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. :-)
If you send me a support question via email, I'm very likely to ask you to post the question on a mail list or discussion group. I know this will upset some people sometimes, but it's the right thing to do. Here's why.
If you ask the question publicly one of two things can happen that can't happen if you ask it privately:
1. Someone else might be able to answer it.
2. Even if I have to answer it, now there's a record of the answer, in public where search engines can find it. So maybe next time someone else will find the answer without having to ask anyone.
And by the way, #2 might already have happened -- so did you check a search engine before you asked a human to be your search engine? You'd be surprised how many times people ask people for help where much better answers are available in writing. This is where the acronyms RTFM and LMGTFY came from.
For me, answering questions about my software is work. But I want you to be successful using my software. So we answer questions to help people get going, and hope they will do the same for others.
It's a price you pay for being generous and giving away your software. But why should there be a price for being generous? There's another motto that goes with this.
See also: Writing good bug reports.
People keep saying I should keep blogging my bike rides no matter how much each is just like the ones before.
But today's was different. I was up really late or really early depending on how you look at things. At 5:45AM, the sun was up, I looked out the window and saw no cars, buses or trucks on the street and I said Yeah let's do this. It was actually cold, but the roads were empty, the casual strollers for the most were still asleep. This being NYC, there were some people out there just to be out there. But it was great. The morning light, fresh air, light breeze. And emptyness. Delightful.
Got caught behind a bus on 10th St so I detoured via Bleecker and up Sullivan to 4th.
Map: 1 hour 1 minute. 11.0 miles.
As with Google Buzz, there are some awfully sneaky things about it. They got me to invite people who weren't part of their network, people who were in my Gmail contact list. They appeared to have already been part of it, and also appeared to have requested contact with me. Only later did I find out when I got an email from one of my friends thanking me for the invite that I had been used virally. I bet this is how Scoble came to send me the "invite."
Later, as I was doing my normal surfing on my iPad, a lot of which involves looking things up on Google, which is so much a part of my routine that I never even think about what I'm using, I kept noticing the black bar that now has Facebook-like stuff in it. The bar is new, and this Facebook-like behavior is even newer. I found this horribly intrusive. I said later, in my opt-out message, that Google, to me, has always stood for minimal and simple user interface. That they stay out of your way. This goes all the way back to the beginning of our relationship, in 1998, when I -- like a lot of other web users of the day -- chose Google over their competitors because the others were getting loaded down with the kind of crapware that Google is loading up on now.
It was after seeing how they had inserted this into search that I decided I had made a mistake by opting-in. Remembering that it was impossible to opt-out of Buzz (I still accidentally click on the link from time to time, as a Gmail user, you can't get rid of it) I figured that it would be similarly impossible to rid myself of Google Plus. I tweeted at that moment that they had led me thinking about how to eradicate Google search. I had just read an article about a massive bot-net, and how the Republicans have infected the US govt. My mind was on infection, at that moment. I have a feeling this decade is going to be about fighting financial, political and technological infections.
One of my Twitter friends sent me a link to the opt-out page. Thankfully, it gave me the choice of not deleting my Google profile. I seem to recall that opting-out of Buzz made it seem that I'd lose my profile. Maybe that's why the links never went away. I forget. Anyway I was grateful that at this moment, they chose not to blackmail me. Maybe they heard that if you make it hard to get out, that will eventually get around and will keep people from trying your product? It's not so important how a company learns to treat its users with respect, though I would prefer if it came from a set of principles, from self-respect, rather than expedience.
1. A screen shot of the "downgrade" confirmation page.
2. They asked why I opted-out, so I told them.
I see Facebook as a virus too. All those buttons on all those websites. I know why they're there. I don't put them on my sites, though wordpress.com put them on the sites I host there, of course without asking me. Another asshole company. At least Facebook doesn't have the power to put themselves into the search engine that I use 100 times a day. So they have earned a spot in my browser chrome. That's how Google should constrain themselves. Don't force your latest megalomaniac power-grab on your users. Let your designers earn their linkage, instead of giving it to them. Your users aren't as dumb as you think. They know when they're being used. Sure, some of them like it -- but the ones you want to keep, imho, are the ones who don't.
Anyway, I have opted-out. In theory. I'll let you know if it worked.
PS: I wish they didn't use words like "downgrade" and "deleted" in the opt-out process. That's so super-dramatic, self-important and one-sided. And makes me want to not try it again, even if you make some of the changes I'd like to see. I don't see it as a downgrade, I see it as restoring sanity. And I didn't delete anything because I never created anything in your stupid social network. Lighten up. The term for what I did is opt-out. That's what you should call it.
Exec summary: I'm looking for legal help to get McAfee to stop blocking this site.
Yesterday I got a tweet from Kiran Patchigolla asking if I knew that McAfee is blocking my site.
I responded that I knew, and when I was reminded of it, I had a different feeling about it this time than I did about it the last dozen or so times I've had readers tell me about this. I felt like it's time to do something about it.
First, here's their report.
Yes, it's a problem -- because this software apparently ships with Windows. I've received the warning myself from their software on one of my own machines running Windows.
I thoroughly investigated their concerns in November of last year.
The files they claim are trojans are actually archives of back-issues of this site. Snapshots taken on the 10th anniverary, in 2007. They're lying when they say they looked inside these files. They couldn't possibly have. All they contain are text files.
The other file, one that they give a green light to, FrontierPsapiInstaller.zip, is the only one that actually contains executable code. You need it to get certain features to work with Frontier on Windows.
I suppose their defense is that their claim that "some people" consider these adware, spyware or potentially unwanted programs. I wonder who those people are and what their opinion is based on? (Obviously that's legalese to cover their ass in case anyone wants to sue them for libel or defamation, or whatever.)
Meanwhile they're lying about my site and keeping people out who want to read it.
This is unacceptable.
Any lawyers out there with some advice for this simple blogger?
Quotes are welcome as long as they accurately reflect what was said.
I had an off the record phone conversation with their editor, so I can't tell you what she said. But I can say it wasn't satisfying.
Maybe this will make an interesting case study for our J-school students. How many elipses can you use, and when, and still claim to have a quote?
I've been round this loop now three times, at least. If you count the big ones. There were small ones too.
The big ones:
When IBM hit the wall, it was with a revolution they called the Micro-Channel Architecture. It was touted as a way to take back the PC industry from the cloners. But it was also a way to reign in the power of Microsoft, who was IBM's upstart. Didn't work, it only cemented Microsoft's position, though it took Microsoft a few years to realize it.
With Microsoft it was the great call to arms in late 1994, when Bill Gates rallied his team and told each of them to maneuver their battleships and aircraft carriers into position. He thought he had met his own Microsoft (he had been waiting for it) and its name was Netscape. Not realizing that the problem wasn't Netscape, it was a sea-change in the tech business analogous to the one that IBM had failed to overcome. His upstart was the web, not Netscape.
Now it's Google's turn.
When IBM hit the wall, I had an idea for them. It was, interestingly, the one that launched my career as a blogger, back before we knew it was called blogging. I wanted IBM to pick up Mac OS, which was then languishing. These were the years that Steve Jobs was out of Apple, starting NeXT. I felt Mac was the right product, but Apple lacked the management and resources, the gravitas to compete with Microsoft. I thought Mac was IBM's ticket to get out from under Bill's thumb.
When it was Microsoft's turn, I had a better idea of what would happen to them, and urged them to kick back and find ways to profit from the growth of the web. I felt they could get the largest share of the growth by just being the background, making investments and providing services. They didn't agree but I didn't think they had a choice. And that turned out to be correct.
Similarly, I don't think Google has a choice. Their "social" offerings have been rebuffed repeatedly, and they will continue to be rejected by users, no matter how promising they are, no matter what they are, different from Facebook, a Facebook clone, doesn't matter. Why?
1. You can't make revolution with employees.
Can't be done. They don't know how to do it. And if they did, there's another problem:
2. Everyone's watching.
So on Day One your service pretty much has to be feature-complete, and ready for hundreds of millions of users. Forget about corner-turns. Forget about dipping your big toe in to get a sense of the temperature. These are the advantages of the upstart, when they're starting. People have responded to yesterday's piece by saying basically that Facebook can't rip up the pavement any more than Google can. True. But their innovation is done. Now they're reaping the rewards. But when they face their upstart, they'll be in the same place Google is in now.
The crazy thing about #1 is that you'd think that Page, like Gates before him, would know that his employees don't know how to make products that overturn the status quo. Why? Because these guys do know (or did once) what it takes, because they did it. What they need is to find people, who, like themselves, are good at iterating and bad at taking no for an answer and determined to make their place in the world. It's too late for Larry, he's already made his place. It has to be someone new.
