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. :-)
Check it out.
There's no reason that everyone you know who uses the Internet shouldn't know exactly what the Affordable Care Act does. Never mind whether you like it or don't. Everyone should know what's in it.
Everyone should know what's in it.
Everyone. Should. Know. What's. In. It.
And why not.
A few weeks ago The Oatmeal told the story of Nikola Tesla, a not-so-famous inventor of the 19th Century. How much you want to bet that awareness of who Tesla is shot up by a billion percent.
We've given too much power to the news media. They aren't telling the story. But we can tell each other. In terms that mean something to human beings. About friends and family members who don't have health insurance because they have asthma or diabetes or high blood pressure. Or had cancer. Or whatever.
What an outrage that insurance companies can cancel your insurance when you get sick. How convenient for them. Hard to believe that's even possible, but it is.
So if you have a way with words and infographics and want to help your country, let's do this.
The White House doesn't do Internet stuff very well. That's no excuse. Let's take this into our own hands.
BTW, the time to do these things is when your back is not against the wall, when it's not a desperate last gasp. Health care reform just dodged a bullet. So please let's make sure it's got super powers next time. Because there will be a next time.
If you're working on a podcast client here are two suggestions for improving your RSS and OPML support.
1. RSS has a cloud element that makes it possible for a feed subscriber to request notifications of updates so that user sees the new stuff more quickly, and doesn't have to wait for a periodic scan. My River2 aggregator supports this as do all WordPress sites. It's a feature of RSS 2.0, and dates back over ten years.
2. Allow users to subscribe to OPML subscription lists. When you read one of these during your periodic scan, subscribe to any feeds it contains that are new to you, and unsub from any feeds that were present in prior scans that are no longer there. This allows a lot of powerful connections. Notably:
Note that neither suggestion calls for changes in RSS or OPML, and btw, they are equally applicable for general RSS aggreators and readers. But podcast clients are on people's minds currently.
If you have comments or questions post them here.
I had a recorded phone conversation yesterday with Andrew Phelps of Nieman Journalism Lab about the development of podcasting.
From the initial idea from Adam, to the enclosure element in RSS, the experimentation at Berkman, the Democratic Convention in 2004, Morning Coffee Notes, Daily Source Code and the podcasting community. .
Also a discussion of the significance of the medium and ideas for its future
The President ran a great campaign, even if it wasn't the ideal campaign.
He used the Internet in a one-way mode. It wasn't used to organize new politicial ideas that came from the people, but it was used, powerfully, to organize an army of supporters to give money and time to his election. And it worked. He cruised to victory. It wasn't even close.
But then after the election win, the campaign shuts down.
Maybe, we thought, they'll relaunch at the inauguration. Nope. Nothing. A fairly typical White House website. A linear improvement over the Bush web.
And that was the moment of failure. Failure to understand that an effective president never stops campaigning, using whatever communication tools are at his disposal.
It's the president's pulpit that his power emanates from. His unique ability to speak to and for the electorate. This is the power that's most valued. Nothing else matters than his or her ability to move votes and voters. And to hear what they're saying and respond accordingly. The web offers by far the most powerful tools that a politician has ever had and the President blew it off.
It's as if Google won search on the net, and once winning, shut down google.com. It really isn't even analogous. It's exactly the same thing. Because in 2009, when the President took office, the Presidency was an Internet thing. As much on the web as Facebook is. Or Twitter. Instead of using those things, ineffectively, they could have and should have been those things.
And that's why, forty-five minutes from now, a huge political accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act, is in jeopardy.
Today in NYC people are texting as they walk into you on the street. Talking into the air, paying attention to nothing but what's going on on their screen.
Sometimes you see a parent walking with a child in the park, the parent talking into the phone and the child looking into the eyes of any available adult as if to ask "Can you believe this asshole?" Maybe I'm projecting. But the kids don't look happy. That's for sure. I wonder what kind of therapy these kids are going to need when they grow up. Used to be when a parent took a kid for a walk, the kid could ask the parent questions, or tell him or her stories about what they did in school. These days quality time is spent with a hand-held device and a parent whose mind is anywhere but here.
So now you're going to have Google Glasses do you think the hand-held device goes away? I wonder about that. Maybe you'll multi-task! Check something on Google search while texting to someone on the Android device. There might not even be a reason to be anywhere at all.
Maybe it'll all work out. Probably will.
On my lunch break I watched a little CNN.
They had a 10-minute segment on what happens if ObamaCare is overturned.
What was the substance of the discussion?
How does it help or hurt Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, both of whom certainly have excellent health care.
No mention of Americans who don't.
Maybe that's why they're losing viewers.
Arizona is a figment of the US government's imagination.
It wouldn't exist without massive investment by the other 49 states.
The cities of Arizona are located in the southern part of the state.
It's all desert. Hot. Arid. Nothing grows there. It's uninhabitable without water. And it has none of its own.
So how do they get the water? Check it out. We built a huge dam to create an artificial lake, but even that isn't enough to get water to Arizona because there's a mountain range in the way. So our energy, not Arizona's, pumps the water over the mountains to water the lawns and fill the swimming pools and otherwise make it possible for millions of people who used to live in Cleveland and Pittsburg to move to Phoenix, Mesa, Tuscon, Tempe and Scottsdale.
So don't tell me Arizona is a sovereign state. It's part of the United States, and if they keep insisting they're sovereign, we should just shut off their water and see how sovereign they really are.
And their electricty.
A new kind of CAPTCHA.
It asks you a question that you would only be able to answer if you read every word in a story.
When you do that, the ability to comment is turned on.
Otherwise, no comments allowed.
That way you would never have to say to a commenter -- "I'm guessing you didn't read the piece."
Which happens so often that it's pretty obvious no one ever reads anything.
I'm just kidding about patenting it.
PS: Most of the comments will be How dare you patent something!
Some people don't like Bootstrap, but I do.
I knew I'd like it from the first moment I tried it, because I could get it to do stuff for me the first time.
Bootstrap is baked into the world outline, so now I get to see my users have fun with it. These people are very far from the types of people who build commercial websites. They don't care if their twipsies look like everyone else's. They delight in the fact that they can make twipsies by just typing a little macro into their text. We've known users can do that since WordStar days.
But there's another reason I love Bootstrap. (Actually many others.)
I was working on creating a log for one of my apps. Just something for me and other system managers. Nothing that has anything to do with branding or other commercial concerns. Highly functional. But it looks beautiful because it's just as easy to make it beautiful as it is to make it not beautiful. So there's a little more beauty in my life. And programmers are people too, and we like to look at beautiful stuff as much as the next person.
Usually it isn't worth the trouble to make it nice. But if it costs nothing -- why not?
Mathew Ingram writing at GigaOm picked up the story, so now it's no longer true that the tech press has punted on the interesting part of the land grab announced on June 13.
Lesson learned, again -- it's really hard to get the press to focus on a story that isn't fed to them by some event or announcement. Or they have little respect for people like me. I've actually said directly to reporters what the story is, in less than 140 characters, but they didn't respond. These are people who, if you asked them if they respect me, would insist that they do.
I just don't understand how the world works, obviously. People are lying when they say they'll take stories from anywhere. This story is very easy, no leaks necessary, the only digging needed is to click a link and spend five minutes reading.
I also wrote a brief review of The Newsroom, which I liked. It received shitty reviews from real reporters who say it isn't like real newsrooms. Of course not, it's a TV show. I thought the story of the first episode matched nicely with the story of the ICANN namegrab. In this story BP is Google and Amazon. And the press is the press. Asleep at the wheel, waiting for someone to feed them a story, and if it comes from an unexpected place, unprepared to hear it.
Biggest irony -- the worst listeners are the people who we need to be the best. (Reporters.)
I went to see War Horse at Lincoln Center a few months ago. It was nothing like a real war. The horse was nothing like a real horse. Yet it was good play, inspiring, heart-rending, uplifting, loving. Really reaches in there.
President Kennedy in his inaugural said "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." He wasn't like a real President. He asked people to care about their country. These days Presidents don't expect that so they don't ask. That has carried over to the Internet which needs your love. It's crying out for it. The tech press, who are supposed to care, who would tell you that they do care, do not.
Those are the depressing facts.
But at least Mathew Ingram cares, and for that I am thankful.
I have to give up on this story now. I've done all I can. If it's going to be something we do something about other people are going to have to do some pushing.
