Dave Winer, 56, is a software developer 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 and NYU, 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.
scriptingnews2mail at gmail dot com.
My 40 most-recent links, ranked by number of clicks.
FYI: You're soaking in it. :-)
When I saw the new Readlists feature from Arc90, the company that makes Readability, my first reaction was if they had a feed for each list, it would be a linkblogging service with a very nice benefit -- all the articles it linked to would be very nicely readable.
Well, it turns out they do provide a feed. If you just add /feed at the end of any readlist URL, you'll get a nice RSS 2.0 feed.
Here's my Readlist page.
And here's the feed.
I've started by adding some of my more recent articles that I think are worth a read.
A little feedback for the developers. I got confused making this readlist, thinking I was adding items to my list when I accessed the Chrome plug-in and chose Read It Later from the menu. They really need a bookmarklet for this feature. Copy/pasting URLs is way too slow.
Another source of confusion. What's the difference between a reading list and a readlist. Maybe they should be the same thing?
To test it out I've subscribed to this feed in my personal river. Let's see if the items show up there.
Good news and bad news.
1. The item showed up in the river.
2. But it linked to the non-readable version of the article.
So, as much as I'm a fan of Arc90, the feed seems to miss the point.
First, a disclaimer -- I was involved in the startup of Bitly, a few years back.
And a brief history. It was wildly popular right out of the gate. A much-needed product that did something simple reasonably well. The URLs could have been shorter, which was the point of the service. But it was fast, had a nice interface, stayed up even when Twitter didn't, and added some nice but optional features that could be ignored if you weren't interested.
Based on what I see in their new product release it looks like they're taking a step toward competing with Twitter. But they didn't do it in an easy to use way. And the new product is not well user-tested. It looks like they barely used it themselves before turning it on for all the users. Oy. Not a good way to pivot.
Here's some free advice, what I would do if I were them.
1. Immediately restore the old interface, exactly as it was before the transition.
2. Concurrently, issue a roadmap that goes as follows, so everyone knows where this thing is going.
3. Take a few weeks to incorporate the huge amount of feedback they've gotten and streamline the new UI.
4. Instead of launching it at bitly.com, launch it at newbetaworksserver.com. Borthwick is really good at coming up with names. Come up with a new one. Not in any way related to the name Bitly. Now people can try it out, knowing that it has Bitly goodness at the core, but in no way does it interfere with people's enjoyment of the original simple, fast and proven product.
5. Once all the glitches are out, and there will be glitches, put a little box on every page on the Bitly site that in a nice simple way promotes the new service. "Here's something cool that we thought you might be interested in."
6. Never merge the two. Just create a new product. That's the biggest piece of feedback you're hearing. People liked Bitly. Why screw around with that! It's hard to create such a widely-used long-lived product that people like.
Hope this helps.
Maybe the best dialog in any movie is in Chinatown when the character played by Faye Dunaway explains the relationship between herself and her daughter to the character played by Jack Nicholson. I'm not going to spoil it in case you haven't seen the movie, but if you have, you know what I'm talking about.
That's why I feel, at the same time, that there are:
1. Too many places to post and
2. Not enough places to post.
Let me explain.
First, about not enough places.
Suppose I have an idea that's very concise but not so concise that it can easily fit into 140 characters, without sacrificing clarity or being widely misunderstood. Sure I can put a link in it, but very few people will read the piece. Just the other day, a smart guy, Angus Davis, gave me grief on Twitter based on not having read the piece I was linking to, and thinking that the teaser was my main point. Well, the main point could never have fit in 140 characters and stood any chance of being understood.
So for that, something between 140 characters and the length of the post was probably ideal.
But then there are too many places.
That's why Google doesn't want to put a posting API on Google-Plus. They're afraid, presumably, that it will just become a dumping ground for tweets posted elsewhere. Thereby creating a problem of dilution for discourse on the Internet. Assuming the best intentions for Google, really, a post should live in just one place. From that one place you should be able to find all related content. Replicating this stuff without a protocol is not very loving of the Internet.
I do have various solutions to this.
I want to unify all the different ways I post stuff. And I'm getting pretty close to that. I still have a blog for long-form stuff. No comments there. Then I have a threads site that's for one-paragraph ideas that invite discussion. There's no limit on the length, but I keep them short, in a self-imposed way. I want people to get to know what a "thread" is in my world, and feel like they're not diving into a longform blog post when they go there.
But how to embed these ideas in other sites, where they legitimately belong, without violating the one-place-for-every-post rule? Well, there's an answer to that too.
I'm going to keep beating the drum on this. Maybe no one else will support the protocol, but then it will form a marketing platform for my software, which will be open through it. Open vs closed. That means that eventually competitors will support it. That's how these things work.
Henry Blodget who writes a provocative investment column for Business Insider, says if Facebook announces a phone you would be wise to dump the stock. He lists seven reasons, which make assumptions about what the product is, and overlook the big advantage Facebook has, it's huge base of users.
He assumes their starting point is a smartphone, but I suspect that's not it. My guess is that Facebook is making a camera. Because that's really what it's about, photos and videos. And that's a much more wide-open, and still largely untapped market. A social camera, as I've been saying since 2007, would be a fantastic even revolutionary product. I don't doubt that the guys at Facebook see this too. And if they see it, how could they not be making it.
It's also possible that Facebook is working with camera-makers like Canon, Nikon and Panasonic. Or possibly even Microsoft. Facebook might just be the brand and the system software, and may, as Microsoft did with Windows, spread the hardware risk among its OEMs. Of course that might not be the best strategy, because the OEMs inevitably need to differentiate, and that means less control for the system software vendor. But it could be very profitable.
Also, this makes the Instagram acquisition look smart. They don't want to leave a big piece around for one of their competitors to buy. Corner the market that you think you see before others do. Get a better price than you otherwise would, once your strategy is public.
Blodget says Facebook has no experience with hardware. But Facebook is, in addition to a software developer, a huge hardware maker. In fact their software isn't all that special. What is amazing is the physical plant that runs all that software. A couple of generations ago you could say that a big software company had no experience in hardware, and maybe with the advent of clouds like Amazon and their competitors, it could soon be that way again -- but today, to be a net presence like Facebook means building and operating a lot of hardware.
But if they chose to manufacture mobile devices, whether they're focused on talking and writing (unlikely) or photos and videos, they'd hit all kinds of problems they're unfamilar with. In that way Blodget is right. But if they don't evolve, they're not going to thrive. So I wouldn't be so quick to dump the stock. One reason to be happy to own the stock is that, unless they give the device away, for the first time Facebook will be charging for a product. If that works, if Facebook users are willing to put down real dollars to get the latest stuff from Menlo Park, then buy that stock. And buy more.
Jay Rosen talks about the idea of explainers.
People say they use Wikipedia as the source of explainers. I realize I do too. Now the question is this -- is Wikipedia the best we can do? Because what it does is necessary.
For example, in my previous piece, I wanted to link to an explainer about woodwinds. If there was a good one, I wouldn't have to say anything more, which as a writer I appreciate. As a reader I appreciate it too. The link is much better than a one or two sentence inline summary. Maybe I'll find the topic very interesting and want to explore it in more than a passing way. So a link to a good explainer is a great deal. Esp if it presents the information in a tiered way. First the two-sentence explainer. Then a little deeper. Then finally full depth.
When I saw the Wikipedia page on woodwinds, I thought to myself that we can do much better than this.
The most important thing about woodwinds, imho, that you need to say right up front in a clear and visual way, is there are two families of woodwinds, flutes and reed instruments. That way if you know your instruments but not the classes, you've got everything you absolutely need to know what the term means. At least that's what I was looking for from the explainer.
I would like to see that communicated both in words and in an illustration with pictures of all the instruments, in a format that could be clipped and pasted into my story (with a link back to the article of course).
The value of Wikipedia is they've got an editorial system that millions of people use, and a process that gets some remarkably good reference information in one place where you need it. But the presentation lacks something, and honestly, their vetting process lets some pretty egregious stuff through. And unless you're committed to constant online bickering, you can't easily add your knowledge to the base.
Wikipedia is good for where we are now. But it isn't as good as we can do.
I've heard a lot of the insiders in Silicon Valley say everything is mobile now. But what does that mean?
The protocol of mobile is LTE and GSM and whatever. I don't know them all because it's not my world.