But if you were to, by luck, find such a person -- if you hired them, then #1 kicks in. Because the guy who can turn it around isn't good at fighting internal BigCo political battles. He or she has no patience for it, and it's not what they do well. It's very easy for the Gundotra's or Horowitz's (who are the best at BigCo politics) to push them aside as trouble-makers or incompetent, one who doesn't play well with others.
Aside from that, there's no test you can give someone that determines the probability of him or her being the next Gates or Page. We don't understand the qualities of such a person well enough. And since luck matters too, you really need to launch a thousand ships and let the best one win. Or maybe none. You can't be sure how this experiment will turn out.
Google should take an inventory of its skills and figure out which ones could help the new Bill, Larry or Zuck be successful. And be the one to provide it. My guess is that Google has a huge lead re Facebook in infrastructure and ability to deploy. I bet it'll be hard for Facebook to overcome that lead (just as it was impractical for Microsoft to get into the PC-making business). So if I were Larry, I'd make the cloud to end all clouds and price it really cheap for any entrepreneur who's willing to stake their future on being the next Big One. And when one or more emerge from the pack, buy them lunch and ask if you can invest. Bring flowers, and candy too.
Funny, it is, that there is someone doing exactly this.
I've been to so many big earth-shaking events from BigTechCo's -- today's Google thing is making me yawn, while my eyes glaze over in boredom.
Here's how products like this are conceived:
1. We need to kill Facebook.
2. What will we do.
3. It can't just be Facebook.
4. No one will use that.
5. It has to be better.
6. It has to be something only we can do.
7. Some place where we have the advantage.
8. Something people have no choice but to use.
So if you're Microsoft in 1999, you bake it into Windows.
If you're Google in 2011, you bake it into search.
All you do is make your core product heavier. The thing you wanted to kill doesn't go anywhere. It hardly notices what you did. The users might care to the extent that they're annoyed (or in the case of wordpress.com and their fear of being left out of the iPad, hugely annoyed).
The thing that makes Facebook great is that it incubated in the market with real users. It was made by real users. It was formed by actual use. One day at a time, one feature at a time, in public, every home run visible, and every mis-step.
Products like the one Google just announced are hatched at off-sites at resorts near Monterey or in the Sierra, and were designed to meet the needs of the corporation that created it. A huge scared angry corporation. What little is left of the spark that created it in the first place is now used to being Number One, and wants to feel that again. It's being created to make that person feel better.
Eventually they will become an investment bank and a services company. The fate for all former high-flying techco's.
PS: Apparently the software exists and people are using it. Hmmm.
Followup: Page's mistake.
Second podcast in 9 hours.
Who thought I would have so much to say!
It's possible for a developer to love the platform vendor and vice versa. But you need a front-man like Guy Kawasaki and a behind-scenes guy like Mike Boich. Apple had both in 1984, and together they invented technology evangelism.
Since then evangelism has come to mean bullying or pontificating or being a goon squad for your cause. Ugh.
Developers want romance. A hug and a kiss and a squeeze.
Special bonus: I sing a refrain from Alice's Restaurant.
Quick note with a pointer to last night's DaveCast, the fifth.
In this podcast, I explain why I'm doing these podcasts, now. Quick answer, to support the innovative work my buddy Adam Curry is doing with his community. We're having fun creating an amateur talk radio network based on two cool technologies: Dropbox, and my own Blork (which is both a podcaster and catcher, in addition to being an RSS-based blogging tool).
Yes ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, this stuff actually works.
I'm really getting annoyed with OnSwipe.
I met with the guys who do the product at TechStars earlier this year, as part of a 6-meeting morning. Very interesting stuff, even the stuff I didn't like, like OnSwipe.
Now it's starting to show up places. Like on my Mom's wordpress.com blog, when I read it on my iPad. So when she wants to know why something is working wrong, I'm out of luck if the only computer I have with me is my iPad. I've tried to tell Matt Mullenweg how I feel about this, he says they push 35 changes to their servers every day, so no one can like everything. Makes him sound like Abe Lincoln. But it's another example of the web breaking up. We had such a good thing going. And I thought Matt was a friend. Of the web, that is.
Anyway, I was looking at Brad Feld's blog on my iPad, and thought, man that looks nice, I want to show everyone. But when I tried to look at the link on my Mac, all I saw was a tab in the upper-left corner that said "Cover" with an arrow. On my iPad it would take you to a page with an array of Brad's stories. On my Mac it does nothing. Do a View Source, and there is something there. Let me know if you can figure out what it's doing.
Anyway, I'd love to know what they want to do to the web so we can know whether these are just temporary problems or if we have hate them long-term.
Update: Hacker News thread on this topic.
Man, what a day. I'm working on a big upgrade for testers of the World Outline software. I didn't expect to split the day with Firefox, but I opened the can of worms with the earlier piece comparing Mozilla Corp to Osborne Corp.
Anyway, here's a summary of where I'm at with Firefox.
1. I have tried Firefox 4 on a few of my servers.
2. My desktop machine, laptop, and other servers are all still running Firefox 3. I have no plans to upgrade them, esp since I now know the aggressive plan Mozilla has. My iPad and iPhone run Safari. And I assume my Droid is running some variant of Chrome.
3. Before I knew they were considering cutting off support for 3.6, I expected that after waiting a few months for the glitches to be out in Firefox 4, and for a good support system to have developed, I would gradually start switching to 4, but tentatively, expecting things to break. If too many things were broken, I'd quickly revert to Firefox 3, and probably wouldn't attempt it again. (By support system I mean that if there were common problems, the answers would be findable in Google. It takes a certain amount of time for that to develop. I try to do my part by asking questions publicly and making sure the question is asked clearly up front so searchers can find it.) I am not just this conservative with browsers. I'm running Windows Server 2003 on my cloud machines. That's eight year old OS. Runs great! Does absolutely everything I need. And Microsoft is, thankfully, keeping it updated.
4. I have not tried Firefox 5, and I don't plan to. Version 4 was as far as I had gotten in my thinking.
5. My experience dealing with all the companies in this space is negative. Different reasons for each. I think Google is a troubled company and very large and very rich, and likely to use their browser in power plays against their competitors, with little regard for users. Microsoft lost my trust when they failed to protect their users against malware. Mozilla seems to be deliberately chasing away all but the most adventurous users. Does that matter in determining whether I continue to use Firefox? Probably not, at least for the short-term. Inertia is what keeps me with it. Except for today, I've spent zero days in the last year worrying about which browser I use. I expect tomorrow will be the same as most other days. But August looms large. If they announce the end of updates to Firefox 3.6, I'm going to seriously consider switching to another browser.
6. If Mozilla was marketing Firefox as the easiest upgrade for users, that would make a big difference to me. But I'm guessing there's been a lot of breakage in the various upgrades. I don't have time to study it. I'm busy with my own work. And I like to do other things from time to time. That's why I go slow on upgrading all kinds of software, not just browsers.
That's about it. I know they want us to be passionate about Firefox, but sorry -- I am not. The browser should just seen and not heard. I don't ever want to think about it. Or as little as I possibly can. If they force the issue, I guess I have to pay attention. But I will be inclined to go with a browser that doesn't care whether I care, and is just happy to let me use it without being an upaid software tester.
PS: Anticipating more marketing from Mozilla people in the comments, I disabled them for this post. If you have something to say, write a post in your own space. I will see it in the referrer log, and will read it, unless it's a flame. Thanks to the Back button that all browsers still have that's easy.
Who is Osborne?
Osborne Computer Corp famously committed suicide in 1983 by announcing a new product before it was ready to ship, thereby killing their cash cow (the previous product), and killing their cash flow, and killing themselves.
I'm very much afraid Mozilla is doing that with Firefox.
If you use Firefox 3.6, you should assume that, after August, there will be no more fixes, security or otherwise. If you want to get on board with their process, you'll need to start using Firefox 4. But wait a minute. Firefox 4 is dead too. You need to be using Firefox 5. And that will be dead in a few months, replaced by Firefox 6. And so on.
Here's the problem.
If Firefox were creating new features that mattered to users, we would be upgrading along with them, exactly as they want us to.
The problem for them, if they choose to view it as a problem, is that web browsers are done. Feature-complete. No one can think of anything to add that anyone wants, because there are no more features to add. Sadly, this happens to product categories. It happened with word processors twenty years ago. Spreadsheets, around the same time. Windows was done when XP shipped. Mac OS, yeah it's done too. I haven't used any of the new features. And by "new" I mean features introduced in the last eight years or so.
Software products have lifecycles. They reach a point where all they need is maintenence. Make sure it runs on new hardware. Fix security issues as they arise. Optimize. (Firefox could sure use that!) Teeny little tweaks that are almost unnoticable.
