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. :-)
One of my stops on the road tour I just did was Chapel Hill, NC, where I went for a morning bike ride with Anton Zuiker and had dinner with Bora Zivkovic. We talked about a lot of interesting stuff. More to come, I hope.
Bora is the chief science blogger at Scientific American, and just wrote a piece about what it means to be a science blogger. I don't think he had seen my 2003 essay, posted on the Harvard weblogs site, re what makes a weblog a weblog.
After sending a tweet connecting them to the 2003 essay, my eye drifted to the right margin, and saw the links there, and I re-imagined how we bootstrapped the blogging community at Harvard, a little less than nine years ago. I smiled. And wondered what had become of all the sites. Not good news. They're almost all gone.
I wondered how much trouble it would be to restore them. I would love to be able to look at all the notes from our first Thursday evening meetings. See what's in the aggregator. Happily, one of the links still works, because we went to special pains to make sure that it would. The technology site, which the RSS 2.0 spec is part of, is still there. I hope it remains for many years to come.
It was kind of audacious for a law school to have a technology site, but it worked! Sometimes radical ideas are just what are needed to shake things up. Why is this spec at a law school. Perhaps it's something special?
We have to do better. I should have set this up more carefully. It's sad that at a serious university we didn't do a better job of preserving a project that ultimately had so much impact. Most of the things we do aren't that influential.
We should be sure that when we have a hit, it's there for others to learn from, for perpetuity.
Update: The NYT Magazine had an excellent article on future-safing in January 2011.
I was a Firefox user until a couple of months ago. I switched because the people in charge of Firefox were making really bad decisions, treating users badly.
A year ago I wrote: "Browsers should be like the lens in my glasses. If you're thinking about it, your attention is in the wrong place. You use a browser to look through, at other things."
Firefox was breaking that rule, very deliberately.
They wanted you to look at them. To that I said -- no.
They say they understand the web, but I don't think they do.
Things I would have supported:
1. Make Firefox faster. Not at rendering pages, but at handling mouse clicks after it had been running for a few hours.
2. Get rid of the spinning cursor. Firefox would disappear for very long spells. I would sit there tapping my fingers, waiting to get control of my computer back.
3. If they found a sexy feature, great. I'm all for great new features.
Things I could not tolerate:
1. Breaking plug-ins that I depend on for my daily work.
2. Removing features I depend on.
3. Interrupting my work flow with dialogs.
4. Interrupting my work flow with dialogs that threaten me.
Lest they think Google is perfect, they are not, in any way, perfect. They decided to change the way Google Groups works. Now I can't find my groups. And I can't find the commands that control the individual groups.
When I am testing the water with a new product, I can start small, and take careful steps. Over time I come to trust it, and I build more. And more. Then I move into the house I created. What Firefox did, and what Google did with Groups, is act as if I was starting with a new product. They knocked down my house, leaving me homeless. They didn't begin to understand what their users do. Neither company.
Now there's an excellent piece by a developer at Firefox that shows that at least someone is paying attention. He's only getting a very rough outline of how users work. But at least now someone is listening. Instead of having awful condescending and inaccurate theories about how users work.
His piece is an echo of my own We Make Shitty Software, 1995. Our software sucks, so does yours. We'll make it better. Part of making it better is not breaking your users. Do that and you lose their trust, fast. I learned that one in 1984 when we shipped the first Thinktank for the Mac. It was missing many features that were in the IBM PC product. The users didn't care why. They were right.
I don't trust any of these companies. They are run by very narcissistic people, who imho aren't trying very hard. They think they have lock-in, and they do have a little of it, for a while longer. But when change comes, it comes explosively. I don't think they're going to like it when it happens. What Firefox is learning now is that if they push their users hard enough, they will leave. My guess is that Chrome will learn the same thing at some point.
I wrote in 1994, as the web was first booming, that every 15 years or so the users revolt and take control. I think we're getting close to that point again.
Marco Arment said something very nice the other day. That eventually I am proven right. It's only because I've seen this before. It's as if you've seen a play three times. The fourth time you see it, you can almost say the lines along with the actors.