Scripting News


Young Marc Canter

Marc explains multimedia 20 years ago.

I like it!

 10/31/2013; 2:37:05 PM.

Twitter posts != blog posts

Back in March 2011 I wrote a piece about how feeds would model Twitter posts. This came up yesterday, after writing a post about, one of the things it uncovered is that there is a service that brings content into through RSS. That's an automatic thing to support for me, because my linkblog is built on RSS. It's easy for me to plug in.

I did. But there's a problem. The software is not prepared to deal with feeds don't have titles on the items. And imho, Twitter posts don't have titles. I wrote about this in 2011, when I implemented the feature in Radio2. That's the software I use today to manage my linkblog.

It's important, if there's any hope of bootstrapping an open network to model what Twitter does, with RSS. To get interop, we need more conventions, beyond what RSS does to model blog posts. Twitter posts != blog posts.

So, here's my linkblog feed, and here's the document I wrote about how it works.

Suggested solution: Just remove the string "No Title" from the rendering. Everything else is fine the way it is.

 10/31/2013; 11:53:31 AM.

No country for old developers

The Boing Boing recap on my piece on the way the NYT does tech reviews was pretty awful (superficial, sexist, racist, ageist, and pretty much wrong about who I am, and he misread an important part of the post thinking I was criticizing the writing in the Times, rather than the subject of the writing), but it delivered a lot of readers, and the graphic was excellent. I loved the way they put me in a cowboy hat, in the context of one of the best movies ever made, No Country for Old Men.

But even better was this highly Photoshopped graphic, with just me in a cowboy hat. I'm not that skinny, and my face isn't quite that weathered, but man it makes me look and feel good. It's in the right margin of this piece. Click the picture for the full image.


A couple of comments in rebuttal of the BB piece.

Just because your form of racism and sexism is considered acceptable by some doesn't mean it's not racism and sexism, and even more reprehensible than the kind that people (correctly) object to. Dehumanizing people by turning them into labels is very dangerous stuff. It leads to all kinds of brutality, and should never under circumstances be tolerated.

It's not easy for me to say that because I'm in the targeted group. Which is something my grandparents warned me about when I was young, because both sides of my family had to run for their lives during World War II. The memory is pretty fresh in our culture, and the wounds will probably take a few more generations before they completely heal.

Further, how obnoxious it is to drag race, gender and age into a piece about the way the NYT reviews technology. So utterly off-topic. Are there any values at all to the discussion about gender? How this is tolerated is beyond me.

Male depression

Imho you don't understand gender if you haven't learned about male depression. We are half the species, and frequently talked about, but rarely listened to on this subject. The assumption that we have been given all the advantages is incorrect. There are very important aspects to maleness that are not incorporated into the discussion, and until they are, the problems will persist.

Remember: Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

Back to reviews

I was very pleased to see that the New Yorker has a piece about tech reviews, that agrees with my post. The more I think about it, the more important I think it is to broaden the discussion of technology. We need a Krugman-like columnist in the Times to cover tech the way they discuss economics. It's no more complicated, and no less important.

Comments policy

Your comments are welcome as long as you accept the constraints of the comments guidelines on this blog. If you can't then post your thoughts in your own space, and feel free to send me a link. I'll read it, and might even respond if I have something to say.

 10/31/2013; 10:27:20 AM.

How is the future?

I asked that question in a challenging way because I want the answer. Lots of people seem to think it does have a future. Why?

Twitter ==> Facebook

We're all going to be looking for Plan B at some point, where Plan A is Twitter.

Because Twitter is moving. It's necessary because they're on a certain track, and they won't be able to get off that track now that they're going public. They will have to add more features that are present in Facebook, unless they can get investors to see them differently and let them lose money, as they have with Amazon. But that's a hard needle to thread, and profits are relatively easy to find for them, as long as they draw themselves closer to Facebook.

I want a hackable Twitter

And Twitter, without the open API that it used to have isn't my Plan A even if they stay exactly where they are. And I suspect it will be less useful over time for the elite influencers and the reporters who cover them. Twitter could build an advertising model around them, others have, but they say they're going mainstream, and I believe them.

