Scripting News

Scripting News, the weblog started in 1997 that bootstrapped the blogging revolution...

Writing code in an outliner, day 1

With Fargo out and with its evolving connection with JavaScript, I hope more people will be coding with an outliner.

I've been doing it pretty much exclusively for about 20 years, but I don't think I've ever written anything about the style considerations that come from using a structure-aware editor to code.

One of the big debates is where do the curly braces go?

For example:

if condition {



That's the way I do it.

I don't think the placement of the left brace is controversial. Why spend a line with a structural symbol if you don't have to.

But there's a long-standing argument about the right brace.

I always put it at the same level that the curly braces contain.

The advantage is this: When I want to move the block of code, I can just drag the headline with the condition in it. No need to select two lines.

That, and it feels conceptually right to me. If possible every construct should take up one line when collapsed. There are some examples where this isn't neat, in if-then-else, try-catch and switch statements. That's life, nothing's perfect.

Update: If you want to see what a less trivial bit of code looks like in an outliner, expand this headline. It's the JavaScript source for a Find command in the Fargo outliner.

8/31/2013; 1:14:27 PM


There was a myth when I was starting out in software that it was possible to write a business plan and have that be what you actually end up doing. You'd plot out a series of steps, and put each one on a numbered slide. Around slide 8 or 9 was one called Exit, where you showed your potential investors how they were going to get rich. Everyone understood that these slides were lies, but you had to act like you believed them. In a way they were buying your ability to bullshit, and everyone knew it.

Even though I never raised VC, I did manage to get a bit of money from angels, launched a company, and zigged and zagged through growth and setbacks, tried one idea out then another, until finally we hit on a winner, bet heavy on it, got lucky and sold out. Our investors did get rich. But the way they got rich had nothing to do with what we told them when we were starting out.

Some days VCs will tell you they invest in ideas, other days they say they invest in people. I was told a few months ago by a young VC, with a straight face, that your idea pretty much has to be a bullseye for something they've already decided they want to do. A few weeks earlier a partner at the same firm told me that they invest in people, and don't give a shit about the idea. Neither is true. Or both. I have no clue.

Whatever investors say, the truth is you win by having a great vision and have the right personal qualities to make it win. Intelligence, drive, curiosity, flexibility, salesmanship, doggedness, all are important qualities. You have to care that people like you, but at the same time, you'll piss a lot of people off, and that can't stop you. Most important, you have to be unable to visualize failure. There's a lot of bullshit floating around these days how failure is good. It's not good. If you're the kind of person who people should invest in, failure should not be a possibility. Even if they fire you, you won't leave. Even if there's no money, you won't quit. If you have to go to board meetings alone, so be it. You. Will. Not. Fail.

But that said, you cannot proceed as if your plan is sacred, because every step you take will teach you so much, that will be what your next moves are based on. Winning is the goal, not realizing your plan. And winning is not a linear thing. You should see your product as a cloud of ideas. Put down a marker in one place, ship it, see how the people respond to it. If that doesn't work, put a marker somewhere else, but still close to your idea, ship, listen. If that works, continue to invest there. Keep putting down bets until one hits.

To do this you have to have good intuition about the product, which means you yourself must be a constant, dependent user of the product. Programmers who think they understand users but are not one themselves are worthless. CEOs are even worse. I was told once by the CEO of a company I was working for that he's a market of one, and his opinion of the product didn't mean a thing. Even though I was very young I knew this was wrong. A year later the company, which was a market leader in its class, was gone.

Most important do not see your progress as a line. It's not. Linear thinking may be good in Dilbert-like companies, where sticking your neck out is a good way to get your head chopped off. But if you're navigating a competitive market filled with unknowns you can't plot a fixed line through that kind of fog. You have to feel your way through it, and in order to do that you have to have a feel for the product, its users, and where the value is.

8/31/2013; 10:55:11 AM

Rich people behaving rich

Farhad Manjoo, a tech writer at Slate, wrote a piece about Valleywag yesterday.

The point of the piece, as I read it, is that Valleywag writes about the follies of rich people behaving rich, and as vain, flawed human beings like the rest of us. I like what Valleywag is doing. Manjoo says they could do better. I feel the same way about Manjoo.

The non-Valleywag tech press also write about rich people behaving rich, as if the money made them more competent than the rest of us. They don't write about the follies. Quite the opposite. To the tech press money makes you super-human.

Either way they write about people with lots of money.

Because money is so central to what they write about, the people whose business is money, venture capitalists, are above it all. They're the mostly invisible gatekeepers for the rest of us.

Knowing this, I've tried to get venture capital for my work, many times -- and never have been successful. So my software has had to develop new communication channels. That's why I was pulled into publishing tools. It worked, until the VCs saw opportunity, now almost everything they fund is blogging software. Has been that way for many years.

Manjoo defends Pando Daily, a publication that almost never deviates from the VC-gatekeeper mode. They probably do break out often enough so they can provide a few examples of times they wrote about non-VC-backed products, or were critical of companies funded by VCs. But in general, Pando is the house organ of venture capital.

The sad part about all this is that the VCs only invest in one kind of product, systems designed to aggregate people whose data can be mashed up into a slurry that's recombined into new products that can be sold to marketers.

It's a 21st century version of the publishing industry of the 20th century.

Even worse is that this process sells us out to the governments. They're data miners for the NSA. They don't care if you get owned, as long as they get paid.

All this is very bad for diversity in software. It leads to monoculture, and that imho inevitably will lead to another collapse.

I like that Valleywag is willing to call them on their silliness. Would Manjoo be able to do that? That's just a question. But when he writes pieces like this, you have to wonder if he'd be willing to throw away the goodwill it's getting him with the VCs. And Valleywag, if they decide to cover products, may well report on new stuff that the rest of the tech press won't touch.

Optimistically it may be that this is the final shakeout of the industrial system of the 20th century. VC is ripe to be replaced by more distributed financing models, the VCs even seem to agree with this. All it takes is one super success that owes nothing to VC. Then the tech press, if it still exists at that time, will have to work a lot harder to find new stuff to write about.

Update: Part 2 of the series, on linearity and why it doesn't work.

8/30/2013; 8:31:13 AM

Why I read PressThink

Jay Rosen is asking his readers to de-cloak in the comments section of his blog on its tenth anniversary. I started to write something but found the space too confining, so I decided to write what I have to say here and will post a link to it over there.

Who I am

I am a struggling programmer, the way some people are struggling artists.

At least I'm not a starving artist.

The work is getting harder not easier.

Tired today, but maybe tomorrow is better. I'm pretty much an in-the-moment guy when it comes to Who I Am.

Why I read Press Think

It varies from year to year.

When I first met you at BloggerCon in 2003, I was delighted to meet someone from the world of journalism who didn't see what we were doing as a threat and didn't talk about blogging in a dismissive way. You actually predicted what we were doing, but from a wholly different perspective. I found this both validating and illuminating. You don't expect to see your own work in a different light, you don't not expect it either. But it's great when it happens, so thanks.

Over the years, I've paid more or less attention to the struggles of journalism. Some years I'm paying close attention, some years I don't even want to look. This is one of those years when I'm not looking.

But reading your blog posts at least keeps me current enough to know what someone with my world view, if they were paying attention, would think.

That's the point. Today, ten years later, we now share the same world view. We more or less come from the same place. And I enjoy your writing, and humor and appreciate what you do.

Here's to many more years blogging and innovating!

8/29/2013; 1:17:36 PM

A light-hearted use-case for encryption

Mary Jones, programmer, is dating Joe Smith, a sysadmin at the NSA.

On the side, Mary is secretly seeing entrepreneur Paul Morris, and is keeping a diary of her feelings in Fargo. Of course she doesn't want Joe to see the diary, but she's heard that he can access any documents stored on the Internet. So she turns on encryption for her diary, and therefore is reasonably certain that Joe's prying eyes will not be able to read her innermost thoughts.

Confident in her privacy, she dumps both of them, and moves to Venezuela.

8/29/2013; 11:00:42 AM

Encryption in Fargo 1.14

This morning Fargo has an exciting new feature, encryption.

Why encryption is important

Encryption is important in a Dropbox-based notetaking tool because, like every hugely popular web service, Dropbox has had security issues.

And recent revelations about the power of the NSA to access our online data makes encryption an important feature no matter where you're storing your data.

Where we're at with encryption.

This is a new feature, so at first you should be careful using it, in case there are any security issues. In the early testing we found one serious issue. There may be others.

We're using a standard JavaScript encryption library created at Stanford. It was so incredibly easy to use. Thanks to the team at Stanford that created this excellent library.

Now you can use Fargo for new applications that require security. For example, storing passwords and confidential documents.

Video demo

8/29/2013; 8:57:48 AM

Programming philosophy -- factoring

As you're writing a complex piece of software, you have the opportunity to break chunks of code out into separate procedures or functions, or write the code inline. I think programmers tend to do too much inline, and should modularize or factor more.

A few reasons why factoring is good.

Giving a block of code a name and a parameter list is like having a comment that's part of the program structure. It's a chance to say clearly to a future reader what the code they're reading does. It's a way to communicate.

You get a new slate for local variables. A fresh mental stack frame. You can give things shorter names because they'll only be used in a small scope. No guesswork when reading the code about where these values might be used, and less temptation on the part of future maintainers to reuse something that might not be reusable for all time. A chance to avoid future code fragility, breakage. (Think of it as the programming equivalent of defensive driving.)

You get to use a return statement to get out of the code. That makes error checking simpler, easier to follow in the code. Simplifies the code.

Even if there are just one or two lines in the function today, you never know.

Managing complexity is what building maintainable code bases is about. The easier it is to understand the building blocks, the higher you can build your castle.

If you do it well, the calling code can be simpler, it's functionality totally clear. It can almost read like haiku. Real-time code, in order to work, often has to attain that level of simplicity.

And if the problem comes up again, you can just call the function. That makes your code smaller and easier to work on. It's also like solving a puzzle. Satisfying.

But strike a balance. Too much factoring can obscure functionality.

Make sure that the layer you add makes sense in terms of what the software actually does. Introducing an unnecessary layer of abstraction is something a new contributor has to learn, and even you may have to relearn it at some point, as your code base gets huge, you tend to forget how you put it together.

8/28/2013; 12:29:19 PM

The Butler -- feh

It's been a really awful summer for movies, at least the ones I've gotten to see -- they've all been terrible or just boring. So I decided to change my strategy and avoid the blockbusters and science fiction movies that I had been going to, and go to movies that the critics liked. So I went to see Blue Jasmine over the weekend and The Butler yesterday.

About Blue Jasmine, I keep hoping someday Woody Allen will make another of his classics like Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters. Or even one of the total comedic farces like Bananas or Take The Money And Run. Zelig!

Blue Jasmine didn't do it for me. I didn't care about the characters. Never got into the plot (not much happened). There wasn't much for the mind. A few nice visuals, but they were both cities I knew well (NY and SF). Eh.

The Butler sounded like just my kind of movie. Politics! Great ideas. History. The White House. Race. Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding, and cameos from Robin Williams, Vanessa Redgrave and more. And the NYT loved it. But it was awful. A stitched-together set of scenes. None of the characters got us to care. The laughs when they came were forced. I don't want to spoil what little plot there is, but this one didn't hold my attention either. I was sitting in the theater working out programming problems like the guy in the funny graphic.

