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. :-)
The question was how could I get to Amsterdam and have a persistent net connection as I walked and biked through the city. I had redundancy, at Doc's suggestion -- but here I am in Amsterdam and neither of my phones are able to get on the Internet, even over wifi.
The two phones:
1. iPhone4 with AT&T's international plan.
2. Nexus S with maxroam.com.
The iPhone just sits there. The map insists that I'm still at JFK. Gmail just sits there. Makes no difference if I'm on wifi or using KPN NL.
The Nexus S presents a screen that says it couldn't connect to my Google account. It offers to let me type in my password, which I do, and it still says it can't connect. Same with maxroam.com or wifi. (No problem accessing my Google account on my MacBook over wifi.)
I don't doubt that, given all the geeks we have here, that we will sort it all out eventually.
I got to the airport at 4PM for a 6PM flight to Amsterdam.
This was to be my first European trip from NYC, and I was revelling in the idea of arriving fresh and early in the morning without having to go through London or Frankfurt. NYC is big enough to have direct flights!
But when I got to the airport it was all screwed up. I'm not on the 6PM -- I'm on the 11PM. I'm already feeling jetlagged and haven't even left my home timezone yet.
At least they have a nice lounge to hang in.
On arrival, a SIM card will be waiting for me at the hotel, from maxroam.com. I got a bunch of recommendations for that service, and Pat Phelan from the company helped me out. I m
I also got upgraded my AT&T account to include international roaming. Just as a backup. I've become very dependent on having a map app in my cell phone as I get around in NYC. I can imagine it'll be even more useful in a foreign city.
Just for fun I bought a pre-paid American SIM from T-Mobile for the Nexus/S. 2GB data and unlimited everything for $70 for one month. That's less than what I pay for the iPhone. But I never use it as a phone, and I don't expect to use the Nexus either. And I use Google's chat instead of texting. I don't see myself giving out this number to anyone. Heck, I don't even know it myself.
These days it's all about the data plan. Funny how that one isn't unlimited!
Also included in my kit is a small MacBook Air, and a white iPad 2. The Kindle stays home. Probably going to leave the Verizon Droid home too. Can't see it would be much help, except on the way to the airport and coming home. And I have the Nexus for making calls.
Also bringing a bunch of power adapters that I think work in the Netherlands. Should I bring an Airport Express? Hmm. Probably not.
Excited to be traveling with my new electronic entourage.
Other stuff to read: Adam wrote a kickass blog post last night about his experience subscribing to all the people he follows on Twitter in Blork. If you've been following the development of the minimal blogging system here you should read his post carefully.
Andrew Shell wins the prize of the first add-on service for Blork users. It made Adam's experience above possible. We love you Andrew, and will never forget the early role you played in bootstrapping this coral reef.
Jay Rosen is blorking now. And making excellent feature requests. You can hear about it in the podcast we did yesterday. I think it's the best RBTN we've ever done. All the others were punditry. This one was a user and a developer going back and forth. And today there are new features in the product based on this discussion and Ted Howard is looking into ways of replicating the FriendFeed experience for Jay.
As we used to say when podcasting was booting up: Users and developers party together. Yehi!
First a few necessary recitals:
1. Dropbox is very useful.
2. I pay $99 a year for the upgrade.
3. I use the Public folder to host all kinds of stuff. It neatly solves a problem that's been around forever -- how to quickly and easily put up small files that provide connective glue for the net. I use it for reading lists, my elements of the world outline, default configuration files for software I maintain.
Now there's a problem with using the public folder this way. Lock-in. Consider that this is the URL of a file in my public folder.
I've been worried about this, so yesterday I set up an Amazon S3 bucket to host a mirror of my public dropbox. So I can use this new URL:
Now I can move it anywhere I want, whenever I want, yet still have the convenience of Dropbox.
Seth Godin has a must-read piece on what it means to be a worker in 2011. We're going through a transition, he says. The industrial revolution is no longer ruling our economies. And the kind of jobs that exist now are not the ones most people trained for.
But something else is going on at the same time. A few generations ahead of the declining industrial revolution.
Sometime in the last 100 years we got the upper-hand on nature. We couldn't defy it's fundamental rules, what goes up still must come down, and we still get sick and die. But our species has conquered nature. We have a temporary truce with nature, allowing our population to grow, while quickly depleting the resources of the host.
We could slow down our approach, or even reverse it, if we could fundamentally change our nature. But that doesn't seem to be happening. If anything our nature is forcing us to do things to accelerate our approach to the edge. (And changing our nature happens much more slowly than changing our science.)
Our fundamental problem isn't global warming, and it isn't the lack of sustainable systems. The former is the penalty for not controlling population. And developing sustainable systems only makes it possible for the planet to support a few more people than it otherwise would. We still hit the edge if we continue to grow the population.
The changes we need to make are so fundamental, it's hard to imagine us reversing course in time to make a difference.
1. We need fewer people. The easiest way to get there is to have fewer children. But everything about who we are says we must have more children. That's understandable, because until very recently, having lots of children was our main defense against extinction.
2. We need to learn how to reason collectively, not just individually. There are smart strategies and stupid ones. For the most part we do the stupid ones, because the incentives to cooperate are not perceived to be very great. This is a misunderstanding. It's imperative that we learn how to cooperate.
3. I love that Seth writes about this stuff. We need more people to cut through the fog and just state things that are clearly true, no matter who gets upset.
We've had a wet and cold spring so far, not a lot of days yet that are good for riding. But this morning the sky was clear, the air was warm, and the streets were empty. So I got on the bike and went for a ride!
Here's the map. 9.49 miles. 56 minutes.
This is the way you want to do it. The ride cross-town was fine. No cars. But the red lights are suck and the avenues had enough cars so that you had to stop for the lights. Once I got on the Hudson bikeway my gears started slipping. Pulled over and found there was a shoelace caught in them. Removed it and it worked better, but there must be something lodged between the gears that I can't see, cause the high gears kept slipping. No problem. I rode in the lowest gear the whole way. Luckily the only hills on this route are tiny little baby hills.
Here's a picture, taken with the Canon Powershot.
The park police were out in huge numbers today, keeping bikes off the piers (sheesh) but they didn't keep the pedestrians off the bikeway. As usual, they're out in clueless force, walking two or three abreast, holding hands! Bliocking the whole way in both directions. We need some kind of weapon to penalize them for their selfishness. This, while there is a perfectly good pedestrian path that parallels the bikeway almost the whole way. What's wrong with people.
Hey I'm sweating! Feeeeels gooooooooood.
News without a corporate business model to control it. News without a silo. A very First Amendment sort of thing.
Right now most writers, people who create the kind of stuff that Twitter and Facebook readers want to read, at most feel uneasy about the companies who own the networks they are writing on. Very few people so far feel compelled to find another way to reach people who care about what they think, learn, invent, create or discover.
And maybe Twitter and Facebook forever will be model corporate citizens, always putting the freedom of their users ahead of their own bottom lines.
And if you believe that, keep on tweeting. Don't worry, be happy.
But if it should happen that your freedom is abridged by these corporations, and they aren't the government so they don't have to respect your rights (you are free to speak elsewhere), you will be very glad I and the people I am working with are doing what we're doing.
Here's the deal. I think the Internet itself is a social network.
That's the guiding principle. Using standards we already have, like HTTP, HTML, RSS, DNS, OPML, JSON -- you can make a news net that is as open and distributed as the Internet itself. There's no company in the middle, anymore than there's a company in the middle of the Internet. And if it goes down, it's a lot bigger problem for the world than one service going down. In a sense it means that civilization crashed. Can't do anything to work around that, I'm afraid. But short of cataclysm, the Internet makes for a very robust way to communicate, by design.
