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. :-)
Lots of new posts over on the threads site.
9/29/12: Twitter is a tragic tale
9/28/12: Developing in 2012
9/28/12: This is another test
9/28/12: Romney as human being
9/28/12: Twitter may need a Plan B
9/27/12: Romney's 47 percent
9/27/12: The Angry Birds platform?
9/26/12: I want a Galaxy S3 but..
9/26/12: I thought "stench" was real
9/26/12: 47% was not a gaffe
9/26/12: Why Obama didn't meet at UN
9/25/12: Problem posting to Twitter
9/24/12: Today's podcast
9/24/12: Open fields for discourse
9/23/12: Why didn't Apple ease into maps?
9/23/12: As a renewed Knicks fan
9/23/12: Humanity doesn't scale
9/22/12: Favorite movie reviews feeds?
9/22/12: Comments on Costolo talk
9/21/12: A comment *and* a blog post
9/21/12: An open note to Doc
9/20/12: A new feature sneak
9/20/12: Maps, Tweetie and dBASE
9/20/12: A day of construction
9/19/12: Un-Web 2.0
9/19/12: MP3 of Romney's fund-raiser
9/18/12: Question about SoundCloud
9/18/12: Dear Green Button People
9/18/12: Jury duty, voting and Romney
9/17/12: I feel a little like a kid
9/17/12: River with JSON-encoded OPML
9/17/12: OWS on its anniversary
9/17/12: Tech discussion of comments feed
9/16/12: Newspapers and blogging
9/15/12: To OWS -- please use the web
9/15/12: Why Google is OK
9/15/12: Whole post to Scripting feed
9/15/12: Dear @diveintomark
9/14/12: I don't think this is Kansas
9/14/12: A question about class warfare
9/14/12: YouTube in the developing world
9/13/12: Blogging in transition
9/12/12: A message to Republicans: Enough
9/11/12: Witting with Greenwald
9/10/12: Dead people on voting rolls
9/10/12: A test of outline comments
9/8/12: To TechCrunch hackathoners
9/7/12: app.net's impressive start
9/6/12: Breakdown of feed formats
9/6/12: Life outside Twitter
9/5/12: About Twitter's changes
9/5/12: scripting.com in transition
9/5/12: Why a second term for Obama?
9/3/12: The real liars are the press
9/3/12: Embedded registration form
9/2/12: Odd pic of two Presidents
9/1/12: Obama gets 1/2 of it
Un-Web 2.0: "Un-Web 2.0 is to Web 2.0 as BloggerCon was to RegularOldCon. And as blogging is to journalism. The source and the destination become one. "
With an active community, the first thing you need to know is What's New?
That's why the next new thing is, of course, an RSS 2.0 feed of all the new stuff posted on all the threads on my site.
What's new is what's new!
But there's more...
2. The microblog namespace, which is used by the feed.
3. The roadmap post that shows where we're going.
4. A screen shot of a permalink on comments, a necessary feature for the feed.
5. My personal river, which subscribes to the feed, so it's an easy place to find the latest comments on the threads site (along with news from quite a few other sources).
6. A post on the threads site, ready to accept OPML or Disqus comments, to answer questions and share observations on the new features. If you poke around the feeds, you may find some things that raise questions or possibilities.
7. What's next? There's a full CMS behind the comments, with a templating system for designers. Lots of formats and protocols for developers. The only part that's visible is the writing tool. And that's as it should be, because the people we are doing this for are writers and readers.
In a speech at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference yesterday, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey urged developers to join a revolution. This speech for me was a punch in the gut. Because I had been saying things like that about Twitter myself, hoping that the founders wouldn't do the obvious thing and factor all the revolution in the service to squeeze as much money as possible out of the coral reef that had sprouted up around it. As they have. I don't think Jack Dorsey has any credibility left in the revolution department. He went for even more riches and sold out all the revolution-potential in Twitter, as far as I'm concerned.
Coincidentally, it was also the day when we reached the top of one of the peaks of our little mountain range of post-Web 2.0 software. In a simple announcement on the Frontier-user list, I asked people to try out a new feature -- OPML comments. They did, and it worked. Pretty flawlessly! And it is in every way the revolution that today's Twitter is not.
You can try it too. Here's a thread that explains how in five fairly easy steps.
Where is this going? Well, all the places I've been writing about here on Scripting News for the last two-three years, when I decided to no longer build my software on Twitter's platform.
What works here?
1. Users creating content which is published on my site, but they retain the original content on their hard drive. So if they write something they want to refer to later and my system is down, or gone, they will still have it.
There's more coming.