It was a little like Forrest Gump (hey another Forest) but that was good entertainment. Maybe it's time finally to stop treating that period of history as magical. Maybe if there had never been a flashback to the sixties before, then perhaps this might have been an interesting movie. But this idea has been done so many times, and done better. The Butler is proof that it's enough already, at least until someone has a fresh approach.

There was one nice thing, they cast Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan. Anyone who loved Reagan is very likely to hate that idea. But they did make Reagan look pretty good, compared to Nixon who was a drunken asshole in the movie, so there's that.

I'm still waiting for the Great Movie of 2013. Even a good one would be nice.

8/28/2013; 8:25:21 AM

Breaking Bad has gone off the rails

Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers -- we got tons of them! If you haven't seen all of Breaking Bad up to this point you have been warned.

What I'm going to say in this post will seem like heresy to most Breaking Bad fans. I would have thought it heretical just a couple of weeks ago, until I did something that popped the bubble. I went back to the beginning and watched every episode through season 4. Until you do that, and start watching season 5, I don't think you can see the problem. So if you love Breaking Bad, even the current season, I suggest not watching it again from the beginning until this season is over. Me, I'm going to have a hard time watching any of it. And I find it hard to believe anyone is taking it seriously.

With that out of the way, let me say that the first four seasons are wonderful, cohesive, consistent, and develop the plot and characters in a way that left me in awe much of the time. Incredible acting, writing, editing. Nice touches like Steve Jobs' story about the wood on the back of a fine piece of furniture. Breaking Bad had that kind of quality.

[Jobs] said that his father refused to use poor wood for the back of cabinets, or to build a fence that wasn’t constructed as well on the back side as it was the front. Jobs likened it to using a piece of plywood on the back of a beautiful chest of drawers. "For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through."

I wrote a couple of pieces here on my blog as I was working my way through it.

The second time through there were no cliff-hangers for me. I knew how every crisis was going to be resolved. It was still great. The end of season 3, with the meetup between Gail and Jesse was probably the best 5 minutes of television ever. In every way. Even so, season 4 was wonderful, but the finale left the writers with nowhere to go. I can see now it should have ended there. The final scene with Walter White on top of the world, his nemesis dead, his family safe, cancer in remission, out of the meth business, with a great legal business to return to, everything was wrapped up except for Hank. Maybe you could make an episode out of the face-off between Hank and Walter, but first you have to try to make a bunch of ridiculous things make sense. It stopped working with the first episode of season 5.

I was trying to figure out what the problem was, other than the show was already over. Then I remembered this great piece about the state of science fiction movies by Ryan Britt in The Awl about the awful sterile movie Elysium. He said, and he's absolutely right, that the problem with science fiction these days is that the movies don't respect their own premises. Here's a small excerpt.

In Contact, Jodie Foster’s Ellie worries that everyone is okay with installing a chair into the nifty spacepod the aliens told us to build, even though the schematics said nothing about a chair. The real-world answer is 'because it’s a movie,' but the fact that the script addresses the chair at all is part of what makes it a serious science fiction film. The chair also serves to introduce more doubt about whether the spacepod functions -- but mostly, the movie actually wonders about how the science fiction would function in a real-life situation.

The characters in season 5 of Breaking Bad do things that they would never do, based on what we know about them. Walter hugs Jesse. Jesse figures something out and flies into a rage. Sorry that's what Walter does. And what Jesse figures out makes no sense. It seems they needed quickly to get to a cliff-hanger so they waved their hands quickly and hoped we wouldn't notice it was nonsense. One minute Mike is insisting on killing Lydia, and a few minutes later, well okay she can live. Sorry Mike is always right. And Mike, Jesse and Walter as the three amigos? No. No. No. It. Does. Not. Fucking. Work. Every five minutes the characters emote, the acting is great, but it has nothing to do with who they are. Why exactly does Walter want to get back into the meth business? We have no clue. Saul even says it makes no sense. Walter just waves it off. This is the same writing staff that came up with the scene with Walter and Jesse in the RV who got Hank to leave to tend to his wife in the hospital? No.

There are a few good moments that make you wonder. Skyler showing Walter the huge pile of cash and asking if this isn't enough, what will be enough? That's something Skyler might do. But most of it has no respect for who the characters are, based on what we know about them from the previous four seasons.

I wonder sometimes what happened. Did they have a massive reorg on the staff? Is there a new show runner? This seems like very ordinary TV, not the breakthrough series Breaking Bad was in its first four seasons.

8/27/2013; 3:17:47 PM

Questions about ObamaCare

I have a vague idea that it's getting close to time for me to make a decision about enrolling or not enrolling. I have health insurance now, but it's hugely expensive because I have a pre-existing condition. I wonder if I'll do better if I get a new policy through an exchange. I live in New York. I have a few questions.

The way insurance works now if I keep paying they have to keep me on, even if something bad happens. Will that work for ObamaCare too?

What happens if the law is overturned in the future? I know the Republicans want to do that. Is there some circumstance where I won't be able to get insurance?

I guess I only have to plan for 7 years, because I'm 58 now. In seven years I'll be 65 when I'll qualify for Medicare. Is that correct?

I actually like my doctor. I want to keep seeing him. Right now I have a PPP policy. Can I buy that kind of policy under ObamaCare?

Maybe you have questions too? If so, feel free to post a comment, and maybe we can all get answers to our questions at the same time.

8/27/2013; 11:41:36 AM

The Atlantic on diffs betw genders

Thanks to Nathan Ferguson for posting a link to this piece by Derek Thompson on the Atlantic website. Here are some bits from the piece, including the title and sub-title:

1. Women prefer working together and men prefer working alone.

2. Men think they're better off solo, even when they aren't.

3. Men are part of a clubby nepotism system.

4. Women are more attracted to cooperation than men.

5. Men demonstrate overconfidence in their own abilities.

6. Men distrust in their colleagues' aptitude, except under key situations.

7. Women prefer to work in teams, men prefer to work alone.

8. Women perform worse in competitive environments, even when their performance was similar to men in noncompetitive environments.

9. Women demonstrated less confidence about their own abilities and more confidence in their potential partners' abilities.

10. Women are less comfortable with their colleagues making dramatically different salaries.

11. Men are more sensitive than women to small tweaks in team-based compensation.

12. It's not enough to focus on making brilliant women feel confident. It's also key to make overconfident men trust that their colleagues just might be competent.

This is not an up-with-men sort of piece, but that's not my point in citing it.

I don't even disagree that men tend to be loners, and women tend to organize and cooperate. I've seen this with my own eyes, as a team member and team leader in business, and as a volunteer in political and charity organizations, and in self-help workshops I've participated in. Women are better at working together. And imho, men are better at.. I think I'll just stop there.

People who got mad at me for saying what I thought men were better at should take a look at their anger. Because if you were mad at me for saying something you perceived as negative about women, it seems to me you should be equally angry with Mr. Thompson, the author of the Atlantic piece, for suggesting there are things women are better at.

Of course you'd be very busy, because there are lots of articles saying women are good and men are bad. This is a pervasive theme in our culture, and it goes back a long time. Women, because they do work better together, and often on behalf of their gender as a whole, have better PR than men, who are often left to fend for themselves as individuals.

Before commenting, please review the commenting policy. This is not one of those exceptional pieces. Play by the rules or post somewhere else. Thanks!

PS: I'm one of those men who yearn for more working-together. The people who stand in the way of that, no matter what their gender, prevent me from doing my work. So I understand that none of these things are absolute and all-inclusive. We have to be able to discuss trends, as adults, and understand and welcome exceptions.

8/27/2013; 8:15:13 AM

Where "fear is frozen fun" came from

Most of the mottos and slogans I use on Scripting News are either original or derived from ideas pioneered by others. But some are wholesale lifted from other people's work, which is an invocation of yet another motto -- "Only steal from the best."

"It's even worse than it appears," comes from a Grateful Dead song. It a perfect disclaimer. As bad as you think I am, I am even worse.

A variant is useful in standards work, where I ask collaborators to search for the worst possible name for something, in order to avoid long arguments about which is best. You can have a good laugh when someone invokes the "worst is best" rule, and get on with the real work of working together.

An example of a derived motto: "Ask not what the Internet can do for you," a modified version of JFK's admonition from his 1961 inaugural. My version was for the VCs of Silicon Valley to remember that they have to put back to balance what they take out. Of course they completely ignore this admonition, with perilous results, imho.

Another motto is "fear is frozen fun." Last night, James C. Kim asked on Twitter what it means. I have started using it again, after not referencing it in many years. It was a big motto for me in 1994 when I started blogging. So I searched to see if I had written anything about it, and came up with nothing. I answered that I thought its meaning was self-evident, but then on reflection I realized that even I wasn't sure what it meant! It's that rich an idea.

So I looked it up. The motto was appropriated wholesale from a book I read called Conscious Loving, written by Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks. Here's a link to the citation on Google Books. I've entered the paragraph it appears in, beneath this headline.

"In our work we have found that there are only a few core feelings. These are sadness, fear, anger, joy, excitement and sexual feelings. Other common feelings, such as guilt, boredom, anxiety and depression are actually mixtures of the basic feelings or responses to one of the core feelings. For example, the Gestalt therapist Fritz Perls said that anxiety is excitement without the breath. When people remember to breathe into their fear, their anxiety often turns into excitement. We often tell our clients that fear is frozen fun. People often get the most afraid just before they are about to step out into the creative unknown, into a new possibility. Fear mobilizes your body for action, but if you do not take action, the energy curdles in your body."

I could not possibly do any better than that.

BTW, another of my mottos, "Let's have fun!" came from this motto.

There's supposed to be a little eye-twinkle after it.

In today's terminology it might be translated as "Let's have disruption!"

8/26/2013; 9:58:23 AM

Students can run their own servers

I've had two academic jobs, one at Harvard and one at NYU.

At Harvard, my assignment was to get a blogging program started. It was imho a big success. Harvard was the first American university to offer blogs to its community, and that included people who did not have addresses. The philosophy of blogging is inclusive, and I'm glad they agreed to let that happen. It has led to all kinds of great things all over the world, because it's such a central and influential place.

My goal at NYU, which I did not achieve, was to have every journalism student learn to set up and run a server. I felt this was important because at least they had to understand what a server is, and how simple it can be, and not be intimidated by techies who often try to push around non-technical people. It turns out "push around" is a lot worse than I envisioned. Read this post by my former colleague Jay Rosen for an idea of how the techies in government are working to disable journalism.

The best answer to a controlling techie is this: "No problem, I'll do it myself." That usually gets them listening. If you can actually do it, then they no longer have power over you. Now that we know that the government has its own huge development organization, it would be wise for us, outside the government, to have a large group of developers we can turn to. Even better if every journalist knows how to run a server. Then you don't have to rely on anyone but yourself.

So what should be the response of the populace to pervasive government surveillance? Well, obviously we should try to reform the government through the democratic process. But I wonder if that can work. We'd probably choose someone who sounds a lot like Barack Obama before he was elected. There must be something that happens when a new president gets the keys to the White House. "Here you go, run the country, heh." That first day on the job must be a trip.

I don't know if it will help for people to run their own servers, but we sure can't get out of this mess by continuing to depend on Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, et al. We learn more every day about how much they are owned by the government. No, it's not surprising, but actually knowing it is different from suspecting it.