An aside: I'd love to be proven wrong about this. Give me a new must-have feature in the browser. Make my day!
Mozilla does not have our attention because they aren't doing anything worth paying attention to.
Browsers should be like the lens in my glasses. If you're thinking about it, your attention is in the wrong place. You use a browser to look through, at other things.
So now they want to force the issue, effectively holding the users' security hostage.
There ought to be a law against this. It's a form of bait and switch. You thought we were going to fix security bugs? Think again!
And where is the industry press? Why isn't TechCrunch all over this? Walt Mossberg? Are you guys all on summer vacation? Too busy to fend for the users? I don't really care if Mozilla wants to commit Osborne-like suicide, but I do care that millions of Firefox users who won't be upgrading to Firefox 4 anytime soon are going to be exposed to all kinds of nasty shit.
Another angle on this -- there must be a reason they're doing this. They must see something we don't. Like their numbers going down. Or the money drying up. Since they're open source and non-profit, shouldn't we be told what the issue is? Maybe there's another solution to the problem? Other than exposing the users.
Microsoft tried this too, btw. Left the users to deal with all kinds of nasty malware. Firefox may think their rise in popularity was due to something intrinsically nicer about their software. I don't think so. I think it was just that the virii that were attacking MSIE were not attacking Firefox.
Eddie Cantor: "It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice."
Update: I turned off comments for this post, as we're attracting people from Mozilla who want to tell us how great their new versions are. Thank you, but we can find your marketing materials elsewhere. As I said in one of the comments, this is a company that suffers less from an inability to communicate than an inability to listen.
So here's my fourth DaveCast.
And here's a link to the article that started the discussion.
Hope you enjoy!
I forgot the most important reason to go to college. So you can take the courses the butthead says you shouldn't.
Psychology is certainly a practical skill-based class. Like it or not you're going to spend the rest of your life dealing with people, and being a person, so you might as well know what makes humans go.
History? That's the study of macro-level psychology. Why do humans, collectively, do the crazy things we do. The most tragic thing we do, btw, is to repeat mistakes of the past. So if you think you're not at an advantage if you understand history, it's actually a way to get a head start on life. But only if you plan to be partly responsible for what your generation does. If all you want to do is watch TV, play video games, eat and breed, I guess you can skip history.
And it helps to have a common base of literature that we've all read, so we can tell each other stories and have some idea of what we're all talking about. Maybe these days all you need to know you can get from watching YouTube videos and reading your friends Facebook updates. But if that's what you're into, you're not going to be very interesting to converse with. So the people who have something to say probably won't seek you out.
Couldn't hurt to learn to write. Take an accounting class so you're not scared to do your taxes.
But the single most important thing about going to college is getting laid. A lot. Your body is in great shape for it at that age. It's healthy, if you do it right, and it's the biggest single learning experience you can have. Better than all those "skills" they talk about, math and science. etc.
I got a link from Rachel Sterne, who is NYC's Chief Digital Officer -- asking for ideas for apps for NYC.
They have a site asking for ideas, and they show you what people are submitting.
They're all basically the same (good) idea.
More, better organized realtime info about life in the city.
For example. I just got back from my daily bike ride. I do the same one almost every day. Head west on 9th St, over to Christopher. Cross West St, turn right and head north to 80-something street on the Hudson bike path. Then turn around, come back via 10th St.
Today, while heading south, I spied an electronic street sign around 14th St that flashed by something about the bike trail being closed one day coming up soon. As I rode by one of the piers I could see they were setting up a big concert stage. So I conclude that one of the days this weekend the trail is going to be closed.
Now, how do I find out which days? And what times?
The city did a good job of putting the info geographically near where the event was going to be. Now we have to create the intellectual space for the information, so it reaches the people who need it, in time to use it.
It's not a single app, rather it's the architecture for people-oriented information on the scale of a city. Which is smaller than the world, but also richer and more complex. Because in a city like NY people do a wide variety of things. It works. But if the information were more available, it would work better.
Today's podcast is 27 minutes.
More talk about work on CSS and the World Outline.
And the madness of Mozilla and their plan for Firefox.
As it gets more painful to continue to use Firefox, the pain of switching to Chrome becomes more bearable.
Yet Firefox is open source, so its demise is everyone's concern, not just their employees.
PS: davecast.org was available.
PPS: Today's ride: 1 hour 2 minutes, 11.12 miles.
I said I'd do a daily podcast and by dang, I mean to do it.
I also do a daily bike ride, and yesterday was no exception.
Except I didn't blog about it. Ooops. In case I forget one, if you want, you can follow my workouts on DailyMile. Afraid they're getting pretty predictable, not much to say every time. Plus there's the podcast.
This time I did it with with the Voice Memo feature of my iPhone. I think the audio quality is better, but, at 20 minutes, it was too long for Apple to email it to me. That seems pretty dumb cause it can email videos that are quite a bit longer. What ever. Took me an hour at least to get it off the device and up to the cloud. And I had to change my iPhone from manual copying to synching. I wish they used their own products, I can't believe this kind of stuff wouldn't get fixed. Eventually?
You know they say Apple makes user-friendly software, but sometimes the friendliest thing is to remove the limit that caused the error.
Working on CSS in worldOutline.root today. I'm finally getting the hang of it, I think. I want this to be as skinnable as Tumblr. I want to attract designers, like we did in the days of Manila and Radio.
Thanks to Matthew Levine for the Holy Grail three-column layout.
I love The Wire. It's my favorite TV show of all time.
But I shake my head when I listen to interviews with the creator of the show, David Simon. How could someone so closed-minded, uninformed, and condescending -- and by the way wrong -- create something as wonderful as The Wire. I don't get it.
Think about Season 5 (spoiler alert), where a newspaper reporter and cop conspire to fabricate a story that turns a city upside-down looking for a mass murderer who doesn't exist. The management of the paper lays off the best editorial people while trying to manufacture a Pulitzer Prize for itself. How could a person who sees the crap in news be so nostalgic it as it goes away. It's like wishing the East River could be polluted again, now that it's almost fully cleaned up. (Not a perfect analogy of course.)
And by the way, I read the interview with him on The Guardian website. I got the link from an RSS feed, but I could have just as easily gotten it from Twitter.
Twitter is often used to publish links to stories, not the stories themselves. His critique is based a misunderstanding of how Twitter works.
That's why a little curiosity to go with his bombast would point him in a positive direction. He could do some good with his mind and creativity and fame.
So here's the first installment of what I'm calling DaveCast for lack of a more imaginative name.
BTW, my revelation for the day is Negative Time To Live, which is part of the DNS protocol. Until yesterday I didn't know it existed. I assumed that every time I do a DNS lookup I get a fresh bit of data from the authority on the name. I didn't know that servers could cache the negative result.
But, I don't think negative results should be cached. Why would I be repeatedly asking for the definition of a name that you just told me was undefined? I must have some idea that it should be defined.
Maybe I defined it.
Amazon, in Route 53 provides a way to query the status of a request to create a new record. Usually it takes 5-7 seconds for a DNS request to go from pending status to insynch status. So I made the Blorkmark request be synchronous. It doesn't return until Amazon says it's defined. Then I do a DNS lookup. It works, and we're ready to roll.
Seems DNS itself should be able to handle it. Amazon doesn't really know if the domain will resolve, it just thinks it will. DNS is authoritative.
Mathew Ingram has a riveting piece about how Facebook shut down Roger Ebert's account on Facebook because he said something that offended some people.
The only thing to add is that it is not possible to do journalism in an environment where your writing can be taken down if the company hosting it deems it offensive.
We need to work on creating places where journalism is possible, where you can say what you have to say. And the service is provided by a vendor who has no interest in what you say.
Tail wind up, head wind down.
Map: 1 hour, 0 minutes, 11.23 miles.
When I was an freshman in college I took a required writing course. Good idea. If you can express yourself in writing your professional life and maybe your personal life will be more rewarding.
Catch em while they're young.
I don't remember the teacher's name, but I remember her lesson. Say it directly. As you revise, look for words you can
take out remove without changing the meaning. You'll be more persuasive, and better understood.
I find, to this day, my first drafts have a lot of extra flowery bits that don't do anything for the reader. It's as if
while I'm drafting the prose in my head I need extra words to help pace myself. There's always a rewrite coming, and the text always gets shorter as a result. So I don't try for economy in version 1. (I made some of the edits here with strikeouts to show you how it works.)
The same economy is important in designing APIs.
I've been working with an Amazon API the last couple of days. They could use an editor. There are extraneous concepts in their APIs that don't help anything, just add confusion, and inefficiency, and raise barriers to adoption.
Another rule that API designers violate -- the easy stuff should be easy and the hard stuff should be possible.