Please, this is just a blog post, not an ad. I've already got email from people telling me they think it'll be tough. I'm just writing aspirationally. Thinking out loud. You're welcome to listen, but do not feel compelled to act. That would be wrong. However if you're sure you know of a school that could do this, or even another kind of organization, please don't be shy.
You ever wake up in the middle of the night with a realization that you had been wasting huge amounts of time on something that was never going to work? For me this happened late on Saturday night, early Sunday morning. I realized that while I love news, I really do -- always have -- the news does not love me back.
I've had some stunning successes with tools for reading and producing news, only to have the results ignored by the people who publish news. An example, I had a great news reading app for the Blackberry, quite a bit before the iPhone. I had friends at the NY Times. I thought they would love it. It worked so damn well and it was so incredibly simple. I would have given them the product for nothing. They never expressed an interest. I found out years later that they used it as an example of a great news app. Oy. Why didn't we take out ads in the paper telling the readers how to find it. How much different things would be now. And that's just one example. This has been happening over and over. For many years. It's time to give up.
At the same time I realized that I love librarians as much as I love news. As a kid I used to spend endless hours in the library. Just looking through books and the card catalog, trying to figure stuff out. Being frustrated with how slow the process was, but finding the librarians always supportive and helpful. Honestly it was a good place to hang out when things were crazy at home. Maybe that's another reason I have good feelings about libraries.
Later, when the web was booting up and I was falling in love I found out that at many companies the people who started the websites were librarians. The technical skills were no barriers for them. The wonder of it was too enticing. I came to believe at that time that librarians and programmers were flip sides of the same coin. Two ways of looking at the same thing.
But I think I've over-idealized that too. As much as I hoped that I would be able to get news people to use my stuff, it might be very hard to get stuff into libraries. I got a taste of that at a meeting I went to last year at the Library of Congress in Washington. What I saw there was an organization with politics, that was defensive to new ideas, and was making weird deals with companies when they should have been supporting open development. Librarians, I thought, were idealists. But not so much when you get to powerful and bureaucratic librarians. That's the way human structures are. It's not a bad thing, it's just the way things are.
I thought I might find a home in academia, for a while, and maybe some way at some point I might. What I would like to do is create a new kind of development project, one that goes on for years and years. Maybe decades and decades. Obviously I'm only going to be alive for a couple of those (seriously, I'm 57 years old, my father died at 80, and my health isn't that great). But I've been doing a development project myself now since 1988. At times with a development team, a lot of time on my own. Sometimes with a community of developers and users, at times very large communities. And there were times when I was the only person using the software as well as developing it. Not a bad thing, btw. You can go as fast or as slow as you want when you're doing it solo. When I was young the thought of going slow never occurred to me. But I learned that sometimes you have to slow down to go really fast. Seems paradoxical. But you can't make good design decisions until you're thoroughly familiar with a tool. And when you go too fast you have to live with the bad decisions for a very long time.
I love to teach this stuff. And I'd love to get a project going where students come and go as they shuttle through the university. Maybe they continue to contribute after they leave. And since all the software would be open source, it could be part of the infrastructure in their work. As they come through the project they learn a lot of things other than coding. They learn how to test, how to listen to users. How to write worknotes and howtos. How to design software for ease of learning. Tradeoffs. How to work with people in other disciplines. Because like librarians, developers are in a position where they can and should be able to help people no matter what they're doing.
And yes, I did say help. There's so much more to doing software well than becoming rich. It's so sad that today's talent is so directed toward wealth. Sure it's very nice to be financially independent. But that's where the niceness stops. You can get too rich, I believe. It takes a lot of time being rich. TIme you should be spending being a person, and helping other people. At a human scale. I think in education we have a responsibility not only to help develop productivity, but also to help others.
When my father was sick, I spent a lot of time in the hospital with him. I got to know the hospital staff. One thing surprised me, but it really shouldn't have. They have very satisfying work, because they can see clearly how what they do helps people. Programming can be like that. I think we should teach that. Not just that it's possible, but to show our young people how to do it. To teach them how to do it.
I believe I've been lucky to have been born with the genes I have, and at the time I was born. I became an adult at a time of great opportunity. And I was pretty much in the middle of where it was happening. I have a few years left, and I want to use that time to make more of what I learned than just a codebase. I want to teach others how to do what I learned to do. And in doing so achieve a sense of fullfillment that I crave.
I figure there must be a school somewhere, run by people with great vision, who can see that the normal computing curriculum is good (it is!), but we can do some new stuff based on what we've learned in the last few decades. That teaching people to develop tools for computer users is something that should be possible to achieve great strides in. I believe I know how to do it.
A university-hosted open source project staffed by students creating software for and with other students and teachers and the world. A university is a perfect lab for this work. Now I just have to find one that wants to do this with me.
A quick note.
This morning at 10AM we all stood by waiting for the Supreme Court ruling on ObamaCare, which didn't come. Other rulings were announced, and the non-tech press is doing their jobs, reading every word in every opinion, trying to figure out what it means.
On the other hand, a huge amount of information, containing who-knows-what was released on the 13th by ICANN, about Google, Amazon, Apple and a bunch of other companies, some known and some unknown, that directly impacts the future of the Internet.
Also execs are leaving ICANN, including the CEO. Where are they going? Are they going to profit from the mess they're leaving behind?
ICANN is supposed to protect the integrity of the Internet, instead it looks like they may be selling it out, and there's at least a possibility that employees of ICANN are profiting from it.
You can't really say that this is tech and therefore someone else's responsibility, because the structure of the Internet is relevant to everything.
Thomas O'Toole, a trademark lawyer, wrote that getting a gTLD is the closest thing to getting a global trademark. And they are sold without anyone really watching. The tragedy is that you don't have to wait for a leak to get the info, it's all public, available to anyone.
Wouldn't it be great if there were a public effort to read every word in every application and share what's learned, much as every word in the Supreme Court rulings are being analyzed and studied by people who understand what's at stake?
Clay Johnson asks for a "way to allow people I specify to add articles to my Readability list."
Excellent. That's a linkblog in Readability, something I've been asking for myself, but I haven't gotten it yet.
And there's a bigger disconnect in the developer world about allowing your data flows to connect with other people's software. Too many developers are trying to recreate the RSS-o-Sphere inside little bottles, and miss that the value comes from being able to connect anything up to anything.
A couple of case studies.
1. I've been asking the Readability guys to allow me to shoot a link to a readable page to a feed, that I can then subscribe to in my river. This is the way I like to read. I don't need a Read-it-Later app. I already have that problem solved. In fact a special app is no solution for me, because it's another place I have to remember to go to, and I won't, and I know that, so I'll never use it. But a command that says "Shoot this to my feed" -- that I would use because it plugs into my flow, my world. Where I subscribe to all my other feeds.
I think Readability is potentially a very important product, but only if they allow their output to hook up to anyone's aggregator, and so far, they have not been willing to do that.
My river works, btw, because there's a standard way to surface a series of links over time. It's called RSS. This is a bus every developer whose products creates a flow of links should hook onto.
2. Over the weekend I came across a site called Fuego at Nieman Lab. It's an aggregation of links to stories about the future of journalism. How they create the site I don't know (but I'd like to). It has a very distinctive layout, something I imagine they're quite proud of. Usually sites like this make you come there to get the benefit of their linkflow, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that they also provide an RSS 2.0 feed. Now that's the right way to go. It involves some amount of ego-suppression. They have a very beautiful presentation. But realisitcally, it's just one flow among many, and the kind of people who need what they're doing already have places to get all their news. So they allowed me to hook it up to my river, and that I did. They made the right choice, an adult choice. They could have stood their ground, and their interface would have stayed there, beautiful -- and unused. Or their linkflow could be useful and their beautiful display routed-around, for some, maybe most. The choice is to be influential, or not relevant.
To Readability I say this. Go ahead and build all your own structures and UIs for flows, but also provide the "Shoot this to my feed" functionality. That way if you can't roll over a decade or more of investment in aggregation tools by others, at least you can benefit from them. Your strength is making sense of crazy cluttered web pages. I want that in my world. I need it. But I can't wait a decade for you to catch up with the work we've done in rivers, why should I. I can muddle through with the ugly web pages, but I need all the other sources of news that come to me through my river.
We all have to recognize that we don't do everything. Even the huge companies, Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook eventually learn to specialize. But the individual developers, have no choice but to work with each other. It also means you have to work with chaos -- throw your feeds out there not knowing who will pick them up. That's the magic of the web. Trust it, and it'll work for you.
If Apple wanted to make this iPad user happy, my #1 feature request is this.