8/26/2013; 9:34:03 AM

How comments work on Scripting News

Questions about how comments work here come up from time to time. Not sure I've ever written a post to explain it, although I do sometimes answer questions in comments or via private email.

1. Comments are managed by Disqus, which is good comments software, maintained by a company that's easy to work with. I find that when there's an issue they respond quickly, even if they don't always do what I want. I understand how that works because I'm a software developer too.

2. Comments are moderated. If you're on the whitelist, your comments go straight to the blog. You get on the whitelist by being a registered user, and having commented before, and not being on the blacklist.

3. However that doesn't guarantee that your comment will continue to appear on the site after it is reviewed by the blogger (i.e. me).

4. All comments are acceptable as long as they are: on-topic, not personal or abusive, and not spam. To be on-topic it must be responsive to what's in the post. If it's obvious that you didn't read the post (for example asking if I considered a point of view that's actually discussed in the post) then it's off-topic. The purpose of comments is to provide more information on the topic of the post, or an alternate point of view, something that an informed person would want to consider. Using words like bullshit, or drivel, or calling the author names, cause the comment to be deleted, even if there's other value to the comment. So if you have something to say, and have crossed this line, go back and edit your comment to remove the nasty bits. If you really must question the morals or intelligence of someone here, esp the blogger, then your comments belong on your blog, not mine.

5. That's an important point. By moderating your comments or placing you on the blacklist, you are not being "silenced" or "censored," as some dramatic people have claimed. This is a very small relatively unimportant corner of the Internet. If you have something important that needs to be said, but doesn't fit into the comment scheme here, there are many other places you can put it. By now everyone understands this.

6. One way to tell for sure your comment is abusive is to flip it around and imagine it was being read by the person you're responding to. If they would have to respond by saying "I have a mother and she's a good person," for example, then you're being abusive.

Someone actually said that about me on Twitter recently.

I responded in a blog post.

How sad that such a person has so little to say that they have to resort to that kind of personal attack.

7. An example of an on-topic comment to this post would be something like this. "I don't like this commenting policy because I like to read flames and this site gets some great flames from time to time. I like it when people humiliate you in public." It's an alternate point of view which I find reprehensible, but it is on-topic, and was said without getting personal.

There's a great scene in The West Wing where President Bartlet is interviewing Debbie Fiderer for a job as exec assistant to the President. She had written a letter to the White House saying something pretty negative about the President. He hired her anyway because the letter referred to him as President Bartlet, not Bartlet or "the douchebag." He says she's a class act, she is, and you can tell he means it.

8. You can disagree, even strongly, and at the same time be respectful. That's how I want comments done here. I don't mind if you disagree, just don't assume yours is the only valid point of view, and don't call people names, and don't spam us. It's basic human decency, respect for everyone's intelligence and common sense.

9. 8/25/2013; 9:04:04 AM

A classic example of gender humor

A picture named hisAndHer.gif

8/24/2013; 6:00:44 PM

More Breaking Bad

Spoilers spoilers spoilers we got spoilers! Do not read if you've not watched all of Breaking Bad! You have been warned.

I'm continuing to work my way through all of Breaking Bad, it's so much better than I remember, though there are sections that are just incredibly tedious. I mean why don't they just kill Walter already and cut their losses. The guy is such a huge paranoid pain in the ass. But he does get Gustavo Fring, better than anyone else.

I identify with Walter in some ways. For example, I think I had a great meth lab going at Berkman in 2003 and 2004. (An analogy of course.) I wonder what would have happened if instead of cutting out after two years, we had doubled-down and built the academic development organization I hoped to create with grants from the tech industry.

Anyway, it's great to watch with the cliffhangers voided of their power since I know how everything is going to turn out.

8/24/2013; 10:20:06 AM

Redirecting from an S3 file

Update: Problem solved in the comments. Thanks!!

I'm having no luck trying to redirect from a file stored in an S3-hosted website.

I've tried doing it through the website interface, but I get a dialog saying Sorry you were denied access to do that.

I'm pretty sure I have the permissions set to allow me to do anything I want to the file in question. That appears to be a dead-end.

Then I tried doing it with a script.

I set the metadata for the file.

The attribute I set was this: x-amz-website-redirect-location.

I set it to point to

It worked, as you can see in this screen shot.

However when I try to access the file, it does not redirect.

The docs, as usual with Amazon, tell you everything in a weird order and use foreign (to me) terminology. As usual I try to muddle along. I read all the discussion threads I can find, and see that other people are confused, but they seem to eventually get it to work, but don't leave behind anything useful to me. When I get to this point I usually write a blog post and ask if Scripting News readers have any ideas for me to try out.

Here's a test file. As far as I can see it should redirect.

Now the usual question -- wtf am I doing wrong?

8/24/2013; 9:09:36 AM

Who does he think he is

This is what it should say on my gravestone.

Grammatical note: Who did he think he was?

It's probably the thing people have most often said about me, although often it comes out in more demeaning and condescending ways.

I'm used to it.

Basically almost everything I've said here has someone who wants me not to say it.

There was a time when it wasn't cool for a programmer to write about politics.

Or have a blog at all.

Before that, who is he to think he can make software and not work at a big company in a mindless capacity, as a fungible part.

And who does he think he is to disrupt a billion-dollar business for companies like IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Sun Microsystems? But they were making all that money by keeping publishers from using more efficient technology, like blogs and RSS.

And before that, where did you get the idea that making software is creative.

If you never said anything that anyone objected to you could never say anything.

So what the fuck, just say what you have to say.

It's not like anyone gets out of this alive.

8/22/2013; 9:11:33 AM

Working my way through Breaking Bad

Small spoilers ahead, so beware.

The best bit so far are the last two minutes of episode 13 of season 3.

Walter calls Jesse. Mike has a gun pulled on Walt.

You have a 20 minute head start. Go do it.

Everything about it, the script, the acting, camera work, editing, music, the whole gestalt is delightful, and of course it has a bitter-sad ending.

One more thing. Skyler knew, from the middle of Season 3, that she is a criminal. So all the analysis of her meetup with Hank in the last episode that theorized somehow that it hadn't dawned on her that she goes to jail too, is nonsense. And she doesn't have terminal cancer as far as we know.

8/22/2013; 9:03:47 AM

When in doubt

Programming, looking forward

A few thoughts after a long bike ride...

I don't care why there are so few women programmers.

I do care that there are so few of them.

I think we'd be better off if there were more.

We certainly couldn't be any worse off.

I do believe there is specialization in the genders, and our art is hurt because it is so dominated by men. There really isn't any precedent for it. Any other art, acting, painting, dance, singing, cooking, fashion, sculpture, architecture, you may see more men or women in one or the other, but I don't think they're as dominated by one gender as our art is.

Honestly I don't care what non-programmers think about this. What we do is a mystery to most of them. What we do is hard. To do it well is impossibly hard. We could make it easier, but there's too much ripping up of the pavement and starting over.

They don't listen to programmers anyway. But we should listen to each other.

We can do better.

I am not hiring programmers. I haven't employed programmers since 2002. So any problem that comes down to there are more jobs for x or y people, I can't help solve those problems. I have hired contractors from time to time. I may hire contractors in the future. But you shouldn't look at me as a source of a job in tech. But I might be a stepping-stone to one.

I like working with people who are highly skilled. In 2013, amazingly there are 18 or 22 year olds who as much programming experience as I had when I shipped my first commercial product. But I've learned a lot since then. If you're young and love programming, that should be good news. That means what you do is deep. After ten years you've just begun. You'll keep getting better and stronger for decades to come.

I also really like working with people my own age. I think it's fucked up beyond belief that the industry throws people out just because they turned 40. If you're young, you should be worried about this, and do something about it. Time goes fast, you'll be 40 before you know it, and then the problem will be yours too.

I like to tell people I was 47 when I made RSS happen. When I was younger I couldn't have done it. But supposedly I was washed up when I helped turn the publishing world upside-down. So when people say programmers lose their juice as they age, they are full of shit.

I love to meet great programmers, even aspiring great programmers. Tell me what you're working on. What environments you use. All you have to do is believe in yourself, love programming, feel you were born to do this, and have the drive and ambition to want to do something great. And actually be doing it. Talk is cheap.

I've met plenty of people who want to program because you can get rich doing it. I'm not interested in those people. Making money is great, and making lots of it is even greater. But that's not why one makes software. I do it because it's my creative fulfillment. I love to see my ideas moving. I think of programming as math in motion. I would do it even if I made no money doing it (I have, most of the years I've been working). I would do it even if I had to pay money to do it.

No one is going to open doors for you. It's a myth that people opened doors for me when I started out. No one believed in what I was doing. My parents told me I was crazy. All the adults shook their heads. Friends thought programming was for nerds, not hippies. Somehow I achieved my dreams anyway. But I did have lots of advantages. And disadvantages too. But why does any of that matter unless you want to prove the world is unfair. It is. Point conceded.

I may be 58 but I still have dreams. I want to create software openly with people I love to work with on endlessly reconfigurable teams. The way music and movies are made. I'd like to be a studio artist being directed by someone who has a great vision. And I'd like to work with other people who help me ship hits based on my own ideas. I know we will do this someday. I'd like to start now.

A few quick soundbites:

1. If you find yourself fighting to shut someone up, you're wrong.

2. If you think "Who does he think he is" the answer is "an imperfect human being."

3. I will never apologize for asking questions or saying what I think.

4. The term mansplaining is sexist.

5. Fact: Women do their share of mansplaining.

I'm actively working on a development project around Fargo and the CMS it plugs into. So you can get to know what I'm doing now. I'm going to have more to say about it (I always do as long as I'm still kicking).

As I said, I don't care about the people who think I shouldn't write what I think or ask questions about things I wonder about or want to know. I don't have time for those people. They are a huge waste of time. The Internet makes it possible for anyone to stink up the room. That's not news.

I want to meet more people who are exploring, learning, building, creating, and solving some of the huge problems we face. I'm not interested in splitting us in two groups and fighting about who's to blame for what, or fighting about whether I have a right to speak. I have that right and if you don't like it that's your problem.

I'm sure there's more to say, but it's time to do something else...

Namaste y'all and fear is frozen fun!

A picture of a slice of cheese cake.

8/21/2013; 5:00:41 PM

Snowden and Manning gave us the jailbreak for democracy

Napster was the impetus of the music programming revolution. A jailbreak. 13 years later, Napster made the music curation service that Beats is developing possible because there are millions of people with a decade of experience programming their own music.

Movies are going the same way. I want to do a film festival with my dear friend NakedJen. We love to talk about movies, and someday we'll do it. But other people will probably figure it out first. All those movie theaters all over the world will be venues for people who are good at putting together a program of movie-going for others to enjoy and discuss, and learn from.

RSS was the jailbreak for news. Now you could program your own flow, pulling in bits from major news organizations and blogs, individuals, and new forms of news, from everywhere.

Snowden and Manning gave us the jailbreak for democracy, if we want it.

It's not a symbolic jailbreak, imho -- if we don't take the chance and renew democracy and speech, people will go to jail, next time there's a financial meltdown, or another superstorm like the ones we've already had in New Orleans and the northeastern US.

8/21/2013; 9:49:34 AM

What will happen to the Groklaw archive?

Pamela Jones who has been running the excellent Groklaw blog since 2002, wrote a post yesterday saying the site will shut down.

