Dave Winer, 56, is a software developer 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 and NYU, 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.
scriptingnews2mail at gmail dot com.
My 40 most-recent links, ranked by number of clicks.
FYI: You're soaking in it. :-)
BTW, I lined up to buy an iPhone 4 on the first day.
"I don't care."
The other day I wrote about the Zen of being a tester of a new piece of software. Be patient. It's a long journey. The bugs are there for a reason, it's best to assume they will always be there then you will be surprised and delighted in the unlikely event that one of them goes away.
Today we get a little bit more pragmatic.
You've been asked to test the software because the people who are writing it would like your help to make it better. They want to fix bugs, and the easier you make it for them, the more likely it is they will be able to. Sometimes people produce bug reports that are so insightful they lead the programmer right to the mistake in the code.
The basic information a bug report should contain is this:
1. What you were doing.
2. What you expected to happen.
3. What actually happened.
All three parts are very important. If you really did discover a bug, the programmer will need to know what you were doing so he or she can try to reproduce it. If they can't, it will be next to impossible to fix it.
The second part helps nail down the first part. Usually people know what they were expecting. Also, it's possible that what you were expecting isn't what the software does. An extreme example: "I was expecting that when I pressed the blue button at the bottom of the screen I would be granted three wishes."
For the third part a screen shot can help. It may contain information that's meaningful to the programmer that you wouldn't think to include in your report.
Another way to help the programmer is to say if the problem is or isn't reproducible. That is, if you try step #1 again, do you get the results in step #3? By trying to reproduce it you may add important information to the first part of the report.
PS: All bugs are reproducible, that's almost the definition of a bug.
PPS: Another howto re bug reports.
Doing some testing with Scripting2 this morning.
1. There have been some reports of duplicate posts. I think this happens when you, perhaps accidentally, click the Save button more than once the first time you're saving the post. The reason this is a problem is that there's invisible metadata stored on the "summit" of the post, the line that holds the title. One of the bits of data is the ID of the post. The first time you save there is no ID, that's the cue to the server to create a new post to store the text. If you click it twice, normally that's not a problem -- it just saves the post twice. But could be a problem the first time.
The simplest way to deal with this is to have the button wait until the save is complete. I've been doing it in a separate thread, mostly for esthetic reasons (if I remember correctly). I'll try not doing it in a thread.
My theory is wrong in every respect. I have a duplicate post myself and I surely didn't hit the Save button too rapidly. I have years of training, and in all that time this has never happened. So the obvious answer is there is a bug in the server side that creates duplicate posts. Or something like that.
2. How to insert a hyperlink. The right-click menu in the outliner offers a way to create a link node. See the OPML 2.0 spec for an idea what that is. That usually isn't what users want -- they want to hot-up a bit of text with an address. That's what the Add Link command in the HTML menu is for. First, put the URL on the clipboard. Then select the text you want to link from. Then choose Add Link from the HTML menu.
Doing some testing with Scripting2 this morning.
1. There have been some reports of duplicate posts. I think this happens when you, perhaps accidentally, click the Save button more than once the first time you're saving the post. The reason this is a problem is that there's invisible metadata stored on the "summit" of the post, the line that holds the title. One of the bits of data is the ID of the post. The first time you save there is no ID, that's the cue to the server to create a new post to store the text. If you click it twice, normally that's not a problem -- it just saves the post twice. But could be a problem the first time.
There are two approaches I could take. I'm going to do an experiment now to see which one I'll try.
They say all the good domain names are taken, but in my experience a lot of good ones are still available.
I'm using the acquisition of this domain as an excuse to add a feature to Scripting2 that allows me to map a domain to a blog post, as a placeholder.
I like this domain because the term "really simple" is starting to show up in marketing slogans. It caught on. All because RSS needed a name that made sense to human beings way back in 2001.
They also say the shorter the name the better. But names get conceptually shortened as they get more familiar. Every year since 2001, as the name "Really Simple Syndication" was repeated, the idea of "really simple" became easier to say and recognize as something good. So while the name has a lot of letters, that's only in a technical sense. The two words in it are very short, as concepts.
BTW, there's a bug in my domain mapping software that I will fix shortly. I have to go to a meeting right now. So for a little bit the placeholder site (this page) is not mapping correctly. Still diggin!
There's a long list of products that are getting annexed by the market defined by iPhone and Android. The most recent to succumb are e-book reader hardware and GPS devices.
Someday the iPhone will be seen for what it is and is not. It is not a phone. It is a Swiss Army Knife of ultra portable computing. Sure the phone on the iPhone doesn't work, but who uses the phone these days? But don't worry voice will be new again, seen as an innovation. Look forward to the day when you'll text someone: I'm at a Starbucks, let's switch to voice. ">
Amazon being smart, is quickly turning Kindle into a software product. No strategy taxes for the books. If people prefer to read on an iPad or a Droid, not a problem for Amazon -- they make software for all platforms. Even netbooks running Windows and Mac desktops. The Apple version of Kindle does video, even though Amazon's hardware doesn't. How's that for being open-minded and aggressive!
Now it's getting pretty close to too late for the low-end camera-makers to add basic communications to their products, and design the UI around that, instead of the klunky methods they now have for getting the pictures off the devices. It should be simple. As I review pictures on the camera, I will click a button that says that I want the photo to be transmitted to a place I configured through a website from my desktop, laptop, iPad -- whatever. Then, in the background, quickly -- it uploads the pictures, with nothing further needed from the user.
Apple and Google still do not have this functionality.
Imagine how a camera with the Twitter or Facebook logo would work. You wouldn't even need to configure it beyond telling it your Facebook username and password. If Canon isn't working on this now they'll be out of the low-end camera business in less than five years. That's how quickly the Apple/Google juggernaut is moving.
It's time for one of the products that are in Apple's cross-hairs to do the necessary innovation before Apple does. Don't be a sitting duck and then a deer caught in the headlights, making stupid jokes about how you can hold your product any way you want. No one thinks its funny, it's so sad. It's already too late when it comes to that.
PS: People will say, as they always do, that I should check out EyeFi, but I have -- of course. Not what I'm thinking of.
PPS: Version 2.0 of the communicating camera product will be the social camera.
And tomorrow it gets a third.
I'm starting with people who are regulars at the Thursday evening group at NYU. Rather than boot up through a mail list, I want to try booting up with people I see regularly face to face. Last time I did that was with employees of Living Videotext, and the product was MORE. It was both a long time ago, and a spectacularly successful product. Part of the reason it was so successful was the excellent communication with early users, with people who really cared about the product.
Scripting2 is a remote descendant of MORE. Both are outliners. Both are publishing tools. But Scripting2 is a networking tool and built inside its own programming language and database, with a deep runtime environment. MORE was a Mac app in the early days of Mac apps (the 80s).
Anyway, some of the next steps:
1. Get the Bookmarks menu working with Scripting2 stories. (Also write a post explaining how to activate the Bookmarks menu.)
2. Fix a bug with the Blogroll button. The buttons on the windows don't appear the first time you click.
3. Establish an updates process with the first users.
4. Crib the link bookmarklet from LifeLiner.
5. Window types so Cmd-S work properly.
6. Proper changes page.
7. Set up the AWS AMI.
I don't always do my development work out in the open as I have been with the new version of my blogging software. I do it when I want to provide opportunities for people to build on what I'm doing.
For example, if you do a View Source on this article you'll see a bunch of <link> elements in the head section of the document. They point at the source doe for the page, the RSS feed for the site, the RSS feed for the live/link-blog, the OPML source for the blogroll. There may be other things linked in there in teh future.
I've also received proposals for the inclusion of other metadata in there and I'm probably going to pick up on some of those. Especially when I already ahve the data around.
What I'm interested in are: 1. Alternate renderings of the content and 2. Various kinds of syndication, including the ever-elusive loosely-coupled 140-character network.
So when you see me do something like add a new live feed to my blog, it's probably because I want other people to pick up on it, or at least to have it stimulate their thinking.
In a world where people are too chicken to be the egg, I want to be both the chicken and the egg. That's how you get things like blogging, RSS and podcasting off the ground. ">
I've lived on all kinds of streets in all kinds of neighborhoods, but I've never lived on streets that get so much use, so much attention and so much maintenence as the streets of New York.
A few days ago, on the solstice, there were concerts in the parks and streets. Everywhere you went. Just walking around lower Manhattan I saw a half-dozen. But unless you were within earshot, you probably didn't even notice. That's how big this place is.
Yesterday a huge parade wound its way through the avenues and streets. There were festivals with booths and stages. Huge crowds everywhere and this is the time of year when everyone's gone!
Yesterday the streets were so filled with people and junk it's amazing to see this morning they're clean. An army of workers with all kinds of equipment and tools worked through the night to get the city ready for another work week.
Meanwhile the World Cup was happening on the other side of the world, but there were big screens, outdoors, all over the city with people of all nationalities fixed on the outcome.
I've lived on streets where you almost never see a city worker. They just sort of take care of themselves. But New York is so heavily used, it requires so many people just to keep running. It's a wonder it actually works at all.
There must be people whose whole careers are spent improving the way all these people work together, to make due with less as recessions and bankruptcies and acts of terrorism take their toll.
There was a time, when I was growing up here, when it seemed the city was spiraling into chaos. There were riots. Parts of the city were burning. The government was deliberately "renewing" whole sections of the city, with often disastrous results. But all that seems to be over. Nowadays this place seems to actually work.
Steve Jobs was Google's first choice for CEO
Live-blogging is interesting and important.
The idea is that there is some event that is creating news in real-time. You want to open a window and start taking notes and have those notes published quickly as you type, without much distraction. Readers who are tuned into your updates will see them in near-real-time.
There are a lot of activities converging on this focal point. Twitter, for example, could be considered a live-blogging environment. But its user interface is pretty klunky for this kind of note-taking. And it tends to bog down or fail when news is happening in real-time.
The popular tech blogs, esp the gadget blogs -- Engadget and Gizmodo -- do live-blogs of press events. Not sure what their editorial tools look like. As a reader, you open their web page and watch it update. Very easy to use, but you can only watch one flow at a time, a disadvantage over Twitter, which joins the flows.
Clearly some of the live-bloggers have advanced editorial tools behind the scenes. For example, I was watching the NY Times soccer site live-blog yesterday's game between Ghana and the US. Lots of structure evident there. Wonder what their editing tools look like?
Also, the EBS for Twitter would likely be based on RSS feeds. Then I came across SocialWhale, a neat Twitter client from Greece that integrates with RSS and Twitter. Twitter is a corporate platform, RSS is not. That's how you evolve from being dependent on a corporate platform, by supporting both, during an interim period. If there's a need to break free, you're already halfway there. Why we had to wait for a Greek developer to lead here is a mystery. John Borthwick, Iain Dodsworth, et al -- please take note.
Anyway, all this leads to a simple idea which I now believe I am ready to implement in Scripting2.
1. The blogger designates a post as the source of the live feed for the blog. There's a fixed pointer in the head section of every page that points to the live-blog feed. It's distinct from the post-level feed. It contains roughly tweet-size mini-posts that are part of a single post.
