas break I took some time to convert it to run on top of FriendFeed's realtime API, and it make it much more efficient and much faster. They really do some good work down there at FF. Their back-end is a perfect match for the I/O front-end. (Which by the way, runs inside the OPML Editor.)

No matter what it's wonderful to see people discovering this work, and seeing it with new relevance given the state of technology today.

Permanent link to archive for Wednesday, January 14, 2009. Wednesday, January 14, 2009

My heartfelt epic blog post about Steve Jobs Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named steveJobs.jpg
Apple CEO Jobs
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Update: Scoble says you'd be an idiot to sell your AAPL.

A new way of linking in tweets Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Following up on the discussion about displaying links in tweets.

1. This is what a link looks like, in text:

41 people call this [photo|] a favorite.

2. When rendered:

41 people call this photo a favorite.

I've posted a number of tweets in this format, and so far no one has expressed any confusion about it, or even curiosity. I guess they just figure it out? Not sure.

Thanks to Chuck Shotton and Steven Levy for pressing the point.

Update: David Berlind asks "Would the markup syntax eat into the 140 char limit?" -- yes -- there's 3 added characters for each link.

Update: Joey Baker has a great idea. If the stuff betw the pipe and the right square bracket doesn't begin with "http://" the displaying software should add it. That's 7 characters saved. Worth doing, imho.

A story unfolds on Twitter Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Someone I know, not well, who lives far away is going through hell. The story is notable because it's unfolded in real time on Twitter.

I don't want to say who because: 1. It's very heavy. 2. I don't want to burden this person with the decision about how public she wants to be. If she reads this and says it's okay to post a link to the on Twitter, I will. If not, I'll wait.

I wanted to write about it because the story is so powerful.

It begins a few days ago, her mother is sick. She takes her to the hospital. It's obviously pretty bad, but we don't know how bad. Not clear if they do, but her mother is terrified. The sister is there, with neices. They argue about something. The mother gets worse. The doctors do tests. The mother dies.

From there the situation spins out of control. The story is told with a very wet brush, with lots of paint splattering all over the place in 140-character snippets separated by huge gaps of time. It's the unpredictability of it that makes it so compelling.

I can't imagine the pain.

But there it is, shared, in real time, with a few hundred on-lookers.

I feel like I'm witnessing history.

It helps that the protagonist is a great writer.

Who will prosecute Bush? Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named sands.jpgPretty sure someone in the Bush Administration is going to get prosecuted for war crimes. And the lower-downs were smart this time, they made sure the higher-ups were on the hook, at least according an interview on Fresh Air last summer with Phillippe Sands, an international expert on war crimes prosecution.

When I've heard this discussed in the media recently they've been approaching it as if it were an American decision whether or not to prosecute Bush. Obama could just punt, and let the international authorities worry about it. Then the question is would the US protect a former President against prosecution.

Because this is such a touchy subject I feel it's necessary to say that I don't know the answer, I see both sides. If Bush is prosecuted, it could serve as a deterrent to future Presidents against committing war crimes, or it could have a chilling effect and make Presidents fearful of defending the country, knowing that their fate and the country's will be separated after they leave office. (It's hard to imagine a sitting President surrendering to international prosecution.)

I will say this, I thought it was good that Ford pardoned Nixon. The country had other big problems to deal with in the 70s, and we had already paid a terrible price for the Watergate scandal. In many ways the same can be said of the fix we find ourselves in now, in 2009.

Bad UI Permanent link to this item in the archive.

This dialog appears every 10 minutes or so when the SlingPlayer app is running.

A picture named badui.gif

The new version doesn't work on my machine. Obviously, there should be a way to tell this dialog to go away and never come back.

Permanent link to archive for Tuesday, January 13, 2009. Tuesday, January 13, 2009

How to display a tweet? -- Part II Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Last night the wind howled in the hills of Berkeley. It could have been the sound track for the opening scene of a horror movie about global warming. It got me up at 1:30AM with a burning question. What's the best way to display a tweet?

It's not a joke, it actually happened. ;->

So I posed the question with a few examples, and a great discussion ensued, and I think we arrived at an excellent answer.

1. I had assumed that a mini-icon would work the best, but Alexander Horre asked why not use a bit of text, so if someone makes it bigger, the link symbol would grow along with everything else. Good point, and I think that's the way to go. (Many others said the same thing, Alexander was just the first.)

2. Chuck Shotton and Steven Levy both argued for making the links work just like HTML links, but I didn't see how, until Chuck suggested that we use wiki notation, and this is very workable, and if that formatting is detected any software should recognize it and display it accordingly. Example.

3. What software? Well lots of apps display text that came from Twitter. Facebook does, as does FriendFeed and many others. Of course I wouldn't have asked this question if I weren't too. ;->

Prior art search: How to display a tweet? Permanent link to this item in the archive.

You know what a tweet is and how they're displayed in Twitter.

Pretend you're a time traveler from 2003 and someone told you that a primary software interface was going to include bare naked urls, would you have believed it? I wouldn't. I still don't accept that it's the best way to display a tweet.

These days lots of software displays them, not just Twitter. And they all have the same problem -- how to display the urls. I haven't seen a lot of approaches. I'd like to generate some, to gather different non-raw-url approaches. Here's an example:

Where are the Users at the User Generated Content Expo? Link to an external site.

We don't shorten urls just to conserve space within the 140-character limit, shortening urls also makes our writing more legible. For that application we could go the full distance and collapse the url down to an 11-by-11 icon. If so, what should the icon be? Here are some examples of vast collections of free mini icons.

I'm assuming the best approach is to shrink the url to an icon and store it to the right of the text but if you knew the big ugly url was going to shrink to an icon, you might start putting the urls in the middle of sentences in ur tweets.

Maybe a mini-icon isn't the best way to go, maybe there's another way altogether to neaten up tweets and make them more readable? (And yes, I know some people will say the way Twitter does it now is the best possible way, please assume we're all considering that possibility as well).

I'm interested to know what people think.

SF-bound with wifi Permanent link to this item in the archive.

I just got on the inbound BART from the Berkeley station, and I have wifi through the Cradlepoint but I don't have a net connection because we're underground.

However, in a few minutes, between Ashby and MacArthur, we will emerge and my router should be able to establish a connection. This probably will happen a lot faster than if I had used the software on my laptop to connect cause it's pretty clunky and slow and sometimes takes two or three times to connect. The Cradlepoint seems to do this much better.

And you'll know it's working because you're reading this.

Permanent link to archive for Monday, January 12, 2009. Monday, January 12, 2009

The Holy Church of Checklists Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named notebook.jpgYesterday's piece on investigative research in the blogosphere was one of the most polarizing pieces I've ever written, going all the way back to the first email essays I wrote in 1994. Those really upset a lot of people, because I saw where my industry, which now is pretty much gone, was getting swallowed up in the open formats and protocols, both technologic and human, of the Internet. Now, 15 years later, I stand by any of those pieces. I've become a better writer, for sure, I'm better able to anticipate people's objections, I have a better sense of what people are ready to hear, but every once in a while I just ignore all that, and write what I really think.