If you're a techie and want to know more, here's a list of stories I wrote last fall that spell out how all the pieces work.
It didn't take long to zero in on the Nexus S.
I had a Nexus One and liked it. Gave it to a friend and she really likes it.
Got it at Best Buy on Broadway near Houston.
It seemed a bit pricey, just under $600 with tax, but I went for it anyway. Unlocked GSM phone that runs Android. It's my European phone. As soon as I get to Amsterdam I'll buy a prepaid SIM for it at the airport. And when I get back, if all goes well, I'll probably replace my Droid with it? We'll see. Too soon to tell.
Now, do I like it?
Wellllll... it's not even close to as nice as the iPhone 4. The software (Android) is catching up, but the iPhone 4 has this stunning display. It makes the Nexus's screen look pretty bad.
And the Nexus has a light, cheap plastic feel to it. For a $600 piece of hardware that has to compete with the iPhone, it should have some heft, some gravitas. It has none. Seriously. It feels a bit like a McDonald's happy meal toy, compared to the iPhone 4 which has a unique feel to it, not like anything else, and seriously interesting. You just like to hold it. It sounds so flakey, but it's true.
The main reason I will have this with me is for the camera, but I'm not sure I'll use it. It's not as good as the iPhone and that was barely good enough. I'm bringing my Canon SureShot with me. Not bringing the Canon SLR my dad left me. Too much iron to carry to Europe and back. I'm not a big iron camera guy I guess, after all.
The map app is great. Really amazing thing is the 3D view you get because it has a hardware compass built in. Hard to describe in words, but it solves the problem as you're walking in a city of which way am I pointing now. You get a very tight readout.
I installed the Amazon App Store on it. Installed Kindle, loaded a few books onto it.
There is no Netflix app for Android. Huge missing piece.
Now I'm trying to figure out how to load music and podcasts on here.
How do you play videos on Android??
Let's say I want to order an Android GSM phone from Amazon, for delivery no later than Monday and am willing to spend up to $400.
Which one should I buy?
I'm going to Amsterdam next Tuesday and will stay through May 5. Might take a day trip to London. But right now the plan is to spend the whole time in Amsterdam.
Now, on my todo list is figuring out what to do about phones. It's always seem to end up spending hundreds of dollars just to make a few phone calls and check my mail.
This time I don't think I'll make any phone calls. What I really want a phone for is to take pictures and upload them to Flickr in realtime. That's how I like to be a tourist these days, even at home in NY.
So rather than go through the crazy hellish bureaucracies of American phone companies, I have accounts with both Verizon and AT&T, how about getting:
1. An unlocked phone.
2. A SIM with a good data plan.
3. Delivered to my hotel in Amsterdam.
To my European friends, how does that sound? Or maybe there's a better way to approach this?
I have two phones: An AT&T iPhone4, and a Verizon Droid. Wouldn't mind getting a new Android phone.
Update: I think I have the answer -- I have an iPhone3 that's been sitting around doing nothing since I bought the iPhone4. Is it true that I can just change the SIM and have a usable European phone?
I try not to watch the news because I find it irritating how they play dumb about things they can't possibly be that dumb about.
I watched Elliot Spitzer's show last night. I think he's better than anything on MSNBC. At least Keith Olbermann was entertaining if not a bit paranoid, but even the wild super-crazy Olbermann connected with reality better than Spitzer did last night.
Spitzer has his own way of doing things, and occasionally he nails it, but not last night. He was interviewing a lawyer about Donald Trump. They were lamenting how Trump is taking advantage of stupid and hateful Republicans who are probably racist by playing off the theme that Obama wasn't born in the US and therefore isn't qualified to be President.
But that's not who Trump is playing.
He knows that if he says it a few times, things that are obviously true like "Some people are interested in this subject," or "He should just give us his birth certificate," something He hasn't done for Us (true, but irrelevant) -- the idiots in the press will give him airtime. Put his name out there. Shake their heads at what an asshole he is. But all the time being assholes themselves by repeating the bullshit.
And by the way maybe the birthers aren't quite as ignorant as the talking heads make them out to be. Maybe they're just as cynical as Trump, and know that as long as the press is talking about Obama's birth certificate, they are making the President look like an idiot, which is what the Republicans want. At all costs. Geez, maybe they're even smarter than the reporters. Unless there's another level of cynicism that I can't see (probably is).
Anyway the real people to blame for the birther story that won't go away are the people who complain the most about it -- talking heads on news shows.
And last night Spitzer let a Republican from Utah walk all over him with the "cutting up the credit card" nonsense. If the Republicans want to get rid of deficits so bad they should propose a budget without deficits, which they never ever under any circumstances do. Otherwise they're just playing a dangerous game of chicken with our livelihoods. Not some theoretical future generation -- us -- right now -- in 2011. And with nothing to gain other than hurting the Democrats. Gee thanks Republicans. I'll be thinkiing about you when I'm standing on the soup line. If we're lucky enough to have soup lines.
And Spitzer wants to go skiing with this piece of shit.
There's some cronyism for you.
Anyway, what happens when a developer community comes to life for a platform that's deeply nested inside a corporate silo? They can only communicate to the outside world through the constraints of the silo. But inside the silo, perhaps there's freedom! An Internet tries to boot up.
In early days of Twitter, like a lot of people, I was excited at the possibility of a centralized message router that we could all openly build apps on. But I also thought it would have been a good idea for Twitter to have an internal macro language, like Lotus 1-2-3 did, or dBASE or emacs, or Unix or really any good rich data or text environment. If Twitter was going to be the router, why not put some logic inside the router as well as around it.
A rich Internet inside the Internet might have booted up in there.
I think the public folder of our Dropboxes has the potential to be an Internet-Inside-The-Internet as well.
As does our persistent World Outline project.
Here's a project I'd love to see come into existence, asap.
A plain-but-elegant jQueryish shell for a Twitter-like environment.
Think of it as a skin for a service that doesn't yet exist.
If this were out there then all I'd have to provide is the JSONP and some XML for the user interface elements. All the interaction would be out of my hands. This would be a very powerful interface, because while we may need lots of approaches to that form of data, we don't need lots of different user interfaces. Having a common UI here is just as important as having one on the desktop.
I would be a user of this, both at a developer-user and as a editorial-user.
I think I understand what jQuery does, and it does what I need to do.
I know how to develop user interface with the basic tools of a GUI -- scrollbars, menus, mouse gestures, dialogs. Learned the Mac Toolbox thoroughly. So that's the level I am approaching UI development.
I'm not really interested in how jQuery does what it does, rather how to write code that runs a fairly standard UI.
What's the quickest path in? What docs should I read?
I guess this is where everyone starts?
I want to talk about the greatest thing our forefathers and mothers left us here in the United States.
It's known around the world that the United States always pays its debts. Rain or shine, war or peace. Whether we're a scrappy young country or the sole remaining superpower. Hey you might not like us, or we might not like you, but that's not the point. You will invest in the United States because when it comes to money our word is sacred. We are safe. We're pretty much the only country that people depend on this way. It's something we can and should be proud of.
And that, I hear, is the cornerstone of the world economy. Take away the trust in the United States economy and the whole thing crumbles.
The tradition goes all the way back to the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton.
And because of that, our currency is the reserve currency of the world. We create money that everyone believes in. We are exceptional in this regard. It's why we live relatively well while producing relatively little. The thing we make that everyone wants that no one else can make is the US dollar. But it doesn't have to continue that way. We could be the generation that blows up the legacy. Simply by failing to pay the interest on our debt. Which is, I understand, what would happen if the Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling. Or even seems to be seriously considering it. That would spoil the trance and we would quickly (instantly) lose what makes us special.