From day to day the source of the live feed may be a different post. Some days there's nothing new in the live feed. Other days, when there's lots of news. Key point, the live-blog is also part of the chronology of the blog, and the contents also appears in the main feed, but under a single item. In the live-blog feed, each chunk is its own item.
2. As with all other posts in Scripting2 it is edited with the outliner.
3. When you save the post that maps onto the live-blog, the feed is rebuilt automatically.
4. It supports Realtime RSS, so any subscriber who has requested notification will receive it. No polling is necessary.
5. You can watch through the website, as with the NY Times example. Or you can watch through an RSS-aware Twitter client (and hopefully someday Twitter itself).
That's the rough sketch. I'm going to try to get this working in the next few hours. Wish me luck! ">
Update: The features of live-blog and link-blog posts are pretty much the same. My first "live-blog" post actually is a link-blog post.
If you're lucky enough to be one of the first users of a new product while it's being developed, here's a primer on how to think about it, if you want to be as helpful as possible to the process -- if you want to help the product become as great as it possibly can become.
Imagine you're moving into a condo, but the building is still under construction. Your apartment is on the third floor of a fifty story high-rise, and some of the upper floors don't even exist yet! There are no washing machines in the laundry room. There are doormen but they're more like cops. They wear hard hats. Be aware that the pipes are broken and there are live wires exposed in weird places you won't expect them. But if you are brave you will be able to use the tool to do what it was intended to do. You can sleep in the bedroom, watch TV, cook and eat a meal. In fact it might all be much better than normal because you get the sense that you're part of the process that will create a building instead of being someone who just lives there.
User's Manual: Be zen-like. When you spot a problem understand that it is going to be part of the software forever, it will never be fixed. That way if someday by chance it does get fixed you will feel very very very fortunate.
More zen. You're starting a cross-country trip. Think: The trip is just beginning. Even when you reach the half-way point. It's still just beginning. Even when you're in the last 500 miles. Still a long long way to go.
That's the way the lead developer, if the product is going to be any good, is viewing it. In the past I've rushed through development of these things and made bad decisions. It felt like I was going fast, but in fact I was building something that could never be finished. The times I've made good products that won awards, made the users happy and made my investors rich were the ones where I took my time, paced myself and always thought of the journey as just beginning.
I think the same approach works if you're a user too. This way the users and developers can be on the same page, think about it the same way.
Update: Ironic feature request considering the topic. ">
I'm configuring a new Windows server on EC2, but it's not just any server. It's a server that, if everything goes well, will be cloned. Maybe many times. So the questions that are coming up here are ones I want to give some serious thought to.
1. Thinking I ought to pre-install the DynDNS demon. Amazon has Elastic IP addresses, but they cost money. I'm still a newbie with DynDNS so I'm not sure if I can point a CNAME at the server using a DynDNS alias. Have to check this out.
2. Should I include Apache? Are there any other open source HTTP servers on Windows that run as reliably as Apache, which is somewhat of a bear to configure (not exactly something I'd want to give to an end-user). The user of this system is not a tech neophyte, but every bit of simplicity is a good idea. Back in the day WebSTAR on the Mac was very easy to set up. Wonder if anyone has put something like that together for Windows.
3. Same question for an FTP server.
4. I have to install a browser on the system. I've been using Firefox, but am thinking of possibly switching to Chrome. I think Firefox is a hog (actually I don't think it, I know it). Chrome says it's faster, I believe them. But geez it's Google. They're the new Evil Empire. Leaning towards ignoring that and going with Chrome anyway.
5. Dropbox? I wish they had sub-groups so I could use Dropbox to distribute stuff easily among all the clones. But you can't be part of more than one Dropbox network.
6. Windows Remote Desktop Connection is okay, but VNC is better integrated with the Mac, which what I use primarily these days, and I suspect many if not most others do too. Are there any good VNC servers that run on Windows?
I'm sure people will say I should use something other than Windows, like Linux -- but that's not an option so please don't waste your time or mine. Thanks in advance. (All the good it'll do.) ">
It's not magic, or sleight of hand -- it's a new Scripting2 feature. Posts that are not part of the chronology.
Over the years I've made various tools that create web documents in the OPML Editor. They never turn out to be as powerful as the blogging tools I develop, because that's where I focus my efforts. So I figured to get the best web document editing tool, I should just be able to use the blogging tool to make "standalone" documents. For change notes pages, and howtos, etc.
If you see this but not the post about development, then it worked. ">
One thing that's now broken by this -- the next/prev links. They don't know they should skip the pages that aren't in the chronology. At least I think they don't.
Back when I lived in Calif, when I'd come to NYC in the summer I'd be incredibly uncomfortable. I'd wonder how anyone could live here in the summer. I'd stay inside in the air conditioning all the time, and only go out when it was absolutely necessary.
Then, this year, as summer approached (me, a NY resident), I feared I'd be incredibly uncomfortable as the temperature rose. But a funny thing happened. It was as if I was the frog in the slowly simmering pot of water. I barely noticed it was beginning to boil. Sure it was hot. Sure I was sweating. Some days I'd come close to fainting in the heat. But what the fuck, that's the way it is. Not a big deal.
Then I went to Berkeley last week and froze my ass.
I stayed near the water, and went walking on the shore of San Francisco Bay. You'd think -- how nice -- a cool breeze. No way. It was frigid!
Now I'm back in NYC. High in the mid-upper 80s today.
Nice weather! ">
When I left New York for California a week ago I was emerging from one of the most productive development spurts I'd ever had. I didn't know it then but I was about to enter a slump. Since leaving and returning I haven't gotten very much work done at all. I've tried all kinds of tricks to get myself back in gear, but none have worked.
Over the many years I've been a developer, I've hit these periods of stagnation many times. I don't usually write about them -- who wants to say "Geez I didn't get very much done in the last few days" or I'm spending most of my time sleeping or playing video games or eating sushi or hanging out with friends or even hanging out by myself. Or waiting in a line at the Apple Store. Or whatever. Mostly, whatever.
The next thing on my development plate is very exciting stuff!
I want to make it so that blog posts can disappear from the timeline, and become standalone articles.
Every blogging system needs this feature, and most have it. (For example Posterous just added it, with some fanfare.)
The challenge is to do it without giving up too many features (hopefully none) and minimum disruption to the framework. My plan is to simply have a boolean for each post that says whether or not it's in the timeline. If it isn't we just skip it when building whatever it is we're building. I hope to catch this by sub-classing a relatively low-level verb that traverses a calendar structure in reverse-chronologic order. Come to think of it, maybe I'll just make it a new optional parameter to that routine. Maybe that's a good place to start?
So at some point you might see this post disappear from the flow on scripting.com. When you see that happen you'll know that at least my period of stagnation has temporarily abated, if not completely receded.
Another thing I want to do is designate a post as being rendered as an RSS feed, in addition to being rendered as HTML and OPML (as they all are). Hey maybe I should by default make all posts be rendered as RSS feeds? That might be pretty cool. The idea is that the post could then act as input to the EBS of Twitterlike things. Each headline in an outline is an awful lot like a tweet, especially in a world with annotated tweets. If you read the OPML spec and think about outline-level attributes you'll see what I mean. I want to get away from the idea that every tweet is entered into a dialog box as a separate thing. I like thinking of them as a connected stream of consciousness. Also dammit, sometimes my paragraphs are more than 140 characters. But when they flow to Twitter they will get cut off at 140 minus the length of any link pointing at it.
Another thing I have partially done that I need to finish is the right-click menu for the blog post editor. In addition to the usual outline-editing commands I need some that are specific to Scripting2.
Now a prayer to the programming fertility gods. Please let Dave resume his fecundity. Or fecundness. Or whatever. Mostly, whatever. ">
Great piece in Gawker by Ryan Tate about the hot-weather line-ups outside Apple stores all over the world today.
A number of commenters, in response to my earlier piece, said that Apple is unlikely to stop these line-ups because they get the most enthusiastic users in front of local reporters for the best kind of publicity. I'm sure Apple factors this in, but it could backfire on them.
A good reporter, and apparently there still are some, won't take the story as spoon-fed to them. They'll think and dig and go into the line and ask questions Apple PR apparently never thought of.
There was a reporter interviewing people in the "no reservations" line, asking if they had tried to get through to the Apple website to reserve an iPhone on the day their servers weren't working. People were saying yes. People who were pissed because they had to wait while they watched other people, who were lucky enough to get through on that day, go right by them. (I found it impossible to get through myself, and went to an Apple store to make my reservation, and that didn't go so smoothly either.)
While we were on line together, we had plenty of time to get to know each other. And as we got close to the front, it was practically a riot. The people in the "no reservations" line were totally pissed.
And this was at 9AM, when it was still in the low 80s. I can't imagine what it must have been like later as the temperature got into the 90s.
Until this product shipment, Apple could count on either not having reservations, so it was completely fair, first-come-first-serve, or the website worked -- and no one could say they tried and didn't get through. Factor in the likelihood that the weather is going to be dangerously hot somewhere on June 24, you've got a potentially bad situation.
Apple is still enjoying a honeymoon that comes from being the underdog, but that won't last forever. At some point they're going to be seen as the 800-pound gorilla they're becoming, and then the press won't always be their friends. We hope.
It's totally fitting that the first image I saw on my new iPhone web browser was Twitter's Fail Whale.
It fit because: 1. Twitter is my most-used mobile app and 2. Twitter, for whatever reason, can't stay up these days.
It also seems fitting that today the FTC announced that it had settled with Twitter over an old-old issue about security, which hardly seems, even remotely, the worst of Twitter's sins. The politicos haven't realized it yet, or maybe they have -- but we are becoming dangerously dependent on a single point of failure, and that point of failure is telling us not to trust us, these days, all the time with the cute little whale suspended by cute little birds.
Nothing to say that I haven't already said many times. A more fail-safe version of Twitter, based on the architecture of the Internet, is totally feasible. It could be implemented by the client vendors, by simply backing up their users' tweet-stream in an XML-based format to a network of safe meeting places that's activated when Twitter goes down. Eventually, of course, once that system is reliable and performs well, it would replace the centralized system. It would be based on DNS, the naming system of the Internet itself.
It wasn't that long ago that we thought the Fail Whales were a thing of the past. Now they're back. The lesson appears to be that as Twitter grows it will get more fragile, not less.
Obama to Medvedev: Throw away red phones for Twitter.
Stood in line for 3.5 hours and was cheered by Apple staff as I went into the store. The process was pretty painless, set me back $216.66 including tax. It's a nice upgrade to the iPhone, but it doesn't, after a quick first look, seem to rewrite the rules or change the game.
Was it worth the wait? Yes, just this once. Now that I've had the experience of waiting in an Apple line, I don't want to do it again. I made a few friends, my back hurt from standing in one place for a long time, it wasn't too hot that early in the morning. I prefer to have products shipped to my home. I think Apple ought to figure out how to eliminate the need for this exercise.
Also the people on the other line, the ones without reservations, were about to riot when we got let in. This is not a happy system.
