Dave Winer, 56, is a visiting scholar at NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and editor of the Scripting News weblog. He pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in New York City.
"The protoblogger." - NY Times.
"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.
"Dave was in a hurry. He had big ideas." -- Harvard.
"Dave Winer is one of the most important figures in the evolution of online media." -- Nieman Journalism Lab.
10 inventors of Internet technologies you may not have heard of. -- Royal Pingdom.
One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.
"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.
"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.
"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.
8/2/11: Who I Am.
My 40 most-recent links, ranked by number of clicks.
FYI: You're soaking in it. :-)
However, if it doesn't...
That's basically all I have to say.
A little detail.
When I go for a ride, when I reach the starting point, I get out my iPhone and reset CycleMeter. When I stop to rest, I hit the Stop button. When I resume the ride I hit continue. When I'm done, I hit Done. At that point it sends me an email with a link to Google Maps that opens a KML file it generates that contains all the info about my ride.
I just signed up for DailyMile, which seems to be a Twitter-like service for people who work out. People can follow you and you can follow others. And they post information about their workouts. Like me, people who exercise systematically love these gadgets and community systems, so why not work on the connection! I mean CycleMeter already goes to the trouble to output a standard format. DailyMile should accept that as input. And off we go!
BTW, here's what the XML inside a KML file looks like
KML stands for Keyhole Markup Language.
Got out real early today cause it's going to be another scorcher.
6-minute break at turnaround at 99th St. Little or no breeze.
The river was glassy.
PS: I joined dailymile.com. Wonder if they accept KML files as posts?
Gruber commented on my very brief post on Apple's boycott and how even a user can see it's not working. There's no dispute. You come across lots of stuff, movie trailers, corporate fact sheets, bike route maps, even press releases -- in Flash. You or I may not like it, but the theory that Apple's lack of support for Flash would force them to convert, well that isn't working. That's all I said.
Gruber, however, reduced it to the same old boring battle-to-the-death between two titans, in which us little guys are mere spectators. Sorry but that just isn't how I view it. My perspective is that of an iPad user. I like the damned thing. But I feel like a pawn, and I don't like that.
Of course I'll get more of the usual boilerplate moral bullshit from Flash haters saying whose fault this really is. I don't care.
Maybe if (hint hint) Gruber had comments on his blog, his minions wouldn't feel the need to vent on the sites he points to? Just a thought.
Tomorrow at 8AM Pacific, Twitter will do something that will befuddle many end-users.
I can't think of a precedent, a time when a platform vendor deliberately broke so much application software. It's possible that it's happened and I don't remember, but I find it hard to believe that I would not have heard of it. So much app breakage would surely make a loud sound!
Twitter says it will mean improved security.
I think it means for sure fewer user-hours spent with apps not developed by Twitter, Inc.
Some of my apps will die tomorrow. For example, FriendsOfDave and dwcodeupdates. It probably won't be worth it to convert these little apps to use OAuth. It will impact very few people, mostly me. (FOD is like a quick aggregator for people whose updates I never want to miss. Codeupdates helps me confirm that updates made it through the OPML Editor's code management system. Neither are mission-critical, just nice-to-have.)
I'm sure tomorrow I'll learn of other Twitter-related apps that will not be updated. If you learn of any feel free to post a comment here.
As an iPad user I can tell you without a doubt, it isn't working.
I see new Flash content several times every day when I catch up on the news with my iPad. This isn't stuff that's going away, it's new stuff that creative people are publishing. New stuff, not legacy stuff.
In other words, they know we can't see it on the iPad and they went ahead anyway.
He was shot after listening to this song.
When I wrote a positive review of The Big C, a number of readers told me I should check out Breaking Bad, for a more interesting take on a TV series written around the death of its main character. So I did. I've now watched all three seasons of the show, and while some of it was very hard to watch (how could the characters be that stupid or mean), the last season was terrific. Right up there with The Wire for artfulness and acting. All the characters are interesting, none of them are simple or one-dimensional. The music is great, and the New Mexico desert scenery beautiful. And the last season ends with a real cliff-hanger. Did Jesse do it or not? (I think not.)
If you're reading on the home page or in the feed, click through to the story page on the web for a theory about what comes next, and don't click on the little plus sign if you don't want to see spoilers.
First, it's probably not a good idea to ride before eating, but I didn't want to wait because I figured it would get pretty busy on the trails today as it was yesterday. But about 1/2 hour into the ride I started feeling unusually depleted. Who knows what the reason is, but I think I'll pack some nuts or candy for future rides.
Even so, it was a fast ride. 13.4 miles, 1 hour 6 minutes.
Once again I checked-in at the turnaround point on Facebook.
Thinking about getting an iPhone 4 mount for the bike.
Also thinking about a heart-rate monitor. They have iPhone apps that use the microphone to measure heart-rate. Wouldn't it be cool if they had one built into Cyclemeter? Then the map could include heart-rate data.
I read this piece on TechCrunch about ageism in tech and nodded my head all the way through.
Facing facts, I've been sidelined in tech for quite a number of years. No one offers me a place in new startups. When I was younger things were a lot different.
If I can't get into the game, I can't imagine there's much chance for most other people in their 50's to play a role. Which is really fucked up. It's probably the reason why we keep going around in the same loops over and over, because we chuck our experience, wholesale, every ten years or so.
If you invest in tech companies, try bringing in some tech experience. It might push your comfort level. It also might make you much more competitive.
Today's ride was in prime time, and everyone was out on bikes, rollerblades, boards, walking, running, you name it.
And everyone was hogging every inch of the road, including my bits of the road. Lots of near-misses, cars driving in the bike lanes, and people walking and riding four a-breast. Tomorrow's ride will be at dawn. Let's see if I can get some of the road for myself.
Even with all the michegas, I did some serious mileage. Feeling really strong and good. It's hot weather, but heat is very good for riding. And the sun was shining in a very California way, and the Hudson was shimmering and humming with kayakers, the Circle Line, helicopters, shipping and recreational traffic.
The map. 10.46 miles in 56 minutes. Turnaround at 99th.
Not too many more weekends like this before it gets collllld.
PS: There should be a Hacker News for biking.
The map. 51 minutes. 9.5 miles.
Light wind, made it up to the turnaround point in 25 minutes, non-stop. Short rest. Came back non-stop. I'm going to need a longer ride tomorrow, this one is too easy. Maybe up to 125th and back.
New riding shorts. These are much more sheer, they feel wicked!
New practice: Check-in on Facebook at the turnaround point.
If you're in NY today, get outside. It's one of the 10 nicest-weather days of the year, for sure.
There's been another round of hype over Diaspora.
These guys are seriously good at the tease.
The press is staying remarkably centered on the most recent announcement as if saying that they're unsure of what Diaspora is (they haven't actually said, not even a screen shot of the final product) but they're willing to wait until they get back from Burning Man to decide if it really is the open Facebook-replacement they set out to make. With the shipdate looming so close, they're going on vacation. Now that's confidence! (Or hubris, or inexperience.)
Now while it's possible for four talented computer scientists, in a summer, to make a piece of software that's so compelling and attention-grabbing, not just in theory but in actual use -- it's also far from likely.
More likely is that they buy into the view of engineering from inside academia where they confuse student projects with working systems that can survive a real-world test. For example, look at my review of Pogoplug, earlier today. I'm sure their engineers are brilliant, like the Diaspora people are. Yet when the software arrived at my desktop, nothing happened. No functionality. Welcome to the user's desktop where complicated technology very often doesn't work.
It's unfortunate that the expectations have been set so high for this project. It's unfortunate for the developers, but more for the users and other developers, who have been plugging away at this problem for years without the benefit of the attention that the Diaspora folks have gotten. Now if they fail to achieve the high expectations they've accepted, and even encouraged, they're going to take a lot of the hope with them. That's what's going to really suck.
More likely, around the time Diaspora ships, or shortly after, but certainly before the end of the year, Google will announce their open social network. That's what people will talk about. That, and the next rollouts from Zuck and Company. The amazing story of the $200,000 grant will fade, as will the glory, and perhaps the chances for creating something open that lives outside the walls of corporate Silicon Valley.
I wrote a post about Pogoplug last week and they offered to send me one for free, and it arrived yesterday.
I set it up this morning, and now am trying to use it.
I downloaded and installed the Mac software, assuming that a folder would appear on my desktop somewhere with the name Pogoplug or something like that (maybe the name of the hard drive attached to the device), but there's no folder evident. Tried rebooting.
Noticed that there's now something called MacFUSE in my Preferences app. Not sure if this was there before or if Pogoplug installed it.
Tried installing the software again, still nothing.
Looked at the web interface, but was pretty horrified. No way, after using Dropbox, am I using something so hard to look at.
There is an API. Plan to check into that.
I wanted to grab a picture of the Mona Lisa so I searched for it.
There are all these mashups of the painting, but where's the original?
It's at the center of something, everyone's talking about it, visually, but it's hard to know which is the original and which is the mashup.
I'm afraid my ride diary is going to be pretty boring most of the time, now that I've found my standard ride.
1. Get on the Hudson River Greenway heading north.
2. Ride nonstop to 94th St, just after the over-water stretech.
3. Get off the bike and sit on a bench, watch the world go by, take a photo or video.
4. Get on the Hudson River Greenway heading south.
5. Get off at 10th St and head home.
Roundtrip is 9.67 miles, it takes almost exactly 1 hour.
Looks like that's the daily ride.
A few weeks ago Twitter added a section to their home page with recommendations of people and companies to follow. I've never really liked it, although I was willing to give it a try after it became clear it was algorithmic. But now that I've given it a try I'd like to opt out of it.
I find it distracting and tiring. The names don't change unless I click the X next to them, and I feel bad about that, because the people didn't do anything to get me to so dislike them. It's Twitter using their names, without their permission. I shudder at the thought of how many people are similarly irritated by my name in their right margin. Who is this Dave Winer guy and when will he stop begging for me to follow him. Thing is, I'm not begging, Twitter is doing the begging.
I'd prefer if they would leave me out of this whole thing, on both sides.
A simple setting that says I have enough followers so please no more recommendations. And another that says that I don't want to appear as an ad in someone else's right margin.
In journalism, politics and business they talk about transparency as a universal virtue. If you disclose your conflicts, or say where your money comes from, or deal with your users openly and fairly -- those are obvious good things.
Transparency is different in software. When systems change you want the changes to be without any apparent effects on users and developers. It's like transparency in recording music. I want all the highs and lows and in the right proportions. I want my software to keep working even if you just rocked the foundations. That's what we aspire to. We hope.
Anyway, today I made a big change that's virtually impossible to show you because it's so transparent. But I'll try to explain it anyway.
When I write a blog post like the one you're reading now, I write it on a workstation computer. It could be my desktop in my apartment in Manhattan. Or on my laptop, or netbook. I write and save and revise and save, over and over, just as you would edit a word processing document on your desktop, with one important difference. The changed version of the document is saved to a content management system running on another computer, running in Rackspace's cloud. This saving process is done with XML-RPC, although it could just as easily be done with a REST interface or FTP.
From there, the document is passed through the CMS, rendered and transferred to a server running in Amazon's cloud. That server is the machine called scripting.com. This is the machine your browser RSS aggregator talk to, to get the latest stuff from Dave. That transfer was made via FTP and the finished content is accessed via HTTP.
That's the old flow. Here's the new one.