The protocol of not-mobile is wifi and ethernet.
It all runs over TCP to connect between nodes.
So we're good on that count. There is no wall separating mobile and not-mobile. Except for screen size and no-keyboard, you could just as easily be coming from a desktop PC.
And screen size isn't really a differentiator so much. I use an iPad more since I sprung for the LTE version. If I have a choice between using a map on the iPad or my Android phone, there's no choice. And the Internet access is faster on the iPad.
Also, I think wifi is going to get stronger and more pervasive, and that's great. Because, by accident, we have a worldwide communication standard with complete interop. Your wifi devices work everywhere. How the heck did that happen!
So, I want to know, is my iPad even a mobile device?
Think about this. I'm typing this at my desk on a huge screen iMac with a second huge screen right next to it. On the nightstand is an iPad charging up. How do they get to the Internet? The same way -- wifi. Not really that much difference. Yet one is supposed to be mobile, and the other isn't. Is that an important distinction? Not so sure.
I've lately discovered the voice recognition system on Android and the iPhone. They're fairly good. You rapidly speak your message, then go back over it and correct the big errors and send it. I've found that a lot of people I communicate with weren't aware that the iPad had this capability. And that helps make up for the hard-to-use virtual keypad.
I'd say we're getting close to an equilibrium here. I would start designing systems for people who have both a phone and an iPad-size device. An app like Cylemeter is perfect for iPhone. It wouldn't add anything to put it on an iPad, except a lot of bulk, which is something I don't need when I'm cycling. Yet I love to have an accurate readout of my daily ride, to compare with rides of previous weeks. I also use the iPhone for music. But maps -- that's all iPad.
So I think we're looking at a scale of devices. In an orchestra you have picolos, flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoons. They're all woodwinds, played in similar ways, and produce similar sounds. But you use them differently.
Finally, the way you think about this is about to bend. When Apple releases their next TV product, they're going to ask you to look at that space differently. Some people are already using a prototype, AirPlay. But that's not a mobile place. The screen is huge, too heavy for most people to lift, much less put in your pocket. But the kinds of visual ideas it can present blow away any device you have now. So as soon as that happens, no one will be saying "it's all mobile."
The correct answer is there are contexts to network use, and software should not just be aware of it, but be clever about it.
This protocol could be implemented by services like Quora, Disqus, Livefyre, Wordpress, Stack Overflow or Drupal. I originally wrote it up as an idea for Quora, but realized it should be made more general.
1. Let's create a very simple document-oriented API with pub-sub. I use OPML for this purpose, but would be willing to support other formats if others want to. You like JSON, okay no problem.
2. People can use your web interface to create and edit public documents, with a twist. Users can also provide the URL of a document, and you provide me with an endpoint that I can ping when it updates.
3. Also support the flipside of the protocol as well. Provide a URL for the document, and are willing to ping a subscriber when it updates.
5. This is recursive. Documents can contain other documents each of which supports this protocol.
This allows the content to be stored where ever the author wants to store it, but for readers of your site, there's no difference. This would be the beginning of the bootstrap of a document-oriented Internet. No one captures or controls anyone's content. You don't have to export documents, because they never were imported. There are a lot of places we can go from here.
Another way of thinking of it -- a peering protocol at a much higher level than any existing peering protocol. Directly tied into the user interfaces of editorial tools. There would be an explosion of creativity among authors and developers. It's as big an idea as linking was when the web was introduced.
This really isn't speculative. We've been using the UI for this approach to editing for the web since the late 90s. I'm doing my third iteration fo it now. You just enable the feature if the user has an editor that can serve contant at 127.0.0.1. That's how you display the Post In Editor button. The editor can fully handle the conversation with the server. No spectulative technology here.
I'm just about to implement this myself in my new publishing software, so it would be a really good time to collaborate.
Sometimes you have to get out of town to gain a perspective on the place you live. When you visit a tech scene in another country, it helps you see where you come from. In my case, the United States of America.
For sure, tech still emanates from the US. I don't see any other country or culture ready to lead us in any direction that isn't coming from the USA. If there is such a place (please read my whole post before saying so) I'd like to know where it is.
Is New York tech different from California tech? There might be some slight differences, but you could take a tech conference from California, plop it down in NYC, and not only would the same ideas be discussed, from the same perspective, but most of the people would be the same. The APIs are corporate APIs, the CMSes are silos, the business model is hamsters generating less money with each turn of the wheel.
I'm still looking for a home that wants to begin at at different place. That we accept competition, embrace it, as a way to keep us on our toes, and to keep the flow of ideas strong. To keep Moore's Law thriving not just in hardware, but in software, networking, humanity. Instead we've got a culture that divides us up into smaller and smaller tranches, and sells us to Wall Street, for our ability to read ads, not our ability to solve problems. My point of view is this -- I make tools for people who are really smart and motivated. I make the tools then I get out of the way and I learn from them, learn how to make those tools better, and learn which new ones need to be made. I get paid a fraction of the money my customers make using my tools. This incentivizes me to make more. My customers are Nobel Laureates. They cure diseases. Solve crises. Lead our culture. They are anything but hamsters.
New York and California tech interfere with that process. Their model is still hopelessly rooted in the 20th century industrial model, of media and entertainment. Elite inventors, stars, personalities with millions of followers and passive consumers clicking on Like buttons. Very little crossover (though there is some, like Kickstarter).
Evan Williams and Biz Stone get a lot of stock, but the users who were there at the beginning get bupkis. Zuckerberg and Moskovitz, Palmer and Savarin, they become billionaires, the users aren't even goldfish in a goldfish bowl.
These models, to me, are no-ops. I don't care if they happen, but I do care if they crowd out the forward motion, and they sure do that. So to me, New York is no different than Silicon Valley. Both are poison to the creative process. Eventually, I hope the market will stop valuing the hamsterism they encourage and start looking further afield, so we can start creating those tools for people to solve the problems we have such an abundance of.
I remember talking to a friend, many years ago, who mentioned that one of his cousins had been elected to the US House of Representatives. "You must be very proud of him," I said, which seemed quite reasonable to me at least. He said, with irritation, "I have more money than he does." Obviously that struck me as odd, because I remember it, over thirty years later.
Why did he see it as a comparative thing? Could you not be proud of someone and also be proud of yourself?
How is money comparable with political achievement? I don't say it's easy to make a lot of money, but it's also not easy to get elected to such a high office.
We were young enough at the time so that such high achievement of someone of our generation was pretty exceptional.
Over the years, I've made it a point not to care how much money someone has. I feel like I'm doing both of us a favor. Because who wants to be seen as merely a bank account. They already must get a lot of that. I'm going to be the friend that sees past that, and remembers who you were before the money happened. Also, I think it's fairly pragmatic, because their money really has no meaning for me. It's not as if they're going to give me any. It's their money. If it makes them happy, then I'm happy for them. But I don't see why I should defer to them.
Then I read this Paul Krugman column a few days ago, that explains that what the super-rich want from us is not only for us to be poor, but also for us to defer to them as if they were more than human. To the extent that it's true, it gives the rest of us a lot of power that they probably shouldn't want to give us. There's no law that says we have to defer to them. If they think they're entitled to deference, they live in the wrong country. If anything, a request for deference is likely to get me to say something offensive about rich people.
See, I know the truth. Rich people need to sleep, eat, drink plenty of fluids and exercise. They will get old and die. Their children give them grief, as do their siblings and parents. They feel insecure. And they are human.
Bill Gates, once had an appreciation for this, and I assume still does. Someone asked why a guy who's worth billions flies coach. He said the coach section gets there at the same time the first class section does.
For that, more than all his software accomplishments, he gets my respect. Because is what he said is true. It's a truth that's available to everyone, rich and poor. But not many people realize it.
As a walker and cyclist, I'm often left standing in slack-jawed amazement at the incredible asshole-ness of drivers, wishing I had a paint gun so I could tag the car. Something that might wash off eventually, but would signal to others that this car pissed a pedestrian so much that they got tagged. One tag wouldn't mean much, of course -- there are plenty of asshole pedestrians too. But if your car was starting to accumulate a lot of yellow, your family might not want to ride with you. Or when a cop pulled you over he or she might not be so easily talked out of giving you a ticket. Or taking you to jail. It would give some power to people who have no power, when compared to the driver who's encased in tons of steel with many tons of bone-crushing and skin-ripping momentum.