Too often you have to master the most complex part of the API before getting Hello World to work. Very frustrating. I may never need to set a hundred DNS values in one shot. Yet, I have to understand how that works just to establish a value for a single CNAME.
Another thought occurred to me about the art of programming, related to this subject. Why do we change the rules every five years? I know, it makes older programmers obsolete faster, and the younger guys like that. Heh. Nice. But look at baseball, another game that favors the young. The rules change very slowly. To me the DH rule in the American League still seems new and controversial. Maybe it does to you too. Yet it's been around 38 years.
We rip up the pavement far too often. I know I've been saying this for decades. But we're still doing it.
One of the professional news orgs I like getting quoted by is the Guardian.
They have an excellent piece today, by John Naughton, that explains why France wasn't clueless as so many people said they were, in establishing a rule that news organizations could only mention Twitter and Facebook if there was actual news about the companies or their products. As so many American news orgs do -- and the US govt -- they were treating these for-profit companies and their services as if they were non-commercial open systems.
I like that I'm quoted in the piece, not based on a soundbite from an exclusive interview, rather from a blog post where I had a chance to express my thoughts in a careful way. Their quote was not taken out of context, and reflects what I actually believe. And they included a link in case you wanted to find out more.
I wish the tech bloggers in the US were so careful and thoughtful, and my local hometown paper, the NY Times. But I'm afraid they don't even read my blog (if they do, it never shows up in their stories, or on their What We're Reading pages). And for the most, the tech bloggers either ignore me, or say nasty personal things about me. Pointless. I'm sure their readers don't care. I don't. I think it reflects poorly on them. (There are exceptions, GigaOm and PaidContent come to mind.)
Of course I don't agree with everything the Guardian says, but I'm finding the back-and-forth to be quite good and thought I should say so, since I'm pretty generous with the criticism when I don't like the way things are going.
I am the spokesperson, often, it seems, for people who Have Not on days when the Haves are partying.
Last year, I was irritated by all the Father's Day stuff. It was my first year without one.
I thought of it as if it were Play Catch Day in the US, and I was one of a small number of people without enough arms to play the game.
Only when it comes to missing fathers, there are lots of us. Lots of people for whom this day is a day of sadness. A day when we miss the person who fathered us. Even if he wasn't the kind of dad you played catch with.
The last time I saw my father, we both knew he was going to die soon. He was telling me stories about the past. How he taught me things as a kid, like how to kiss. I regret not letting my feelings show then, but it had been a long time since I had done that with him, a long time since I had shown vulnerability. Now I wonder what it would have been like. I wonder. I'll never know.
So if you're one of the lucky ones who have a father you can still talk with in the flesh, I envy you. I'd like nothing better than to spend another few hours with my father, just to say Hey what's happening. And tell him a few stories about what I'm doing and show him how my work with outlining is progressing. My dad loved outliners. I think that was the way we expressed our love for each other. Through a software product, if you can believe that. I guess that's better than nothing.
As you know, I am a daily bike rider, at least in summer, here in NYC.
There's a lot of comeraderie among bikers, probably because we all have to deal with other New Yorkers on foot and in cars.
The other day, a large group of students blocked the path. They were lined up, waiting for a light to turn so they could cross 12th Ave, which is a very heavily traffic'd street. If, for example, they had tried to cross it without waiting for the light, some of them would have been killed for sure. The traffic goes by at 50-plus MPH. So of course they waited.
As I approached this scene I could see that I would have to stop, dismount, and walk my bike through the crowd. But I was not the first biker to arrive on the scene. Another guy, about my age, was trying to explain to these youngsters that what they were doing was wrong, and potentially dangerous. The students were telling him, loudly, in earshot of their teachers, to fuck off. He persisted. They threatened him. I kept my mouth shut. I knew from past experience that this is what would happen. I've seen worse.
Another example. Approaching a group of people from behind, two men and two women, walking four-across, completely blocking my lane. I say "On your left," as I prepare to pass. You want to be sure they have this information, because when you pass, you never know which way they're going to shift. If they move to their left you're going to hit them. And of course they'll hit you. When the guy hears this, he yells back in a mocking voice "On your left," and sticks his arm out, with a half-full water bottle, which hits me in the arm, and knocks me off balance. I recovered my balance, and didn't stop. There's just no point. This isn't like the midwest or California. The guy isn't going to be reasoned with. And while technically I was assaulted, I doubt if I'd get much sympathy from a cop, who seem to have it in for bikers.
Not to say there aren't crazy idiot bikers, there are. There are several places on the bike trail I ride where we must share the space with pedestrians. No matter how badly the pedestrians behave, there's no excuse for using them as slalom poles, and when in their presence, you must slow down. They often have little kids with them, who can quickly dart out from between the adults. Regardless, bikers do some utterly dumbfoundingly dangerous things, rushing by at 20-plus MPH, forcing pedestrians to run out of their way, and other bikers to shake their heads in disbelief. (Like yours truly.)
On every trip I see a guy (almost always a man) riding while texting, both hands on his iPhone, eyes on the screen, riding like a missle without a brain (and of course no helmet). Okay, he feels indestructible. But I don't. The risk he's taking is a shared risk. There are other people on the road. Yet, there he goes.
Many years ago I wrote a story about the day the Mets won the World Series in 1969. How New York, that day, even in Manhattan and the Bronx, was the City of Smiles. I wrote: "There was no sadness in New York that day. The city with no heart all of a sudden had a huge one!"
I got a lot of pushback on that. People said NY wasn't like that anymore. It was a friendly city. I had no basis on which to argue, so I didn't (but I didn't change the piece, either).
The truth is, while NY has many redeeming qualities, I've lived in friendly places, and New York is not one of them.
This subject came up during a Twitter thread with Emily Bell, who expressed horror at the way New Jersey Governor Christie responded to a voter who raised the issue of where his children go to school, saying it was none of her business. To me this didn't seem particularly jarring or out of place. Not that I would have said that myself, to a customer, or a user of mine, I wouldn't have. But Christie is clearly a New Yorker (NJ is even more NY than NY) -- and while many New Yorkers wouldn't like to be treated that way, unfortunately, we are largely immune to it. It's just the way people are brought up here.
Today's ride: 1 hour 4 minutes, 11.42 mi.
On the other hand, I sometimes click on links that take me to the Post.
And sometimes I click on those links when I'm reading on my iPad.
Today I was told by the Post that I couldn't read the article on the web at all. If I wanted to read the Post on my iPad I would have to download the app.
Okay this is bad. This is breaking the web. If no one used the iPad it wouldn't matter. But lots of people use it.
I wonder how Apple feels about this? I can't imagine they like it. I can see the ads now. "Get an Android tablet to read the web."
Another thing I find really annoying is that wordpress.com shows me something vastly different when I look at one of their sites when I come on an iPad. It's the stupid trend du jour. Everyone thinks that everyone reading on the iPad wants Flipboard. If I wanted it, I would read the web using Flipboard.
The thing is this -- the iPad has a perfectly functional web browser. It isn't a "mobile" web browser. It has a full-size screen. It doesn't need any accomodations to be readable, it is readable as-is.
The solution is completely obvious. Apple could stop sending back information to the servers that identify me as an iPad user. Or give me a way to edit that information. I'll tell them I'm using an Atari 800 or an Data General/One. Or maybe an Apple IIgs. Anything but an iPad.
Stop the madness now! Please.
I'm not usually up so early on a Saturday, but I was today.
Of course the streets are virtually empty, and the air has a nice chill to it. Surprising you can smell flowers in bloom all around the place. Must be from the gardens behind the houses? Not sure.
Thought it might be good to do the southern loop because the casual strollers would still be asleep or eating brunch, and the theory turned out to be correct. A fair number of joggers and other bikers, but that's much easier to navigate.
Only downside to such a ride is that I was over too soon! I seriously wanted to ride another few miles, but called it a day anyway.
Map: 49.4 minutes, 8.4 miles.
Predictably, people ask why is it better to use a domain name to point to a section of an outline than use a path.
When I was a math student, we tried not to ask questions that showed we couldn't think for ourselves. I wish more would-be techies, people who would have you think they have deep knowledge of tech, had that attitude.
However, assuming the people just didn't know...
The reason it's better is that it can be changed, without breaking incoming pointers.
It's the Internet-friendly way to link.
Analogously. When I lived in Florida, I was pretty sure I would be moving around a lot. So I got a PO box in a city, and had all my bills and statements sent there, instead of to the specific places I lived. That way I could move and everything would still find its way to me.
The last time we played with the World Outline concept, linkrot was the big issue.
1. Outlines make it super-easy to reorg.
2. You want to encourage people to reorg.
3. However when you reorg and you're using paths to point to the spot you moved, oops, you just broke all incoming links!