The workstation saves its document to a Dropbox folder. The CMS is watching that folder, sees something new, renders it, and drops it into another Dropbox folder. That folder is served by Apache on the machine running scripting.com. Everything is done using the file system. The software just got a whole lot simpler. And much better backed up. And more flexible, because different machines can easily play the needed roles, or the same content served through scripting.com on one box could be served via egypt.com on another.
In a sense the filesystem has been turned into a simple multi-machine networked queuing system.
This is what I was trying to get working a few days ago.
Took advantage of the cold, wet weather to go to the movies today.
I wanted to shop for some new headphones, so I went to B&H on 34th and 9th, which left me near a megaplex on 34th, so it was a matter of what movie was playing when I finished with the audio shopping, and it was Eat Pray Love.
It didn't get great reviews, but sometimes it's relaxing to go to a movie with low expectations. This one was okay, because it had a message that was simple, one that I was familiar with from my mid-life crisis a number of years ago. It goes like this.
Your mind plays tricks on you, and makes you think other people are your problem, and that getting them to do something or be a certain way will unlock some part of your future. The inverse also seems true, their unwillingness to change is holding you back from being the great person you could be if only they would change. It's a trick because it seldom is true. It's a trick because it allows you not to change to become great and happy because you're scared to.
The most powerful thing you can do to get through all this messy trickery is to first forgive your ghosts. You can let them off the hook, even if they're still alive, by realizing that the past is dead and can't hurt you or hold you back. And if they're actually dead, you can achieve great peace by not only forgiving them now, but retroactively forgiving them when they were still alive. Try to visualize saying to your mother or father or grandparent or uncle who was unkind to you. Say "I forgive you" to their imaginary body, the one they occupied when they were hurting you.
This letting-off-the-hook is enormously liberating, not so much for them, but for you -- because they're just foils for the person you're probably really holding accountable for the past misery (and shouldn't) or for the present misery (which you should) -- you!
Projection is such a powerful illusion, most of the time we don't even realize we're doing it and when people come awake from it, it can create adult memories that are as powerful as any from childhood.
I remember two events in this waking up process. 1. I said to my therapist that I know exactly what my brother is thinking right now. She said, matter-of-factly: Really, how do you know that? (as if she accepted that I did know, which of course I didn't). I was baffled. I asked why she never asked me that before. She said she had been asking me that for years, but this was the first time (apparently) that I had heard her. 2. I was on a walk with a friend from a massage community I was part of. I was very frustrated with my girlfriend and was going on and on saying: I wish she would xxx, and fill in the blank with a dozen things she did or didn't do that bothered me. Every time I did it my friend would say: In what way do you wish you would xxx. At first it was just annoying, I wished she would let me finish venting. But she was making a point that eventually sunk in. My problem wasn't the girlfriend, my problem was me. The girlfriend was just a foil, a screen I was projecting on, a barrier to keep me from realizing that, as boring and undramatic as it is, the barrier was within me, not her.
Eat Pray Love takes over two hours to make this point, and it doesn't make it very powerfully, but no matter. For a certain number of people being able to visualize Julia Roberts gaining freedom from her ghosts might be enough to find their own way out of the fog.
I got a lot of snarky comments yesterday when I asked a couple of questions on my blog. This was after posting a proposal for a new kind of commenting system.
Most people who commented simply objected to my proposal, liked nothing about it, and told me why they like the current form of commenting. A few people chose this time to make a personal attack, mostly ageist, the one ism you're not supposed to call people on. There wasn't much (if any) discussion of the idea. Nor would there have been if I had open comments on that post. Pretty sure it would have been the same. Some people would say they like it, others would say they don't. Others would write comments that had nothing to do with the post. I'd moderate-out the abuse. Most would be cries for attention. That's what Internet discourse is like in 2010.
However, the best posts for comments are the ones that ask specific questions, like how long does it take for alcohol to reach the brain, or where's the missing spacebar on the iPhone 4. It gives people a chance to show what they know, and get a feeling they're helping, which is the best of commenting on the Internet.
Why I have comments: I hope I might learn something new from the people who read the blog. It's mostly selfish. I like that there's a side-benefit that it creates a record for other people to learn from in the future. I get a lot out of that on other forums on the net. Esp when it comes to technical problems, these discussion threads can be invaluable.
But rebuttal, esp principled rebuttal, really doesn't add anything to a comment thread. Obviously there's room for disagreement. And of course it helps people feel heard. But that's for them, not for me, and not for future or current readers. Being very blunt and direct, it just doesn't interest me. I don't post here to get into debates. If someone wants to start a debating site, one that really works and doesn't just rehash childish points of view, I might show up there from time to time, when I feel like debating. But then it's going to be as an equal. Here, on my blog, I'm a host, which in some ways makes me more than equal and less. It's not a good context for debate. Maybe other people's blogs work that way, more power to them and vive la difference.
I like collaborative problem solving -- and want to do more of that.
And by the way, my post was a proposal. My hope was that it would spawn other proposals, other new ideas for systems of discourse. Where is the creativity? Where are the people who would like to try new ideas, no matter where they came from? I'm sure they're out there. But there's no place for them to comment because the debaters crowd them out. I wonder if some of the people who vehemently defend the current form of commenting realize that there are lots of people who won't participate in a system dominated by mostly mindless and repetetive prattle?
Been reading comments by Dennis Crowley of Foursquare about Facebook's new check-in feature, and I think he could play it much much better. So this is a friendly open letter to my fellow New Yorker, urging him to learn about and practice positioning. To develop a clear difference between 4SQ and FB, one that makes sense to users, and allows both products to exist side-by-side.
After all, there is Toyota and there is BMW. And there are trucks and nimble sports cars and bikes and motorcycles, that all more or less do the same thing. They all have wheels and transport people and things. But they're used very differently for very different purposes.
There's lots of room for differentiation, and the products are already differentiated. But to summarily dismiss your huge competitor as "boring" -- well we understand why you would like us to think of them that way, but I don't think people do. You have to explain your product in a way that makes sense to the prospect. Craft a position that has lasting value relative to the competition. Do something they can't do because of their size and who they are. Or where they are. Or their talent pool. Or who they can strike alliance with.
Lots of opportunity here.
PS: Please no more Wired cover shoots.
I rode straight through with only one break at the turnaround point.
Took yesterday off because of rain. Had a very positive effect on my biking today. Rest is an important part of a workout.
And this time it was a headwind going up and tailwind coming back. That's the way I like it!
Riding time: 52 minutes.
Couple of videos:
1. The river was choppy today.
2. This is my favorite stretch of the greenway. You're riding over water, very smooth path, perfectly level.
Hey I don't know why it took me so long to think to do this.
What it is -- Every link I've pushed to Twitter since April 2009.
How it works -- I don't call Twitter to get these links, so when Oauthcalypse Day comes, this little app might survive.
I store all these links in a database on one of my servers. I have a bookmarklet I use to create each link, even ones I create on my iPad, and because it needs to record info about the link to maintain the Top 40 list, the data is around, and I never delete it. So it was there.
What's interesting is how much it looks like the early days of Scripting News. Lots of links to stuff with snarky comments. We go so far just to come back to where we began! The earth is round, so is time. Big wheel keep turning. Etc etc.
It gets built at least once a night. I might have it rebuild every time I add a link.
I'm at lunch with Arikia at Cafe Tasia on 8th St. She ordered a strawberry mojito and offered me a sip, which I took. Less than 30 seconds later I already felt a buzz. She said that's not possible, that alcohol couldn't make it through the stomach to the blood and to the brain in that short a time.
She thinks it's a placebo effect. I think it's the real thing.
Who's right? (Please cite your source.)
I was sitting around eating food and working my way through Season 2 of Breaking Bad and got itchy for some bike action. Looked out the window and saw it wasn't raining. Looked at the street and saw people walking by normally. So I put on the helmet, started my Cyclemeter and hit the road!
Short ride, great energy -- down to the Battery. Stop, take a picture of the harbor in storm mode, when big fat drops start pinging my helmet. Ping. Ping. Ping. Strap up and head out. No problem. It's summer heat and summer rain, so we all get soaked, everyone, but who cares.
A short ride, up and back.
Here's the map and the stats: 4.6 miles, 27 minutes.
Here's the song.
I'm almost 100 percent sure that scripting.com was the first blog to have comments. And I'm equally sure that it was the first to have its comments flame out. The flameout was a good thing, although it didn't feel like it at the time, because it created the first wave of blogs. And when their comments flamed out, there were subsequent waves of new blogs.
Once the blogosphere had grown sufficiently that the central role scripting.com played was largely forgotten, I brought comments back. I've been mostly satisfied with them, but certain subjects evoke predictable and futile "arguments" in response and unless moderation is applied, they will spiral into a flamy back and forth that you can find in any of thousands of different places in the blogosphere. So I moderate according to a few basic guidelines.
1. Keep your responses focused on the piece you're responding to.
2. No ad hominem attacks.
3. Add value, a new idea, perspective, point of view. Simply saying "I disagree" is not helpful and likely won't get approved.
4. When moderating I'm always mindful of whether the comment needs to be tacked onto my post or if it would do better as a post of its own on the author's blog. I think a lot of people post comments just to get attention. If I get the idea that's what's going on, I don't approve the comment. That's a misuse of the comments, and disrespectful of the community, and of the blog's author.
So all this has led me to an idea that comments could work quite a bit differently and remove the incentives to replay old arguments, and keep the comments focused on the ideas being responded to.
1. A fixed commenting period for each post of 24 hours.
2. Until the period expires, none of the comments would be visible to other commenters.
3. You could edit and refine your comments during the period.
4. There would be a length limit of 1000 characters to keep people from using comments in place of a blog post. No one is going to read a blog post in a comment.
5. After the commenting period is over, the comments would become visible, and no further comments would be permitted.
I know some people think that blogs are conversations, but I don't. I think they're publications. And I think the role of comments is to add value to the posts. If you want to rebut a post, then you can create your own blog and post your rebuttal there.
I've always felt this way about what blogs are, and in a similar way I feel Twitter is not a conversational medium. it is even more inappropriate to try to converse there because of the 140-character limit.
I've disabled comments for this post to give a brief demo of what it might feel like to find other outlets for your ideas, or to allow you more time to consider your response.
Here's how it was explained to me by someone who says they understand what I saw at the 5th Ave Apple store this morning.
1. The people lined up there were employees of resellers, companies who buy iPhones and resell them overseas and online at higher prices.
2. They line up there every day, in case there are any they can buy. Most days there aren't.
3. They come back the next day, because there's money to be made. These people aren't there to buy phones for themselves.
4. The line went round the corner and down the block.
5. This would be a good story for a business reporter to dig into. Imho.
Click on the pic below for a blowup. Sorry for the lack of clarity in the picture. I might ride by there tomorrow morning to see if I can find out more about what's going on.
And Christians and Jews, athiests, agnostics. Men, women, boys, girls. Bike riders, walkers, runners. Tourists. No one seemed offended. Or in any hurry to get anyone away from anywhere in particular. It was a sweet, relatively quiet summer morning in NY.
I rode past the Fifth Avenue Apple Store and saw a huge number of people lined up. I asked what they were lined up for. iPhones. They were almost all, if not all, Asian. Many did not speak English. I asked why, now, after all this time -- they're lined up. I was told it's been this way ever since the product launched. I took pictures.
The map. 13.5 miles, 1.5 hours.
And Howard Dean and Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. Send them to overseas to a country where they don't have our Constitution and tradtiion of tolerance for diversity and freedom of religion. Where they can learn the lessons of history on their own dime. Make them wear yellow stars, as my ancestors did, as a show of good sense and courtesy. So everyone can know they are Americans who weren't good enough to live in America.