On the long drive back from Toronto yesterday, I hit a bit of traffic going through Syracuse. The signs said Left Lane Closed Ahead. And 99.9 percent of the drivers lined up as soon as the traffic slowed down, leaving the left lane open. I'm sure you know what happened. The other 00.1 percent, mostly driving huge pickup trucks, come barreling down the left lane, passing all the people waiting their turn, and then, when they can't go any further, try to merge with the adjacent lane. Of course at that moment I thought of the yellow paint. But then I thought of something else. How about getting out my phone and taking a picture of their license plate and uploading it to a special site. Tagging the assholes. Again, one tag wouldn't mean anything. But hundreds of them, that would make life interesting. And might get a few more people to line up and wait their turn.
I started a thread on the zipper merge, which believe it or not is faster, according to the Minnesota DOT, than the wait-your-turn method.
Working news organizations are much more valuable than most people think. You just have to change the context to see that, and project out a few years.
It's all going to change when Twitter buys one of those new organizations. That's when the lightbulbs will go on for the owners of what remains of the worldwide news industry. Because if you change context, you see the news people as a leg-up for the owner of one online news network in competition with the others. A decent portion of the value of those online systems will be in people. Programmers matter, as do support people, testers, people who can keep data centers humming, and people who have their fingers on the pulse of what's happening in business, government, sports, education, travel, food, movies, theater, music, weather, science (I'm just running through the sections of a newspaper).
That's why I've been encouraging the owners of these news orgs to invest in RSS-based news delivery systems. Rivers that gather up quality news flows. That's PE. Most of them don't see it. I bet Hughes and Buffet do. It's so simple. News is one of the big ingredients in the future of networks.
Google's problem is they used Facebook as their guide to upgrading their view of what the Internet is. And that led them away from their strength, and into what I think is a dead-end. Much as Microsoft was led into a dead-end by the web in the 1990s.
The problem with Facebook's approach is more than it has centralized all access to user's data, which they have. They've also centralized the flow of new ideas to the Internet. If you buy the idea that Facebook is the Internet, which is of course the problem for Facebook. Because no matter how big they get, they're still just part of the Internet. All the devices people use to access Facebook can access other parts of the Internet. So if something more exciting comes along, people can get there.
No problem, you say, because Facebook is a very innovative company. But it is a problem, because that's the Facebook of yesterday. The one that occupied a small suite of offices in downtown Palo Alto. That was two iterations of Facebook ago. And they're working on the third iteration. Each is much huger than the previous. And they are all hiring out of the general talent pool of tech.
At best, they can produce a stream of innovation equal to 1.5 previous Facebooks, and that would be a victory. The model for everyone for scaling a company and still producing new products, and new ideas, is of course Apple. But I'd argue that the Apple of the 1980s was far more innovative than the Apple of the last ten years. They took huge unprecedented steps every couple of years. Today's Apple, and there's nothing wrong with this by the way, takes them every five to seven years. And they aren't as big, they're more evolutionary, more refinements of previous stuff. Re-releases. Like Pixar, they ship a new Toy Story every few years.
The value of the Internet is that it represents a common set of protocols and formats that are very widely implemented. Everywhere human beings are you will find HTTP and HTML. Even in space. Even at the poles. Even in the jungle. Or the core of our cities. It is even possible to add new stuff to that. But please study how that happens. Sure some of it comes from the big companies, but lots of it comes from the people. Some of it comes from young people, and some of it comes from people in their 40s, 50s and 60s.
Back in the 90s, there were only three stories carried by the press. Let's see if I remember them:
1. Apple is dead.
2. Microsoft is evil.
3. Java is the future.
Never mind whether they were true or not, what's important was that with the benefit of hindsight we see that these were not the only stories. Just the ones that reporters pushed. Even though they used Apple products, and if they had studied hsitory of tech cycles, they would have known that Microsoft was in its twilight of dominance, and that languages don't change things the way Sun and Netscape wanted us to think they do.
All along, however, all the way from the beginning of my career as a technologist in the 1970s, to the present, there has been the idea that big companies make innovation. This is the biggest impediment to actual innovation. It means that investment dollars go to the wrong places. That people are driven to become big just to innovate. Which is as silly is waiting to be happy until you're rich. By the time you get there, the sex sucks and the innovation is a memory. Instead you're mired in politics, and turf wars and strategy taxes, and execs lack the intuition they had when they were founders because now they live like almost no one else does. Even Steve Jobs drifted away from his roots as he aged. You have to work at staying in it.
If the past is a predictor, here's what will happen. Facebook will exist for a long time to come. They're huge. They've absorbed a lot of the growth of Silicon Valley. They're the continuation of companies like Sun and Netscape, Apple and H-P. Google is out there too, but they are imho where Microsoft was in the 1990s. They too will be here for a long time because it's very rare for companies as large and diverse as Google to go down quickly. It usually takes a generation or two, and sometimes they figure out how to be in it much longer.
But again, if the past is a predictor, new ideas will take root among users and those ideas will grow into the next layer of tech. That's a good place to put your attention too.
I'm working on the top-level user interface for the worldoutline software, and have decided, for now at least, that blorkmarks will be a top level feature. I could leave them out in the first version, and introduce the concept as an upgrade a few months after the initial release. I might still do that. But I wanted to see if I could explain what they are to the relatively technical people who read this blog.
The core idea in the worldoutline is that you can put a marker on a headline that says this place begins a new space. Which allows you to use the outliner to organize all your spaces.
This way of organizing has lots of advantages. It lets you view a blog as a structure of documents you can edit. And it can allow you to fork off a new blog without increasing the complexity of the world you manage. This is something you're constantly fighting. A lot of spaces shouldn't overly complicate your life.
So how does a seam get expressed? How are these markers implemented? You could either come up with a web service that takes a name and tells you how to find your way to that place, or you could use a system that already does most of the job, DNS. This is one of my basic design principles. When possible use already-deployed and widely-supported protocols instead of inventing new ones. Lots of good reasons for this. That's why I used DNS. It scales, it's widely deployed, and I've always felt it was under-utilized, that there was a lot of power there lying dormant.
So here's how it works from a user standpoint. I put the cursor on a headline, and choose the Add Blorkmark command. It suggests a name, which I can override. Then it makes a call to a server which in turn calls Amazon's Route53, to register a cname, and associate it with the node you're pointing to. It takes 20 to 40 seconds for Amazon to do its work. And after that you have a way to get to this place. To the reader it looks as if it's a world unto itself, but in your view of the world, it's just a corner inside a bigger outline. A possibly much bigger outline, containing many such spaces.
The path to the node is stored locally on your machine and on your worldoutline server. If you move it, no problem, the marker moves with it. So that's what a blorkmark is. It's something like a bookmark, but it points into content both in the place you edit it and in the place people read it.
Today's milestone ride -- all the way round the park -- with confidence.
I had been taking a shortcut, eliminating the steepest part of the ride in Central Park, around the top of the park. I had ridden it before and always had found the hill a bit too much for my legs and my lungs.
This morning the conditions were ideal, I was feeling good, it was a very comfortable 60 degrees, no cars, not too much bike traffic and no pedestrians, so I went for it. Yes! It was very doable. I'm in good shape for this hill. Knock wood, IANAL, MMLM and all the usual disclaimers.
Also, no matter how early you get out on a spring morning there's always something big going on in the park. Today it's the AIDS Walk. Hasn't started yet, but you can tell there will be a hundred thousand people walking where I was riding today. Things in NY scale like that. And Central Park is probably nothing like Olmstead imagined it, as a place for contemplation. It is, however, a place where the people of the city mingle. All classes, it seems. And people from all over the world.
And since this may be the only blog post today, I'd like to add that Nic Cubrilovic probably summed up Zuck's fabulous weekend best, from a male point of view. "How can you beat IPO and married in the same weekend?" he said "Err, IPO and not married." My guess is that Zuck liked things pretty much as they were. But of course I'm projecting!
Today's map: 47 minutes, 8.30 miles, average 10.58 mph.
My father had a thing for outlining, and he was lucky because he had a son who learned how to program, and made outlining work on a computer.
