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

Friends see things you don't Permanent link to this item in the archive.

This is a very personal time for me, lots of observations, things I'm learning about myself, things you can only see when a big tree falls and light shines on spaces that were previously hidden.

Here's a reason why it's good to have friends (as if one needs a reason) and why you should share your childhood pictures with them as soon as you can. I waited way too long for this.

When they see pictures of you as a baby and toddler and then as a small child they see something you never see in those pictures --> You!

Doc Searls' comment, as usual, hits the nail square on the head. "That's Dave! Great to see the kid, the son and the big brother, and how they match with the man and the friend."

Francine Hardway sees it too.

What a revelation. I never liked looking at those pictures, and now I know why. I didn't believe it ever happened. I have no memory of it, but friends can see what you can't -- that you were there. Now all of a sudden things your parents say start making sense. They were there too. Of course they have the advantage of remembering.

Some of Dad's pictures are so good they deserve to be called out specially.

A picture named family.jpg

That's my grandmother, Lucy Kiesler, on the left, and my mother, Eve Winer, on the right. My brother Peter Winer is sitting with his back to us, and the guy in the loud 70s style coat is me, at age 21. The picture was taken in New Orleans, not sure exactly where (possibly Commander's Palace) just before or after my college graduation. Click on the picture to see the full image. And the full set of pictures, uploaded yesterday, is on my Dad's memorial site.

Another observation. My Dad did a great job of organizing all the pictures. All I had to do was write some scripts to merge the captions, and link the thumbs with the originals. I'm storing all the stuff in Amazon S3 because I think it's the most reliable storage we have right now. Should I die or become incapacitated they will just keep billing my credit card, and hopefully my successors will just let the charges go through. Amazon really ought to allow people (as opposed to companies) purchase perpetual hosting. What a contribution to our culture they would be making if they did so.

What's obvious about netbooks Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named dog.jpgSome people in the tech industry believe netbooks are a mistake that will be corrected any day now. Problem is they've been saying that for hundreds of days while the netbook market keeps growing, as the market for more expensive portables stagnates. The trend won't reverse because netbooks represent a far more fundamental shift than they recognize. Far more significant than I've realized until just the other day.

12/17/08: What is a Netbook?

At one level, a netbook is just a new product, something between a notebook and an iPhone. It fits easily into a briefcase or knapsack, has a keyboard and screen that while not exactly spacious, are functional.

The iPhone is a compromise, a good one because of its supreme portability (it fits in a pocket). But netbooks are a good compromise too.

An aside, I know some people use iPhones for their networking. Scoble is my prime example. I can't get him to use my software these days because it runs in a desktop style web browser. Of course what he's doing is a reasonable choice. But it's never worked for me because communicating on an iPhone is too slow. Not just the typing, not just the cramped keyboard, but the actual networking. I had an interesting experience the other day on my mother's new FIOS home network, all of a sudden I could use the iPhone the way Scoble does. For some reason it doesn't work very well on my network at home, and the net connection from AT&T is infinitely too slow to be usable. So it could be that my iPhone experience is much worse than most people's.

As a product a netbook is less expensive, more portable, and has longer battery life than a notebook.

It has a bigger keyboard, bigger screen and is a better reading and writing tool than an iPhone.

It's in the middle -- and there is a middle -- a product between an iPhone and notebooks

A picture named eee.jpgBut the netbook is not just a new product. It exposes something pretty ugly about the computer industry. They've been controlling prices. There must have been price collusion before netbooks came out. It's clearly possible to build notebooks for much less than they manufacturers are charging.

That's a matter for the Federal Trade Commission to look into, but even that is not what's going on with netbooks. The truly significant thing is this -- the users took over.

Let me say that again: The users took over.

I always say this is the lesson of the tech industry, but the people in the tech industry never believe it, but this is the loop. In the late 70s and early 80s the minicomputer and mainframe guys said the same kinds of things about Apple IIs and IBM PCs that Michael Dell is saying about netbooks. It happens over and over again, I've recited the loops so many times that every reader of this column can recite them from memory. All that has to be said is that it happened again.

Once out, the genie never goes back in the bottle.

This should serve as a lesson to the architects at Twitter and Facebook. The day will come when your users figure out that they can do what you do without the costs you impose. Better to prepare for that day, factor it into your economics, than be surprised by it as Michael Dell appears to have been. He's complaining about netbooks probably because his expense structure can't sustain the business. He's a leading vendor of netbooks, yet is selling against them. This means only one thing, and it's kind of obvious -- he's losing money on each sale. He can't afford to be in the business. Which means he can't afford to be in business at all.

Windows 7 may be nice, I don't know and I don't care. I like my XP-based netbook just fine with its 10 inch screen, 160GB hard drive and 8-hour battery life. My computer cost $350. I'm not a likely customer for an upsell. Those are the new economics, like it or not.

An open letter to Om Permanent link to this item in the archive.

In a thread about netbooks on his blog, Om asks what he's missing in his analysis of the relationship between the computer industry and users re netbooks. I spent some time thinking of an analogy, and came up with one about the industry we all love to hate -- the airline industry.

So here's the story...

Once upon a time there was an MIT professor who said: "I have an idea, let's design an airline that can get you to a great resort for $100! Then every schoolkid can afford to have a great vacation in Mexico, Italy or Thailand!!"

No matter how hard he tried the professor couldn't come up with a solution. The moguls of the airline industry sighed in relief. Their margins were safe.

A picture named southwest.gifNot so fast! A Taiwanese airline named Susa discovered a way to do it for $600, which was still a lot cheaper than the airlines could get you to Italy or Spain for. Huge numbers of people signed up and the airline bustled with new business. People came home from their holidays and told everyone that they had a great trip. And with the new economies of scale Susa was able to get the price down to $350. Not the $100 that the MIT professor promised, but still cheap enough that lots more people could have a vacation, and while some people still went on the more expensive and luxurious airlines, more and more people were flying Susa.

In fact this happened in the airline industry, and it forced a lot of the big airlines to either merge or go out of business. Maybe analysts in the airline industry say that any day the users will tire of the cheap flights, but they'd be just as wrong as the analysts in tech who predict the demise of netbooks.


Last update: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 10:21 AM Pacific.

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Leon Winer

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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