2. A DNS-based identity system that's as easy to create an account on as Twitter or Facebook and gives you the flexibility to move your presence to some other server without any help from a vendor who may not be cooperative, or may not even exist. The robustness of DNS is something the Web 2.0 vendors don't want to give to their users because without it they wouldn't be trapped.
3. A gateway to a truly revolutionary web content management system that makes it easy for individuals to manage huge websites easily and naturally.
4. A design environment that makes CSS work in new exciting ways.
5. A way to build web apps that's also pretty new (I'm running out of adjectives).
But first let's start simply. Everyone can comment on my threads using an outliner. That's a pretty good first step.
A short while ago Twitter said they were going to move to JSON over XML, without much explanation other than they like JSON and not XML, so much, these days, etc. I'm a big believer that everyone has the right to support whatever they want when they want for whatver reason, whether they say the truth or not. Because of that belief, I take with a grain of salt every bit of support for every format and protocol. I assume that just because someone supports it today doesn't tell you for sure that they will support it tomorrow. Though the penalty is usually pretty high for removing support for interfaces people depend on. They tend to remember it next time you ask for their trust. All that is fair game too.
So anyway this got me thinking again about the possibility that JSON might take over from XML. What then? Should we give up all the interop we get from RSS just because it uses XML and not JSON? And it's because of all that interop that that day will never come. A transition may happen over a long period of time, and before it's complete there will be something after JSON. Because smart people see that, they tend to be conservative about switching just for the sake of switching. It's why the web, which is entirely an XML application, will keep XML support everywhere for the forseeable future.
In other words, I'd bet with virtual 100 percent certainty that it's safe to keep producing XML-based RSS feeds.
But people like JSON, there's no denying that. And a JSONified RSS can totally co-exist with the original XML. So let's have RSS in JSON? That's a question that seems worth asking about, at this time.
Turns out it is a very straightforward thing to do. I of course have an RSS feed for Scripting News, the blog you're reading right now. I wrote a script that maintains JSON and JSONP versions of the same content, automatically. When the RSS is built so are the JSON formats.
I learned a long time ago to embrace change. It's why there is a RSS today that is derived from the RSS that Netscape shipped in 1999 and has features of my scriptingNews format shipped in 1997. If the world wants to go to JSON, help it get there in a way that benefits from all we learned in the evolution of RSS from 1997 through 2002. It's stood up pretty well over the years. And there's wide support for it, and lots of understanding of how it works. If there is to be a JSON-based syndication standard, we can cut years off the development process by simply accomodating it.
So I put together an invitation to discuss this.
If you find this interesting, give it some thought, and if you have something to say, write a blog post of your own, or write a comment on that page. Obviously there's no moderation for what goes on your blog, but there will be moderation of the comments. Be aware of that. One feature of the past are personal attacks which are totally pointless and subtract from the discourse, and we should not carry that practice forward. That's why the moderation.
Otherwise, I totally look forward to hearing what people think.
All through the Bush II presidency, political discourse in the US got more and more bizarre. At times, the debate was over who could do the most good for Iraq. Or what the people of Iraq wanted from a US president. Were these people even listening to themselves. It was as if the voters and taxpayers of the United States only cared about one thing -- how well are the people of Iraq doing? And of course that was the cruel joke. We weren't nation-building in Iraq, we were destroying their nation. All based on a shameful lie that somehow Iraq was connected with the 9/11 attacks. There was no evidence of it, and if you listened to the arguments, none was actually presented. It was like the campaign the same people run about whether or not President Obama is an American citizen, which is of course very similar to the idea that Saddam Hussein was in league with Al Qaeda. They never actually say he wasn't born here. They just joke about it, repeat what other people say, suggest it in a million different ways.
The same people are still here, and are still running the show. Nowadays they're working on suppressing the vote in the United States so they can win elections that they aren't entitled to win, by disenfranchising voters. This should be a felony, they should go to jail for a long time. But they won't of course. It's a tactic for dealing with the fact that the demographics of the United States is changing to become less favorable to them. Their answer -- the new people won't vote. Like the birther nonsense, they wll never actually prevent anyone from voting, but by making them jump through more hoops, they reduce the numbers. None of this will happen in NY or California where most of the TV cameras are (and which aren't swing states anyway) rather in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, etc, where elections are often decided by just a few votes.
Amidst all that, almost forgotten in all the ideas promoted at the excellent Democratic National Convention, was the idea put forward by the President that we do some nation-building at home. This is the kind of idea that can take root with people of both parties. It might be so good that the Republicans will have to say they invented it. And there can be little doubt what "nation building" means. Schools, roads, better Internet access, public transit, hospitals and health clinics, fire departments and police stations, and maybe even god forbid some institutions to inform and inspire the electorate -- libraries, museums, parks, bike trails.