I was thinking deportation might be the final solution for the problem, when Karen Hughes wrote a positively Nazi rationale for "moving" the Park51 community center, as a show of national unity. Like so many Americans who have spoken out on this, she needs a refresher course in civics. Or a lesson in 20th century history.
You can't single out people who practice a specific religion to be persecuted, just because a majority thinks it's sensible to persecute them. What other rights would you like to deprive them of? Due process? Habeas corpus? Maybe we should just re-settle all American muslims to camps far away from New York, so the people still grieving over 9/11 don't have to think about them? After all why should they be in New York at all? If two blocks from our hallowed ground is too much to bear, why should we put up with 20 or 200? (And btw, in the US, there is no such thing as hallowed ground. We are not a country that's based on a religion.)
Obviously this whole idea is ridiculous and un-American. In a way it would be better if the people wanting to open this community center were less ideal American citizens, if only to prove that our tolerance isn't subject to hypocrisy or seasonality or popular styles. Freedom, Mr. Dean and Mr. Gingrich and Ms. Palin and Ms. Hughes, is an absolute. Not something that is subject to your idea of good sense or unity. Or as Hughes puts it, courtesy. For crying out loud, this is the United States, not your country club.
When my Windows servers reboot I'd like them to go all the way, to log on and run the startup apps.
This happens all the time, when they automatically update themselves, which is a good thing.
Unless I'm awake and around when it happens it means my servers are off the air for a while. Sometimes hours.
There must be a setting somewhere?
I'm having no luck getting through to the web admin interface for the new cable modem Time-Warner installed here.
I need to get in there to adjust the config so I can get to my desktop remotely using a dynamic DNS address. It worked fine with the old modem. It's a pretty simple matter to program the routing table so things work properly. But you have to be able to get through to manage the configuration, and I can't get to the login screen.
The instructions in the manual are pretty clear.
They say to connect to http://192.168.0.1/ and enter cusadmin and password as the username and password. But when I go to that address, it says it's connecting, then sits there for a while and times out.
Here's a photo of the plate on the back of the modem with the MAC addresses blocked.
Couple of items.
1. Logged into Twitter for the 187th time this morning, and was greeted with the message: Sorry, that page doesn't exist!
Problem is the page that doesn't exist is http://twitter.com/. Don't get all existential on me now.
2. I had to log into my pharmacy's voicemail system to renew a bunch of prescriptions. After the second presscription, the voice seemed very familiar. By the third I knew who it was! It was the male voice from the "I don't care" viral iPhone 4 video. Made the rest of the experience a lot more fun.
As a sidebar, I can't hear the name iPhone 4 without thinking of the idiot customer.
I'm on the east coast, with a car and a bike, and a week to spare starting on Tuesday next. Looking for a place with (here's the kicker) with 1-week rentals available, relatively flat (for biking), and good swimming. Doesn't have to be salt water.
I want to bike on country roads, do some writing and reading, maybe have a couple of friends join me from elsewhere on the east coast.
Got any ideas?
For some reason I decided to re-watch There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day-Lewis. I didn't care for it the first time, but the second time, wow I really did. Especially the music. And he's a great actor, and the movie is more like a painting than a plot. A few scenes, a few characters, they interact, there's a little drama here and there. But mostly it's the music and the scenery and the sets and the acting. Especially the music.
So the title of this piece is a play on the title of that movie.
Another title that would have worked: No Country For Old Software.
What am I talking about? Twitter's Oauthcalypse, of course!
I promised that I would not convert my Twitter software. I plan to keep that promise. But now I can see how much I'll be giving up. I have lots of little systems that depend on Twitter, here and there. You hardly notice them, but they will be noticed, when they're gone.
I suppose I could convert them. But then they have promised to rip up the pavement again when the next version of OAuth is finalized. They say that one will be easier to support, but sheez, I already did the grueling work to support the first one.
Whatever. The Twitter platform is going the wrong way. Deprecation is bad software culture. I've never liked it.
Once I broke my users in a transition that involved changing the names of API routines that had clearly been labeled as toys. They screamed, and they were right. You pick a name, you stick with it. You don't decide one day that Amy would be a better name for your daughter Jody. "Henceforth, I, your father, proclaim the name Jody is deprecated. You and your friends shall now refer to the person formerly known as Jody as Amy." Your daughter and her friends would tell you to fuck off. And they would be right.
Sometimes there is a right and a wrong, and Twitter is just plain wrong about this Oauthcalypse nonsense. If I were making any money from my efforts with Twitter it might make sense to suck it up and do what they ask. But now seems as good a time as any to just say no and let it go. I'll try to think of a movie title that goes with that sentiment.
Interesting piece with a simple point by Marco.
He shows how the smartphone market was transformed in 2007 by the introduction of the iPhone. He's right that the lack of a removable battery and slots did not hinder the adoption of the iPhone. But I don't recall people saying it would be a failure because of its lack of expandability in hardware. However I do remember criticism for its lack of expandability in software.
Marco then extrapolates that the same is about to happen in netbooks. I agree with his conclusion, but I don't agree with the reason. And as with the iPhone, we're losing something important if the transition we agree is happening actually happens.
The key difference: There was no bottleneck for software in the pre-iPad netbooks. It matters. I just read an article about the Republican party running sexist TV ads, on my iPad, but had to get up and look at the same page on my Mac so I could watch the video.
I uploaded a video to Flickr from my iPhone 4, looks fine on my desktop but the video is postage-stamp size on the iPad.
I wanted to set the location on the map but Yahoo's mapping software doesn't work on the iPad.
We're entering an era of deliberate degradation of the user experience and throwing overboard of software that works, for corporate reasons.
That said, I'd prefer to read a book like Computer Lib/Dream Machines on an iPad than on paper. But I don't want a corporation deciding what software I can and can't use, or what I can and can't read.
What I want is the convenient form factor without the corporate filter.
It's way too simplistic to believe that we'll get that, but we had it. That's what I don't like -- deliberate devolution.
PPS: Why the iPad form is winning -- the netbook makers are abdicating. It's likely because Microsoft and Intel have exerted too much control, behind the scenes, and kept the market from growing.
Well, today it looms no more. It has been acquired. I ownz the GWB! Me and my Giant blue bike.
I knew great things were up when I mounted the bike and warmed up between the Village and the Intrepid. Then I paced myself through Riverside Park, and felt strong as I approached 125th St. I knew I would go all the way. And I did.
Then I turned around and man did it get tough.
The funny thing about a good tailwind is it makes you feel macho and all the while you aren't aware that there's a tailwind at all.
But when you retrace your steps the tailwind turns into a headwind, and there's no mistaking that. What was free and fun on the way up becomes arduous and painful hard work on the way back.
But I survived. And now that it's over, I feel grrrrreat!
Here's the map and the stats: 1 hour 58 minutes. 18.56 miles round trip.
I was in the middle of watching the first episode of The Big C, the new Showtime series starring Laura Linney and Oliver Platt when I saw that I could watch The Zuckerberg Show on Facebook.
Things were all flipped around, because Zuckerberg was a rerun. On so many levels. It was a rerun in that here was a huge tech company doing something that was interesting only because of their hugeness. And it was a rerun because it had all been done before, by Foursquare.
It was also a rerun because it's just another loop around the tech circle. Every feature shows up in everyone's product. You can see there are three companies, Apple, Google and Facebook, at least, that are largely cloning each other.
And to the extent the Facebook announcement was interesting, it was equally sad that Yahoo and Microsoft, two passed-over tech giants, couldn't put something like this together now, if their corporate lives depended on it. And they do.
So after about 15 minutes of nauseating product annoucement from Channel Zzzz, I switched back to The Big C, which answers the question: Can you make death by cancer funny? with a resounding YES!
What a wonderful show.
You know why it's so funny -- because it's original. There are all these themes that have never appeared in a 1/2 hour sitcom because they were never willing to approach impending death this way. A character with less than a year to live can do and say things that other characters just can't, believably. And the writing is superb as is the acting.
Everything is backwards. You'd expect a show about dying to be hard to watch, and you'd expect young people on top of the world to be interesting. But the young people are boring while the dying is compelling.
If you haven't seen The Big C because you don't think death can be funny, you owe it to yourself to take a look. It's very very good.
I'm not surprised. Asus's response to the iPad has been to stop improving their netbooks. The product they're shipping now is in no way different from the one they were shipping six months before the iPad shipped. It isn't even cheaper. Maybe the battery lasts longer, but they maxed out that spec when they hit 7 hours use per charge.
They knew the iPad was coming, and they had nothing in the pipe.
That sales are dropping is no surprise. What possible reason would anyone who has one have for buying a new one?
Meanwhile this leak re a Google/Chrome OS/Verizon tablet shipping in November sounds like just what the doctor ordered. I'll buy one for sure if it's less than $500. I love buying new cool gadgets. Too bad Asus isn't offering any.
Update: Lots of interesting comments on Hacker News.
Makes sense that I have to cut back a bit the day after pushing to a new limit.
Today's ride: south to the Battery, turn around, north to the Intrepid, and back to the West Village.
9.73 miles. 1 hour exactly.
Feel good, but not so much energy as yesterday.
I'll get some good programming work done this afternoon.
What a mess, but it has a happy ending.
I now have an Apache sub-folder of my Dropbox folder that contains sub-folders whose names are domains.
When I create a new folder and point that domain at the machine running Apache, it automatically is configured to host that domain out of that folder. And I can copy files into that folder from any of my machines on my Dropbox network.
As always the Scripting News braintrust not only has a myriad of answers, but has the right one, and we get there quickly in good spirits.
You guys are the best!!!
Oh how the Bay Area culture loves to make technology a life-and-death struggle. Things that were never alive in the first place, like the web and RSS are said to be "dead." I think it's hubris and bad karma to be in the business of pronouncing things dead. That's the province of a higher being . Us mortals, well we do die. I'd hate to have my last words be that something or someone else is dead.
Anyway, to paraphrase the famous fictitious Met, Chico Escuela, "The web been berry berry good to me." So rather than say bad things about Wired and magazines, I thought I'd start a list of nice things about the web. If you'd like to make a contribution, leave a comment, or link to a blog post of your own that says something nice about the web.
1. The web is where I read about the web being dead.
2. I can write what I want on the web and Steve Jobs doesn't have a say in it.
4. If I want to write more than 140 characters on the web, I can damn well do it. (78 characters.)
5. The web allows for graphics. That's how I was able to paste in the beautiful picture of a cupcake in the right margin.
6. The web also makes reciprocity easy, that's why I linked to places you can buy cupcakes or books about cupcakes. These are all things that can make you happy.
7. Corporate media is filled with lies and lunacy. But making it possible for me to seek the information I want without anyone telling me what I want the web makes it possible for me to get more nourishing news and information, and other points of view. Before the web, well it was a lot worse. A lot.
More to come!
What to say but I got the beat.
Cyclemeter says it was 12.93 miles, 1.3 hours.
Here's the route in Google Maps.
A picture of the turnaround point.
Sailboats on the Hudson.
Hot and humid, but good biking weather. Not too many people on the trail.
First time I made it as far as 125th. Next stop Yankee Stadium.
Update: I got it working!
I'm trying to do something simple and interesting, but hit a rough spot, and thought I'd ask the brain trust here if you all had any ideas.
The idea: Serve static content out of a Dropbox sub-folder using Apache.