PS: Another thing Apple ought to do -- democratize the product rollouts. Use the Internet to get everyone the full experience of the product that you now give exclusively to the tech press. Their first looks are ridiculous gushes of mindless praise. We're the ones who pay your bills. It's amazing how much the users of the product put out for Apple.
PPPS: They were really pushing MobileMe once the line snaked into the store. I didn't see anyone take them up on the special offer of $69 for the first year.
If you can't get a realtime readout on the line at the 14th Street Apple Store?
I mean if I get up at 3AM and there's a party down there, I might actually take a hike. If it's just crazy drunks screaming at and about nothing, I'll just sleep in.
I mean come on people, it's 2010! ">
According to DSL Reports, Time-Warner is offering DOCSIS 3 in NYC for $99.95 per month.
I'm sure I don't know what DOCSIS is, but I do know this much -- it's faster than what I have.
"According to Time Warner Cable, they're now offering a 50 Mbps downstream and 5 Mbps upstream for $99.95 per month."
That's the deal I want. Now, I've been to the TWC website, and I can upgrade to "Turbo" for $9.95 more per month. But I'm only paying $34.95 per month now, so it seems that can't be the faster DOCSIS 3. There is no technical information on the site. And I definitely don't want to get on the phone with one of their fast-talking bull-shitting hucksters.
I also want to order cable TV with the minimal package I need to get HBO. I'm sure their hucksters can't handle that either. I want an online form I can order it from.
Any pointers would be much appreciated.
PS: My mom is getting 23.5 Mbps down and 15.5 Mbps up from Verizon FIOS in Queens.
This is more geeky tech stuff, and might interest about a dozen people, so if you don't understand -- no problem. It won't be on the final exam. ">
Edit This Page was the central feature in Manila, the blogging tool we shipped at UserLand in 1999. For me, a blogging tool without it isn't much of a blogging tool. But it's not easy to implement. C'est la vie. Neither was Undo, but the Mac required it, and it's one of the reasons people like the Mac.
The premise was that every story in the system would have an ETP button that, when clicked, would open the story in an editor, so you can make the change, hit Save, and get on with it. Content management systems of the day didn't have that feature.
Anyway -- Scripting2 will have that feature as well. I'm getting started implementing it, so if you look at the HTML source for this page, you'll see a <script> element that links back to the local server, 127.0.0.1. If you don't have a server running there, hopefully your browser just ignores it. That's one of the reasons I'm writing this post, to see if that assumption is true.
On my machine, the HTML the script returns is a form with an Edit button, that, when clicked, loads the source of the page into an editor where I can change it, save it and move on.
Update: 6:21PM Eastern -- it works! ">
I'm back in NY, after returning from Calif where I sold my house. Now it's time to get back to my real job -- writing a new blogging tool called Scripting2.
To get the ball rolling, I'm going to make paragraph-level permalinks work a little beter.
In their first incarnation, implemented a few years ago, a pargraph would get a unique name derived from its timestamp which was converted into a number to make the name. So if this paragraph was created at 12:28:08 PM today its name would be "p934826408.' It works, but it's pretty unsightly.
In the next iteration the names were a bit nicer. As it was rendering the story it would bump a counter each time it moved to a new paragraph. So the names would be p1, p2, etc. The only problem is if I added a paragraph in the middle, all the numbers would move down and links might point to the wrong place, which defeats the purpose of having the permalinks.
So now I'm doing it a better way that has less distracting names than the original approach, but won't break if paragraphs are added in the middle.
When I create a new paragraph I give it a serial number. So the first paragraph in a story might get serial number 249, and the second would be 250, and so on. The corresponding names would be p249 and p250. Later if I add a paragraph between them, it could be 284. The numbers would appear to be out of sequence if you looked closely, but they would remain unique.
In fact this post was written using the new system. If you're reading this on the web and not in a feed reader, try hovering over the purple pound signs at the end of each paragraph. A paragraph was added in the middle. See if you can find it!
BTW, the serial numbers are reflected in the OPML that's linked into the HTML rendering and the RSS feed, so if you're writing an alternate viewer for my posts, you can use the serial numbers in generating your paragraph-level permalinks.
But when I set it up initially, about a year ago, I didn't understand how it works, and I made a mess of it. I was just trying stuff out, like I often do with online apps, thinking it would be easy to start over once I understood how it worked. Apparently not so with Google Voice. Unless I was missing something.
I've tried to ask the question through other means, but haven't gotten an answer. So I thought, as a last resort, I'd ask you guys if you have a clue how I might nuke my account and create a new one.
Update: Apparently there is a way to request that a Google Voice number be transferred to a different Google account.
I mentioned in an off-hand way that I don't do interviews. I thought I had written a piece that explains why, but I couldn't find it. Now I'll have one to point to if the question comes up again.
First, I did press interviews for many years before deciding not to do them. I was never happy with the process, but considered them a necessity, mostly because I was either a company executive or product promoter, or both. By accepting their terms, my name would get more exposure, I would become more famous, and presumably more credible. Since my name was attached to a product, and it was attached to a business model, being interviewed was a way to make money, in theory.
However, there was a negative side -- they rarely carried my point of view accurately. My quotes almost always made it appear as if I believed things I didn't. Sometimes I was portrayed as believing the opposite of what I believed. So while I might have been furthering my financial cause, I was often hurting the cause of truth.
Then in 2002, something changed -- I left my company, and since then, have been involved on a consulting basis, from time to time, with other people's products. But, mostly, the financial incentive was gone.
Another thing happened a few years before that -- I started blogging, and thus had a way to get my name and ideas out there, without going through the press. And when I write, my words can express exactly what I believe, and when they don't, I can run a follow-up. I didn't realize it at first, but the success of my blog made it unnecessary for me to accept the problems with doing press interviews.
Futher, I don't accept the theory of press interviews. Why should I give an exclusive to one reporter at the expense of all others? And why should I favor professionals over amateurs, over other bloggers? Why can't they read what I write on my blog, and choose soundbites from that material? They can, of course.
Some of them don't like this, they think that in an interview they can catch people in lies. I've had them actually say this to me. In all the years I had been cooperating with reporters, not one has caught me in a lie, nor would they be likely to, if I was deceiving them. Mostly they are unprepared for the interview, often they're not even listening (or so it seems). They certainly don't know the subject well enough to catch a liar. They explain themselves as they were heroes, as Woodward or Bernstein chasing Watergate. I think it's ludicrous. I think they are incapable of getting original stories, and mostly rewrite press releases, and never take chances with the favor of companies they need access to, therefore the stories mostly come out the same. There isn't very much courage or depth in today's press. I might do interviews again if I got the idea that a reporter was doing something worthwhile with their franchise.
In the press there's a presumption that they're honest and you're not. I guess this, when I finally fully understood it, was what got me to stop helping them. I think even when I was in the role of a company exec, I was more honest than most of the reporters I tried to work with. There's certainly no cause to treat me, by default, as if I was dishonest. Even a small fry like me doesn't have to cooperate these days. Maybe that's the fundamental contradiction of journalism today.
It got comical at times, especially since I had absolutely no business interest in the things I was talking about. For me the light came on when I was being grilled by a reporter, asked the same question over and over, while talking about the gadgets used at a friends' wedding. I kept trying to say I was doing everyone a favor by talking with the reporter, I had nothing to gain by the interview. To prove it, I asked not to be quoted in the piece.
I was starting to feel like it was unnecessary and pointless, and had mostly stopped doing interviews. When I made an exception, I would get burned. So I stopped making exceptions.
These days, my policy re interviews is: 1. I don't do them. 2. If you want to tell me what you're interested in, I might write a blog post if I have something to say. You can quote the post freely, of course -- it's on the record and for attribution. 3. I might be willing to talk with you, but it will always be for background only. You can't quote anything I say. It'll be two equals having a discussion, not one person interviewing the other.
I made a different offer to Brendan Greeley of the Economist, a former colleague of mine at Berkman Center. I suggested he come on the weekly Rebooting the News podcast with myself and Jay Rosen. Most reporters wouldn't do this, not wanting to tip off their competitors. I never understood this, since they all write the same stories anyway. Rarely is there anything worth keeping secret, at least from my naive point of view. Brendan accepted, and he more or less got the interview he sought. It's a good show! And since it's all out there, we all win. No chance of me being misquoted. Of course when his story runs that's a whole other thing. We talk about that in the podcast. ">
Also, I'm always willing to do live radio. It has none of the disadvantages of a private interview. And if I want to I can turn it around and make it a discussion, as we did in yesterday's podcast.
It's a long story but I'm one of the people who has an iPhone 4 reserved at the local Apple store. This time the people who opted for home delivery are getting theirs a day early. Last time around, with the iPad, I opted for home delivery and got it a few hours after the people who waited in line.
But this time I have to get in line. The question is should I be a total fanboy and be there at 6AM, lined up for the 7AM opening? Do I really have the fortitude and patience to wait in line, or should I show up at a reasonable hour, say 10AM or 11AM and wait in the line then. It's summer so it'll be much hotter later in the day. But maybe the line will be shorter? Maybe there won't be a line?
Questions. Questions. Of course I'd like to be among the first to have the phone, but that's not possible since the home folk are going to have it a day earlier than me.
Annotations is a feature coming soon for Twitter that allows developers to attach arbitrary bits of metadata to tweets. I've written about this idea several times, most recently on April 9.
How Twitter can kill the Twitter-killers: "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?"
Almost as soon as it was announced, before any developers had actually used it, a concern was raised. How will the names be arrived at? And what happens if two developers use different names for the same idea? Based on this, they question the value of the entire architecture. How could it possibly work?
There is an answer to the question. We know how it will work because this is far from the first time the question has come up.
The answer is this: Developers will choose different names for the same idea. However, if the idea is important enough, and if an entity with a lot of users (and therefore a lot of tweets) gets involved, people will gravitate to the name that entity chooses.
This is one of the advantages of a corporate platform like Twitter. There is by default an entity with a lot of users -- Twitter. They basically have all the users. So the names they use will by default become the standard names. This is a very good thing, and no amount of FUD from bigger companies should stop them from exercising their eminent domain.
Further, in my April post, I suggested that "all the elements of the core namespace" be "reserved for Twitter. If you want to extend it, create a namespace and have a party."
Now, it's reasonable to assume that Twitter won't want to get involved in every possible use of Annotations. In that case the chaos of the market and a sense of urgency will fill in. This happened in RSS, where there was a similar situation. Some developers even renamed ideas that were in the core namespace! Yes, it's a mess. But it worked anyway.
If there are two or three names for the same idea, guess what an enterprising developer does -- he or she supports all of them. In these cases Postel's Law advises: "Be liberal in what you accept and conservative in what you send." That's how long we've been having this re-invention problem, it goes all the way back to the founding of the Internet. Hey it probably goes back to biblical or even caveman days. The desire to take credit for other people's accomplishments is something that's been in our species for a long time.
I suspect the people who are casting stones at Twitter Annotations either don't have the experience to know that these things work themselves out if the incentives are strong enough, or have another agenda, like limiting the growth of the Twitter platform.