Give me a way to set the user-agent string on Safari, so I can not tell every site I'm coming in on an iPad.
So they won't be able to put a page between me and the thing I came to read that tells me that they have an iPad app that I'm not going to get.
I lied. One more #1 feature request. A battery that charges faster.
Quick comments on the deal that was announce around midnight Monday.
This is a good move because the NYT mobile app is slow and buggy, and not much fun to use. If it were elegant and fun, it might give people a reason to become a subscriber.
However, the Times seems to be thinking about their installed base, not expanding the base, because the prices remain unchanged. What the Times charges, which is not clear to a non-user (I've thought of becoming a subscriber) probably won't go over very well with the non-subscribing iPhone or iPad user.
I'm glad they did it because Flipboard is not Twitter. I'm afraid of Twitter running away with the news-system-of-the-future before a competitive market has a chance to form. So things are moving faster, I guess we'll hear something from Twitter before too long. Could they have done a deal with the Times too?
Remember when Mike McCue, Flipboard founder and lead guy left Twitter's board? (Actually this was just a rumor. My mistake.)
Wonder if Apple gets part of the revenue?
One more thing. Flipboard owes its existence to RSS. Would be appreciated if they put some back, or at least told people that. It would help create more opportunities, and hey it's just fair. Business doesn't always have to scoop up every scrap of credit for their accomplishments.
On behalf of all developers I want to say something to all users.
We need you.
Without users, there can't be any software.
Because, as we know, software is a process.
And the process of software, at some point, is driven by users.
The job of a developer is to seed the process.
To say, here -- I think this is a good idea.
Then it's up to the users to agree or not.
But it goes way beyond that.
Developers, when we do our most appreciated work, are paving cow paths. Making things we know people want work better.
So the process is:
1. Users do something.
2. Users do other things.
3. They do more of some things than others.
4. Patterns emerge.
5. You see which way to go.
6. You make that way easy.
I think all good developers know this, at a visceral level. But the longer we do this, the clearer it is.
There wasn't always a Mother's Day or a Father's Day. At some point we woke up and realized, hey, we need these people. And we appreciate them. So let's give them a day.
So we need to feel, imho, the same way for people who use our software.
I'm feeling this very clearly now, as the uptake begins for my latest works. The users' presence is being felt. They're showing me things I need to look at that I wasn't looking at before. The feedback loop is kicking in.
Make a list of the steps you have to take from the formation of this thought: "I want to subscribe to this," to actually complete the subscription. It's depressingly long. We should do something to make it shorter. (And Google has, read on.)
This may be the single greatest thing about Twitter. It took that long sequence and shortened it to one step: Click. Unless we can teach a website to read your mind, it can't get any shorter.
When I switched to Chrome after years of being a Firefox user, one thing I missed right off was the white-on-orange feed icon in the address area of the browser window, indicating that the site you're looking at has a feed you can subscribe to. This disappearance made the arduous process even more difficult. Thanks! (Sarcasm.)
Then at one point in an act of desperation I guessed that there was probably a plug-in that fixed this. I don't like to install browser plug-ins for some reason, but when I found this one, I installed it right away. And the white-on-orange icon comes back. Yay! Then I discovered later it's even better. I can configure it with a URL that it will jump to when I click the icon, and it will provide the URL of the feed as a parameter to the page. Luckily, River2 has a page that can accept a quick subscription to a feed, in just that form. So I set it up, and ever since I have been happier with RSS subscription than I have ever been. A remarkable number of steps are cut off the list of steps that follows "I want to subscribe to this."
It's called The RSS Subscription Extension, and it's by Google, and it's a must-get for people who subscribe to feeds from their browser.
Thanks! (No sarcasm.)
I've had a few brief conversations in the last few days with people who have Manila servers, who are trying out the World Outline software. This got me thinking how World Outline relates to Manila, and to blogging software like WordPress, Tumblr, etc.
There's a podcast that goes with this post. It's only 20 minutes, and it's full of ideas, I think, that are worthwhile if you spend time thinking about social media. It goes into much more detail than I'll go into here.
First, most people reading this probably don't know about Manila.
Manila was an early blogging platform, but it started out as a full newsroom server app, with discussion software, editorial roles, tons of features that you don't see in blogging software. In a sense, blogging as an activity developed as Manila developed. It was launched in late 1999, and kept developing through early 2002.
Why was blogging so appealing? Why did it work so well? There are lots of ways to pick this up. One is that gave us a structure to hang our writing on. Time. That allowed the software to be simpler, and for the design process for the software to be simpler. Not the look of the site, but the structure of the site and the software features built to support that structure.
But time isn't the only structure we can hang our writing on. That has become more and more apparent as our blogs get overloaded and we get so many of them that we can't keep track of them. Our ideas are out there swimming in a vague space and we have little sense of its shape or dimension. I know that was true for me. How many blogs do I have spread across how many servers? I have no idea. There's a moment when you have something to write, and get confused about where it goes. That's a huge recurring question. And there is no answer sometimes. So you create yet another place to put stuff. Another place you will never remember.
I wanted to figure out what comes next. We seemed to have the problem of a page licked, but we didn't have an organization that worked. Time wasn't enough of a structure.
But I have a great tool for editing structure, the outliner. Somehow that must apply to this problem, or so it seemed.
That's the new level of functionality we've arrived at. It's a milestone as big as the one we reached in the late 90s and early 2000s with calendar structures. Now we have a tool for editing general web structures. And it works.
I guess that's what I have to demonstrate with the next screencast. How to use the World Outline to manage a very large base of content. This will be of interest primarily to people who manage large bases of content. Librarians, lawyers, researchers, writers, scientists, teachers. And guess who loved Manila? Largely those people.
All that's explained, I hope, in the podcast. I hope you listen to it.
And in the next screencast I hope to show you how I narrate my work with the outline.
A few weeks ago Twitter started sending emails saying so-and-so has tweets for you. Problem is, I've created an enormous number of Twitter accounts over the years, most of which are long-forgotten, that follow no one. So presumably their robots have no way of knowing what this non-existent entity likes. So I get the dregs.
Here's an example.
There is no news there that I am remotely interested in.
News about super celebs, TV stars, famous athletes. Mostly grunts and snorts and news that I've already read.
Normally I'd just create a filter and map it to the trash, and that would be that.
But they haven't put any identitying info on the email that makes it filterable.
PS: My solution for now is to click the Spam button in GMail, training it, I hope, to view these messages as unwelcome advertising.
Today's screencast, only 9 minutes long, delivers the punchline.
This is how you create a website with the world outline.
If you're a regular reader of this site, you know that I've been going on and on about how people were thinking about DNS in too small a way. That you could put markers inside documents and turn everything inside out.
Well, today's show doesn't make a big deal about it, but look at how simple it is to create a new site.
1. Enter a headline.
2. Choose a command from a menu.
3. Enter a domain name.
4. Click OK.
How do you make it so simple? By hacking at the complexity. Looking for steps you can remove. Then factor some more. Think a bit. And remove more steps.
Even if you don't plan to use this software, watch this screencast. You'll see something new in software. That doesn't happen every day!
BTW, this is the site I created in the tutorial. Leave a comment if it's hot where you are today.
We've now had a week to digest the applications for new TLDs that were announced by ICANN last week.
Esther Dyson, the founding chairman of ICANN, says there's no reason to establish new TLDs. I go further, I say there are important reasons not to.
First, certain TLDs are relatively harmless. Google buying .google is an example. Not so sure about Amazon buying .amazon, because it also is the name of a rainforest in South America, and .apple could be a problem for growers and lovers of the fruit. But let's put those aside. If it's a company's trademark, fine -- let them buy the corresponding TLD. No harm done.
But what happens if someone buys your trademark? Don't worry ICANN says, we have that covered, with a process that allows trademark holders to challenge squatter registrations.
But what if the name was created by an open source community, without the financial resources to mount a challenge? I have some standing there, because I played a role in establishing blogs. How does Google get the right to capture all the goodwill generated in the word blog? They are not the exclusive owner of it, as they are with the name Google. However they claim the right to become that owner, by paying $185K to ICANN. Nowhere in their proposal is an offer to pay money to the people who created the idea that they would take over. And what if the creators aren't willing to sell it to them?
Now you see the problem. And it extends to words and concepts that weren't created by anyone living today. Sex, love, laughter, babies, books, songs, cars, poetry, etc. These things shouldn't be TLDs, they're too important, too basic to life. Not the kinds of things any company, for crying out loud, should be able to claim to own.