The design: I have a new folder at the top level of my dropbox called Apache. Each sub-folder has the name of a domain, say xyz.com, abc.org and 27 others. I have a script watching that folder for the appearance of new folders. When it finds one, it rebuilds my Apache httpd-vhosts.conf file including a mapping of the new domain to the folder in the dropbox hierarchy. Apache then restarts, and voila, I've used Dropbox to configure Apache. Even better, I can copy a new file to any of these folder, or modify an existing file, from any machine that shares this folder and have it instantaneouslly update. It's like Drobox's Public folder, but more more flexible and powerful.
The glitch: While you can control the location of your dropbox, you cannot change its name. It must be My Dropbox. The problem is the space. It's illegal syntax as far as I can tell, in an Apache config file, to have a space in a folder name. Seems there must be some way to escape it, but I don't know it. Or if you know a way to tell Dropbox to use a different named folder, say MyDropbox.
It's probably obvious, or this may not be the problem. The usual disclaimers apply and any help will be appreciated.
Followup: Well the first problem was solved, by using double-quotes. Now Apache can parse the name of the folder. But a subsequent problem was revealed. Apache won't serve files that are outside its folder hierarchy. This problem could of course be solved by moving the My Dropbox folder into its hiearchy but this is a bad idea. Most of the stuff in the folder is not intended to be served.
The obvious solution is to add a Windows shortcut to the Apache hierarchy pointing to the sub-folder of the Dropbox hierarchy that's intended to be served. Nice idea, and I tried it, but Apache doesn't seem to traverse the shortcut. So the next question is this: Apache on Windows and shortcuts -- any hope of them getting along?
Update: Shortcuts don't work, but how about NTFS junctions. Well, try to get one made. Would it be too much trouble to just make a right-click way to do it? Well, yes it would. You have to go to the command line, and it doesn't like filenames with spaces in them either. So I tried to run the Dropbox utility to change the freaking name of the folder, well that didn't work. As a result I'm now re-downloading the whole Dropbox archive into a folder with a space in its name. Well fuck me.
My software for this fun little project (which is what it was supposed to be) took 15 minutes. Getting Apache, Windows and Dropbox to deal with one freaking space in a folder name, that's taking hours. I should have given up on this long ago. Whats my next step? A bike ride.
A few photos of stuff the same distance from the World Trade Center as the Ground Zero Mosque.
A brilliant blog post, so good, I wish I had thought to take these pictures. I was down in this area on my bike just yesterday.
There is nothing hallowed about Ground Zero. It's a site of terrorism. It was terrible, a bunch of people died, a fair number of whom were Muslim, btw. A lot of them were Americans, but some were not. Since then it has become a huge tourist destination. And most of the area has returned to being part of New York's financial district, which is what it was before the terrorism.
Our response was to invade and destroy a country that had nothing to do with the terrorism, using the terrorism as a pretense.
I wrote a piece about this in July. We should apologize to the people who would build the mosque there, and ask them please to build us a wonderful shrine to their religion. We should celebrate the diversity of our great country. And we should make the people who would have Americans fear to practice their faith, pay for their pandering.
To recap, because of a loophole in Twitter's url-shortener, it was possible to create messages of indeterminate length. There were a number of people, myself included, who tried a few brief experiments to see if it was possible. Mostly just Hello World stuff. Nothing very interesting.
But it was tantalizing. For the first time we got to see what a longer tweet would look like.
StefanW echoes my sentiment when he says yes they were sweet, but asks "How to fight dogmatism?"
This got me thinking. I know how to fight dogma. With compromise.
I'd like to propose an experiment to the owners of Twitter. For a brief period, say 7 days, let a few of us create special accounts that don't have a 140-character limit. We know there's no technical limit in the software. After all you had to disable the feature. It's already in there.
After a week of experimentation, we agree that you get to turn it off if you want, or you can leave it there. Or do something else. Maybe we'll learn why, after all, easing the limit is not a good idea.
As with everything on Twitter, it will be strictly opt-in and anyone who opts-in can opt-out at any time.
Let us have a week to experiment, to see what's possible, and to make recommendations.
If you agree or disagree, write a blog post. And be sure to use more than 140 characters to say what you think!
PS: I've been down this road myself. In the early days of outlining, ThinkTank had a 40-character limit on headlines. One of our earliest most vocal users, and a good friend, Dick Applebaum, was relentless in promoting what he called fat headlines. When I wrote the post yesterday I was reminded of Dick. What was the outcome? I relented. The result was MORE, which won product of the year in 1986 on the Mac, and made our users very happy and our investors rich.
PPS: mbjorn calls this Fat Tweets Week. I like. Changed the title of the post.
I am still wiped out from yesterday's 2-hour ride that involved some real hills for the first time in 15 years.
But I wanted to try out an iPhone app for biking called Cyclemeter.
It took a bit of futzing around but I figured out how to get it to export the map to Google.
Today's ride was short. 38 minutes, 5.66 miles. Went down to the Battery and back. Enough to work up a sweat and to feel it in my legs and butt.
I think I'm getting to the point where it's hard not to ride at least a little every day.
Wondering what happens when it gets cold?
For the next few hours or days (or..?) all hell can break loose on Twitter, as a little hole was opened that makes it possible for greater-than-140-character tweets to break out into the wild.
Here's an example of a fat tweet so you can see what it looks like.
And here's a screen shot in case at some point in the future that gets truncated (as it seems likely it will).
Here's how it works.
1. Twitter has a new url-shortener, called t.co.
2. When it displays a tweet with a url that was shortened by t.co, it expands the url, so you get to see the url it is pointing to. That way you know in advance where you're going. This is a good thing, it's one of the nice things about the web that url-shortening screws with.
3. But t.co doesn't check to see that the thing you're shortening is actually a url. You can shorten things that aren't.
4. t.co doesn't have a 140-character limit for urls.
5. So when it shows the full url, it shows as many as were there. Even if there were more than 140, and even if it wasn't a url.
Update: I whipped up a little web app to show how it works.
Not sure how many miles cause we had an equipment malfunction with EveryTrail, but it was a two-hour ride. Let me tell you where I went.
Rode cross-town on 10th St to 4th Ave, across 14th St, continued on Park Ave, to 65th St, where I turned west. Rode across the park on the car road, not my plan, but it worked out. Then I stopped to take in the view on Central Park West and somehow the trip got stopped. That much was 4.9 miles.
Then I looped south and around the bottom of the park, swung up the east side and rode all the way up to the top of the park. Saw a beautiful swimming pool, huge, and not too crowded. This is where I discovered that I had had the malfunction.
Started up EveryTrail for the second leg. Went across 110th to Riverside Drive. Then headed south, crossed over to the greenway at the boat harbor, then headed south down the usual route. Stopped at the heliport to rest and shoot a video of a helicopter landing.
The second part was 7.1 miles.
Looks like the uncounted part of the trip is almost exactly 4.0 miles.
So the total for the day is: 16.0 miles.
I think I might take it easy tomorrow.
PS: Just noticed Google can send maps to cars now.
Today's trip: Headed uptown toward the George Washington Bridge.
Weather was perfect. Sunny and mild. Felt like 80 with a nice breeze.
Legs feel great, butt hurts a bit, at the end I was ready to go another hour (or so I felt at the moment).
Tomorrow is a Saturday geek ride up Park Ave and into Central Park.
Got an email yesterday that turned out to be spam or hoax, but at first looked like I had scored big. It was from Jeffrey Walker, executive producer at Voice America Talk Radio Network.
"You have been on our 'radar' as a talent for the possibility of hosting a show on the network."
At first I thought he meant he was from Voice Of America, a US-govt-run radio network that grew during World War II as a counter to Nazi propoganda in Europe and Latin America. After the war it broadcast western news into the Soviet Union and Soviet-occupied Europe. In Cold War terms, "behind the Iron Curtain." .
Today it operates in 45 languages, and broadcasts via satellite and on FM, AM, and shortwave radio frequencies. It is also available through the Internet in both streaming media and downloadable formats at voanews.com
I sent a response to Mr. Walker, asking: "Are you the same thing as the Voice Of America?"
He said no.
Anyway, I just wanted to put this out there. If you're a podcaster and you get an email from this outfit, they should be disclaiming upfront that they have nothing to do with the Voice of America. Pretty sure they got my email address by scraping BlogTalkRadio, which has a much more legitimate claim, imho, at being "The World Leader in Live Internet Talk Radio."
And these guys would look a lot less sleazy if they changed their name to something that wasn't so readily misunderstood.
On Twitter I asked a question out of frustration about Afghanistan.
2 hours ago: "Does anyone have even a theory why we're still in Afghanistan? Even a paranoid one?"
Apparently people in my circle have been thinking about this!
silencematters: "The oil and gas pipelineand mineral deposits."
joemoreno: "In theory, you don't want a failed state that's a safe haven for unlawful activity. But, who signs the peace treaty?"
scootinater: "it's all about the poppy's!"
mrDarcyMurphy: "Too lazy to get out?"
anildash: "Maybe everyone is ready to leave, but the security line is just really slow?"
tolles: "politicians are seldomly rewarded for losing a war."
arjunram: "cuz u continue to fund pakistan and by it the ISI."
BF191: "Obama decided to buy his own Buick (Afghanistan) and rejected Bush's Caddy as no good (Iraq) gotta show cars are good."
AdamBagwell: "didn't some geological survey find that Afghanistan is sitting on insane amounts of precious metals?"
dkato: "keep unemployment numbers as low as possible? Skyrocket when vets and stop-lossed come home."
SimonZerafa: "There after that huge Lithium deposit they discovered recently; easier and quicker to extract and will make money "
Soulati: "If we leave Afghanistan, the Taliban is poised right now to zoom in and undo everything. It's a can't win, don't you think?"
Alt_010: "Something to do with Anchor Baby's I think."
mcarvin: "if there were no bad guys in Afg., the Military-Industrial Complex 2.0 loses a large part of it's raison d'etre."
Jason: "my guess is we are secretly deep into Pakistan (with their permission) and we need Afg. as cover for those operations."
kidmercury: "profit for war biz; profit for CIA drug running (check afghan heroin production); part of NWO agenda (world govt)"
null_ptr: "The bad guys (Taliban) are there. Left Iraq and went there/Pakistan."
matthovey: "re-read the Plan for a New American Century, Dave."
flowchainsensei: "Nuclear weapons."
carlacasilli: "They have things we want. Things like natural resources."
lakesunrise: "B/C there are no jobs for vets. Our economy can't handle the extra war-hardened soldiers. They'll be forced into idleness- scary."
briantroy: "I'm gonna go with winning elections and ego."
AndyBold: "Oil, again. Afghanistan is a major gateway to the sea in that area which is why Russia went in. Think oil pipes & Asian continent."
adamkmiec: "we used MapQuest for directions on how to get out?"
rbonini: "We have yet to find Bin laden?"
jeremyfelt: "Manifest Destiny (squared)"
Here's the trip report on EveryTrail. 10.0 miles. 1.25 hours.
I rode up 8th Ave, cross town on 20th, joined the East River bike trail at Stuyvesant Point, went under the Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, South Street Seaport, round the Battery, up the Hudson and across the Village.
There were signs of heavy rain most of the route, but I never got more than a few drops.
The heat wave is over, it's in the mid-70s. Perfect riding weather.
The pedestrians are the worst in Battery Park City, sometimes blocking the whole super-wide path with dogs and baby carriages, not moving. The best bike trail is just north of there, betw the top of Battery Park and 46th St. It's a straight shoot the whole way.
Today the leg pain and tiredness are gone, endorphins flowing make me happy!