Back then I told people to just accept linkrot as a consequence of publishing your text on rails.
But in the back of my mind, I knew that wasn't good enough.
I want to be able to leave a marker somewhere and have it go with the structure it's pointing to, where ever it might go.
And beyond that, looking out into the future, I want to make it possible for you to give a name to something I've published, and have it move as I move it.
DNS gives us that.
And what's amazing is that DNS is so old. It's like the lizard brain of the Internet. So ancient that it even predates TCP/IP!
It's amazing to me how, when you pick up a rock, you find something beautiful like this under there.
BTW, I owe a lot to friends who know their DNS for validating my belief that it could work.
Yesterday on Twitter, Ryan Tate paid me the highest compliment that anyone ever has, at least that I can remember.
Ryan Tate: "Scripting News is like Blog Dylan, an ongoing treasure."
He was referring to a particularly gusssto day here, when I wrote five blog posts, only one of them short.
Working on new feature for worldOutline.root, documenting as I code.
A dialog appeared, suggesting a random unused name.
Instead, I entered a more descriptive one.
Saved the outline.
Before posting it to the mail list, I realized I had the perfect spot for it in the code, so I pasted it in there before releasing the new feature.
We used to think of domain names as scarce, but that's wrong. DNS is a very robust scalable naming system. Of course, the Internet itself is built on it.
Each domain can have an unlimited number of sub-domains. I've asked experts, and while there are, of course, practical limits, there are no theoretical ones.
You can think of a sub-domain as if it were the name of a file, and the domain as the name of a folder.
BTW, we've built a simple front-end for the dnsimple.com API. Works great. And they're great people to work with.
Posting this for friends in the DNS world.
Bit.ly has to worry about Twitter, which I assume is where most shortened URLs are created, and where most are dereferenced. That's probably why they took the price off Bit.ly Pro, and gave the features to everyone for free.
Of course, they had to do this, because Twitter itself is now offering almost everything Bit.ly already offered for free, also for free. It's unlikely that Twitter will match all the features of the Pro version anytime soon, so Bit.ly has a reason to exist.
But "reason to exist" is not much to get excited about.
What if Bit.ly were to actively get on the side of the user, eschew any form of lock-in, and perhaps for a price (let's be fair) give people the freedom to leave Bit.ly at any time without breaking any of their previous links, and keep their own domain.
It's technically possible to do this, if the user has an S3 account. And there's nothing hard about setting one up. You can use the same Amazon account you use to buy water skis, toothpaste, bike helmets and bottled water.
As Bit.ly is to Twitter Disqus is to Facebook.
Long-term I don't think there's much hope that Disqus will hold out against Facebook, unless, again, they actively take the side of the user. What if they automatically deposit the text of every comment, in JSON perhaps, or XML (or your choice) in your S3 bucket. I keep using Disqus as an example here. I doubt if they'll ever do it. They're not the kind of company that goes first, it seems.
Which is funny because both Bit.ly and Disqus did go first, early in their lives. Unless I'm missing something have they made so much money or other kinds of success that they can afford to stop pushing the envelope of what a tech company will do to gain your loyalty?
In any case, if you're contemplating a startup to compete with Bit.ly or Disqus, consider ways you can support users against the lock-in of the Big Guys, and the lock-in of the Little Guys.
BTW, one of the things I, and so many others, love about Dropbox is that it's all about making our data more accessible to us. You never have to think about how to get your data out of Dropbox. It's sitting right there on your hard disk, reminding you why you love them. Because their product empowers you without locking you in. You could even figure out a way to synch Dropbox with their competitors' products without giving up Dropbox. We need more services like that. (I gladly pay them $99 per year because their product is so useful, and makes me feel powerful instead of like a hamster.)
I've been around this block a lot of times. At some point the users are going to want to know who are their friends and who aren't. For a small company trying to make it in the midst of giants, when that day comes, if you've been trying to act like the big guy you aren't, it's off to the glue factory! :-(
I guess it all depends on how you define war.
But earlier this year, the governments of Tunisia and Egypt fell in revolutions that were organized on the Internet.
Many of the people I know think of this in breathless terms, as an amazing Gee-whiz sort of thing. I do too, because I'm rooting for the Internet. Just like I used to root for the early Internet companies like Amazon, Google and Yahoo. I felt a kinship with them then that I no longer feel. Sure I use their services. But I don't expect them to look out for me, or for their interests to align with mine, any more than the companies who make electricity do, or keep the elevators running, or fly the airplanes. They only keep me safe to the extent that it's good for business. Otherwise, we're on our own.
I expect the gee-whizness that comes from the Internet used to overthrow governments is going to sour much more quickly than the earlier kind. Because once the governments learned the Internet could be used to take them out of power, two things happened. 1. They put up better defenses. 2. They learned how to use the Internet to do to their adversaries what their people would have, previously, done to them.
You think -- ah but those generals and despots don't know how to use the Internet. Yes, and I don't know how to fly an airplane, but I can still get on a plane and fly from NY to anywhere. You just have to hire someone who knows how to fly a plane. United, Lufthansa, Delta, Air France, etc are all happy to oblige.
The question, I guess, is where will you be when it all melts down, and it will it be possible to get food and water and will the natives be friendly. And they won't be the cute natives that pundits love to talk about. They'll be truly strange people who don't love us and aren't lovable.
The people who were freaked out by Julian Assange will wonder how we could have felt threatened by him, when we are going to be dealing with Internet-scale hacking, world-wide Internet-scale hacking, from now-on. It'll make Assange look like the flower child hippie that he is.
An analogy. There was a time when you wouldn't think twice about downloading and running any piece of software onto your PC. Until one day we did that and it installed boatloads of adware, that we never really were able to get rid of. The Internet is now as infected as our PCs were in those days. And the targets of the infections haven't yet realized how infected they are.
Anyway, no matter how you look at it, the Internet has already been used in wars. In a real sense the wars were fought on the Internet. That means from now on, that's where wars will be fought. The days of innocence for the net are now behind us, I'm afraid.
Another rambly piece...
For the last six months or so I've used a feature of the OPML Editor called the Instant Outliner to narrate my work. I collaborated with six other people, all programmers of one sort or another, who in their own way narrated their work with the tool.
Each of users could see each others' outline as it updated. Not as you typed, but when you clicked the Save button. This is the only civilized way to do it. Some programmers think it's cool to have the keystrokes updating in realtime. But that would be a huge waste of human bandwidth. When a colleague of mine updates their outline it's a somewhat disruptive thing in my own workflow. I needed a way to turn it off. Without a good user interface for doing that, a couple of days ago I did turn it off. I know this was jarring for my colleagues. But that's the way to turn a corner. One day, boom -- that's it. I wish I could quit Twitter as easily. (Getting there.)
Anyway, the I/O experiment was a huge success. One of the things I learned better how to do, and developed systems for, was to simply explain a code update. I've always wanted to have a window into my development work visible from Scripting News, since a lot of the work I do here is about blogging and online writing, I think it would be of interest to some of you guys. But I never had a way to do that.
Also since most of the software is available for download, and some of it is getting pretty polished and easy to set up. Not all the way there yet.
It's sort of like live-blogging, but done by oneself, and at a much slower rate.
This is the technology of narrate your work.
Anyway, I've now got a public place where you can watch what I'm doing. Or at least the parts of what I'm doing that I can talk about publicly.
There's no RSS feed yet, but I know I need to have one.
But you begin a bootstrap with something that's insufficient, and by using it you learn how to make it more sufficient.
And it seems I'm always beginning a bootstrap.
Anyway, if this is confusioning (I know it is), it's always this way in the world I work in. That's the kind of conceptualizing I like to do. Stuff where the details get worked out while the software is being developed.
It'll get easier to understand over time.
BTW, if you liked outliners, this is your kind of stuff.
June 14, 2002 was a big day in my life. A huge one.
It was the day I died and was reborn a new person.
Not kidding. I didn't find Jesus, but I did find that I had four blocked arteries in my heart, and needed emergency surgery to save my life.
It was also the last day I smoked. Before 6/14/02, I was a multi-pack-per-day smoker. Marlboro Lights was my brand.
I survived, in a sense, but in another sense, I did not.
When I got home from the hospital, I felt like I was in the house of a dead relative. The house was filled with stuff I didn't need or want. A few months later, the house was sold, the stuff was either given away or dumpstered, and I was off to Boston for an adventure in that's still going on.
When I stress about not being included in something or other, a quick reminder that I died and of course they don't include dead people in their parties or conferences or roundups of heroes or whatever it is I am not being honored with.
Let's see, 2011 - 2002 is 9. Nine years since I died. Is this heaven? Well, not really. But it's still pretty good!