Further, this is clearly going to cause more problems like the terrible gridlock that's forming over software patents. Companies fighting over our future, with the rest of us left as bystanders, pawns. We could see the patent mess coming years before it did, but weren't able to head it off. This time we can and must.
This may have been an interesting experiment in the abstract, worth doing so we could find out what the problems are. We owe our thanks to the potential registrants for showing us so clearly. Now the answer should be an emphatic No. The TLDs we have are fine. There is no shortage of names that this is needed to address. Let's work on solving problems, not creating new ones.
Introducing World Outline for Poets.
As with the first poets tutorial, it's software that's been tested, and it does something new, that you've probably never done before, and in many cases, not thought about. For me, it's what came before and comes after blogging. It's about thinking, organizing, working, presenting and refining. It's an incredibly useful structure for editing stuff on a computer. And now it's all hooked up to the web, in many interesting and surprising ways.
This software is a big deal for me. I've basically been working towards this since I was 22. A long time ago. If it works, it will make the world feel like an alien planet to everyone. Or at least people who think writing is fun and outlining is magical.
There's a test server, and a screencast, and a howto. As the howto says, this is a small first step. Many more steps are basically ready to go. But first I want to get a group of people up and running.
This is one of those times when you really should RTFM.
And as the title says, it's for poets, not programmers, although there are many programmers who are also writers and thinkers.
Here we go!
PS: I always find it interesting to see what random header graphic is chosen on days of big developments here. Today's is a picture I took in the Sangre de Cristo mountains north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, in July 2004.
Jeff Jarvis wrote provocatively about disrupting journalism education.
Pretty sure he would agree with this, but I'd like to add my own two items.
1. Every j-school student operates their own server. A requirement. Installs software to run a linkblog, river of news, and whatever else they want.
2. Every undergrad, no matter what their major, is required to take a semester of journalism. Today's students are going into a world where blogging is something many if not all educated people will be doing, for a lifetime. Prepare them to do it well. Write a story that grabs the readers' attention and holds it. Learn how to interview someone. Learn how to listen (that is actually a skill that can be taught, btw). The importance of multiple sources. How to care for the Internet (especially important for future VCs).
A good education is also about enriching the society our students will live in. This is important. And the writers, the humanists, not being scared of the technology, and not be intimidated by geeks, is essential for a well-running world.
Like Jarvis I don't believe in turning writers into programmers, unless they have a gift for both (some do). But I do insist on attacking the fear of technology head-on. Give the students the kind of experience with a server that a med student has with a cadaver. Everything they learn about this will help them, but the most important thing is to take the fear out.
And for crying out loud the kids should learn when they're being bullshitted and how not to be full of shit. That's the point of #2.
1. We're about to go into a presidential campaign season like none before, thanks to the Supreme Court ruling that said there were no limits on the money super-rich people can give to fund campaigns of political candidates.
2. Where will that money go? Into TV advertising. Huge amounts of it.
3. Not just for the presidential race, for congressional and local elections too.
Okay this is digusting. To watch a small number of insulated and opinionated people with really perverse sense of their own importance (they are human, not gods, and they get sick and die like the rest of us), basically undermine the last vestiges of popular power in the US.
But wait, the laws are still on the books. We don't have to vote for the candidates they want us to. If we don't, then they have to find another more visible, illegal way to hijack the political process.
So what if we don't watch the ads? What then?
Well, change, for one thing. The price of the ads will drop. The TV networks, who have been pumping up the candidates who raise the most money, greedily anticipating their coffers filling with the cash, would have to re-think their business models. Goodbye Blitzer and Madow. Reverend Al and Billow.
Now, without ads to tell you who to vote for, you'd have to find the information some other way. That, in itself could be pretty revolutionary.
Twitter will now include, for a story from a partner:
1. The headline.
2. A brief synopsis.
3. A photo or illustration.
4. A link to the full article.
5. A link to subscribe to the source (not the tweeter).
Here's a screen shot.
I think we see where this is headed.
1. First, it's hard to see this as a tweet, under any reasonable definition of a tweet. It has more than 140 characters. And a lot of other features that are not available to tweets.
2. It's not very convincing to argue that there's a magic to 140 characters while giving much more to some members of the network. Let's hope that Twitter, Inc doesn't have the chutzpah to do that in the future.
3. Why stop at a synopsis, why not include the whole article? This is where the partners have to start worrying. Because the day will come when Twitter comes to them and says "Our users want the full article, not just the synopsis." So either the news org provides the whole article, or they compete with other providers who do.
4. After that, it's only a matter of time before Twitter is putting ads on those pages, or otherwise monetizing. There will be a split, but it will be less attractive to the publisher than if the news resided on their own site.
It would have been easier for the news industry to compete with Twitter if they had made this move themselves a couple of years ago by starting a Twitter-like network, with the all the features Twitter is now introducing (which all were already in the publications' RSS feeds).
The product we all want is the realtime feed of Twitter, the river of news -- and the full text of the stories. A couple of years ago only the news industry could have provided that. Technically, that's still true, but in the intervening time, Twitter has gotten stronger, and more people expect to get their news on Twitter. Wait much longer and that will be an insurmountable advantage.
Advance is slowing down the publication of their print papers and laying off reporters.
The Buffalo paper, a Warren Buffet property, is putting up a paywall.
Twitter is giving a bigger pipe to its partners, leaving everyone else eyeballs and earballs and a 140-char limit.
Where does this settle down at a new equilibrium?
Where do all these vectors point?
Amazon and Google have made an audacious grab of namespace on the Internet. As far as I can see there's been no mention of this in the tech press.
An example. Google doesn't intend to share .blog and it will only be used to point to Blogger sites. If you have a Tumblr or WordPress blog, you can't have a .blog domain. Here is the public listing of Google's application.
Amazon plans to do the same with .search. So if you have a search site and it's not Amazon's you can't be part of .search.
Google is going to be exclusive about .cloud.
There are lots more new proposed TLDs like this.
Seems like a huge story to me. A big surprise. Did you think this is how it would work? I sure didn't.
I tweeted this, followed by a pointer to a blog post written by Michele Neylon, all before 8AM Eastern this morning. It's now 6PM, and there have been no reports about it in the tech press. It'll be interesting to see when (or if) this becomes a story.
Another angle on this, the ICANN people must have known about these applications long before they were made public. How could they continue this process, knowing that is how Google and Amazon interpreted the idea of new TLDs?
BTW, this also happened on Wednesday morning when we had a story here, at 8AM, about a fundamental change in the way Twitter works. It used to have a 140-character limit, but that limit was lifted for Twitter's media partners. A press release ran later in the day. That's when the reports started appearing in the tech press. Even though the story was in their Twitter timelines, and here on Scripting News.
A podcast about 10 years no smoking, and how tech giants enter already-established markets.
Ten years ago today, June 14, 2002, I stopped at a gas station on Woodside Road and picked up two packs of Marlboro Lights. I was on my way to the hospital. I knew there was something wrong, but when I was buying cigarettes, some other version of myself was doing the deal. Not the conscious one, the worried one. The one who couldn't make it through the night without waking up in a panic. Who couldn't take a walk without feeling heavy physical pain in terrifying places.
I rolled down the window on my Lexus SUV, lit one up and drove south on 280. Probably lit and smoked another one before turning off at Edgewood Road and heading down the hill to Sequoia Hospital.
I came out a week later, weak as a kitten, but with a heart that worked much better. Having been told a hard truth from the surgeon who operated on me. If you keep smoking it'll kill you in three years.
Those were the last cigarettes I smoked.
Ten years later, I'm still a non-smoker. Occasionally I'd like to have a cigarette. To forget whatever pain has surfaced. To accomodate a feeling of self-loathing that popped up. To kill whatever it is about myself that's upsetting me. But the urge passes quickly now. And my conscious self gets in the loop and soothes the pain with a little love and support. Or so I hope. Whatever I'm doing, I'm not smoking.
And ten years later, I'm still here.
It's worth marking these milestones, I suppose.
I went for my daily bike ride in Central Park today.
I haven't been blogging about the rides lately because they're always pretty much exactly the same. I start at the Columbus Circle entrance to the park and go all the way around the drive. Then I do one more partial loop, through the most famous part of the park, by the fountain, and then exit where I came out.
It's not uncommon on weekends to have my ride thwarted by a running or bike race, or a charity walk. Such affairs in NYC are almost always huge. So they schedule them early in the morning. That's when I go, on weekends, trying to avoid pedestrians and riders who can't stay in a lane. But the special races prevent me from finishing my ride, because they usually block off the road. I wonder then what the park is there for. But what can you do.
