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. :-)
Does Julian Assange have an agenda? We've heard the question so many times, usually asked by American media, whose agendas we are intimately familiar with. My answer, on reflection, is yes, I think he has one, and he has said what it is. And it's not what the big media people insinuate that it is, although that's not usually made very clear. If they think he has an inappropriate agenda, perhaps they should say specifically what they think it is, and back it up.
In this Sunday's interview on 60 Minutes, Steve Kroft asked if he is an activist. Assange said: "We are free press activists. It's not about saving the whales. It's about giving people the information they need to support whaling or not support whaling. Why? That is the raw ingredients that is needed to make a just and civil society. And without that you're just sailing in the dark."
That's a pretty good explanation of what journalism is about, imho. It's what I look for in journalism, and where I have expertise, it's what I strive for as well. And so often it's the problem with what American journalists do, they raise questions and then try to answer them with vital information missing. "Sailing in the dark," that's most of what we do, unfortunately.
In a four-part documentary that we included here on Scripting News, Assange said clearly that he wants to expose the truth about the war in Iraq. American news has not done a very good job of this, yet we have had to make huge decisions that determine the outcome of countries and the world's economy, without the information we need. It's also clear that Assange has helped. It's a pretty good agenda, imho. In the same interview he said he hoped that leaders would be more careful about what they do in the future, and that they would if they were sure that it would eventually come out. I think even a radical right-winger like Rush Limbaugh could get behind that. The problem is a lot of our media leaders aren't comfortable with this idea, apparently.
Another question that comes up is whether the release of WikiLeaks documents could be responsible for the deaths of innocent people. This is a question that must be asked of all news organizations, not just WikiLeaks. You can't avoid it. A responsible journalist tries to minimize the harm that comes from the publication of information, but it's not his or her responsiblity. A journalist's responsibility is to an informed readership. If that's not where their focus is, then they're in the wrong business.
However, this is what made my chin drop listening to Bill Keller on Fresh Air early this week. He responded to this question about Assange, without answering it himself. That's a big problem. (Terry Gross, his interviewer, should have answered it as well.)
Anyway, of course everyone has an agenda. Mine is to take another breath, and for my heart to keep beating. I have causes I believe in, and I like to live well, in comfort. That doesn't mean I can't do good work and have principles that I stand for.
Overall, it's an embarassment the way American journalists conduct themselves re Assange and WikiLeaks. We can easily see the contradictions and faked naivete in their questions. They must not care that we see it. Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes apparently doesn't understand how journalism works, because every question he asked of Assange called for a basic tutorial on American civics. Bill Keller would have us believe that you can practice journalism without taking risks, or that you can be a human being without offending some people. Please, can we stick to what's important. In the case of Assange, his socks, believe it or not, are an issue -- according to Keller. He doesn't like his socks. Help. Someone tell Keller that even a child can see through this.
The reason I write this now is that tomorrow evening I am supposed to see Keller tell this story -- and I don't know how I will be able to sit for it. Maybe by writing it in advance, it will somehow make its way to his desk, or to the desk of his interviewer, and he can address tomorrow's audience with a bit more respect than he did to the listeners of Fresh Air, or the readers of the NY Times Magazine. (I linked to the print version of the Times article because I found the graphic portrayal of Assange so offensive. I wonder if the Times would run a picture of Keller that was so defaced.)
Finally, i's not so much the way he treats Assange that I find offensive -- Assange is, amazingly, able to sit still and not show outrage at the childishness and hypocrisy of the insinuations. It's the way these people treat their audiences. It's as if we are uneducated and unintelligent. I remember a time when both 60 Minutes and the Times had too much dignity for that. Let's go back there, okay?
First -- what's happening in Egypt is awful. The US was taking the wrong approach -- Mubarkek isn't really a dictator, but that changed, and the President's remarks yesterday were right on the money. We can't get too involved, publicly -- because Egypt is a sovereign country. But please, an 83-year-old man needs to be thinking seriously about moving on, and it's pretty clear that until the popular uprising Mubarek wasn't planning on leaving any time soon.
But.. This blog is called Scripting News, so we're focused on media and from our point of view the big story is that cable is punting bigtime and the Internet is, finally, coming into its own as the source of realtime video news -- thanks to the excellent coverage of Al Jazeera.
As Doc Searls explained so well in this week's Rebooting the News, we don't need the settop box to connect to video sources, the web is perfectly capable of doing it. Now, I can watch CNN and other news networks on my computers thanks to Slingbox, but every time I try, I get disgusted and turn it off. Now, I can tune into Al Jazeera and feel that at least they're trying to give me good information
Al Jazeera is not perfect. They have some of the same problems as American news. For example they accept the fiction that the people who invaded Tahrir Square today were "pro-Mubarek supporters" when they so obviously are agents of the government. But on the whole, they are doing the job we want them to do, the same kind of work that CNN was doing in the early 90s when they were covering the Gulf War, their moment of peak greatness.
So, what happens now?
Al Jazeera offered their feed to CNN, but apparently CNN didn't take it (I don't know for sure, as I said earlier I was part of the great news blackout that covers the US where the Internet doesn't reach in full broadband strength). In the conference rooms at Time-Warner they must now realize that they have to offer their full video news feed for free via the web. And they need to show Wolf Blitzer the door, and get a new generation of news people in there, who ask the hard questions, and call bullshit for what it is when they talking heads start spouting. Let's scare the crap off the wire, and replace it with people who believe in the American values of bravery and freedom.
CNN's downfall could have been headed off by allowing Al Jazeera onto our cable networks, and not protecting American corporate media from the upstart from Qatar. I'm sure that will now happen, but -- it's already too late. The web won this one, and cable is now history, for news. And the rest of it is not very far behind.
Don't miss it -- while the passion and courage of Egypt is ridding itself of the tyrant Mubarek, the United States will eliminate the mediocrity of CNN, thanks to the excellence of Al Jazeera.