The owner of Lavabit tells us that he's stopped using email and if we knew what he knew, we'd stop too. There is no way to do Groklaw without email. Therein lies the conundrum. What to do?

On Twitter, Staci Kramer says the "loss of Groklaw as a news resource would be compounded if archives disappear."

I agree. How can we offer help in making sure that doesn't happen?

How do you send email to someone who has sworn off email?

Update: Thanks to Matthias Bartosik for pointing out that there was an email address at the end of the piece I pointed to. Okay it's early in the morning.

8/21/2013; 7:35:12 AM

What if this is as good as it gets?

One of my favorite movies is As Good As It Gets staring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt in a romantic comedy that starts out with the assumption that everything is fucked up, but you can still have love.

A great scene. Melvin comes to Brooklyn to find out why Carol didn't show up at work in Manhattan, so (according to Melvin) she could serve him breakfast.

Carol: Do you have any control over how creepy you allow yourself to get? Melvin: Yes I do, as a matter of fact. And to prove it, I have not gotten personal, and you have.

It has something for everyone.

Guys like me identify with Melvin. No one listens to us. We do crazy shit. Don't step on the line. We're rude. Everyone is offended. But we mean well. Not everyone can see that. We hope some day to meet our Carol so we can see goodness in her, that no one else sees, so she in turn can see the goodness in us. You may have to look hard but if you do you will see it.

But that's just what I see.

The movie has a sick kid, a mother, a grandmother, a gay neighbor, a dog, a black art agent, a doctor, and a restaurant -- and a crazy anal retentive grouchy romantic annoyed best-selling author.

Hey but the secret is everyone in the movie is crazy.

It's one of those movies that I get something from every time I see it.

This is how we really are, not the idealized version that's in so many movies.

We're fucked up, totally, but we can still have love.

The title itself is a great line. Melvin barges into the psychiatrist's office and it occurs to him to ask the patients who are waiting what if this is as good as it gets? And then he rushes out.

The answer of course that it is as good as it gets. So you better find a way to make love even if life isn't perfect.

8/20/2013; 9:27:23 PM

Grace Hopper on Letterman

Admiral Grace Hopper was on Late Night with David Letterman on October 2, 1986.

8/20/2013; 12:11:00 PM

I like over-the-ear headphones

I've been listening to podcasts on my daily bike rides down the Hudson and around Central Park. I put on the headphones at the half-way point. While I'm warming up I want my all my hearing. For some reason, after 1/2 hour of riding, I feel I can handle a little impairment. So I listen to the latest Fresh Air, Planet Money or This American Life, my three current favorite podcasts. Sometimes the New Yorker book podcast, or the NY Times Science podcast. Also these days I like to mix in a little Talking Heads music from the old days.

I've never been able to use earbuds, they just fall out of my ears. I don't know if it's physiology or something I don't understand about earbuds. It's no big deal, because Sony makes excellent over-the-ear buds that cost $10. And the sound quality is pretty good. They wear out, get clogged with wax, the quality breaks down with workout sweat. But for $10 -- buy two. I've probably been through 20 or 30 of these babies over the years.

All the while wondering if there isn't better quality to be had for $40 to $80 because Sennheiser, a venerable name in headphones, makes similar products to the $10 Sonys. So I decided to find out and bought the $57 model. The reviewers all said they were wonderful. I've learned to be skeptical of headphone reviews. I buy lots of them, all kinds and sizes, but only rarely have I been blown away by the quality. Usually what people rave about on Amazon are basically plain headphones with competent sound.

Net-net: The $57 Sennheisers sound about the same as the $10 Sonys. Let's see if they last 5-6 times as long. I suspect they won't. And the Sony phones wrap nicely around my iPod and fit in my pocket, the Sennheisers have to go around my neck from the start of the ride. So convenience goes to the cheaper Sony phones.

One more thing, the headphones that blew me away -- as the reviewers on Amazon said they would -- are also from Sony, their studio headphones that amazingly cost only $78 and sound as good as or better than $400 headphones from others. Amazingly clear sound, rich bass, and a sublime sense of presence. You feel like you're in a theater listening to a great sound system. I literally seek out opportunities to listen to music with them. There are other nice phones out there, but none that are so rich for so little money. And they seem to stand up to some amount of abuse. I just throw them in my bag and forget about them. If you've got a $78 hole burning in your pocket you'll just love these headphones, I say go for it.

8/20/2013; 6:49:54 AM

I write what occurs to me

Yesterday I was participating in a discussion on Facebook that started with a story Jason Pontin wrote about the programming shop on the floor above him in his Cambridge office. He's a great writer, and in just a few paragraphs he painted a clear picture that I had seen many times before, a high testosterone very male approach to development. I don't mind being part of something like that, but I wondered, why in 40 years of being a developer I had so few occasions to work with women.

BTW, originally I said there was just one woman I had worked with but later realized there were a few more, including a programmer friend in Berkeley who I had worked with on a non-programming project.

A blog post formed in my head, why are there so few women programmers, I wondered, so I switched over into my blogging tool, and wrote. I did a little revising, and then published the post. I went out for a bike ride with zero comments, and came back to over 20, which is an unusually high number for a Scripting News post these days.

Predictably, there were comments that inferred far too much from what I had written. This happens frequently when men write about gender. I had done this before, and expected to get a lot of angst so I wasn't surprised.

At the end of my post I said it would be wonderful if women commented. Although not everyone revealed their gender, there were a lot more women commenters than usual.

I want to learn, and have fun, and if the men won't work with each other, maybe the women will (and work with us too). There's so much tearing-up of pavement in tech. I'm hoping that by mixing things up a bit, breaking some of the patterns in who runs the show, maybe we can make things work better? It's something to aim for.

One more comment. Someone on Twitter said I must not have a mother, and that's so wrong, and over the top. I very much do have a mother, and today is her birthday. She's doing great. She's never been one to be stopped by barriers. In the 60s she took part in a eliminating segregation in NYC public schools. Later, once her children were out of the house, she went back to school and got a PhD, and had a career in education. Now retired, in a sense, she leads a very active intellectual, spiritual and community life. She travels extensively. She's an incredible role model, not just for women, but also for men, like her son. Happy birthday mom!

8/20/2013; 7:09:32 AM

Goodnight and good luck

8/19/2013; 11:45:58 PM

I bought a Soundfreaq

I bought a Soundfreaq SFQ-04 Sound Kick Bluetooth speaker.

Charged it up, pulled out the kick box till the silver line was visible (per the instructions). Click the power switch. Nothing happens.



I never got the Soundfreaq to work, so I returned it to Amazon and walked downtown this afternoon and got a Beats pill at B&H.

The setup was a breeze.

Now I can watch video from my iPad and get good sound without having to wear headphones. Very rational.

8/19/2013; 6:05:37 PM

Why are there so few women programmers?

I've been a programmer for a very long time. I don't even want to tell you!

In all those years, I've only been part of one programming team that had a woman.

I've probably worked, indirectly, with 1000 programmers. One woman, 999 men.

The question is why? I don't know the answer, though I've pondered it often. It would be nice if there were more women in my line of work. I like women. Very much. I can provide references, if necessary.

Now, I'm sure there is sexism, probably a lot of sexism. But I also think there's something about programming that makes many women not want to do it. Here's a theory why that might be.

Programming is a very modal activity. To be any good at it you have to focus. And be very patient. I imagine it's a lot like sitting in a blind waiting for a rabbit to show up so you can grab it and bring it home for dinner.

There is specialization in our species. It seems pretty clear that programming as it exists today is a mostly male thing. Which also raises the obvious question that perhaps we can make it so that it can better-use the abilities of the other half of our species?

I invite comment on this post, but be careful about saying derogatory things about whole genders, which btw, also includes my gender. Thank you.

And you know what would be great -- comments from women!

Notes (written after closing comments)

This was not a well-written post. It came out of a discussion on Facebook about all-male programming shops. I moved the discussion over here, because this is where I'm comfortable discussing and writing, and I'm relatively new to Facebook.

The line I struck through was a mistake. I wrote it so quickly, and I move stuff around, and I move on before I've read everything enough. Today was especially like that. Anyway, I want everyone to do great stuff. Anyone who wants to contribute should be able to. I deal with a lot of limits on what i can do because I'm 58. Anyway, peace please and good night. Oh one more thing..

Also, I closed comments because they're almost all angry and personal now. Rather than moderating, I think it's time for people who want to say something to say it in their space.

Further pieces (written over the following days)

What you don't understand

So many people want to tell me what I don't understand, here's what they don't.




Blogging is all about the free exchange of ideas. You can't get me fired, I don't work for a TV or radio network, or the government. I am free to say what I think because of a wonderful thing called the First Amendment.

I am not intimidated by Internet flamers. What they do is powerless. If you want to make things better, work with people who show an interest in what you are interested in. Be open to learning as much as you insist on teaching. Never ever, under any circumstances, tell someone to shut up. If you can't take what they're saying, walk away. Hit the Back button. Or even better, recognize that the things you least want to hear are the things you most need to hear.

If you want to know what I think, read. Or ask. Don't let someone else tell you what I think. And don't let anyone else tell you what to think.

8/19/2013; 10:53:29 AM

Simple way to compete with Silicon Valley

I went to Silicon Valley in 1979 the same way a country singer goes to Nashville or an actor goes to Hollywood. Really. I absolutely felt that way. I was broke after a couple of months, and did the equivalent of waiting tables in NY, contract programming for National Semiconductor. I met people in coffee shops and diners, and worked the big tech companies as if they were accounts. Made a deal. Lived from hand to mouth until I struck it big, and when I left, I had lots of money in the bank.

Today, Silicon Valley has a more formal system welcoming young folk. And that's smart, and other places should do it too, but here's the twist. In addition to giving a warm welcome to hotshot programmers and marketers, have city-based "in residence" programs, the way universities and venture firms do. Make it easy for people who are accomplished in tech to set up house in your city for a few months at a time.

In other words people can be coral reefs too.

I had this thought recently relating to my longtime friend Marc Canter. I would love to have him around in NYC for a few months, maybe every year. But he's too big to sleep on my couch, both in spirit and physical size. We need to put him up somewhere in the city, and let's set up little parties for young startups with Marc, there are so many of them. I want Marc to advise me on user interfaces I'm working on. But I could never use all of his time. He would be a tremendous asset to a place like New York. But why should have to pay $400 a night to stay in one of our hotels? That's a big barrier, because the costs are so much higher today than they were 30 years ago.

This is an idea any of our mayoral candidates are welcome to, or a borough president for that matter. Does Queens want to be the next Silicon Valley? Maybe it could happen.

8/18/2013; 1:04:31 PM

Napster, BitTorrent & Snowden

It's not just news that's been disrupted by the Internet, we've also seen dramatic changes in the way entertainment and now security information flows.

On one side, you have an institution that was formed in the 20th century, and developed huge power and wealth based on controlling a flow of information.

On the other side, the mass of people who were, in the past, given very limited information, but now have access to much more, and are in the process of evolving new flows around this ability.


On one side you have the RIAA, MPAA and now the NSA. And on the other is Napster, BitTorrent, and Manning/Snowden (and the web, Twitter, Facebook, RSS).

People on either side view the situation very differently.

