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A picture named daveTiny.jpgDave 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.

Contact me

scriptingnews1mail at gmail dot com.




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October 2010

Sep   Nov


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FYI: You're soaking in it. :-)

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Dave Winer's weblog, started in April 1997, bootstrapped the blogging revolution.

The enemy of progress is complexity Permalink.

I've written two posts so far about how to do open development work.

The first piece set forth two rules: 1. All meetings must be open and 2. Ratify defacto standards if all posible.

The second piece explained how to use open formats, introducing three rules: 3. If it hurts when you do it, stop doing it. 4. Shut up and eat your vegetables. 5. Assume people have common sense.

In this piece, I introduce a new rule: 6. Design and document only your wire format, do not depend on toolkits to hide the complexity.

First a little background... In what we may come to look at as the golden age of the web, you could always do a View Source on a page and see how it was put together. HTML, back then, was simple enough so that even a technical neophyte could figure it out, if they had the IQ and tenacity. You didn't need years of experience programming to figure it out. This was important! It's what made it possible for the web to grow like weed.

A picture named scaffolding.gifWhen I was coming up as a programmer in the 1970s, you needed a lot of experience to work in the world of minis and mainframes. The programmers of the previous generation felt secure that in order to make real software you had to understand all that they understood, which assured them a place at the top of the ladder, and made young dudes like me start out at the bottom. Heh. This is always a mistake. If you've created too complex a world, the next generation will just create a new one that's simpler. One that they understand and you don't. You're still at the top of a ladder -- your ladder. They just created a new one, and you're not even on it. :-)

This was the danger, by the way, of making XML too complicated. With all the WS's that Microsoft, Sun and IBM added (and a dozen other smaller companies). I lobbied hard against it, you can find it all here in the archive on scripting.com, but they went ahead. And that begat JSON, which is simpler than XML mostly in that it doesn't (yet) have all that cruft. But if you want to do something real with JSON, there are a lot of services to master, and more all the time.

The enemy of progress in tech is complexity. The more unnecessary complexity that's added (and the WS layer on XML is a perfect example of unnecessary-ness) the sooner new development will stop, as the incentives to reinvent go up.

One way groups try to side-step creeping complexity is to create toolkits that hide it behind APIs. They implement the toolkits for the top five development environments (or six or seven, some but not all). They reason that this catches most of the developers. Maybe it does. But maybe the next layer is going to come from a language you never heard of. For example, the minicomputer guys, if they ever heard of Unix, probably thought of it as a toy operating system. They wouldn't have made a toolkit for that platform. Yet it was one of the primary successors. In other words, if you're the guy grappling with complexity, your head is probably too deeply buried in the ways of the past to see the future coming. You're going to leave out the guys you most need to not leave out.

Another reason the no-toolkits approach is important is that it puts your dirty laundry out there for everyone to see. If you have any pride, you may want to clean it up and simplify before you show it to the world. Somehow, seeing it through other people's eyes gives you a perspective that makes simplifications visible when they weren't before. Every bit of complexity that's left in will give some future programmer an incentive to reinvent your ass.

Don't get me wrong -- it's good to have toolkits. They should be listed on the site. But the primary documentation must be written for developers who are programming right on the wire, without any toolkits in the way.

PS: Hat-tip to Joel Spolsky's Architecture Astronauts.

Zuck's bluff Permalink.

I'm putting together my LAN at the new place, bit by bit. I have more space here, but much less than I had in Berkeley. It's an interesting opportunity to get my office and entertainment center all in the same room, networked, yet separate. They couldn't be in the same place in the last apartment, the rooms were too small. And it never occurred to me to put them in the same room in Berkeley cause I had umpteen rooms to play with.

As an example of what's possible, I want to use the entertainment center sound system for my computer and for watching TV. Should be possible because the receiver has a built-in HTTP server, and a website that allows you to operate the receiver.

When I got the desktop working Saturday afternoon, I looked around and found that Zuck had just started speaking at a startup conference in Calif, so I tuned it in on Justin.TV. The first thing I heard him say was that it was simpler when he started Facebook. All he had to do was make a website. Today if you want to compete, you have to cover all the mobile platforms, iPhone, Android, etc etc ad nauseum.

A picture named bluff.gifIt makes me sick to hear him say this cause it's the same old shit they always say and it's always wrong. Let's hope for Zuck's sake he knows it's wrong. To the startup guys, if you believe what he's saying you should go work for him, because it takes guts and creative thinking and the ability to spot a bluff, to make it in the business world. And he sure is bluffing.

Having to cover all those platforms is a liability, it's what makes it hard for Facebook to move. The guy who does to him what he's doing to Google, Yahoo, et al (even Apple) is going to have one product on one platform and it's going to be simple and fun and grow like a weed because it doesn't work everywhere. It'll be on the right platform, the one everyone wants to use, and it will help establish its platform as the one that everyone wants to use. That's how these things work.

I've heard what Zuck said from Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, Scott McNealy, Philippe Kahn, the VisicCalc guys, Mitch Kapor. Every wunderkind blows smoke at teh would-be wunderkinds, to no avail. Eventually they all have to deal with someone who calls his bullshit and happens to have a winning hand.

© Copyright 1997-2011 Dave Winer. Last build: 12/12/2011; 1:38:26 PM. "It's even worse than it appears."

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