The people we elected are getting ready to piss that away. If we let it happen not only will our children and grandchildren curse us, rightly, but so will the ghosts of our ancestors. We will go down as the stupidest generation ever. The one who had it all and threw it all away.
It's an interesting question.
Let's start with who doesn't run Twitter.
1. It's not Evan Williams who just left the company. And this time it feels like it's for real.
2. It's not the CEO, because they just brought back another founder, Jack Dorsey, to run the product. What kind of CEO isn't in charge of the product? Esp a company with exactly one product. Maybe if they were a diverse conglomerate you could find a way to run it without running product. But this is not a diverse company.
3. Is it Jack? Doesn't seem like it could be. If so, is he really committed to Twitter? He's only a part-time product guy, with another company he's CEO of. He probably wouldn't be a great choice for CEO either. Nice guy, but running a 350-person company with millions of users is pretty hard stuff.
4. The board? My guess is yes, they probably are actually making the executive decisions for the company. But it's just a guess.
What do you think?
I love mottos. Here's a good one...
Ignore what you don't understand.
So if I see a link to a page on 127.0.0.1 and I don't understand it, shrug it off. That's not a bug -- it's just something I don't understand.
Or if I click on a link and see a bunch of stuff I don't understand, just hit the back button. Observe that I just saw something I don't understand. But I know what to do. Ignore it.
This is the philosophy of XML, and it works great. It allows you to put data in a file that's for a specific kind of app. Others wouldn't understand it, which is OK cause they ignore what they don't understand.
It also allows you to use the web to bootstrap something new that runs above the web. Where the web is the gateway that gets you in. When you see the door, many people won't get it. But that's okay if they remember the rule.
I have been letting my development work get ahead of my blogging. There are lots of things working that I have not yet written about publicly. So I'm going to catch up a bit here. This is mostly for friends who read this blog as a way of staying up on what I'm doing, btw -- not a press announcement or a howto.
1. The EC2 for Poets tutorial and the software it launches reached a new level recently. When you install it now you get an integrated news system for reading and writing, all based on RSS of course. In the past, it launched more of a demo. Now it launches something that is useful. It's been ported to Rackspace and once they offer the ability to publish machine images, it will be available there too. Also working on a general version that will install on Macs and random Windows machines.
2. I'm working with Adam Curry. I know this will surprise a lot of people. But he and I do good work. He's a user who loves to get his hands dirty. He almost prefers if the software doesn't work when he gets it so he can then figure out why. Any developer would see why you like those kinds of users. I also like working with him because he has a vision of how all the pieces fit together, which not only agrees with mine, but he also sees things I don't see. Of course we had a big blowup in 2005, but the dust has settled from that. I may be a fool, but I gotta say work flows much better with AC around. There are some things I don't like about him, like his Twitter icon, for example. But you take the good with the bad.
3. There is a new development community forming around this work. We used to call these "classes" back in the day. There was the class that gathered around the AppleLink forum and then the CompuServe forum. That's how far back this stuff goes. Clay Basket, which is where I met Andre Radke. Then we had the crew that came together around the 24 Hours project which is where Brent Simmons came into it. Then there was Manilapalooza, weblogs.com, editthispage.com -- man the list goes on and on. But I've been working solo for a few years, which actually has been pretty productive. Had a chance to slow down and think a lot about how I want things to work. 15 years into a project is a good time to do that. Now we're adding a new developer every week. Some weeks more than one. Some of them are people I've worked with before, and others are completely new. But they're all really excellent. I see this as a very good sign.
The technology we're using in 2011 to glue us together is a Google Group, an Instant Outline, and I plan to use the code in #4 below to organize the docs which are all over the place and it's hard for me to remember what we have documented and what still needs to be worked on.
4. Okay so here's a really funny story. We're looking for a way to reboot the world outline, and don't want to make the mistakes we made in prior bootups. Adam goes on a hunt to find code. Stumbles across something I didn't know about or remember, html.directory. At some point we factored out the directory code from Manila and it became builtin. It was right there in opml.root. A couple of days ago I wrote a little shell website for it, it just worked. The last time this code had been touched was 2002. I think it's pretty good testimony to Brent and Jake Savin that it worked. I wanted to make sure they saw this. Here's the prototype.
5. I'm going to Europe next week. That should shake things up a bit. I'm speaking at The Next Web conference. I'm going to talk about shrink-wrapping software for the cloud and building a microblog platform without a company in the middle. Then I have a few days to improvise. Right now very tentatively I'm going to move in the direction of London after Amsterdam. But not sure what I'm actually going to do. One thing is for sure I'm going to look up from this screen ahd check out the rest of what's going on in the world.
It was a tough ride this morning cause of the wind and the work they're doing on the bike paths downtown. They cut off one way around the construction around the World Trade Center, so you have to backtrack and go ride among the pedestrians, which is always fun (not). And the wind, whooo what an effect.
It is beautifully sunny and when the wind died down, it was absolutely gorgeous. But there wasn't much of that.
It was an awkard slow ride today. Still getting back to it.
Here's the map and the stats.
I was talking with a Republican friend the other day. I didn't ask how can you be a Republican these days -- but he volunteered that the parties didn't seem very different, and being neither a Democrat or a Republican, I agreed. They're actors reading from a script written by a very bad playwright. The Democrats will make noises like they disagree with dismantling Medicare, and of course it won't be dismantled quite the way Rep Ryan and the rest of the House Republicans want it to be. There will be a "compromise." We will be told it's the best we can do. And once again, not too far down the road, trillions in debt will be taken on to buy the bankers out of the next crisis caused by their leveraging our economy. They get to bet using our wealth as collateral. And we're told that in return we have to be poor and in pain in our last years. Compromise. And they get a tax cut so they can keep more of their bonuses. Heh. Isn't that special.
Some kind of compromise.
There was a brilliant tweet from Ruth Conniff about her very brave and eloquent husband: "Getting off plane in DC, saw Paul Ryan. Husbnd went up smiling, Intro'd self: 'I'm gonna do everything I can to get you unelected.'"
All right! Where do I sign up for some of that. We must make an example of Ryan. The pundits may like him, but how could any citizen. Brrr.
I would work for a Republican who was trying to get rid of Ryan because he knows what the consequences would be from his plan, or even a compromise based on his plan. A Republican who loved his party and country enough to put an end to this nonsense, that would be a Republican I would give money to, campaign for. If Ryan's district is so totally Republican, fine -- elect a Republican. But one who works for the citizens of the 1st District, not for Mr. Potter and Mr. Burns.
We have the tools to unelect Ryan and the others who voted that we should spend our old age poor and sick. We only have to decide to use them. If we don't draw the line here, where will we draw it?
Had a phone talk yesterday with Scoble, about lots of things, including the Color app for the iPhone. He paid a lot of attention to it, because they raised so much money and came out the gate so strong. Then he told me what they could have done that would have stood a much better chance of working. It's a brilliant idea, one worth sharing (with his permission, and full credit).
What if they gave you a piece of software that, when you took a picture on your iPhone, the picture would automatically show up on your iPad or Android phone? That would be pretty cool? No wires, no Bluetooth, no configuration. Since you're logged in under the same name on all these devices, the only permission they would need is a preference that says "share photos with all my devices."
That would get a fair number of people to install the app.
Then, later -- introduce the feature they came out the gate with -- share with other Color users who are within 30 feet (or 40 or 20).
Chicken and egg problem solved. (Which is what bootstraps are all about.)
See, that's why I talk to Scoble. The guy comes up with ideas.
Think about the ways Apple enforces policies on content.
All songs are 99 cents. No exceptions.
Rules about what apps can and can't do.
We've come to accept these rules. After all it is their platform, the reasoning goes. If you don't like the rules, you don't have to use the iPhone, iPad, whatever.