To me, the only interesting product in this space is one that is infinitely hackable. has successfully positioned themselves as the hackable Twitter, because a lot of developer types say "" when you say "hackable Twitter." But I don't think it is that.

Hackable and open are the same thing as far as I'm concerned. The Internet is open, because I can put up a server and have it do anything I want it to, as long as I'm not hurting anyone else. Twitter used to be like that, but it's very far from that now.

I could do that now, I assume, with, but what guarantee is there that my code will be legal in the future, if they decide they want to control the whole market themselves?

Time is a factor in openness. Part of being an open platform is the potential for it being open in the future. Twitter appeared to be a fairly open platform, if you could overlook the power that Twitter had to close it. Many of us chose to look the other way, hoping we could make enough to justify the investment before they closed it. Or build enough of a user base that when Twitter outlawed us, they would want to use our product anyway, without Twitter. Well, the only product I can see that made it there is Instagram. The rest either got bought by Twitter, or went away. So we lick our wounds and go on. But am I interested in making the same mistake twice, so soon after the last one? I am not.

How is open for the future?

So if you think is the answer, tell me -- don't you worry about them closing up their platform after they attain a certain measure of success? And don't you think the fact that other developers see this problem has something to do with the fact that their application base is so small? It's not a reflection on their ethics, it's just it's hard to follow Twitter, in their own space, after Twitter did such a nasty thing to developers.

If you really want developer cacophony, lots of crazy innovation, a thousand flowers to bloom, you have to let go of all control. No half-measures that can be revoked later. Maybe if you find another group of developers who haven't been burned you can sell that story. But not here, not now.

If I'm wrong, please tell me

Anyway, maybe I'm wrong -- if so we'll find out in the comments.

 10/30/2013; 11:48:02 AM.

How the Times reviews tech today

I always read NYT movie reviews after I see a movie, and get a lot out of it. I would like them to treat tech as seriously.

I tweeted that yesterday, and Farhad Manjoo, who writes for a number of publications about tech, asked me to explain.

I tried to do it on Twitter itself, against my own advice, and it didn't work. Twitter isn't really good for explaining things.

The Times reviews a lot of movies, some big budget shows from major studios and others that are very small productions without much distribution, and everything in between.

Some movies are for adults, like Woody Allen's latest, or The Counselor. Some are for mixed audiences -- like ParaNorman (last year) and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (this year). I like those movies too, when I'm in the mood. But I also like stories I can sink my mind into, and really feel it. I have an adult's appreciation of art.

I always check out the NYT rating for movies, and will generally go see anything they give the Critic's Pick. After seeing the movie I look forward to reading the review, and always do, carefully -- because it gives me a perspective on what I've seen, and more to think about.

The Times reviews all kinds of things -- books, restaurants, travel destinations, art, music, theater, television, fashion, electronics, architecture. They have a way of looking at things that makes sense to me. I grew up with it. The Times approach to discourse about creativity is one that influences everything I do, especially what I do professionally, software.

When they started doing software reviews in the early 80s it was with the usual Times flair. It worked for me, because I made software for people who were likely Times readers, the same way people who perform opera make music for those same people.

But somewhere along the line they stopped taking tech seriously. It's as if they would only review Saturday morning television shows. How could television like The Sopranos or Breaking Bad take root in the culture if there was no criticism that discussed it? Yet that's where we are today with software.

Of course it's not just the Times. They're treating software largely the same way the tech industry does. Toys for teens to help them explore being a teen. But not much substance for people who have their degrees, mates, children, who are living their lives, as opposed to looking forward to living their lives. Nothing wrong with looking at tech from the young person's perspective, I would read those reviews too. But today, adults are largely left out of it.