The great thing about outlining is that you can reorganize. That's the purpose of outlining. You can't do it on paper. That's why people invented index cards. But they are one-level outlines. Not nearly as useful as the multi-level reorganizable outlines on a computer. Outlining works on a computer much better than it does on paper.
My father taught marketing to MBA students at Baruch College and then Pace University in NYC. Once we had outlining they learned how to plan their marketing campaigns with his son's outliner. His colleagues thought he was obsessing over his son, but I know my father. It wouldn't have occurred to him. It was the other way around. The outliner showed him that there were qualities to his son that he hadn't discovered. He loved outlines so much eventually he would say "Every day is Father's Day." It embarassed me at the time, but now it doesn't, it makes me feel his approval, which like it or not, is something every son wants from his father.
Anyway, the second way, which until recently hasn't been a big deal for me, is organizing my work. People who worked for me would use MORE and ThinkTank that way. Especially the people whose jobs it was to ship products. My customers used the products that way, but until recently I didn't.
What precipitated the change, believe it or not, is Jeremy Lin.
James Burke did a great thing with his Connections series. He showed how what appears to be an insignificant coincidence turns out to create the serendipity needed for an idea to pop out of someone's mind. For me, it's been the endless hours I've spent watching basketball this year. At some point, while watching a game, I realized I could open my laptop and jot down an idea instead of using a reporter's notebook, which I used to buy by the dozen for recording ideas. One jotted idea turned into a plan. So the next day when I'd sit down to do my programming work, there would be the plan, ready to go. I didn't have to think about what comes next. That made it possible for me to work much more quickly. This is something you learn better as you grow older. There's value in stepping back and getting organized before taking on the next big task.
I suspect my father knew this. I think it would answer the questions he'd ask me about why I don't work harder to explain to people why outliners are so revolutionary. I couldn't explain it for the simple reason that I didn't know.
Outlining for me has always been an intuitive thing, and hard to verbalize. I saw hierarchies everywhere in computers. To me, it made sense to invest in that. If you were going to spend so much time dealing with hierarchy, why not put in a special effort to unify them. To make it so you always had a great tool for managing them, instead of a dozen so-so tools. To this day I don't understand why there isn't a generic reusable outliner baked into modern operating systems. There should be.
So now I'm on the cusp of releasing a tool that allows you to write directly onto the web in an outliner. The distance between the content on your machine and it being on the web is one mouse-click. That's exactly how far you want it to be. My father is not alive to see this, but if he were, he'd probably die from excitement. This is something he and I shared, at a genetic level, in our DNA, is this idea that the human mind can reach outside of itself, onto a computer, to make even more powerful and useful intellectual structures. Honestly, I wish he were here to share this with me.
Update: Takayuki Tanaka, from Yokohama, translated this essay to Japanese.
Okay yesterday was Facebook IPO day. How many times did you hear about it. What new information was added each time you heard. Why do we obsess so much about it. Did anything really happen? Blah blah blah. Yadda yadda yadda.
But it does have a real impact on our lives. I realized it yesterday after a meeting, where I ran into a bright dude, a real up and comer. He's smart. Has worked at some prestigious places. He just joined a startup.
He had been asking me questions via email about something I was working on. But I had already written docs that covered the questions he asked. Finally, meeting face to face, he asked the same questions. I asked why he couldn't put a few minutes into reading the docs. Then I realized, before he could answer -- which was good, because he was already gone -- no one is paying attention.
I'm sure he'll read this, which is funny in a way. I don't mean anything personal. This is what bubbles do to us. Even if you're not going to hit the jackpot, all that money floating around still makes it hard to focus on things that take time. Rush. It's a game of musical chairs. The music will stop and you won't have a place to sit. It's all the more dangerous today because the employment situation, outside the bubble, is bleak. (Originally I said it's bleak for young people, but it's also true for people my age. No one is offering me any jobs. It's lucky I have savings.)
I don't have any answers. I know it's hard to listen. But I feel these days like we all have our own gigs, and we're fighting for attention, because attention is where the money is, but none of us have any attention to give. Desperate. Flailing. I find myself wishing there were more people I could bounce ideas off, but there isn't much bounce these days.
So I think for most of us, the Facebook IPO is a transition, maybe to something better. A peak. It sure isn't making us rich. And it's not giving us much to hope either.
It's become a running joke on Twitter that when I post an item to my Radio2 feed with this title, I get ten times the response that I get from a normal post. Not sure what it means. But no harm.
I don't usuallly run test posts on Scripting News, because the software here isn't really moving. But today I'm working on one of the connections between RSS and the worldoutline, and am doing something interesting with blog posts that are really outlines, like the ones on Scripting News.
You don't usually see the hierarchy in the feed, but today, on my worldoutline site, if all goes well -- we will.
So here's a bit of an outline, the classic States outline
If this works, when we view this over in the worldoutline, the hierarchy should show up, as an expandable outline. As it does on Scripting News. Lots of prayer and knocking on wood. And the usual disclaimers. IANAL. My mother loves me. Etc.
Update: It worked!
I have to weigh in on this.
You should learn enough about anything to find out if you love it.
I had no idea I was good at writing software until, on a lark, I enrolled in a Computer Science class at Tulane University in 1975. So I'd say, looking back, that was a good thing. If it worked out for me, why not give it a shot.
But programming is at one end of a spectrum. It's like mountain climbing or spelunking, not like bungee jumping or hiking in the Alps. Programming is hard. And it's definitely not for everyone.
I think the reason well-intentioned programmers get irritated by the sudden rush of people like Mike Bloomberg who breathlessly exclaim that they're going to learn to program, is that it's disrespectful. This is something programmers learn to live with. Because we know how the machine works, and most people don't, they don't like to listen to us. Even when we're saying sensible things that aren't very deep or technical. Just listen! thinks the programmer, knowing that it won't work.
The thought that anyone could do it and it would be a walk in the park is just one facet of disrespect. When a skilled guy like Jeff Atwood, who has created some great software, blows up over this, that's what's probably going on. I feel the same way, yet I am an advocate for demystifying technology, for removing techies from the clouds, bringing them back to earth to inhabit with the rest of the mortals.
We need to strike a balance. If you're going to learn to code, it's going to be hard. But if you're going to be a great programmer you have to start somewhere, and like home people relating to tourists, we should encourage it.
But it might be more useful if more people attempted the equivalent of the hike in the Alps instead of trying to scale Mount Everest or even McKinley.
And we should all learn to listen better, because there is very little of that going on these days. Working together too.
Quora just raised $50 million. Quora is a very nicely done piece of software. Almost everyone thinks so. But I also think they're too late. There are already plenty of corporate blogging silos for people to write into. And the demand for them never was that high. So I think it would be interesting, with all their money and nice software, if they tried a pivot.
Here's the idea...
1. Position relative to wordpress.com. A simpler more modern, better-designed version. Updated.
2. If possible release the back-end as open source, so you can complete the picture. If not, start work on that, and make it shine. Make it an app platform that will appeal to developers.
3. Create a very simple document-oriented API with pub-sub. I recommend OPML because my tools already work with that format.
4. People can use your web interface to create and edit public documents, with a twist. Users can also provide the URL of a document, and you provide me with an endpoint that I can ping when it updates.
5. Also support the flipside of the protocol as well. Provide a URL for the document, and are willing to ping a subscriber when it updates.
6. This is recursive. Documents can contain other documents each of which supports this protocol.
Congratulations, you've just participated in the bootstrap of a document-oriented Internet, one where links are rendered in place. No one captures or controls anyone's content. You don't have to export documents, because they never were imported. There are a lot of places we can go from here. And the fallback is Quora doing the same thing it was going to do anyway. Except you've opened the door to lots of developers. The same door, btw, that the big guys have closed.
This is just a quickie. It doesn't have to be Quora. It could even be Wordpress. But it is a different model from the usual 2012 business model. I think that's a good thing. It's time to develop new models, because the current one is oversubscribed.
I'm now four days into using Chrome as my primary browser, after switching from Firefox.
Top-line review: My work is better. Not just in the browser, everywhere. Having a strong competent tool in web browsing brings confidence to all my writing and programming work.
I started a thread about this yesterday.