I had a good but brief talk with Howard Weaver, who proudly told me he had two Pulitzer Prizes, and who recently retired from McClatchy. We found we had a lot to talk about, and we're quite close in age, and I think for two aging guys we've still got some flexibility in our thinking. He lives in Sacramento, just a couple of hours away by car. I'm sure we'll get together, and when we do, I don't doubt it will be interesting and productive.

That said, a fair number of other people expressed anger at me and my piece, but always with remarkably honest words like "You seem to be saying" or "I suspect you believe" or somesuch. Those are big red flashing warning signs, your inner-editor should stop and ask for a rewrite, because you're using whoever you're writing to as a foil, somehow you want to express something, to be heard, and you need this crutch -- this symbol to be angry with. I wish somehow I could make people filter these things for themselves. We all want to be appreciated for our individuality, no one wants to be treated as a symbol.

Or I could just write a followup, like this one. ;->

I also wrote a piece about economics, but if you take it at face value you'll see it's another media story. I had just listened to 1/2 of yesterday's Meet The Press, and was disgusted that the reporters on the roundtable were basing their analysis on a lie. Then later that day Jay Rosen, who is a great teacher of things I am very interested in, provided a framework for all this. The media and the people they interview have an agreed upon set of assumptions, Jay calls this the sphere of consensus, and it doesn't matter if they're true or not, and many of them are not. They have a finite set of them, so any reporter only has to master the list, and then each politico he or she interviews is asked to recite his or her poetry about each item on the list. They judge the quality of the pol by the quality of their prose and how ruffled they get. The more ruffled, the more points for the journo, the less ruffled, the more for the politico. It's a game.

A picture named elmerFudd.gifThere are some people who are regulars on the shows who clearly don't buy into this nonsense. Krugman for one. I was also struck by a Fresh Air interview with Chuck Todd last week where he explained how he was learning the ropes as a member of the elite priests of the Holy Church of Checklists. But I think of Todd as one of the few who think independently, and forms his own theses and tests them scientifically. This is my kind of journo. I also like Brook Gladstone and Bob Garfield, because they sometimes break out of this straight jacket themselves.

Ladies and gentlemen, whether you're a pro or an amateur, I think the real difference between the men and the boys, the women and the girls, is this. In these challenging times do we have the guts to admit that the government prints money, and accept the complexities that come with that, and ask our politicos what happens when they've exhausted that option, instead of asking them nonsense questions about cutting expenses or raising debt, and watching the politico just sidestep it and answer the question they really want to.

In other words, I think the reporters who get so angry with me are doing so because I don't buy into the Sphere of Consensus Jay talks about. Instead I buy into the Sphere of Don's Amazing Puzzle. I know that my eyes deceive me every day, they see only what they expect to see, and unless I develop methods to check my vision, I will keep believing in systems that don't work.

friendsOfDave on Twitter Permanent link to this item in the archive.

friendsOfDave is list of blogs, like an old-style blogroll, but with a difference. Every time one of the blogs in my list updates, an app on my server sends a link to Twitter, and FriendFeed.

This makes it easy for me to keep up with the blog posts, which come much more slowly than tweets, of people I think of as friends -- in the blogging sense -- people who I want to keep current with.

Here's a list of the people: .

This neatly solved the problem outlined in The First Church of Scoble, where I said I wanted to hear about Scoble, but not the full blast of his Twitter stream. To some extent this isn't even about Scoble the person, because people talking about Scoble (something he actively encourages of course) is all part of the Church effect. Unless he turns his blog into a firehose, we can have just-enough Scoble, along with some Doc, Jen, Betsy, Fred, Jay, Scott, Om, Lance, Rebecca, Gartenberg, et al.

I've had a few days of F-O-D, and I like. It went quiet over the weekend, but now it's Monday morning and things are picking up. Last week was CES so there was a lot of tech stuff, and I was worried there might be too much, but things are more balanced this week. I still need some more political blogs to add to flow, but I want to do that slowly too.

And part of the way I measure success is that the people in the group seem to be following the group. I think this is important. Maybe it will evolve into some kind of meta-publication. Or a conference? I have no idea. I do know they're all creative interesting people who are likely to have some cool ideas if there are any to be had.

Everyone can follow... The more the merrier, as usual.

A consumer complaint about Consumer Reports Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named cr.jpgThis story just drips with irony!

2.5 years ago I had just signed the papers to buy a house in Berkeley, and based on past experience as a home owner, it was time to become a member of the Consumer Reports website. I figured if I'm going to be spending thousands of dollars on this house, it would make sense to go for the premium service, so I could access all the information on the site. Doing my part to support a non-profit that does good work. I even checked the box that said they should automatically renew me every year without requiring confirmation, that's how sure I was this organization, above all others, could be trusted.

No fault of theirs, my credit card number got out to some bad guys in Malta or Africa, and the credit card company detected it, contacted me as I was checking into a hotel in NY (by declining the charge, thank you very much) and after talking them into approving the charge (while dripping wet from a NY rainstorm) we agreed they should cancel the card and issue a new number.

So, when Consumer Reports tried to charge my annual fee, it was declined. They sent an email, I went to the website, entered the new number, clicked Submit. I then got an email thanking me for subscribing to the print magazine! Which is something I totally did not do, mean to do, want to do, under any circumstance. I am always trying to reduce clutter, and I hate getting magazines I never asked for in the mail, and I certainly don't want to pay for magazine clutter in my mailbox.

So I called their 800 number (hard to find on the website) and asked nicely but firmly that they cancel this subscription that I did not want. I just want the website, thank you. The operator assured me it had been done, when I asked her to confirm what I had asked her to do.

All was good until the latest issue of Consumer Reports magazine arrived in the mail last week. I expect no matter what I do I will continue to receive the magazine, which I have been charged for and no doubt will not be refunded. I could make a case out of it, but it's just $26 and that values my time pretty cheaply. I know there's a recession, but I will have to settle for airing my issue publicly in this blog post.

Permanent link to archive for Sunday, January 11, 2009. Sunday, January 11, 2009

How investigative research happens in the blogosphere Permanent link to this item in the archive.

One of the common complaints from people in journalism about bloggers is that we just comment on reports in the news, we don't do original reporting. It's so often repeated it's become a cliche, but it's simply not true and I can prove it.

Draw a continuum of different kinds of news, at the left edge put a dot and label it "Event." At the extreme right edge put "Commentary." On the line between those two extremes, somewhere put a circle and label it "Reporting."

A picture named continuum.gif

No one questions that bloggers produce writing that belongs at the right edge of the continuum, but then so do pros. That's editorial and op-ed pages. People like Frank Rich, Maureen Dowd, David Broder, Krugman -- in days gone by James Reston, Russell Baker (my childhood role model). Think of it as shared territory between pros and amateurs.