What happened again? I forgot the anniversary day. I see that as a sign that I am no longer a nicotine addict. There was a time when it took discipline not to smoke. That's not true anymore. Occasionally I get the urge to buy a pack. But it happens rarely. And so far I have let the urge pass without acting.
"One day at a time."
It's a milestone worth mentioning on my blog.
Now back to my life as a ghost!
Got to the turnaround point and Cyclemeter wasn't recording. So I got a full ride in, but only recorded half of it.
I'm just going to double the numbers for the record.
There was neither a tail or head wind today, though it was windy -- the wind was blowing across the path.
Not very nice weather, also not many others out on the road.
Map: 11.5 miles, 1 hour 1 minute.
Continuing the thread about Nirvana for the Public Writer.
And hyperlinked writing.
The new idea, which is actually working in practice (so far, knock wood) is restated as follows.
What's always been elusive is the overall organization of a person's online writing.
I have a box for this, and a box for that. Each box is called a website.
So I get good at putting things in their proper boxes.
It's good until I have to write something for which there is no box.
Or the box I've put it in has the wrong properties (it's private, but really needs to be public).
I'm not talking about ephemera, like tweets -- stuff you blow into the wind. The writing I'm talking about is stuff that has to be re-findable.
So we accept poor organization and instead rely on search engines to pull everything together. And so far it's worked just okay.
Because we don't own the search engine, and they can and do change policies. For example, I used to be able to find everything about a verb in my programming language by entering its exact name in Google. They changed the algorithm recently and now assume that I've mis-spelled it, and give me something like it in Java or Python. Now I can't find it, and in programming sometimes you have to find it before you can go on.
But then I made it really easy to jump from place to place, and to create new places, that in every way will feel to the reader as if they are websites, but to me are just lines in an outline with text hidden, and beneath other lines in the outline.
Every bit of text is on rails, and can be dragged to another place, or referenced from another place with a relatively simple gesture or command.
The quick and easy movement is what makes incorrect categorization not such a big problem. Esp if what was correct yesterday is not correct today.
So when I write a change note for one project but then have a change for another that doesn't have a change notes site, I'm not stuck there with a few minutes of overhead to create a place to put it. And then have to remember to use that place, and what I called it -- yuck!
This becomes a bigger problem as I create connections between projects. How to avoid writing the docs in two places. How to represent the correlation not just for the reader, but also for myself -- when I have to maintain it. That's been an elusive goal for many years.
You can see how badly this works by looking in your Bookmarks menu in your browser.
And that's not even trying to factor in Facebook, Quora, Friendfeed, Twitter -- all of whom have their own shifting policies and algorithms for finding things, and what they'll let you find.
It's a good day when some of the fog of web work lifts. This is what's happening in my world right now.
Doesn't happen every year, not even every decade.
Ever-faster times. Not that I'm trying for speed, I'm not.
New shoes might have made the diff. Nice and stiff. But hard to get in and out of the straps. Probably need to get new pedals too.
Temperature in low 70s. Practically chillllly. Lots of Sunday riders out.
Peeve: Park police keep riders off their bikes in pedestrian areas, but do nothing to keep pedestrians out of bike space.
I want a camera on my helmet that I can take pics with by wiggling my ears. I'll point it at all the pedestrians who make riding dangerous for all of us.
Map: 10.92 miles, 59.5 minutes.
I want to edit my public face in a single document.
No more hunting the file system for the right file to edit.
No more hunting the web for the right page to click Edit This Page on.
I want it all there in one file, an outline of course.
Pretty close to having this working.
Remember the Lazy Web? It's the web where you have an idea for a tool you'd love to use, but don't have the time to make it yourself. (At least that's my version of the idea.) So here's my latest request.
I'm reading an article, or trying to -- but the colors are all wrong, it's white on black, and the text is tiny and it starts vibrating going in and out of focus. My vision isn't so hot to begin with, and various combinations make it go haywire.
That's what Readability is for. I click it, and continue reading, happily.
Now, the article is so good, the point it makes is so important, that I want to push it to the people who follow my linkblog. I'm looking at the page in Readability. I hit my bookmarklet, but it pushes the non-readable version. That's not fair to the people who follow. I want to push the readable version.
So what I need is this -- a URL-shortener that links to readable text, that can be programmed through a simple API. I know Readability has a URL-shortener, and I asked them for an API, but I'm still waiting.
Thanks in advance!
PS: Here's an example of the kind of link I'd like to move around the net.
With all the hacks in the news, you gotta wonder how the government wasted any time trying to blame Julian Assange for the problem. Wasn't the issue really how did the government let this happen. If it's such a serious breach, and what does it say about their awareness of security?
With the breach at the IMF it's becoming pretty clear how fragile our financial infrastructure is. If there were to be a breach inside the financial system, in the space where our bank balances are defined, well that could be the end of civilization right there.
What would you do if when you went to the ATM to draw out cash for the weekend it said the bank had gone out of business. What if all the ATM's said that?
I hate to say this, or even ask the question -- isn't this kind of meltdown inevitable? And no, imho, there is nothing you can do to prepare for it.
Meanwhile our leaders and the reporters who cover them are interested in a congressman who posted pictures of his penis on Twitter.
On today's ride I didn't think about too much other than what would be a good adjective to describe the ambience of the day. The weather was 15-20 degrees cooler than yesterday, and though I say I love the heat, for riding, it was actually nice to have a cool breeze around at moments on today's ride.
I also went out at about 11AM, so I missed the rush hour. The road was empty except for some charity walkers who of course usurped the bike trail, walking three or four across in herds of dozens.
Even the streets had lighter-than-usual traffic.
I snapped an idyllic picture at the turnaround point.
Map: 11.11 miles. 1 hour 3 minutes.
I was going to see Super 8 even if they hadn't tried to make it go viral by running a Twitter campaign for it. I mean a movie made by JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg? Come on. No matter how bad it is, and I can't imagine it's anything but great, you have to see it just for the historic dimension. They're two of the best story-tellers alive today. Working together? Get me some popcorn!
But since reading about their pre-meditated attempts to make word of mouth go viral, I'm thinking there must be something wrong with it. I don't know if they realize that people are always doing things to try to make things go viral.
We have another word for that: Spam.
I'm getting so bombarded with idiots saying "Super 8 is Great!!" or "Highly recommended" that I'm beginning to think they're either robots, kids in Mexico or Guatemala, or they're getting a free t-shirt if they say it the most.
Makes me think two of Hollywood's most interesting people are really tacky spam merchants. Uck!!
PS: I'm also pissed I wasn't cool enough to get invited to the Wednesday night super-secret preview. If you're going to do something like that, geez Louise, don't publicize it. It just makes people hate you.
I was going for some Weiner sensationalism last night, so I turned to CNN to see what Eliot Spitzer had, and was so impressed I stayed for the whole show. The guy is intelligent, earnest, persistent, and has a good sense of humor about himself. That probably was helped by his own sexual downfall a few years back. (And like Weiner, he has a funny, Jewish name.)
What really sealed it for me was to see how he conversed with his reporters. You can tell how smart an anchor is by how alive the correspondents are, how intelligently they speak, how they focus on interesting stuff and maybe even important stuff (god forbid). It was the same kind of relationship Aaron Brown had with his reporters.
It's the opposite of the connect between John King (for example) and the correspondents who come on his air. They seem bored, focused on trivia, perceptions of perceptions of perceptions. Same with Wolf Blitzer who has to be the dumbest on-air
fuck person ever. I want to slap him every time I hear him speak. And Rachel Maddow? Well, without Olbermann to make her look calm, she comes off as shrill and not too interesting. She repeats herself. Draws out her story too long. As if she doesn't have enough to say.
Spitzer, imho, has the makings of a superstar. He still has some coming-into-his-own to do. I have a feeling he's not getting the greatest guests because of his scandal. And he has to stop being so nice to Republicans. Come right at them, and sneer at them and even growl when they lie. Same of course with Democrats. And when a guest is boring, interrupt them, and redirect. And if they don't take the clue, cut them off and go to the next segment.
But on the whole, I think Spitzer is the best thing going right now in cable news.
Yesterday I wrote a howto. Nothing new about that, I've been writing howto's since I started programming many years ago.
What is new is that the process was so much simpler than it's ever been before.
Here's what I did...
1. Navigate to the My Sites section of my outline.
2. Press Return.
3. Enter the title of the howto.
4. Press Return and Tab.
5. Enter a subhead.
6. Press Return and Tab.
7. Enter a section. (A few paragraphs.)
8. Press Return and Back-tab.
9. Enter a subhead title.
That's how I wrote the document.
Now to save it.