A story. When I got angel funding for my first company, the lead investor arranged for the company to get me a car. I had been driving a rented Dodge Omni, month to month, a real piece of shit. I didn't have credit, or money for a down payment. So every month I scraped together the rent for it. They got me a lease for a new gray BMW 318i. It was an even worse piece of shit. BMW's misguided attempt to go downmarket. I didn't understand that at the time, because I had never driven a BMW before. All I knew is that I missed the piece of shit Omni.
My friend, Guy Kawasaki, who worked at Apple, had a white BMW 535 that I lusted after. So after we shipped our first product, a pretty big hit, I told the board I was dumping the 318 and got myself a 535. White. Just like Guy's. I loved that car. It was a total eye-opener. I didn't know cars could feel like that. You could feel the tires connect with the road through the steering wheel. It handled precisely. Did exactly what you wanted it to do. All my cars prior to that were blown around in the backflow created by trucks. This car cruised right through.
In case you haven't already figured it out, the 318 is Firefox, and the 535 is Chrome.
Now I hope I don't have to write a piece a few weeks from now explaining how Chrome is announcing every site I visit on Google-Plus or emailing it to ex-girlfriends or future employers. :-(
PS: I still to this day drive a BMW, though they're just another shit company treating its customers like scum. But their cars are lovely.
I saw Romney interviewed on Fox, and all the arguments about him being awkward and a flawed human being, to me, are unconvincing. To balance those, I look at what I know about the President. Honestly, measuring one man against another, it's a draw.
The reason I'll almost certainly vote for Obama in the fall is that he is not a Republican.
The thought of them controlling the government again, is a real motivator. I saw what they did in August with the debt ceiling. And I see it coming again and again. This is a party that's taken a very wrong turn. I think a United States run by Republicans is in mortal danger. Even Republicans must see that. They need get a message that if they ever want power again they have to clean up their party and get it aligned with the interests of the United States. They once were a sane party. If we elect the insane version of the Republicans, we deserve what we get.
I'm afraid the President will try to win without winning back the House and retaining control of the Senate. This would be an awful mistake. Maybe the President can do a good deed for the country and make this a question of the United States retaining some semblance of sanity.
On Friday I wrote a piece that suggested, perhaps, that the iPad 2 is a better device than the iPad 3.
The reasons: 1. Battery life. 2. Weight. 3. Heat.
I don't see that much difference in screen quality. Sure the new iPad has a nicer screen. But 1-2-3 above are pretty important too.
So I keep both around. Sometimes I have trouble telling which one is which.
Surefire way to tell: Turn on the pad, see how much battery is left. If it's 80 percent, it's the old one. The other one usually runs with about 20 percent.
Earlier this month I made an offer to news organizations, that I would work with one or two or all of them to revolutionize the way they offer news to their community. I have a very simple proposal, which I outlined in the piece. It would require guts. But it takes guts to live, and there's no security in any of it. No takers, so far, but John Robinson of the News-Record in Greensboro, NC called publicly on editors to do it. For which I am thankful.
I have a similar offer to universities. I thought I might outline it here, although I've written about the idea quite a few times.
Here's the proposal.
Let's start a program where we teach students to run their own servers. They set one up, install a few apps and administer them. Support users. If they want, add features, or even write their own server-side apps.
This is not an idle or simple idea, it's a revolutionary one.
We always get stuck in this loop in relationship to technology. We, users, get caught waiting for the guys in the air-conditioned palaces to give us the stuff we want. Eventually we get tired, and break out of the wonderful jails they create for us. Then we do this dance again. And again. We should also teach the students the history of tech, so they can, in their careers which will stretch deep into the 21st Century, to recognize this, and to circumvent it.
Taking the mystique out of running a server is step one. A server is just a laptop that is on all the time and has a persistent net connection. And a fixed address. You can get to it from where ever you are, from any device. Otherwise it's just a computer. That's the Aha! moment. From there, it's pure fun (for a certain kind of person, of course).
I think ultimately this should be a required course, but I doubt that will happen. Just as I believe every student should take a semester of accounting, so they know how to do their own taxes, and know how to vote on matters of tax policy. And I also think in the age of blogging, every student should take an introductory class in journalism, so they know how to ask questions, and to tell a story, and the importance of disclosure. With everyone writing publicly, it would be great if an education included some practice at doing this well.
Universities are right to move onto the Internet. But that's not just a matter of putting the faculty online, teaching TED-like classes, which no doubt are, and deseve to be, popular. It's also a matter of putting the future on the Internet, in meaningful and powerful ways. For that, the place to turn is the student body.
A quick note that I switched from Firefox to Chrome on my main desktop computer, and plan to make the switch everywhere over the next few weeks.
I decided to switch finally because Firefox is trying to get me to switch to version 12 from 3.6. I've been warned by them that there will be no more security updates for 3.6. And over the last few days I've been given warnings by the software that they will soon automatically move me into what I see as a tester's program.
I appreciate that Firefox existed when I needed to get off Windows. I didn't want to use the OS vendor's browser, Safarin, on the Mac. I learned that limited my options in getting off the Windows platform. Didn't want to repeat that mistake.
But I don't like a user interface that's a moving target.
If Firefox were just moving the browser to provide more features for web developers, I'd consider going with them. But they're actively changing the UI of the browser. And that's not something I'm willing to be forced into.
I wrote about this in June of last year.
So I switched to Chrome. Not sure it will be any better. I will, of course, let you know.
Nothing special, like every other Hollywood piece of shit movie.
One thing was promising, because it was set in 1972, they could include lots of great old songs, which was fine for a while, until they hacked up two really great old favorite Alice Cooper songs. Especially Ballad of Dwight Fry.
Why can't Tim Burton do a movie like Beetlejuice or Edward Scissorhands, or one of the stop motion greats he did, Nightmare Before Christmas, or Corpse Bride. Those movies had humor and soul, even grabbed your heart. Lately his movies have really sucked. This one got great reviews so I had high expectations, but maybe that's why I hated it so much, because it was such an ordinary stupid dull idiotic plotless movie, with no characters. Awful.
My favorite Tim Burton movie is still Beetlejuice. I think I'll watch it tonight to remind me how much fun a good haunted house movie can be.
Now, I'm sure NakedJen will love it. And I respect her for that. But I give a huge thumbs-down. Terrible waste of talent.
BTW, I'm sure it'll make huge money. It's exactly teh kind of movie that packs in the kiddies.
I had a thought that goes back to the very early days of blogging, and a theory I had then, which thanks to Kickstarter seems to either be about to come true, or has already come true.
It goes like this.
1. Companies are terrible at listening to their users.
2. But users have the most valuable ideas for products, locked up in their experiences with current products.
3. They can see the problems because they have a different point of view from the vendors. And point of view is very important when it comes to products. It's as important as technical knowledge.
4. In the old way of doing things the product guys are geniuses and every so often they come down from the mountain and bestow their gifts on us mere mortals, and we praise them and thank them, and pay them, and then they ignore us. (See item #1.)
5. But once the users can communicate with each other, we will be able to pool our experience, and given enough time, smart users will learn the technology well enough to make the products that (key point here) they know there is demand for. Because they are the ones demanding it.
I figured that blogging communities would form and out of that would come new products and businesses, and products that more closely match the way people really are, not the way the companies imagine we are. I've been inside enough companies to know how badly companies abstract the needs and wants of users.
Now, Kickstarter, an idea I knew was right from the get-go (wish I had had a chance to invest) is either tapping into the knowledge that users have that vendors are missing big opportunities because of poor vision. I think sites like gdgt and Stack Overflow are tapping into the other side of it, providing venues for smart users to share experience. Eventually the two will meet. Threads will start on these sites and migrate to Kickstarter, and the mutual-itch will turn into a vision, and it gets funded, and is realized. Or at least have a chance to be realized.
BTW, as an aside -- what led me to this is my interest in communicating cameras. The products here are moving way too slowly. So when Canon came out with with a camera with wifi earlier this year, I immediately bought one, without a second thought. But it is a tantalizing disappointment, because they designed it in a fairly brain-dead way. I couldn't get it to work. So I started a thread. And after a while Jeff Hellman, a person who reads my site, figured out how to get it to work, and posted a howto, which I then tried and it worked! Hey. That's pretty cool. But there are too many steps and too much software to install. The company, like all companies, thought we needed them to make this work. We just need them to create a bridge, we can make it work better without their help.