At the left edge, bloggers win hands-down. We have far more original sources blogging than the pros have writing in their pages. Over time, as the thirst for news goes up and the volume provided by the pros goes down, expect to see more. The thirst to be heard has always been high, and this is fueling the explosion of blogging at this edge.

A picture named notebook.jpgNow, if you're a regular reader of Scripting News, you see us do investigative reporting all the time. And I'm not using the plural in a regal sense, I very much do mean "us" -- as in me and you and a whole lot of other people. For example, in December, after seeing Tweetree, and having put a lot of work into systematizing thumbnail generation (with the ongoing help of a reader, who lives in Turkey), I wanted to connect the two. So I proposed a way to do that. Immediately a flood of comments probing my decision, and a number of suggestions that I look at work done by others that I hadn't found when I looked. Now this process is not trivial, it's the equivalent of a reporter making dozens of phone calls to experts. Sure, I'm not probing their ethics, looking for malfeasance, whether or not they're bugging Watergate, or stealing funds from taxpayers or widows, instead -- they're doing that to me. Which I've learned to live with, and see as a good thing. I know my heart is pure, but they don't, at least not at first. They are right to be suspicious of a fellow technologist. Many are corrupt. I've writen about that here. (Part of the reason there's so much corruption, btw, is that the professional press including some of the pubs we all revere, have been playing footsy with the industry for a long time. But that's another story, one often told here, btw, which has gotten me a rep with the press for being an "irascible gadfly.")

Anyway, a comment left here by a reader in December bothered me, so I looked into it and found he had something, so I revised my approach, and published the revision here, on Friday. Then another reader suggested I use a format that Digg had proposed, and I agreed, so -- another revision. Now here's a key point, in all the reporting I had done up till this point, I had never stumbled across this. It hadn't been reported on by pros as far as I could tell, and up till that point, none of my readers knew about it either. Is this an investigative process? Absolutely. Is it journalism? I don't see how it's any different from the best journalism done by the pros, except 1. it's done out in the open, that's an essential element, and 2. it's being done by people who do it for reasons other than being paid, directly, for it. To trivialize those reasons is to ignore why people want knowledge, to ignore the motivations of the sources and the readers, both of whom are essential to the news processs (though the journos are often loathe to acknowledge this), and neither of whom are paid for their efforts.

But even then the story is not over. Another reader says there's a mistake, the format wasn't authored by Digg, it was actually authored by Facebook! I did a bit of investigation and couldn't find a claim that they authored it, or a news report, but I did determine that they supported it, by doing a test, that worked. We saw a citation on the Digg site that said that Facebook was the source, so that was good enough for me, and I revised my piece accordingly. (I allow myself that until the day closes, then if I want to revise I have to write another piece, like the one I'm doing now, that's why serious stories on Scripting News tend to come in a series.)

Finally I published a "cap" to the series, and reported on the significance of all this work. A full week of work, with lots of human contact, research, sourcing, fact checking. I'm sure there will be some who say this doesn't belong in the circle in the middle of the continuum above, and I'm sure we'll get ample opportunity to discuss that, and learn from each other. ;->

Elmer Fudd goes on a Westful We Tweet Permanent link to this item in the archive.

I am not an economist Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Even though I'm not an economist, I'm pretty sure that the US government can print money.

So if we have a $1 trillion deficit this year, that does not imply that someone has to lend us $1 trillion and it does not imply therefore that someone will have to pay someone back that money at some date in the future. If there's an economist listening who thinks this is not true, please say so and everyone else ignore what I'm about to say.

So then why does the discussion on Meet The Press and This Week revolve around how much better the private sector could spend the money or how we're passing on the problem to future generations. That seems like hooey. They have these discussions based on a make-believe premise that there are only two ways for the US government to pay for something -- taxation or borrowing. There is a third way, the one they're taking -- they just invent the money.

Now, in normal times you pay for this invention with inflation, but inflation isn't a problem -- quite the opposite, the world economy is having a massive going out of business sale. Prices are going down. Think they're low this week? Wait till next week, they'll be even lower. And wait is what people do, and that drives the prices lower. It's like inflation in reverse. Worrying about inflation now is like a starving man worrying about getting fat if he eats too much. You'll take your calories any way you can get them. Anything that makes people want to buy things now is a good thing for the economy. One way to do that is to give them money by hiring them.

So forgive me for thinking the analysts on TV are either corrupt or idiots, or whatever.

And of course please forgive me if I'm wrong and the government isn't going to print money to get out of this hole.

Back at the dawn of time Permanent link to this item in the archive.

I happened to trip over this Youtube video of John Lennon, Paul Simon and Andy Williams at the Grammies in (I think) 1975. They're announcing the winner of the Best Song, I think -- as usual Lennon is very funny and wry, and Simon is funny too.

Some observations...

1. There's a surprise guest toward the end, I won't spoil the fun by saying who it is, but we might spill the beans in the comments, so if you don't like spoilers watch the video before reading the comments.

2. Either John Lennon was short or Paul Simon is standing on a box. It's weird how a lot of famous people are really short, but you never find out until they stand next to someone who you know is short.

3. I don't get the joke about "dawn" -- Lennon says: "So this is what Dawn does." Dawn of Tony Orlando and Dawn? Hmm.

4. Weren't they both disapponted that Olivia Newton-John won? The competition was so good, Elton John, Roberta Flack, Joni Mitchell, Maria Muldaur.

5. Muldaur's song, her only hit, Midnight At The Oasis, also played a big role in the fabulous movie, Lost In Translation.

6. Unrelated, on NPR yesterday I heard that Enya has sold 70 million albums and lives in a castle in Ireland and is not lonely.

Two old friends: Twitter status and spewage Permanent link to this item in the archive.

It's amazing to me, the Twitter Status Report and Twitter Spewage Report are both still running. You leave those background projects around and they just don't go away.

I wonder sometimes how long after I die will some "Dave Winer code" be running somewhere on this planet? It could be over very quickly, or you never know, maybe some of my code will run a long time. I, of course, won't be around to find out. ;->

Anyhoo, here are the links...

And here's the blog post in April last year announcing the spew report. It was shortly after this that Twitter started becoming unreliable. Wonder if there's a correlation? Heh. That's supposed to be a joke. Okay sorry.

Permanent link to archive for Saturday, January 10, 2009. Saturday, January 10, 2009

How to include a thumbnail in the HTML of a page Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named reagan.jpgIf we had a registry for emerging web standards, we would have added one to it yesterday. The emerging format has been proposed by Facebook, supported by Digg and ratified by FriendFeed, and yesterday -- Scripting News. The format allows a photo-oriented web site or individual web page to include a thumbnail, so that when it's referred to by a site such as Digg or FriendFeed the representation may include that thumbnail.