I suggest not worrying about it. If it turns into a problem, it will be because we found at least a few valuable applications for Twitter Annotations. In other words, it's a good problem to have. ">
Just in time for Rebooting the News that's about to start in a half hour.
Twitter is down, again. It's become a regular experience, again, lately. Each time it happens, some link doesn't get transmitted to my followers, but more important to me, it doesn't get into my link system. So now I have to worry about whether I'll remember to go back and read it later. And I won't be able to see how many people clicked on it, to get a rough idea of how interesting it is to people.
Arrrgh, I think to myself, if only the fishstinkin Twitter client guys would get a little bit of courage and implement an EBS for Twitter. Then I realized something, and this is the epiphany. Geez, maybe it isn't up to the client guys, maybe it's up to the users!
Imagine if you had a shit ISP that couldn't keep your website on the air. How long would you put up with it? Should it make a difference that Twitter is free? Is that really what it's about? I leak huge amounts of money just living my daily life. No, it's not about the money. And yes, after a while, enough is enough, it's time to do something about it.
So that's the epiphany -- we don't have to wait for anyone, I can solve it, as a user. I can put my short status messages somewhere else, and let them find their way to Twitter, when it's up.
Twitter Annotations are coming and Google can't get their act together to compete so they try to spoil the party.
Look Twitter is a small company that struggles. They're trying to ship an ambitious, potentially revolutionary feature called Annotations. They don't have to do it. There are probably people inside the company that wonder why they are.
If you work for Google, you work for a much bigger, much richer company. If you want to take cheap shots at Twitter, at least have the good grace to quit your job and do it from the sidelines. When you do it from inside The Machine you make it look very bad. You make it look like you can't compete in the market so you try to spoil it for those who are trying.
This is my first fatherless Father's Day.
It's doubly weird because my father's birthday was last week. The first birthday since his birth that he missed.
I sold my house a couple of days before Father's Day.
A fatherless Father's Day isn't entirely a bad thing. It could also be Freedom Day. Because no matter how much you swore you'd never live for your father, and no matter how much he swore he wouldn't make you live for him, it happened anyway.
Giving up on the paternal judgment is like giving up smoking in some ways.
Oh, btw, I just realized June 14 was my anniversary. Eight years. I completely missed it. Sign of a truly reformed smoker.
But in my first year as a non-smoker, when my thought process came to a vexing problem, it would snap to: Oh I'll just smoke a cigarette, and I'd move on to the next step. I'd probably grab a cigarette at that point, for good luck.
I can't tell you how many times, on accomplishing something, no matter how small, my mind would snap to: Call Dad. Tell him about it.
It's like losing an uncle only worse. When my uncle died, I felt like I lost an arm. It was that big a deal. Part of my support system was gone. But with a father, it's a leg. Sometimes it's both legs.
But as you get used to it, the snap-to fades. And what replaces it is freedom. Not entirely bad, as I said earlier.
My father told me about it when his father died. It was then he told me not to wait for him to pass to take my leave of his judgment. Didn't matter. Couldn't do it. Didn't.
The last few weeks have been irritating. Messages from Amazon, every damned day reminding me to buy him a gift. What are you going to do. Forget it and move on.
I'm writing this at SFO, waiting for a flight to NY, where I resume my life without the tether back to California. The house is sold, the money is in the bank. I already have a life in New York. Knock wood, it should all be smooth from here, even though it was rough this week in Berkeley. These kinds of transitions always are. Gotta remember that next time I'm thinking it would be fun to buy a big beautiful house. ">
I'm starting to map out the next moves with the Scripting2 software. I have to add the ability to preview a post and to delete a post. After that I'll be ready to start my second site. Once all the kinks are worked out at that level, I'll invite one or two people to try it out, the same way I did with Manila in 1999. My first three users of that software, aside from other people at UserLand, were Dan Gillmor, Jamis at Buck's Woodside and my Jamaican uncle. There weren't many bloggers back then to try out new blogging software. We more or less had to create them. It will be different now.
A couple of other things I want to do with Scripting2: 1. The ability to create documents that are not hooked into the chronology of the blog. 2. A single place to find all change notes for all the various software projects I'm doing. Right now it's pretty scattered. With Scripting2 as a foundation, I'm within striking distance of a unified, outline-based change notes tool.
I also want to integrate the Instant Outliner with the Scripting2 editing tool. I think it's time to break the connection with Friendfeed, as much as I like their API. I'll probably use the Cloudpipe protocol I created for rssCloud.
We're going to have a guest again this week on Rebooting The News. This time it will be Brendan Greeley who writes for the Economist. He's doing a piece about where blogging is at, and is almost ready to submit it for publication. He wanted to get my perspective, I don't do interviews, so I suggested he come on the show, and he accepted. So he gets to discuss this with Jay too! Win-win-win.
I know Brendan from Berkman days. He worked with Chris Lydon on his Radio OpenSource podcast. Should be fun
You could hum the Angry Birds theme song in the subway and someone would look up and smile at you. It's become that popular.
The game is very simple. The pigs stole the birds' eggs. The birds are angry. The pigs build forts. The birds jump into a sling shot where you aim them at the fort. When a bird or a bit of debris hits a pig, he explodes. Your mission is to kill all the pigs. And the pigs don't seem to mind. They're happy, snorting and grinning, all the way up to their moment of death. That's the gist of the game, though it has a few little subtleties. No spoilers. ">
I've been trying to figure out why such a dumb game is so much fun.
I know it sounds mean, but it's probably the same kind of pleasure you get from breaking up your little sister's doll tea party. Or your brother's sand castle at the beach.
I guess it's not really mean because it's just a video game on a hand-held device.
Another thought hit me. When the elaborate pig forts topple it kind of looks like the Twin Towers coming down on 9/11. And the birds, well they're a lot like a suicide bombers. Well, actually they are totally like suicide bombers.
They're so damned angry at the pigs that they don't mind killing themselves.
Of course when you see how smug the pigs are, you get angry at them too. But in a nice way! ">
I'm writing this from Berkeley. I'm here to sell my house and cut my last ties to the Golden State, and this time it feels like it's for good. I say "feels like," because I did this once before, in 2003. Sold my house in Woodside, and drove cross-country to Cambridge. After that, I tried living in Florida, Seattle and got started looking at apartments in NY before giving up. I found myself in Berkeley and tired of being unrooted. So I rented an apartment, and one thing led to another -- I was house-shopping and found a place I loved.
It was 2006, the peak of the real estate market. It's hard to imagine now, but back then real estate was thought to be a foolproof investment. I was making tons of money in the stock market. I had a feeling that I would just increase my earnings by owning prime Calif real estate. And it is a lovely old designer home in a fantastic spot.
Soon after buying the house, everything went to hell. I'm sure you know the story. Mortgage crisis, banking crisis, world financial meltdown. The house, while still lovely, had spoiled as an investment. But don't cry for me, net-net I'm way ahead because I got scared early and sat out the worst of the stock market "bath of blood." (I just watched Lord of War, that's its running joke.) And it was a very nice place to live.
Then last year my father got really sick, again, and this time he died.
That's a time when you get to look at everything about your life, you can't hide from yourself, like we so often do. When I looked inside, one of the things I found was a regret that I hadn't been closer to him in his last years. But there was a deeper regret. I found that I'm a New Yorker, and I was living in the wrong place for a New Yorker.
I had been traveling there a lot in 2009, so I decided to rent an apartment, and try living bi-coastal for a year. I got a visiting fellowship with my friend Jay Rosen at NYU, to give me an official reason to be there.
By March, I decided that I wanted to be there permanently. Not on a bi-coastal basis. So I put the house on the market, drove my car cross-country. And got to work at being a full-time Noo Yawka.
Since then, I've discovered some simple truths, but important ones.
I've always, as an adult, lived in a place where I was a transplant, and other people were natives. In NY, I am a native. I actually live in the place where I come from. There are small cues. Like the smell of the ocean at sunrise, and how it reminds me of waking up in my grandmother's house in Rockaway. No two oceans smell alike, I guess. This one smells like home.
I can tell how New York has changed!
When I grew up here, everyone wanted to leave. Brooklyn was a complete disaster. The streets and subways weren't safe. The Bronx was burning down. There were riots. Then the city went bankrupt.
Things are so dramatically better in NY now, it's hard for the newbies to realize it.
And the people who come to NY from the other parts of the country -- they are amazing. At least the ones I'm meeting. It seems if you have something you want to do, it's the place you go.
And from a creative and business standpoint, I am in exactly the right place at the right time. Sure there may be a lot of value in social networks, and California is where that's being pioneered. But for me, it's about publishing and media. I believe in leveling the playing field and opening the doors. I don't think of this as democratization, or citizen journalism -- I agree with Nick Denton that there are people who will use the new techniques much more powerfully than others. But it should allow more information to flow faster to the people who want it. And in doing so, create new economies. And of course in doing that, make new wealth.
In other words, people who think NY should aspire to be another Silicon Valley, are completely missing the opportunity. And people who leave NY to find fame and fortune in Silicon Valley may find it, but they won't find what I've been looking for. I gave it 30-plus years.
Anyway, I'm writing this from Berkeley. Right now I still own property here, but soon (knock wood) I won't. When I get on the plane for NY, this time, I will truly be going home. Can't wait. ">
CityTracking. $400K. Eric Rodenbeck, Stamen Design, San Francisco, CA
The Cartoonist. $378K. Ian Bogost and Michael Mateas. Atlanta, GA.
Local Wiki. $350K. Philip Neustrom and Mike Ivanov. San Francisco, CA
WindyCitizen's Real Time Ads. $250K. Brad Flora, WindyCitizen.com. Chicago, IL.
GoMap Riga. $250K. Marcis Rubenis and Kristofs Blaus, GoMap Riga. Riga, Latvia.
Order in the Court 2.0. $250K. John Davidow, WBUR. Boston, Mass.
Front Porch Forum. $220K. Michael Wood-Lewis, Front Porch Forum. Burlington, VT.
One-Eight. $202K. Teru Kuwayama. Chicago, Ill.
Stroome. $200K. Nonny de la Peľa and Tom Grasty, Stroome. Los Angeles, CA
CitySeed. $90K. Retha Hill and Cody Shotwell, Arizona State University. Phoenix, AZ.
PRX StoryMarket. $75K. Jake Shapiro, PRX. Boston, MA.
Tilemapping. $74K. Eric Gundersen, Development Seed. Washington, DC
Imagine if every tweet included info about where to find that users' status messages if Twitter is down. It could simply be the URL of a feed. Unless Twitter went down it would just be stored by your client. But if Twitter should go offline, at least you know how to find out what's going on with at least some of your associates.
The point is that with annotations we have the ability to create new ad hoc flows of information, and can possibly use it to make Twitter more reliable.
It's like having a place to meet your friends after a ballgame, or part of being prepared for an earthquake (I just landed in SF). You arrange for a meeting place if the normal lines of communication go down. You use the normal lines to transmit the place you will be found in cast the line goes down.