There's a next step to this. Let's jailbreak this mofo like they open up iPhones, and get the Canon camera to act as a file server. All I want is SMB file sharing on the thing. I don't care if it's protected, at least not at first. Let it boot up as a read-only device that I can access as a file server from any computer on my LAN. I'll let my router provide the security.
Even better -- put an HTTP server on it. That idea, my friends, goes back to 1997. How ridiculous to have to wait that long! Whole lives have been lived in the interim (well almost).
And there's another idea I'm desperate to see done right -- a podcast player. Apple still doesn't understand podcasting. Sorry. I know you all think they invented it, but they don't do it right. I'll write another post about this soon, but I'm pretty sure it's already in the archive here on scripting.com.
This is why the real power of blogging has yet to be realized, imho. When it's done, industry will have been restructured around communities of users who communicate (see the similarities in the words). Today we're still in the world where the companies market to us through social networks. That is vestigial. Marketing isn't as important as experience.
Like all dutiful Apple customers I plunked down the money to get the latest and greatest iPad in March. The screen was nice, at first, but very quickly it became normal. The gee-whiz effect faded almost immediately.
I got the LTE version, and that feature is great, but I don't really use it a lot because I'm almost always close enough to wifi. But I'm sure I'll take a train trip where it will be nice to have blazing fast Internet access. And I like the fact that it can share its connection with other devices. I used that feature, when waiting at the DMV to get my New York State driver's license.
I've been using the iPad a lot recently because I've been watching a lot of basketball. It's a great TV companion. But that has meant that I'm always running up against the battery issue. Because the new iPad has more pixels, presumably, it uses more power. Presumably that's why they gave it a bigger battery, and that takes longer to charge. The computer is heavier, and it runs hot. It's not hugely uncomfortable, but you do notice both things, the increased weight and heat.
The other day, with the battery running down, I had an idea. I charged up my old iPad, so it would serve as a backup, next time the battery ran down on the new iPad. And the next day I got to use it, and here's the thing -- I like it better than the new one! It's lighter, the battery lasts longer, and when it runs down it charges much more quickly. Having gotten used to the new iPad, the old one feels like an upgrade!
I thought that was worth a blog post.
In 2005, Google came out with an email service, and like a lot of other people I signed up. I liked it because it kept spam out of my way. It was fairly miraculous how it did that. On the other hand, I didn't like the way they bundled emails into conversations. But I eventually became accustomed to that, even though to this day it's hard to manage.
I was more or less a happy Gmail user until they started trying to turn it into the dreaded Google-Plus.
Gmail is nice to have, but I don't want to blur the line between private email and public writing. The two activities should be as far apart as possible.
I wouldn't mind paying to use Gmail. But this isn't a good thing they're doing, trying to turn email into something else.
I watched all the way to the bitter end.
All I can say is thank god it's over.
They had their brilliant moments, but at the end they were a rag-tag crew of nincompoops.
The Miami Heat, who put the Knicks down, in contrast are a vector. They're pointed toward an outcome. They mean business. If there's any justice they will be in the finals this year, playing Oklahoma City in one for the ages. Whoever wins will have defeated a great team.
The Knicks aren't a team. And they aren't that great as individuals. And in basketball only teams matter. It's not a sport for individuals.
Now, I look forward to finding other causes to believe in!
PS: The NYT tells the same story, with more detail and a great closing paragraph. I won't spoil it here.
I loved this piece about angel investor Kevin Hartz.
He says "When I see a massive number of new investors and carpetbaggers coming in, it's time to get out."
We'e singing the same song, except we're playing different parts.
When I see products, customers, performance and value not being important, I said it's time to move off to the side and invest for the long-term. Unfortunately I've never been able to convince the actual money investors to bet along with me. They like to skip all that, expecting what seems to them as magic, but to the people who do the work -- risky investment.
They invest in the people who make them feel good. That's pretty dumb, imho -- long-term, while it might yield spectacular returns, short-term. It's probably not wise, either.
I've been getting into a groove, doing the same ride every day. Enter the park at Columbus Circle. Ride around the park drive, but take the cutoff before the big hill at Harlem Meer. To make up for that, I do an extra circuit around the front part of the park. So I actually get more mileage than one circuit. But I'm getting stronger. Pretty soon I'll start going the full route.
The difference between this year's standard ride and last year's is this -- hills! At first I swore I'd never get used to it. But when I rode in Menlo Park/Woodside in Calif, I did a lot of hill riding. So I can do it. I just have to get in shape.
My rides are getting me more oxytocin or whatever it is that you get high on. Because I float after I ride. And if I miss a day, as I did yesterday, I get very grouchy. I think it's called withdrawal.
One more thing. It's wet and humid today and the park is filled with smells. These are magic smells. I'd get this experience when I lived in suburban Boston, because these were the smells of childhood, the good ones (there were bad ones too, like the smell of the incinerators burning garbage, they used to do that in NY when I was growing up). Boston was close, but these are the exact smells my brain is programmed to recognize as "home" -- proof that our lower brains are programmed just like all animals, to find comfort in being in a familiar place, even at a sub-conscious level. Another reason my heart is activated on these rides (the other being, of course, exercise!).
This makes me feel good. Happy to say.
Map: 7.5 miles, 43 minutes.
Farhad Manjoo, one of my favorite tech writers, has a stimulating piece today about Amazon. He says he can't figure out what they're doing, how they intend to make money. What's the razor and what's the blade? He wonders if they know.
In the old days companies offered the same deal to everyone. They had to because they didn't have all this information about us and computers and actuarial tables, and years of experimentation to guide them. That's not true anymore, and especially not true of Amazon. That's the first thing you have to realize. They're blazing a new trail in selling things. No one has been down this path before. Yet there are others that are on the path.
They made me the same offer they made him. Because I pay $79 a year for Prime, I can have one book a month for free. They pay the publisher on my behalf. And it's not all books.
They might make me an offer on one book and another to Farhad. You just don't know. One thing's for sure, their algorithm has a hunch that if it does this, I might do that. And if I do that, maybe I'll do something else. Somewhere on that path I will trip over the wire and Amazon will make $100. That's how they make money. They can't explain it, any more than a hedge fund guy can tell you why his algorithm just decided to buy 214,203 shares of Podunk Mining Co and turn around and sell it five minutes later. He might, if he did a lot of data dumps, be able to trace back and see how it made the choice, but by then it'll have done 813,329 more transactions.
More and more you and I are hamsters. They're making money off the pellets. That's the best we know.
BTW, I asked my friend NakedJen, who is a serious dog person, what she thinks her dogs think she's doing when she picks up the prizes they leave in the park. She carefully puts them in plastic bags. Later it appears she is depositing them in a bank. What must the dog think about her relationship with Jen?
Sorry if that's too vivid an example, but hopefully it makes the point.
BTW, he thinks Apple has a straight relationship with us, more straight than Amazon's, but I bet he's wrong about that. They've just managed to make us feel more comfortable about it. They hire from the same talent pool as Amazon.
Twitter is getting all kinds of kudos for not turning over the tweet history of a user in response to a New York State subpoena. But what are the facts of the case, and is Twitter doing the right thing?
Here's the question -- were these public tweets? If so, that's like asking for the archive of a blog.
Which raises another question. Yes we know that Twitter's archive is unreliable, that after a certain period of time tweets become inaccessible unless you have a direct link to them. What that period is is uncertain. And why you can access them when they are inaccessible is another mystery.
Is the State of New York just asking for help working around a glitch in Twitter's software?
What is Twitter's explanation?
Now, if this user's tweets were private, that's another matter. I would say it's still a gray area, that the tweets are somewhere between public and private. Does Twitter's terms say what's a permissible use of a private tweet that you have access to?
Neither of the two articles dive into this story in enough depth to ask these questions, which imho are crucial to deciding whether or not Twitter is acting correctly.
Also, btw, to NYS which I happen to be a resident of -- this is ridiculous. These people are citizens exercising their First Amendment rights. There were a lot of people at the Brooklyn Bridge that day, and it wasn't clear what the police instructions were. Why don't you work with the citizens. These are the people you work for -- aren't they? Please. Pick your battles.
Another btw to NYS, even though I think what you're doing is wrong, you might check with the Library of Congress. They have a complete archive of the flow of Twitter. Our tax dollars at work! (He said sarcastically, the government has no business investing taxpayer dollars in private companies.) Thanks to @dannyhorowitz for the link.