A few followups to recent programming pieces.
1. As a warmup project I added three new verbs to the OPML Editor glue script table for Flickr. Together they make it possible to easily download all the pictures in a Flickr group to a local disk.
2. There's a new realtime-over-the-Internet manager in the OPML Editor based on long polling and XML-RPC. I believe it's the foundation for instant RSS-like apps, and a chance to revisit all that's klunky or ineffective about RSS (notably how awkward subscribing is). There's very little code in this package, a good omen! You work hard for a very long time to find these nuggets. It's designed to be easily cloned, and I hope to start an open source project in the fall, to clone, document and evangelize it.
3. The realtime manager was developed for yet-another instance of the Instant Outliner. This one really is instantaneous, and should scale well. You'll find the code for it at builtins.io. (The code for the realtime manager is at builtins.realtime.)
4. Chuck Shotton took the tin-can-and-string idea and ran with it, not only implementing but also specifying a federatable social messaging app. I've worked with Chuck on and off for 15 years (gulp) and respect the hell out of him. I'd look carefully.
5. Had a fun, spirited phone talk yesterday with Blaine Cook, who works on realtime stuff for British Telecom and was one of the original guys at Twitter. I still think DNS is the right technology to manage identity, and can't support "activity streams" as long as it is Atom-only. Even so, there may be possibilities for connecting our work.
6. Not really a programming thing, but on Saturday, New York City is opening Park Avenue to bikers, runners and walkers (as it was last Saturday, and will be next Saturday). There are lots of related special events. If you're in the city it's a great idea to get out and get some blood flowing. It'll make you smarter! And it looks like the heat wave has broken just in time.
After two days off biking due to a Boston trip, I'm riding again.
Today's trip was quite a bit shorter than the last one. Not sure why, but my energy is a bit lower and my legs hurt more.
Rather than push too hard, I took a couple of breaks during this ride, and only got as far as 70th St. A total round trip of 7.9 miles. 55 minutes.
I've been re-reading Ted Nelson's great books, ordered copies for myself and Nicco, who gave his to EchoDitto. They say it's such an eye-opener (knew it would be) that they want to scan it and upload it. I understand the sentiment. I think everyone who uses computers should have Nelson's books and refer to them often.
One of the big ideas in Computer Lib is the bootstrap. Maybe it's the biggest idea of them all. A bootstrap is a process which, in order to create an X, you need one or more X's. The chicken-and-egg conundrum is an example of a bootstrap. Humanity is a bootstrap -- can't make a human without a human (two in fact).
One of the spookiest bootstraps is the process of writing a Pascal compiler (or any language, nothing special about Pascal). You start by writing a very simple compiler in assembly language. Get it working with some sample programs, then start writing a new Pascal compiler, in Pascal, and compile it with your compiler written assembly language. Keep working on it until you have enough features to comple the compiler with itself. Then you can throw out the assembly language one. That story really spooks people, but swear to god, that's how compilers are built.
That little story explains the trick of how bootstraps work. You start with a very simple subset that you know you can use. Then you use it. Then refine it, and use it some more. Repeat until you're ready to use the tool to create itself. In groupware apps, which is what blogging tools are, the bootstrap happens at step one. You always use the tool to organize the work of developing the tool. Same with outliners and BBSes. Basically everything I've ever worked on works that way.
Since my work and Doug Engelbart's have huge amounts of overlap, it should come as no surprise that Engelbart was the guy who focused our attention on the bootstrap concept. And it was Nelson, writing about Engelbart, that made them famous.
Some tools are built without the benefit of a bootstrap. Twitter for example -- but that's just how it appears. They used the results of a lot of research done by others who were bootstrapping.
Podcasting is a form of blogging, think of it as a weblog for the ears, that couldn't have happened so quickly if blogs didn't already exist. Same with almost all the new tools of Web 2.0.
Go back to the web, of course it's a bootstrap. But if you had listened to Ted Nelson, he would have told you that TBL's web is wrong, it's missing the features that Nelson felt the web must have. There's an irony. The teacher doesn't follow his own lesson! What TBL was doing was what he knew how to do, not waiting for the grand vision to appear. What Nelson was doing, with his Xanadu project, was waiting for perfection to emerge from the labs before offering it to the world (and presumably using it himself). He's waited forever. He should read his own book on that subject.
Anyway, to answer the question posed by this piece -- you bootstrap the federated 140-character loosely coupled network the same way you boostrap anything. Let's start with something very very simple, like two tin cans separated with a string. Something that is useful, perhaps minimally so, and can be federated. Then we use it. Then we think. Then we improve it. Start with working code. Start tomorrow, not next month.
So many people want to start by boiling the ocean.
As I posted yesterday, Twitter's new suggested users feature continues to impress.
Gotta wonder what if they had done this to begin with, how much more useful Twitter would be today. All the michegas about celebs using Twitter missed the point as far as I was concerned. I used Twitter. I didn't want Twitter to become TV. I don't have any use for TV except, very rarely, as entertainment. I value Twitter most when it connects me to intelligent people who have something to say. Now, with the new feature, at last they're trying to help me do that.
A couple of things came up in the meantime:
1. I wondered if there is an API for this feature. I want to write some custom tools to explore its suggestions. Apparently one was promised on the developer mail list as the feature was initially rolling out. Looking forward to trying it, when it's available. I think mashups of this feature will be interesting.
2. Chris Baskind asked a very important question. "Twitter's new Follow recommendations are an improvement. But I'd like Twitter to publicly disclose whether any are sponsored." I admit that when I saw them recommending products and companies I wondered too. A few minutes after he asked, we got an answer from Josh Elman, at Twitter: "The suggestions are not sponsored. Our only advertising products are promoted trends and promoted tweets as labeled."
I don't know what to make of all the publicity that's been appearing in the mainstream media about Craigslist.
I worry that these organizations have huge conflicts of interest when it comes to reporting news about CL, which has single-handedly undermined many of their business models. The articles I've read so far don't seem skeptical enough, and don't answer obvious questions that any intelligent reader would have.
Who paid for the ads in the Washington Post? Certainly not the underage prostitutes.
Then I saw this piece in the Guardian.
Guardian: "Craigslist is hub for child prostitution, allege trafficked women"
Oy. The first part is an assertion, the second part qualifies it. The story is the allegation, not that CL is a hub.
The story is flimsy. This, from a news org that doesn't have a conflict. The Guardian is not commercial. It's supported by an endowment.
I don't know what to make of it.
Chris Gulker tells a story of Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa about forgiveness.
It's a big thing to forgive. It cleanses you of life's biggest burdens. It's how you move on without having to process every last unhappy detail of your life.
It goes like this...
What if instead of greeting people with 'Hi how are you?' we said 'Hi I forgive you.' It would get routine. It would be impossible to carry guilt or a grudge, all you'd have to do is shake hands and you're absolved and have given absolution. I'm OK and so are you.
How do you spell relief? 'Hi, I forgive you,' says Jeff. 'Thank you. And I forgive you,' says Judy. 'Thank you,' says Jeff.
Check it out. I think there's something here.
I forgive you!
This time I used an iPhone app called EveryTrail to track my trip.
This time I got up to 94th St on the Greenway.
10.0 miles, 1.25 hours. Feel even better than yesterday.
Lots of pictures.
Here's a fantastic map of NYC bike paths and greenways. I want a hard-copy of this map. Any clues?
With my new Kindle, I've become a more avid reader.
I'm sure there are thousands of books on Amazon that I would love. But how to find them?
It seems some of the answers are locked up in the New York Times Book Review, but so far I've been too lazy and too cheap to buy a copy of it. This is the one product where the Times change the way it pays, and give it away like the ubiquitous AOL disks a couple of decades ago, and get a cut of the revenue from every book they sell. Book reviews should be free, because the books they sell make lots of money. Probably the same with the collection of NYT movie reviews.
The trick is to maintain the separation of editorial and publishing, as they do now with advertising. Except change the way you view the editorial product. It's not a way of drawing in eyeballs to ads, instead it's a way of selling books. And once the money is flowing, they could build the business by creating tools that improved the process, made it easier to find books you like.
I've always felt that news organizations have certain very valid conflicts of interest, conflicts we want them to have. Lke the difference between good cholesterol and bad. Think of it this way. What would be wrong for the San Jose Mercury News thinking that San Jose is a great place, and doing things to promote it? In the same way, we know the NYT thinks books are great because they publish a book review. They're not saying you should buy just any book -- you should buy the books they like, and not buy the ones they don't. The reviews have that bias already, so there's absolutely no problem basing a business model on it. (But in this model they'd get a cut off any book you buy through the review, even if they panned it.)
Now books aren't a huge business, but they got Amazon launched a few years ago, and today it's a big battleground that the Times already has a big position in. Their name is plastered right there on the cover of every book that makes its best-seller list.
If the Times got in the business of telling us where to live if we want really great Internet service, it seems they would be entitled to a percentage of the rent we pay on the housing we buy based on that recommendation. Now we're talking some very serious money. And the incentives would now be there for landlords to upgrade the Internet service in their buildings. It's a pretty "green" technology, so where's the harm? And doesn't the Times have a stake in New Yorkers getting better Internet access? Wouldn't that endear us to them? Make us want to give them more money? And how many new bloggers could they hire with that money? Done right, quite a few!
Eventually this is the way it's going to work, I'm absolutely sure of it. In programming we call this refactoring. You move code around, put this piece over there, that piece here, until eventually it's structured in a wholly different way. But still does the same thing.
In the future news organizations will still get us news, and they will still follow the same rules that let us trust them. But the way the money flows, that will be a whole different thing. Everyone knows that. I'm pretty sure this is how it will work.
Following up on two recent posts.
Observations on Twitter's newest iteration on suggesting people to follow.
1. They're not just suggesting people with mega-inflated follower lists by the SUL mess. Some of the people they're suggesting have small lists, so what they're saying is inherently more interesting to me. People with a million followers tend to run ads, whether they're directly paid for them or not.
2. The seeds they are using appear not to be random. In other words, somehow they've figured out who I'm related to professionally and intellectually. I have tended to follow a fair number of people who are random, just based on them saying something interesting. Those people don't seem to be playing a role in who they choose to recommend.
3. Many of the people they suggest are people I am actually interested in following, though I'm not yet doing it, I already have an overloaded Twitter stream. As some have noted they recommend people I know who I have deliberately chosen not to follow. But they are easily removed from the list and once-removed it stops suggesting them.
4. Anticipating that more people are seeing my profile now in a semi-serious mode, I've made mine more factual and less snarky.
Some suggestions for the suggestions:
1. I'd love to see know who Twitter is recommending me to. And are they subscribing?
2. Even better I'd like to have a way to walk the network of recommendations to see who they're recommending to the people I follow, and the people they follow and on and on. Is there an API for this? (Admittedly I haven't looked at the Twitter API in quite a while. Not interested in firehoses, and the rest of the movement seems to be pointless make-work for developers. Something like a server software dead-man switch. Ugh.)
Hey it's been a while since Twitter did something interesting. This qualifies.
Rex Hammock, my Republican blogging buddy in Nashville, recalls that in 2005, Forbes (a Republican tool) ran a cover that announced the "attack of the blogs" and warned that they "destroy brands and wreck lives." Now in 2010, they run blogs themselves. Heh. Whatta you know!
So... Are we bloggers or the The Borg?
Recall, they were the alien race in Star Trek whose motto was We Will Assimilate You. They were truly scary, and for a while it looked like they would indeed assimilate the human race.