I guess it's something like DNS, where you always specify two servers and two hosts. If everything is working you only need one. But the network is designed to work even if everything isn't working.
Of course it's this line of reasoning that led me to the conclusion that Twitter should just run off DNS, and Twitter should be the Verisign of this network. But that's another story.
From time to time people ask how I do the hand-drawn posts.
Why I do them:
1. They're fun.
2. I like to draw.
3. It's a neat way to use a scanner.
4. It's super low-tech.
5. They're eye-catching.
6. People like them.
7. They work.
Why do both lists have seven items?
1. Seven is the perfect number of items for a list.
2. Just kidding.
An Emergency Broadcast System for Twitter might look like this.
When everything is working at Twitter, all the clients communicate through Twitter. A client is an app like Tweetdeck, UberTwitter, Seesmic, Brizzly, Tweedroid, etc.
However, when Twitter is down, each client sends your tweets to a "safe place" and the clients your friends use hear about your status updates from there.
There's still a lot of disruption, but some messages get through. Over time the EBS will get better, as we learn better how to make the best of a Twitter outage.
Reality: We still need to communicate even when Twitter is down.
Bottom-line: The client vendors are key.
But the OPML 2.0 spec says this is okay. "OPML can also be extended by the addition of new values for the type attribute."
The reason it is this way is that the OPML Editor, the app that OPML is the file format for, has an extension mechanism that allows this. When I give an <outline> element a type attribute with a value of foo, when the user double-clicks on that element, the editor looks for a nodetype definition called foo. If it has a method for handling a double-click, it gets control, does its thing, and returns, overriding the default functionality. It's essential to the way the editor works that the type attribute be allowed to have unforseen values.
So it's clearly a bug that the OPML Validator rejects these OPML docs.
Not sure what the OPML-processing app should do, I'd have to know more about what the concern is. But the spec clearly allows what we're doing with Scripting2's OPML.
Like almost everyone else, I have been unable to get through to the Apple Store on the web. I had the time today so I got on the subway and headed uptown to the Apple Store on 5th Ave, thinking I could order it there, in person.
At first, the salespeople said I had to do it the same way I'd do it from home. I said that doesn't work. They shrugged it off. I was getting ready to leave, but on the way out I asked another sales person, and really pressed, and he said he could reserve one for me to pick up on the 24th. Sheez, why didn't you say that in the first place? Never mind. I did it, and now presumably I'll get one on the 24th like all the other Apple-addicts who can't wait to get their hands on the latest and greatest.
I wanted to get this out there, in case you're near an Apple Store, you might want to go down there, and tell them you know you can reserve one for pickup on the 24th. Tell them Dave toldja. ">
Just as a program has source code, so does the writing on this blog.
It's always been this way, but I've accepted the limits of other blogging tools, and the limits of RSS, and not exposed the richer writing environment behind scripting.com. That is changing, gradually, with the new software.
The small initial changes have caused some consternation. Some people are concerned that they're not getting all the content in the RSS feeds. Some people feel the plus sign is too small, and others don't want to click on it, they think it should be expanded by default.
So here are some responses to these concerns.
I want to include all the content in the feeds, and with a change I made last night, I now am. I'm just not providing it in the old "flat" way. There's a link to the source code behind the HTML rendering. The source has all the text. Of course there aren't any apps that read this format, yet. It's always that way. When I first came out with the predecessor to RSS, no one read it. But eventually someone did, and then a lot of people, etc etc. That may not happen here, but then again, it might. Don't count it out.
There are actually now two ways to get the source behind the HTML rendering: 1. You can get it from a link element in the HTML. This would be useful for a bookmarklet that wanted to try alternate rendering of the text, as Readability does, for example. 2. It's in the RSS feed for scripting.com. Each item links to the source in a new element called <scripting2:source>. This would be used by a news reader app like Google Reader, if they wanted to do something special with content coming from advanced blogs like Scripting News. Do I believe that eventually the other blogging tools will offer this? Yes, in fact, I do. Do I think Google will support it now? No, as long as it's just my blog, they won't support it (probably). But when others do it, they hopefully will decide to support it, and help us add some cool features to the web. I would, of course, like to see them do that.
I also made a small change to the rendering of the site. There's now a small XML icon below the blogroll, in the right margin of every page. It links to the OPML for the blogroll. I expect there will be some interesting things doen with that. There are features already implemented in the blogroll that aren't yet visible in the UI. I think the blogroll will eventually bust out of the right margin and become something itneresting on its own. ">
There have been some excellent suggestions about the sub-text feature: 1. Make the icon larger. (Will do.) 2. Move the icon so it's at the right and bottom. (Makes sense, but isn't the way outliners work. I'm going to stick with the current placement for now.) 3. Make it so clicking in the text makes it expand. (Good idea, but doesn't that break selection? What if you want to copy a bit of text from the post?)
Finally, I'm really glad this discussion is taking place here now. I wanted to draw intelligent thoughtful technical people back to Scripting News, to participate in what I hope will be a bootstrap of some new technology. Keep discussing, share your ideas, even if you don't like what I'm doing. There's more to come. Sometimes the first few chapters of a story don't make you happy, then you see where the plot is going, and it starts to make sense. ">
I'm getting a lot of inquiries about sub-text in Scripting2. People still seem to love it, but they want to know how it will work with RSS apps like NetNewsWire, River2 and the omnibus Google Reader. (I first wrote ominous, for its sheer dominance, but then thought they probably don't feel dominant, just like they're carrying all kinds of passengers.) I don't have the source code to the other apps, and River2 is not a full-text affair (I strip markup and cut the text off at 250 characters, based on its design as a skimmer rather than a reader). But we should get on the road to making it possible for reader apps to do something nice with the collapsed sub-text.
So, today I did two things that should help, but probably aren't the last word in publishing the material that backs up a Scripting2 post.
1. There's now a <link> element at the top of each story that points to the OPML source for the story. View Source in the browser to see it.
These are probably not the last word in linkage to the full source behind my blog posts, and if there's little or no uptake, I'm not guaranteeing I'll support them for perpetuity. If you use them -- please let me know, preferably in a public comment or post, so others can see.
PS: For good measure, there's also a link to the blogroll in the HTML source, per a request from the illustrious Matt Terenzio. ">
RBTN #55 was an extraordinary podcast. We got to some of the core issues of net publishing, the iPad, Apple, the web, etc. Rich Ziade is a great interview, and having Jay there to keep things balanced was really good. Highly recommended.
Sometime in the last decade I realized that most people weren't reading my stuff.
I don't mean this in the obvious way. There are 6 billion people on the planet and perhaps 0.00001 percent have even heard of Scripting News. That's not what I mean (though it's true).
What I mean is that, even of the people who "read" what I write, either on the blog or in RSS, the vast majority just skim, if they do that.
An author can tell.
So when people say that clicking on a little plus sign next to the text to get more is too much work, I think -- how ridiculous -- this person probably isn't even reading my stuff.
I think what they're really saying is that if the text is hidden, they can't skim it. Aha! Now, for me, the guy who just spent an hour writing the post you're not even willing to spend a few seconds with, that's a feature not a bug. ">
I don't really want the skimmers. What I want is to get my ideas "out there" so other people can do things with them. If the words only act as magnets for your canned pitch, then nothing happened, and it's not worth the effort.
So a speed bump that rewards people who do read is a good thing, not a bad one.
PS: Check out the previous post for an idea of the art that might be possible with sub-text.
PPS: Sub-text actually makes it easier for skimmers, if they really want to understand what the author is saying. The background stuff is tucked away it just presents the top-level ideas.
So much happened, it deserves a recap.
In the middle of the week, on Wednesday, we had our Sources Go Direct panel with Nick, Rachel and Fred at NYU. I think we can do better, and I hope we do. It was my first NY event since I put on a concert at Bronx Science in 1972.
Nick Denton says nothing has changed, there were gatekeepers then and there are gatekeepers now. I agree. What we didn't go into is who the gatekeepers serve, how they protect each others' business models, and how blogging can circumvent that. The perfect example is blogging itself, a story the gatekeepers refused to carry, but a story that got out there anyway. And the blogging network was used to bootstrap other stuff, including podcasting and RSS.
On Thursday we had our weekly meetup at NYU. Rich Ziade, the author of Readability joined us. We talked about a lot of very interesting and potentially heavy stuff. Rich will be our guest on today's podcast. If you care about the future of publishing as it relates to Apple and the web, I recommend listening.
Also on Thursday, I took the wraps off the new 2.0 version of the software behind the Scripting News weblog. I'm reaching for the stars with this one. I have a lot of years of experience using the old version, and I've studied the other blogging tools that are out there, and I think it's time for a re-look at the whole thing, with a new codebase.
On Friday, I shook up those people who were watching (not a whole of people, unfortunately) with a feature I call sub-text, which is actually a simple sub-case of outline-based browsing. What's important is how it's used. Just beginning to feel my way around this.
Next week should be a little quieter. I'm heading to Calif on Wednesday for a few days of business. But we're off to a great start here in NYC, and the next few months should be really something! ">
Well I fixed the problem with the bad overhang described here.
Now there appears to be another problem. Not sure if it's a result of this fix or if it was a problem before.
I've gotten two reports today, both after making the change, that the site doesn't work in IE8.
Here's a screen shot that illustrates.
If you see what the problem is, please post a comment.
Not the usual Who Does He Think He Is sort of thing. Apparently a lot of people have had bad experiences and/or have concerns and are anxious to tell their stories.
Here's an example, about Dell. "How do I know that they don't have a FBI hookup that scans all of the 'bad' drives before refurbishing or disposing, or how do I know that they don't have a contract with the MPAA/RIAA to allow their anti-piracy goons to do that? How do I know it doesn't pass through a group of teenagers who parse it for nudes, as happens at most computer repair shops?"
These are all excellent questions.
It's surprising and puzzling that the tech companies don't try to out-do each other to protect their customers' data. True, most users aren't thinking about it now, just as most people weren't thinking about oil spills before the calamity in the Gulf of Mexico. I don't doubt that in the future, snooping by people and companies is going to be a huge problem, a competitive one, as malware is today.
It seems that Apple, Dell, HP, Google, Microsoft, etc ought to be getting on the users' side of this, asap.
I saw a note a few days ago that TechCrunch is moving. Their old offices were in Palo Alto, so I wondered where their new offices would be. Sunnyvale? San Mateo?
Turns out they moved to South of Market, 410 Townsend, on the street where it all started. When Macromind moved from Chicago to San Francisco, they set up shop on Townsend.
Macromind founder Marc Canter had the vision that the tech and art scene would fit into what was an industrial and largely forgotten part of San Francisco. Guys like Marc single-handedly start coral reefs.
Scoble shot a picture of their new digs.
Now, of the top publications that cover the tech industry -- TechCrunch, Mashable, GigaOm, PaidContent -- are any of them based in Silicon Valley? It's really weird, I think TC was the only one, and now they're in SF. It's something like having no country music industry pubs HQ'd in Nashville or Memphis.
Bet they'll be going to lots of Giants games. (Let's Go Mets!)