If I wrote a piece of software today for intellectual work, I wouldn't know who to go to to get it reviewed. Anything beyond superficial twitchware, the stuff that lets you express grunts and snorts, gossip and beginner's sexuality, it's as if it doesn't exist. I want it to exist. I want it to be great, and get greater. Tech should be booming with creativity, not just money -- as the movie industry was in the late 20s and 30s. We're there, in so many ways but as a culture, because we're not talking about it intelligently and with depth, it's foundering.

 10/28/2013; 4:44:22 PM.

I want a hackable Twitter

We desperately need a hackable Twitter. We're being so totally held back by their very narrow business model.

Another tweet from earlier today, expanded into a blog post.

I get so many ideas for things I could add on to Twitter. Ways to improve discourse. So many things could work on Twitter that don't. Twitter has been stuck for years, and have actually taken big steps backwards.

This is the story of computers as a business. Something great happens, then it gets foreclosed on by a business model. Energy builds up behind the dam, and boom -- forward motion! All the things that were waiting to happen happen all at once. Just when you think it can't happen, it happens.

And no, it's not any of the startups that have tried to do what Twitter does with fewer developer constraints. Many of them have revocable openness. After the experience with Twitter, I'm going to assume that once you gain momentum, you're going to want to control the whole market, as Twitter did.

None of the open source Twitter replacements have been compelling enough to attract users. Sorry, it's not justice that determines whether a platform gets traction.

I'm not moralizing here, or calling anyone to action, just noticing something. I get tons of ideas that I can't act on. I've seen this happen before. I'm optimistic that it will break. I don't know how or when.

 10/29/2013; 9:19:13 AM.

The confusing new domain name system

ICANN feels the need to create a lot more namespaces, which is imho a bad move. For example, in the new scheme, Google will own the .blog namespace. So if I wanted to protect my investment in Scripting News, which is a blog, I would have to buy

That link won't go anywhere today, but I wanted to illustrate what it means to have the name. It means that when you link to it on the web, the browser will open it, as if it were one of the current TLDs.

Interesting that Google's browser, which I use, understands that when I go to I really want to go to It suggests that.

I rest my case.

As I understand it, I will be entitled to do this, during a period at the beginning of the life of the .blog TLD. In doing so I will be paying money to Google to fund their effort to become the authority what is and isn't a blog, a company that hasn't been entirely friendly to blogging. A bit like selling the henhouse to the fox. This process will be repeated for every new TLD. A huge windfall for ICANN and the owners of the new TLDs.

Of course I'm not going to pay anyone for this, so there may be lots of new scripting domains out on the web. Some new equilibrium will follow. Either people will learn that all these new TLDs are ghost towns, or there will be lots of new scripting sites. No matter what there will be confusion. Maybe a lot. For what? What will we get in return? I can see what ICANN gets, money. And the big companies that buy TLDs get to control huge swaths of the future Internet for what amounts to less than pocket change for them.

A better solution would be to get rid of the idea of TLDs altogether. Let anyone register any word. People who own .com domains would automatically become the owner of the word without the .com. I own a fair number of .org domains which will go away under that scheme.

The best solution is to leave it alone. It's a bit confusing for sure, but it's a confusion that the Internet grew up with. It's background noise. But the kind of dissonance the new TLDs are guaranteed to introduce, suggest that shortly after their introduction they will have to be retracted. Might as well never go there. Kill the program before it creates a huge mess. That would be my best advice.

 10/28/2013; 12:11:31 PM.

Fan clip art

To all readers who work in marketing and public relations. Tomorrow is opening day of the NBA. I'm looking for a beautiful image of LeBron James, the captain of the NBA champion Miami Heat. It should be on a white background, and be an action shot, something like this image of Michael Jordan. Suitable for putting in the right margin of a new post. I wouldn't mind if there was a requirement that the image link to a page on

In general, let's have great clip art that bloggers can use to give you free advertising, just because we like your product! Or we don't, who cares. As long as we use it correctly and point where you want us to, it's good for you. Whatever your product. Soda, cars, deodorant, shampoo. Socks! Chef Boy-ar-dee. The more mundane the better.