The only time the world "dead" belongs in the headline of a news story is when something that was formerly alive is no longer. A person, animal or plant. That's a legitimate use of the word in news. I can't think of another use that isn't some kind of revenge or spite. Because things that were never living can't be dead.
Fred Wilson has a blog post about this today, which means it will probably be picked up on TechMeme, where a lot of former TechCrunchers, especially Mike Arrington, Steve Gillmor and MG Siegler will probably see it. These three people went on a campaign to plant a meme about RSS that I still hear about every day, usually in the form of a well-intentioned person saying that RSS isn't you-know-what. Every time this happens I put a pin in virtual voodoo dolls of each of their spirits, esp since two of them are former friends. For some reason they decided to put this bell around RSS's neck. Their idea worked. It didn't hurt RSS, it just gave it a smell that isn't very nice. And this for something that never did them any harm, and that they still use on their blogs, and for all I know in their reading of the web. If they don't they're not very well-informed because the news still flows through RSS, and honestly it's hard to imagine a day when it doesn't.
It's shit like this that makes me cry for tech. That such carpetbaggers have gotten control of the flow of ideas. It's very much like the world that we encountered before blogging. And then I remind myself that we marginalized that generation of gatekeepers, and we can do it again. We will do it again.
I had no idea how Jason Pontin's piece, Why Publishers Don't Like Apps, would end, but it was a riveting story, for a guy like me, who believes that what comes first in news is what's new.
I don't think that fancy layout trumps newness. The name "news" tells you what's important about news. Newness. So if you follow that clue, it leads you to the obvious conclusion that news should present first the newest bits we have. What's next? The second newest bits. And third, fourth and so on.
News is one of those things that is that simple. But it takes people a while to get there if they don't allocate the time to take walks in the park and think about this stuff in an organized way. Maybe, as Steve Jobs said, it helps to have dropped acid when you were young.
Pontin has discovered the truth of rivers. He says that Flipboard is an RSS reader. It is! And if you want to do RSS for news the best way to go is rivers.
Why do the Flipboards of the world get the attention from tech execs, VCs, users and the press? It has always been thus. Hypercard was more popular with editors than outliners. They always go for the flashy bits. They think that a glittery carousel is how information should work, ignoring that history hasn't worked that way. Books don't win because of flash. They win because they're readable. It's the words that provide the excitement. Anything that gets in the way is going by the wayside.
Okay so I feel slightly vindicated here. Now while I have your attention, let me point in the next direction. Once you have a river, do something bold and daring. Add the feeds of your favorite bloggers and share the resulting flow with your readers. Let your community compete for readership. And let them feel a stronger bond to you. Then when you learn about that, do some more. (And btw, you're now competing, effectively with your competitors, Facebook and Twitter. Don't kid yourselves, these guys are moving in your direction. You have to move in theirs and be independent of them. Or be crushed.)
I wish I could work with the teams of the best publications. If that could happen, we'd kick ass. But I'm here on the sidelines giving advice that you guys take on very very slowly. It's frustrating, because it's been clear that rivers are the way to go, to me, for a very long time. A lot of ground has been lost in the publishing business while we wait. There's a lot of running room in front of this idea. We can move quickly, if publishers have the will.
PS: The new EC2 for Poets tutorial gets you all the way through a River. Takes a few minutes. And it's free for a year if you're a new Amazon customer.
PPS: This is my personal river. I take my own medicine. It includes lots of feeds from people who read this site. And I'm always open to adding more.
Yahoo's CEO lied about having a Computer Science degree.
That's a fact. It can be spun in a lot of different ways, but that doesn't matter.
In CEO-level business, that kind of lie is material.
I've done two major corporate transactions, and contemplated a number of others that made it past letter of intent and into due diligence. In this mode, the lawyers emhphasize over and over that you want to disclose every liability, no matter how small, up front, before the deal is signed. Any liability that is discovered later will cost you. If the liability is big enough, you could have to return all the money, and your liability isn't even limited to that. I had one bizarre case where I was being sued by my own lawyer, and advised by another to settle or risk losing everything.
When you're working at the level of CEO of a public company, as the Yahoo CEO is, by definition, at all times, you want to preserve your right to litigate. And given Yahoo's litigious nature under this CEO, you gotta figure that'll bring out the litigators from all over.
While I've only had an occasional glimpse of the lawyer hell that corporate CEOs live in, it's hard to imagine going into that kind of constant battle with this kind of exposure. How can you sue someone for breach of contract when you lied to get your job. It's a pretty awkward situation. Never mind what it says to people who apply for jobs at Yahoo. Don't worry about lying on your resume. We don't take that stuff seriously here at Yahoo.
And just imagine the shareholder suits if they don't fire the guy.
They're going to have to do it. Yeah, it's definitely a bad day for Yahoo, and they don't have too many good ones. But it's really unthinkable that he stays.
Yesterday I wrote that the Knicks season was over. Even if they were to miraculously win the next four games, it would still be over. Because the illusion of an all-for-one and one-for-all cause is broken. The bubble has burst. For me it wasn't the firing of the coach, or whether there was room for anyone on the court with Carmelo Anthony, though in retrospect, those were really clear signals that this was a mess, not a cause.
What had attracted me to the Knicks was of course Linsanity. Because here, for a brief moment, it didn't seem to be entirely about money. The young man, overcoming prejudice, breaking through and shining bright through vision, talent and vitality -- that was hugely attractive.
The image of Stoudemire sitting on the bench next to Lin killed all that was left of my enthusiasm for the Knicks. I don't care how much they are paying him. He doesn't belong there. The fans shouldn't have been booing the Heat players as much as the Knicks management who didn't have the good sense to keep Stoudemire out of view.
Anyway, this connects nicely with a blog post published a few hours ago by Paul Krugman at the NY Times.
He points out that facts aren't facts, according to some in politics, if they come from the wrong people.
There, he put his finger on the problem.
Many people see politics as I see sports. There are two teams, and my team is going to beat yours, and nothing else matters. Winning is everything. And that's a bad mistake. Because as we noted yesterday, while sports is a simulation of war -- it's harmless to project tribalism on the symbols of basketball or baseball -- it's not harmless to do that with politics. We're not manipuating symbols there. There are real armies and economies at stake. Nuclear weapons. The viability of the planet. The future of our species. If we see this as war, then it is war. How much do you know about war, and do you really want to usher it in so quickly, without thinking.
That's the problem. Politics and sports are not the same thing. One is frivolous and the other is anything but.
If you've been reading this site since 1995 you know that I am mystical about sports. That means I see the mystery in it. I don't see things as entirely deterministic, at least not in the sphere that you and I occupy (assuming that gods don't bother reading my rants).
In that spirit, last night's game had moments when the Knicks looked like they could win, but it was not meant to be. And like the awful way the Bay Area handled the World Series of 1989, when the As played the Giants, the Knicks doomed their own game by putting Amare Stoudemire on the bench, along with all the courageous warriors who suited up to face the enemy, and did not inflict wounds on themselves so they wouldn't have to play.
You do realize that sports is our simulation for war, in a day when wars are fought by drones, and when the bodies are kept out of view, and when taxes go down instead of up in wartime. We, as humans, have a need for war simulation at least. We need to feel that our strongest men are doing battle to preserve the honor of our tribe. And a deserter has no place of honor alongside Chandler and Anthony, even Bibby and Novak -- people who give their all for the cause. No place.
Put a picture of the young fallen hero Iman Shumpert in the seat that would be occupied by Stoudemire. Or a roll of toilet paper. I don't care. But Stoudemire had no place on the bench last night.
The place for deserters is a firing squad. Would you like to say anything before we shoot you? "I didn't punch the glass with a closed fist." Okay thank you. Then the blindfold goes on. Ready. Aim. Fire.
The pivotal scene in the great movie Patton is very much like this moment. The General is touring a hospital, pinning medals on soldiers who were injured or killed in battle. You can tell that he really feels this. Then he sees a soldier, sitting up, and asks him what's wrong. He's scared, he says. Patton blows up. Get the fuck out of my hospital, he says (paraphrasing).
You can't put a coward on the bench, a pretender, alongside heroes, and expect to win in battle. It's pretty simple.
The Knicks have to stand for something other than money. Okay, you gave $80 million to a coward. You lost $80 million. Too bad. Now get that asshole out of there.