Blogging is everywhere nowadays. Not everyone does it. Just NBBs, but there are lots of them. The cost of publishing is down pretty close to zero. As Papa Doc used to say in the early days: We'll fact check your ass. And I forget who observed that we're watching you watch us watch them watch us watch you watch them, but we're still watching them watch us watch them watch you watch all of that.
This one was huuuuuge.
Started at Sheridan Sq, rode east to Lafayette, turned north, up Park Ave all the way into the 70s.
Turned west, then south at 5th Ave, down to 60th. Entered Central Park, rode back up to 72nd, turned south down to 59th.
South on Broadway to 57th, west to the Hudson Greenway, south to 10th St, east to 7th Ave, south to Sheridan Sq.
How many miles is that? A lot!
1.5 hours and I feel grrrrrreat.
Time for a shower and head out to Queens.
I finally got fed up with people using Scripting News to post the same off-topic comments over and over. It's not just that one person is being a broken record, there's a whole cadre of people who feel they need to be heard yet have nothing to say. They repeat themselves with very simple thoughts. Apple is great, Flash sucks, etc etc ad nauseum. They can "prove" it. If you don't like it it's because they disagree with you not because you've heard it a million times and didn't care the first time.
So if I ask a question that isn't resolved by a simple Neener Neener response, yet people post them -- my solution is to do what Apple does with Flash content -- off to the bit bucket. If, after I ask you to stop, you continue to do so -- I block you. If after blocking you here, you hassle me on Twitter, then I block you there. I don't give a shit who you are, if you're the Pope's long-lost brother, or the Dalai Lama or the chairman of the Republican Party. Goodbye. Please!
Bonus link: Krugman re upgrading discourse on his blog.
Quick followup to yesterday's post on Amazon and web hosting.
So close yet so far.
Turns out by coincidence Amazon had announced, the very day of my post, that their CloudFront service would support index files.
The economics are pretty attractive. The cost of the first access, assuming the index page is the only thing accessed via CloudFront, is about the same as S3. For the first access of the home page you pay double, once for CloudFront and once for S3. All subsequent accesses, until the cache expires, cost 1X an S3 access.
But there's the rub. For a blogger, the home page is a rapidly changing page. I sometimes update the home page several times a minute while I'm tweaking up a story. CloudFront, by its nature, must cache. And caching is what you don't want to do with a potentially rapidly changing resource.
It's the wrong solution.
People say S3 is just a storage service. But I'm not buying it. Why shouldn't a storage system also work as a web server? So much of S3 is useful for that, it's only natural to add the one final feature necessary to make it work. Or please let us know why. It's just a curiosity, is there some reason Amazon doesn't want us hosting full static sites in S3? (Please, unless you have a creative non-obvious answer, let's wait till (and if) we hear from Amazon.)
Yesterday I wrote a quick piece about visualizing failure, and didn't explain something important.
First, recall that failure was imminent. It was the expected outcome. The board had washed its hands, told me to shut it down (why they did this in retrospect is a mystery, they had no upside in shutting it down other than a possible tax loss).
The problem for me was I couldn't imagine going on with my life, facing my family -- who had said it would never work and I should just get a job. Or my friends, who I had been neglecting, for a very long time, because I was hunkered down trying to make this thing work. And how would I get work after this failure? And if I could, what would it be like to work for someone else, having failed at entrepreneurship? But even more ominous than facing family and friends or finding work was how would I face myself? I had been holding on to this dream of myself as a success, a self-made man, a person who creates his own destiny. I had had this feeling when I was a student that I had discovered my purpose. What would it mean to have failed at my purpose? How could I live with that? I didn't think I could.
I think in general, except in some very lucky circumstances, success requires that level of determination. To just wish for success is not enough. To want it is not enough. To deserve it is not enough. You need a word that's stronger than wish, want or deserve -- perhaps that word is "require."
Over on Ycombinator one of the commenters, TotlolRon, quoted Apollo 13 Flight Controller Jerry Bostick. "When bad things happened, we just calmly laid out all the options, and failure was not one of them." I think that's pretty close to the sentiment. You're out there, you're alone, and if you fail, you aren't coming back. That is the feeling I had outside the office that night.
Maybe it isn't that I couldn't visualize failure, but in some sense I could visualize it all too well.
I'm going to keep working on this.
I've been hearing all this happy talk about how great it is for Google that Wave failed. The theory being that if you fail that means you took a chance, and taking chances is good therefore failing is good.
This is really convoluted and it's really wrong.
The only way to succeed in my opinion is if you cannot visualize failure.
I've been there. In 1986 my company was in very deep shit. One night I was leaving the office and I knew the next morning I was going to lay off a quarter of the company and cut the salaries of everyone else in half. Even after doing that I still didn't think we could make it. My board had told me to shut the company down and I told them to STFU.
As I locked the front door I stopped and thought, how would it work if we did fail? Would I lock the front door one last time and then walk away? I literally couldn't visualize it. As I drove home I resolved that I would never do that. Somehow we'd get through this crisis and we'd make it work.
Later, when it did work, I realized that moment, while locking the front door that night, was when the company turned around. When we went from being in crisis mode to being a winner, for one very simple reason. I tried to visualize failure, and couldn't do it.
It didn't really sink in until my second company washed up on shore and couldn't get back to sea. We didn't have that feeling that failure wasn't an option because the way it was set up was the way big companies set up projects. None of us could lose our jobs. We had enough money to try again and again. I think this is why real startups have a chance to do something truly new and established companies can't. Because not only is failure a real option, it also is pretty inevitable.
In any case, it's pure nonsense that failure is a good thing. It isn't. It happens a lot, that's for sure. But it's good if you risk and win. If you risk and lose, that's the definition of "bad."
Google Finance says the wonderful version of their graphs are only available if you have Flash installed.
How do I know? Well I'm an iPad user.
I was interested to see that San Francisco is shutting down the Transbay Terminal today, getting ready to demolish it and replace it with a wonderful new commuter center, right on Interstate 80. I would have loved to have seen the interactive rendering of the new terminal but I couldn't. I was using my iPad and they did it with Flash.
Maybe they didn't get the memo.
Or maybe they don't care.
I think pretty soon Apple has to scare off all the Flash content or the users are going to be asking why there all these holes in their iPad browsing experience.
I have my own industry-insider reasons for despising what Apple is doing with Flash, even though I'm not a big fan of Flash. I despise it because they're using the users as pawns in a business chess match. Using us because they could have written a Flash emulator. That would have been the user-loving thing to do. I don't like to be seen as a tool to win a victory that I don't understand and I don't care to understand. That's me wearing my user hat. I'd just like to see the spiffy graphs and learn about the plans for the new Transbay Terminal.
Here's the problem.
I always get requests from people who remember a piece I wrote about this or that, but can't find the piece in Google.
I know how they feel, because this happens to me all the time.
For example, I wrote a piece once that explains how engineers inside big companies feel about "outside" developers. Can't find it.
Someone asked for a pointer to a piece I wrote about eliminating clutter. I think I wrote it just in the last few months. Can't find it either.
The inverse also happens. Someone posts a link to a piece on this site, but I don't have any memory of writing it. After reading it, it all comes back -- yeah -- I put a lot of time into thinking about that and writing about it.
Basically this stuff needs to be organized and categorized and cross-related.
I have great tools for that, and where they're lacking I don't mind writing more tools. That's what I love to do. But sifting through all the back issues of this site -- well I know I have to do it, but somehow I never have the time.
If you're the kind of person who loves to organize written work, and have been reading this site for a while, let me know, and let's see if we can get something going. Obviously whatever we learn here can be applied to other bases of writing.
Om Malik has an interesting piece today about Amazon web hosting.
I'd love to see them do it, then I could move my archived static sites up to S3 and forget about them.
But they're missing a key feature for web hosting -- index files.
Suppose I put a website on S3 and map a domain to it:
Try going there, you'll get an XML error return.
But... it does have an index file.
All Amazon has to do is make the first URL work, which is how web servers work by default, and boom they're in the web hosting business.
We are so pathetic, addicted to Twitter, yet helpless to do anything about it when it goes down. This is what the Internet comes to.
Make a movie about it. "Great acting, unbelievable plot," writes AO Scott in the NY Times. The human race goes down in flames. When aliens discover the ruins of our civilization it turns out Twitter went down and never came back. All the iconography in our churches replaced with images of whales and cute blue birds.
We had sauerkraut and mushroom perogies (boiled), borscht, ice tea and I had a curry chicken salad. It was all delicious esp the perogies!
We also went on a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, and pretended it was the ferry between Helsingor, Denmark and Helsingborg, Sweden.
It's always great to see NJ, after a few minutes of clowning around it's like I see her every day, which unfortunately I don't.
Here's something really funny. I took a picture in the ferry terminal in Halsingbord, Sweden in 2007, and posted it as "Here's one for Naked Jen." The mind works in funny ways. Insanely funny. She even commented on one of the pictures I took.
She's in town for BlogHer.
PS: If you ever meet NakedJen the first thing you'll notice is how short she is. She has a huuuuuge personality, that's why it's so surprising that she's so tiny.
PPS: Science bloggers take note. Pepsico is one of BlogHer's sponsors. Last year she got kicked out of the conference because she gave them a hard time for the ways they're screwing up the planet. To BlogHer's credit, she's back this year as their "green" adviser.
Added 14 blocks to my round-trip today, got up to 71st on the Greenway.
My legs never stopped hurting the whole trip, so I think tomorrow is a day of rest. But I already feel big changes in my body. My pants are looser, I feel much stronger, I'm looking for more fruit and less fat in my diet. These things just happen automatically even just as you're starting to work out.
Also each trip gives me something new to find out about. There are concerts on Pier 1, it's in a beautiful spot. Also cruise ships dock in the 50s or 60s (not sure). They are huge. Today there were people returning from a long cruise (based on the amount of luggage they were carrying).
I'm still learning how to ride in NYC. Going the wrong way in bike lanes is not a great idea. Pedestrians don't watch for bikes and when you say Watch Out they get angry at least sometimes.
This morning they turned back on recommendations and instead of just getting the usual Suggested Users List fare, now they're recommending some interesting people.
I imagine they're not just looking at who I follow but also looking at the content of my tweets. I tend to post links to stories about BitTorrent, because I'm very interested in the protocol.
The thing we've always needed and didn't have is a place to get a user id and password that wasn't owned by a big company and was still as simple for the user as the ones operated by the big companies.
Ponder that for a moment, and imagine what would happen in the app space if each developer could count on say 10MB per user of storage, enough for a lot of pointers into space managed elsewhere. Sort of like what Twitter was planning with annotations, but not owned by Twitter.
And stop there. Identity with a small amount of storage. The API should be DNS. We need to make it easy for people to get their own domain for life. We could even come up with a new TLD for it, somthing like dot-id. davewiner.id. That would be me.
It is too hard to get a domain these days through GoDaddy et al, so let's make it easier. There's no reason you can't make getting a domain as easy as getting a Facebook or Twitter account.
If we want to get some help from Verisign, I know some people there. Did a deal with them a few years ago. I like them, a lot.
As far as the format for the streams -- that's simple too. It's going to be any of the variants of RSS that people want to use: 0.91, 1.0, 2.0 or Atom 1.0. People who say it has to be one and not the others are dreaming. If we need to add some info, come up with a namespace. You tell me what you want to do and I'll do it.