I support this because: 1. I have such a website. 2. And I believe that sites like Digg, FriendFeed, Twitter are more attractive and useful when they include little bits of color graphics. It's the same principle that guided Apple to create the Macintosh in 1984, almost 25 years ago, when the current form of user interface was character-based.

To support this format, include a <link> element like this:

<link rel="image_src" href="" type="image/jpeg" data-width="150" data-height="122" />

And some other metadata, as explained on the Digg site.

View source on this page to see a real-world example.

I tested it with both Digg and FriendFeed and found that it works, although there at least one place where FriendFeed could support it, but they don't, yet.

Update: James Holderness says this came from Facebook, and Digg says so on their site, but the page they link to doesn't seem to say anything about thumbnails. I searched and found a citation here, but he doesn't link to any Facebook spec. I think it's fair to say Facebook supports it. I'll test now. Result: Yes! Here's a screen shot of how they appear in my Facebook profile. So they must be added to the list, which I will do now.

Permanent link to archive for Friday, January 09, 2009. Friday, January 09, 2009

Harry Truman probably would have liked Twitter Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Harry Truman: "I never did give them hell. I just told the truth, and they thought it was hell."

80 characters, including punctuation. ;->

It occurs to me this morning this is one of the most American ideas out there.

"If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen," another Trumanism.

52 characters.

A picture named truman.jpg

At dinner last night in a discussion about the future of the University of California Journalism School, I figured something out. Journalism has always been about the sources, but somehow we lost our way and focused on the reporters, the conduits, the pipes. Okay, so the way we move news from sources to their destinations is changing, but when it's all done, the news process yields the same result.

So this explains why a 140-character limit in Twitter is so in tune with our times. It teaches us how to summarize, to condense, and it rewards those of us who are good at it by making our ideas go further.

It also levels the playing field. Last night there was a 5.0 earthquake in southern California. Not a big one, but Twitter had the full story within a minute. Was there more to say, for cameras and analysts to pore over? Not this time. 140-characters was plenty.

Update: The buck stops here. 20 characters, including punctuation.

Thumbnails, rev #2 Permanent link to this item in the archive.

12/28/05: "One way to do something, no matter how flawed that way is, is better than two, no matter how much better the second way is."

A picture named airplane.gifEarlier today I revised a proposal from December for including thumbnail images in HTML. I am now revising that proposal again to be compatible with Digg's (undated) proposal, which I just found out about.

I'm not going to add another format when one exists that differs from mine only by the choice of a name (they call it an image_src, I called it a thumbnail).

Their format doesn't call for a type, or height and width -- I'm going to include that info and hope that Digg ignores it.

You can see an example by viewing source on this page.

To test, I've submitted the example to Digg. They ask if it's an news article, video or image, I chose image. A few steps later and it's submitted, and apparently they picked up the thumbnail. Looks good!

Seems like a done deal! ;->

Update: FriendFeed does support this format in their bookmarklet. I tested it, and it works. Happy! That's already a lot of compatibility for less than an hour's worth of work. My photo site plugs into Digg and FriendFeed.

Bootstrapping thumbnails, revisited Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Update: After posting this, I learned of a Digg-authored format that does the same thing, and I've adopted it. I'm leaving the rest of this here to form a record, but the format it describes is not implemented.

A picture named panetta.jpgAt the very end of last month I started a thread here about adding thumbnails to photo pages in such a way that web apps such as Tweetree, and others that can display graphics inline, can grab info about the thumbnail directly from the HTML of the page that the full image is displayed on. If we're going to have a future of graphics-capable Twitter-like services, or if Twitter itself is going to grok images, then thumbnails are not just nice-to-have but must-have. And a machine-readable way to link to them from the original HTML is needed.

My first impulse was to create a <link> variant, but to do so would have meant adding width and height attributes. I could have omitted them, but that's ridiculous -- all image processing apps have that information at-hand, and if you don't put it in the HTML, then the client has to do an HTTP reference to get the data, and that's a waste of bandwidth. Better to put the info in one place rather than have N clients fetch it for themselves.

However, Zach Beane objected that you can't just invent elements for <link>, so I took a different route and defined an XML namespace for a new thumbnail element. Later, Sam Ruby suggested that HTML allows for arbitrary attributes to be added where they make sense as long as their names begin with "data-". I didn't know about this. So I'm going back to the initial simpler approach and use a <link> element.

So here's the new template...

<link rel="thumbnail" type="image/jpeg" href="" data-width="150" data-height="87">

You can see an example by viewing source on this page.

Update: Over on FriendFeed, Paul Buchheit, one of FF's founders, says that Digg has a format that does most of what I'm doing here. There are some weird things about it, like why specify the title in a <meta> element when HTML already has a <title> but I think I have to go with the Digg format. The philosophy: "One way to do something, no matter how flawed that way is, is better than two, no matter how much better the second way is." It's a corollary to Postel's Law, being conservative in what you send. I asked Paul if FF is supporting the Digg proposal.

A better choice for Surgeon General Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Our future President (11 days!) is said to be considering a famous TV doctor for Sur-Gen.

Paul Krugman explains why he's not a good choice, and I concur, but something has been bothering me about this, and an email from a friend helped nail it.

If you really want to turn things upside-down for the better, instead of a healthy young doctor, how about an older person who is not a doctor, who has health problems and has been treated by the system, someone who has actual experience being a user of American health care.

Then let the doctors and insurance companies and HMOs listen a bit. There's no doubt the other users would hear what this person says. (There's a scene in the latest Clint Eastwood film that illustrates this principle beautifully.)

I am not suggesting an average or ordinary person, not a Joe The Patient, not a knucklehead or idiot, rather someone with a life of accomplishment, a passion for living, but someone who hasn't lived the perfect life and paid a price, and maybe someone like the future President who saw a relative die sooner or suffer more because of deficiency in the system.

That would signal a very pragmatic change -- from health care defining an ideal most of us won't achieve, to improving or just sustaining the reality we make the best of.

Thanks to Ann Greenberg, a longtime friend and Berkeley neighbor, for the perspective-shifting email.

Permanent link to archive for Thursday, January 08, 2009. Thursday, January 08, 2009

Palm Pre a possibility? Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named pre.jpgI left a comment on jkOnTheRun about the new Palm Pre that was announced today at CES.

First question: Can it tether?

That is, can it play the role of the Cradlepoint router I just got, and the Sprint EVDO modem plugged into it?

Are they going to be as locked down as Apple is with the iPhone?

When and how can I get one to play with?

This morning I couldn't imagine why anyone would even go to a Palm press conference, and now I'm on the edge of wanting one of these to try. I'm ready to get off my iPhone, I'm sick of the locked up mentality. If this thing pairs nicely with a netbook, I might just switch to it for a year or so.

The next step in the evolving netbook is the cellphone that pairs with it. Whatever it is it must be reasonably debugged both in software and philosophy. Apple has the software but their philosophy is totally up a creek.