This evening, a weekday evening, the park had been taken over by JP Morgan for some huge corporate affair. All over the most beautiful parts of the park (and it is a really beautiful place) is signage saying JP Morgan red team, or orange team. Or vomit. I've come to reallly hate corporate ownership of everything. Esp a disgusting name like JP Morgan, receiver of taxpayer largesse, a huge bailout, and without the good grace to defer to their benefactors. Quite the opposite. They feel superior to us. Well fuck that shit. Really angry about seeing a city-owned park, not just any park but Central Park, taken over by such an obnoxious entity. I guess that's what you get when you have a mayor whose name is Bloomberg.
One more note about corporate ownership. My report from this morning was a scoop, it turns out. Later in the day Twitter announced a new deal where tweets can be huge, no 140-character limit, with pictures and videos. Something I've been asking for, for years. But not for you and me. Just for their corporate partners.
Twitter: "Twitter Cards will only render for domains which have been whitelisted by Twitter."
This is their contribution to the world wide web.
Can we please, please -- just go back to the really good thing we had when we all built on the same level platform, called the web. It was a big deal that it wasn't owned by Silicon Valley. I never left the web, and this is where I'm going to be for the rest of my life. If they kill it, I'll just read books, physical ones. And spin pottery. In a seaside town in Croatia or Slovenia. Perhaps Bucharest. Far far away from Palo Alto.
Here's the map for today's ride.
And here's the Wikipedia page for Frederick Law Olmsted, the Tim Berners-Lee of Central Park.
Whether you know it or not, you depend on Twitter being a level playing field.
That tweets from reporters get the same priority a tweets from bloggers. (And as far as I know they still do.)
And that reports from outside reporters get the same priority as Twitter's employee reporters. (At this time, as far as I know, Twitter doesn't have any employee reporters.)
And that your blog posts get the same treatment as everyone else's.
And that last one is not true. Twitter is not a level playing field as far as where the posts come from. I just discovered this today, and was really unhappy to see what they're doing.
Here's a screen shot of three recent tweets of mine.
The middle one is expanded, the other two are not. They point to articles on Foreign Policy, The Verge and Technology Review, all respected publications, run by big companies.
Now here's a tweet pointing to an article from CNET. Note that instead of "Expand" it offers "View Summary."
And when I click on the View Summary link, I get a synopsis of the article.
This is something that had previously applied to apps, not content. Flickr pictures were sucked into Twitter and displayed along with the tweet, but pictures posted on my site were just links.
These are decisions being made by a private corporation, without explaining how or why one publication gets preferential treatment over the others. They, of course, are entitled to do this. But no one should think that this is a level playing field, that all content is treated equally, because that is not true.
BTW, it's not clear which treatment is preferrable. Would you rather have the picture on your site, where your commenting system applies, and you can count the views, and maybe show the reader an ad? But it's also clear that they are not treating the content equally. It is not a level playing field, and the basis for tilting the field is not visible. I imagine some journalism purists might argue that this already disqualifies Twitter as a platform for journalism.
Update: It's possible that Twitter is using OpenGraph tags (which I had not heard of until today). I've started a thread, if you have any information on this, please post a comment there. Thanks.
A long headline for a short blog post.
With a report from the Fed that the wealth of American households has declined 40 percent between 2007 and 2010, there's no question that the electorate is ready for some big change.
The question is do we do the right thing and the dumb thing.
That's what this election should be about. You decide whether austerity or stimulus is the right answer. And vote accordingly.
However for that to work, one of the candidates should offer to do the stimulus. Otherwise I don't see why anyone should care if it's Romney or Obama. Both are controlled by the Tea Party and bankers. Both want to starve the economy to supposedly boot up a recovery. They're not offering a choice.
The first time I heard this term used was on the Gillmor Gang podcast, only they called it Vendor Sports, not Vector Sports. But they might as well be the same thing. Because if you want to understand where a company is going, you have to understand where they came from. Because companies, like everything big (think steam ships, trains, space ships) get going in a given direction and take a long time to stop and are hard to turn.
This came up at the discussion at Mesh (I should do more conference sessions, they give me a lot of fodder for my web writing) last month. There were some smart nice and well-intentioned people who questioned whether Twitter was a competitor of news organizations. True, today they probably aren't competitors. I think of two products as competitive if by using one I'm not very likely to use the other (some people get one of everything from everyone, they don't count in determining if products compete). That's the static view of a company and its products. In a vector view, as if they were a steam ship or rocket ship, you'd think of products as competing if they were on a path to competing at some point in the not-too-distant future. So in that sense Twitter and news orgs are, imho, competitive. There's no future for Twitter, that I can see, that does not have them offering a largely indistinguishable product from what the news orgs provide (remembering that they too are vectors, and not static unmoving entities).
When I wrote this piece in July of last year, a lot of people said I was wrong, that Apple, Google and Amazon weren't on their way to becoming banks. I didn't see how they could not become banks. Again, assuming that the direction they're heading in is where they are actually going, because each of these companies, while nimble for their size, are so large that they really can't change course quickly or easily. The best they can hope for is to fool some number of people, but if their competitors are smart, they aren't being fooled one bit. In the case of banks, however, I doubt that they're that smart, that they see Apple's cash hoard (or cash cache, heh) as some kind of threat.
Apple today moved much closer to becoming a bank. Now a lot of developers see the vector pointing where it was clearly pointing last year and the year before. But if you want to aim your products better, work on seeing the vectors not the static view.
It seems 140-characters is not enough for Twitter's advertisers.
This is not something I had thought of. It's quite creative. And it suggests how Twitter might use its position as the system software vendor to tilt the table in favor of its own news service. Their news alerts would not be limited. Yours would.
I'm tellin ya, it's long past time to be working on an independent medium for transmission of tweet-size bits.
I saw Prometheus this weekend, and liked it.
I also read the NY Times review, and completely agree with it.
It's a nice movie, goes slowly and has lush visuals, good use of 3D, and there's lots to entertain. But it ends a little roughly, I hoped for more, to be left with something to think about. But that doesn't happen.
A little background...
Blogging and aggregators were innovations ten-plus years ago, but the product categories haven't stopped evolving. Much of that has been inside Twitter and Facebook but these are awkward places to do journalism, and it's a problem if those become the sole channel for the distribution fo news. They're too easily shut down by governments, financiers, or just the people who run them, whose interest may, in the long term, not be a good match with the news orgs that depend on them.
I have developed my own software in this area, new stuff, that's completely connected up to Twitter, but here's the key point -- it still works without them. So if there should be an outage, anyone who publishes their link flow the way I do, using RSS and a simple bridge to Twitter, we will stay on the air, but those who rely exclusively on Twitter could have problems.
I would like to come talk about rivers and linkblogging at #ONA12. I've talked at ONA before. At the fifth meeting in Hollywood, on the keynote panel with Joe Trippi and Arianna Huffington. And last year, Jay Rosen and I did a podcast from the meeting in DC.
This is an important year of change for publishing. There are new possibilities that I think the ONA members should be aware of. It's a good time to have a look at what's possible.
When I was in my late thirties I had an awakening that's not uncommon for people that age. I realized that the family I came from was not like all other families. And that things that happened in my childhood that seem strange or painful were not normal, or okay. Or possible to bury. And that they were responsible for me having lots of very negative ideas about myself.
I didn't have a choice but to confront these issues. They were front and center in my life. And I got help, and did a lot of work, and wasn't able to rid myself of my demons, because I don't think that actually can happen, but I did learn how to talk to them. And make them feel unwelcome. Put them in their place.
I don't want to go into details, because that's not what this piece is about. Instead it's the realization that the work never stops. The things that press your buttons are still out there. And they're doing their thing, and we're basically on our own to resist the downward spiral that comes when you give in to them and let them dominate your being. You know you want to do it. There's a lot of comfort in the pain they offer. But you know it doesn't end well. So you want to resist.
A technique my teacher offered was to first project the demon on the people who probably gave it to you. My parents. I would have a waking dream, deliberately, where I dump a big steaming bowl of spaghetti on their heads (with tomato sauce!) and lock them in the bathroom, saying I want you to think about this, young man and young lady. Then I would go about my business (still in the dream) chuckling while thinking of them in the bathroom crying and feeling unhappy about the spaghetti and being locked up. The most important thing is that when they are locked up they can't fuck with me. And it's a reminder that they aren't real. (A gentle and fun reminder, not an order or edict.) My parents are no longer the menace they once were. Children acting out their misery, probably caused by their parents, and projecting it on their child. They're no longer a threat to me. But my little boy, the one inside me, the one who remembers, doesn't know this isn't still going on. At the first sign of trouble -- panic. And depression. And self-hatred. And well, lots of self-abuse like smoking and drugs.
