Archive >  2009 >  September >  18 Previous / Next

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

He has a million followers Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named rossihelmet.jpgScott Simon is on the SUL and boasts in the first sentence of the description of his interview with Clay Shirky that he has nearly 1 million followers.

"Host Scott Simon has nearly 1 million followers on Twitter."

Scott Simon is an expert on Twitter because he has nearly 1 million followers.

He actually has 1,022,105 followers and follows 56.

I once replied to him on Twitter because he said something dorky about blogs on his NPR show. He said that people talk lovingly about their newspaper, it's "my paper," but no one says "my blog."

I told him that I have a blog and I'm proud of it, and I've never had a newspaper. I give money to NPR every year, but I wonder why. He's one of the smartest people there, and as you can see, he'd not that smart.

But I do love Radio Lab. They're on Twitter too. They don't have a million followers. Thanks!

The RSS channel-level image Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named jy.jpgA heads-up on something that's going to prove useful down the road, something you might want to start thinking about now. Credit for this observation goes to the brilliant Frenchman, JY Stervinou.

One of the things about Twitter that really works are the 48-by-48 images they call avatars. They quickly become symbols for the person. When someone changes their avatar it's surprisingly important. I changed mine from King Kong to Don Quixote and people started treating me better. Not kidding. People really want me to use my face, but it bothers me to look at my face all the time. When I figure out how to have two views of myself, one for me and one for everyone else... Anyway.

If we're going to bootstrap a Twitter-like network outside of Twitter we're going to need those avatars. And luckily there's a very nice place to put them, the RSS <image> element. It's as if when Netscape spec'd RSS 0.91 they knew that 10 years later we'd need this.

The only problem is that most RSS images aren't 48-by-48 (of course) and most of them aren't square. That's what you might start thinking about, creating a square graphic that looks good. Since many people and organizations are crafting Twitter versions of themselves, this should be a relatively easy thing to do.

BTW, I include the Twitter avatars in the cloud-enabled feeds I maintain for all the people I follow. Here's an illustration.

Radio Lab Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Once in a while you come across a gem like the Radio Lab podcast. I listened in delight a few nights ago when an episode about death aired on KQED. An hour of philosophical and scientific stories about death, a subject we all must spend a fair amount of time thinking and dreaming about.

A picture named vase.jpgA couple of examples.

The three stages of death: 1. Your body dies. 2. It's buried or cremated. 3. Your name is spoken for the last time. They postulate that your soul is in limbo until you reach stage 3. For most people that day is the day you're joined in death by your last loved one. And this makes the point that fame, which so many peope seek, may not be such a great thing. After you reach stage 2, you have no influence on how your name is used. The poor farmer whose property was turned into a college after he died, and was named after him, now must wait until the college closes. And that might not happen for quite a while.

The next idea is about a dead language, Latin. What does it sound like? No one knows, because the last native Latin speaker died centuries ago. But think about pottery. It's spun on a wheel while wet. Maybe, just maybe while it's being spun, the grooves faintly record people speaking around the potter. So a Roman vase might be an ancient phonograph record and contain echoes of long-dead Latin-speakers.

These ideas aren't useful but they touch something inside me that I like.

Bravo! ;->

Google, open communities, patents Permanent link to this item in the archive.

When Google patents ideas that have been openly discussed and implemented in the RSS community, and then doesn't understand why this raises objections -- well, I'd say we have had a failure to communicate. At least.

I'm thinking about the patent that Google was granted on September 15 that covers reading lists for feeds. They say it covers other things, and that's probably true, and if so -- if they had to patent something they should have stuck to the new stuff. And I think there's a good argument that they should follow the conventions of the community and not patent their innovations, rather contribute them in the same fashion that others had contributed their good ideas.

It's as if Google ran Linux servers and used the fact in their marketing (no problem). Then five years later it turns out they had forked the Linux code base (which is permitted) and was marketing it under their own brand name (okay) and had not checked their improvements back into the community (there's the problem). This would be a violation of the norms of the community. True, it would also be a violation of the open source license, and perhaps we should have one in the RSS community. But in both cases these licenses would be hard or impossible to enforce. I don't believe the GPL has ever been tested in court. And in the case of open formats and protocols, who knows if such restrictions would even be legal. But clearly the "norms" part of the argument is stronger than the legal one. If Google wants to be part of the RSS community, it should be respectful of it. That means not using their size and legal resources to take what's good about our work, foreclose it, sell it as their own, and control others' use of it (which is the point of a patent).

All of this adds up to nothing if Google's lawyers are like lawyers everywhere, and they probably are. And if all their talk about being supportive of open source is just talk. But, on the chance that they're serious about wanting to work with and support open communities of developers, there are pragmatic reasons why they should be respectful and careful. And they have not been either.

This isn't all about Google...

The rest of us could have taken steps to prevent this problem. And we still can head off similar problems in the future.

1. There is an idea out their called peer-to-patent. The USPTO ran a pilot project that just ended. Seems like a good idea. Basically the patent applications are published before they are granted, giving experts a chance to comment on the novelty of the work, thus providing guidance to the examiner.

2. I've long argued that there must be a parallel patent system, a good one, that works more or less the same way as the USPTO's process with one important difference. At the end of the process the public owns the invention. The creator is given full credit for his or her work, which often is all they want. But a careful document is generated that creates a hole within which there will never be patents. Every one of these unpatents acts to combat the bad kind of patents. (This idea has already been widely discussed.)

3. And perhaps there should be cash awards for those unpatents, to create commercial incentives to produce novel ideas. That would go a long ways to counter the (imho invalid) argument that patents spawn innovation. I think quite the opposite. Most patents in my area are like Google's reading list patent. Filed after-the-fact by a big company, claiming the ideas of engineers working outside of large companies.


Last update: Friday, September 18, 2009 at 7:06 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.

Dave Winer Mailto icon

My most recent trivia on Twitter.

My Wish List

On This Day In: 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997.

September 2009
Aug   Oct

Click here to see a list of recently updated OPML weblogs.

Click here to read blogs commenting on today's Scripting News.

Morning Coffee Notes, an occasional podcast by Scripting News Editor, Dave Winer.

Click here to see an XML representation of the content of this weblog.

Click here to view the OPML version of Scripting News.

© Copyright 1997-2009 Dave Winer.

Previous / Next