And they can hang out with the Twitter guys, a short walk. ">
I'm trying out the new Reader function in Safari 5.0.
Here's how it works. Safari determines if you're viewing a "webpage that contains a text-based article."
If so, a gray button that says "Reader" appears at the right end of the address bar.
Here's what the Yahoo news page looks like. Very busy.
Now, put aside for a moment the business issue for Yahoo, and why Apple would be the one pushing this particular envelope. See how pleasing the Reader version of this page is.
But you have to try it out yourself to appreciate how nice it is. The scrollbar is the right user interface for reading. It shows how much better the web can be.
Apple wants to lead publishers into the iPad environment, but I'm compelled to try to lead them to the environment suggested by Reader. And it gets even more interesting, because Reader is actually Readability.
Safari 5, Readability, iPad and Scripting2 are swirling around the same idea, how can we improve the reading experience on the net. I think we're poised to make a lot of progress, very quickly.
A minor display glitch that's visible on the home page of scripting.com.
If you scroll down near the bottom of the page you'll see a couple of posts with headlines that are long enough to wrap. I want the text to wrap so that the + icon stands out on its own. I want the second line of text to appear directly under the first line of text.
Here's a screen shot of what it looks like now.
And here's a screen shot of what I'd like it to look like.
Appreciate the help! ">
A very interesting public rant by Steve Jobs, esp the part where he says he was pissed (his word) about Flurry spotting experimental Apple products that were flying around the net with clear identification saying they are something new from Apple. I mean come on, how naive can you be? Is Apple really that freakishly vulnerable? If Steve thinks it's confidential, maybe he should take some steps to protect the info?
That was the first curious thing about his rant. The second thing was the utter hypocrisy of it. I don't use that word very often, I try to be understanding of other people's point of view. It's possible he just doesn't know how careless his company is with its users' secrets.
Basically, if your Mac hard drive breaks and you want Apple to replace it, they take the old drive, even if you pay for a new one (more than you'd pay at NewEgg or Amazon) and "refurbish" it. Where does it go after it leaves your hands? You have no idea and no say.
When this happened to me at the end of 2007, I made a huge issue of it, even sending an email to Steve Jobs. It was so unbelievably reckless. Are they shipping the hard drives to Nigeria? Do they know there's a thriving business in recovering data like bank account numbers and social security numbers from broken hard drives? I mean seriously, most of us don't have the kind of money Steve has. If our bank accounts were cleared out by an identity thief we'd be fairly screwed. Think we'd have a right to be pissed Steve? Maybe you could help us out here and protect our data instead of actively putting it at risk?
We can talk about it (to paraphrase Steve) when I'm less pissed off. This happened almost three years ago and I'm still angry about it. Not just on my own behalf but because no doubt other users are trusting Apple, and they're doing something that more or less proves that they are not worthy of the trust.
Update: An intelligent discussion of this topic on Hacker News.
I'm getting myself organized for the next phase of work on Scripting2.
The first few weeks were like building the foundation and frame of a house, putting up the drywall, plumbing and wiring. Building a chimney, putting on a roof.
Now comes a different kind of work. Staircases. Cabinets in the kitchen. Fixtures in the bathroom. Outdoor lighting. Doors. Locks on doors. Etc. All the things that make it possible for normal human beings to live in the house.
You hope that the architect didn't forget any major systems that require ripping up the foundation. ">
At this point you'd have to be a construction worker to live here. The hope is that it will at least become a cottage high in the Alps. Not camping out. Many of the comforts of home. But still a 1.0, a work in progress.
To get ready for this work, I've added two new sections to the blogroll on every page called To-Do and Done.
These are just scaffolding. Pretty soon I'll have a site at scripting2.com that includes a project management section. These lists are primarily for me, but if you like to snoop, feel free to expand them.
Note: If you're reading this on the Home page or the RSS feed you won't see the plus signs. Go to the story page to get the full effect. ">
Did you see the final episode of LOST? I did. I'd love to write about it, and I will -- but be forewarned, if you click on the little plus sign next to this paragraph, there are spoilers below.
There's nothing that says a paragraph has to have sub-text. In fact you can use it to simply annotate, sub-texting items most readers wouldn't care about, but that you should include to be complete. An Internet-age footnote.
This is what the editor looks like.
It's also related to a Nick Carr post that got a lot of play recently, where he said it was time to get links out of our way. He may have a point. In age where people skim, maybe you want to tuck away the details to let people get the main point quickly, but still provide all the background and off-site links that a careful reader may want.
Now for a little humor.
Two Jewish guys walk past a Catholic church.
Ponzi calls this The RSS Couch.
What will I really do with this feature?
BTW this is not the first post to use the feature.
Last night was one of the most interesting Thursday night meetups we've had at NYU, even though a lot of our regulars stayed home,. There was a huge afternoon rainstorm that probably accounted for some of the sparseness. It was a shame because the discussion around the Scripting2 software and Readability got very interesting.
First, I did a thorough review of the reader interface of the new Scripting News. I'll provide details and links as this piece develops through the day. I briefly showed the editorial tools, but after the demo of the UI, there wasn't so much interest.
Then our guest, Richard Ziade, took the floor and told the story of Readability and showed us some iPad apps for reading content. He gave us background on what Safari is doing that goes beyond what today's Readability does.
Our newest regular, Megan Taylor, asked why there is a cone of silence around the Thursday meetups. I said there is no prohibition on writing about the meetings. I wasn't doing it because I like the way it's going as a small thing, and want to get it better established before making it large. Sometimes these things get big before they get a chance to decide what they are. Good example is the Hacks/Hackers meetup last week. When 250 people show up to a first meeting it can't be anything but a mixer. I much prefer the way the Thursday night meetups have evolved. We add people slowly, looking for those who have time for the kinds of projects we do (as yet to be determined) and who are smart and creative and ambitious. I'm not looking for a pitch line, like the one Fred Wilson describes. That he has to deal with that, so regularly, is bad for Fred and for those who want him to be at his creative best.
So I'm going to try to write more about what we do at the Thursday meetups. I know this will get more people to want to come, but I'm going to be a hardass about the slow-growth rule that has so far served us well. It's an invite-only affair, not open to all. But what we learn can and probably should be shared, as it happens. So I'll strive to do that more and encourage others to do the same.
One more note, it's a bit different from the Berkman Thursday series we started in 2003, which believe it or not, is still going on. There, our mission was to get people blogging. So by its nature there was a lot of publicity for our meetings. And it was safer because: 1. The blogging world of 2003 was much smaller than it is today. 2. The NY metro area is huge compared to Boston. If we really beat the drum, eventually we'd need a large auditorium to hold our crowd. Right now it feels much better as a small thing.
Notes for tonight's meetup.
1. Definitely demo of Scripting2, both authoring and reading.
2. Making stuff readable. Stylish.
3. Yesterday's meetup.
4. Arikia says chat clients could be a lot better. Discuss.
5. Thai food on 8th St with Thai Mojitos!
Rich Ziade, who lives and works in NY, explains why he created the Readability bookmarklet.
He explains, that as a reader, he wants to be left alone while he's reading. I know the feeling very well..
It's the mirror image for why I, as a writer, strive for the most readable website possible. It's so simple. I want you to read what I've written. I want it to look inviting, and when you dive into it, I want you to get lost in the words, and then the words melt away and the ideas come into view.
I want my voice to appear in your head. The way the words look is, at that point, totally unimportant. What matters is that they act as a vehicle for my voice, as if I were there with you while you are reading.
In writing it's not the journey that's the reward -- it's the story. ">
I strive to write words worth reading. I do not want the "design" of the website to interfere with that.
When I go to a great restaurant I don't want the waiter to interfere with the experience. I came there to eat and be with my friends. Same thing with software and with websites. I came there to read and to learn and to be inspired. The website can help, but it isn't the show. The website is there to transmit ideas.
I'm going to meet Rich tonight, and I'm going to shake his hand and thank him for contributing to the readability of the web. Then we're going to talk about what else we can do.
The name of the new software powering this website is Scripting2.
It's name is consistent with the name of other projects I've done over the last couple of years.
River2 is a complete from-the-ground-up rewrite of the aggregator I wrote in 1999 and adapted to be part of Radio 8 in 2002.
Scheduler2 is a rewrite of the Frontier scheduler. Much more efficient, better stats, easier to debug, assumes threading is available . And Log2 is a rewrite of the Frontier logging code.
In all cases it took a lot less time to write the new one than the original. And they are much easier to maintain. In some cases they've been so complete and error-free that there has been no need to maintain them. That's the way these "2" implementations go. You learned a lot with the "1."
Scripting2 is a rewrite of my blogging software. Its roots go back to the NewsPage suite developed in 1995. With this rewrite it no longer has code from before May 2010. I've learned a lot about web programming, esp in the Frontier environment, in the last 15 years. It's great to have an up-to-date codebase.
That said, there's still a lot to do before others can use it.
1. The blogroll in the right margin is editable, as are the templates, but you have to be on the server machine to do that. Obviously there needs to be an API to get and set those.
2. The user must be able to configure the tool. Where is the server it will communicate with? Do they have a custom domain name, if so, what is it? There's a built-in glossary function. There must be an easy way to edit it.
4. There will be an Edit This Page function in the app. This is one of my biggest complaints about current blogging tools. They don't allow you to edit things you should be able to edit, like the template for the site. And while there are edit links on stories, I believe everything should have an Edit button on it. That way you don't have to understand two viewing models. Having a "dashboard" to edit content is wrong, imho, and represents a huge step backward in the art of blogging. I want to bring it back, and make it a competitive issue.
5. Scripting2 will be great for podcasters. You can right-click on a post to attach an MP3 or AVI to any blog post and it will automatically show up as an enclosure in the RSS feed. It won't scrape the HTML as WordPress does, which is, imho totally wrong. (This feature was in the old Scripting News software but hasn't been implemented yet in Scripting.)
6. There's no browser interface, all access is via its API. I'm doing an outliner-based tool, but others could be built, including a browser interface.
7. Right now all publishing is live to the site. There must be an intermediate step, where you're previewing a post before you publish it. This feature was never implemented in the original software. Personally, I don't mind editing while people read, but other authors do mind. (BTW, building the feed and building the HTML are separate ops, even now. So when you publish the HTML the feed isn't updated, until you press the Build RSS button in the editor window.)
8. Add commands to the right-click menu.
9. What about second and third-level text? It's an outliner after all. What if I add some text subordinate to one of the paragraphs in a blog post? Should that be rendered in-line or should it start a new web page? That way each blog post could become a whole site. This is now within reach, at least technically, if not conceptually. Are people ready for this? Am I ready for it? ">
10. Images. I'm still using the image-management code from scripting1. Must have equiv-or-better functionality in scripting2.
11. One template or two? Right now I have different templates for story pages and all other pages. The difference is the title and the byline. I think I could find a way to have just one template with a little "media hacking."
12. Table-less template. For people who hate tables (I'm not one of them, obviously) the good news is that you have full control of the template. If you think you can get something that's nice to look at to work without tables, show me how and I'll get rid of the tables.