Child abuse carries a stigma, like alchoholism. But we're addicts, and we need the same kind of support network. Someone to call to say something happened that's making me spin, and I need someone to talk with, just to connect with another adult, to help me take better care of myself. Note, it's not someone to care for you, but someone you can lean on, temporarily, to have that conversation where you reaffirm your self-love and adult competence to take care of any demons that might show up (the spaghetti and the bathroom with its wonderful lock).
Me, I've decided it's okay, just this once, to use my blog for that purpose.
What passes for political discourse these days is basically "Did you hear what that asshole said!" Followed by whatever the asshole said.
For example, yesterday -- or the day before -- the President said "The private sector is doing fine." That was one sentence in a much longer talk/press conference, with a wholly different message. He was actually saying, I'm paraphrasing, our econonmy is teetering between going up and going down. If we do this, it's likely to go up. If we don't, it's likely to go down. There are events we can't control, like the monetary crisis in Europe. But there are things we can do here that strengthen the economy so it could take a hit better.
Kind of like your doctor telling you to get plenty of rest during cold season. Make your body stronger so it can withstand the crazy shit that the environment is throwing at it. Or like a commentator on Sports Center saying that Paul Pierce is doing an extra workout to be sure he's ready for the big game tonight. This shit isn't any more complicated than sports.
The same thing happened when Romney said he likes to fire people. At least that's what he said if you listened to the political press. What he actually said was totally reasonable. It's good, if you have a business relationship with someone, to be able to cancel the deal if you don't like the service. He's right! It was a cool thing to say. But the press instead found their DYHWTAS line and ran with it.
The reason it's safe to avoid all this crap is that it doesn't change anyone's votes. If you thought Obama was an asshole before, you'll still think he's an asshole after hearing what he said. Same with Romney. This supposed discourse does nothing but reinforce people's point of view. It makes them happy, I guess, to hear they were right all along.
Instead, the press could react by saying -- Hold on -- Breaking News! -- The President is talking to the American people as if they were adults (or at least sports fans). Let's make this the story! Let's help people understand what he was actually saying. Then the people who think he's an asshole can find the things that reinforce their point of view, and the people who like him can nod their heads and say "That's my guy." Why not be the media they pretend to be, which means being a medium, which means being in the middle, which means basically passing through what happened, without a lot of stupid pointless drama.
In my humble opinion, the assholes are the reporters. And when these stories comes through my river, I just nod my head and say "They're being assholes again." And I keep pressing the downarrow to skip over the bullshit.
If you want to tell someone that something isn't working, do not try to do it on Twitter for the simple reason that it does not work. Invariably, you have to abbreviate. Leave stuff out.
And if the person you're reporting it to has a question, he or she has to ask it in 140 chars. And somehow anticipate your confusion when you don't understand their message.
If you have something to say, and it's important, then find another place to say it. 140 characters is brutal for bug reports.
Write a blog post, post something to a mail list. If the only way you can communicate the problem is via Twitter, then skip it because it does not work.
Important but simple message to people with websites with feeds.
The browsers are one-by-one removing information about feeds from the user interface, so it's become harder for people to find your feed.
To compensate, you should make your feed easy to find in your web content.
It just struck me as I was looking for the feed on the Rootstrikers site. I started to do a View Source and realized that of course most people wouldn't think to do that, or necessarily know how to find the feed in the source.
So if you want people to know about your feed, make sure you're showing it to them.
Update. I added the RSS Subscription Extension for Chrome, from Google, and it found a feed for the Rootstrikers site.
I have a new feature in the worldoutline that allows me to start a dozen comment threads in one post.
I tried it out with the various issues around bikes in cities.
I'd say it was a success.
One topic, "It's okay to ride on a sidewalk" has spawned a lively discussion. I just added a comment.
PS: Thanks to Disqus for providing an open commenting system that's so easy to experiment with, and to Daniel Ha for being so supportive.
Jesus Diaz at Gizmodo asked if they could run yesterday's piece on Jobs, and of course I said yes. It's very much a Gizmodo type piece. I like to say yes when pubs like Gizmodo or Wired ask to run my stuff. More distribution for ideas. Good for business.
Then Woz commented, basically saying that Jef Raskin was working on the stuff I was writing about. That's what I love about Woz. He's so accessible, where Jobs was only occasionally accessible. I've seen Jobs show up at computer stores, and hang out just like a normal guy. I've even gotten phone calls from him, one-sided ones for sure. He was really good at talking, but not so great at listening. Unless he was stealing an idea.
I wanted to say a few things to Woz, and figured I might as well write a post.
1. The insides of the Apple II were beautiful. I've written about that many times. Woz is the guy who made the insides work. Jobs is the guy who made the outside work. Both were necessary for Apple to triumph over the early hobbyist companies to become a juggernaut.
2. Woz is an enthuisast. I remember giving a talk at a MacWorld Expo around the time of MORE. My PR person, Kandes Bregman, alerted me that Woz was in the audience. I had never met him. I gave my talk as usual. Asked for a show of hands of people who used my earlier product, ThinkTank. His hand shot straight up. I don't know why it surprised me, but it felt great to know that the guy who did all that great work that I admired so much was using my software.
3. Woz remembers Jef Raskin was working on the innards too. And he wrote a testimony to Raskin. But like Jobs, Raskin is gone. If we want to make the innards of computers beautiful and functional and as useful as the packages they come in, we, those who are still alive, will have to do it.
BTW, to Nick Denton, who publishes Gizmodo and is very interested in discussion software. Look at the flow here to see how commenting can work, when it's cross-domain. Any forward-looking discussion system will have to anticipate this, imho.
Just heard a report on NPR about how risk-averse investors are. As someone with a small amount of money to manage, I think I understand what's going on, because the behavior they describe exactly matches the beliefs that are guiding my investment decisions.
Here's what's going on.
I was paying some amount of attention during the financial meltdown in 2008. Before that I had a vague idea about how banking works. But I listened to NPR, esp the Planet Money explainer, Giant Pool of Money. And then I read a bunch of books about the meltdown, and after a while I began to understand.
I remembered a conversation I had with a friend, Ponzi Black, who had been working in the mortgage refinance business. She quit, in disgust, at the kinds of deals her company was doing. Her story exactly matched up with what I was reading about. Then it hit me. Enron wasn't an outlier. The entire banking industry is corrupt. Once you realize that, you freeze in fear. What do I do with my savings? The answer I came up with, that so many others did too, is get as close to the safest thing around, the US government. They aren't honest either, but they can't be as bad as the assholes running the banking business. And in my heart I know they are the same people. But what are you going to do. If you can't trust money, how can you invest?
Then I heard on NPR that corporate money-managers from around the world are doing the same damn thing. Effectively hiding the money under the matress and hoping somehow we get our shit together again, so they can go back to investing in things that make money, instead of just preserving value. (I remember when Krugman figured this out, that investors were no longer investing, they were preserving. It was a big moment.)
I don't know why anyone is surprised, in hindsight. If it's legal to steal money, then people are going to steal money. And the people who are good at stealing, will squeeze out the ones who aren't good, or perhaps have an inkling that it's wrong to steal. It's actually even worse. Even if it's illegal, if the stealers think they won't get caught, or if they're caught they won't get punished, the same thing will happen. While I don't know for sure, even so, I'm pretty sure that's what happened here. We learned some big lessons from the banking meltdown of 1929. Put some rules in place. And then in the 80s and 90s we eliminated the rules. And the inevitable happened. And it keeps happening. And it will keep happening until we decide to fix it. And fixing it means more laws, and more enforcement, and people going to jail, and losing everything, because they commited fraud.
I've been watching a lot of basketball this year. And there's a Merrill Lynch commercial that plays a lot. They make a big deal about how their customers' interest comes first. Heh. That's so totally not true. The bankers were setting up their own customers to lose. They only made money if their customers lost! And this went unpunished. They went home with their billion dollar bonuses, and laughed all the way. (Except they must have the same problem, where do they store their ill-gotten gains.) The huge lie that the banking industry is built on is that you can trust them. Their only product is trust. And they screwed that up. No one in their right mind trusts them. And the funny thing is they must think they pulled a fast one and got away with it. They didn't. People know it's all bullshit. They blame everyone in power. And that's right. The blame belongs to the Supreme Court that made it legal for the bankers to buy the political system. It belongs to the President who won't prosecute the bankers, even though it is totally within his power to do that. He doesn't need Congress's help for that. When he blames the Congress for our problems, that's a fast one. And on and on.