On the left side, they're trying to put the genie back in the bottle. And on the right side, the genie no longer fits. True, Napster was killed, and BitTorrent plays a game of whack-a-mole. Bradley Manning is in jail, and Snowden in exile. But the effects are with us permanently, even if the individual distruptors have been stopped by the old institutions.

It's amazing to see this play out over and over, there's obviously some kind of fundamental law of nature at work here.

BTW, there's a third dynamic -- the 20th-century institution also adopts the new technology, learns from the practices of the open development community and its users, and grows stronger as a result. The NSA is doing this, and to a lesser extent the MPAA and RIAA (with their counter-measures against piracy).

However they are still largely unable to deal with the new flow of information to the users. They're still getting all the music they want, and new episodes of Game of Thrones, and specifics on how the government is capturing our online activities.

8/18/2013; 9:47:09 AM

Sunday morning server trouble

One of the servers is down.

It's not responding to low-level network pings, so the problem seems to be at the service-provider level.

We've tried to reboot the machine, that didn't bring it back.

Tried stopping the instance, hoping to restart it in a different AWS zone, but it's been trying to stop for about 1/2 hour. Usually it takes less than a minute.

Interestingly, we got an email this morning from Amazon saying that the server is going to be retired in September, and we'd have to stop and restart it in September. Is this a coincidence?

This is not one of our main servers. It handles tasks like allocating names for outlines, and acting as a proxy for WordPress. Fargo, because so much of it runs on the user's machine, is still working fine. I'm writing this post in Fargo.

I'm posting a link to this on our user support mail lists. If you have questions or suggestions, please post a comment here. Thanks!

At least the outage happened on a Sunday.

8/18/2013; 9:27:03 AM

EFF got $1 million from Facebook and Google

Thanks to Adam Curry for digging up a pointer to this Fortune article.

It helps answer the question I asked a couple of days ago, if EFF can rep the users of tech industry services if they already rep the interests of the industry.

In both cases the $1 million payment was in settlement of a legal action, not brought by the EFF. Both companies, according to the Fortune article, "helped select EFF to be their beneficiary."

I remembered reading about the settlements at the time, but didn't remember them when I wrote Tuesday's blog post. It's where I formed the impression that the EFF gets money from the tech industry.

Thanks Adam for digging up this pointer!

8/16/2013; 11:43:15 AM

If anyone from Twitter is listening...

First a little background

1. A few years ago I was writing about Twitter's suggested users list, frequently, because it was inflating the follower counts of a few users, arbitrarily, and appeared to influence news written about Twitter, for fear of being dropped from the list.

2. Jay Rosen was put on the list, and heroically asked to be taken off it.

3. I wrote more about it.

4. Then I was put on the list, and felt honor-bound to ask to be taken off it.

5. Twitter responded, saying there was no list. Which is what they had been saying all along, which was perplexing. You could see that there was one.

6. They took me off the list (how I saw it) or they took me out of their recommendation engine (which is what they said they did).

Maybe there wasn't a list when I appeared on it?

Almost at the same time I appeared on this list, or appeared to appear on the list (I know it's confusing) the list seemed to disappear and their recommendation engine became real. Today, I don't think there is a suggested user list. And as a result it feels as if my follower count may be growing more slowly than those who are part of the system.

If anyone from Twitter is listening...

If there's an exception in your database that says something like "Never recommend @davewiner," please remove the exception. I want as many followers as I'm entitled to.

And thanks for getting rid of the SUL.

8/16/2013; 8:52:35 AM

Why is JavaScript single-threaded?

I just read through this piece about callback-less JavaScript coding, and it raises a question I've never seen answered, that I've been puzzled about ever since I learned that there are just a couple of threads in a JavaScript app running in the browser.

The question is this -- why?

It's been a long time since I worked in an environment that had such a constraint.

I kept looking for the JavaScript verb that forks off another thread. Until I realized there was no such verb. Why not just relax the rule and let a JavaScript app spawn a certain number of threads. And if it needs more, ask the user if that's okay. Like getting more memory in an iPad app.

It crossed my mind that this might be a way for a web page to crash your browser. But I'm pretty sure I can already do that with a simple loop that does nothing and never terminates.

while (true) {}

Anyway -- if you have any idea please post a comment.

8/15/2013; 5:20:57 PM

Feedly will support dynamic OPML

Just got a response from Edwin Khodabakchian of Feedly saying they will support dynamic OPML in version 18 or 19. This is very good news for Feedly users, of course, and for people and organizations with domain expertise (curators) and app developers.

It should be possible to hook up new subscription services to Feedly, and because they are using an open format, the same lists will work equally well with any other feed reader or aggregator that supports OPML.

Thanks Edwin, this is very exciting!

PS: If you're a developer, please support the feature so your users can benefit from reading lists produced by experts and by recommendation engines.

PPS: And if you're a user, send a pointer to this post to the developer of your favorite feed reader asking that they support dynamic OPML too.

8/15/2013; 3:17:43 PM

Feed reader developers -- here's an easy way to differentiate your service and have your users love you even more

You all read and write OPML subscription lists, right?

Let's go one step further, and let users subscribe to OPML subscription lists.

How would that work?

Each such list is readable over the Internet, the same way RSS feeds are.

As often as you would read a feed, read the OPML file.

If there's a new feed in the list, and the user is not subscribed to it, add it to their feed list.

If a feed has been removed from the list, and the user was not previously subscribed to it, remove it from their feed list.

Why is that cool?

It means the list can be maintained by another piece of software, or by another human being. A domain expert, for example. Ezra Klein might keep a list of feeds a good liberal blogger would read. Or George Will would keep a list for plutocrats.

Spotify could give you a list of feeds to follow for your favorite bands, and that list would change as your musical tastes evolve.

The New York Times could provide a list that tracks the major political issues, and when one dies out, it would be replaced by another.

Jay Rosen, Doc Searls. Josh Marshall, John Gruber, The Economist -- they could all provide opinionated selections of feeds you will find essential.

You could have lists maintained by applications designed to track your interests and interests of thousands of other people, and add feeds to your list based on what those people are following.

In other words there are whole new areas of technology waiting for you to add this feature!

The pitch

Now why should you do it?

Because it's the kind of feature that will appeal to the early adopters.

Reporters, editors, bloggers, podcasters, super-fanboy types.

People with itchy feed-reading fingers. Whose palms sweat when their favorite feeds update. Who love the idea of getting new feeds without doing any work. They want to know what's up before anyone else does.

These people in turn influence lots of other people. They will talk about your product, and that will build your presence, and help other people learn how cool your stuff is.

Why does Dave want it?

I want to provide a curated feed list for people who read my blog.

I already have it, but I'm looking for an excuse to clean it up!

Just do it!

It takes a couple of days at most.

The hardest part is maintaining a reference count on feeds, so you know when to remove it from the user's main list (it might be in two or more lists, so having it disappear from one just means its reference count goes down).

And when you do it, let me know so I can sing your praise.


Feedly is going to do it in an upcoming release.

8/15/2013; 8:15:14 AM

A YCombinator for research

We're dangerously low on new ideas.

Some of the young people coming out of college these days must be interested in meaty technical stuff. Not just variants on Foursquare, Blogger, Twitter, GMail, Spotify and Groupon.

There are new ideas out there, but there's no funding model for them.

Things that would, today, make a VC's eyes glaze over.

It's where the startups of 2016 will come from.

8/14/2013; 4:57:39 PM

Sing along with Arlo and me!

In May 2005 I recorded a homemade version of Dixie and uploaded it, suggesting that other people might want to sing along. It worked! It became a chain letter, one person would add his or her voice, upload the result, and someone else would download it, sing along, upload and so on. No one knows who all the people were, or how many branches, or how long it went on, but what a trip!

So I was just listening to the original Alice's Restaurant recorded by Arlo Guthrie in 1967, and started singing with him. It's such a great song, and now it takes on new meaning with the problems we're having with the government and Internet service providers.

So I recorded the last verse, with Arlo, me and a few hundred people at the 1967 concert. You can add your voice and upload the result. Feel free to post a link in the comments here, or start your own thread!

Let's have fun.

8/14/2013; 1:03:19 PM

A wicked idea to see how much freedom of speech we really have

It's also an idea that's patriotic, because it will help the NSA improve their algorithms.

1. Do a little research on the net. Find some pages that link to famous freedom fighters or revolutionaries. I'm not going to make any suggestions here, for obvious reasons.

2. Send an email to the support address at an Internet company that you think isn't doing a good-enough job at protecting your Internet communication.

3. Ask them if they've thought about these topics. Include a couple of excerpts and links to the Wikipedia pages. Tell them how you feel about free speech. Wish them a nice day and don't forget to smile!

4. I don't think this should terrorize anyone. Quite the opposite. It's the kind of thing the Yippies would have done back in the 70s. Arlo Guthrie would love it, I think.

5. You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant..

6. 8/14/2013; 12:28:36 PM

The Great Va Va Voom

Originally posted on Facebook.

My dear departed uncle, Ken Kiesler, aka The Great Va Va Voom, became an Internet meme, because of this picture -- along with my great-great grandfather on my mother's side. His last name was Schecter.

A picture named uncleVava.gif

Ken was fun to be around. When I showed him Dancing Hamsters, he feigned confusion. He would have loved the idea that this picture made him famous, even though people had no idea who he actually was.

8/14/2013; 10:52:41 AM

Static JavaScript apps

I read about the concept of static JavaScript apps in this Dropbox technote written by Victor Costan in August 2012. Here's the opening paragraph.

Thanks to recent improvements in browser support and VM performance, I often find myself writing small and medium applications completely in JavaScript, whenever I can get away with it. JavaScript runs on users' browsers, so all the application's files are static, and can be served by any plain old file server such as nginx, pretty much any Web hosting service, and your humble Dropbox.

It's an amazing document, because it predicts apps like Fargo. And it also explains why we were able to go so far with Dropbox. They planned for it.

I wish that every company that makes a server with an API would read this document, and do the work that Dropbox did to be friendly to static JavaScript apps.

Basically, it should be possible to write a static JavaScript app that talks with your platform without requiring a server app acting as a proxy. That means either having CORS set for it, or using JSONP.

This is a beautiful way to deploy apps, and we should be encouraging it.

8/13/2013; 9:03:33 PM

Comments re Connect

Really interesting to see Automattic add this functionality.

It gives the app to access the user's WordPress data. Sites, posts, comments, taxonomy, a user graph, notifications.

Contrast that to what Dropbox offers -- access to users' files and folders. They don't provide a blog-like rendering of the data, as WordPress does. They've left that to developers, such as Small Picture (my company). What you're reading now, on Scripting News, was rendered from data stored in Dropbox. With Dropbox, the user has all their data sitting on their computers, synchronized at all times (the core feature of Dropbox). WordPress apparently offers no data storage other than access to blog posts and comments.

Google offers access to Google Drive data. No CMS features, but more flexibility with data.

Then there's Twitter, which gives you tweet-like renderings of very small chunks of data, with highly restricted write-access to large attached objects (pictures, video).

Will all these companies eventually even-out their feature sets and compete with each other in all areas? Will Dropbox provide blog-like renderings for data stored in the users folders? Google? Microsoft? Box? Will WordPress provide general data storage like does?

It would be really interesting to see a full grid comparing the services.

8/13/2013; 4:07:03 PM

Latest Snowden quote

Snowden: "Any unencrypted message sent over the Internet is being delivered to every intelligence service in the world."