13. There are display bugs related to expand/collapse on the home page (and the ancillary pages). If you collapse the first item it slightly smooshes the headline of the second story. If you collapse the second story it completely smooshes the third. If anyone has an idea why this is happening, please comment below. (Update: Colin Faulkingham supplied the fix for this. Thanks!!)
14. Some people will want a preference to not generate the paragraph-level permalinks (the little purple hashes adjacent to paragraphs on story pages). Most people seem to like them. Some people find them annoying, or worse. Obvious oppty for a pref. (Default on.)
15. Should I put a Tweet This button on the posts? A Facebook Like button? I really resist doing this because, while it may seem like a good idea today, in a year or so, will it still seem right? What if I had put Myspace links on, or Digg links on my stories in 2005? When you go back through the archive those would seem crazy, almost defacing of the content. Don't those things belong in toolbars or bookmarklets? Interested in knowing what people think. (Steve Jobs got to ban Flash, do I get to do the same in products I design? Heh. Yes I know I'm not Steve Jobs.)
16. It says "Eastern" everywhere, but the server is still running on Pacific time.
More items/issues will be added to this list as I remember them.
First, we have the live stream ready to go.
Of course Twitter is down so I can't send it out that way.
Update: Twitter seems to be back up.
My plan: First thank the great people at NYU who helped put this together. And Bernadine and Hong the mike monitors. Arikia.
Then introduce each of the panelists, name and affiliation.
Show Sources Go Direct diagram and explain this is how it used to work, but things have changed. The goal of our discussion is to share views on how things have changed.
As Fred a question about how blogging is different from the way he used to work with the press.
Ask Nick a question about sources at Gawker.
Ask Rachel how they organize sources at Groundreport.
Questions: Who inspires you?
What will journalism look like in 20 years?
I'm really excited to be doing this panel, and it's doubly exciting cause I have a new editing tool that works (in some ways) much better than the old one. So when I want to take notes, it's easier and faster.
One of the reasons I'm doing this post is to see if I can write using my laptop. This is another chance to shakeout bugs in the new software. Let's see if it works.
Yup it worked. And it was really fast!
Update: I think I just fixed the calendar generating code.
This diagram helps illustrate what Sources Go Direct is about.
Back in the old days an idea had to run a gauntlet of middlemen and profiteers before it could reach "targets."
The PR people introduced execs to reporters. The PR people briefed the analysts who were then interviewed by reporters to provide "objective" insights. The users were consulted for their perspective. It was a nice orderly world. Money flowed from the companies to the PR people to the analysts. The users got raises and bonuses for being leaders in their industry. Eyeballs watched. Targets were influenced. Dollars flowed. It was a business. But often the ideas got lost on their way through all the middlemen.
Have new flows developed? Yes. The question is are they more efficient than the old ones? Do ideas (facts or perspectives) stand a chance or are we still mired in the same muddle as before?
This is the question Sources Go Direct asks. (Gosh this sounds like a seder!)
Yesterday I wrote a post counseling the NY Times to find a plane, get on board, and when it reached cruising altitude, jump out. No parachute.
I had just spent the last two weeks rebuilding the software for Scripting News from top to bottom. When I started, I was adapting code I already had, stuff that dated back to the last century (seriously!). But somewhere in the middle I saw how it could become much simpler, yet do more. I went for it.
After writing the piece, I took my own advice re parachutes.
I could have been more careful about the transition, and it might have taken a week or two more. Or I could save the time and just flip the switch and trust that I would be able to pick up the pieces quickly enough so that readers of the site would hardly notice a glitch. I opted for the latter approach. It seems to have worked. (Caveat: It'll still be a couple of weeks before all the pieces are put back together, it takes longer than you might think.)
I'm editing this post entirely in the new system. When I hit Save it will flow to the server, be published through its templates. When you load the page, your browser will get my style sheet and render (I hope) without too many glitches. When you click on the little plus signs in the right margin, I hope you emit a little gasp, as I did when I first used it. Then a stream of expletives came out of my mouth, mostly beginning with the letter F, like the famous McNulty and Bunk scene in The Wire where they're investigating a murder in a Baltimore apartment. Click on the link if you don't know what I'm talking about (or if you do) but be advised it is very NSFW. ">
Later today I'm moderating what I expect will be a fantastic panel with Rachel, Fred and Nick. What incredible power will be on that stage. Such intelligence, and one thing I admire about all these people is that they seem to like nothing more than free-fall without a parachute. There's really nothing like it, assuming you can find a way to glide safely to earth. ">
PS: Doing these massive risky rewrites makes me smarter. Not kidding.
The poor fumbling New York Times.
Everything about their world is flipped upside down.
Yes, they still have to write news stories, but the way they source them is changing, and slowly they are adjusting to the new way of doing things.
They used to use the cost of distribution as a way of adding a surcharge to cover the cost of reporting. Because they owned the means of distribution, and had a lot of people buying their information product, they could charge others to use their system.
They can't do that anymore, because: 1. They let Silicon Valley own the distribution in the new news environment. 2. The Californians are willing to sell access to that system real cheap to the people who used to pay the Times to distribute their stuff.
In hindsight, the Times could have and should have been the new distribution system, but they would have had to be nimble to do that, and been willing to accept the feeling of jumping out of a plane with no parachute. They let people in California do that instead because they were willing to deal with insecurity. What a silly reason to cede an empire.
Now here's the good news for the Times. There's still time!
The electronic system isn't finished upheaving. There are still planes taking off that you can jump out of but as before there are no parachutes. You could hit the ground. Hard.
Some small number of people at the Times get that. I know because I said these things to them two weeks ago, about 150 of them, and they didn't stomp out of the room, and they did't argue with me. In fact, some of the people told me they were psyched to do what I asked them to do. That's a new deal.
Now, some of the people who weren't in the room are the ones who think that they need to get people like the two young Stanford grad students to not publish a $5 aggregator. Look, if the Times is depending on stopping those two kids for its future, then the Times has no future. They have to make money, but they aren't going to make it by charging a few cents for every article. They must know that won't work.
They must re-establish their eminence in news.
News is what they do, not newspapers.
You give away most of what you do, and charge for the really good stuff. The stuff that people will line up to pay lots of money for. You need to get people excited about news the way Steve Jobs gets them excited about gadgets.
Or even better, find new businesses you can go into that depend on people coming to you for authoritative information about that business. It's how I got people to buy web development software from me. You can make a lot more money that way than by charging a few cents to read an article. It's a case of penny-wise pound-foolish. The Times is aiming to sell out too cheap. Use your franchise to build something truly big and very new that will make you rich.
Kara Swisher has a story this morning about an RSS aggregator for the iPad that was first praised in a Steve Jobs keynote and then, later the same day, booted from Apple's store.
Apparently the NY Times played a role. "Apple informed the [authors] that Pulse was being pulled from the App Store, after it received a written notice that '[the Times] believes your application named Pulse News Reader infringes The New York Times Company's rights.'"
Swisher says: "Pulse is little more than a really well-designed RSS reader."
I'm both close to the Times and to RSS, so I'd love to get to the bottom of the concern here. Swisher believes the app is doing nothing out of the ordinary with information available in the Times' publicly-available feeds.
This is a case where the readers of Scripting News may be able to help sort this out. Do you have a copy of the Pulse app? If so, can you make any sense out of this situation? Please advise.
Follow-up: "Look, if the Times is depending on stopping those two kids for its future, then the Times has no future."
Thanks to Rex Hammock for the pointer to Safari Reader, a new feature announced by Apple yesterday.
Seems it's going to be very controversial.
From the product fact sheet: "Safari Reader removes annoying ads and other visual distractions from online articles."
The ads are definitely getting annoying, but it seems to me people have the right to control the visual presentation of their own writing. On the one hand.
On the other hand, maybe authors should take this as an opportunity to receive a clue. There must be significant demand for this feature or Apple wouldn't have put it in their browser. Perhaps you should reduce the clutter in your web pages on your own.
Just a thought. ">
When I said I'm "nearing the end of a top-to-bottom rewrite of the software behind Scripting News," what I really meant is that I'm "just beginning a top-to-bottom rewrite..."
I've been doing this a long time, but software projects still kick my ass, even when I'm doing it for the umpteenth time, there's a point where it feels like you're "almost done" when you're still just beginning. Everyone gets bit by it. The secret is to not make any great pronouncements until the system is in use by people who are the intended users. The first results achieved by the developer are always a mirage.
And even when actual users use it, it still sucks. I learned that again today as I tried to teach my Mom how to use her new iPhone. I was trying to show her how to turn a number in her Recent Calls list into a Contact. There was no button for that! Oy. I futzed around a bit, got there another way and there's the button. Yup even the best, most user-tested software, hailed as so easy your Mom could use it, is impossibly difficult even for an Old Hand like Yours Truly. ">
Con Edison used to have these great signs they'd put all around construction sites. They said "Dig We Must!" From that I came up with a programming slogan -- Still diggin. The way you'll know I've passed on to my final reward is that I'm no longer diggin. ">
We've already announced the first two Sources Go Direct panelsts, Nick Denton and Fred Wilson.
Nick is our contrarian -- I'm expecting him to say that while distribution is now electronic, news flows much as it did when distribution was on paper. Or something like that. ">
Nick is also a focal point for a wide-ranging and often emotional debate about how sources are used to get information that companies are reluctant to share. Many of us, myself included, have a strong interest in knowing about Apple's products in development, as much as Apple has an interest in controlling how much we know and when we know it. I think it's good that people like Nick are trying to get the information we want, when we want it. I can empathize with Apple's perspective, having spent many years as a commercial software developer. But I've often been frustrated at how much the tech press seems to serve the interests of industry at the expense of users. It's good, imho, that Nick is pushing the envelope here, and helping strike a different, healthier balance. I expect some of the people in the room to disagree, respectfully of course.
Fred was the first VC to use the web in a personal way to create new relationships with entrepreneurs and other investors, to learn about new tools, and to share what he has learned. All this has allowed him to do venture capital in completely new ways.
Rachel Sterne, CEO of "citizen journalism" site GroundReport provides a platform for 5000 independent writers and editors who contribute their work to produce something analogous to a newspaper as Wikipedia relates to a pre-Internet encyclopedia.
In the early days of news on the web, Salon boasted that they were sending a reporter to Yugoslavia, a sign of their maturing to become a more substantial news organization. I was skeptical, thinking that we, the world wide web, were already there. Our network wasn't that well organized in 1999, but thanks to the work of Rachel and others, we are there today, and the dream of 1999 is being realized in 2010. Scott Rosenberg, one of the founders of Salon has already registered for the event. It'll be interesting to hear his perspective. Jay Rosen, who Rachel says has inspired her work at GroundReport will be there too, of course. ">
As mainstream journalism pulls back, as international bureaus close around the world, it seems Rachel and Co may be building the distribution system that gets us the news we need.