Now I'm looking for some Palm Pre clipart.

Conclusion of the Feedburner latency test Permanent link to this item in the archive.

It appears that it takes FB some amount of time to recognize a feed once its been registered, but that once it does, it's pretty close to perfect at caching a feed for 30 minutes before refreshing its copy from the original.

A table that reports on the test.

Notes on the test when it started are here.

Here's the original feed and here's the Feedburner version.

I looked for docs on how to ping Feedburner, but came up with confusing and contradictory instructions, none of which worked. They all got Java errors from the server. I tried pinging using their form and through pingomatic, neither of which had any effect on the latency.

I tried adding a <ttl> element to the feed, set it to 1 minute to see if that had any effect. I'll let you know.

Update: Apparently Feedburner ignores <ttl>.

Update: I turned the test off for now. ;->

Measuring Feedburner's latency Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Yesterday I listened to a Gillmor Gang podcast that focused on one issue -- how much time does it take Feedburner to reflect the changes in a feed they're hosting. Steve had some evidence that it was taking as much as three hours for it to reflect changes in his feed at

Being an engineer, I wondered what was going on, so I constructed a test with a feed to see what Feedburner would do with it.

Here's the original feed and here's the Feedburner version.

Here's what my test does. Every minute it reads the Feedburner version and compares it against the original. If they don't match, it does nothing. When they do match, it notes the time in a log, generates a new version of the test feed and repeats the process.

I'm going to let the test run for a few hours and then make one change -- I'll ping their server when I create the new version.

And of course I'll report the results here when they are available.

A note: I ran the test overnight and got what to me are astonishing results. Feedburner never noticed the change in the original feed. Anyone who was subscribed to it would not have known there had been news. I couldn't believe this, I felt there had to be a bug somewhere in my test, and it could be that there is. That's why I'm re-running it this morning while I'm working and can keep an eye on it.

Update at 11:10AM Pacific: First results after running the experiment for almost 2 hours: It took the following amount of time for Feedburner to reflect a change in the original feed: 24 minutes, 31 minutes and it's still returning old results after 61 minutes. This is without pinging.

Update at 2:20PM Pacific: Here's a table that summarizes the results.

Permanent link to archive for Wednesday, January 07, 2009. Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Friends Of Dave Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A Twitter feed with the blog updates of 15 of my friends.

A picture named sprint.jpgA dynamic list of the feeds.


This post is basically a test of the dynamic list. Let's see if the sucka works! ;->

Update #1: It works. I have to add that having jkOnTheRun at CES makes it mostly unnecessary for me to be there. I've already learned about a new Netgear 3G router. They pretty much precisely care about the things I care about. Keep up the great work. Speaking of which, I had the opportunity to really use the new Cradlepoint router last night at a dinner party, and it works fantastically. Very fast. Super nice to just put the hotspot in the knapsack, turned on, nothing extraneous hanging off my netbook.

Update #2: I added Betsy Devine. I must add some more people I used to hang out with in Boston. The whole point of this exercise is to keep in touch with people I lose touch with. It's possible to do this if we have blogs, and some of them, like Betsy, do.

Update #3:

Update #4:

Friends Of Dave for Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Just added a way for users to follow the Friends-Of-Dave feed.

There's no other way to test it -- I have to push an item through and see if it makes it over to in addition to the Twitter place. Let's see if it works...

It does! Cooool.

Friends Of Dave for FriendFeed Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Just one more service, I promise. A test to see if it works...

It works! ;->

Blog clip art Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named lisa.jpgThis is a post I've been meaning to write for some time, but this blog post, reviewing the interesting practices of bloggers finally got me off my butt.

If you've been reading Scripting News for a while surely you've noticed the graphics that often appear in the right margin of stories here. Sometimes they are directly related to the story, and other times only artistically. They are meant to invoke your own thoughts and feelings, to show you something about yourself. Whatever they are you can be sure that I found them interesting. Beyond that, what they mean is up to you. That's what art is about, always -- don't let anyone tell you otherwise. That's why artists cringe when people ask them what the art is about or say that a piece does nothing for them. They'll always come back and ask what it means to you, or say that nothing is something. They're not just saying it to be difficult (although people always think artists are difficult).

Anyway -- the point...

Many times the art I use is commercial, pictures of products. My suggestion is that the companies behind the products should make the clip art easy to find and re-use. Think of it as free brand advertising. Often it's amazingly difficult to find a clippable picture of a product. Examples. Every airline should have an iconic picture of an airplane with their trade dress, on a pure white background. TV sets or laptop computers should come with blank screens, making it easy to superimpose a picture of a dead relative or someone you want to make more interesting by putting them on TV.

The SEO and PR people are all over the place, so guys and gals -- get to work. Every brand should have great clip art for bloggers to use and re-use. It's free advertising. And you guys like free, don't you!

Some babies are destined for greatness Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named theMeleMen.jpg

I met Nicco (center) on my first day at Dean For America in Burlington, VT at the end of the campaign for Iowa. Since then we've been friends, across generations -- and I've become friends with his lovely Morra, and his puppy Rascal (pictured at the left). I've always expected great things from Nicco, but that's nothing compared to the feeling I get about his newborn son, Asa Archibald Mele (who will be known as Archie, I hear). I've only seen him in pictures, and it's probably only through knowing his family that I sense the greatness in this young man.

Born on January 3 of the New Year, in Boston, a warm welcome to Master Archie!

Permanent link to archive for Tuesday, January 06, 2009. Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Turning Twitter into my friend-feed Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named rsshat.gifI was doing a little work on a tool I wrote in April 2007 that pushed RSS content to Twitter, and made a simple enhancement: instead of having a Twitter account reflect the content of a single feed, I made it reflect the content of an arbitrary number of feeds.

This let me do something I've been wanting to do for a while, but never thought of using Twitter for -- I set it up to reflect the content of my blogging friends, people like Doc Searls, Scott Rosenberg, Scoble, Sylvia Paull, Andrew Baron, NakedJen, Nicco Mele, Michael Gartenberg, Marc Canter and a few others.

As usual with experiments, I'm not sure if this is going to amount to anything, but I thought it was worth noting. The tool is twitterRiver.root, and the feed it's associated with is friendsofdave:

You may of course choose to follow this feed if you find it interesting, and I will probably release the tool at some point in the future.

PS: Arrington and Calacanis will find it gratifying that this is an aggregation of blog posts not Twitter fire hoses. That's why it's possible to include Scoble alongside Andrew Baron and Scott Rosenberg, without drowning them out.

Julie and Julia Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Just got an email from Andrew Grumet with an amazing story.

He writes: "Julie Powell, who blogged her way through a Julia Child book on Then the blog got her a book deal and some minor celebrity. Now they're making a movie out of it... with Meryl Streep!!! (in the role of Julia Child).

Chris Lydon did a podcast with Julie Powell in his pioneering 2004 series where he interviewed many of the early bloggers.