8/13/2013; 3:24:16 PM

Can the EFF rep the people re NSA?

I did a few searches, and looked around the EFF site to get an idea of where their money comes from. I did not find the information, except in a general sense, that a percentage comes from foundations, some from companies, and some from individuals.

I'm sure they try to represent all of us, and they have done a great job, except now, when it comes to the NSA revelations, it seems to me that they, like a lot of the pundits in tech, have a conflict, unless little or none of their funding comes from the tech industry.

As Bruce Schneier observes, the tech industry is now clearly subordinate to the US government. How long this has been going on is in dispute. Schneier believes it's recent. I think it's deeply ingrained in the structure of the tech industry. There's a revolving door between government and the industry, as with every other industry. Tech is younger so it's less developed, but it's catching up quickly.

Foundations like the EFF may be conflicted as well. Until we know where their money comes from, we won't have a good picture of whether or how conflicted they are.

There has been some discussion. Bruce Sterling wrote a piece that was critical of the EFF without naming them, criticism that I thought was fair. There was a response from Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing and one by Danny O'Brien who currently works at EFF.

Doctorow is a former staffer at EFF and a current EFF fellow.

The discussion so far has been superficial and some of it disappointingly personal. It would be better to get an overall sense of who we're dealing with. Is EFF repping Google, Apple, Amazon, etc? Or the users of the Internet? Can't really represent both now, because the interests are in conflict, imho. And if EFF doesn't represent the people, who does?


John Perry Barlow, co-founder of EFF, offers in a tweet: "Please give us a sense of how you'd like #EFF's income stream to be broken down and we'll do it."

Thanks, that would be great. Any way that answers this question -- how much of EFF's funding comes from the tech industry. And to be complete, how much comes from governments, although I'm pretty sure that's close to nil.

8/13/2013; 10:25:49 AM

How I know watch computers have a future

I spent a couple of hours on a bike ride earlier this month with Rex Hammock. Rather than have him pay for a CitiBike, I rode my Giant, and used my key to check out a bike for him.

We went uptown, then downtown, when the 45 minutes were up we checked in the original bike and he got a new one. 25 minutes later we're ready to finish the ride. Since Rex was staying at a hotel downtown, and I live uptown, we split -- each going our own way.

When I was about a mile north, I realized this wasn't going to work. Rex needed my key to check the bike in. So I pulled over and dialed him on his cell phone.

No answer. So I left a message, and kept going north. Until I heard my phone ring. Of course I pulled over. It was Rex. He saw my name flash on his Pebble watch, and realized it must have been something important. We met up, returned the bike, he checked one out on his own, and it had a happy ending.

8/12/2013; 8:02:34 PM

Why are movies so bad?

I saw Elysium this weekend. Two great stars, Matt Damon and Jodie Foster.

The movie had a couple of interesting ideas, but they were in the trailer. Nothing to hold your attention or even entertain. I was fidgeting the whole time.

In contrast, the new episode of Breaking Bad was dramatic, lots of great action, incredible fine touches. Little extras that weren't required, but make it so much more interesting.

Why can't Hollywood make an action movie that also has something to entertain the mind?

Five minutes of Breaking Bad had more in it than 1.5 hours of Hollywood blockbuster.

8/12/2013; 9:34:30 AM

Privacy is sometimes the wrong word

You can talk about the security of your personal information in a different ways, each of which suggests a different set of issues.

If I call it "privacy" -- I think of walking around with my fly down. People can see something that normally they're not supposed to see. The risk of a privacy problem is embarrassment, or maybe worse -- you could get divorced because of a privacy problem.

But what if what is exposed is illegal, something you could be prosecuted for, then jailed, or maybe even executed. Like treason for example. A word that's thrown around far too casually these days. That's how totalitarian governments work. They have all kinds of hooks into data about people, the more the better, and then they either use existing laws, or create new ones, that make the things ordinary people do all the time illegal, and punishable by jail or death. Couldn't happen in the US? People thought that about Germany all the way up to the point they "discovered" death camps all over Europe. We had slavery in this country, a time when human beings were considered property and could be killed whenever you wanted, if you owned them.

Obama said some easily misunderstood things in his press conference on Friday. He talked about the intentions of the current government.

We know from Snowden that even a low-ranked analyst at a contractor can read your emails. So what do we know about the intentions of all of those people?

And this tells us nothing about the intentions of future governments. Our emails are being stored in a big data warehouse where anyone at NSA, now or in the future, can get at them.

Either Obama is a con man or extremely naive. I don't think he's naive. I have no idea what motivates him. He must know that governments, even democratically elected ones, persecute citizens.

Imho, he's trying to cover up the biggest scandal since Watergate. Has he studied history? Does he really think this is a "phony" scandal, as he's said? That it will just blow over? I wonder if perhaps he was too young when Watergate happened, and didn't study the history of the attempted coverup that didn't work.

And all the reporters who talk about the value they add by investigation, it's time to pony up. And stop suggesting that people be jailed for doing the work you say you admire so much. This is serious business.

8/12/2013; 9:13:00 AM

A not-so-secret secret

I love to point to sites that have something interesting to say, esp if they use my software to say it.

8/11/2013; 6:26:03 PM

Programmers school lesson #1

Here's a lesson for any programming newbies in our midst.

1. Never be afraid to ask a question.

I've been programming for 40 years but there are a billion things I don't know, and I don't care who knows it.

I wanted to do something, and I wasn't sure how to frame the question in a search engine, so I just posted a question on my blog, got the answer, and a few hours later, I've got it working.

The key is to ask the question with enough info so people know how to answer it.

Programmers are by nature helpful people. And we like to show off what we know. So if you put some effort into asking, you'll very often get the help you seek.

The key is to provide enough info so people can answer the question. In this case I made a video to be sure people knew what I was talking about.

And here's a corollary to that lesson.

2. We're all newbies. Every damn one of us.

8/10/2013; 9:17:32 AM

JavaScript animation question

Here's the question:

And here's the solution:

First thanks to everyone who posted an answer to the question.

The answer was remarkably simple, and Navarr Barnier had it -- he said if you use jQuery (which I do) it's as simple as $(selector).slideDown().

To see how it works, check out the Testing menu at the top of the page.

There are two commands in the menu, Hello Walter and Goodbye Walter.

They add and remove a picture of Walter White at the top of the page.

That was exactly the effect I was looking for!

Hot damn.


This doesn't work on the Scripting News home page, and I'm sure to take the Testing menu out at some point in the near future. So this will not necessarily make sense if you view the page a few months or years from now. Sorry! Still diggin.

8/9/2013; 5:46:04 PM

Will Walter White survive Breaking Bad?

A picture named ww.jpg

What do you think?

8/9/2013; 1:29:54 PM

Another TV pilot pitch

This one would be like the X Files or The Americans, set in the near-future, maybe twenty years from now. We live in the aftermath of all the crises that are looming now. Miami is underwater, as is New Orleans, Houston, big parts of NYC, Boston, Baltimore, DC.

The story takes place in a small midwestern city dealing with all the lunacy that comes from having liberals and other city-dwellers invade. Because of the huge population shifts and the precipitous drop in income, and public services, most tax money is spent to fund a police state.

There is an underground movement that fights for liberty and in private practices a religion based on the lifestyle of the late 20th century. People have bomb shelters with SUVs that parents have "dates" in. Like The Wire we see things from all perspectives.

The main character is a lovable bumbling cop, who, like Schindler, keeps a private stash of refugees in a shelter under his back yard. In Season 3 we find out that president is secretly an alien. That makes things interesting.

One of the refugees is Rachel Maddow, another is from Fox News. Mayhem ensues as they fight over who or what is to blame for the mess we're in. We know the truth.

8/9/2013; 11:00:31 AM

Cable news is ripe for disruption

Why is cable news, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, such a cesspool of idiocracy?

It's not necessarily because the people they get are idiots, because they're not.

In the last couple of of days this has been confirmed by appearances by two people, Jay Rosen, my former colleague at NYU, and Julia Ioffe of the New Republic.

Rosen was on Up with Chris Hayes, moderated that night by Ezra Klein, talking about the purchase of the Washington Post by Jeff Bezos. I tuned in of course, because Jay had been firing on all cylinders lately on his blog with perspective on what the Snowden revelations have taught us about American journalism. I was looking forward to Jay's brilliance to shine through, but I was disappointed. Jay explained later that cable news can't carry complex, interesting ideas. It's the can't part that I don't accept. I understand that it doesn't but I think it can.

Jay did manage to say one important thing, that tech people tend to see things on a longer timescale than journalists do. We tend to be impatient, knowing that our lives are ticking by quickly, and our chance to participate in an intellectual ideafest is waning with every turn of the news cycle. As cable news descends further into mediocrity, to some extent, so goes our chance of having meaningful lives.

I discovered Ioffe's post on the New Republic through links in my Twitter feed. Ignore the bit at the beginning where she takes cheap shots at Lawrence O'Donnell. It really wasn't necessary to make her point, which was perfectly spelled out in her post, explaining why Putin couldn't have done anything but give Snowden asylum after the US, ineptly, removed all other options. Her post is brilliant! I had an inkling this was true, but I'm nowhere near as informed as she is on US-Russian affairs, but everything she said made sense, and almost none of it got past O'Donnell's loud, pushy and idiotic monolog.

She said, in her post, that he was an angry grandpa who was mansplaining things to her. O'Donnell is an idiot, but I don't think that's because he's a man, or old enough to be anyone's grandpa. Dismissing him that way is the equivalent of dismissing Ioffe as a hot babe who should stay at home and let men run the world. Who cares. In this context it's the ideas that matter. O'Donnell's were clearly worthless. Anyone watching the video can see that. Also, the fault is not even his, it's the format's. We need to get him out of the moderator's chair. Replacing him with a younger man or woman isn't the change that's needed.

At one point I thought Ezra Klein was the change we needed, but I haven't heard his story change after the Snowden revelations, which imho was necessary for me to have any trust in him. He's not old enough to be anyone's grandpa, and he doesn't do a lot of mansplaining, but he's rooted in the corruption exposed by Snowden. He really can't be part of the change we need, until his approach changes accordingly.

So here are two people with something to say, clearly, who were on the air, and we saw nothing but the usual boring bullshit. If we wanted to capture their thinking, we could only get it through their blogs. There's the change, right there. Can we envision a one hour cable news show that could get the information that Rosen and Ioffe can get into a single blog post? Of course! Someone should try it. Let's go.

8/8/2013; 9:50:46 AM

Podcast: Being known for past work

A podcast about the meaning of fame, and what's better about being in the moment.

8/7/2013; 1:45:26 PM

Quick note about Bootstrap 3

It's great that the Bootswatch guy is narrating his work in converting from Bootstrap 2.

He calls it a big win, but I can do a little reading-between-the-lines in his post:

1. Easier to customize -- I can't comment since I don't customize Bootstrap, but I benefit from others doing so. Such as Bootswatch. So if he says it's cool, I'll go with that.

2. Smaller file sizes -- not a big issue for me. I think the files were already pretty small.

3. Mobile first -- much more powerful grid system. Ooops. I had just barely begun to understand the old grid system. "Much more powerful" usually means much more complicated. And to think of all the places we've deployed the old grid system without factoring.