At first Twitter had a hands-off policy with regard to apps. But that's changing, radically. Read the rules, and see how many of them have anything to do with technology. Now, recall that when Apple first started with the rules, they said they needed to control things because of the technology of phones was different than desktop computers. Clearly there are major motivations that go beyond protecting users in what platform vendors do to control what kind of software and content flows over their networks.
Then, this evening, I saw a tweet from Eric Hippeau, former publisher of Huffington Post, and a longtime publishing industry exec.
erichippeau: "There should be a rule on Twitter that no one can link to a page behind a paywall. Useless."
Now here's a chilling thought.
If Twitter wanted to, tomorrow, they could block all links that went into a paywall. That would either be the end of paywalls, or the end of using Twitter as a way to distribute links to articles behind a paywall, which is basically the same thing, imho.
Twitter already has rules about what you can point to from a tweet, and they're good ones, they keep phishing attacks out of the Twitter community, and they keep out spammers. But that does not have to be the end of it. And if you think Twitter depends on you, I bet Adobe felt that Apple depended on them too, at one point.
I've been asked to write a guest post for the NYU student blog -- NYU Local. This is that piece.
First let me tell you a little about myself, in a folksy bloggy sort of way.
I've led what I think of as a Forrest Gump type life. Somehow, by fate or luck, or the Invisible Hand, I seem to end up where history is made. When I was a high school student in the Bronx, participating in student strikes, I came to a meeting with the teachers union and found myself sitting across from Albert Shanker, the powerful head of New York's teachers union. (Shanker was also a punchline in the Woody Allen movie, Sleeper.)
I was in Silicon Valley in 1980, working at a leading software company when the IBM PC, still secret, was locked in our conference room. I had one of twenty Macintoshes outside Apple when it was getting ready, in 1983. In early 1984 I was on stage with the Young Steve Jobs when it was announced (I was then the Young Dave Winer).
I was at Wired in the early days. Many of the people there went on to do big things in the Internet boom that followed. And in 2003 during a fellowship at Harvard, I was starting a blogging community while Mark Zuckerberg was starting Facebook. To show you how clueless I was, I didn't hear about Facebook until much later, after I left Harvard.
Anyway, all of that is great, but I want to talk about another Forrest Gump type experience I had, when I was a grad student in the late 70s at the University of Wisconsin. I was getting a computer science degree, learning how to program first on big mainframes with punched cards, and in a new mode called "interactive" where you sat in front of a CRT and typed commands to the computer which executed immediately. This was the revolution of the day. A computer you could converse with! Amazing. I loved it.
A bunch of important new things were sprouting in this rich new environment. The programming language called C, an operating system called Unix (written in C), and a networking system that would eventually become the Internet. Email programs, adventure games, texting, visual editors, all these things were booting up at the same time. And I, as a mere student, got to play in the middle of all this, and make my own contributions. Several times I talked with the leading developers at other universities, by phone and electronically, to find out how they did what they do, which I was in awe of. I still remember that feeling now.
An aside, what made all these things work so well is that they were empty inside. Almost skeletal. Hard to believe there isn't more to it. I asked one of my mentors how this could be and he said it has to be that way. If it's complex it can't work until it's empty. These days we have another way to describe this, my friend and former colleague David Weinberger called it Small Pieces, Loosely Joined. I've never heard a better description of the architecture of the Internet.
I had role models for success. People who were programming because they loved it, because it made them free, and probably not to a small degree, for its potential to make all of us free in the future. Viewed in hindsight, I guess we all had little inklings of the greatness that would follow. Look at how far that work has gone. Here we are, well over thirty years later, and we haven't finished exploring the stuff that was booting up in the 70s.
However, today, most of the forward motion in technology comes from the commercial side, which is something I also have done, and have great admiration for. Academic development is great, but there's nothing like having the discipline of needing to make users happy. If you make great tech but no one uses it, well you haven't really done anything. There's a tension between the academic, exploring, teaching approach -- doing for the sake of doing and nothing more, and the drive to make a product that changes the world and makes you rich. You need both sides of it to drive creativity.
Last year at NYU, a small group of programmers who called themselves Diaspora sparked the imaginations of thousands of people and journalists. Here was a band of smart young people who would build something just for the joy of it. Programming in the cause of freedom. A hugely optimistic act. It's the motivation for what I'm talking about. But, what was missing was the contribution of a university -- of experience informing, guiding and teaching the young people how to do what they set out to do. People who had been down roads much like the one they're traveling, and can guide them past the potholes, pirates and vigilantes, carpetbaggers and cliffs. There's a Mr Potter or Mr Burns lurking around every corner, it seems.
In other arts, there's a healthy respect for the knowledge accumulated by previous generations. These days, however, in programming -- that respect seems to be fading. I think, if we can learn to communicate across generations, we can combine our strengths, your youth, vigor, optimisim for the future -- with my generation's lessons from the trenches. And if we can remember the feeling that many of us had when we were young, that the sky is the limit, that we can be great if we just will ourselves to be great. We can have it all.
When I was at Harvard I met a group of young people who called themselves Downhill Battle. How smart, and irreverent and wonderful. They were laughing at the old people who told them how hard life is. I met up with them a few years later, their asses thoroughly kicked, the smile off their faces. This made me sad. You need balance. Irreverent optimism is good. But if you want to get something done, you're going to have your butt kicked and it hurts. But keep the smile, keep on laughing, in the end, no one gets out of this alive.
The development of the Internet must continue. We're putting too much emphasis on corporate APIs and not enough on open APIs. Every student should at least have a chance to manage their own infrastructure. In some disciplines, such as computer science and journalism, it should be a requirement. How can you have a free press if you're depending on the goodwill of a corporation to give you your infrastructure. You must control it yourself if you want freedom. That's where the Diaspora kids were right. This was also one of the basic tenets of the Internet. With cloud computing, with services like Amazon EC2 and Rackspace, it's getting easier all the time. There will come a day when your parents will run their own servers. Weirder things have happened. And your children will too. How about you?
Will your generation be lost? Some people think it will. But that's no answer. You have to answer that question yourself, and I hope you say NFW.
And of course, the Internet, social computing, great writing tools, great freedom tools, they will be central to how you own your own future. And most of that has yet to be developed, imho.
After reading a report yesterday saying that Rackspace cloud servers were a better deal than Amazon's, I decided to check it out today.
I don't have time to do a formal benchmark, so I created a Rackspace-hosted clone of a system that is having trouble keeping up with its workload on EC2. I chose the cheapest option on Rackspace, a 1GB 32-bit Windows 2003 server that costs $0.08 per hour, which works out to $59 per month. Significantly less than the $90 a mini-server costs on Amazon.
The result was shocking. With the same load that pushed EC2 to it limit, CPU-wise, the Rackspace server bareley got off the baseline. So I kept adding more load to the Rackspace server. It's now doing something like 1.5 the work of the EC2 system.
I'm definitely moving that server from EC2 to Rackspace.
Also, it seems Rackspace should do some serious benchmarks. And whatever it is that's keeping Amazon from performing like Rackspace, they should fix it.
Tried riding west on Prince St, but that didn't work out too well. Too crowded, busy business street. Traffic and lights.
Ride was great once I was on the bikeway. Headed north into a headwind. Huffing and puffing. Turnaround at 46th. Movie of helicopter takeoff over Hudson. Nice tail wind.
Came back via Bleecker. Feel great!
Here's the map/stats.
Now of course I could be wrong, I often am -- but it seems to me (enough qualification, ok) this is going to go down as one of the colossal acts of tech industry chutzpah and hubris of all time.
You can also conclude that Google seriously wants to buy Twitter.