1. Click on the title headline.
2. Add a nodetype, value = "howto".
3. Add a domain attribute (left blank here because the contents of the howto is still private).
4. Click the Save button.
In the browser I went to the domain. Boom. There it was. It just worked.
This isn't the first time we've gotten to such a place. MORE, circa 1987, had hierarchic rules that worked the same way. I could specify a style at the root level, and all the subtext would inherit it, unless it was overridden by a more deeply nested rule. That way you could use MORE to store not just a single presentation, but a whole library of presentations. Or a library of libraries.
Now we're writing publicly. But the same idea applies. Why should I have to start a new document just because I'm starting a new web page. Use the outline to organize it all. As a side-benefit, my web presence is nicely organized. Another thing I've always wanted.
I've been trying to find a way to explain to programmers why this is so cool. Our users already get it. But it hit me, this is just like object-oriented programming, without the programming.
Whew -- hot day, tired legs.
Map: 58.5 minutes, 10.66 miles.
Stephen Hawking caused quite a stir by saying something fairly obvious, that the religious view of life and death is a bedtime story. Religion helps us live our lives without worrying about the void that lies beyond. We just don't know if there's any form of existence for us after our bodies die.
It was a good thing that Hawking did this. That's what free speech is for, to give you the courage to say things that might not be popular with everyone else. It's a wonderful thing.
When someone exercises their free speech, it makes it easier for others to do the same, and more likely that they will.
But free speech is no absolute. Why smart people argue as if it were is a mystery to me.
For example, in Great Britain, it seems, a court can dictate that no mention be made in the news about a soccer player who had a sexual affair, while married, with a television celebrity. Here in the US the idea of the government dictating something like that is ludicrous. And I think they're wrong in Britain. But I can say that because I have free speech, and they don't have to listen to me, so it's cool.
Consider France and the now-unmentionable Twitter and Facebook. I applaud this, not because I believe the government should dictate to news people what they can and can't say, but because as a society, they made a choice. One that gives more options for the future. Less lock-in for our friends in California. They have to work to get French people to use their services. If people want to use them, great. But they shouldn't get the table tilted in their favor by government-licensed media.
I like it because they made a choice. Something we, here in the US, have a lot of trouble with. Because our system has some crazy ideas about corporations and free speech. (In the US, corporations can buy as much airtime as they want to promote their political ideas and candidates. Because they have so much more money than people, this basically makes politics an entirely corporate thing. Not bad you say? But one of the roles of government is to protect all of us from the crazyness of corporations. Ooops.)
You can't shout Fire in a crowded movie theater. Bradley Manning is in jail for exercising a form of speech that the government thinks is illegal. Insider trading is a form of speech. If you think all speech, no matter what, must be unrestricted, well you and I live on different planets.
Joe Hewitt, a smart guy who I like to have lunch with in Berkeley, Santa Cruz and NY, is concerned that I applaud the French for what they did. I assume he read the last paragraph of the piece he was reacting to. "Of course it would be better if the French media self-regulated so the government doesn't have to step in." I made it the last paragraph because I anticipated people would choose that angle to respond, and I wanted to be sure they knew that I didn't think government regulation was the best way for it to happen. I think most people, if they're going to comment, will read at least the last paragraph.
I'm not a libertarian, although at one time I was. I believe in liberty, but I also believe we need to have a collective consciousness that isn't completely insane. I think we're driving off a few cliffs, others do too, and what are we supposed to do? Keep our mouths shut?
I think the difference can be traced back to what Adam Smith called The Invisible Hand. It's a beautiful idea. One that Ronald Reagan picked up on, and marketed very well. So well, that I voted for Reagan twice. I liked what he was saying. Trust in the goodness of people and the Ouija board of self-interest, and all will be good.
That doesn't work because the world is too complicated, and I didn't appreciate that at the time. As a very young person, I hadn't experienced much of the complexity. That's part of what's so great about being young.
Self-interest was a very good thing to depend on when the world was simpler. When global warming wasn't an issue. Or nuclear weapons. When the collective insanity of the American people didn't lead them to the conclusion that the economy works like their household budget. Yet a lot of people, including apparently a lot of our elected officials, do believe that.
They also doubt evolution.
I'm fairly pessimistic about this system's ability to kick out the right answers.
I think France, by stepping in, in a relatively small matter and saying "Wait, we don't want to go there," was a good example of a society making a conscious choice. I admire that. I wish my country had that ability, but we don't.
Anyway, like Hawking says about heaven, I'm saying that the Invisible Hand is religion.
When you add up our collective vision for the future, you are not led anywhere anyone in their right mind would want to go. Imho.
It's not quite yet hot enough, only 89 degrees.
Tomorrow we should hit 95.
On today's ride I reviewed the idea of code-I-hate but have to live with. I have two pieces of code like that that I'm immersed in.
One bit is mainresponder.respond. Written in 1999, it was meant to be the end-all of HTTP responders. It handles membership, cookies, per-user data storage, hierarchic attributes, virtual domains, etc. It's the kitchen-sink responder. Because it does so much we always use it.
Finally last week I decided there was something wrong with this ancient piece of code. I've known it was wrong for a long time, but I never got around to fixing it. At first I tried to add the new bit in a philosophically compatible way. That meant using the coding conventiones we used in 1999. Problem is, those are no longer the state of the art. (I typed state of the arrrgh.)
After living with the old style for a while, and chasing bugs I should never have to chase, I decided hell-with-it, and coded it all the new way. So if you encounter a callback that works differently than all the rest, that's why.
The other ancient bit of code is html.directory. It's the low-level code underneath the directory feature in Manila, also circa 1999. This code has been worked on, special-cased, had things tacked onto it, over and over. Some of the ideas were, with the benefit of hindsight, perfectly awful. The code is still there.
There's a whole caching sub-system that I put there myself that I forgot was there until I went looking for it earlier today. I hadn't wanted to look. It was very nicely coded, however, there was a whole other caching system two levels up that did the same thing, but better. One of them is going.
Bike riding helps me appreciate all aspects of all of it. Old and new. (Borrowed and blue.)
Today's map: 59 minutes, 10.76 miles.
Note: It might seem that I've become a much more productive rider. Not so. I found a setting on Cyclemeter that has it notice periods when I'm not moving, and it doesn't count that in the time. So I've always been a bit faster than it seemed. And I take more rest stops that you might guess. You can see on the map that my average speed is much steadier at about 11.5 mph on the trail and not quite 10 mph on city streets.
Rode up to the boat basin at 79th St and back. Light wind, gorgeous sunny day. Just warm enough, but a little on the cool side in the shade.
Thought about Apple's WWDC announcements and the way Apple went after Instapaper. Marco, who's a local guy, Nth generation Mac developer. He's re-living a story many of us have already lived. The answer is, if he depends on developers to support him, they will go with Apple. I thought I had friends too, when Apple came after my market, which wasn't really much of a market. But they all went with Apple, even if our stuff was better and did a lot more and was easier for developers and gave more to users.
I think the answer is to find meaning in your work independent of what happens with the fickleness of the platform vendor and its developers. I went on to take the same software that Apple crushed and turned it into blogging, RSS, podcasting, web APIs, all kinds of cool stuff. And yes it did eventually make me a bunch of money. But not the way everyone thought it would. Apple can't really crush you if you keep your wits about you.
Anyway -- here are some pics from today's ride.
Map: 9.98 miles, 1 hour 6 minutes.
PS: I wish either Instapaper or Readability or both would make a URL shortener that I could use to push links to readable versions of stories. Sometimes I want to push a link to a story and don't just cause it's impossible to read the text because of the colors they've used. It's a really simple thing, and a way to get more people building on your software.
In the United States, the media are making a huge mistake re Twitter and Facebook by treating them as if they were open systems like the web or email. In fact, and they know this, they are corporations with eponymous services (that means the companies and the services have the same name).
In France, in the spirit of being open to competition, the government has prohibited the media from using the names of the services unless the story is specifically about the company. I think this is very smart, compared to what we're doing and not doing here.
In the United States, not only do the media treat Twitter and Facebook as if they were public utilities, like the open web, it's actually even worse. The Library of Congress, which is part of the government, is subsidizing Twitter, by doing a complete archive of Twitter, before making a serious attempt at archiving the web. This helps cement Twitter as the medium of record, which is ridiculous. The market is just getting started. How can you justifiy the government taking sides over other equivalent (or better) ways to communicate, that are not owned by a company (like the web, for example). If this isn't against the law, to use taxpayer funds to help a company achieve dominance over competitors, it should be against the law.
Further, it's just plain dumb for the media to give special position to Twitter and Facebook. If it isn't inevitable that these companies compete with other media, the potential certainly is there. And since when do CBS reporters rely exclusively on NBC facilities to get their stories out. Or Fox, or CNN. Yet they all treat Twitter as if it were an non-profit platform like the web.
