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 the Repubs had any class whatsoever, they would thank the President, reschedule the debate and all head back to DC to hear what the man has to say. He is President of the United States. If you don't respect the man, respect the office, respect the country. We'll treat you with respect too when it's your turn.
At the beginning of August I wondered if our President had a card up his sleeve. At the final moment, he'd play the card, the Republican hostage-takers would be exposed in such a way that even the idiots on CNN had to see it. But no. The Republicans boasted they got 98 percent of what they wanted. In a moment we realized that Republican depravity had no bounds, and the President was naive and driven by fear. Not what we want from the Leader of the Free World. It was a very very bad moment for the United States, and won't soon be forgotten.
Then at the other end of the month, outstanding leadership from all corners. I watched Christie in New Jersey, Bloomberg and Cuomo in New York. Governors and mayors from up and down the eastern seaboard. They worked together, collegially, without regard for party, for the good of the country. (I know there are cynics who will say that it isn't what it appeared to be. They are of course entitled to their opinion.)
When we think of what we need from national leadership, we should remember how they worked together around the hurricane. Maybe we should just move the bunch to Washington. Let's see. Christie as head of the House. Cuomo as head of the Senate. And I'd definitely go with Bloomberg as the first Jewish President of the United States.
BTW, if Perry gets the Republican nomination, I bet Bloomberg runs.
And what makes these three so unique? They are all comfortable in their own skin. They don't spend a lot of time thinking about what people will think. They knew what had to be done, and did it. This, simply, is what we want.
In the early days of Saturday Night Live, during the Weekend Update segment, a standard joke that always got a laugh.
Chevy Chase doing the news. A picture of Generalissmo Francisco Franco appears behind him. "Francisco Franco." Pause. "Is still dead."
The house would come down.
And he would go into the next bit.
Today I took a ride up the Hudson.
Looked just about the same as last time I rode there, before Hurricane Irene.
There is a website where you can download the app.
You can type @food or #bart in the address bar of the browser and be transported to Twitter where it shows you the profile for the user "food" or a search for the term "bart."
Love to know: 1. Who did it. 2. How it came about. 3. Where it's going.
This was announced along with their deal with Photobucket. Pretty significant, for both Twitter and Firefox. Imagine if Facebook launched a browser. Same idea.
PS: There's a help page for this product.
PPS: There's a Storify thread from June on this topic.
There are all these Quora-like services coming online these days.
Why doesn't the Times have one?
I'm not suggesting that they develop it. Partner. The Times is a distribution channel. They already have a lot of smart readers and a smart website. Do more to bring the former into the latter.
They don't think in terms of opening the news process to their readers, which are imho their biggest asset. Bigger than the big minds they employ. And almost totally untapped as a resource for informing and advising each other.
Gradually the Times is going to have to decentralize or it's going to break.
The digital subscriber idea seems to be working. The marketing makes sense. They're talking about the reader not themselves. A major milestone for the Times. They've discovered that other smart people exist. (Sorry for the sarcasm.) Now go the next step and find a way to use more of what all thos smart people have to offer.
I received an inquiry from a reporter asking my opinion, as a Wikileaks "supporter," about the security breach which resulted in the unintentional release of unedited US embassy cables. In keeping with my no interviews policy, here's the full text of my email response.
Thanks for getting in touch. I have only been aware of this peripherally, as I'm sure you're aware we've been planning for a hurricane here in NY for the last few days while this other storm has been brewing.
First, I'm glad you're looking into it.
I don't have enough information to fully answer your questions.
I also don't think of myself as a Wikileaks supporter.
I have defended Wikileaks against the childishness of American journalists, esp Bill Keller of the NY Times, who have brought completely irrelevant issues into the discussion -- highlighting their problem -- that it's difficult if not impossible to draw a meaningful distinction that separates them from Wikileaks. So Assange has dirty socks. I don't like the Bill Keller's suits. Neither of these are
germane to part of an adult conversation.
Would I prefer that reporters protect their sources? In general, yes, of course. I have myself been betrayed by reporters who I spoke to in confidence. So I don't think this is major news nor does it draw a distinction between Wikileaks and reporters.
What's new is the massive scale of leaking that can take place now. Would it have been better if they were more responsible about it? Yes. Could this also have happened at Spiegel, the Times, the Guardian? Yes! Of course.
People who earn their living as journalists should bend over backwards to be fair to people who play a journalistic role without being paid for it. The same way a professional golfer would be careful when criticizing an amateur. There's an inherent conflict of interest here. To see the professionals flaunt their conflict so openly is disconcerting. Makes me question their professionalism. That's the extent to which I support Wikileaks.
I'm cc'ing my NYU colleagues on this email.
I've been working on a new UI for web apps in the OPML Editor.
Along the way I decided to re-work the logo for the OPML Editor itself.
Ain't it pretty!
I got a new MacBook Air today and was excited as I was bringing it home, then I remembered -- I don't have a FireWire cable.
This is always the moment when the newness of a new Mac stops being fun and starts being a drag.
So I unboxed it, lovely packaging. Surprised to see no thumb drive with the OS on it (as the previous MacBook Air had). I went ahead and started the setup, figuing I'd go hunt around the house looking for a firewire cable (I also vaguely remembered that USB works too). Then it did something nice that made me happy and inspired this blog post. It told me it could do the transfer over wifi. Okaaaay. That's the right answer.
It told me to launch the "migration assisant" app in the Utilities sub-folder of the Applications folder on the old Mac. (I wondered what that was, I assumed it was something I didn't need to know about).
Now the new Mac is happily sucking data out of the old Mac, and I'm writing a blog post.
I always say software is a process. You watch, we'll make it suck less. It's nice when that happens.
Sometimes here on Scripting News we get the news before it is news.
Andy Carvin asked Eric Schmidt why they only accept real names. He said it's because it's an identity service.
On 7/26/11 I wrote that Google-Plus is a bank.
They want to move money around the same way Amazon does. They need your real name because it's a business.
"Google-Plus is their integrated communication system. Over time, it's going to be at the core of everything they do, from auctions, to paying for things with Android phones, to their groupon and yelp clones. They're going everywhere, and this is the system that will tie it all together. So, at the outset, of course they need real identities. That Google-Plus account you're playing with today is going to be your bank account next year."
Anyway, Jeff Jarvis is writing about the editorial content on CNN.
I'm thinking about the commercials.
You've got 65 million people at home, most people not at parties (I imagine). Why isn't someone doing something creative with the commercials? Surely there must be things that people are thinking about now that they don't often think about. (Like hurricanes for example. Or the proper role of government. So much discourse is theoretical, now it's all very real. But strange. For me, living in NY is still weird. But living in NY with a huge hurricane coming our way. I didn't anticipate that. Like the earthquake we had last week.)
Advertisers, properly mobilized, could take an opportunity to engage.
That's a word we know on the Internet, but I'm not sure it's sunk in with the TV medium.
I watched the President's weekly video. That's how desperate I am for anything current that's interesting. In the video, which is the first one I've watched, he talks about a spirit of volunteerism, and participating in civic life. He missed the opportunity to connect the hurricane to this spirit (he was talking about the 9/11 anniversary).
An aside, Irene seems a bit like 9/11, but more deliberative. In slow motion. And its scale is still unknown. There are a lot of things in NYC that aren't really nailed down. Cars. Construction sites. Imagine all those things floating. And NY Harbor is a massive body of water. Shielded, for sure (that's why NY is such a seaport). But the Narrows, the equivalent of the Golden Gate in San Francisco Bay, is permable. And the Hudson, which is really part of the harbor more than it is a river, could get wild. These are all very strange thoughts.
I thought back to the days just before President Obama took office, and how excited I was about how he might do something truly different with the people. A permanent mobilization of the electorate. Let's go back to the Peace Corps and reboot. But nothing came. He took office like any other President.
We're still waiting for the first President who engages with the electorate using the medium we've worked so hard to build for them.
Reminds me of when I was young and we took buses to Washington to march against the war in Vietnam. I was one of the organizers, and I was the captain of a bus I was on, filled with students, parents, teachers, volunteers. I didn't know what I was supposed to do until the mother of one of my friends told me it was my job to give a peptalk, to get people all fired up about where we were going and why. I tried, but like Obama I wasn't ready.
The President, like me, isn't comfortable in the role he's assumed. That's why people like Perry, I think. He's dangerous, and ill-prepared, but the guy is comfortable in his skin. Bad combination, imho.
BTW, Google misses an opportunity to engage. I'm on Google Image Search, and want to share that search with people reading this blog post. I look around for a link to Google's URL shortener. Nowhere to be found. Aha! There's a "share" link in the upper right corner of my screen. Click it. Sigh. It's for sharing with Googlel Plus. And it's not for sharing the page I'm on (that would make too much sense) -- it wants me to paste in a URL. Hey -- I want to share this page. Get a clue!
Just some thoughts, now I'm going to get back to my boostrapping with Bootstrap!
Maybe the last ride before the hurricane hits?