I've been asking for this for a decade, just as I was asking for companies to upload videos of their commercials so we can talk about them (that, thankfully, has happened). This is the same kind of idea. I want to promote your product. You should make that easy. It should be automatic, one of the deliverables for every marketing campaign.

 10/28/2013; 10:30:45 AM.

What's missing in our social networks?

With Twitter getting ready to go public, it seems pretty likely they'll end up in a feature race with Facebook, competing for the same users, and ultimately the same advertising dollars.

Meanwhile, as we all settle in on these networks, we're also settling -- missing features that would have been developed long ago if we were using open and competitive platforms. At some point the dam will break and there will be a flood of new ideas, or possibly a platform for trying out new social networking ideas.


1. For example, last night I was hanging out waiting for the World Series to start, and saw my friend Chuck posting on Facebook. I've been wanting to chat with him on Skype. So I sent him an email, and I launched the Skype app. I figured since he was already online, obviously just putzing around, he'd have time. I said the Skype would be "quick."

But a half hour later he hadn't responded. Now I'm wanting to do something else, so I'd like to retract the offer. But just then an IM comes saying. I heard the bells ring, but I couldn't figure out which of my networks was pinging me. On the possibility that it was Chuck, I launched Skype and he rang me and we had our conversation. An hour later I found the message in one of my tabs that was displaying GMail.

He was watching the football game. It hadn't crossed my mind, although I do what he's been doing when I'm watching a baseball or basketball game (I don't go in for football for some reason, unless it's the post-season and then usually just for the SuperBowl). In slow periods, during commercials, I play some Angry Birds or hassle Facebook or Twitter. I read my river. We have lots of ways of determining status, but none of them said "I'm Chuck and I'm putzing around while I'm watching a football game." I'm sure he wouldn't have minded me having that information. Had I known he was watching a game I would have known he isn't available to Skype.

2. Another use-case. I'm getting to know someone new and I can tell she's going to be a good friend. So after our meeting a couple of weeks ago, the question is -- how are we going to communicate. I see her on Facebook. But that isn't my preferred way to communicate, for a variety of reasons. Only after a few days of negotiating, in a total fog, we decide to use email. It seems that could have happened much more quickly.

3. I've been reading about a friend from long-ago who has two cats and a dog and is a prodigious gardener. Where does he live? What's his setup? Is it on top of a mountain, or in a valley? What does he plant? I know he goes fishing (from reading his Facebook posts) -- where?

4. I get a Twitter DM from a person I don't know saying he's going to be in NY next week and would like to buy me coffee. I'd like to tell Twitter not to accept such messages on my behalf unless they explain why they want to meet with me. I don't want to turn down a meeting with someone who has a purpose that interests me. But if I have no idea, then I'm a little frustrated -- it might be good, but I'm not going to respond. Also it would be nice to tell the person not to bother using Twitter for this, because it's not my preferred way to communicate. I find the 140-character limit too confining.

5. On the other hand, I'd like to be able to put a limit on the number of characters people can use in Disqus comments on my site. I don't want people using it as a blogging platform. I want to encourage them to start their own blogs, or use them if they're lying dormant. Comments are for quick short bits of information or perspective. As the word "comment" suggests.

6. In 1979, as I was driving into San Francisco from the north over the Golden Gate Bridge, I had a thought that I must know 20 people within line-of-sight from where I am right now, but I have no way of finding them. I left a marker for myself, that someday I'd have software that would tell me who is here and give me a way to contact them. This was one of my ways of saying I lived in "information impoverished" times. Do we now have that feature? Do they all have to be on Facebook and/or Foursquare for it to work? We certainly have the technical means for having that feature. But do we actually have it, or have silos interfered?

7. I think what's really needed is an easy to configure network system that has all the features of all the networks, and allows the user to set limits that suit them. Maybe even a form capability so right at the top they could ask you to state their objective, what action they would like me to perform, and for that 140 characters would definitely suffice.

 10/28/2013; 9:50:46 AM.

Listening is hard

This happens every so often, you're out with someone, and you can't get a word in. The other person never pauses in their story. Every little detail of their life is sacred. Every idea they have. When you insert something about yourself, it's just a cue for them to explain something else to you, about them.