How newspapers tried to invent the web Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named thinktank.gifFascinating Slate article about how Newspapers "tried to invent the web." A lot of it absolutely true -- I thought I was in the "videotext" industry when I started out in tech in the early 80s, so much so that I named my company Living Videotext. I made countless trips back to NY to meet with people at CBS and Dow Jones, to try to anticipate the kinds of authoring tools we'd need, and how news would flow in the new system we were anticipating. That's why I wrote ThinkTank, I thought of it as an environment for authoring and reading news.

I became a netizen on Compuserve's CB radio, and wrote my own bulletin-board software, LBBS, which then became TankCentral, a way for ThinkTank users to share outlines. When we merged with Symantec, I was still hung up on the idea of the outliner as the way of modeling online discourse, that's why I pushed for us to merge with Think Technologies, and also another company which we didn't get a deal with, who went on to become Microsoft Mail. I felt that MORE was the best way to do networking.

Had Sidhu done a halfway decent job with the Mac networking APIs, I am sure the web would have happened on the Macintosh in the mid-late 80s. We spent countless man-months trying to get MORE to network. When it finally happened, Unix was the central OS for our communication future, and low-tech interfaces took the place of Apple's much more sophisticated networking.

You know it would be great to have a conference someday with all the people who tried to make the web happen before it happened. I'd see a lot of old friends there. ;->

One thing I love about Twitter Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Is the way they display individual twits so bold and big.

The other guys should follow this cue. ;->

Apple keynote on Twitter? Permanent link to this item in the archive.

How are you getting the latest news on the Apple keynote on Twitter?

Who are you following?

Here are some of the people I'd watch...

Chris Pirillo has the audio. What a trip. You get his editorial comment and the applause is deafening. Hilarious! ;->

Permanent link to archive for Monday, January 05, 2009. Monday, January 05, 2009

I'm in heaven Permanent link to this item in the archive.

The Internet has many wonderful applications, but I doubt if people think of it as a romance platform, but it is.

Case in point. I was looking for some music to play for my friends on Twitter the other night, and I don't remember how I stumbled on this wonderful recording of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong singing Gershwin's Cheek To Cheek, but it is something else. I recommend putting aside a bit of time later if you don't have time now, and play it on a nice sound system, and get ready for your heart to go to heaven.

But that's not the end of the story.

I remembered seeing the same song sung by Fred Astaire with Ginger Rogers, in the movie Top Hat. Now Fred's not really a singer like Louis & Ella -- but boy can he dance. The yin and yang! Cheek To Cheek reaches places with Fred & Ginger that you're just going to love.

So the Internet is a history and heart machine. It's love and life. Flirting, dancing, swing, and yeah kisses. ;->

Rethinking authentication Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named bonehead.gifFirst a caveat, this is going to be a technical post, so if you're not interested in techie stuff, you can skip it. However, I'm going to try to make it understandable to smart users who are willing to scratch their heads and read it two or three times, if you care to.

There's been a persistent problem in the twittersphere when developers have wanted to enhance the service but require access to the user's account. There's no other way than to ask for the user's login info: their username and password. If the developer is ethical, this is not a problem, it's much like giving credit card information to a vendor. But you can get in trouble when the developer isn't trustworthy and uses your information in malicious ways. We got a taste of this, this weekend.

Immediately people in the know say Use OAuth! -- believing that will solve the problem. I understand OAuth, I've implemented Flickr's authentication system which was the inspiration for OAuth. It's a complicated dance for the app developer, but it provides the user with an important ability that's supposedly available no other way. The user can de-authorize one app without de-authorizing all others. It's true, you can do this with OAuth, but it's not the only way to do it, and it's more complicated for users and developers than the other way, which I'm now going to explain.

I got this idea when Twitter rate-limited me yesterday. I was debugging some code, and I guess I made more than 100 calls in an hour. Now I can't make any more calls from my LAN (even though it's been almost 24 hours since the offense). This showed me one very important thing -- Twitter has the ability to block calls by IP address. That's the key.

A picture named wimpy.gifOkay, so now assume I've given my username/password to Wimpy's App Shop, who has a neat little Twitter add-on gizmo that I love, and everything's going great until one day Wimpy, whose shop is suffering in the recession, decides to make a little extra money by selling my login to Bluto's Greasy Spoon Spamporium, who proceeds to send huge numbers of phishing messages to Chris Brogan, Kevin Marks, Chris Messina and Guy Kawasaki. This is very annoying. We must stop it at once!

Now imagine that Twitter had a page that showed all the IP addresses that have used your login in the last 30 days, with a start date for each and a count of calls made. I bet you could figure out which one was The Greasy Spoon Group, pronto. Further suppose there was a checkbox next to each IP address. You could uncheck that one, click Submit, and voila, no more spam from your account. You just did everything that OAuth promises to let you do, and no one had to implement the dance. It worked with today's simple and klunky worse-is-better authentication system.

Now IP addresses are ugly and not informative, so add a little enhancement, and have Twitter do a reverse DNS lookup for each one. If something simple came back, like and not, display it instead of the IP address. Now it would be even easier to spot the nasty dude.

That's it, that's the idea. I think this works -- do you see any problems??

Update: Great comments. Over on the Twitter blog, Biz says they're going to release a closed beta of OAuth this month.

Permanent link to archive for Sunday, January 04, 2009. Sunday, January 04, 2009

Why our customers are smart Permanent link to this item in the archive.

I often tell stories about companies who treat their customers or developers as if they were idiots. But that's not to say my own company, the one I started, didn't do this too -- it did. It's human nature, but it's bad human nature, it's self-defeating, it's dysfunctional.

When I heard someone say a customer was stupid, I said if that's true we're really fucked.

Here's how I reasoned...

1. We have to believe our customers are the smartest people, because they were smart enough to choose the best product.

2. If they were stupid, then they chose the wrong product and we're dead, so you'd better start looking for a new job

The only logical way to proceed is to:

1. Make the best product.

2. Find the smartest customers.

3. Treat them like the geniuses they are.

4. And earn their respect. (Which they never failed to give us, as long as we did 1, 2 and 3.)

Our customers really were the smartest people -- we made products that you had to be smart to want. But I think every company has to feel their customers are the smartest, or else why bother coming to work?

Further, we don't look for "feedback" from customers, we look to learn from them. Feedback is what you ignore. Learning is how you build.

RSS as the foundation for realtime Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named bonehead.gifSteve Gillmor has been on a campaign to get Feedburner to wake up and make his Feedburner feed more responsive. I support him in this. Now that Feedburner is pwned by Google, there's something kind of sneaky about a big company that prides itself on keeping its servers up and responsive all the time to be asleep on this.

To be fair to Google, it's not 100 percent clear if Steve's website is pinging them on the feed update. This is something we could look into because the protocol for pinging is something we're all pretty familiar with, since its been around for a long time and it's pretty simple. There's an XML-RPC interface, even a REST interface. Google operates a compatible ping server. You don't even have to know the protocol, since Matt Mullenweg kindly put up a server that pings them all. Just tell him what changed and let him make the call for you.