Thanks to Russ Gum, I know how to keep the iPhone from shutting off while I'm riding, so I get a constant readout. There is something it's useful for. With the GPS it gives you a rough approximation of how fast you're going. And because of that, I was able to ride faster. I know it's a paradox, but that's the way it works. You need to know your numbers.
I rode along the Hudson, as usual. No preparations visible for the storm. In the boat harbor on 79th St the boats were tied down, as usual.
Map: 1 hour, 5 minutes. 11.41 miles.
On Tuesday we had a real earthquake in NYC, and on Sunday it looks like we're going to have a hurricane.
People here didn't understand what an earthquake is about, and luckily (knock wood) so far there have been no aftershocks, and apparently there was no major damage. You can't always tell how much damage there was in an earthquake. But hurricanes, a totallly different matter altogether.
I went to college in New Orleans where hurricanes are a way of life this time of year. We had no direct hits while I was there, but we did have a couple of near-misses.
What worries me is if there's an evacuation, how it would work. In the Gulf, people know how to evacuate. In New York, even in the summer with the city relatively empty, the question is How? And Where?
Life will not be normal here on Sunday and Monday, but people aren't getting that.
Honestly I have no clue what I'm doing and where I'm going and if the East Village is a good place to wait it out.
Just wanted to say thanks for all the bootstraps and breakthroughs.
All the cowpaths paved. And false starts. And living-in-the-future type moments.
I remember seeing my first Apple II and thinking that's going in the right direction and then the Mac was all the way there (well almost). The Laserwriter and built-in networking. The Mac came pretty close to being the Internet in the 80s before everything went haywire.
He is more than a visionary, which is rare enough.
Just the other day I was writing about Steve Jobs, without actually naming him. Here's the part.
"One of the really amazing things about New York City is the extent to which the city anticipated its own growth. It built elevated rail systems to neighborhoods that didn't exist. A grid that went into the Bronx when the city barely made it to 14th St. A huge city park in the middle of nowhere. Tech guys have to think like that. So few do. Seriously.
"People who do this think this way should win awards. It goes beyond design. It isn't a matter of how rich you are. It's how boldly you think, and then execute to that vision. And also how flexible you are, when you learn things about your framework that you didn't envision (so it goes beyond vision as well). And you not only let other people play, but build that in from the start."
There's a lot of that kind of thinking behind the Apple of today. A lot to the story that's yet to unfold.
As Woz says, they'll be talking about the way Steve Jobs thinks about computers for 100 years, maybe more.
One thing's for sure, our lives would have been a lot less interesting without him.
This is a great app from the NY Times.
My first thought using it is this is the kind of app I would expect Google to make.
That's high praise.
One feature request, right off the top of my head -- how about an embed capability.
Let me put it right here in my blog post, linked back to the Times site, of course.
That way people can get a taste of the app here. Think of it as free advertising.
Anyway -- nice work!
You can tell the seasons are changing and soon it won't be bike riding season, and that makes me sad.
I love to ride. It's such a wonderful feeling, it's like skiing and at times it's like flying, esp when the wind is behind you and switching direction.
And when your body is in bike riding shape after a spring and summer spent on wheels.
It's also a form of meditation, the mind goes quiet, you become a simple machine. Legs spin with strength. Eyes sharp. Taking in everything. Senses turned on max. Breathing deep and regularly. Round and round mile after mile.
From the sublime to the geekish...
I've been wanting to mount my iPhone on my handlebar for quite some time. I don't know why, I just wanted to do it. And today I did.
I don't know what to use it for, however.
Details: The app is Cyclemeter, which I've been using for about a year, with good results. It produces a map of my route every day. And it shoots the data up to dailymile.com. The mount is made by Arkon.
And the screen keeps dimming, and I don't want to take my hands off the handlebar to keep it going.
The speaker isn't loud enough to hear when I'm moving, and I don't wear headphones when riding, for safety reasons.
Suggestions are welcome!
Map: 1 hour 3 minutes, 11.52 miles.
PS: Didn't see any earthquake damage.
The pundits are confused about John Huntsman. I was confused about the pundits, until I realized that Huntsman has become a blogger, more than a candidate.
Here's a quote: "'This is an interesting experience, for those of you who haven't run for president,' he said. 'You stand up on the stage in the debate like we did the other night and look around and say, Whoa, where'd these folks come from? What an interesting assortment of characters!'"
What would a blogger do if he or she found him or herself on stage with the ragtag group of bozos and blowhards at the last Republican debate? Well, he'd explain exactly how what they were saying was complete self-serving nonsense. He'd react as if he were a person, not a candidate. And not a pundit which is a person who occupies the same crazy intellectual space as the candidates, whose job is to evaluate everything within the context of that space as if it were actually the way the world works.
However, most of the rest of us aren't in that space. If someone asks me a gotcha question I say that's a gotcha question, thanks but I prefer not to answer it. In that sense Newt Gingrich was playing the role of blogger in the previous debate. While saying the same crazy shit as the rest of them.
Look, I seriously doubt if Michelle Bachman really thinks she can deliver $2 a gallon gas. But she does say she can do it. So someone should say straight out that she's lost her mind. All evidence points in that direction.
Not that Huntsman is such a great guy. He says he likes a flat tax. Of course it would push millions of people into poverty and would give more money to the rich and super-rich, which puts off their wakeup call that life for them would be miserable if we don't do something to alleviate the misery of the former middle class. Huntsman isn't that stupid, no one could be.
Then of course you could, like Peter Thiel, build a private island on an oil rig off the shore of Calif near San Francisco. As if that means anything. Hey do you think Thiel would actually live there himself? Where would he go out to dinner? How much longer would it take to get to SFO? Who would pick up the garbage? And here's the real closer. If you so much want to cut yourself off from the lunacy of the world, why put it anywhere near a big city? Why not put it as far away from cities as possible? There are certainly much more pleasant oceans than the Pacific off the coast of Northern Calif.
See how the super-rich waste money on stupid shit? Yeah, it's theirs to waste. True.
Problem is that money is only useful up to a certain point. It can buy food, pay rent on a place to sleep, eat etc. After that, all money really does is buy you distance. I once lived at the end of a 1/4 mi driveway. After a couple of years of that I yearned for one thing -- to be in the middle of everything. I didn't like isolation. I don't think we're built that way, even the super-rich.
That's what Warren Buffet, who lives in a middle-class house in Omaha, should write about in the NY Times. The secret of money is the diminishing returns. Thiel can own all the islands he wants, but he's got to pick a place to sleep every night, just like the rest of us. And if he's near normal, he's going to want to sleep in San Francisco, not an oil rig in the middle of nowhere.
Once you figure that one out, someone's got to pay for all the stuff we all need, that no one of us can buy for himself.
That's the class warfare that's actually happening here, now, in the US. A bunch of really immature people who read an Ayn Rand novel and thought that had anything to do with the world they were born into. Once things get bad enough, I think they're going to figure it out. At least I hope so.
Mark Cuban in a blog post asked what he can do. What he can do is explain how becoming a super-rich guy changed his life, and how it didn't. And get with the other super-rich people and tell them their shit stinks too, and they need to pony up and pay more than they are now. Even if their hearts aren't in it.
Also the President took some heat from Krugman and Iglesias for talking with the CEO of Ford and Warren Buffett for advice about the economy. True, they aren't economists. But the political fight is between the super-rich and everyone else. Obama should go over the head of the Republican leadership and talk to the people they take their orders from. Yes, of course he should talk to economists too.
I lived in the Bay Area from 1979 to 2003, and then from 2005 to 2010. That's almost 30 years of living with earthquakes. I thought I had left all that behind when I moved to NY. Not so.
Yesterday's 5.8 quake, centered in Virginia, was in every way a real earthquake. If you live in the east, you need to know that. Check your houses, chimneys, anything that could break that you put your bodies into. And be prepared for aftershocks.
Earthquakes are not fun. If you felt like that was fun yesterday, you don't know.
The Loma Prieta quake, which killed 63 people, destroyed a freeway in Oakland, and a neighborhood in San Francisco, and caused the Bay Bridge to be rebuilt, among other things, was a 6.9 -- much stronger than the quake that hit the east coast yesterday. But 5.8 is nothing to sneeze at. Because the earth's crust here is a lot older and more solid, the waves were transmitted further than they would have in the west. But they also did less damage -- why -- I'm not sure.
The terrible thing about earthquakes is that, unlike hurricanes, you don't know when they're coming. And the first shock from a quake is usually not the last, and not always the worst. The ground kept shaking for days after Loma Prieta. Each time nerves got more rattled. The more aware you were of where you are, just in case this is where you are when the Big One strikes.
On the radio and on the Internet, people say that the city is over-reacting with inspections and evacuations. They are not. Most of the buildings here, unlike the West Coast, were not designed with earthquakes in mind. Until yesterday we had no idea how they would perform in an earthquake. Until we look to see what kind of damage there was, we won't have any idea.
Bottom-line: that was a real earthquake, in every way.
I thought there was heavy machinery rolling by.
As an longtime Californian I can't tell you how distressing it is to have an earthquake here.
Of course Twitter was all over it as soon as it happened.