Now we need to get some money to operate the DNS and storage for this network. For that we're going to look to the VCs. We need to raise an endowment of $25 million which we'll entrust to a consortium of five universities. I'd like to see NYU be one of them, of course. The universities will operate this name and storage system, forever. The consortium will charge users a fee, the same way Verisign does, and thus the identity system will be funded for the indefinite future.
Why universities? Well, we need what they have: Neutrality and longevity. Also, there's a tradition of university consortia doing good work of this kind. The Internet itself was founded in this way. We also need youth and education. If this is created by the generation that's in school now, when they come out in a few years, they'll be ready to kick ass. They'll have something to be proud of.
Now we have created a commons that makes it possible for a million flowers to bloom. And it gives the BigCo's a field on which to do their battles without doing any lasting damage to the ecosystem.
I've argued with my VC friends for a long time that they need to put back to replace what they take out of the pool of innovation. Now is their chance to do that. The PR will be very good of course, but even better are the opportunities this system will create for new startups. Put it another way, ask some of your entrepreneurs how much innovation is waiting for such a system to exist. I'm sure they will tell you it's enormous.
I specialize in the kind of software that Google Wave is. Blogging is an example. So is RSS and podcasting -- those were the successes. I also started a BBS in the early 80s that worked.
For all that success, there have been many more failures. For example I've been trying to boot up a network based on Instant Outlining for almost a decade. Longer, if you count work I did going back to the 80s at Living Videotext. So far, it hasn't gained traction. Still hunting for the magic formula.
So there's no shame, as far as I'm concerned, in trying to launch a network of computer users, and having it not boot up.
So why didn't Google Wave happen?
Here's the problem -- when I signed on to Wave, I didn't see anything interesting. It was up to me, the user, to figure out how to sell it. But I didn't understand what it was, or what its capabilities were, and I was busy, always. Even so I would have put the time in if it looked interesting, but it didn't.
However, it had another problem. Even if there were incentives to put time into it, and even if I understood how it worked or even what it did, it still wouldn't have booted up because of the invite-only thing. It's the same problem every Twitter-would-be or Facebook-like thing has. My friends aren't here, so who do I communicate with? But with Wave it was even worse because even if I loved Wave and wanted everyone to use it, it was invite-only. So the best evangelist would still have to plead with Google to add all of his workgroup members to the invite list. The larger your workgroup the more begging you have to do. This is exactly the opposite of how you want it to work if you're in Google's shoes.
I assume they were worried about how the system would perform if they got too many users. It's as if, starting a baseball season, you worry about where you're going to put the World Series trophy. It's not something you need to worry about. You might even say you jinx your prospects for success if you put that in the front of your mind.
Anyway, Google Wave was tilted in the wrong direction.
1. Hard to understand.
2. Nothing happening.
3. My friends aren't there.
4. Even if they wanted to come, I'd have to get them invites. (I did have a certain number of invites to give to my friends, but not enough to let me broadcast about it on my blog.)
5. Why should I bother?
When I started using Twitter, it was:
1. Easy to understand.
2. There was stuff already happening.
3. Most of my friends weren't there, but some were. (Notably Ross Mayfield, who was pushing hard for people to join.)
4. Anyone could join, you didn't need an invite.
5. No reason for me to bother, as with Wave, I was just a user. But I couldn't help but write about what I was doing, I'm a NBB, that's what I do.
Moral of the story...
1. Before you roll out a community-based product, use it yourself to inform a modest community of users. Hopefully a small one, that loves you and the product, so they'll keep coming back even if they don't get what it does. Until you gain traction at that level, don't go any further.
2. Something is happening (see step 1), make sure every new user sees it. Every step before seeing the action is a chance for them not to get it, so get them there right away.
3. Their friends probably aren't there. Fact of life, nothing to be done about that.
So even if everything is right, the net might not boot up. That's way these things go. Try again, if you still think there's something there. It could the time isn't right. It took three or four launches before podcasting booted up. There were lots of community blogging sites before Blogger took off. Sometimes it's just the timing.
BTW, to see what users are willing to do to get an invite, check out this video
Round trip -- 7.5 miles.
Legs feel great. Spirits too.
Considering that this trail runs through the largest city in the US -- it's amazingly free from traffic and hazards. The pavement is near-perfect. People generally respect the rules.
Here, the trail is just for bikes. Verrra nice!
Another major difference is -- no hills!
PS: The other thing, if I keep this up, and totally intend to -- it's going to be an awesome year for skiing. The two sports are pretty closely related muscle-wise.
I use both an iPhone and an Android phone.
Neither is what I want. I knew what I wanted when the iPhone was announced, after years of speculation, and I was disappointed that the iPhone wasn't it. I wanted a phone that ran Mac software. I more or less wanted the same thing from Android. (I would have been slightly less happy with a phone that ran Windows software, but I don't think Microsoft makes one, and I don't think they plan to. This would be a late-but-interesting zig to Apple's zag, esp if (shudder) they open sourced Windows. Don't worry, it'll never happen.)
People are boasting on Google's behalf of their prowess in being able to catch Apple in market share. It is impressive, but not as much as you might think. Apple has never tried to lock-out their competitors, they've never designed their product strategies for market share. Jobs said that in a recent interview (I think it was at the D conference). Google has been able to do to Apple in mobile devices what Microsoft did to Apple in PCs, because Apple would rather control their share of the market and have a single target defined by both hardware and software than have multiple manufacturers making a disorderly and hard-to-target market. Apple has the freedom to move the iPhone platform where ever they want. That's always been their advantage, since the Apple II and Macintosh. But they threw the captain of the ship into a rowboat for a number of years, that's why it looked like a lose-lose strategy for a while, and pundits were walking all over Apple saying they were stupid not to license cloners. It wasn't that, it's just that the people running Apple didn't understand how to drive the ship that Jobs designed. Evidence is in how well Apple is doing, even with a shrinking share of the market they defined. Share has never been what Apple is about.
Meanwhile, my Android phone is humdrum. Not as flashy as the iPhone 4. It was supposed to get all this software that the iPhone didn't because it's an open platform, but if it exists, I haven't heard about it yet. I don't think it does. The closed controlled platform, Apple's, is kicking Google's ass in apps, and will continue to, again because share isn't what it's about. Maybe Google's easy-to-use application development tool will change that. Could happen.
But Google has OEMs that are hard to corral. As long as Jobs stays at the helm of Apple, or his successors understand and use his playbook, they will never win the battle. Apple will always have a better shinier product with cooler features. Android, like Windows, will have trouble delivering a benefit to users for the hugeness of its market share.
TechCrunch has a piece today comparing Google's Vic Gundotra to a US general in its upcoming war with Facebook. It's a good, probably accurate analogy but the wrong way for Google to approach the market. It's the loop that keeps repeating. Right now we're replaying the Microsoft battle to the death with Netscape, one which, in the end, they both lost. As they do in every iteration of the loop.
Gundotra comes from Microsoft, and I'm sure remembers the amassing of all of Microsoft's power at the ragtag garage band that Netscape was. All of Microsoft's products would become web-enabled. ActiveX would bring Microsoft-only code to the web, that'll show em -- can't run that stuff in Netscape! Then their sales team bought badges on all the top sites that said "Works better in MSIE." It was really something. But the inroads they achieved had nothing to do with the might of the company. Word, PowerPoint and Excel as web tools were a flop. ActiveX was a great way to write viruses, right from the start. A Microsoft engineer admitted to me privately a year after they shipped it that it was a huge mistake (it was). Microsoft gained market share because they made a better tool for browsing the web. In hindsight the gimmicks probably hurt them more than they helped, although the pundits sure were impressed.
It'll work that way for Google too. Google Me is a brilliant name. But based on what I can see that Google engineers are promoting, it's going to have the same problems Microsoft's attack had. They're opening too many fronts and fighting too many irrelevant battles. And too many strategy taxes. It's as if Google, not knowing who is winning the war, is fighting it everywhere, just in case it turns out that's where the true enemy is hiding. That's how big rich companies that are scared compete. Everyone needs to get a piece of the battle.
I bet Google doesn't appreciate how different things are now from when they went after Alta Vista and then Yahoo and Microsoft in search a decade ago. Scrappy upstarts have huge advantages that established leaders don't. And none of these guys study history well enough to understand the stages of technology markets and companies, so none of them know what to do when it's their turn to be displaced as the scrappy upstart. Microsoft didn't know what to do (apparently the message still hasn't made its way to their CEO, but it doesn't matter). IBM before them didn't know. And now Google doesn't know. They probably should be hunkering down. Let Facebook become what they are going to become, because there's nothing they can do to stop it. Become more efficient at delivering the services that people depend on them for. If this means laying off engineers, so be it. Or turn them into consultants and help other companies build on your infrastructure. And then either start paying dividends to the shareholders, or find other avenues to invest the cash you generate.
After IBM gave up being the platform vendor, that's basically what they did -- they became a consultancy and investment banker. Microsoft will eventually move there as their investors get fed up with quarter after quarter of flat growth. Google will get there as well, but first they have to get this tidal wave of fear out of their system, and unfortunately for all of us Facebook is going to bear the brunt of it. But they're in much better position to take it than Netscape was when Microsoft attacked. And Netscape did more to erase themselves than Microsoft did, and even so -- the browser they jettisoned lived to fight another day in the form of Firefox.
If I were advising Facebook, here's what I would tell them to do.
Google is going to make the issue how "open" you are. They're going to do it by not really being open themselves, they'll have patents to cut off their competitors and upstarts, to control whatever markets they manage to get share in.
Facebook can stay steadily on its evolutionary path, or they can anticipate Google's moves and counteract them, by open sourcing huge amounts of their code, making it possible for companies and startups to launch their own Facebooks that interoperate with Facebook's.
That will leave Google with exactly nowhere to go. From there on, it's your market to do with as you please.
I had a wonderful bike ride today.
New bike. And my old legs complained terribly at first, screaming in agony.
How dare you! They said. We were taking it easy for the last 15 years. Now you want us to work again! Fuck you.
When I got to the southern terminus of the island of Manhattan, I took a ten-minute break and took in the scenery. A fire boat went by. The Staten Island Ferry. A police boat. Mothers and nannies rolling babies in their carriages. The sea air. The cool breeze. It was an overcast summer day. I took a bunch of deep breaths, and re-mounted the bike, heading north.
This time my legs were looking to open up, let's get some speed, but for the first section of the trip we shared the road with walkers and runners, so that meant slow going. Finally, I turned a corner, now we had our own path, just for bikes, so I opened up. There's the speed! My legs said Okay Dave we remember how to do this! Let's go! Let's Go!! Let's GO!!!
And we went.
Finally as I approached Christopher St, the major bike path into the Village, I could see the light was flashing red on West St. Rather than wait, I gunned it, and made it across the street. I cruised up the hill, and at the first red light I collapsed. My legs said "Ohhhh kaaaaay, let's go slow from here." And we did.
But when I got back home after 40 minutes of riding, I felt the endorphins flowing through my veins. Ahhh this feels familiar. This feels goood.
No broken bones, it was a pretty nice first outing.
Tomorrow we, my legs and I, go north and see if we can make it to Central Park.
There are some people for whom this comes naturally. They sit with their hands folded and wait for you to convince them. You can talk and talk, wave your hands, raise your voice, and after you're finished they say very quietly, "I'm not sure." Or they just repeat the silly or hurtful thing they said at the outset. There's no way of knowing whether they were any paying attention at all while you carefully explained your point of view.
These people aren't built like I am. I will never understand them.