However, it is the very end of the Christmas holiday, so that may be the reason. A wire-trip, and no one is watching the store. That's the danger of centralizing a decentralizing technology like RSS. Like the Internet itself it can route around outages, but only if you let it be distributed. This points out the need for an open source easy to install version of Feedburner. Now with cloud services like Amazon and Microsoft's upcoming Azure, and Google's own AppEngine, it would be a simple matter to put something together in any number of different languages that would provide all the benefits of Feedburner (stats mainly) without the problems of excessive centralization.

Steve called a few minutes ago, and I volunteered to write about this. I also volunteer to help get a Feedburner competitor on the air, whether it's a small independent project or something run by Microsoft.

Update: Feedsqueezer.

Twitter in 140 characters Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Jay Rosen asked: "Write a 140 character post that explains what you find Twitter useful for."

DW: "Twitter is my shared notepad. If I want to remember something and I don't mind if everyone else knows it, I just post it here."

Only 126 characters. ;->

Why Twitter *can't* be conversational for me Permanent link to this item in the archive.

I've tried to use it conversationally, but it quickly falls apart.

Consider an example.

Suppose I say the sky is blue.

Someone says: "What do you mean by that?"

Now I have three choices: 1. Ignore it. 2. Ask what they're referring to. 3. Assume they mean my statement that the sky is blue, and explain what it means for the sky to be blue.

Suppose I choose #2. Because I might have said 5 things in the last hour, and how do I know which one my correspondent is referring to. So I respond: "Which item are you referring to?" But before my friend can respond someone else asks "What are you talking about?" Now to that one I have three possible choices, the same ones as before.

Back up a step. I could have chosen #3. How do you explain what it means for the sky to be blue in 140 characters? And if you try, someone else will ask you to explain your explanation. But how will you know which twit they're referring to!

Right around this time someone chimes in with a political objection to something I've said. By trying to cram real conversation into 140 character snippets, you're bound to offend someone, because in order to be politically correct you have to allow for the possibility that you're talking about a man or a woman, someone who is young or old or inbetween, or if you assume they're American you'll get a lecture on how all Americans think everyone is an American or somesuch.

Honestly don't see how anyone gets past the first step in a conversation, but as I've gotten more people following me, the opportunities get narrower. When I try to satisfy everyone, what happens then is someone tells me I'm posting too much and I should STFU or they're going to unsubscribe. Ohhh.

So when someone asks me a question that I want to answer, I DM them. But usually I choose option #1. For me it's not and can't be conversational.

Permanent link to archive for Saturday, January 03, 2009. Saturday, January 03, 2009

Mac at 25 Permanent link to this item in the archive.

On January 24, 1984 a couple thousand people were present at Flint Center in Cupertino at the birth of something with real lasting value, the Macintosh.

It's corny for sure -- but it was exciting.

Hard as it is to believe -- that was almost 25 years ago!

My company rolled out a product that day too: ThinkTank 128. Thanks to Guy Kawasaki and Mike Boich. Guy was Apple's first evangelist and Mike was the head of their developer program. And there were many other great people involved in the Mac in the early days.

As Archie sang to Edith, those were the days!!

It would be great if, over the next 21 days, we could connect with people who were part of that day. Apple's remembrances have (understandably) focused on the Apple people who made the Mac work. But it would be interesting to know who else got their start then and what they went on to accomplish -- where they are now.

Update: Here's someone selling a shrink-wrap copy of ThinkTank 128.

Helping FriendFeed? Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named tw.jpgLouis Gray offers some noble help to FriendFeed, filling in as the marketing department they don't have. Of course it would help if they did do some marketing. They may not be aware of it, but Twitter didn't just wait for people to come to them, they put up displays all over SXSW in 2007 to boot up with that community, who already knew them from Blogger days, to be the first core group of users of the service. I could see it happen, even though I wasn't part of the service then, and I wasn't at SXSW. FriendFeed hasn't done anything like this as far as I know.

Anyway, I think I know what they should do, and it isn't on Louis's list. But I wonder why I should give them the idea. This goes back to the point Arrington made a week ago, and then made again in his scolding of Scoble -- why are you working for these guys for free? It's a good question and one that bothers me, a lot.

Instead, I'd like to ask another question. Does anyone really think that a company-owned platform is going to win here, that it won't be swamped by an open federated system of servers that peer, like email? If so, I'd like to hear why. We went through this exercise repeatedly in the tech industry; the lesson of history is clear -- closed systems have their place and time, at the beginning of a new layer, when users need simplicity over everything else, they serve as training wheels when everyone is a newbie. Eventually we grow out of the need to have our hands held and the freedom of open systems becomes attractive, and we jump. It happened with mail, with the web, maybe not so much with IM (that's probably what they're counting on).

I'd much rather give the idea to the ether, not to a company. Let's have competition.

In the meantime, the clue is in the piece I wrote in early December. (I can't help it, I have to share ideas, it's the way I'm built I guess.)

MediaWiki API Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named houseOfCards.gifWell, thanks to Andrew Burton I got access to a MediaWiki installation with the API turned on, and I was able to make a couple of trivial calls successfully, but I hit a wall when it came to doing the thing I set out to do. I have no doubt from reading the docs that it's possible, I just can't figure out what the dance is.

My problem may stem from not being a MediaWiki user. I'm doing this job for Doc Searls, who wrote a passionate plea to be able to edit his wiki with the OPML Editor. From a quick glance at the MediaWiki API docs I was pretty sure I'd be able to put something together. I like writing glue for XML-based APIs, it's fairly rewarding work, cause when I'm done there's another cool thing I can do with my outliner, even though it's not likely that I'll use it, personally. ;->

I had hoped today to be writing a piece about how I got it to work but no luck. It's actually a plea for help. Here goes.

1. What I need is the equivalent of the Metaweblog API. Calls to create a new document (in wiki terms probably a "page"), to get and set the text to an existing document. That's basically it. For bells and whistles there are categories and media objects, but Doc probably doesn't need those so much as he needs to be able create and edit pages on his wiki.

2. I understand that I need to login and get a token. I have the call to login working, so I don't need help there. I probably can figure out how to get a token, but what to do with it? Oy. The docs really assume you know what you're doing before you read them.

3. I think the docs they have get pretty close to getting me going, but I won't be sure until I'm actually going.

If you can shed any light on what's happening here, it would be much appreciated. Assume in advance that I know I'm a pathetic dork with no life, if you skip that part of your advice it would be much appreciated too. ;->

Permanent link to archive for Friday, January 02, 2009. Friday, January 02, 2009

CradlePoint PHS300 first look Permanent link to this item in the archive.