Question #1 -- are all the nuclear power plants okay?
Google News query for New York earthquake.
And an earthquake in Colorado.
Google started as a search engine without knowing how they'd make money, and found a business they could be in because of the product they made. The product itself doesn't generate revenue. But the bigger it is, the more money they make.
That was a gutsy move on the part of the investors. It led to a new way of building companies, but I don't think people are fully comfortable with it yet. Because they still try to drive companies into making money in predictable ways and aren't looking for the serendipitous ways to make money. I think very often it's the latter that is the gusher, where the former yields ordinary growth.
This is an idea I've been discussing over the years with Doc Searls, as well as with the readers of this blog.
I say don't put ads on your blog, they just pull attention away from the ideas you're writing about.
And they limit the number of ideas that come back to you. Any one of which could make you a billion dollars.
You can pick up a few nickels and dimes with ads. But you might get rich from the ideas that come to you because you're putting your ideas out there. You don't want to think of blogs as if they were print pubs, they can do something print pubs never could do -- talk back to you.
Think of it this way, your ideas are raw material. Publish them and they become a product. And what comes back is also raw material. Which can become products.
In Doc parlance, you're not making money from your ideas -- you're making money because of them.
What made me think of this has been the long drawn out discussion over Twitter's business model. I've been thinking about it since 2007. Businesses that Twitter could be in because they have Twitter. But not seeing Twitter itself as a business.
I think they could have locked up the camera market by now. Maybe they're doing that with Apple. I hope Apple is paying them enough.
The thing Twitter could do there that no one but Facebook can do, is what Google is doing with Google-Plus. Just take the picture and that's it. It's automatically up there shortly after taking it. From there you can push it anywhere. But by having a place, as Twitter has since 2006, and having lots of people coming to that place, it immediately becomes attractive to have buses, subways, roads that come into the place. Only in this case instead of cars and people, it's ideas, pictures, movies, location, etc.
I know I'm rambling.
One of the really amazing things about New York City is the extent to which the city anticipated its own growth. It built elevated rail systems to neighborhoods that didn't exist. A grid that went into the Bronx when the city barely made it to 14th St. A huge city park in the middle of nowhere. Tech guys have to think like that. So few do. Seriously.
People who do this think this way should win awards. It goes beyond design. It isn't a matter of how rich you are. It's how boldly you think, and then execute to that vision. And also how flexible you are, when you learn things about your framework that you didn't envision (so it goes beyond vision as well). And you not only let other people play, but build that in from the start.
Wouldn't it be nice if you could set a maximum length for comments?
We seem to like a limit in Twitter (though I wish it were more than 140, personally).
Why not have a sysop-settable limit.
I'd start with a 1000 character limit.
If you need more than 1000 characters, you should be writing a blog post, not a comment.
What do you think?
I think we need a more hackable comment system, btw, so if we get ideas for features we don't have to wait, possibly a very long time. How about an open source commenting system?
I know a lot of people who read this blog read it in an aggregator, and of course that's very cool. We support RSS here, as I'm sure you know.
But if you do, you might want to click this link and have a look at the home page, because there's a new header here. It's notable not just because it looks good, but it's text, not a graphic.
I knew when I saw Google Web Fonts that I was going to use it, but it took a bit of experimentation and thinking to figure out how. It's always a good idea to let things settle-in a bit before moving. Your first intuition is not always so good. But after a while, you figure it out.
It's very simple, which is of course how these thing should be.
There's just a link in the head section of the HTML, that gets the font from Google's website.
And then a style that defines it. After that, it's just a <p> in divHeaderText, which I've given a style.
As I got this working, I did it in a more general way in the worldoutline software, so you can use text headers on any page, using whatever font and size you like. (I use Fontdiner Swanky both here and there because I like it so much. It's friendly and wacky yet very readable. A nice informal headline font, imho.)
So this is nice, but it's still just a beginning. A foot in the door. I want to make this site a showcase for the tasteful use of fonts, because I love text, but I love it even more when it looks beautiful.
And since I often gripe about Google here, let me say thanks for putting some cool technology out there. Keep up the good work!
PS: Since all this is certain to change at some time in the future, I took a screen shot so future readers can know what I'm talking about.
PPS: I used fonts in the popup dialog in Blork. Movin right along!
Update: I changed the HTML and the stylesheet so that the header is an <h1> instead of a <p>. This was suggested in a comment by Drew Kime as the semantically correct thing to do. I agree. I'm starting to feel semi-confident about my CSS. In fact, yesterday I switched over a table-based layout to a completely CSS-based one. And it's better this way. Oy I feel like I'm becoming a Believer. Please stop me.
1. Their rollout sucked.
2. They only talked to the press, not users.
3. They announced it long before it shipped, and the shipment was a non-event.
4. They failed to say what was exciting about the product.
5. Once there was something exciting about it, very low price, it flew off the shelves.
6. People want interesting products in this area now.
7. People who think Apple has it sewn up are wrong.
8. Developers do not always flock to the largest installed base. At least not all developers.
9. There are still options for WebOS, esp if they do something to give full freedom to independent developers.
There was a time when it was said the Mac is dead, and no one is developing for it. I happened to have been developing for it at the time, so when they said that it only got me more motivated.
I would like to put my software on a tablet, but I don't see that happening for either Android or IOS. So there you go, there are developers who are looking for opportunities here and don't care about the size of your installed bas.
I am not saying I will invest in WebOS, not even close. They managed to completely screw it up and they needed to do the exact opposite. But to conclude that the iPad cannot be competed with is, afraid to say, very incorrect. There's a difference between saying HP is incapable of competing with Apple and Apple cannot be competed with.
Everyone cites the DMV as the example of why government sucks.
I wonder if they're right...
I had three hours to kill at the DMV in Queens a few weeks ago. The bench I sat on was hard, and the waiting room was packed and huge. Must have been a thousand people. And they were all New Yorkers, and like me they all had three hours to kill. What a scene.
What was interesting about it was how incredibly diverse it was. And how there was a chance to talk with people you normally don't get a chance to. These are the people you're driving next to on the Long Island Expressway or Van Wyck, or on 2nd Ave, or the Williamsburg Bridge. These are not necessarily the people you run into walking in Manhattan or riding the 7 train from Flushing.
There weren't a lot of rich people there, relative to the population, because it turns out you can pay someone to do your DMV schlep if you just need to register a car, as I did.
I had a book, but the place was too interesting. Instead I watched and thought.
The system was actually really well-designed. Considering how complex the process is, they moved people through pretty quickly. I didn't see anyone lazing around being unproductive. I tried to imagine if it would work any better if it were an insurance company running it? And interestingly to get the job done, I had to communicate with my insurance company and get them to wire something to the DMV. The kind of thing that might not work so well if it were say, Verizon or Time-Warner Cable. But it worked without a glitch. I happen to really like my insurance company, GEICO. Their systems are well designed, and use my time fairly effectively. Their website is a lot easier to use than my bank's or brokerage firms, for example.
I also imagined how many times the budget of the DMV had been trimmed, and how many rounds of layoffs they've had, and what kind of job security the people have. I don't really have a clue if the New York State DMV is under a lot of political pressure. But I wondered if working there wasn't a bit like working at the US Postal Service. I thought the people were really smart, and I was confused, and they were patient and repeated the instructions for me, while I wrote them down. The kind of things a lot of companies won't do for you.
The conclusion I came to is that the DMV, a government agency, is better than a lot of the businesses I interact with. The theory that the businesses have to provide better service because they're competitive is too simplistic. A couple of days ago I wanted to get a service turned off with Verizon. I knew I was going to hit their "retention script" -- meaning they were going to deliberately drag their heels. An operation that I could have easily done on the website took about an hour. How many months of extra fees did they get before I got to the point where I could find an hour to get rid of the irritation and expenses. And how many other things do I pay for, every month, rather than going through the hassle to get the company to turn the service off.
And Verizon's approach doesn't even maximize revenue. I was going to replace the device I was turning off with a different combination of features and probably even replace my cell phone and lock into another two year contract, which has run out. I'm a month to month customer. They haven't figured out yet that by enabling a smart customer to manage their own configuration, without introducing deliberate glitches, they might make even more money. And they might retain me by impressing me with their honesty, integrity and love of customer (which of course they don't have).
So I think people ought to think a bit more before they dis the DMV and repeat the Republican spin that government is worse at doing everything. Because in 2011, some businesses have grown so huge, and the Dliberts so thoroughly dominate, that it really isn't true.
I want to use Google Maps to show the exact route from Brooklyn Bridge to Fifth and 72nd that the city opens up for the Summer Streets event.
The map they do for the event is a GIF. Not too precise.
But they won't let me drag the route to places it should go, because on normal days you can't ride bikes there. Like the upper-level road that goes around the Grand Central Terminal building. That's strictly an auto thing, says Google. Not today it isn't! Oy.
For some reason I think I should be able to do this easily. It's reallly well-organized in my head.
Brooklyn Bridge to Center St to Lafayette to 4th Ave to Park Ave S around Grand Central, onto Park Ave (a really nice long downhill). Left on 72nd. Finish at 72nd and Fifth. Boom. That's it.