After a while your mind drifts, you start looking away as the person is talking wondering if they'll get the hint. It's nice to have a smart phone you can take out and start browsing, while they're talking.

Maybe they'll wonder why you aren't listening?

What is going through this person's mind? And when they leave, and they tell another friend they saw you, when asked how you're doing, what will they say? They didn't get any information.

I tend to do a lot of talking myself, I'm aware of it, so I try to reign it in. Tell my mind to listen and not talk. That's hard for some reason, but it's important. Otherwise why bother spending time with others? I can hear myself talk any time. This is a different person across the table. Someone I don't see every day. What's their experience? What can I learn from them? I want to know. And if I can't get my mind to quiet down, none of that happens.


1. A conversation is like a tennis game. Hit the ball over the net, pause, the other person hits it back. Hopefully with a little spin, an edge, sharpness, a bit of humor or wisdom. Every so often something completely new. Hit it, they hit it, back and forth.

2. As a general rule if there are two people each person should do 50 percent of the talking. It's okay if it's as much as 80-20, or even 90-10. But if it's 100-0, something isn't right. If you're the 100, just stop. Maybe something interesting will fill the silence.

3. Or ask questions. Imagine you're interviewing them. What just happened in their life? Find out what it's like to be them, but don't ask the question that way. Ask for a story. How do you like your apartment? Did you have fun on your trip to Boston? What will you do with all that money? How are your parents, kids, etc.

4. If you're the 0 and the other person is 100, it's possible they think it's the other way around. I've had that happen, where a conversation was so dominated by one person, but they think the exact opposite is happening. People are weird, but remember, you're a person too.

5. If you really are the 0, there's a possible silver lining. It's possible that instead of the other person not caring about you (which is how it feels) they care about you too much. I had this happen once on a date. I was really pissed, but was also in therapy so I told the story at my next session. My therapist suggested that maybe my date was just trying to impress me. So the next time I asked her and she said yes. I said I was already impressed. Then things evened out nicely.

It was a big surprise that a woman could want to impress me. I thought I was a zero. That's it's my job to do the impressing. What a revelation!

6. Another thing I learned, again from therapy, is that people whose life is in crisis, because of death or disease, or a job loss, or a marriage failing, something like that, have a hard time seeing anything from anyone else's perspective. They may even be conscious of it. So if this is a friend, you pretty much have to cut them the slack they need, and be a good listener, even if it hurts. You're helping them through a tough time.

Bette Midler in Beaches

A great line from the movie Beaches.

"But enough about me, let's talk about you. What do you think of me?"

 10/27/2013; 11:51:35 AM.

Github links on Scripting News

I call your attention to the menubar at the top of every page on Scripting News .

There's a new menu that links to all the repositories I've started.

I plan to add some more stuff there in the future.

 10/26/2013; 10:41:20 AM.

Will Twitter try to move mainstream?

Business Insider has looked at the road show for the Twitter IPO, and says slide 41 is the most interesting because it says that Twitter would like to be "mainstream." But their numbers show that it's used by elite newsmakers and journalists. Something I've been saying for a long time. It's at least a dress rehearsal for the way we'll do news in the future.

Why isn't this good enough? Does it have to be mainstream? Can't they find a way to make money even if it's primarily for newsmakers and news producers? Look at all the money Bloomberg made, with information designed for a much smaller group of the elite, stock traders.

Question for the rest of us, if Twitter as it chases the mainstream user, limits its utility as a news platform by -- for example -- navigating to where Facebook is, what's Plan B? Where will we congregate then?

With its growth slowing, and the public market certain to demand more monetization, it does seem possible for Twitter to try to navigate away from being an elite communication platform.

Twitter trying to be something new is risky, like Microsoft trying to make Windows into an iOS competitor.

 10/25/2013; 4:33:50 PM.