4. New components -- a good thing of course.

5. They switched from camelCase to hyphens -- A style war. The people who wanted change won? Make-work for the rest of us. Ugh.

6. Easy to transition -- remains to be seen. Based on what it sounds like, and from my own early experiments, it seems it'll be a while before Fargo and its sites transition from Bootstrap 2 to 3. It seems at some point it'll be inevitable. I much prefer to add new features to my software, or maybe take a bike ride, or perish the thought -- write docs.

One more thing, I wish there were a rule that you had to put your name on your blog so that people who wanted to respond, such as myself, didn't have to say "The Bootswatch Guy" or "he" (assuming it's a he, when it might not be). It's looks like he's Thomas Park. If so, thanks for the great work! I love the templates and the site.

BTW, my name is Dave.

Update: Thomas Park is indeed the Bootswatch guy.

8/7/2013; 11:49:02 AM

Quick note to Chuck

Chuck Shotton came out with a coool little script that adds a scratchpad area in the right margin of Fargo. I tried it out and it seems to work as advertised. I'm going to leave it there for a while and see if I use it.

He wrote his docs before the new reader macro came out (yesterday), and his docs could certainly benefit from using it. Here's how:

<%reader ("")%>

Here's what that gets you:

Also, I made a tweak to the <%reader%> macro just now to change to This is a CORS thing. We need to have permission to read the resource from the web page. Dropbox has CORS settings that allow this for the latter domain, not the former. Now you can go ahead and use the address Dropbox gives you, and Fargo will automatically fix it before the page is rendered.

This is after all, and we like these kinds of technical details here.

PS: I came across this Dropbox tech note in my travels about providing love for "static" JavaScript apps. Like Fargo! No wonder Dropbox worked so well for us.

8/7/2013; 11:19:21 AM

It's what they don't say...

If I told my grandfather Rudy Kiesler that I hit a home run in baseball, or that I thought the Mets would win the World Series, or that men just landed on the moon, he would invariably respond: "You don't say!" Maybe he wasn't even listening. But he had always had a response ready just in case.

Now my brother and I joke about it. I can always say it, in a thick Eastern European accent, and it's good for a laugh. It's our way of remembering him, even if no one else does.

So when President Obama went on Jay Leno last night and said:

"We don't have a domestic spying program. What we do have are some mechanisms where we can track a phone number or an email address that we know is connected to some sort of terrorist threat. And that information is useful. But what I've said before I want to make sure I repeat, and that is we should be skeptical about the potential encroachments on privacy. None of the revelations show that government has actually abused these powers, but they're pretty significant powers."

It's what he didn't say that is so interesting.

"None of the revelations show that government has actually abused these powers."

A politician chooses his words carefully. "None of the revelations show" is not the same as saying "It hasn't happened." More whistleblowers need to come forward to make that verbal trick not work.

He also didn't say why, given the risks, that he acknowledges, how and when we decided this was where we wanted to go. When was it discussed in an election campaign? When was it debated publicly in Congress? When was an amendment to the Constitution passed that gave the executive branch such sweeping powers to investigate us. When did We The People get a say in giving such enormous power to elected and non-elected officials?

Both my grandfathers were immigrants to this country who fled from governments that wanted them dead, for being Jewish. In those days, where they lived, this was a crime punishable by death. So you can't tell me that governments made up of ordinary humans are incapable of using this kind of information to turn life into a living hell.

At least my grandparents had somewhere to run. Now, this place they came to with their families, fleeing for their lives, is developing the kind of surveillance state their persecutors could only dream of. It's enormously naive to think it won't be used this way. It will. And I think the President more or less admitted that it already has.

8/7/2013; 10:18:23 AM

If you were a tech billionaire...

Now that Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post...

Would you feel you needed a newspaper of your own too?

If so, what is your name?

Pierre Omidyar

Michael Bloomberg

Mark Cuban

Larry Ellison

Bill Gates

Steve Case

Miles Gilburne

Evan Williams and/or Biz Stone

Steve Ballmer

Bill Gross

Sean Parker

Dustin Moskovitz

Ted Leonsis

Michael Dell

Mark Zuckerberg

Drew Houston

Peter Thiel

Paul Allen

John Doerr

Larry & Sergey

Eric Schmidt

One of those guys has to be getting itchy.

And what will they buy?

PS: The question reporters don't want asked...

8/6/2013; 2:57:23 PM

Bug fix

In the latest transition on Scripting News a bug appeared that caused my feed to lose its descriptions on new posts. This has now been fixed.

Sorry for the outage.

Still diggin!

A picture of a slice of cheese cake.


PS: Thanks to Jordan Sherer for the heads up.

8/6/2013; 12:24:33 PM

An open note to Jeff Bezos

I think it's great that you bought the Washington Post.

It's not that much money, and it's basically a website, something you understand as well as anyone. Everyone uses Amazon. I hope you can do for news what you did for online shopping.

Let the people who work for you compete with everyone else. There's a thirst for good news programming, just like there was an unappreciated demand for good drama programming that was filled by HBO, Showtime, AMC, etc. People underestimate users of news, world wide, not just in the US.

Point off-site, and make the goal making news great, in today's context.

I totally look forward to seeing what you'll do.

Dave Winer

8/5/2013; 6:49:15 PM

Looking into Bootstrap 3

First, I gotta say I love Bootstrap Toolkit. It saved my ass many times by showing me the way to create simple UIs with CSS and JavaScript.

Bootstrap is turning into the coral reef I hoped it would when I got on board. There's Font Awesome, a great collection of icons in a Bootstrap-friendly font. And recently we discovered and immediately employed Bootswatch, a collection of Bootstrap templates. All you have to do is replace the Bootstrap CSS file with one of theirs and you get a different font and color scheme, designed by people who know what they're doing.

Now Bootstrap 3 is coming. It's at Release Candidate stage.

I've started to do a little investigation into how compatible Bootstrap 3 is with version 2, and it appears to require a fairly complete overhaul. I'm not looking forward to doing this work. I have so many other things to deal with, and I like to take some time off every once in a while as well.

A caveat from the Bootswatch developers: "Bootstrap 3.0 represents a complete break from the 2.x API, which means that the updated themes will not be compatible with old Bootstrap markup."

Luckily we can stay with Bootstrap 2 until the time is right for us. We just have to make copies of the files we use and put them on our server. Which we have done. I'm going to copy the Bootswatch template files today and make the changes to the software to use them in their new location. (Update: This change was made.)

I've also added a macro to the global glossary, <%useBootstrap3%>, which you can add to your Fargo templates in place of <%useBootstrap%>, and you'll be using the new version. However be aware that many things will not work with the new Bootstrap.

8/5/2013; 9:02:35 AM

Who saved Old Reader?

It's been a dramatic week at RSS aggregator The Old Reader.

1. On Monday, one week ago, came news that Old Reader was shutting down its public app, and cutting back to the users they had before Google Reader announced they were shutting down. The growth was too much. They wanted their lives back. (Something I can totally understand and relate to.)

2. Wednesday, a brief post saying they got a great offer, so never mind about the shut down.

3. On Saturday they said that an unnamed "new corporate entity" was supplying the resources, money and people, to reboot Old Reader better than ever.

So the question is -- who do you think the corporate entity is?

1. A news startup, rich in funds, but with no RSS product? Circa maybe? Flipboard?

2. A newspaper site like the WSJ or NYT that missed the boat on RSS and wants to get in the game quickly?

3. An existing RSS aggregator who felt that Old Reader was a stronger product?

4. A cynical publicity stunt? (No, we don't really believe that.)

5. An American spy organization that wants to gather data about all of us, legally this time?

It's definitely a puzzle!

8/5/2013; 7:11:49 AM

Obama should resign

First, there's a spoiler here. If you haven't seen The Departed, do not read the rest of this post. It's a fantastic movie. Go see it. Don't let this post spoil it for you.

Remember the final scene? Matt Damon is coming home with groceries. He unlocks the door, walks in. Mark Wahlberg is waiting for him. Watch the scene, below, and remember what Damon says.

That's Obama. He must know this NSA thing isn't done blowing up on him. He's finished. If he weren't President he'd want the guy who is President to expose the whole thing proactively, pardon Snowden, and resign in disgrace.

This has to be vetted. Time to clean up the mess, pay the piper, whatever. We have totally lost our way. This is the last moment we get to turn back and get things right.

8/4/2013; 11:08:56 PM

Still diggin!

Once again I've done a re-design of the Scripting News home page.

This one is built by Fargo. So now I've got just one CMS instead of two.

That's also why you see a post in the stream called About Scripting News.

We have many mottoes, but the title of this post is the one constant.

Sometimes I think the life of a developer consists of moving a pile from one place to another, and then back again.

A picture of a slice of cheese cake.

PS: Here's a snapshot of the last pre-Fargo home page.

PPS: And my notes on the transition.

8/4/2013; 3:02:02 PM

About Scripting News

Bootstrapping the blog revolutions

We're in the business of bootstrapping new forms of social behavior.

Scripting News was started in 1997, by me, Dave Winer.

Or 1994 or 1996 or whenever you think it actually started.

I wrote my first blog posts in 1994, that's for sure.

It's the longest continuously running blog on the Internet.

Natural-born blogger

Some people were born to play country music, or baseball. I was born to blog.

At the beginning of blogging I thought everyone would be a blogger. I was wrong. Most people don't have the impulse to say what they think.

So when you meet one, you'll know it -- if they write letters to the editor, or if they voluteered to go to the blackboard when they were students. In my day, we were the kinds of people who started underground newspapers, or who volunteered for the student radio station at college.

About about pages

I've had an About page for many years. Here's the one before this.

I always like to say what my mottos are on this page. So you know when I use them in a post it's not something casual. I'll try to list them all eventually. I know -- good luck with that!

My favorite mottos, slogans and ideas

We make shitty software, with bugs!

People return to places that send them away.

It's even worse than it appears.

Still diggin.

Let's have fun!

Only steal from the best.

Narrate your work.

Sources go direct.

Thanks to

Tim Berners-Lee for HTML and HTTP.

Chuck Shotton for teaching me how to write an HTTP server.

Adam Curry for giving me the basic idea of podcasting.

Jean-Louis Gassee for all his wisdom and slogans.

Marc Canter for being the Father of Multimedia.

John Palfrey for giving RSS 2.0 a good home at Berkman Center.

Martin Nisenholtz for letting me have the NY Times feeds.

Jay Rosen for teaching us about the Voice from Nowhere. (And authority.)

Doc Searls for being an outliner extraordinaire.

John Doerr and Gordon Eubanks for buying my first company and freeing me up to make software. (I was never meant to be a company exec.)

Guy Kawasaki for seeing Bullet Charts in my humble outliner.

Steve Jobs for "insanely great" shit like the Apple II, AppleTalk, Mac, iEverything.

Woz for the Apple II programming model, his humor, and love of freedom. It's important for techies to get that we make tools for free expression.

John Lennon for imagining peace and love and Paul McCartney for great music. This duality keeps showing up in the creative world. A person with something to prove and a partner who writes great songs.

NakedJen for being a paradox and bundle of joy in a small package with a huge spirit.

Doug Engelbart for envisioning almost everything I've spent my life creating.

Ted Nelson for writing the anthem for my generation of developers.

Coach Walsh for applying the scientific method to football.

Richard Stallman for telling it like it is.