So we have three very different perspectives on our panel on Wednesday, but in no way do they cover the entire spectrum. That's why our session will add some of the elements of a BloggerCon-style unconference. We will have a "monitor" with a wireless mike available to help you add your point of view to the discussion (which will also be webcast, the backchannel will be on IRC and Twitter). You can ask questions, but you can also simply comment. We don't draw a very bold line between the stage and the room, we understand that there will be 125 incredibly smart, experienced and knowledgeable people in the room, and we want to tap into as much of that as we possibly can.
The session will last one hour and fifteen minutes. After that we will switch format to an "open newsroom," an idea I've wanted to try for quite some time. Bring your laptop, netbook or iPad, we'll provide wifi and refreshments. The discussion will continue and we can all write our blog posts and do it in any collaborative fashion that makes sense to you. If it goes as I think it will, the newsroom will be every bit as valuble as the panel discussion. It's an experiment, so it'll be new, that's for sure. ">
We've set up a website with links to all the resources for the event at go.hypercamp.org.
As part of the rewrite, I'm adding CSS div's to every bit that's automatically generated, so it'll be easy for a designer to change the look of the site without touching site template (the template will also be easy to edit).
Part of the inspiration is that I want Scripting News essays to be easier to read, esp for people whose eyes aren't so strong -- like me. ">
So I'm looking for great examples of blogs that are especially easy on the eyes.
As you may know, we're quickly putting together an NYU panel discussion for InternetWeek on my favorite subject -- Sources Go Direct.
It's next Wednesday, June 9 at 1PM at 20 Cooper Sq, 7th floor. It's part of the InternetWeek festivities.
We've already announced our first panelist, Nick Denton, the famous founder of Gawker Media. Now we're ready to announce the second.
Fred Wilson is one of the shining examples of people who have something to say that didn't fit into the normal channels, so he invented a new one.
When Fred speaks at conferences he's usually asked to discuss business models in the tech industry. As one of our leading VCs and an early investor in Twitter, his opinion on business and tech is understandably sought-after. But on Wednesday that's not what we'll ask about with Fred.
Our focus is on the people who make news and add understanding to news. We're not interested in helping anyone survive, or helping anyone disrupt. We are interested in how people tell their stories in the new way of communicating. And Fred Wilson is, in every way, a pioneer and leader in the creation of this new way of doing things.
Tickets are free at Eventbrite. Seating is limited to 125 people. It will be live webcast on Ustream. I think you'll find this very different from other panels you've participated in -- the "audience" will be an active part of the discussion, but it will also be moderated to keep it on topic. The backchannel will be on Twitter (of course) and on IRC.
Stay tuned! ">
At breakfast this morning Nicco got some big news. I wanted to mark the occasion. Not sure if he wants me to share the news. ">
Update: I got permission from the Mom.
It's a boy! ">
I don't know Josh Fraser, so I'm going to assume he's well-intentioned. But this tweet from him represents something all-too-common. People spin stuff to make it look like corporate-owned technology is something other than what it is.
Here's what actually happened when I decided to implement PubSubHubBub. At first I was enthusiastic, and said so -- until I saw that it had no support for RSS. It was all about managing realtime updates for Atom feeds. It said so in the spec, and there was no indication that they planned to change it. In fact, it said quite the opposite. The authors didn't see any reason to implement support for RSS.
At that point I knew I wasn't going to implement it, because I don't have any code that generates Atom feeds, and I don't plan to write any. I do have code that parses them. There's enough Atom-formatted content out there that you have to. So I do. But I have a choice in what I transmit, so I use RSS 2.0. I know that every aggregator supports it, so I'm on solid ground in that choice.
Am I wrong to think that PubSubHubBub comes from Google? Well, I'm sure there are other people writing stuff that works with it, people who don't work for Google. But if there were going to be a major change in direction in PSHB, it would have to come from Google. Conversely, if you and I got together and decided that PSHB should fully embrace RSS, we'd find ourselves discussing this with Google people. Whether it happened or not, that decision would be made by people who work at Google. You decide whether that means it comes from Google or not. I don't care to argue hair-splits.
I was going try to work with them. Vic Gundotra, who I know for many years, before he worked at Google -- was setting up a meeting with the two leads when news of a Google patent on RSS reading lists came out. That reminded me, in very stark terms, how this works. The patent was in an area where I had done a lot of unpatented work. You don't find out about patents for years after they're filed. Has Google filed patents around PSHB? Is the Pope Catholic? It's in Google's nature to claim supposedly "open" technologies as their property. It's much better to use unpatented tech that pre-dates all this stuff. Which is where the <cloud> element in RSS 2.0 comes in.
Everything that PSHB does can be done with stuff that is prior art for PSHB and therefore in the future will not be subject to control by Google. To me it's a no-brainer to use it. I don't see why anyone else would go differently, unless Google is paying them to, or they don't understand how patents work. Google's fanboys will call this FUD -- which means fear, uncertainty and doubt. It certainly is fear -- sometimes fear is the right thing. There's no uncertainty or doubt because Google does file patents. If they haven't filed any around their work in PSHB they should say so, clearly and unambiguously, in a legally binding way (i.e. a statement from an officer of the company, in writing). Then we can all relax about it. Until then I'm going to assume they have.
Anyway, I'm not nervous about "jumping into bed" with BigCo's, because I don't do it. Life is too short to waste time waiting for a tiger to shed its stripes or for the church to name a non-Catholic Pope. I stay with RSS because it's solid, it works, and no one can tell me I can't use it.
An interesting discussion emerged under yesterday's post about Panasonic's insipid subway ad for its Lumix camera.
It's irritating in so many ways.
1. It's simply not true, under any reasonable definition of "camera."
2. As some have said, it's elitist, and that may be their intention. But the NYC subway is not a very elite environment. I expect to see ads for ambulance chasers and hemorrhoid medicine on the subway. Night school (so you can get a raise and move to Manhattan and stop taking the subway to Brooklyn?). There aren't many environments as proletarian as the NYC subway.
3. As a camera user, the ad makes me angry -- because no one is making the product I want to buy. I want a high quality, small camera like the Canon I carry in my knapsack pocket, with the communication capability of my Droid and the user interface of my iPhone. I've wanted this product since 2007 when I saw how easy the iPhone is. Three years later I want so much more. But we're stuck with thinking like Panasonic's. They think they know better than we do, they can tell us what is and isn't a camera. Either you anticipate all our needs, get real responsive or get out of the way.
4. It violates the prime directive of marketing -- the customer is always right. If you're going to tell me I'm wrong, you'd better convince me very quickly or I'm going to think you're an idiot and an asshole.
5. I don't care about Panasonic. I never intend to buy one of their cameras. But if instead they ran an ad for the product I want, I'd line up outside their store and plunk down the money a month in advance and overpay by a factor of 3 if they said, instead -- "We believe all cameras should have ringtones."
6. All it takes to make them toast is for Apple to make a deal with Canon or Google to convince Nikon to bake in Android. How much you want to bet both things are happening?
7. Basically I don't like the ad because it reeks of "We know better." I think the sub-text of the ad could be "We're dumb fucks." They pay money to tell me that! Oy!! Oy!! Oy!!
Yesterday I wrote about our Internet Week panel at NYU.
It's going really well. We have two panelists signed up, and a bunch more invites out. I expect this to be a sell-out, blockbuster, fun, interesting and controversial. There may even be some news made here.
Every good panel needs a contrarian, someone who isn't a believer, who hasn't drunk the Kool Aid, one who will call us on our religion. We hope with respect and humor.
I couldn't think of anyone better than Gawker Media founder Nick Denton.
I've known Nick since the beginning of the blogging boom in the Bay Area, the mid-90s. Back then he was a tech entrepreneur, starting the aggregator Moreover. We both embraced syndication technology, Nick from the content side, me from the tech and community side.
I haven't always liked what he's done -- I'm thinking of the much-despised Valleywag, which viewed Silicon Valley as if it were Hollywood. It wasn't a good fit, yeah people sleep with each other, but they're actually married to their jobs. If you're looking for scandal, it's there, but it's not the personal who's-sleeping-with-who kind. At least not in the normal sense of "sleeping with." ">
But Valleywag is now good -- with Ryan Tate doing the editorial, and digging into the meaningful disasters of Silicon Valley.
Nick is very thoughtful, direct and much in the news. His latest controversy swirls around the role of sources and reporters in the new world of online news. Couldn't be more on-topic, in a contrary way, to "Sources Go Direct."
I couldn't think of anyone better to be our contrarian than Nick Denton, and he accepted, so here goes!
The panel will be at 2PM on Wednesday June 9, one week from today. At 20 Cooper Sq. It will be open, but seating will be limited. We'll have an invite page up very soon.
Sitting in a presentation, he noticed the presenter had taped notes on the back of each board to remind him what to say. Ogilvy stopped the show and asked the presenter to flip the boards around. Cut through the crap, basically -- say what you have to say. The people reading the ad want to know what the product will do for them, they're not interested in how cute you are.
Maybe. I like elegant products pitched with eloquence. And conversely, when they pitch a product with an idea that makes no sense, I think they should read their own ad, and go back to the drawing board and come up with a new product.
As I feel with the ads for Panasonic's Lumix cameras.
They've made a massive ad buy on the NYC subway system, or at least on the 1 train which I take regularly to go up and downtown.
Their pitch is thus: "If it has a ringtone, it's not a camera."
Wow does that tell you a lot -- about them -- and the kind of heat they must be feeling in the market.
The problem is thus: Someday very soon, it won't be a camera if it doesn't have a ringtone.
Just as film cameras were pushed aside by digital cameras, so will non-communicating cameras be pushed aside by ones that communicate.
We live in an ever-more-realtime world. If I take a picture of a pizza place, I want to tell my peeps "Hey I'm at this great pizza place." For a lot of reasons. First, to brag. Second to get kudos. And third, maybe someone will tell me what to order. It's happened before. ">
Gone are the days when we come back from a trip and do a slideshow for our friends. Five years ago we marveled at our ability to upload the slideshow from a London hotel room. Next year that's not good enough -- the pictures need to flow up to the net through wimax or at least 3G, selectively (only the good ones please) and our friends will see them within seconds of us taking them.
Someone at Panasonic knows this or the ad never would have been created. And someone else at Panasonic, the guy who owns the ad budget, is in denial. We're privy to an internal conversation that has leaked into the ad boards of the 1 train in NYC.
Update: Rebuttal -- "The best camera is the one you have with you."
The tech industry looks at the web and sees User Generated Content.
The publishing industry sees Crowd Sourcing.
Both put themselves at the center, but in news it's the sources who are at the center.
We're putting together an NYU panel for Internet Week -- people who are frequent sources for news reporters who use blogs to get their story out there.
I call this Sources Go Direct.
We want to provide excellent examples to show that the web is about more than traditional journalism, that a new kind of communication is emerging.
We're also looking for a contrarian, someone who says that sources can't or won't go direct, but do it with respect.
We'll send an announcement of the panel, it will be followed by an open newsroom for bloggers and professional journalists.
Likely date/time: 2PM through 5PM on Wednesday June 9 at 20 Cooper Sq, 7th Fl.
PS: STGD == Source That Goes Direct.
PPS: STGDs are always NBBs. (Natural-born Bloggers.)