Of course it would be better if the French media self-regulated so the government doesn't have to step in.
Blogs posts and photographs are important stuff, not just important realtime, but important over time.
First a story...
I sold my Berkeley house last year. It's the second time I sold a house. Each time I sell a house I fork off a storage unit. It happened the first time, when I sold the house in Woodside. I was spending $300-plus per month to keep the stuff I hadn't sorted through to figure out what I absolutely had to hold on to.
The second time, with the help of a friend, I did the sorting-through process, and this storage unit only costs $45 a month. The stuff I absolutely couldn't bear to part with were mostly notebooks and letters and a big box of unsorted photos. In the box, photos of friends and lovers, children and family members, most of whom are long-gone. Even if they aren't gone, our youth is gone. Memories that, even writing about, make me emotional.
I know I'm supposed to live in the moment, always -- so sue me -- I find it satisfying to remember the people I care about. And the events that were important and the experiences we shared.
Ask Kodak. They made a huge business out of these emotions. Now it's Canon and Apple.
That's why I'm willing to put a lot of effort into being sure that my photos and blog posts, the ones on Flickr and here on scripting.com, are safe.
On the other side, the tech industry, understandably, doesn't place a high value on organizing and preserving my digital past, or yours.
So there's something we still have to do, something we, as users -- will have to do for ourselves.
Rode round the bottom of Manhattan today.
Just a nice ride, not hot at all -- worried about rain.
Map: 1 hour 4 minutes. 8.29 miles.
The thought had not crossed my mind.
Would the earth shake? Sure. Do I think the Twitter folk should do it if the opportunity presents itself? Absolutely. Gets them out of the hotseat of having to attach a business model to Twitter, which certainly won't be popular with the users. No matter how they do it.
Should Apple do it? Why not. They have a huge pile of cash that keeps getting bigger. They're saving it for something, they say -- but what could they possibly buy with so much cash? They could turn into a bank, and I'm fairly sure they're going to do that at some point. iPhones will become credit cards. They'll do deals with Visa and MasterCard like the deals they do with AT&T and Verizon. But eventually they will not need them, nor will they need the credit companies. But that's a long way off. And the money they'd spend to buy Twitter wouldn't make much difference to them. And if they do it right, it translates into leverage for them in a new media market, news, and that could end up being hugely profitable. (It's one they clearly expect to be in with the iPad.)
I remember the initial excitement I felt when I saw Ping, that quickly turned to disappointment when it became clear that Apple didn't have the guts to let their users really communicate with each other over their network. So if Apple bought Twitter that would bring them solidly into the world of easy user networking. It would be worth doing if only for that.
And a reminder for all the flaws of Twitter, they did actually manage to make it work without screwing it up so much that it became totally unusable. Not that they didn't try. Really hard.
If they merged, that would explain some of the awful attempts Twitter has made to seem Apple-like. In their promotional materials and in the way they screw their ecosystem. Apple does both both with flair and panache. Twitter is a poor imitation of Apple, in every way.
No matter because Apple needs to be more like Twitter more than Twitter needs to be like Apple.
Another reason Apple would like it is because it's inevitable that Twitter will turn the screws on the news business, and Apple loves to get into position where they own the mortgage on a media industry. Look at how well they've been doing with music, and the inroads they've made into movies and television. Now they have entre into news. A deal you can't refuse.
It's hard to imagine Twitter, Inc having the chutzpah to pull it off. But Apple? That's their M.O.
One other thought. If they buy Twitter they might as well also buy Flipboard. We know they like it. And it flatters them. Make it all "system software."
Summary: It gives the Twitter investors their exit, saves face for everyone, and gives Apple another media market to dominate. They could probably swing the deal for $10 billion. A bargain.
Today's ride was windy, on the way up -- and on the way back -- it was like flying. Or sailing.
I was thinking about software. My friend Brent Simmons just sold one of his products, NetNewsWire.
I thought about the team that's assembling around Blork, and where it's heading (interesting places).
I thought about how some people, when they think of tech, think of money. I've never thought of it that way.
I discovered that I loved to play with computers at a relatively early age. And since then, I've always thought it was a priviledge that I could pay for groceries and rent and health insurance by doing something that I would do for free, happily.
I think Brent is the same way. That's why we were so productive when we worked together in the 90s.
Adam likes to make money, he''s good at it. He and Dvorak have this idea that we should sell licenses for podcasting. I don't think they're kidding. But Adam has an intuition about tech that agrees with mine, and we work well together too. We've now been collaborating again for a half-year. It's good. And maybe this time we'll make some money together.
Anyway, it was very windy today. So I got a great workout. Here's a video.
And the map. 9.94 miles. 1 hour 6 minutes.
Exec summary: If Twitter and the Times merged, or if a similar combination appeared, there would be new lines betw editorial and operations to explore.
I'm thinking about Rep Anthony Weiner and the weird picture posted to his Twitter account.
Specifically, I'm thinking about the story. It's not being covered very well, imho. Lots of missing information. Reporters could be applying pressure on more sources, not just the Rep and his aides. Anyone who pursued it as a tech story would be breaking new ground in journalism.
Assuming you're up to date on all that, now let's fast-foward five or ten years, when there surely will be a Twitter-like service with an editorial ego, like the NY Times. This came about in one of several ways. Possibly Twitter, Inc went public with a big market cap. With a highly-valued stock they could buy an editorial organization, shut down their other channels, and publish the stories exclusively on twitter.com, with links coming from anywhere you like (people could point to them from Facebook, Google, Firefox, Safari, whatever). Think about the power they'd have. Facebook or Google could do it too. Any of them have the economic power to become editorial organizations, quickly, through acquisitions.
The prototype of such a deal is the AOL acquisition of Huffington Post.
Another option -- the Times could run their own Twitter-like service, at least on an experimental basis. Still publish links to their stories through Twitter. Doing this now would be smart, to be in the game when Twitter grows an editorial arm.
Another option -- new companies could rise out of nowhere, realizing that neither the Times or Twitter have the ability to integrate with the other. If history is a guide, this is the way it'll probably happen. (Groupon might be such a company, btw.)
Whatever, for the sake of argument, assume that such a thing exists. An entity that integrates what Twitter and the NY Times do.
Now imagine the events of Weinergate happen on the NY Times' Twitter.
Pause for a moment. You have, on your company's computer, all kinds of information about what was posted, when it was posted, from what IP addresses, and what client software was used. You have a copy of the tweet, if such a tweet ever existed. And you know for sure if it did or didn't exist.
You have all this information. You have an exclusive story. In every sense of the word. It wasn't given to you -- you own the story. And if you do the right thing here, you'll keep getting the exclusives.
What do you do?
1. Do you publish the details?
2. Do you pretend you don't have them?
3. Do you acknowledge you have them, and not publish them?
I spend some amount of time thinking about these things, and thought I'd share the puzzle with you.
Now, let's come back to 2011.
A smart reporter would be pressing Twitter, Inc. for the data.
And since the Library of Congress also has the information, if Twitter says no, they might have to say yes. After all we pay for all they do. In some sense, we actually own that data. No joke. If we don't why are we spending taxpayer money on it?
...you're sorry it's over.
Riding in the heat is the best. The wind, which on cool days works against you, on a blistering hot day is your source of relief.
Today there was a hint of coolness in the salt-air breeze coming in off the Hudson. Which was compounded by the drama of a thunderstorm that's brewing out there. Tornados they say! Excitement.
The press reports aren't clear exactly what kind of message he sent.
The tech press, one would assume, would be anxious to know what actually happened. Seems like this is a story TechCrunch or GigaOm could help with. Someone should put a real reporter on this story.
Anyway, you always wonder what you would do in his shoes.
I don't know, but I wouldn't fight it in front of TV cameras. I'd fight it where the offensive act took place, on Twitter. Keep a Tumblr going (nice NY tech success, good politics) and link to it from the Twitter account.
Might as well use the crisis to build your follower count.
Then start posting pictures of things that matter. Like Mitch McConnell boasting how he's going to kill either Medicare or the world economy. That's some real pornography, not the kind where you have to use your imagination.
And yes, interspersed between all the serious stuff, remind people that you didn't send the picture, and you're not going to press charges, and by the way I changed my password, and when I'm having guests over I turn off all the computers, and I don't leave my iPhone lying around.
Whatever happened, it's only a big deal to the extent that it shows how stupid we can be with our computers. Someone was stupid here, and possibly mean, and some of the responsibility belongs to the Representative. So you have something to apologize for. Apologize.
There's an art to using Twitter. It's a fantastic political platform and it might be possible to fight these battles by going direct to the public, instead of trying to route through cable TV.