Obama's gullibility re tech and NSA

So if President Obama allowed to open in an unusable state, what are the chances that he correctly understands the supposed self-imposed limits on domestic spying of the NSA? The President is obviously a really bad tech manager. I think the chances that the NSA put one over on him are pretty good. The chances that they're getting serious oversight, practically nil.

Also, I am not a "liberal," and though I voted for Obama twice, I never consented to what they're doing with the NSA. Pretty sure McCain and Romney would not have been any better. (Understatement.)

 10/25/2013; 11:18:22 AM.

Men and multitasking

I read this BBC piece about a study that showed that women are better at multitasking than men. Which is of course a big "No shit, Sherlock."

I ran a company in the 80s, and learned then that projects that pulled together a lot of people and resources were generally better handled by women. Multitasking projects.

For example, if you asked a man to get the company to a trade show, or ship a product, there would be one really neat aspect of the event or product, and most other things would be left for the last minute, if they were dealt with at all.

Now, as a man, I can do multitasking -- if I have to. Because I am single, I have to deal with all the things that come with running a house, living a life. If I don't, no one else will. So the dishes get cleaned, the bills get paid, the tax returns filed, but all of it, by the skin of my teeth. Like everyone, I live with a lot of chaos, but I can push it aside and focus only on the things I care about.

I'd much rather spend a whole day solving a problem, writing a story or reading one, taking a long train ride, or just thinking about something until it's resolved. One thing done really well -- that's my "normal."

I've run four conferences, so I know I can multitask. I've also developed products that have taken years of concentrating, every day, all day, to the exclusion of everything. Iterating, puzzling, thinking, trying ideas out. It's highly creative work, but progress comes slowly. Just a little progress, and some days no progress at all. It can be discouraging, but if you know where you're going and you really want to get there, you don't give up. I am very stubborn that way. Sometimes with good results, but many times with nothing to show for it. Sometimes a whole year goes by with nothing to show for it.

Someday we will be able to handle stories about things men generally do better than women without having a huge eruption of rage. But for now, it's best to remind women that they do things better than we do, before asking them to consider there might be things we do better than them.

Do I think this is right? No of course not. I think we should love all of us for the things we do and don't do. For the things that make us who we are. We should tolerate ideas that we don't like, and try to learn from them. But that's not the world we live in, unfortunately.

Someday it will all be right... Until then,

Namaste and buongiorno!

A picture of a slice of cheese cake.

PS: As I get ready to publish this piece, just want to say it's fucking exhausting writing about myself as a man, trying to anticipate all the verbal violence that's going to come at me. But I do it because we have to go through this, get to a point where we all learn that we can survive men talking about themselves in a positive way.

 10/25/2013; 10:08:50 AM.

Journalism is a profession

Lots of responses and unprecedented traffic for Tuesday's Apple/NSA piece.

In a comment on that post, Tom Nemec expressed a fairly common idea about journalism.

I guess the issue lies with the business model of most sites relying on advertising and sponsorship, which makes them dependent upon said practices. Their major goal is to generate lots of page views and (often times accidental) clicks on banners and links. In order to fulfill this goal, one has to focus on popular topics and make them accessible to the lowest common denominator of the public.

My response, which I wanted to get into a separate post:

This has been a frequent response. But journalism is a profession, like medicine. Suppose it was profitable to set bones, but not profitable to treat cancer. You go to the doctor complaining that your cancer is acting up again. He puts your arm in a cast and sends you home. Oh he has to make money you might say. But the patient dies.

In this case the journalists are supposed to cover what's actually happening, not what makes money for them. Or if they do they can't complain when they get called on it. The whining among reporters has been pretty subdued this time, because I think they've more or less figured this out on their own. A big bait and switch has taken place, with them as the instruments of it. The tech CEOs they've been pumping up act all innocent "Oh we never knew this was going on!" they say. Oh yeah that's believable.

 10/24/2013; 11:27:04 AM.

USV puts news on their home page

Union Square Ventures has a new home, and it's a dandy!

Down the left edge is a news flow that works more or less like Hacker News. Anyone can submit a link, upvote or comment. Comments are managed by Disqus, a USV company, btw (we also use Disqus here for comments).