I guess it's time for the bankers to decide what business they're in. They were in the business of fleecing the US economy. But that's almost over. What's next? There aren't any more huge economies to pillage. Maybe they want to really do some business. Or get out of the way, retire to their 20 mansions, fly between them in corporate jets and helicopters. Entertain each other at lavish parties. Talk about how clueless everyone else is. Write books saying how much the rest of us should worship them. And just get out of the way so we can try to reboot the economy. Or failing that, we could find them new accomodations in a Federal prison. You want to call it class war, that's okay with me.
I know if I'm going to start investing again, we're going to have to make some very very big changes. Otherwise why the hell should I?
There were a lot of things Steve Jobs was right about.
Probably the most important thing he got right was realizing that you have to build a great stadium before you can invent great sports. An example of this was the decision in 1986 to build every Mac with networking. So you could just string ordinary phone wire through an office and have email or chat or video games connecting all the workstations.
What was so great about this idea was that instead of a glass teletype, you had a full graphic computer, with a mouse, each user with his or her own local storage, all connected just the way users of minicomputers were.
Understand the decision in the context of the times we were living in. You had to be a big thinker at the time to see that the devices we were making were primarily useful for their ability to communicate. Most people thought they were for spreadsheets or word processing. For automating operations that used to take more effort when done manually. It's not surprising, that's how people usually see new technology. But if you choose to think expansively, you can move faster. And Jobs certainly did.
But when it came to the internal architecture of the software running on his machines, and how it connected to software on others, Jobs didn't have many (if any) good ideas. Apple has floundered in this area. And nowhere was that indecision more obvious than in an interview he did at the D3 conference in 2005.
He asked: Why is the file system the face of the OS?
And he answered: "Now, e-mail, there's always been a better way to find stuff. You don't keep your e-mail on your file system, right? The app manages it. And that was the breakthrough, as an example, in iTunes. You don't keep your music in the file system, that would be crazy. You keep it in this app that knows about music and knows how to find things in lots of different ways. Same with photos: we've got an app that knows all about photos. And these apps manage their own file storage."
I've always felt this was the wrong way to go.
The structures you deal with in each of these programs is the same. And the stuff is stored in the filesystem. And iTunes is a user interface disaster, not an example to hold up. This may not have been so apparent seven years ago, but it is today.
You can shuffle the parts around, and you still have the same problem. The data ultimately is organized in a hierarchy. If you can visualize that hierarchy, and provide interactions that make sense to edit and view that hierarchy, there's no reason the same browser shouldn't be used for all types of data. It does not have to be a "wall." All your stuff ends up inter-relating anyway. Do you use the emailer to send music files? Yes of course. Do you use a text editor to write about the podcast you just recorded? Yes. So why have 20 mediocre tools when what you need is one really great one. Why not focus your investment on each type so that investment can be re-used in any context? And not just contexts that Apple employees can envision, contexts that only make sense to a user, far away from Cupertino. I think the problem was the architects that worked for Jobs weren't as expansive as Jobs was, or weren't empowered, or weren't great programmers, or whatever. Apple did not get there. Not in Mac OS, and not in IOS. They did a nice job of packaging an architecture that doesn't work. Jobs basically says that in 2005, but he thought he had it licked then, and now we know he didn't.
When it came to designing boxes, stores, office buildings, Jobs was the best. Numero uno. And a huge believer in focus. Shut out all the noise and focus on the problem you're trying to solve. And keep thinking and trying new stuff out, feeling it, using it, living with it, iterating until it's right.
The same approach can be used with the structures that go inside the computer's memory as with the packaging and the sales environment, and the places where people work. The same attention to detail and nice touches, and overall design.
We're not in the post-PC world as much as we are in the post-Jobs world. When we're done mourning his passing we'll realize that there are huge spaces we never fully explored because his presence loomed so large.
Everywhere I look in news, and I spend a lot of my time looking at news -- I see the industry making what I think is a fatal mistake. They seem to think Twitter is benign. As if it were the web, which of course isn't benign either, but at least it's neutral. Twitter, on the other hand, is imho a competitor to all the news organizations.
This subject came up in the session at Mesh in Toronto in May. It's not enough to understand where an entity is today. You have to factor in where they came from and use that to infer where they're going. Twitter started off being open to anyone for anything. But over time they're closing things off. Adding rules, some of which clearly anticipate competition, that limit how their service can be used. They have been taking functionality off the table. And it's a reasonable bet that that process will continue, not reverse.
A few years ago I was so sure that Twitter would be competing with news orgs that I urged them to start their own realtime networks to compete with Twitter. Just in case I'm right.
Look at it this way. You might have thought, at the dawn of TV, that the Olympics and network television were completely separate things. Or if you were a movie-maker, you might not view your distribution system as competitive. Or pick any other activity, say political theater, where the money from the entertainment and the money from the media slosh over from one bucket into the other, some of it visible and some of it not.
We're still in the early days of online distribution of news. Twitter chose a cute little icon, like Mickey Mouse or Winnie the Pooh. But the sweetness and light will fade when Twitter gets competition. With news orgs going for very little money, and with tech networks becoming sink-holes for cash, how long before the money jumps the gap and Twitter buys a struggling news organization. Look at it this way. How long before Twitter carries exclusive content. Wouldn't it be smart to develop some options?
Well, if you're waiting for the news industry to get smart about tech, my guess is you'll wait a very long time.
There's a bigger version of The many lives of Frontier on Vimeo.
First, I am not a lawyer.
But I suspect that Twitter is reinforcing the visual image of the bird, it's shape and color, and style, because it knows it can't defend the words twitter or tweet as trademarks. They're becoming part of the language too quickly. Just as Google couldn't defend the word "blogger" as a trademark. It's way too generic. I'm a blogger, even though I don't use any of their software.
Doug Bowman: "There's no longer a need for text, bubbled typefaces, or a lowercase 't' to represent Twitter."
That text must have been heavily reviewed and debated and fought over by trademark lawyers from coast to coast.
There's a screencast that goes with this post.
Today I have something new to show, a way of linking together online discussions around what I think of as a stream of consciousness. The discussion organizer puts together an outline, and attached to each entry in the outline is a discussion thread. You can have as many threads as you want. You can organize them any way you want. You can reorganize them. You can add or delete threads as easily as adding a new entry to the outline.
Here's an example. Two old but great rock bands, The Doors and Alice Cooper. And three of their songs, for each.
There are a lot of places this idea can go.
1. One item for each session at a conference.
2. A business plan.
3. A family diary.
4. A month's worth of tweets.
5. A product user's manual.
The newness here is twofold:
1. Quick overview of lots of threads.
2. Easy editing and reorganizing by the discussion leader.
To edit the outline, all I have to do is open the outline, make the change and save.
I'd love to have this idea percolate through all the different instances of the Frontier user community, all the way back to the early Apple days around Computer Plus in Sunnyvale, and through the people who used Living Videotext's outliners. Oh heck, let me make a list.
1. Personal Software outliner, Visitext.
2. Living Videotext outliners.
3. Frontier, the Mac system scripting tool
4. Early website work on Mac
6. Radio UserLand (aka Radio 8)
9. OPML Editor (first incarnation)
Now we're ready to do yet another incarnation of the Frontier community.
I think of the early Mac outliners as part of the Frontier thread. And I think of the OPML Editor as a continuation. There was a new codebase as from ThinkTank/MORE to Frontier, but it was all done by the same brain. So there's a huge amount of continuity. And in many ways, what's happening today is the realization fo the idea that all this started with so many years ago.
If this were a speech, now I'd leave you with this.
On Twitter the other day, I realized that there are people floating around there, on my follower list, and me on theirs, of people who were important anchors for each of these communities. And in most cases I'm pretty sure they don't know each other! So I thought it would be interesting to shout out to each of them, people who are smart and curious, who throw themselves into their work without worrying where it will lead. There must be a thread of optimism and intelligence that connects them. All I know is that I have had good experiences working with each of them, and would welcome the opportunity to do it again.
I asked each of them if it would be okay to mention them in this post, and I haven't heard back from all of them. So the list is not complete.