Three days in August every year they open up Park Ave and Lafayette St for bike riding only, making rides like this one easy, fun and safe.
The weather was perfect. Almost no wind. 66 degrees when I left, not much warmer when I was done. And since it was early the lanes weren't crowded yet with bike freaks (a good thing).
Map: 1 hour 17 minutes, 13.95 miles.
I buried the lede in my last piece, at the end of which I suggested a plan for Firefox.
Briefly: Fork a stable release, if necessary, farm this out to a tech partner who is good at managing large developer communities and enterprise users. This version only changes in two areas: improvements to the rendering engine and security updates. It's a lean platform for plug-ins.
You want rendering to evolve quickly so as not hold back developers of websites, to avoid disasters like IE6. But if stability is important, you shouldn't have to accept insecurity. The pace of evolution and safety should not be related.
The other fork is a the "rock and roll" thread, where changes are frequent, and innovations many.
I started writing this in a comment on the Firefox thread, that's still going on and in interesting directions, and realized it should be in a blog post.
The point was made that Mozilla was headed in a good direction with their support for Firefox plug-ins. But now, by breaking them, as they bump the version number more frequently, they're turning in a less optimal direction.
What I realized is that over the years I keep re-learning this lesson myself.
In 2008, I stripped the extraneous stuff from the OPML Editor to get something that was just an app-running environment and an outliner. This was a good move. I had added a layer that I never finished and didn't even like, and it took two years to fully realize that, and take the time to clean it out and get a fresh start.
At the same time I added a Tool Catalog page embedded in the app that makes it one click, with confirmation, to install a new app. Another move that has stood the test of time. And one that, theoretically, removed any reason to bundle user-level functionality.
And then earlier this year, I did it again -- and added Blork and River2 to EC2 for Poets. Neither was mature enough for that. I reached too far before it was time. Again. Anyway, now I'm creating a stripped-down EC2 for Poets. It'll be a little more complicated to set up Blork, but a lot less complicated if you want to use it for something other than Blork. Maybe, at sometime in the future when Blork is fully mature and all the roughness has been smoothed out, it can hide in the corner of the install, and not get in the way if you're not interested. But we're definitely not there yet. And it was in the way of something I wanted to do. A sure sign I had reached too far.
Some day when I have the time, I'll make a list of all these kinds of gyrations I do. I think I'm learning that I ought to do fewer!
I guess if I were evolving Mozilla, I'd try to fork into two threads. One that's stable, and only gets upgrades to the rendering engine and addresses security issues. A totally stable plug-in-running platform. And the upgrades are coordinated with developers, which includes people who manage large networks of installations of Firefox users. If Mozilla doesn't want to do this, they could license another company to do it. Look at how HP just reorganized to rebuild itself around software. There's value here, and it's a shame to see it thrown away.
A really bold move here would be to do a partnership with Microsoft, at a time when the open source world has a lot of leverage with them. Think about the enemy of your enemy being a friend. Think of a mature company that can set up and run a vast service network for enterprise software. A developer conference on the scale of WWDC or Google I/O.
The second fork would be the current rock and roll thread of development. By splitting in two you'd free yourself of the drag that you must be feeling and believe me, it won't go away unless the people really go away -- to Chrome.
We all have something at stake with Firefox, not just the employees of Mozilla Corp. I thought that would be important to point out. It's like Wikipedia, only further down the stack.
Exec summary: I have a mifi device from Verizon that I don't need anymore. Can't figure out how to cancel service via the Verizon customer website.
I do a fair amount of business with Verizon. I have a Droid phone, FIOS internet service, and I use Verizon for my cable TV service. I also have a Verizon mifi device.
I want to clean up my services, because I've got some stuff that's out of date, and some that I don't use. Of course they make it really easy on their website to add more services, and they hide the commands that turn services you don't want off. But I'm determined.
Anyway, here's what I want to do: Get rid of the mifi device. I almost never use it. And I can get tethering for less than the cost of the mifi device. And it's one less thing to carry and keep charged.
Anyway, the point of this blog post is to ask for help if anyone knows how to use the Verizon website. And I've also sent a pointer to this post to the Verizon account on Twitter, rather than try to explain what I want to do 140 characters at a time.
Update: I decided to call them.
1. Used the number on the phone bill. After five minutes wading through their system, I was told this was for residential accounts and I needed to speak with someone in wireless. They transferred me. Another voicemail tree, after which they put me on a dead line. Which then hung up on me. Total time: seven minutes.
2. Calling again. Dialed 0 for operator. Got to Verizon, but they said I had to check the number and try again. I don't know what number to call.
4. I couldn't really understand what the rep said, but it took only 16 minutes total to cancel the mifi service. On the other hand it should have been possible to do it via the website. Those were 16 wasted minutes, if you don't count the time it took to write the blog post.
Now that I know how to do this, I might just cancel the wireless phone service too and just stick with AT&T. Thinking about it.
Two new items today re Sources Go Direct.
1. Felix Salmon notes that Google went direct with news of their acquisition of Motorola.
2. On today's Brian Lehrer Show, the former attorney for the NY Times in the Ellsberg case, says the difference between Ellsberg and Julian Assange, is that Assange is a publisher, therefore is protected under the First Amendment.
Bravo for Assange and Google for going direct, and skipping the step of using reporters to carry their message. Ellsberg, in the 70s, didn't have that option and had to wait for a "news organization" to publish the Pentagon Papers. But publishing and being a news organization are not the same thing. And if you think that news organizations don't have agendas, I have a great bridge I'd like to sell you. At the very least they have as agenda to prove that they're better than the bloggers on the Internet. And often, if not always, they have a lot more to prove.
And congratulations to James Goodale for realizing that the world has changed, and someone can be both a source and a publisher at the same time.
I've been saying this for fifteen years. It's one of those ideas that at first seems unbelievable, then you realize it means freedom and responsibility in a whole different way. Sources Go Direct is the biggest single change in the way news works in the age of the Internet.
When you see a newsmaker with a blog or a Twitter feed, that's a platform for a source going direct. In tech, Fred Wilson, Mark Cuban are great examples. All the politicos with Twitter accounts are sources going direct, but they're not yet using their bully pulpit to great advantage. There's lots more to do, but they still place too high a value in getting their soundbites in the conventional media. That will change.
And for news organizations that are modeled on the pre-Internet news industry, the change can be gradual and relatively easy. Open the gates and take on new writers who you think of as sources. Give each their own platform within your platform, to make it clear that there's a person responsible for what's written here. It's not too late to pick up some big names and get them working on your team. Just beware that they have opinions and points of view, that they are not objective (but then neither are the reporters you employ today).
I heard House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on the radio today say we can't spend money we don't have.
Eric flunked the test. There is no such thing as us not having money. The United States has as much money as it wants.
Here's how it works.
There's a file somewhere on some computer that contains the amount of money in the US checking account. Ben Bernanke has write access to that file. It's up to him and the Federal Reserve Board to say what number is in there. If they have a meeting and decide the US should have twice as much money, then here's what Dr. Bernanke does:
1. Sits down at his laptop.
2. Opens the file.
3. Changes the number.
Eric Cantor also "thinks" we should balance the budget, again based on the fiction that there's a number of dollars that we have. Okay, technically, if both houses of Congress voted for it and 2/3 of the state legislatures, they could have the amendment. It would make as much sense as passing an amendment to say that pi is 3, instead of the irrational number that it is. They could have the amendment, but I'm fairly sure the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter wouldn't change.
Some things, sad to say, are not subject to a vote of Congress.
We could pass a law that says none of us have to die. Oh wouldn't that be nice!
The Republicans are "simple folk" and all this complicated elite nonsense is too damn complicated. Too. Complicated. We think life should be simpler. We decided that it is. And we're right! How do we know? We read Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand told us we were right.
A very unusual ride today.
Map: 1 hour 32 minutes, 14.51 miles.
I've been hearing economists say this, and I wanted to say that as an individual with some assets to manage, I understand what they're saying.
Here's how it works. As long as inflation is low, as it is now, and the future of the economy is uncertain, again, as it is, you're inclined to use dollars to hold value. Where else would you put it?
But if there's inflation, all of a sudden, the cost of storing value in dollars becomes higher. The more inflation, the higher the cost. So as inflation goes up, or even the prospect of inflation goes up, money tends to move out of dollars and into real things that will rise in value with inflation. Like houses. Or into anything you've been putting off buying because you're scared. Because one thing you know, with inflation, it will cost more tomorrow.
Our problem right now is deflation, which makes you even more likely to store value in cash, where it isn't stimulating anything. If the car I would buy today is going to cost less tomorrow (that's what deflation is) I'm better off waiting to buy it.
Another benefit of inflation is that it makes debt easier to pay off. You pay back pre-inflation dollars with post-inflation dollars, the latter which are easier to come by.
This economics stuff actually is fairly easy to understand.