Gotta say it, I was proud of my President yesterday for calling bullshit on the Republican bullshit.
This morning, listening to NPR, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. They were picking at every little thing. It was as if they had been given the Republican talking points and were going over them, again and again.
Contrast this to the way they explained the Ryan "plan" -- with no skepticism, glossing over the core idea of letting old people die in poverty, while giving more tax cuts to the richest people!
I don't know where they get the idea that NPR has a liberal bias. Sounds to me like they take their orders from the Repubs.
No matter, the President spoke to all of us who love our parents and grandparents, and realize that someday we too will be old, or might get sick, and would like not to be seen as trash.
As you may know I am an Angry Birds addict. I love flinging the birds at the pigs. And now with the Rio version, at bird cages and monkeys. I also like killing the parrot.
Anyway, I had a product idea for Rovio, the guys who make the birds.
How about a special version of Angry Birds for the 2012 presidential election where the birds are Republicans and we get to fling them into horrifying, painful, humiliating (disgusting) and pointless deaths. Over and over.
They should look like Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and John Boehner. Just for kicks throw in Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.
Fun for the whole family -- for kids betw 8 and 80!
After my static server crumpled yet-again under the weight of a link from Daring Fireball and Hacker News, I threw in the towel, and with the help of Ted C. Howard, a wonderful friendly geek, moved the static server from Windows Apache to a Ubuntu instance running Apache on EC2.
I also redirected my RSS feed, which has been around since the dawn of time (and therefore has a huge number of subscribers) over to S3, which is able to handle all the robots and ghost apps, some of which are reading it every minute.
So with any luck we should be able to handle it if Gruber or the HN geeks think we're link-worthy.
Your humble servant,
The object database, outliner-based, multi-threaded programming environment that spawned blogging, RSS, podcasting and much more. Lots of people say they loved it. Well it lives. For you to love again.
In the last four months, we've released a bunch of major new code. It's going to form a huge coral reef for a new activity called blorking, which I'm going to talk about at The Next Web conference in Amsterdam at the end of the month. A long way to go to tell you all about what I've been cooking up. Unless you love Frontier and you love an adventure. For those of you who do, start reading here, going back in time.
I'll have a lot more to say about this. Sooon.
PS: We also need jQuery and node.js programmers, or equivs -- to port bits of the back-end to help us scale.
Stop everything and read this interview.
It will change what you think about Twitter.
Twitter needs competition, imho.
We need Twitter to have competition, that's for sure.
Hope we can wire our networks together for compatibility. RSS provides a nice bridge.
Not everyone will agree, of course, but I for one am very glad to hear this. We have to turn away from the awful philosophy that we can keep taking from the middle class and giving to the rich. It's wrong for so many reasons, and not smart.
And this one idea makes me wonder if the President has been listening to George Lakoff, and is starting to frame the discussion with the Republicans in the role of the spoiled child and the President as the strict father.
The rich have gotten their way, over and over, and now it's time for them to let the middle class have something. Like a father with two children and one of them keeps throwing tantrums to get his or her way, as the other gets nothing.
Unfortunately, in the US, the electorate is so unconscious that this kind of bullshit not only works, but is necessary. :-(
1. Really good coffee (it happened again).
2. Todd Rundgren's Bang on the Drum.
On the EC2-for-Poets list, Adam reported: "I'm getting errors on the size of config.root and the OPML editor is telling me I need to save a copy in order to compact it. Unfortunately unlike Frontier, where I've been reading docs on this problem, there is no 'Save a Copy' command in radio2 to do this."
Here's how you deal with that situation.
1. Bring config.root to the front.
2. Press control-; to bring up the quick scrip window.
3. Type filemenu.savecopy ("c:\\config.root")
4. Quit the opml app. In the program monitor force flaunch.exe to quit (it will relaunch the opml app).
5. Replace config.root with the one on C: you just saved
6. Relaunch the opml app.
Be real careful. Config.root is super important.
I have a bookmarklet that comes with my minimal blogging tool that populates a dialog with information about the story I'm reading. The bookmarklet works much the same way the Instapaper Read-Later bookmarklet works. Most of the time it's okay, but some of the sites put up such a shocking interstitial ad that I pretty much refuse to pass links to their posts. Computerworld comes to mind, as does Salon and the Economist. I make exceptions for all of them if the story is compelling enough. I know this is questionable, but I'd like to combine this with Instapaper. To basically publish a Read-Later link for all the people who follow me.
Wondering if they have anything like that.
Seems you guys would know...
I've done big layoffs twice in my career, and it's the worst experience ever, but sometimes you don't have a choice.
But if you do it right, it can have a positive effect on the organization. Here's how that works.
You prepare for the layoffs quickly and quietly. Then one morning you do them. All of them. And then have a company meeting and you tell the people that that was it. No more layoffs. You're on the team. And then have a good story about how you're going to lead them to prosperity.
If you let the right people go, everyone will know. There's always fat in an organization and the people know where it is. The question is, do you know. If you cut badly you probably just blew your chance for recovery.
And you don't want to do what AOL is doing. Week after week cutting off limbs. So that everyone inside the company is thinking they're next. So the smart ones look for new jobs in earnest. By the time you get around to looking for the next place to cut, all you'll find are the ones who didn't get offers elsewhere. You just lost.
You gotta do it quick and you have to be right about who you let go.
Dragging it out is no good.
A bunch of people have figured out how to plant viruses into the news system.
An example. Get a celeb or pol to suggest that candidate (or President) Obama might not have been born in the United States. Vary the story over time. Get a new celeb. Or a new pol. Every variance must be reported by ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox, MSNBC. Each saying of course to the best of our knowledge it's not true. Because of course we're objective. And we have to admit it's possible that Obama wasn't born in the US. As the virus suggest might be true.
Jake Tapper, on Twitter, asks what they should do. Says it's a double-edged sword. He's a smart dude, and he should get to use his brain in his work. Instead of being a robot, he should say "Wait -- that's a virus. I'm not that dumb!"
You know it's not a news story, it's a virus. Have a rule. We don't pass on viruses. Done.
Some people are themselves a virus. Donald Trump. Have a nightly show called "Here come the virus!" -- They get their air-time, and people who like viruses are happy. And everyone understands very clearly that what they're hearing does not stand up to any kind of scrutiny. So don't even bother saying it's not true. It wouldn't be on the Nightly Virus if it weren't complete utter bullshit.
People would fight to get on that show it would be so popular.
It would be like LOST but for news. Great entertainment.
I took the afternoon off to see Source Code. It was pretty good, not great. Don't rush out to the theater, I'd wait until it shows up at Netflix. But a nice way to spend a Monday afternoon.
What I didn't appreciate was a preview for a new movie starring unabashed anti-semite and misogynist Mel Gibson called The Beaver. Even worse is the theme of the movie. A man who is horribly depressed, hated by everyone including his family, finds a way to get undepressed and becomes lovable. They even tell you in the preview that he is redeemed and re-finds his humanity and everyone loves him, etc etc, blah blah.
This is crazy. As far as I know Gibson hasn't explained or apologized for being the miscreant that he is. I guess he wants us to take him back. Without any explanation, the answer is no fucking way. I also mind that Hollywood is casting him in films, and I might even consider boycotting the movies until they explain what they had in mind, esp co-star Jodie Foster. But please, keep his previews out of the theaters. I don't want to have to walk out on a movie because of a preview. Next time I see one with Gibson, I will walk out.
Jodie Foster says Gibson is "the most loved actor I've ever worked with." Career suicide?
I don't want to hear any talk of redemption until we get an explanation and apology, and then I think he can stay out of the movies. And this movie should never appear in theaters. I don't know what they were thinking.
