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. :-)
When I was checking out there, with my longtime buddy Sandy WIlbourn, I happened to mention to the store person, Maggie, that I was a blogger. She said she was a J-school grad from NYU. Small world. Promised I'd put her pic on Scripting News.
At first Maggie presented her left cheek as her "good side" -- turns out her right side was injured by a car-door-opening accident. Beginning to get the idea that to be a bike rider in NYC is to ride with injuries. I know the feeling! My scabs are just about ready to fall off, but the bruises are still aching, from time to time.
Sandy was my college buddy from the math department at Tulane. Then he and I both went to UW-Madison. Finally a few years later I ran into him in Roberts Market in Woodside. Had drinks with him this eve in the meatpacking district.
Over on RWW, Marshall has a fascinating quote from Evan Williams.
"People have been talking about recreating Twitter as a set of standards and protocols pretty much since we launched and started getting popular. In fact these standards and protocols exist and Twitter is so open that people can just make Twitter work with a more open and federated network."
If such standards and protocols exist I don't know what they are.
What are they?
This follows on the earlier 7 free project ideas piece, posted earlier today.
8. I love Dropbox, but it's going to go down someday, and I don't know how to prepare for that. It's also a huge red bull's eye for hackers. It's wonderful, but like all good things, there comes a time when it must decentralize. Preparing for that day, we're going to need an open source Dropbox clone. It's a lot to do in a 24-hour hackathon, but you could get started, and possibly make something that's useful. It would be worth it just to find out what the issues are in implementing a multi-user file synchronizer.
9. Following on #8, we still haven't got drop-dead simple static hosting. But we're getting there, with Dropbox. I'd like to have a folder named Apache, and inside it are folders with the names of domains that I've mapped to a magic IP address. When a request comes in for that host, look in my Apache folder, if you find a match, serve the file from there. Yes, Dropbox already has a Public folder. That's why this can't be a commercial offering, Dropbox would squash it immediately. But it would be a killer add-on for an open source Dropbox clone.
10. NYU is a great university, and there's a lot going on here, but no best place to go to find out what. Wouldn't it be great if every university had a fantastic news site, with a small number of feeds to go with it. Start with your campus and work out from there. Give us a great news site. I know it's not going to blow anyone away, but sometimes tech projects are just useful. And boring. ;-)
11. In the 1990's we used an web server called MacHTTP. It was configured with menus, dialogs, pop-ups. Almost anyone could figure it out. Fast-forward to today and MacHTTP is gone and we configure our web server with a weak, cryptic, confusing, ugly config file format. Come on, let's get our shit together and catch up to where were 15 years ago. Start a simple open source graphic user interface for Apache.
Academic hackathons should have a different focus from VC-based ones. With VCs, the goal is to get your project funded, or to become more visible to VCs so that when they form new companies they might recommend you to the founders. A hackathon might be seen as a job interview, in a way.
An academic hackathon, like the ones held at Yahoo a number of years ago (where the concept originated), might be less like a job interview and more like a break from the usual work routine, to shake out new ideas or approaches. People who work or study in the same institution get together for an intense period to share. A chance to do collaborative experimentation. To try an idea out and see where it goes. See if you can't solve a problem that's part of someone else's work.
In 24 hours I wouldn't try for a breakthrough. But it is possible to focus for a few hours on a problem and come up with alternate approaches. Or to rework something that fell by the wayside in the past because of scaling issues perhaps. Or some piece of the puzzle was missing last time it was attempted, where a solution now exists.
Anyway, with that in mind, here are few ideas that you might try if you find yourself at an academic hackathon, such as the one this weekend at NYU. If anyone makes progress on these projects I will write them up on Scripting News, of course.
1. A few years ago I had a site called Share Your OPML. I had to take it offline because of scaling issues. The idea is that members of a community submit their OPML subscription lists to a central server. It mashes them together into a database and provides a number of readouts. It tells you what the most popular feeds are of course. But more important, it recommends feeds based on what other people are subscribed to. I think this project really could go somewhere. But this is where it starts. You can find SYO in archive.org's wayback machine.
2. How to display a River of News? Here's a bare-bones river. It's a relatively realtime view of the NY Times RSS feeds. For each item there's more metadata, but not much more. (The usual elements of an RSS item.) People say this display is plain and unexciting. They're right! But it looks good on a Blackberry. (I use an iPhone nowadays.) So it wouldn't bother me if it looked better and did a little more. But not a lot more. The simplicity of the River is central to its utility. Your mission, if you decide to accept it, is to prototype an HTML display of this river, perhaps with some prefs that a user can set, that is more beautiful. You might be able to do that in 12 hours or so. If you have an idea, maybe even less.
3. A project related to #2, write a client for the FeedHose protocol that I released last week. You can get the NY Times flow that way, without having to read the RSS feeds. That way your mockup will really work.
4. A really ambitious project that you could start at a hackathon is a centralized subscription manager. It would have a bookmarklet that installs in the browser, and would connect back to a server that manages subscription lists. Think of it as XMarks for feeds. Even the XMarks guys didn't realize how hot their own product is. This one is even hotter, if it can get support from people who do aggregators. Even if that never happens, it's still an interesting project to know how to do, just in case.
5. Hack status.net so users can edit the templates, producing a Twitter-like service that integrates with the look and feel of your site or blog. I would love to have one here on scripting.com, but not if it looks just like the status.net they operate in Montreal. I want mine to look like mine. Take the design features of Tumblr and apply them to Twitter. There's a big creative group that's been left out of the microblogging world, designers. Bring them in, lead them. For prior art look at how Tumblr does templates.
6. Readability is open source. Apple did some great stuff with it, as did (little-known fact) Flipboard. Instapaper is just getting going as a business. But these products get by by scraping. What if you created a high-level content platform that a blogging tool maker like myself could generate content for. What higher-level constructs would you implement? Could we get closer to Ted Nelson's vision for hypertext? (For extra credit, who is Ted Nelson and what is his vision of hypertext.)
7. I want to hack DNS. Implement a simple efficient REST interface for a domain name server. Let me add and delete records. Fully manage a domain via API. The API for DNS is ancient. Modernize it. (If your really focus and if you know how to program DNS, this could be a 12-hour project, imho.)
That's about it for now. If one or more of these ideas is done at the NYU Hackathon tomorrow, I'd be very happy! Let me know.