A good post to give some background is Ezra Klein's piece on how we got out of the Depression. It wasn't, he says, as many people think, because of World War II's stimulative effect. Roosevelt devalued the dollar by getting us off the gold standard, which increased demand for our products, and therefore our workers, and by threatening Europe, Hitler caused value to flow into the US, as money there sought safety here.
Re comments, please keep them responsive to this post. Your own differing opinions about inflation belong on your blog. If you have some fact or idea to illuminate this, stated briefly, that would be on-topic. Thanks.
Early this week I wrote a piece introducing SLIde.
I thought I would write a couple more pieces before the end of the week, but here it is Thursday, and I find that I've said all I needed to say to introduce it.
So without any further ado, here's the spec.
I'm using this to build my network of apps. It may prove useful to you, or not. If so, please consider using it. If not, may the force be with you, live long and prosper, and have a nice day!
I love to follow Hacker News, and I have an RSS feed for it that you're welcome to use. I love it because it's a mix of eclectic, esoteric and important links. Where TechMeme is centered on the wars between the tech giants, and the personalities of the mega-rich, Hacker News wanders into the nooks and crannies of tech, and sometimes far off-topic into areas of human interest. As a human being who loves tech, Hacker News hits a very sweet spot.
And then there's the occasional glimpse into the communities that make the products we use.
The thread includes some hard data about the rate of adoption of the new versions of Firefox.
Here's the deal as I understand it. Firefox wants you to think of the browser as if it were a web app, where you have no control over what version of the software you're running, and therefore have no need to know the version number. The Mozilla guys cite GMail as prior art. As a GMail user, I can testify that they are correct. I don't know the version number, and have never felt a need to know the version number.
Firefox is not a web app. It's installed on my Mac and Windows machines. They put code on my machine that could possibly broadcast all my private info anywhere they want, or destroy it, or install keyloggers that capture every keystroke I type, etc etc. It's an attack vector that GMail never will be. Now I've never not installed a version of Firefox because I believed it contained malicious bits, but I am aware that it could contain them. I even talked about this in a podcast I did yesterday. Sooner or later it's going to happen, one of the companies I trust to install bits on my machines will get hacked and their entire user community will get infected. Could be Microsoft, Apple, Google, Mozilla -- even Growl. It's going to happen someday.
The question I kept wanting someone to ask on the mail list is this. You've given us all the reasons why it's not a problem to remove the version number, but why would a user want you to remove it? It's information you used to provide, and now you don't want to provide it. When a government does that, alarms go off. Same thing with big companies. Your goals and your users' goals here are not necessarily aligned. I don't find that the version number in the About window in Firefox is in my way. So if I have a vote (clearly I don't, but let's play What If) -- I say it stays.
Anyone who supports users knows that information like this is pretty important. When users click OK to installation dialogs they never should, you get malware on your LAN. Sure the malware is going to patch whatever it needs to (like version numbers), to fool the user. But removing the version number is something a bad actor does, not a company you're supposed to trust.
Reading the thread, and seeing how the Mozilla people address people in their community makes me want, more than ever, to not be using Firefox. I see it's not just me that they dis, it's pretty much everyone. I think what Firefox needs more than anything is to find a good role for itself in the community. Clearly they're scared of Google. So are many users. There's a natural affinity. But being more of a bully than Google is a good path to marginalization. If I have to choose between bullies, I'll choose the one that isn't changing the rules on users seven years into its product life.
A suggestion that perhaps they might want to ask people who support users about this, not just "UX experts." It's there for support, not necessarily as part of the user experience or to meet Mozilla's competitive objectives.
I've left comments on for this post, but will ruthlessly delete comments that are personal or argumentative. If you question my right to have this opinion, you may state that -- on your own blog. And Mozilla employees should not post in this thread. They always say they're speaking for themselves only even when it's completely obvious that they're speaking for their company. I see their comments as spam and will treat them like I treat all spammers. So don't bother.
I admit, you'd have to have jumped through some pretty ridiculous hoops to get Blork running on your server at this stage. It'll get much easier, I hope (and pretty much expect, but don't want to tempt fate). But I see in my readout that there are probably a handful of folks doing exactly that. Nice to see.
Anyway, if you're one of those hale and hearty souls, you now have a new feature. A very sweet little popup window that does your posting for you. It should be possible to make this much faster, because it's doing so much less than the original UI did (which still works, btw).
I'm reaching closure on a bunch of stuff this summer, very slowly (it is summer after all, and the weather has been spectacularly nice here in the east). I hope to have a new EC2 for Poets soon. And a new easy-to-install River of News, suitable for J-school classes, or even high school. I will offer support to teachers who want to give it a try with their classes. You don't have to be at NYU.
And I have a new identity API coming any day now. It'll be nice to get that finalized and out there.
Anyway, here's the howto for the new Blork bookmarklet.
1. Repub candidate Rick Perry says actions speak louder than words.
2. He also says that political manipulation of the economy is treason.
Let's put 1 and 2 together.
If #2 is true, I know a few Repubs who are on their way to the gallows.
And if the Repubs are serious about #1, then they shouldn't block a stimulus program, a big one, one that's designed to create lots of jobs. The world wants to invest in the US with no interest. We're too damn stupid, net-net, to take the money.
The President can say to the people "I want to throw y'all a lifeline, but these assholes keep trying to stop me." It wouldn't exactly be true, because the President has been acting more like a Republican than a good FDR-style Democrat, which is what we desperately need right now. But better late than never. And our economy really can't wait until 2013 for a stimulus. And if god forbid a Repub gets elected, we'd have to wait until 2017 for a stimulus. Why do I think that might be too late?
And the President probably shouldn't use the word assholes to describe Republicans, but I bet most Americans would agree with the characterization.
Anyway come on Repubs, let the President try to give the economy a big push, and avoid trial for treason. Now, not later. Then if it doesn't work (as you are sure it won't) you can throw a big party at the Repub Nat Conv.
NY Times: "The three candidates now considered to be leading the Republican race -- Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann -- offer a contrast in styles, and their attempts to reach voters with their stump speeches will help to determine whether one of them gets the chance to face President Obama next year."
Why isn't Ron Paul in that list?
I could write a lot more about that, but everyone knows the facts. He and Bachmann were statistically tied in the Ames straw poll. If she's considered a front-runner, so must Ron Paul.
In the past they've pushed him out of the race, but why do they get so many more votes than the rest of us?
Their credibility is really taking a hit here, out in the open for all to see.
BTW, I am not a Ron Paul supporter, though sometimes in the Republican debates I think he's the only one telling the truth. I think he's naive, and hasn't thought through the implications of the policies he advocates. But I think that's far preferrable to a candidate who, as governor of Texas, let an innocent man be executed and who threatens the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and questions the President's patriotism.
If you were to take anyone out of contention, for the love of America, why not Perry. And Bachmann? Oh geez. She's just a hairdo, there's no consistency to anything she says. Same with Romney. These are coin-operated candidates. Strictly actors serving as conduits for money that turns into ads.
Maybe Ron Paul is bad for business in some way? He probably wouldn't have too much patience for the Koch Brothers.
Dear editors of the Times: How about letting the process run its course, and please -- just report the facts, and don't play kingmakers, esp so early in the race.
PS: To Krugman, who just posted an appropriately blistering takedown of Perry's comments, how about applying pressure where it can do some good instead of the usual pissing in the wind. The NYT is complicit. Do you have the guts to take on your editors?
Twitter filled a lot of needs when it came on the scene because it had a simple API, and promised to do something that wasn't just useful to people, it was also important for apps. It was a simple lightweight always-up (theoretically) notification service. One app could listen on a Twitter socket for a message that could be sent by any number of other apps, running anywhere on the net. This idea had so much potential and is one of the reasons Twitter was so attractive to developers.
I think the founders of Twitter had this vision too, but from the other side. My guess is they thought it was a neat idea to have something that was both usable by people and apps to do this one very simple thing.
Along the way Twitter became useful for other simple things, for apps. When I wanted to throw together a simple app and make it usable by other people, rather than create my own identity server, I would just use Twitter's. I'd ask the user for his or her Twitter username and password, and throw it over my shoulder to Twitter, asking if there is such a user with that password. It saved me the trouble of having to ask for a username, manage an account, etc. I knew there was only one user with a given name, because Twitter enforced that rule for me. I also used identi.ca and FriendFeed this way in different apps. Basically, any web service that could authenticate a username and password would do.
I realized, in the last year or so, that I wouldn't be able to continue to use Twitter in this way, for a couple of reasons:
1. The simple indentity service is gone, replaced by something more complex, based on OAuth.
2. Twitter has become more of a managed platform, less of a resource that anyone can use any way they would like.
So, I set out to design a very simple, lightweight identity service. One I could use in my own apps, the way I had been using Twitter.
It didn't take long to design because there's plenty of prior art, and because it doesn't do anything more than validate username and password combinations.
A few weeks ago I had a draft spec with a working implementation. I sent the spec to a small number of distinguished reviewers: Marco Arment, Dries Buytaert, Phillip Greenspun, Andrew Grumet, Joe Hewitt, Joe Moreno, Joel Spolsky, Sandy Wilbourn, Phil WIndley.