The new router arrived this evening, I charged it up, followed the minimal instructions, and it worked the first time. I'm using the router now to write this blog post. ;->

I'll have unboxing pictures soon, but first the speed test. thinks I'm in Kansas City, MO.

A picture named st.gif

People ask why I lusted for this and the answer is the same reason I want one of these. A 3G battery-operated router that fits in a coat pocket, or a pocket on a knapsack, or in the glove box of a car -- very rational idea. A perfect fit for netbooks, and you know how ga-ga I am over those. For a while it looked like netbook "service plans" were going to catch on, hence the $99 netbook meme, but this is smarter. Why should the netbook have the service plan -- instead I'll use the USB modem I already have, plug it into the CradlePoint, and get on the net using wifi, which all netbooks already have. It's still a little klunkier than the Novatel approach, but this one is shipping, and it's pretty close.

If they had gotten this to me before Thursday I would have said this is the most rational product of the year for 2008, also the one that makes me the most giddy with a living-in-the-future feeling, right up there with the Eee PC. It would be hard to choose between the two. Wish I had had this at the DNC in Denver.

It has a very nice browser-based config system, so there's a web server built into the router. Screen shot of the Dynamic DNS config page.

Here's the set of unboxing pictures.

MediaWiki API, day 2 Permanent link to this item in the archive.

I've been slow to get to start work on the MediaWiki API.

But today I took the first step, to find out that it is possible to turn off the API, and that the test wikis people have been kind enough to let me play with have it turned off. (It defaults on.)

So to get started I'm going to need a wiki that has its API turned on. Here's a page that explains what's needed. It looks like Perl to me, it's probably easy for a Perl guy to futz with this, but I don't want to hack anyone's server. I want to stay strictly on the workstation side.

I promise to share what I learn programming the wiki once I get the ball rolling.

NewEgg is hard to get on the phone Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named chuckBerry.jpgI ordered a gadget from NewEgg on December 26, guaranteed 3 day UPS. Today's the day it's supposed to arrive, and I was totally looking forward, but UPS says: THE RECEIVER REQUESTED A HOLD FOR A FUTURE DELIVERY DATE. UPS WILL ATTEMPT DELIVERY ON DATE REQUESTED / DELIVERY RESCHEDULED[X]. That's really funny cause I'm the receiver and I sure didn't request a "hold for a future delivery." Oy.

So now I'm on hold on chat to get an answer from NewEgg, since there's absolutely no way to get to a human on UPS. I figure since NewEgg has my money, they should be able to help me figure out what this means. Stay tuned.

Of course their answer is to call UPS. Don't you love it when a vendor takes responsibility. (Not.)

So NewEgg was no help, so I tried calling UPS for a second time, and this time I said "Representative" repeatedly to every prompt. And it worked. I got to talk to a human being. Maybe it's actually on the truck she said, but they're going to call me from San Pablo at noon to let me know what's going on. Stay tuned. ;->

Then I got an email from the NewEgg rep, who I had suggested should call UPS instead of me doing it, and guess what -- she did it! Amazing. Maybe there's hope. She said the UPS website was mistaken and the package is on the truck out for delivery and I should get it today. Maybe 2009 will be a great year. Stay tuned. ;->

BTW, I gave the NewEgg rep a link to this blog post so there's a chance they may read this or comment.

Permanent link to archive for Thursday, January 01, 2009. Thursday, January 01, 2009

The First Church of Scoble Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named jesusChristIsComing.jpgYou can't be on Twitter or FriendFeed and not be inundated with comments from and about Scoble. I don't know how he does it, but it's really annoying. I find myself relaxing when he takes a break from Twitter, for example to fly from Europe to the US. Finally I can speak without having everything one-upped by Scoble. Whatever it is, he's done it better, or bigger, or with more important people. It's irritating because I don't believe it. I'd really like it if he just turned down the volume. Or if there were a way to segment the Twittersphere, I'd like to be in the part where Scoble isn't the main topic of conversation 24-by-7.

That said, I heard that Jason Calacanis and Mike Arrington were giving him a hard time on the Gillmor Gang, saying he was dumb to invest so much time in Twitter and FriendFeed. If he were blogging, they say, he'd be working for himself. On Twitter he's working for someone else. I've thought the same thing myself many times, but not about Scoble, since my whole existence does not revolve around Scoble. (I once parodied Scoble, in jest, saying that he was the next Christ, little did I know how prophetic it would turn out.)

So is Scoble a chump, and are all of the rest of us chumps, for not enhancing our own space, rather enhancing Ev's and Biz's and Jack, Fred and Bijan's space? If you don't run ads on your blog, I don't see how it matters. And if you primarily push pointers through Twitter, as I do, it's just a notification system, not where you pour your creativity. Even if you put ads on your blog -- it's like RSS, it feeds traffic to your blog, it isn't replacing your blog. Surely Calacanis and Arrington aren't advising Scoble to get rid of his RSS too?

In a hasty twit last night I said these guys were "ignorant" for this opinion, but maybe that was too harsh. But maybe they aren't being creative enough.

Technology is a process, an evolution -- don't focus on what's here right now today, because a year from now it'll be different. Look at the trend. In the last year Twitter hasn't changed much on its face, but it has changed in substance. I have a lot more followers now, and I follow far more people. There are a lot of PR people there now, where it used to be gossip. There are also a lot more tech entrepreneurs, analysts and carpetbaggers, people who think there might be a business model in here somewhere. They're largely adding clutter and noise, but that's change too.

But I can't imagine that blogging and Twitter won't fully merge, and I expect that to happen soon. Look at services like Posterous and Tumblr for a clue. Browsers have the ability to expand and collapse detail. Expect more of that. Services like Tweetree show that it's possible to include rich content inline with the twitstream. How far are we from having full blog posts? How far from being able to render the content in your own domain? How long until people think of the idea of a site aggregating the work of a handful of analysts as a quaint predictor of the rich world of the next-gen Twitter?

This is why I thought Arrington and Calacanis were missing the big picture -- seriously. Both have major investments in rollups of the pre-Twitter blogosphere. They may be suffering from the same kind of limited vision of their predecessors in the tech and business press, who were caught flat-footed by the generation of editorial content exemplified by their own offerings. Wouldn't be the first time that Generation N of tech failed to anticipate or even acknowledge Generation N+1.

Happy New Year! Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Good morning and welcome to 2009!

Lots of housekeeping...

Last night I saw Benjamin Button. Some people didn't like it, I can see not liking it, but I did like it myself. I'm a sucker for a love story. I empathize with Benjamin, he didn't fit in as a child, but he found people who appreciated him for who he is, not on appearances, and they stayed with him through his life. Something a lot of people want but don't have. I also liked that New Orleans played a role in the story, because I love the city, and it's been through a hard time, just like Benjamin. The last scene, the water rushing in to a basement where a clock that runs backwards is still running, is especially sweet. Not best picture, and if anyone gets a nomination for this movie it'll be Brad Pitt, but I think the real star is Cate Blanchett.


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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