I'm lucky to have a fair number of very brilliant young people who read this blog. They have high IQs, have already accomplished a lot, and are probably going to accomplish a lot more. Some of them are fantastically rich, some will be. Others are just well-off. And if experience is a guide, some of them will crash and burn. There are people of all kinds in my generation, and I expect it will be the same in the one that's coming up now.
But one thing young people of all generations have in common is a very abstract and incorrect idea of what aging is about. Sorry. It's just plain true. I know from my own experience, having made some serious mistakes about health insurance in my 20s and 30s. And living to pay for those mistakes in my 40s and 50s. Fact is, you have to understand how insurance works, because decisions you make now will effect what kind of health insurance you get when you're older. And health insurance is central, for most people, to living. I was going to say "living well" but decided that wasn't what actually was going on. For many people, having good health insurance is that important.
My story -- I needed heart surgery when I was 47. Partly it was due to lifestyle, and partly due to genes. No matter, I got the surgery, insurance paid for it, and I'm lucky -- I could have paid for it myself, but it would have hurt. The bill for my surgery and all other care was about $500K. The surgery made me healthy, relatively speaking.
But if I hadn't had the surgery, I would have died in 2002. That's a fact.
Most people could not have paid the money. I don't know what they would have done. Maybe they would have just died. Some of my young friends say they would accept that outcome, but I don't believe them. I am sure they wouldn't accept it if it was happening to them, or to someone they cared deeply about.
Here's the thing -- it is going to happen to you.
How do I know? Because that's what happens as we age. Health declines, and most of us need help to survive. You can't plan on not needing it. It doesn't work that way.
I recently helped my father go through it. He had excellent insurance, in addition to Medicare. There was only one point in his ten-year decline when insurance started pushing us around. It didn't turn out to matter. But it was scary. He had been in the hospital too long, they wanted him to leave. Not sure if it was the best thing for him, but we put him in a different hospital, and negotiated with the insurance and hospital administrators. Believe me, this was the last thing we wanted to be doing at this point. You will feel the same way, if you have a heart, and if you love your parents.
I don't know why young people can't extrapolate. They won't be young forever. Your parents won't either, nor your siblings. And god forbid your one of your children should get sick. That happens too, sad to say.
Health is one of those things that no matter how much you prepare, you can never know what's going to happen. That's why you buy insurance.
But here's the punchline. "The most important thing about the individual market -- more important than the high prices and the lousy policies -- is that no one has to sell you a health insurance policy. If you have the wrong medical profile, you could be simply uninsurable. That's how a free market works." That quote is from a Baseline Scenario report on why you must care about Medicare.
That is so damned true. Tattoo it on your forehead so you can think about that every day as you're shaving or putting on your makeup.
To me, I can't believe it's come to this in the US. We are dismantling our country before our eyes. If you think health care is a small thing, you don't know how life works. And you owe it to yourself and your family to find out.
Some things can be expressed powerfully in less than 140 characters.
Joel Housman: "Remember when Planned Parenthood & NPR crashed the market, wiped out half our 401Ks and took TARP money? Me neither."
A couple of weekend's ago I threw in the towel and wrote my own mini-version of TwitterFeed that would work for users of my minimal blogging tool. I've released the code as an OPML Editor tool, so at least in theory it could be installed by others. That's the plan, eventually, that it will be running on lots of servers, so as to spread out the load. TwitterFeed, while it's a marvelous public service, suffers from being centralized, in many of the same ways Twitter itself does.
Anyway, I've mostly got it working. However it fails to post some messages. Twitter says they have an incorrect signature. Here are a few of the tweets.
Coming soon: A Twitter camera. (Scripting News). http://r2.ly/a9rk
'The Suburbs of Manhattan' - Living in the West 70s. http://r2.ly/a9rh
Quote For The Day II (from Andrew Sullivan's new home at TDB). http://r2.ly/a9qm
What do they have in common? Punctuation.
But here's the thing -- it looks like Twitter's encoding and mine agree. They echo back the parameters. Not sure if it's their version they're echoing or mine (hence the confusion).
Wondering if any of you guys have been down this path and can offer some suggestions?
I looked for a Twitter OAuth debugger. Maybe there is one...
Help much appreciated.
Update #2: Here's a table of the encodings for each of the characters generated by string.urlEncode, a built-in verb in OPML Editor that I've been updating to make this encoding work.
There was just a new media conference in Boston, that judging from who was there, I would have loved to have been at. It would have been great to catch up with so many of the people who were there. Problem is, as with so many conferences -- I didn't find out about this one until it was too late. This time it came in a tweet from Greg Mitchell about a panel he had just finished about WikiLeaks. I would have loved to have been there for that, and to shake his hand. We've never met, except online. I'm an admirer of his work. I'd like to tell him about what I'm doing, show him -- I think it could make his job easier and make his work more useful to others.
Could a web service help here? Maybe it could.
A few years ago I invested in a service called Confabb. Its purpose is to organize information about conferences. It could have developed into a social network for conferences. I don't doubt that such a thing is possible, and needed. Each conference is of course a social network. And a network of all conferences is a super-social network. Someday we will have such a thing. I'm sure of it.
Now there probably are already services people use for this. Is that how you all find out about conferences? Me, I'm too lazy. I'd like to get messages from my friends saying we noticed you weren't signed up for this one -- and we think you should be there. Maybe that would help fill in the gaps?
Hello everyone -- my name is Dave and I love to ride!
Finally a day that was warm enough to get on my newly-inflated wheels.
I rode north to 9th and Lafayette. Went west to 6th where I jogged south on Christopher and over to my favorite Hudson River Bikeway. Then the big question -- north or south? Considering this was the first ride of the season, there were good arguments to go south. Shorter ride. Well-defined terminus. Possibly other routes to come home on. But I went north.
Familiar route. Turned around at the Intrepid, and crossed the highway at Horatio. Rode south on Washington, turned east on 10th and rode it to Cooper Sq where I turned south. Considered taking Bleecker St. Maybe next time.
It was a bit chilly and my legs burned a bit and I got tired sooner than I would have if I had been doing it every day, but IT FELT FUCKING GREAT TO BE BACK ON MY WHEELS.
Here's the route and stats thanks to CycleMeter.
I've also hooked up CycleMeter and DailyMile, so my trips will automatically (knock wood) show up over there too.
There was something troubling about Larry Page's edict to his employees that tied their year-end bonuses to Google's success in social networking. I couldn't put my finger on it, but Mike Elgan at ComputerWorld helped me see it.
Page's edict tells employees: "Stop working on Google's mission and start working on Facebook's."
As we used to say here on Scripting News -- Bing!
When have we seen this before?
When haven't we?
This is the cycle of the tech industry. A company starts off scrappy, and against all odds, not only does it vanquish every startup of its generation, but it also takes the lead from the former incumbent. Then it grows big, hires lots of employees, many of them from the companies they defeated, and then are surprised when they become the companies they defeated.
Meanwhile a new crop sprouts, one of them rises to the top, and takes aim at the leader...
The founder, whose brilliance and tenacity and drive was what made the company surge past everyone else thinks he can do it again, only this time instead of leading a small team of banditos, he's running a fleet with aircraft carriers, battleships, supply lines. And btw, the company they took the lead from is still kicking around, and capable of making trouble.
We know how this story ends. The upstart takes the lead away from the incumbent.
Microsoft didn't take the graceful exit, which was to become a services company and banker, and fade into the background. But destiny forced them there anyway. (They thought their enemy was Netscape, but it turned out to be Google.) It was more of a struggle than it had to be. Same with IBM, before them. And now Google seems to be going that way.
There is of course the Steve Jobs story. But to go down that path, Google would have to return to its roots -- search -- and forget about dreams of being Facebook.