I got a whole bunch of ideas and critiques, and implemented many of them, updating the spec accordingly.
I found this way worked a lot better than developing something and then offering it immediately, publicly. Normally I wouldn't get this much feedback and it wouldn't be so thoughtful.
Anyway, this is a heads-up that I will be publishing the spec as a draft in the next few days. But first I want to establish the motivation (that's the purpose of this piece), then explain the philosophy about standards (this is in no way intended to be one) and what prior art influenced me. If other people find this useful, I hope there will be implementations in other languages. And there will need to be ancillary services.
One of the reviewers said he couldn't believe there wasn't already something like this out there. The answer is of course, there was -- it's one of the things Twitter could have been. If I were in their shoes, three or four years ago, I might have stripped the service down to just identity and let a thousand flowers bloom in services built around it. That was certainly one of the possibilities. But they didn't go that way, so the need for an alternate simple lightweight identity service was created.
I've been helping my mother with her blog for the last couple of years.
We set it up on wordpress.com.
Because many of her posts consist of photos, we focused on making it easy to upload pictures. She does that via email, using GMail, because they have a relatively easy way of attaching photos to email messages. And she didn't have to memorize the magic mail address, she just types the name of the blog and GMail figures out what she means.
Now she's doing another project, and needs a presentation editing tool. She's part of a group at Hoftsra University of seniors who are mostly retired from professional, business and academic careers. These are people who, like my mother, are researchers and teachers, and there's no reason to stop just because they're retired.
She was trying to do the slides using PowerPoint on a Windows machine, even though she's more comfortable using her Mac.
She doesn't really understand the ways of the computer, and there are a lot of scary moments when I think she might be doing unsafe things, or gets locked up in weird modes with the computer, even her Mac. The simpler and more direct each step of the process is, the higher the likelihood of success.
Today when I visited it was clear that her Windows machine is now completely infested with viruses. I totally recognize the problems from past experience, screen shot, but am also completely unequipped (and unwilling) to deal with them. I've been here. It's time to get her off Windows. When I left I took the Windows machine with me. I wanted it out of her house and off her LAN. Who knows what kinds of malware got into her house that way. Hopefully all of it left with me today.
I suggested she use Google Docs for the presentation. They have a very simple version of PowerPoint. The simplicity of this software was an eye-opener for her. She asked if we could drop a picture of a flower on one of the slides. I said I didn't know, let's find out. It was very easy! In fact everything we tried was easy.
And something clicked for her that never had before. That there's a method to the madness of computers. That there are some things that work the same across-the-board. This clicked on when I showed her that she could view thumbs of pictures directly in the file-selecting dialog. This was something that didn't work in Windows but works in the Mac. This took a huge amount of complexity out of uploading pictures. Not to be underestimated, when the whole process is too much for you to comprehend.
Key point: If you wrote down the steps it took to do these tasks in both Google Docs and WordPress, you'd see that Google Docs is technically fewer steps to do the same thing. That's how you achieve simplicity in software.
There are a couple of take-aways from this:
1. WordPress is too complex for what it does.
2. And while Google's presentation tool is very nice, it's very limited on where input can come from and where output can flow to. Not a problem, given that it's task-oriented, and more options would make it more complex. But there needs to be browser-based blogging software that can also do presentations. There's an area of utility that is not currently being addressed that would be very powerful. And the power would be multiplied with the ability to customize the flows.
That's the 50,000 foot view of things. Dropping down to a more pragmatic level, I would love to use a browser-based presentation app that can take OPML input, preferably dynamic, so if I make a change to the outline, the presenation changes, without having to re-import. Then we would have something very nice. I know, because I used to use an app that did exactly that. And as far as I can tell, there is nothing like it in the current environment.
Hopefully this is the beginning of an interesting discussion!
I've been playing Angry Birds on Google-Plus for the last couple of days.
What makes me angry is that there are all these new scenarios that I can't get into until my friends are playing Angry Birds. Or until I hook up with people who are playing Angry Birds.
Oy. They have turned me into a hamster for them.
Help me out if you're on Google-Plus. Befriend me and/or play Angry Birds.
Took advantage of the car holiday in Manhattan today and did a longer ride:
1. Down Lafayette to the Brooklyn Bridge.
2. Up Lafayette to 4th Ave to Park Ave.
3. Left on 72nd St.
4. Loop around through Central Park.
5. East on 59th St.
6. South on Park Ave.
All-told it was 15.14 miles, 1 hour 22 minutes.
Passed by the Apple Store on 5th Ave. It's in a box. Weird.
At its core it's TwitterFeed, but it tries to be more general, with the concept of "routes" and the beginnings of a powerful configuration system.
I find it interesting because I was working on such an idea a few years back with Betaworks for a product called Switch-A-Bit, that was much more ambitious. However, we couldn't get something that was comprehensible. I came away from it thinking that ultimately what you want here is a programming language, and all attempts to find a balance betw an interactive interface would eventually lead back to programming.
BTW, bit.ly got its name from Switch-A-Bit.
Also interesting to note that bit.ly and TwitterFeed just merged. Good idea. Feeds and URL-shorteners belong together.
All these services need to support rssCloud, imho. I know they've nuzzled up to Google by supporting PubSubHubBub, but please support RSS too. I'm sure you will.
Sooner the better.
Also, if the developers of dlvr.it are around, I'd be interested in knowing where you're taking it.
I have three RSS feeds that I update as often as I update Twitter that are suitable for flowing through your web app.
They support rssCloud so the updates are available instantaneously.
I'm not asking you to support "standards" -- I think that's a shortcut we don't need to take. The incentive is that I'm putting out a fair amount of good stuff, imho, and I'm making tools that others will be able to use, so there's a cow path to be paved here that leads somewhere good. Plus if you support it, you almost certainly get me on board as an evangelist.
I thought I should make my proposition explicit.
And of course the prop is open to Twitter as well. I've made it before, but the door remains open.
For three Saturdays in August the city closes Park Avenue and connecting streets from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park and opens them to bikers, walkers and runners. Here's the map.
I did it two times last August and it was great! Gives you an idea of what the city might be like if we created places to ride without having to deal with cars.
Tomorrow is one of those Saturdays. And the weather is forecast to be spectacularly nice. Not too hot, and clear. I'll be out on my bike. I'll be the nerd in the silver helmet. If you see me, say hello!
Today's ride: 1 hour 7 minutes, 11.5 miles.
We're trying to trim the budget, so we have to ask the question -- why are we at war in Afghanistan?
When we started the two wars in the last decade, the government played a little trick to get us not to think about it. They cut taxes, which is usually unthinkable in time of war. And there was no draft, so no one died who didn't volunteer to risk their life.
On top of that, through 2007, we had a housing boom. So not only did we pay lower taxes, and our kids didn't have to die, we also gorged on huge windfalls as our homes fed massive consumerism.
All that, except the draft, is gone. And many of us have bills to pay for all the crap we bought.
So we have to ask, again, why?
I'm not assuming there is no answer, but I am assuming I have the right to ask it, and as a voter, should expect some kind of answer that's not insulting.
I haven't been watching TV the last few days. Listening to them mangle what's going on and not going on is too hard to bear.
It's too much to expect the talking heads on TV to tell it straight, or even understand it. Or as this Salon columnist guesses, they pretend not to understand, in ways a sports reporter would never get away with.
Anyway -- why the riots?
Seems to me the young folk figured out that law and order is a mass trance. If you choose not to buy into it you get crushed. But if you can get a few thousand others to go along with you, you can break through.
If the young people of Egypt can figure out how to overthrow their government, why can't the young people of London?
Big change was brought about in the 60s and 70s by people going to the streets, and it looks like it's happening again. How and when will it happen in the US and how many people will die?
Lots of interesting stuff to think about.
PS: I added some more ideas to my request list for Heello. It occurred to me that this might be a good time to really solidify federation techniques. Let's hope the Internet stays up for at least as long as it'll take to get this stuff working.
A new service launched today called Heello that appears to be challenging Twitter, and damn it's a good thing to see.
I've signed up there as davewiner, my handle as on Twitter.
Now here's a todo list for the guys doing this software:
1. RSS in and out.
2. Relax the 140-char limit.
4. Really simple authentication, let's pop the stack back from OAuth. Make it really easy to build apps.
5. Optional titles on tweets on a per-tweet basis (makes RSS work better).
6. HTML templates, not just bitmaps.
7. The link shouldn't be part of the tweet, make it metadata, like the date and location, etc.
None of these are requirements, just obvious ways for it to work better for more users.
Update: I made another feature request. support rssCloud both ways, then it will hook into my Blork net. Really simple low-tech federations. Small pieces loosely joined, but totally realtime.
It took a little digging to find out that he died on July 17 in a private plane crash in Oregon.
Nirakar was an exacting man, a perfectionist who turned into a joyous little kid when he was flying. It was his single biggest passion. And he was in a perfect place for soaring, in the inner range near Calistoga.
I imagine that he wouldn't have wanted to go out any other way. Unfortunately I'm not going to get to ask him, in this life.
