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

Rebooting the News #13 Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Thirteen is a lucky number when it comes to revolutions!

We've got a new website for the podcast and a new feed.

Go get it! (And it's in the feed, too, as always.)

Update: Dan Conover transcribed one of the funnier moments from the podcast.

Twitter. Needs. Competition. Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named hulk.gifNever has it been more clear -- we are building a dangerously precarious centralized system that will, given everything we know about computer networks, at some point, fail. It's so important now that the US State Department got in the loop in the last couple of days.

Meanwhile there's an incredibly vibrant competition in the Twitter client space. At least three leading apps: Twitterdeck, Seesmic and Tweetie, are slugging it out. Each with strengths, waves of new versions, users comparing products, always something new to look forward to. The kind of rapid evolution we desperately need in the back-end.

There's a little bit of Facebook in the mix (it has a lot of users, but not many of them use these clients, I think) and yes there is, but it has a very small user base compared to Twitter and Facebook.

In a thread that was spawned from a Twitter post earlier today, we talk about the possibility of a competitor to Twitter coming from Google or Facebook. Not sure who else could launch a back-end that would find enough support among users to gain critical mass. And I agree, totally, with Don Park, that if Facebook wants to play, they must start from scratch, with a totally simple system that matches Twitter, and adds stability, performance, beauty, or a few sought-after features.

Google would compete by building a system out of components of the open web, the small-pieces-loosely-joined approach. I outlined how this would work in an earlier blog post.

Fresh Air interviews Woody Allen Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named sleeper.jpgI love Woody Allen movies, more so over time, as I grow older, they seem to get better. A couple of years ago I went through them all, Annie Hall, Manhattan -- classics, but there were also some surprises, some great movies that I didn't remember as being great. I pretty much liked them all.

This weekend, I finally saw Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which got mixed reviews, but I loved it. On Twitter someone said it's just a beautiful postcard of Barcelona. Agreed, and what's wrong with that! People who love art somehow can't forgive a movie for not being heavy on story, but rather leaving an impression. Those are some of my favorite movies, they're more like paintings or postcards. Here, look at this scene and now look at this one. If it's beautifully done, if the acting is superb and the story convincing, as it is in VCB, what's not to like?

So, when I saw that Woody Allen was the guest on Fresh Air, I savored it. He doesn't do many interviews, and this one was disappointing.

Terry Gross went for the scoop. She wanted him to slip up and confess something about his personal life, so she repeatedly asked probing questions, which he skillfully and for me, painfully, dodged. This is the interviewer interfering, getting between the subject and the listener -- preventing the subject from talking about what the listener is most interested in. With Woody Allen, that would be movies! Who would be a better person to just let ramble about the art of movies. To remember his favorites, or what it was like to work with the writers and actors he's worked with.

There are little bits of this -- the script of his new movie was originally written for Zero Mostel, but he died before they could make the movie. You get a little peek behind the scenes, how he works, his craft, and how it relates to Mostel's.

Gross often nails it, where other interviewers are selfish, she lets the subject be the story. But not this time, unfortunately.

Yet another ode to the NYT Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Oh the NYT. They do such a great job with the news, but they do such a terrible job of running the business.

In the last few days while CNN et al completely dropped the ball on the Iran story, they were right there, on top of it. Great stuff.

Everyone else in the news business missed the Twitter SUL story, but the Times nailed it. I was so happy I can't tell you.

But in the meantime they're cutting the pay of Boston Globe reporters, and have no idea how or if their business will operate next year or the year after.

All this at a time when their product is in high demand. People love news, and we love the way the NYT does the news. So why is there a problem?

Oddly enough, I know, and I can tell you.

Get your coffee, have a seat, let me tell you a story...

A picture named uncleCrackBerry.jpgThree years ago I got a Blackberry and fell in love. I was riding all over the place on the BART system and I could take the news with me. It didn't take me five minutes to realize it was the perfect River of News device, so I adapted my NYT and BBC rivers to work in their browser.

Unlike most developers I have the phone number of the CEO of the NY Times Digital, so I rang him up and told him how wonderful the Times was on my Blackberry and please please let's tell the world about it. After all he had an incredible communication system for doing exactly that. I wanted to fly to NY to show it off, but he said we should have a phone conference first. I thought this was a bad idea, but I did it. I shouldn't have.

I have no idea who was at the meeting, but the first thing they did was tell me about their upcoming mobile version of the Times that they had spent millions developing. Right off the bat I knew it had to be terrible. The only way to spend that much money on a mobile news site is to put all kinds of hurdles between the reader and the news. I said I had a totally simple way to do it that I had developed in a couple of days, by myself. (I lied, it actually took about an hour.) Then they asked what I wanted. I knew we were headed off a cliff. I said that isn't important, they pressed, I said yes -- I probably did want to be paid for my work. That was the end of the meeting. They were off the phone in less than a minute. I'm sure their version of the story will be different. But the net result was indisputable. They waited over three years before they had a reasonable way to deliver news to mobile users.

Yes I know they have millions of people reading their mobile site. But I'm talking about something else. I'm talking about the backbone of news delivery, and today that's indisputably Twitter. The stupid thing about our meeting, the lose-lose about it, is that right then and there we were on the edge of inventing it. And because I didn't get on a plane (my mistake) and because they had so much invested in doing it the wrong way (their mistake) we didn't do it.

So the first-level problem for the Times is they now are authors for Twitter, doing great work, and not being paid for it. Once again, they're going to be complaining, soon, that the tech industry is pocketing the profits while they do the work. (They'll be wrong, a lot of other people are working for free too.) The higher-level problem is they aren't competing. They're just sitting there. Spending money in obvious and wasteful Dilbert-like ways, and letting the small nimble competiton run circles around them.

I would, if I were them, ask their Twitter users (and they have quite a few) what was so wonderful about Twitter as it covered the Iran story. Ask them to explain the role the NYT played in it, and if it was generally appreciated (they were great, and in general it wasn't appreciated). And then, and this is the key question, ask them how it could have been better.

There's still an opportunity to create the news system of the future. But only if you're very smart about it.


Last update: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 10:27 PM Pacific.

A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 54, 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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