I think more than anything we are exhausted, tired of the messes our government has created, the wars we didn't need, the lies that we never really believed. The broken trust. Naive we were to believe Colin Powell when he went before the United Nations to explain why Iraq was such a threat we had to tear them apart. We're not so naive any more. Tired, wasted, so depressed we forgot why were are so depressed.
What we need desperately to hear in this election is what you are going to do to help us. Not just by lowering taxes and getting us jobs, but also to inspire us, to give us a sense of purpose. We just spent a few decades meandering all over the map. The last time this country had any idea of what it was doing was the moon mission of the sixties. Before that there was World War II. Everything else has been pretty much bullshit. Expensive and deadly bullshit. Planet-wasting bullshit.
The idea of making America work better, in ways we can see, in ways that make a difference in our lives, that's the next thing to do. I recently took three auto trips, to Toronto, through the South, and to Madison. In all directions I saw a country that's falling apart. It's really gotten bad. It's opposite to the way it used to be. New York City, when I was young, was falling apart, and the rest of the country was clean and functioned smoothly. Now New York is a marvel of efficiency, a rich city with busy people. But there are huge problems everywhere else. We can't wait for the mythical trickle-down to not work, again, for another collapse before we turn our attention to fixing things.
Even if jobs returned, the depression won't end until we start working on making this place work.
If you're a regular reader of this blog you know that I am a big proponent of River of News feed readers.
I've also been promoting a JSON-based format that serves to communicate between aggregators and browser-based apps that display the rivers. Until now the format was undocumented and unnamed.
Media Hackers is an example of such an app.
There are enough other developers using the format now that it seems possible that it will become a standard alongside RSS and OPML. Obviously that can't happen without some docs and a name.
I considered a lot of possible names, and then hit on river.js. The domains I needed for that were available and there were no hits for the name in Google, so I went with it. And wrote the first pass at the docs.
A note that for a while I'll be doing more posting on the Threads site.
Soon, I think, scripting and threads will merge. The threads site will become scripting.com. Not quite sure how to manage that transition yet.
There's more collaborative writing stuff coming, hopefully soon, and that's how I plan to stage it.
BTW, here's a tip. Always look to the menubar at the top of the page to see where the related sites are. That's going to remain a fixture through all the transitions.
The set is a bit of a mess right now. The hope is that it'll settle down to be a very nice concert hall. As they used to say somewhere..
Yesterday at a party I was talking with a guy who works for IBM doing "agile" development. It was the first time I had a chance to talk with someone who actually does this, for a length of time, so I could play Q&A to figure out how it maps onto how I do software development. I was pretty sure it did.
I think what I called We Make Shitty Software is in other words the same thing as the agile process. Whatever it's called, we all acknowledge that our software is imperfect, it's a process, but we're working to make it better, and more responsive to users.
I may have other concepts to contribute, such as Narrate Your Work, and Instant Outlining, which have made big differences in the development process for me and the people I have worked with. We developed Radio UserLand in 2001 and 2002 with instant outlining. And I've been doing Narrate Your Work, which is an individual thing, for well over a year. It gets better all the time. I can't do any development work these days without telling the story in my worknotes site.
For me, the development process itself is really the work I do. Because that's where my tools have the greatest impact. Not just for software development imho, but in other project-oriented activities. I think all kinds of production are better managed with NYW and I/O. And someday there may be movies or paintings that are iterative, so will benefit from the agile process. Perhaps there already are?
Another thing that works is the idea of code as a weblog. At the top of each part there's a section where each change is explained. The important thing is that with elision (expand/collapse) comments don't take up visual space so there's no penalty for fully explaining the work. Without this ability there's an impossible tradeoff between comments and the clarity of comment-free code. No manager wants to penalize developers for commenting their work. With this change, with outlining, that now works.
Here's an example of a piece of code that's been developed iteratively over a couple of years. Look in the Changes section near the top, you'll see that it tells a story. This is real code that's very much deployed, in fact the text you're reading now was rendered with it (as was the code listing). You might see it more easily in a screen shot of the same bit of code in the outliner-based code editor we use.
We did this at UserLand, starting in the early 90s. There's code in our system with over 15 years of mods to it made by different developers, and you can, if they were careful about it, know what they were thinking as they changed the code. The code tells its story. I have never seen any other devteam do this. If there are other examples, I'd love to compare experiences.
These days I include links to my worknotes in my code, because there is a level of detail I will go into on the website that I won't go into in the code. One of the reasons is that the project is not the same thing as the code modifications. The reasons for making the changes may apply to several objects in the code. So it makes more sense to explain it outside the code. In other words there's a level above the code. That's where my worknotes tie things together.