According to the Harbin website, there will be a memorial for him there this Friday.
A photo of the plane, after the crash.
KDRV: "Witnesses also say the plane was doing aerobatic stunts shortly before the crash."
First a couple of disclaimers:
1. The only stock I own is AAPL and I'm holding that long-term.
2. I wanted to short the S&P 500 the week before it crashed, but couldn't find the right ETF to buy. Too bad. I would have made a killing.
3. Unfortunately, there's no reward for having been right and not putting down a bet.
That said, I got so used to thinking about the looming post-default calamity, that something as ordinary as a stock market crash really doesn't effect me very much. We've been through this before.
Put another way, when the market was running up over the last couple of years I was wondering what euphoria-inducing drug the traders had discovered. Nothing had changed in the economy since the crash of 2008. It was anyone's guess when the bottom would drop out. This drop is our Wile E. Coyote moment. You know when he runs off the cliff and keeps going until he stops and looks down and realizes he's standing on thin air. Ooops.
It's the reason the market is crashing is what we ought to be concerned with. For that, Wall St just has to look in the mirror. They're living the moral hazard created by the 2008 bailout. They've rebuilt even bigger than too-big-to-fail. Maybe they've realized that? If not now, when?
Put another way, it's nice to realize that the US Treasury is still considered the safest place to store value, even after the Hostage Crisis. It's as if the market was bullish on Tehran futures after the Ayatollah came back to take over from the Shah. (Not that the Ayatollah was better than the Shah, but he was somewhat different.)
I finally understand what Krugman's liquidity trap is. I think. It's called deflation. When the dollar is worth more tomorrow than it was yesterday, there's no reason to invest. Just hold the currency and my money increases in value. However, because I'm not buying anything, that causes more deflation, which in turn increases my incentive to do nothing. The only way to get out of this loop is for someone to unilaterally decide to make something with their money, even if it's going to end up losing them value. I guess Krugman is saying that's the government. (Make more bike trails, subways, anything that improves energy-efficiency and makes us healthier so we don't consume so much super-expensive health care.)
One thing I wish Krugman would do is get out of complaining mode. We get it. The government economists are not doing a good job. Obama is a cynic. He probably realizes he should be stimulating the economy, but can't do it and get re-elected. Or so he thinks. It might be the only thing he can do to get re-elected. However, it would be great if Krugman could talk to us, his loyal readers, who believe what he says (ymmv) and tell us what we can do to help. There's got to be something. Yes?
I find myself conflicted over the Republican field. I think it's obvious that Huntsman would make the best President of all of them. Should I root for him, or even support him, knowing that practically speaking he's going to have to pander to the crazies to get the nomination? Wouldn't it be cool if the Repubs would nominate him and let him keep his sanity?
Sometimes I think the Republicans should all be issued a copy of SimCity so they can learn a bit about macro-economics. They still seem to think an economy of 6 billion people should be run like a bodega in the Bronx. It's a bit more complicated than that.
I think Obama has been pretty close to a disaster. Yes, I supported him with all I had. It seems every President I've supported has turned out this way. Maybe I should vote for whoever I think would make the worse President.
I would vote for FDR in a moment. We really do need a New Deal. Seriously. And we need a President who, when he isn't getting his way, packs the Supreme Court with more friendly judges. In other words, our current President is too damned polite and hopes too much. We need someone who is a bit more ruthless. A get-the-job-done kind of guy, not someone who says "Well I was the only adult in the room." That may score you points with your mom and dad, but look where it gets you in US politics. Not a very good place, I think.
I watched Kudlow a few afternoons just to get an idea how "capitalists" think. Was really heartened at first. Hey these guys are smart. But then they started calling Obama a socialist. Hey these guys are fucking idiots. He's the best friend they ever had. God help them if we elect a real liberal. Or one of the crazies they secretly seem to hope for. Whew.
Can London-style rioting start up in NYC. I really worry about this. New York has become a very civilized place. The places you couldn't go when I was growing up here are now perfectly safe. I'd love to hold on to that. But as London has shown, the line holding back the uncivilized element is pretty thin. There must be people in our midst here in NY who would be happy to loot and kill if given the opportunity. Or maybe not? If not, why not? I sure don't know.
America was founded as, what we hoped would be, a classless society. Remember what we revolted against. I'm afraid the rich have gotten really insulated, and truly don't care how the rest of America gets on. They really should care, as humans -- but if not for that reason, for the very pragmatic reason that order is their friend.
As Chico Escuela used to say: Baseball been berry berry good to me!
Two product ideas and a movie review in 11 minutes.
1. Movie: Rise of Planet of the Apes.
2. Product: Headphones in movie theaters.
3. Product: Disqus-like letters-to-the-editor web service.
In 2008 we had a chance to reform the political system and put back in place the post-Depression controls that were taken off by mostly Republican administrations. We didn't do any of that. Instead we doubled-down, and built up another insane bubble. And it sure feels like it's popping right now.
As pointed out so well in this Telegraph piece, unlike 2008, we don't have the tools to bail out the banks this time. Interest rates are already at zero. The governments don't have the means to inject money, and China is not in a position to help out.
And of course the US has gone completely insane.
If it's true and we're about to do 2008 again, there's no doubt we deserve it.
Another curiosity, pointed out today by Fareed Zakaria. You can get to 40 percent of the votes in the Senate with 10 percent of the population, due to the way Senate seats are allocated. That means that virtually empty states like Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Alaska, the Dakotas, etc have unbelievable levers to pull, not just on the US, but on the world. They can stop anything from happening.
I finally listened to the This American Life on software patents. Now I understand what Nathan Myhrvold is doing,
It's very similar to what John Boehner did to the US economy, only Myhrvoid is doing it in tech.
Also Myrvold has raised $5 billion and has only made $2 billion so far in settlements and judgements. His VCs no doubt expect a 10x return or greater. You can do the math. He's got to extract at least another $48 billion. He's just getting started. That ultimately has to chill the investment environment in tech.
Here's a list of his investors.
BTW, I said during the hostage crisis, that either Boehner loses or the United States loses. As it turns out, he didn't lose. We lost as did the creditors of the United States. The ones who bought our AAA debt and ended up with AA+ debt. And who knows where it's headed from here.
It's a good argument whether we should care what S&P says after what we learned about them in the subprime meltdown of 2008. But the truth is we downgraded our own debt. It doesn't take much imagination to see how a creditor of the US would feel. We just debated whether we would deliberately default.
I know how my creditors at Living Videotext would have reacted if they knew we were doing that (we never did). Quite a few times we had trouble paying our bills, but we worked with creditors and always let them know where they stood. We never considered not paying our bills when we had the means to.
That's what's so fucked up about what the US govt did (net-net, doesn't matter who's to blame). We openly debated whether we were going to stiff our creditors, when we had the means not to. That's a real confidence buster. We're super-lucky we don't have any competition in the reserve currency business, or we'd be melting down now, even given that we supposedly averted the default.
We're like a football team that has the ball and runs in the wrong direction, into our own endzone.
Anyway, when it comes to blame there's no doubt who is to blame. Boehner could have taken one for Uncle Sam. He would have lost his job as Speaker, that's pretty clear, but there were enough Democratic and Republican votes to pass the debt ceiling without any of the monkey business.
Just as Nathan Myhrvold is already worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and in no way needs the money he's going to make from his patent protection business.
I try not to make moral arguments, but in the case of Myrvold and Boehner, you can't avoid it.
These guys are so perfectly evil and on such a huge scale, it's as if they were out of a DC Comic. Like Lex Luthor or The Joker.
Where is our Man of Steel?
PS: Thanks to Chris Sacca for having the guts to talk with TAL. He was the only one from Silicon Valley who did.
Today's ride took a dramatically different route in a different state.
This morning I loaded the bike in the (newly NY-registered) car and headed out of Manhattan.
Click the map link to see where I rode. It's pretty radically different from NYC.
Map: 30 minutes, 4.85 miles.
I watched Al Gore for the second night in a row on Keith Olbermann's show.
Both of them say online systems are the answer, but they're not sure how. Trust me, online systems are not the answer.
At best they can be used to keep people who want to be informed better informed. Yes, that's important and we should make a big investment in making this work better, and it should not be done by Silicon Valley tech companies (or NY tech companies) because they will behave just like the corporations they are. And we know corporations are the problem (as Gore said tonight). But that's not the point.
The problem we have can't be solved by online systems.
Here's the problem.
1. Elections have consequences.
2. The voters who elected the Tea Party folk (and probably a lot of others) don't seem to understand this.
3. They vote for candidates as if elections are a reality show. American Idol. Who ever sings the best or makes the other guy look more stupid, that's who they vote for.
Dear Mr Olbermann and Mr Gore, here is the core of the problem.
This isn't a reality show, as both of you understand so well.
This is reality.
And today, it almost became very real.
Very very real.
A friend of mine, Nicco Mele, a father of two young boys and one of the people you should talk with if you want to know what's possible on the Internet, said he thought maybe it wasn't such a bad idea if we default, when I asked him about it a couple of weeks ago. I didn't agree then, because I'm very conservative about things like the US defaulting. But now that we've been through this, and I've connected some dots for myself that I hadn't connected before, I think he may have had a point.