My father for loving outlines. "Every day is father's day," he would say.

My mother for being a natural-born blogger.

The second OPML Editor community, and all previous instances of Frontier and ThinkTank communities (so many of them). This project has been going for a very long time.

Still diggin!

8/4/2013; 2:58:20 PM

Rules for Twitter followers

1. First if you don't like any of this there's a simple solution -- unsubscribe. And don't slam the door on your way out.

2. When I point to something that doesn't mean I agree with it. It also does not mean I've read it. I use my linkblog as a way to remember to read something, the way people used

3. People have a need to vent. Fine. But do it to the world, not to any one person in particular.

Imagine walking down the street and grabbing a stranger by the lapel and saying "I've had it with liberals! They stink! They're ruining everything!" Well for all you know that person agrees with you. Or maybe they're a liberal and find you offensive. If you have to embarrass yourself do it for everyone. No speechifying in personal comments. Thank you.

4. I don't care if what I said is the same thing you think someone I despise said. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

5. Don't say I'm lame without saying what you think, so we can judge how lame you are.

6. I voted for Obama and gave him money and yes I think he's a failure as President.

7. But then I think we're all failures as American citizens. So I don't just blame Obama.

8. 8/4/2013; 9:28:53 AM

Why Obama supports NSA spying

Note: these are my opinions only.

Another topic at breakfast this morning with Rex was the spying the NSA is doing on all of us.

I think, if the President decided that it was more important to level with us than continue to deceive us, which they have been doing, there's no way of denying it now (and they haven't tried to), this is what he'd have to say.

1. The clock is running out on our civilization. Our financial system almost fell apart in 2008, and the only way we were able to get it functioning again was to throw a lot of bullshit at it, to re-inflate the bubble. Any other approach would have meant going into a kind of depression the world has never seen.

2. While that's happening, we've done nothing about the changing climate. Our coastal cities are going to be underwater soon. There will be chaos when that happens, orders of magnitude greater than the chaos that ensued after 9/11.

3. Also, our economy is now built around computer networks, whose security is a joke. One day, probably soon, hackers are going to get into the banking system and "disrupt" it. When you check your bank balance you'll see $0. No one will know who did this. It might even be the US government.

We can't change any of these things. We will have an economic collapse. The climate will disrupt our lives in unimaginable ways. And hackers will rule us. All this will happen. So if you believe this, how do you prepare for it, such that the people who control the US govt have a chance to survive with their lifestyles intact? That's why Obama supports NSA spying. His bosses ordered him to.

What should we do about it? Probably nothing. Both of us, Rex and I, are in our late 50s. This stuff will play out over the next 20 years or so. Neither of us has enough of a stake in it to devote serious energy to it, esp if the younger people, who really do have a stake in the outcome continue to be uninterested.

I thought it was notable that they blame us, the boomer generation, for the mess we're in. When we were younger we did protest. Study the history. We were even effective at stopping the war we objected to. Our crime, if you want to think of it as that, is that we became middle-aged, and decided to live our lives instead of trying to change the world. We created the networks they love so much, and think we don't understand. So on the whole, I'd say we did okay. Not great, but not too bad. The question is why are today's young people acting so middle-aged?

BTW, the President going on camera and telling us a big truth is not unprecedented. Check out Eisenhower's farewell address. It's amazing how he laid it out there. If only we had listened. It's the beginning of an incredible movie called Why We Fight. Highly recommended.

8/3/2013; 5:14:55 PM

Breakfast with Rex

My friend Rex Hammock from Nashville was in town this weekend and we went for a couple of bike rides. It's all good. Last summer I visited Rex and his wife Ann in their home town, and we did bike rides there too.

Rex is a publisher. He does magazines and turns them into blogs. He's parked in an interesting place and has been for quite a few years. He's smart, but keeps it simple. And he reads my blog, and I his.

A couple of pieces caught his attention last week. One about scripting in Fargo, and the other about ignoring what you don't understand. Rex has a funny sense of humor so I can't always tell when he's serious. But he says in a self-deprecating way that there's a lot of stuff he doesn't understand, but he asks questions, and I usually try to answer them when I can.

So he wanted to know about scripting in Fargo this morning. I tabled the discussion because I was enjoying Brooklyn Diner corned beef hash with poached eggs. We went on to other topics, and I realized later that I forgot to answer his question! Ouch.

Better late than never. Here's the deal on scripting in Fargo.

1. It means you can customize the app. Probably not a big deal for Rex, because he's not an every-day user of Fargo. But for people who are, the ability to add just the command you've been wanting, without waiting for the developer to add it, could turn out to be important.

2. You can build systems with editors that work on the net, are hooked into a CMS, and understand structure, as outliners inherently do. It's funny because in all the writing I've done about scripting in Fargo, I've missed this one. Building systems means having a way for an administrative person add to a database that is incorporated into your web presence, without content management in their way. We were on the cusp of it with Frontier, but for some reason we never encouraged people to look at the product that way. I guess by that point we weren't focused on scripting anymore.

It occurred to me that given what Rex does, #2 might actually turn out to be important.

8/3/2013; 2:53:43 PM

Boston Globe sells for $70 million

The NYT sold the Boston Globe to the owner of the Boston Red Sox for $70 million.

1. Manny Ramirez had an 8-year contract worth $160 million with the Boston Red Sox.

2. The highest paid actor in 2013 is Robert Downey Jr who earned $75 million.

3. HootSuite, a Twitter and Facebook utility, raised $165 million in its Series B round.

4. RockMelt, widely viewed as a failed software company, sold to Yahoo for between $60 and $70 million.

$70 million was an incredibly good price for the Globe. Media properties are worth a lot. For example, according to Forbes, the Red Sox are worth $1.3 billion.

8/3/2013; 2:12:17 PM

A random image for you to ponder

Thanks to Beth Coll for the link to

Random picture

Another one --

How about a nice kitten?

8/2/2013; 2:58:09 PM

A vision for urban biking

When CitiBike was first booting up at the beginning of the summer, a bunch people in the Village complained they didn't want bike stations near their houses. I thought this was reactionary and not at all futuristic. The stations will increase the value of the places they're near because it makes it possible for bike riders to get there more easily.

I can see a circumstance where businesses even pay for their own CitiBike stations. For example, there are interesting outdoor bars and restaurants on the water, on the Hudson. There's one in the 30s, just north of Chelsea Piers. It's on a boat. I've always thought it would be an interesting place to hang out, but it's hard to get to if you don't have a bike. But if they had a CitiBike station there, it would be a great destination for after-work drinks, even for people who don't work in the immediate neighborhood.

There are a couple of interesting places to eat in Riverside Park. One at 79th and the other south of there. Neither have CitiBike stations anywhere nearby. But they should! What a great way to spend an afternoon. Pick up a bike in the middle of the biggest urban center in the US, and ride to a breezy sunny place on the river to hang out and enjoy the summer breeze. When you're ready to return, pick up a bike and ride back.

I'm sure someone has demographics on it, but I bet CitiBike users are very good people to have as customers.

8/2/2013; 11:26:59 AM

Tip to websites that want links passed on

Make the title of your HTML page the text of a tweet.

Great example, this Economist piece.

The Economist explains: How will Uruguay’s marijuana law work?

Perfecto. Now I don't mind editing a bit. But the less editing the better.

I passed that one along exactly as they spec'd it.

BTW, it's great to see countries marketing themselves. A liberal marijuana law is likely to get some great publicity for a country like Uruguay that doesn't get a whole lot of publicity.

Offering freedom and liberty. What a concept.

One more thing. Why do Repubs hate the word liberal so much. The root of the word is liberty. Something they supposedly adore.

I'm rambling as I'm wont to do.

8/2/2013; 11:06:44 AM

Video: Using Fargo to write JavaScript code

See also yesterday's blog post on this topic.

8/2/2013; 10:57:59 AM

Using Fargo to write code

There's a long tradition of editors doubling as programming environments. The first editor I used, on Unix, was built around that idea. When I was working on outliners on the PC and Mac in the 80s, we had a side project called Betty, which was a scripting language and outliner in one. After selling the company, I started UserLand to fully develop that idea. The result was Frontier, a scripting language built around an outliner.

That was in the 90s. Fargo shipped earlier this year, and last week it got the ability to script itself. This time I didn't have to write a scripting language, because we just use JavaScript. Makes my job that much easier because I don't have to sell you on a new language. These days JavaScript is very acceptable.

Here's how it works. There's a special outline called menubar.opml. When you edit it, you're editing a set of menus that go at the end of the Fargo menu bar. Each of the menu commands contains a script that runs when you choose the command from the menu. The menu is "live," so as you make changes to the outline, the menu rebuilds to reflect the changes.

I wrote a tutorial on it, called Introduction to Fargo Scripting. It's a sweet idea, but not new. Frontier started with this idea, and it developed into a protocol called menu sharing, which allowed users to edit menus in all apps that were compatible. It was very broadly supported in the Mac market in the early web days. Even Netscape and Microsoft supported menu sharing in their browsers. We even found a way to hack it into the Finder (thanks to Steve Zellers).

Today's new thing is the ability to post from Fargo to WordPress by script. This should help open up the use of Fargo as a WordPress blog editor. Currently you're limited to a single blog. But the ability to write custom scripts should blow by this limit.

BTW, one of the cool things about the post is how the source code is displayed. It's taken a few years of experimenting to get that down, and I think it's finally there.

I don't at this time have any docs on the verb set, but you can see the whole list in this JS file.

We've got the pump primed now, and a nice little community.

I wonder if you can all see how this is developing as a really interesting runtime and editing environment, with the web all around you, and esp with Dropbox doing the synchronization, and a content management system hooked in, it's really a whole new layer on what we used to think of as the net.

Mind bombs everywhere you look.

PS: Here's a quick video demo...

8/1/2013; 6:59:10 PM

Season for interop?

Every tech company, large or small, seems to be playing for world domination. That's okay I guess, if they have any hope of achieving it. But even the biggest most monster-like companies fall down when that's their goal, so what hope do you have? And what kind of adolescent dream is it that you would be the last man standing? What's wrong with playing nice with others?

I mention it because it's one month after RSS was set free by the entity that did actually achieve world domination (only to realize they didn't want it), and I don't see any evidence that any of the vendors are doing anything but thinking about what they can do to better hold on to their users, and perhaps capture the other guys' users. Maybe this is the right thing to do in a stagnant market with no growth possible, but a much better approach, imho, for RSS in 2013, would be to put our heads together and figure out how, quickly, we could make RSS more competitive with its competition -- Twitter and Facebook. Grow the market, as quickly as possible. Strike while the iron is hot. Make hay while the sun shines. Etc.

When you've chosen to be independent, not part of a big world-domination-bound entity, the Amazons, Apples, Googles, Intels, etc. then you have, it seems to me, bet your company on interop. You can't do it all. Your users will want to use your product with other peoples' products. They will appreciate it, if it's well-communicated, that you acted in the interest of their power and freedom, rather than in the interest of owning them.

People have minds. They read the news, they're aware of how tech is letting them down, aligning with the government, using their love of technology to undermine their freedom. Maybe not everyone believes this, but I think if you're seriously paying attention, you do.

So I choose to invest in user freedom. This leads me to interop and independence, not world domination. I want to have fun building hugely powerful communication systems, by working with others.

8/1/2013; 11:23:15 AM

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