There were people in my family growing up who were like that. They annoyed the hell out of me. Because we had the same genes, and I've seen evidence of their intelligence in other contexts, I believe they knew they were being annoyingly illogical. I think that was the point. They got some kind of pleasure out of winding me up and spinning me around.
I don't know and I never will.
So this is the tweak in perspective that I've discovered: What I think matters.
Believe me, for a person like me, this is a huge leap.
I don't have to convince anyone that I'm right or they're not. It could just as easily be their job to convince me that they're right and I'm not.
I've learned that sometimes the best thing is to fold my hands and listen and see what comes back, and see if it changes my mind. I know that I am really listening, and am open to changing my mind. That way there's a point in having the conversation.
Ideally the balance, between every pair of people, should be right smack in the middle. We care just as much about what they think as they care about what we think. Or approximately in the middle. If it appears out of whack, or getting out of whack, that's a good moment to take a deep breath, and step outside the immediate situation, and make a decision -- is this conversation worth continuing?
I always like to remind myself that there are 6 billion people on the planet, you can't be friends with everyone.
And sometimes, in some situations, it's more fun to be alone.
Update: Paul Krugman is like me, that's why I like him. He's always trying to convince everyone of the errors of their ways. Appealing to their better nature. "Wake up!" says Krugman, "opportunity is slipping away from you!" He believes people are smart, but doesn't understand why they act so stupidly. I think most people (but not me) are chuckling. Someone needs to say to Krugman -- you're a Nobel Laureate. You're off-the-charts smart. You teach at Princeton and have a column in the NY Times. Let them convince you for a change.
Update #2: Glenn Greenwald is another tireless convincer. He pays attention to things people say and do, and remembers them, and can play them back in different contexts. If you appreciate this kind of rhetoric (I do!!) he's capable of masterpieces. But he never convinces the people he's talking about, most of whom are smart enough to understand what he's saying, to care enough to do anything about it.
Update #3: People like me make shitty investors. We always see things from the other guy's point of view. But if you're a smart entrepreneur you want to have a few of us around. Paradox. But we make excellent marketers and evangelists. Not sales people though, their magic is different.
I thought I was getting pretty good service from Time-Warner with the regular $34.95 per month plan, so I upgraded to the $99 wideband plan, thinking it would be even better. Not so. The new service is much worse.
It takes a minute for pages to load sometimes. Other times the Internet is just out completely, with no service at all. The DNS is unreliable.
A few minutes ago it waited a minute before failing to locate psychologytoday.com.
Sites like Google and WNYC, usually very quick to load, take minutes. I've resorted at times to using my Verizon Mifi to access the Internet.
It can take a minute to upload a 30K image.
Sometimes when I search for something on Google, they can't find it (i.e. they can't find Google), so instead they take me to a helpful page on Roadrunner that can help me look up something, you know, like Google does. :-(
In other words, the "upgrade" is actually a disgusting awful downgrade.
It. Doesn't. Fucking. Work.
One of my neighbors has Optimum on a wifi router without a password so I tried using that a few times instead. It's pretty zippy. Should I have them install service here? Can I get out of the Time-Warner deal without a penalty?
Net-net: A huge honking thumbs-down on Time-Warner "wideband."
Note: My theory is that far more of my neighbors have made this upgrade and that I was virtually alone on the cheap circuit. Regardless, the net-effect is much worse service for almost three times the money. A shitty deal.
Update: Someone from Time-Warner got in touch via email. Totally beats going in through voicemail. I'll let you know how it goes.
Life is a series of comings and goings, moving on, letting go, graduating, commencing, marrying, separating. If we're not in the act of moving on, we're thinking about the last time we did, or planning on the next one.
But what about the last time you move on?
They asked nurses if they would prefer to go quickly, or have a few months to prepare for the end. Think about it for a moment, before reading on. I was surprised to learn they would choose to go slowly. They know something many of us don't, that medicine has become good at making the last weeks of life comfortable. I'm sure there are exceptions, and this is mostly an exercise, most of us don't get to make this choice.
The New Yorker has an excellent article in the current issue about the choices we make and how they determine the quality of our last days. Too many people choose to fight, when there's no chance of survival, and as a result spend their last days in agony, and never get to say a proper goodbye to those they are close to. As far away as you might think this is, it's probably a good idea to read this piece. You may be called on to help a friend or family member make this transition. It's better in this one case not to rely on on-the-job training. It's one of the things you don't get to do twice.
When I was 47, being prepared to go for heart surgery, I got a visit from a social worker who wanted to discuss end of life issues with me. About me! I politely told her it wasn't my time yet, although in retrospect, knowing what I know now, it would probably have been smart to have the talk anyway.
All this is prologue to some news I got this weekend about a former colleague, Chris Gulker. We never officially worked together, but in an unofficial capacity we got some amazing stuff done, back in the very early days of blogging, although we didn't know at that time that's what it would turn out to be.
Chris was the systems guy at the San Francisco Examiner, and a user of my Frontier software. For a few years he had used it in prepress work, to automate layouts of the news in Quark XPress. I watched this from a distance, with interest -- but without participating myself. I didn't have any applications for such high quality publishing work. He shared what he learned with the community at Seybold, led by another friend, Craig Cline.
Chris's work led to a project we did together in the fall of 1994, when the San Francisco newspapers went on strike. I saw this as an opportunity to get hands-on experience with the web. I signed up to work on the strike paper. Chris was on the other side of the picket line, he was doing the website for the management paper. Didn't matter that we were opponents, we shared what we were learning, and the pace of learning was, at that time, incredibly rapid.
I wrote about the work we did together in DaveNet, a blog-like website I did before starting Scripting News.
Chris went on to work at Apple and is a prolific blogger, but on a personal level, we lost touch over the years.
This weekend I got an email pointing to Chris's website where he posted in mid-July that he has been dealing with an incurable form of cancer that has now moved to its final stages. He has, at best, a few months to live.
I read his subsequent posts, and based on what I learned with my father's final struggles, last year at this time, that Chris is, imho, approaching this exactly as I would. And as the New Yorker author recommends. There comes a time when the odds are so stacked against a recovery, your chances are so slim, that it's better to give up on the miracle cure, and instead try to get the most out of the time you have remaining. There's nothing easy about giving up, about preparing for the final move-on. I imagine you feel not ready to give up on living, but you're ready to give up fighting to live. Or almost ready. Or so close to ready you might as well take a deep breath and get ready.
I don't know the answers. And I don't know what I can do to help -- other than tell this little story about a very small slice of Chris's life from my point of view. He did some great work, that yielded great results. He can be proud of that, and I for one am grateful that he was part of my life. There are lots of other people who believe that sharing what you have, as Chris did so easily, is a foolish thing to do, but Chris chose to lead instead and we all benefited.
Beyond that, I can say that I'll see you soon enough. And until we meet again, I'm going to keep pushing on the dream we both shared so many years ago.
I love that David Weinberger is narrating his fumbling programming work on his blog. It's great for a lot of reasons.
Everyone goes through what he's going through.
You never stop going through it, even if you've been programming for 37 years, as I have. You'd think after all this time I would remember the basic lessons I learned the hard way when I was in my early 20s. But nope, I often forget them.
It's very useful for me to read his narrative. I'm going to teach this stuff, and I have to remember that what seems second-nature to me now, once didn't.
One of the things I talk about with everyone I meet at NYU if they're willing to listen is that we're not teaching programming and we should be. I think every person who graduates with a bachelor's degree should have one semester of programming, just as they should have one semester of journalism.
If I ever get my book together, there will be a chapter on programming in it, where we'll cover the basics. Logic, looping, variables. I seriously think we can get political science students to experience a teeny bit of the magic of programming. It'll be a challenge for sure.
But it's a serious situation because there aren't enough students taking up computer science. New York wants to become a tech center, but it'll never happen as long as there are so few programmers graduating from our universities. Another way of saying this is that every student graduating with a compsci degree is much sought-after. They have their choice of jobs. This, in a major recession.
Now, my advice for David, and anyone else who is staring at code wondering how it could possibly be behaving as badly as it is.
Of course you're going to think it's the system that's screwing up. We all do. But that is so rarely the cause of the problem that it pays to put the theory aside and get the computer to reveal its logic to you. It's coming up with what you think is the wrong answer, but when you finally figure it out, you'll see why it's the right answer. You can't move on until you see this.
So step through it in the debugger, and watch what it does with your data. Eventually you will see it do something that isn't what you expected. Now figure out why and change the code, and test again.
I once stared at some code that was supposed to return the value 26 but it was returning 251. Must be a bug in the math processing code, because how could 25 plus 1 yield 251. But it did, ever damned time the code ran. Until I realized that the 1 was a string and the 25 was a number and the language coerced the number to a string so it could concatenate them. What was imperfect was not the machine, but my understanding of the machine.
BTW, I can only remember one time that a problem turned out to be a bug in the system. I spent a week chasing a bug in IBM's Pascal compiler in the early IBM PC. Of course there was no way to file a bug report, so once I understood what it was (I had to look into the code it was generating) I just worked around it.
Another time, there was some bad memory in my system. This was in the very early days of PCs, when there was no memory management. So I put a comment around the bad memory in my source, and was very careful not to add any code above it -- in all my source files.
Very early in my career as a programmer, I had an office in the Empire State Building, on the 39th Floor, with windows that open. I was there late one night, trying in vain to figure out which of the computers that was running my code had the bug. My problem was I had no idea how to approach the problem. That's 98 percent of the battle, clearing your mind, rolling up your sleeves, accepting the responsibility that it's your bug not some programmer in New Jersey, or the guy who wrote the operating system. I remember thinking, staring out into the NYC night that they shouldn't put young programmers in skyscrapers with windows that open.
I finally have been admitted to Flipboard, and have had a chance to try it out.
First the conclusion -- eh -- not so great. But maybe if they move forward in an interesting way, this version can be the foundation for something that leads the market in an interesting direction. But right now, I don't plan to use it, and I don't think very many people will use it, after the initial rush has died down.
Caveat: I could be wrong and I know it. My first reaction to Twitter was much the same, but I ended up being a devotee. I also initially misread desktop publishing. I didn't think anyone would want to do it. I've been wrong many times. So don't take this as a pronouncement, rather it's an opinion.
Basically, Flipboard is a client for Twitter and Facebook. It doesn't show you all the posts, it has an algorithm that somehow ranks them and mixes up the order.
They appear to have two ways to display a tweet.
1. If it contains a link, they load the page it points to, run it through Readability to get the core content, extract a picture or two, and lay it out in an attractive way. They only show the first few paragraphs, then link to the full story.
Since it only runs on the iPad, at least now, it has to compete with my current means for reading Twitter on the iPad, which is (I know it's boring) twitter.com in Safari. It works pretty well. I don't see why I should launch Flipboard to read articles I could just as easily read by clicking on a link.
If Flipboard, in a future version, allows me to push content into it via RSS, without going through Twitter or Facebook, then I've got an incentive to use it, and I probably will. This is something neither Twitter or Facebook does. Also, as a developer, and freedom-loving user, I am willing to invest alongside any company that's willing to help me be free of big companies. But this could just as easily be one of the other client developers. No special reason to look to Flipboard for this. Maybe they'll do it, but given the inbred nature of Silicon Valley, they probably won't.
The other hope is that Flipboard offers publishers a way to use a higher-level rendering capability to make their collections more useful to readers. We're waiting for someone to do this. Again it could be Flipboard, but it could just as easily be someone else.
What they've done is captured a lot of attention. That may be a good thing, or as Rex Hammock points out, it may just alienate the publishers, who ultimately they need cooperation from.