Today the Fat Lady almost sang for the US. She was just off-stage. All dressed up and ready to go. At the last minute they called her back. One of these days she's going to come out and sing. That's what's so freaky.
Fact is, most of the people who voted for those Tea Party degenerates come from poor Southern rural states, and I bet the people who voted for them are either barely middle class, or former middle class, or close to being former middle class. In other words exactly the people who will hurt the most from the Tea Party shenanigans. Maybe it would have been best if they suffered the shock of poverty, the despair of the bottom fully dropping out of their lives, to learn that their vote isn't a joke and isn't a message. That if they make a mistake about voting, they will not just make a bunch of liberals angry (so says their idol, Rush Limbaugh) they will destroy their own lives. Somehow they have to make a connection between who they vote for and their continued existence. No matter how bad it's become for them, and I believe it's very bad, it's going to get a lot worse if we don't turn back now and get ourselves running a real country instead of a reality show country.
In any case, forget about the Internet, Mr Gore. Think about how you can paint a picture for those people that they will see, that they will understand that will make sense to them. This is the challenge.
If the Internet plays a role in that, great. We can do anything on the Internet. But I suspect it's going to just be a tool, at best. It is not itself an answer.
BTW, one thing I'd come up with, right off the bat, are some new pledges for candidates. Like I pledge to not raise taxes on the middle-class. Or I pledge not to cut Medicare. Or I pledge to reform taxes so the richest people pay their share. And I'd get off TV and get busy in the back rooms Mr Gore, twisting those arms and getting those sigs. And then give them the money they need to kick some tea party butt.
I seem to be writing my epitaph today.
Hope this isn't foreboding something bad.
I used to say (and still do) that the headstone on my grave should say "He's not diggin anymore."
That was kind of a joke, as all good headstone lines should be.
But then I thought, maybe when my time is up, they'll have multimedia headstones!
In that case, please use the closing scene from Dr Strangelove.
People introduce me as the "inventor" of RSS, but that's not correct.
I am a software developer. Many years ago I realized that computers are primarily useful as communication tools. That's what I've devoted my career to. Making great communication tools with computers.
So that meant I worked on a lot of things, including RSS.
But I don't only develop the software, I bring it to people. To me software is a performing art. It's not like a painting that sits on the wall, it's more like a building, or a train station. If you're really good at software, you end up making a train station that a lot of people use. That's what success means to me. It's never been about making more money, although I've made enough money to be independent. But when I was a grad student I had that kind of money too. You can be independent by keeping your needs modest. I've learned that traveling light is more pleasant than putting down deep roots. I like to move around.
The software I've created: outliners, a scripting environment, content management systems, blogging tools, RSS aggregators, podcasting. Those are the major areas. I'd say my work in blogging, RSS and podcasting was seminal -- in that it created more than products, it created human activities. I'm better at that than I am at making products that everyone uses. Probably because I don't patent, and I'm very open about my development process.
I also just make tools for myself. I'm a web writer, so I have great web writing tools. I love to read news, so I have the best news reading software. I not only write and do an occasional podcast, but I have a dream of organizing huge structures of human-created and curated information. That's my current project, which I call the World Outline.
I didn't invent RSS. I don't believe in invention. But I did work hard, and smart and had great timing, and made the right connections to be the person who brought RSS into existence as a human activity. And for that, I'm extremely proud.
I think of myself as a media hacker.
I guess if you only have five words for a bio, "guy who gave us RSS" is okay. I think blogging was bigger, and RSS is part of blogging. I really did start blogging, from a software standpoint, and that's not chopped liver. (Although most of the people who write about this stuff aren't software developers, so they seem to take it for granted it was always there. It wasn't, it was a synthesis and required belief. Most people thought content management had to be hard. I absolutely did not think it had to be any harder than word processing. But people thought that was weird.)
BTW, the President is wrong about patents. They don't help inventors.
PS: XML-RPC seems to be largely forgotten, but I think it's very cool, and when I build internal systems I always use it because it's deeply integrated in my programming environment. They really are remote procedure calls, no serializing or deserializing. That's all automatic. Even so it's my #2 site, after Scripting News. A bunch of other people still use it, obviously. The vision was to use the net as a web of applications. That of course has happened.
PPS: Favorite movies (off the top of my head, in no special order): Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, The Departed, The Godfather, Chinatown, Casablanca, Beetlejuice, The Matrix, Dr Strangelove.
PPPS: I also ride a bike, almost every day. Like today! Map. 1 hour 7 minutes. 11.62 miles.
Putin said yesterday that the United States is a parasite on the global economy.
Let me translate that for you.
Putin: The oligarchs who tell me what to say told me to say that the oligarchs who tell Obama what to say are parasites on the global economy.
You may now return to watching CNN.
People who don't know me, and what I've spent my career doing, will think I'm some kind of Luddite, but of course I'm anything but that.
I love the Internet, both because I remember its promise in the early days, and because today I'm as addicted to it as anyone is.
It's true that the Internet had the ability to subvert power structures, but that was before the power structures embraced the Internet, and learned how to control it. We're now, unfortunately, on the other side of that hump.
People point to the revolutions of the Arab Spring and the role that the Internet played in helping organize the protests.
1. That was then. Whatever power there was in organizing via Internet, is now fully understood by your adversaries. They have defenses in place to keep the Internet from toppling them. And in some cases, they are using the Internet to disorganize the organizers. How do I know? Because they can. And I've read history. And the consultants they hire are every bit as smart as I am, probably in some cases, quite a bit smarter.
2. The biggest mistake they made in Egypt was to turn the Internet off. When they did, people had no choice but to get out of their homes, and onto the street. They could no longer find out what was "going on" simply by staying at home. Which is exactly where the government wants them if their goal is to keep a revolution supressed.
So if you want to create change, in 2011 and beyond, at least some of your time is going to have to be spent off the grid. Then your conversations can't be recorded and preserved and used against you in a court of law. Either that, or do it all out in the open, so everyone knows that they're being watched, so there is no illusion of privacy.
I'm not telling you to turn the Internet off. God knows I haven't been able to do that myself. But also don't delude yourself into thinking that tweeting and facebooking are revolutionary acts. They're about as revolutionary as watching CNN.
Something striking about an interview with Mitch McConnell yesterday.
He said the President had to sign off on whatever they came up with. He's the only one who can sign a bill into law, he said -- paraphrasing.
Obviously true. But striking because it's the first time since the campaign that I've heard a Republican say anything even slightly respectful of the President of the United States.
The last time was when McCain corrected a woman at a town hall who said that the President, who was then just a candidate, was a Arab. McCain said no. He's a good man, and you can't say stuff like that about him. (Of course his Republican running mate, someone he chose, was where the idea came from.)
Other than that, nothing but disrespect.
One thing we teach children is that if you want respect you must give it. And when talking about the President of this country, no matter how you feel about him or her personally, he or she is still the President. And if you don't get that, you don't even get to first base with me.
It's not just because the President is black that they show such disrespect, although I think that's a big part of it. I think the Republicans have become the party of racism, although it certainly wasn't always that way. They were similarly disrespectful of President Clinton. But he actually dis'd the office himself, so it's hard to say they were very wrong in that.
I think the basic problem with the Repubs is a lack of respect for the United States. How else could they hijack the democratic process the way they did to thwart the will of the people. We elected a Democratic Senate and a Democratic President. That wasn't a casual act, some kind of accident. It was largely a reaction to how the Republicans trashed our country. They still haven't gotten the message.
We didn't ask for the policies they forced on us. They took advantage of the fact that the Democrats actually care about the country enough not to let it go down the tubes. If the Democrats were as utterly devoid of love-of-country as they are, we'd be getting ready to default now. That's why we elected Democrats, because Republicans do things like what they did to us in the last month.
And of course it's not clear that we won't default anyway. The House Repubs don't follow their leaders, and if I were a Democratic congressperson, I'm not at all sure I'd vote for the "compromise" -- which really wasn't a compromise at all. Because that's where the betrayal of the democratic process hits the pavement, where the rubber hits the road. When a Democratic rep, who represents people who want jobs and want a strong economy, votes against those things, that's where we've gone astray.
It would hurt me a lot, personally, financially, to have the country default. But I'm not sure, at this point, that I would mind so much. Because I hate the idea of my country being pushed around this way.
And no, I'm not a liberal, and I'm not a Democrat. I voted for Reagan, and voted against Clinton both times, and for Bush II in 2000. I also voted for Kerry and for Obama because I woke up to the sickness that is the Republican Party.
The Republicans would like it to be simple, but it's not. It's not Liberals vs Conservatives. It's you vs the United States, as far as I'm concerned. And if this is what they do to the country when they're in a weak minority position, god help us if they get control of the Senate and the Presidency.
PS: My vote of confidence in David Frum continues to be justified. Read this piece for an idea of what a Republican who loves America would say about what just happened.
PPS: On the other hand. This makes me want to vomit.