Sometime in the last few months Canon released a couple of cameras that support wifi. If you've been following Scripting News for a few years, you know this is an event I've been waiting for. And since I had a birthday coming up, I decided to spring for it. I'm going to give my old Canon point-and-click to my Mom. She needs a new camera. And I need a new toy!
Which has turned out to be a real puzzle. How do you get the wifi to work?
I started a thread for that, detailing my experience so far.
Here's how I think the camera should work:
1. Turn it on.
2. Like either of my smartphones, an iPhone and a Samsung Galaxy running Android, it automatically connects to my router, which I had previously told it the password to. (That much seems to work with the Canon.)
3. Go to my desktop Mac. The camera appears in my list of nearby computers.
4. Click on the icon, see the disk, same as any other computer on the LAN.
5. Open the disk, open the folders and there are my pics.
6. Use the Finder to copy them where ever I want. (They are my pictures, yes?)
Reading the docs, which are, as usual, awful, or the reviews on Amazon, makes me pretty sure this isn't the way it works. Instead, you somehow have to connect to the desktop from the camera and then use its unfamiliar and awkward UI on its low-rez screen (which is really cheap of them because the screen is actually very high resolultion, it's the software that doesn't have enough pixels and that's just memory, and not very much) to copy the files from the camera to the computer. That's exactly the wrong way to do it. But I'm pretty sure that's the way it works.
There have been some reviews of this product in the usual tech pubs. Gizmodo claims they got the camera to connect to the computer, but they didn't say how they did it other than "it's a bit of a pain."
The other day I wrote a piece about how I like to spend enough time with my own products to make sure stuff like this works and isn't embarassingly difficult. It's products like this Canon camera that have taught me how a lot of product makers don't give a shit. Or their companies don't let them give a shit. Net-effect is the same.
BTW, it takes a really sharp picture. This is why I want to use a Canon camera that communicates instead of using a smartphone that takes pictures. Here's the same pic at full resolution. Look at all the detail!
PS: The manual on the CD included with the camera says nothing about wifi.
PPS: Peter Rojas started a thread on gdgt to try to figure out how to get the Canon 320 wifi working.
"I think you're an okay person. Why do people say you're an asshole?"
This used to happen a lot, not so much these days, but it still happens.
What do you say when someone says that. There are so many things wrong with it. I don't even want to try to list them.
I tend to want to respond with something approximating the truth.
The "people" who say this, if there really are any, are doing it behind my back, not to my face. We both know that's not a highly principled thing to do, right?
I'd like to say I don't care, but I'm a human being, and we are approval-seeking animals. So when you say that, and it registers -- and believe me it registers -- my body chemistry reacts as if I've been threatened. I then have to have an internal conversation about it to compensate. "There really is no threat," I say to myself. And that's energy I'd rather not spend.
But maybe there is a threat. Who knows. It's such a vague statement. You know what, if you say that to me, you aren't being a friend. Maybe that's the best, simplest, thing to say.
The other day when I wrote the Last Man Standing piece about Carmelo Anthony, I was bothered in the back of my mind about Amare Stoudemire. I know we're supposed to think of him as a star, but I've never seen it with my own two eyes. He doesn't feel like a star to me.
I still feel the tenacity of Melo, esp after Game 2, where he overcame Miami's suffocating defense and scored a bunch and did a heroic job of trying to win for the team. Really, I never expected the Knicks to win any of this. And I don't care. I just love the illusion that they're putting their heart and soul into it.
But then Stoudemire punches a fire extinguisher, cuts his hand, and is out for the series.
Everyone else on the team seems to be doing whatever they can. I cry for Iman Shumpert, the rookie with the huge heart, who died on the field of battle in Game One. Stoudemire was supposed to set an example for the rookies of how to keep your cool when the world is crumbling around you.
Then I saw an off-hand comment about how much he makes. And the bubble popped. This guy is paid $20 million per season. It's his job to get to the playoffs, and then push as far into the post-season as he can. They lose two games on the road. It's not over. Not even close. But his heart is sick and he can't see himself on the court, so he takes himself out of it. I don't see how Stoudemire goes back on the court again, especially wearing a Knicks uniform.
I couldn't believe this comment on Twitter. "We all have done thing out of anger that we regret. That makes us human. Bad timing on my part. Sorry guys. This to shall pass." Human? I suppose. But then being a pussy, coward, dickhead and loser is also human. I don't care if what he did is human. He didn't want to compete so he took himself out. Yeah, that might be human. He should give the money to charity. That might restore a little of his dignity, honor or manhood.
But he still has time on his contract. So they say he will be back next year.
If that's the case, I hope they trade Melo, Novak, Lin, Fields, Smith, Davis, Chandler and Shumpert, and all the other fine players on the Knicks. I'll root for them on their new teams. Just so I can forget about the cowardice of Stoudemire.
And btw, to the Knicks' equipment man -- put a punching bag in the locker room so no player in the future has even a remote excuse for doing what Stoudemire did.
Can you imagine if you wanted to play professional basketball, and you were good, you were on a couple of championship teams, and have set a couple of records, that they'd say to you "Okay, we'll let you play, but you have the be a CEO and give us a business plan we like."
What if in addition to being a great painter or musician, you also had to look great in a suit and have an MBA?
Or if you wanted to be a surgeon, and had to spend all day every day in meetings with people you don't like or respect, explaining to them, without hurting their feelings why you have to use this scalpel instead of that one.
Maybe you might not be a great CEO but you could paint Starry Night or sing a nice ballad, or arrange flowers nicely, or cook a great meal for 2000 people.
There are a lot of talents that have nothing to do with being a CEO.
And then there's this...
I don't want to be a CEO.
Let me say that slowly.
I. Don't. Want. To. Be. A. CEO.
But I do love to make software.
I suspect in 20 or 30 years the tech business, if it survives all the bubbles that will come and go between then and now, will be structured around creative talent as well as corporateness (and I'm being generous to corporateness). But that day has not come yet. And until it does, btw, the tech industry is just as vulnerable and just as dumb as industries it looks down on. As long as you think of programmers as employees and not creative people, or see being a CEO as superior to being a world-class developer, you're vulnerable to disruption. Really big time disruption.
A lot of things are working now in the WorldOutline, so I've really slowed down the development work and am spending a lot of time trying things out just using the product.
I used to do this at Living Videotext, a long time ago. Back then, I wasn't coding the product, so I got to play a different role in the development process. I called that role First User. I would use the product to do the things it was intended to do, and in doing so would bump up against loose-ends or rough edges. I would then communicate them to the lead developer, in a daily meeting.
I would always bring my notebook, which was a physical thing, because the tool I was working on was a notetaking tool. I needed to have some other work to use the product for, which wasn't a problem because I was also the CEO of the company (my Day Job) and was working with a lot of other people on a lot of projects. That's what a CEO does. Juggles lots of things, all of them important, some tedious, but necessary -- and others more than necessary, crucial to our success. Making sure the product could be used for what it was meant to do was somewhere between necessary and crucial. And it was also a matter of honor. One of my pet peeves are products that have glitches that every user must see. That means the company either didn't know or didn't care. By glitch, I mean an annoyance that could be easily fixed.
The project I'm playing with is the "threads" app. It uses Disqus for comments, and all of it is embedded in the Bootstrap 2 environment. So I can use any of the gizmos or doodads that they define there. (This gives me an idea, Disqus should have a switch that allows me to tell it that it's running inside Boostrap and it could use their doodads and gizmos too.)
Here's the example that goes with this post.
The menu you see at the top of the screen is the one I'm going to use to tie together all the scripting.com sites. They don't all have the same menu, but they should. That will happen when all my content is flowing through this engine. That might be a very long time from now.
BTW, I set the menu for a page, or a site by setting the menuName attribute to the name of the menu. There is no command yet for setting that attribute in the OPML Editor, but I can do it with a one-line script.
op.attributes.setone ("menuName", "scriptingNewsMenu")
That's the advantage of having your editor be a scripting environment too.
Also one of the things that comes out of using your product as it was intended to be used, is that you learn how to explain in very few words what its intended purpose is. As you're developing it, especially if you're not following in someone else's footsteps, that can be a hard thing to come up with.
I've created an abbreviated version of this post on the threads site in case you'd care to comment, or have a question.