And an example of day's work in the worknotes site.
Update: Another principle -- when you're developing something new, where you don't have much prior art, get something usable as quickly as possible. Your thikning becomes much more concrete once you have something that you're actually using. Answers come more quickly and you end up throwing out less work, the blind alleys aren't as deep. That also works for the code too. You work much more quickly as soon as you can start regression testing each iteration. The longer you write code without using it, the harder it's going to be to debug it.
Another one -- prior art as a design method. That's a big one. Always see if someone has done this before. If so, why not leverage all they learned. And you get to use something before you have to write any code. This led to one of my mottos: Only steal from the best.
Yes, I've started writing about politics again, and the cynics are weighing in also, as usual. Don't you know it's all theater, and there's no difference between the candidates. The world is run by a few rich people, and they don't care what we think.
I've never really addressed this, and thought now was a good time to do so.
My answer is this -- bullshit. That's not the way it works. You wish it worked that well, but it's actually chaotic, nonsenical, Dilbertesque, crazy, dysfunctional, self-destructive, suicidal, nutso, etc. Can you think of any more adjectives for we, as a species, net-net, have lost our minds? Go ahead and add them.
The problem is evolution. Up until a few generations ago, there was no possibility of a global consciousness, and luckily for us, no need for one. Humans simply weren't powerful enough to matter. So what if we were run by crazy kings and popes and political bosses, worst that could happen is we could spoil a small piece of land and kill ourselves, and we surely did a lot of that! But now the stakes are much higher. We've cured disease enough to fuel a population explosion. And while we seem to be able to feed ourselves, the planet just can't support that many people in many other ways. The problem is that we don't have a collective consciousness that can change things so they work. We're still arguing about the crazy stuff we used to argue about before we became the problem for the planet. You could even see that wise-ass Mitt Romney joking about it in his speech. He says Fuck you if you think the President's job is to worry about the level of the oceans. Well it's not just his job, it's all our jobs. Every damned one of us. And thanks so much for setting us back, just a bit, Mr Republican Presidential Candidate for 2012, a title which already holds some sway. God help us if this bozo gets more responsibility.
If the world were ruled by a secret cabal of rich people and their muses, I would know about it, because I know some of the people who would either be in Category 1 or Category 2. Sure they fly around and go to important conferences and they're quoted and talked about in the Economist and the Times, but they don't really run things. They fly around a lot. Look busy. They play a Captain of the Universe on TV, but they're just people and they don't have any idea about what to do. They work at making more money, and that's fine, but it doesn't really accomplish much, one way or the other.
The people we talk to with our vote is ourselves.
A vote for Mitt Romney communicates this: I'm exhausted trying to keep up with everything. I want it all to be simple. Like when I was a kid and my father made all the decisions.
And a vote for Barack Obama means the same damned thing.
That's where the cynicism is correct. But where it's not correct is in the assumption that that's all it can mean. And in that they suffer from a lack of imagination.
Even with a ridiculous choice, just a larger-than-normal number of people voting would make a difference. And then you have to judge for yourself how possible it is for us to change one of these guys to doing more of our work. For that, you have to understand that they are people too. When Obama makes a decision in term 2 he may be thinking about how the election went and what he feels he has the mandate to do. That might change things. Listen to the guy and judge for yourself.
If we, collectively, as if it were a Kickstarter project, decided to fund our election, and, as a political demonstration we all voted, that would be felt. Not by some mythical powers-that-be, but by us, by you and me and everyone else. It would be shocking. And if you're cynical you will be surprised by how much things will change in government.
Everything that happens now is premised on the fact that you're dumb and you don't vote. If you change one of those perceptions and you have the power to do that, the other one will change too. Think about it.
Voting does make a difference. The more people do it, the more power we will have as we go forward.
The most effective voter suppression is the lie that your vote doesn't matter. Don't give in to cynicism.
BTW, today's random header graphic influenced this piece.
What's new: The World news tab.
I started with the international feeds from major news outlets such as the ABC from Australia, Ria Novosti from Russia, Al Jazeera, Ha'aretz, The Hindu, NYT international feed, etc.
Then I asked people who read the site for other feeds. English-language. Covers news for their geography, as well as world news, but not be too focused on the United States. We already have lots of American news in other tabs. It was a community project which was wonderful, that's why we have such a rich set of feeds, and such an interesting tab.
Lots of other stuff in the pipe, as well as a tab for the US election, as it heats up.
Keep the cards and letters coming and keep spreading the word. Especially people who work at news organizations and bloggers. I want them all to do rivers for their communities. They don't have to be as fancy as this one. And we can help. It's important to have these streams running all over the web, not just on Twitter and Facebook.