Dave Winer, 56, is a visiting scholar at NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and editor of the Scripting News weblog. He 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 New York City.
"The protoblogger." - NY Times.
"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.
"Dave was in a hurry. He had big ideas." -- Harvard.
"Dave Winer is one of the most important figures in the evolution of online media." -- Nieman Journalism Lab.
10 inventors of Internet technologies you may not have heard of. -- Royal Pingdom.
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.
8/2/11: Who I Am.
My 40 most-recent links, ranked by number of clicks.
FYI: You're soaking in it. :-)
The cross-country drive has become a ritual for me, it signals a major shift in my life, usually for the better. ">
Anyway, thinking about what Twitter may announce next week, I recalled that when the Google was getting ready to announce what everyone thought was their Twitter-killer, I wrote a piece outlining the product that I thought would be a good answer to Twitter. Instead Google shipped the disappointing in-so-many-ways Buzz.
Now, let's try that experiment in reverse. Suppose Twitter wants to make their offering much more competitive and at the same time much more attractive to developers. Sure, as Fred Wilson telegraphed, some developers are going to get rolled over, esp those who camped out on the natural evolutionary path of the platform vendor. But there are lots of things Twitter Corp can do to create more opportunities for developers, ones that expand the scope of the platform and make it possible for a thousand flowers to bloom, a thousand valuable non-trivial flowers.
The largest single thing Twitter could do is open tweet-level metadata. If I want to write an app for dogs who tweet, let me add a "field" to a tweet called isDog, a boolean, that tells me that the author of the tweet is a dog. That way the dog food company who has a Twitter presence can learn that the tweet is from a dog, from the guy who's developing a special Twitter client just for dogs, even though Twitter itself has no knowledge of the special needs of dogs. We can also add a field for breed and age (in dog years of course). Coat type. Toy preference. A link to his or her owner. Are there children in the household?
There's plenty of prior art. Two examples I can think of are Apple's Resource Manager and Amazon's SimpleDB. There are probably many others. (I should mention that Frontier's object database, the core structure around which it's built is also prior art. It's also open source. Feel free to use the ideas.)
There are some nice things that fall out of this architecture, if Twitter should choose to do it.
1. No more need for URL-shortening. The URL becomes just another piece of metadata attached to a tweet. If you need to shorten it on its way out through an SMS gateway, go for it. (Even though I've said it explicitly, I'm sure I'll have it "explained" to me that because of SMS, the URLs must be shortened for everyone, even if we don't use SMS. Pure nonsense. These guys should take an introductory course in Computer Science.)
2. You can attach a picture to every tweet, and still link to an article. Just make "thumb" or something like that a default bit of metadata. (An aside, why not use the conventions of XML to define the metadata. All the elements of the core namespace are reserved for Twitter. If you want to extend it, create a namespace and have a party. Please no meta-meta-language though, just let a little chaos reign. It must at some level.)
3. You can also support long and short-form tweets. The 140 characters can act as a synopsis for the longer text that's included in the tweet. This would give people the feature they're always asking for in RSS feeds -- full text.
4. A developer like Disqus could implement a full threaded discussion system for every tweet, and thereby give Twitter a way to compete with Facebook and if Google ever gets its act together, Buzz.
Now of course all the developer opportunities created by open metadata just open the door for more tears in 2014 when Twitter forecloses on the developers who figured out where the gold was in those APIs. But my friends the developers, that's how it always is when you develop for a corporate-owned platform. You have to make peace with that reality before you write your first line of code.
PS: The iMac that I usually write on is all packed up, I'm writing this at the kitchen table amid all kinds of boxes with my Asus 1005HA netbook. It's pretty good, but it's not as comfortable as my desktop. Please allow for that in your critique of this story. Thanks! ">
Update at 7PM Pacific: Twitter announces they've acquired iPhone Twitter client Tweetie. This is a huge deal of course.
I'm following Bruce Sterling's excellent advice to make the changes you've been wanting to make when circumstances permit. Usually it's the end of a marriage, the last child leaving home, a parent dying. It's a long story how I decided to become a former home-owner, yet again (second time). But then again it was not such a long story.
Reminds me of one a neighbor told me when she called my house in Woodside many years ago. She said hello and then said she was calling all the neighbors to say she was getting some baby goats (might have been sheep my memory is bad) and that they'd be crying for the first few nights because they had just been separated from their mother. It was nothing to worry about and it would stop and they'd be happy soon.
I couldn't think of anything to say but "Why get goats?" She said it was because she always wanted them.
Same thing for me. I always wanted to live in Manhattan. It's been a dream since I was a little boy growing up in Queens. Now I've done it, so it's time to fully implement it. Will I be in NY for the rest of my life? Who knows. Life is an adventure. Here we go! ">