1. John Baxter. Helped lead the Compuserve community in the early 90s.
2. Susan Kitchens. Was an inspiration in the Manila days. We drank margaritas (I think) at Manilapalooza.
3. Bryan Bell. Designed all the templates for Manila and Radio. Did the graphics for all the standards we pushed. He did the art for the Harvard blogging site, the first academic blogging site in the US. And for BloggerCon.
4. Adam Curry. The inspiration of podcasting and co-leader of the podcasting community that believe it or not booted up out of Frontier.
5. Amy Bellinger. The user-leader of the OPML Editor community in the mid-2000s. I famously sang a duet of Green Acres with her. Though we've never met. (I haven't met Baxter either.)
There were a lot of other people who did lots of great stuff to help Frontier, but these people were exceptional and I'm still in touch with all of them. I'm sure they will all read this. And I just wanted to say thanks!
Now, the next thing on my to-do list is to do a screencast as I outline all the elements of this post, and turn it into a discussion tree where people can add their comments. I want to give everyone who was part of a Frontier community a place to post a comment. And no doubt I've forgotten to list some communities, so help me build out the list.
There's always an upside. When stocks go down, bonds go up.
When any advertising-based startup can raise $50 million on a $1 billion market cap, there's not much market for new ideas. Why bother, when the same-old-stuff can make you rich.
But when the bubble fades, it's time to get creative. Because tech will reboot. The question is, what's the next wave.
I've been puzzling over this for years. How to bootstrap the process of collaborative outlining on the web. I think I've got step one down the road. A way to do web-based discussions that hang off a stream of consciousness. It's a way to collect and organize a set of tweet-size items, and allow people to easy add short comments, and see what others had to say. It allows you to link together a set of simple idea-size chunks and edit the organization. And when you reorg, the comments go with. I really hope people use this because the next steps are going to be real interesting, but we need users to get there. So come be a user. All you have know is how to use Disqus. No software to install. (Yet.)
Ten years ago I was in terrible shape.
I had four clogged arteries on my heart. I was having chest pain. I knew something was seriously wrong. And on June 14, 2002, I had bypass surgery, which very very clearly saved my life.
Yes, I was a smoker, and not exercising, and doing hugely stressful work, and I had the worst genes in the world for all that, and wasn't really aware of it.
I dodged a big one. And I'm still here. And thankful for that.
If you see me being reflective and taking more risks in the near future, it's because this milestone is on my mind.
Xeni Jardin is angry with the NY Times for leading their piece about the Kleiner-Perkins sexual harassment lawsuit with: "Men invented the Internet. And not just any men. Men with pocket protectors. Men who idolized Mr. Spock and cried when Steve Jobs died. Nerds. Geeks. Give them their due. Without men, we would never know what our friends were doing five minutes ago."
What they're really saying though is that the men at Kleiner Perkins invented and continue to invent the Internet.
So the problem is much bigger than saying men did it. The problem with the Times is they think the money did it.
At dinner the other night, one of my friends, a real entrepreneur who creates real products, and really stirs things up -- a man, btw -- pointed to the next table where a VC sat. A VC that blew him off. Having been blown off many times by VCs who had no clue what I was talking about when I was speaking plain English about the future of the Internet (with the benefit of hindsight that's not a speculative statement) the problem is we have some pretty dumb gatekeepers in Silicon Valley, and reporters who carry their water.
So come on Xeni, let's work together and get past the surface stuff and fix what's really wrong.
A friend emailed to ask if it was possible to write a small application that read all of the RSS for back-issues of a specific blog and gathered information about links, number of words, etc.
I answered that it was not possible, as far as I know, but it should be.
So, to my engineering friends, here is a use-case. A smart user who thought of a feature that really should be present in every blogging system.
Now, I'm in a position to suggest, very specifically how this feature could work, because I've implemented it in my linkblogging software, Radio2. I've documented it in the form of a namespace because it adds a few new elements to my feed, that are not part of the body of RSS 2.0. Very straightforward, and documented, so that if it were implemented this way, all blogging software would be compatible. And one could write an app that started with a feed, downloaded all the previous posts. It would be possible to write backup software that worked with all blogging tools.
First, here are the docs for the new namespace.
You can see an example of it in my linkblog feed.
There's a single RSS file for every day. The directory is arranged as a calendar, with a folder for each year, containing folders for each month, which contain folders for days which contain a single file for each day. I went with a folder for a day because you might want to include other content in the calendar structure. And any of these can be missing, because some days (or months) you don't post.
All that's needed here is a common way to do it, otherwise known as a "standard" -- so I thought I'd put one out there and see if it gains any traction. Next time a user asks for about this, I'd love to say "If you used the X blogging tool, you'd have this feature." Or even better "All blogging tools support this, so you're in luck!"
On my ride today, I swerved to avoid a 3-year old boy who ran into the bike lane, in doing so, cutting off a cyclist behind me. She yelled and I swerved again. I regained my balance in time to hear her curse me out. And then, clearly after she had regained her composure, she said some ugly things about my body. (I'm not providing details.) That made me stop and dismount. She apologized. Even so, it still hurt. I said she wasn't so pretty she should be making personal comments like that. And I called her "lady" so she'd feel old. And I feel bad about that.
All this because a little child did what little children do.
All I want to say is that if you think sexist body slamming only goes one way, from male to female, that's not true. It's not enough to get respect, you have to give it too.
A few threads come together.
I met Clay Johnson at Mesh in Toronto last week.
He says we are consuming a diet of unhealthy news that leads to serious problems analogous to obesity caused by eating unhealthy food.
We're like people living in impoverished areas where there's no fresh food at the supermarket, so how can we get anything but junk news.
The answer is that you have to look a little harder, but the good stuff is out there. And if there were more of a demand for it, and if there were a distribution system for it, there would be more supply, imho.
I posit that if we had a handful of people who read lots of news sites and pass on their non-junk discoveries in the form of feeds, it wouldn't take many such people to provide a service that was a serious upgrade to what is currently being offered.
News that activates your mind. Gives you new information and perspectives. Causes you to think of solutions. Causes you to feel that there is something you can do to make the world better. But please, not limited to any single point of view, whether it be political or otherwise.
But we have to be systematic enough about it so that software can be written to aggregate the feeds into a single destination. Don't worry, if one service takes off in this area, you can be sure there will be many to choose from, because the technology is very simple.
With that, I know of three people who are pushing enough links consistently to make their streams useful. Atul Arora, Patrick LaForge, and myself. (Though I see that Atul isn't pushing so many links these days.)
BTW, I'm not a purist. I pass on a little junk just for fun in my feed.
The idea of "junk news" came from this TV ad.
I've been programming for X years where X is a surprisingly large number.
2012 - 1975 = 37
Some conclusions may be in order.
First, most people don't program that long. The conventional wisdom is that you "move up" into management long before you've been coding for 37 years. Only thing is I don't see programming as a job, I see it as a creative act. I drew a big circle shortly after I started, and said I was going to fill the circle. So until the circle is full, I still have more to do.
I feel like a movie director. Unfortunately people don't believe in me. They think he's an emeritus, and at times I've encouraged them to feel this way, not knowing how limited that role is. An emeritus isn't like Clint Eastwood or Martin Scorcese, two men who are quite a bit older than me. They've had a few hits and misses in their career, but they are still encouraged to do more. In programming, well -- this is another trail I'm going to have to blaze. Along my path I've always had trouble trying to get people to believe that what I do is creative. I've had bosses who thought I was just writing code that they would write if they had the time or interest. They bought into the "move into management" idea, that I didn't buy into. I knew they couldn't do what I did. It takes focus and drive and purpose and huge patience to do what I do. It's not necessarily a blessing to be so driven, but you have to be that way to create at the level I work at.
Anyway, at dinner the other night the question came up of what's the diff betw programming after 37 years, and programming after say 10 or 15. Here's the deal. I know now that it's important to pace myself. When I reach a level, I have to stop and admire the view. Maybe build a house or at least a hammock. Bring electiricity in. Find out where the supermarket is, and the Starbuck's. Don't be so quick to move on, to build on your accomplishments. It takes many years to undo the mistakes you make when you thought you were in a rush. It's much faster to catch your breath and think. Even ponder a little. Weigh the choices.
When I was young I was always impatient. It's a cliche you hear from old folk all the time.
Hey I ride my bike pretty fast. I like speed. But when you're talking life's work, it's not the same thing as a bike ride in the park.