Today I'm going to try to make something work that may be hard
I have a domain, let's call it domain-x.org, and I want it to return a feed.
The content-type has to be text/xml and the request must return XML.
Since it's not a sub-domain, a CNAME will not be possible.
Which means we will not be able to use Amazon S3, which is a real shame because in every other way it's the perfect way to do it, from a scaling and cost standpoint.
Pretty sure I'm going to have to use Apache. And since I don't have a Linux server lying around, it's going to have to be Apache/Windows.
This isn't just an idle exercise, we need to solve this problem in a way that can be easily replicated for lots of users, without them having to configure anything as low-level as Apache or S3. This is a feature for true end-users. So in the next step I will need that REST-programmable DNS that I've been talking about.
Update: It works.
And it was very straightforward.
Here's what I did.
1. I created a folder on my Apache server called davelinks.com.
2. Went to my registrar and pointed it at the Apache server.
3. Added a .htaccess file in the folder with a single line:
4. Added a callback when my feed is built that in addition to writing it to the usual deeply-nested place on S3, also writes it to the top level of the folder I created in step 1. The file is of course called rss.xml.
5. http://davelinks.com/ works.
Took about 1/2 hour.
A few weeks ago I posted a note here about how it was taking over 24 hours for Amazon to launch an EC2 instance. Then for a while it seemed to get better. Now it's sucking again.
I had developed a bit of voodoo. Instead of launching one instance, I'd launch two. Usually one of the two would be ready to go within an hour. But today I've launched eight instances, starting first thing this morning, and none of them have gotten to the point where they would return a Windows password. This coming from an AMI that I was able to launch yesterday just fine.
I write these notes because I don't know what else to do. I'm sitting here at zero productivity, waiting and waiting. I love EC2. But this is ridiculous. It's like the parrot in the Monty Python sketch. Beatiful plumage. Pushing up daisies.
Update: The next pair of instances I launched came up right away, as I suspected they might.
First let me say it could well be, probably is, something I did wrong that led to my Twitter/OAuth code to stop working overnight.
I first noticed it a few minutes ago when I posted something to my feed that didn't go through. I checked the database to see what went wrong. It said, "Incorrect signature."
So the first question -- is anyone aware of anything that changed in the Twitter API last night?
Second question -- I'm new to using Twitter's OAuth interface. Is it realiable or flaky or somewhere inbetween?
I don't think it could be a terms-of-service thing because my app is doing exactly the same thing as TwitterFeed, and as far as I know they're still legal. I was using TwitterFeed until a couple of weeks ago, but needed an interface with less latency.
Academic hackathons are the rage, and there's one coming up this weekend at NYU.
Unfortunately, imho of course, the commercial APIs are over-represented and open formats and protocols are not represented at all. RSS will never offer you a job or fund your startup, but -- it might keep the Internet free so we'll still be interested in entrepreneurship for the Class of 2020 and beyond. You always have to keep putting back. And as the Twitter developers will tell you, the waters that surround big battleships and aircraft carriers can be very turbulent. As they say, when an 800-pound gorilla sneezes, you're the one with boogers all over you.
That's why I like platforms without platform vendors. There's no one to change the rules, decide that you've been copying them when they've been copying you. To deprecate the APIs that you've invested your life savings in.
Okay anyway, enough motivation.
The 11 free ideas are:
1. Share Your OPML.
2. Beautiful River.
3. UI for FeedHose.
4. Centralized subscription manager.
5. Hack status.net so we can template it.
6. What if Readability and Instapaper didn't have to scrape?
7. REST interface for DNS.
8. Open source Dropbox clone.
9. Drop-dead simple static hosting.
10. University news.
11. Make Apache an end-user product.
All are explained in more depth in two bits I wrote last fall.
Now, if you're interested in doing one of these projects at this weekend's hackathon at NYU, post a comment here. I live a few blocks away so I can help you, and I will, with any of these projects.
The cool thing about them, is that they all make the Internet better and more useful and more open, and they are open-ended. They aren't done when the weekend is over. Because -- they're useful.
As I read about Rep Paul Ryan's proposal for a reformed budget, if you can call it that, and saw how the press and Democrats were responding, I felt that anyone could see through this, it's so blatant. Why would anyone in their right mind suggest the US go down that path, considering the terrible mess we're dealing with after the financial meltdown of 2008.
The reason the deficit is so high is that we've been trying to get the economy going again and because we had to write some large checks for wars and bailouts of various industries we couldn't imagine living without. It's not in any way a question of political philosophy. It has absolutely nothing to do with unions. The way to avoid more deficits is to make sure that bankers and defense industries can't loot the economy. Yet of course that's what you're seeing, very clearly, in what Ryan is proposing and in the acquiescence of the press and Democrats. They all want this. Plainly.
The last resort now is to try to connect up with the only people Rep Ryan actually reports to, the people of the 1st Congressional District in Wisconsin. I don't want any particular outcome, no recall or I don't care how you vote next year but -- I want to understand why you chose this man, with these ideas, to represent you? Are there any people over the age of 30 living in the 1st District? Anyone retired now? Planning on retiring in the next 20 years? Have a parent or grandparent who depends on health care to be alive?
Death panels? We're not talking about a handful of people -- we're talking about a generation or two -- of Americans. People from Kenosha and Janesville, and north of Chicago and south of Milwaukee. I went to school with Wisconsin people, I'm sure some of them were Republicans, but they're all fairly nice people. Do you really want to take the chance of spending your last years in poverty? Feeling bad, even though there are medications that could help you feel better and maybe live longer. Treatments that would ease the pain of growing old?
I'm right on the line Ryan talks about, I'm turning 56 in less than a month. I've worked hard to prepare for my future. It doesn't feel very safe with people like Ryan around and with power.
So to the people of the 1st District of Wisconsin -- what exactly were you thinking when you elected him?
If I were Jack Dorsey, taking a fresh look at Twitter, from the point of view of Twitter Corp, here's what I'd look at.
Suppose I want to get caught up on something, local or global.
What's going on in high school basketball in Berkeley, or how's the recovery effort with the nuclear power plants going. That's not something Twitter really is set up for. It's good for what's happening right now this second. If Elizabeth Taylor dies, signing on to Twitter will get me that information for at least a few hours after the event. But not if David Broder dies, for example (sadly, they both died recently).
News is and always has been what Twitter is about. There are other tools that are better for conversation and networking. The 140-character limit, imho, makes it useless for both. What it is good for is news.
Something happened. Click for more. Repeat.
That's the pattern.
Twitter is a new channel for sensational journalism. Maybe that's all they want to be, if so, nothing to do, mission accomplished. However if it is to become the news system of the future, as I've said it could -- many times -- then a bunch of corner-turns will be necessary. This is the first one. Giving it a memory beyond the last few minutes.
Recall that the NY Times now has a paywall. That entitles you to 20 free articles a month. So it's four days into April and I'm hitting the wall.
I have a number of computers I read the Times on. It turns out that I used a bunch of different email addresses to log on to the NYT site at each of the computers. On one of them, my main desktop, I have a complementary account thanks to Lincoln. On the others, no free account. So one by one I'm hitting the 20-article limit. And learning some the quirks of the paywall.
They have a rule that says if you come from a social media site, the 20-article limit doesn't apply. That means that if I click on a link to a Krugman piece from my news aggregator, I get through. But, if I click on a link in Krugman's article to another NYT piece, I hit the wall.
Ironically, if I click on a link from the same Krugman piece to a story on the Washington Post site, it goes through. Not exactly what the Times wants, I assume. I wonder how Krugman will feel about linking on-site vs off-site.
Screen shot that illustrates.
Anyway, I'm going to leave some of my computers this way so I continue to experience the effects of the paywall.
