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

Coolest software of the decade? Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named keychain.gifEveryone's asking questions about the decade that's coming to a close, I'd like to ask what's the coolest software you used this decade?

For me, it might be Dropbox. I keep thinking of new uses for it.

For a guy with a huge number of computers (I don't even want to count them), it's not only a lifesaver but an idea factory. I've already built utilities on it. The basis: polling a folder is incredibly low-cost. You can do a lot of it without impacting the performance of your machine. That was true in 2002 when we made Radio do upstreaming. It's even more true today.

Because Dropbox wires together folders on any machine you link into it, it's a very simple content distributor. You can have 18 computers looking for something, when one finds it, they all find out and get the thing. It could be large or small.

Like all cool things, it's fairly obvious, and has probably been done many times before. But they put it together now and it works and is trivial to set up. I keep thinking of things to use it for. All of which makes it very cool. Unless I'm missing something, it's my CSOTD.

Update: There's a thread on this topic on Ycombinator.

The new Retweet is cool! Permanent link to this item in the archive.

A picture named radishSpirit.gifI sort of understand why people don't like the new retweet, but I like it very much, and probably for many of the reasons they don't like it.

If you follow me on Twitter you know that a lot of my tweets are links to stories on the web. I would probably forward other people's links more if there were a way to give them credit for the link without adding all that overhead to the text. I find that once you add a bit of text to a tweet you dilute its meaning. Do it two or three times and its a confusing mess. I don't know who said what.

Worse, often the meaning of messages are reversed when they're retweeted. Not only does the person show off that they didn't understand what was said, but they propogate the mistake by sending it to all their followers.

In the new method, forwarding a link through Twitter is error-free, no noise is added because it can't, and the lineage is carried as metadata, and doesn't take up any of the 140 characters.

I applaud features that don't use up the 140 characters, and like even more features that give them back to us. I think Twitter should be encouraged to do more to pull data out of the text of a tweet and carry it as metadata, so apps can do stuff with it, and so people get to use the 140 chars to say what they have to say.

I do almost no retweeting in the old regime. But I already do a lot more now, and will do even more once everyone has the feature. Once it's been out there for a few weeks I think we'll wonder how we ever lived without it.

Journalists as ski instructors Permanent link to this item in the archive.

One of the cool things about riding on a train is that you meet a lot of people.

There are Europeans who are visiting the US and have the train riding habit from home.

There are people who remember the golden age of trains and can tell you how this or that is a shadow of its former self.

And there are people who are afraid of plane travel and prefer trains to buses.

There are also people like me who had a cross-country train trip on their bucket list, and found that the fantasy was better than the reality. (Partially because this trip follows the route of I-80 and I-70, which for me is well-traveled, by car.)

When you're sitting with strangers in the dining car, conversation turns to What You Do, and part of my story is Rebooting The News. In explaining what was happening with the news system in the US, I came up with a new analogy this time, which I told in Rebooting The News #33, and thought I should repeat here.

Journalism is like skiing in the 50s or 60s. Previously it had been a sport that very few people enjoyed, and they were all very good. But now the doors were opening to amateurs, as it did with skiing. The pros are going to have to share the slopes with people who don't take the sport as seriously as they do. They're still going to be able to ski, but the rest of us are not just going to admire them for how skilled they are, we're going to do it too. They can even earn a living as ski patrol and ski instructors. Or lift operators or more mundane jobs like people who work in hotels and drive the shuttle bus. There are still jobs in skiing after the arrival of the amateurs. But the exclusivity is gone.

Is Twitter more open than News Corp? Permanent link to this item in the archive.

My chin fell to the floor this morning as I read a BBC article quoting Twitter co-CEO Biz Stone advising Rupert Murdoch to be more open.

This got me to think about where Twitter is and where they're going and how similar it is to where Murdoch's newspapers are.

In a newspaper, reporters get the prime space with the big headlines, and the readers are placed in a corner, Letters to the Editor. Or represented by a "Public Editor" who does a better job of representing the editors and owners.

In Twitter there's a similar hierarchy developing, pretty rapidly.

The prime space is allocated, in a totally non-transparent way, to certain people, and the rest of us are mostly talking to ourselves, in very small numbers.

I was having coffee the other day with a former colleague at Berkman, Ethan Zuckerman, who said he would try to do something special if he had the millions of followers you get when you're on the Suggested Users List. I've seen people go that route. All of a sudden it's not good enough to be yourself, now you have to do something to take advantage of the flow you're able to generate. I wonder if that distortion, when it all shakes out, will be all that different from the feeling a reporter gets that he or she is more than a person writing from their own point of view. My guess is that it's more or less the same thing.

Stone has made a mess of something that could have been great by not being tranparent. How ironic that he advises Murdoch on something he himself so badly needs to do. Pretty typical of the way the tech industry relates to media.

Anyway, I think it's inevitable that Murdoch and many others in the media business will see the need to challenge Twitter for dominance in the realtime message distribution network. I don't see Twitter as being any more or less open than Mudoch's company. The basis for success will come elsewhere.


Last update: Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 6:45 PM Pacific.

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~About the Author~

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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