Lunch today was on 18th St off Union Square.
Walking back to the square to catch the 6 train uptown, I spotted this shiny new statue on the corner of 17th and Broadway. It's Andy Warhol, with a Bloomingdale's shopping bag and Polaroid camera.
Here's what Rob Pruitt, the artist, has to say about it.
In the tech blogosphere this morning there's news that the Engadget team, that dribbled out of AOL over the last few weeks, has re-assembled at a sports blog called SB Nation. Once there, they will start a gadget blog that competes with Engadget.
In various accounts, including the blog post by Joshua Topolsky, the former editor of Engadget and the new editor at SB Nation, a sophisticated editorial system is mentioned as a reason for the move.
Topolsky says: "The people at SB Nation share my vision of what publishing looks like in the year 2011. They think that the technology used to create and distribute news on the web (and mobile) is as important as the people who are responsible for the content itself. And that's not just pillow talk -- SB Nation is actively evolving its tools and processes to meet the growing and changing needs of its vast editorial teams and their audience communities."
Hey -- it's not pillow talk! I like that...
In other words, lurking in the shadows is a content management and/or delivery system that beats the one at AOL, at least. Not too hard to imagine, considering those tools have barely advanced in the last few years. And remember, publishing tools are as much a part of the tech industry as search engines and social networks.
I, for one, would like to know more about these tools.
I like the Mayor of New York. A lot of people say he's a bum, and of course this is NY so they're entitled. But I like him. He's his own man, he's smart and he thinks like a businessperson, because he is one.
Anyway, here's my idea for Hizoner the Mayor.
I'm going to a meeting uptown later today. It's a fifteen minute bike ride. A half-hour subway ride. The weather isn't good enough yet, but in a couple of weeks it will be. I'd like to ride my bike. And I know that the mayor wants me to too.
So how about offering a tax break to office buildings that provide on-site bike checkin and checkout. I'm not good enough at locking these things up when I get there to be willing to take the chance on losing my bike. But I would love to ride there if I knew in advance that they would hold my bike downstairs while I went to my meeting upstairs.
Maybe no tax break is needed, if there's a surplus of office space in NYC. It could be a differentiator. Locate your company here because you'll hire healthier employees.
Update: With the help of the smartest guys in the world (the community here on Scripting News), it works and I now have two inflated tires on my bike.
So I tried clamping the thing onto the valve first one way then the other (they don't make it clear which way is open and which is closed).
But either way I just get a brick wall. The pump won't go down. The tire remains flat.
I did manage to completely empty the rear tire by fiddling with the valve. Absolutely every last bit of air is gone.
Any clear, slow, step by step advice would be much appreciated.
Big wheel keep on turning...
Then I figured out how to have the essays appear on Scripting News along with the links.
I kept getting bug reports from people with feed readers that didn't like my links, so finally I gave up on the linkblog part.
A few weeks after that, Twitter pops up. So I posted all my links on Twitter.
Gradually I built up editorial tools for my linkblogging, casually at first, but lately, very seriously.
This week I brought the linkblogging back to Scripting News, in the right margin. I'm happy with the result. I get to review my recent stories. And people who read this site in the web browser, and there are quite a few of them, are introduced to the links I've been pushing through Twitter. Reminding me that it was probably a mistake to give Twitter all my links, exclusively. Or lazy. Yeah, probably just lazy. But not no mo!
My stats are already showing improved circulation.
Good! There's life after Twitter. Happy.
How about a conference with everyone who was blogging in 2001. Let's talk about how it's going and what we want to accomplish in the next ten years.
Or a conference with people named "Dave" on the dais. People with other names would be welcome. In the audience.
An exclusive invite-only conference for people who are friends with Dave.
A conference where all the sessions are held in the lobby. Two sessions simultaneously. Great wifi and high bandwidth connections.
A conference where we discuss big ideas while hiking in the woods.
A conference where we discuss big ideas while sitting in a hot tub and drinking wine.
Imagine being an angry borderline racist Republican in 2009.
Imagine what the black national socialist liberal business-hating Kenyan-born new President was going to do to screw everything up. Oh yeah! Let's go out and raise hell.
Now, the worst thing has happened. He turned out to be as liberal as George W. Bush and even more in the pocket of the American oligarchy.
Don't worry -- you have good company.
Those of us who wished he might change things so that American worked better for its people, something it desperately needs to do (even the smarter oligarchs must know this) are just as dumbfounded.
Basically we're all fucked. It's not good to gloat, because the fuckedness is something we all share. Even the idiots who are calling the shots.
I noted that Evan Williams is leaving Twitter to do some new stuff.
He's had two major successes, with Blogger and Twitter and now must be worth at least several hundred million -- maybe more. Enough money to last a lifetime, even if you spend a lot of money.
I'd like to suggest that with his next venture he give back to the open web, creating new stuff not to create profit for himself and venture capitalists, but to grow new limbs for the Internet. To support independence and freedom of the people of the world. For science and culture and community.
Twitter certainly had the potential to be a new exciting layer of the Internet, but I think it's pretty clear it's going the other way now. Closing up so that the backers, including Williams, can make more money. Had Evan decided to go for maximum Internet goodness, early-on, Twitter would have gone a different way. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn't want to be around for what's coming next. More stuff like the dickbar, for sure. And more bad news for developers, again for sure.
Why not play without the burden of having to create a profit? Look at all the good Brewster Kahle has been able to accomplish? How about advancing the art of future-safe archives, so the work people do on the Internet has a life after they die? Williams could be the Andrew Carnegie of our time, a man who had a vision for libraries in every city, and made it happen.
We also need a way for people creating revolutions to communicate more effectively with each other. Right now they're doing great work with the commercial systems, but clearly that's not always going to work, as governments get more savvy about working with the corporations behind them.
How about investing in DNS, making it better at representing people and documents, not just organizations and servers?
I'd love to see an open source Dropbox clone, with all the human factors done right, but something I could host on an EC2 server.
Here's another one -- how about adopting Apache and putting a simple UI on it. Something anyone could use to set up a web server. But lift the hood, and there's all the standard richness of Apache.
That's just the beginning. Commercial stuff is great, and when you're starting out, what choice do you have. But when you reach the level of success that Williams has, you don't have to limit yourself to ideas that generate revenue. You can simply "put back" to create more opportunities like the ones you built your success on. There was a lot of generosity that made Blogger and Twitter possible. Pay it back, for some good karma.
Every so often I get invited to an invite-only conference. Usually I decline, because the idea seems wrong. You don't know who is going to have the great idea that could break through and create new opportunity. Also, some of the best people I've met at my own conferences were people I didn't invite. Never would have thought to invite them because I didn't know them. A couple of them have become long-term close friends. How about that.
But, if you're going to discuss open formats and protocols, having an invite-only conference is not only a bad idea, it can be unethical. And can destroy the open-ness of the protocols you're discussing.
For example, the early FOO Camps discussed the future of open web formats. There were people there who felt they had a say in their future, and they're right about that -- they did have a say. But they didn't have an exclusive say. Not sure, but I think they even drafted some specs at these conferences.
Another example was a social web "summit" held last summer in Portland. Invite-only. Lots of people from Google, and other big companies, and also some independents. But there were some interested people (such as myself) who were conspicuously absent, un-invited. Wonder why? Doesn't matter. There was nothing open about this stuff, but they still pretend it was. Might as well start over, if being open is part of their strategy.
When I'm invited to one of these conferences, and want to go, even though it's not open-to-all, I ask the organizers to stipulate, to all participants, that open formats and protocols will not be discussed. This means that when the subject comes up, someone in the room can remind them that it's off-topic. And the integrity of all those involved and of the formats, can be protected.
I'm trying a different approach this time -- writing a blog post.