There are the usual three components to a post: title-link-description. You can add tags. You can view the news flow in either reverse-chronologic order or ranked by number of votes.

The community is small, so the ranked page is not so interesting at least not yet. And there aren't many people submitting links. They've had ten submissions so far today, as I write this as 10:15AM on a Thursday. But it's only been around for 12 days, and Fred Wilson's blog has a sizeable audience to tap. I'm guessing the word really hasn't spread yet. (A side-effect of there being no culture of software reviews in tech.)

They have an RSS feed for the newest stuff and another that has just the hot ones. I added the full feed to my personal river, so if you watch that for your news, you'll automatically get all the links in the USV flow. Oddly the white-on-orange RSS icon in the upper-right corner of their home page does not lead to a feed. This is a bad idea. What little consistency there is in the RSS world should be preserved.

I asked a series of questions yesterday to find out how their editorial flow works, and in the process learned a bunch about how it was implemented. Nick Grossman, who developed the software says "The app is python + tornado + redis + mongodb + bootstrap + jquery." They say it will be released with an open source license. There is a bookmarklet and an Android app, Chrome extension and they're working on a Firefox extension. I imagine that Fred Wilson's dislike of iPhones is responsible for the lack of an iOS app?

Update: Fred Wilson commented below that there are technical reasons there's no iOS app yet, no religion.

Why this is significant

I used to have a standard home page at until 1997 when I moved my Frontier News page up to the home page. I realized then that the home page of a site should be the fastest-moving page on a site. It's the easiest to get to, and what most people want is to quickly find out what's new, so why not make it easy for them to get what they want?

Since figuring that out, and having it be an unqualified success, I've been preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen. I actually pitched this idea to a VC firm in the 90s, Kleiner Perkins. But it's taken this long for one to actually do it, and it's no surprise that it's Union Square. They've always been a bit ahead of the others in the VC business.

So you might extrapolate that other VCs will either run USV's software once it's released open source, or commission their own, or perhaps even start a company or two in this area. The remaking of the home pages of our blogs to handle news links! What a concept. Long overdue, imho.

Now all this assumes that USV's idea will work, and there's no guarantee that it will. People who post links need to feel that they're going to get a reward for it, either in more community cred, or flow for their ideas, or attention from a leading VC (a much-sought commodity). They've already said that pitches are permitted, so expect a lot of that. I love the fact that this will incentivize people to use blogs over social media sites, thus adding strength to the un-silo'd web.

I'm not sure if they realize that they've set up a mini-Twitter on their home page, but they have. And it has a feed. So I'm pretty happy about this.

News organizations take note

I've long felt that the home page of every news organization should be a reverse-chronologic list of on-site and off-site links. Remember, people come back to places that send them away. I've made direct pitches to a number of news sites, and they all said no. But this may light a fire. If a VC firm can innovate in news by giving the people what they want, why can't they?

There are reasons why they've had trouble doing it. Usually it's because of a strong separation between their development and editorial parts. The news people are not empowered to make major changes to the sites, and often seem to not understand the relatively simple tech behind news aggregation, and I assume the technical people don't see why news should be a fast-flowing thing on their home pages. And owners don't see why they should give flow to others. If USV's new system works, they may see why it's a good idea, which it is, imho of course.

But there's much more that can be done after the nice start that USV has made. If you want ideas, go back through the archive on Scripting News, and think about how you can deliver more to your readers by giving some semi-permanent love to the bloggers and other news organizations that you read. There are worse things than having readers come to your site to find out what's new on your competitors' sites.

The blogroll concept was just a start. Think in terms of collections of feeds and you'll be going in a good direction.

 10/24/2013; 10:09:32 AM.

Dear constant reader

Last week I had two lunches with friends, one old, one new. What was remarkable about both meetings is how much each of them were up on what I was doing, because they read every post on Scripting News, apparently quite carefully. Which is great, of course -- that's why I write a blog, to share what I see with others. And if we become friends, even better. It can be a way for me to meet and "engage" with cool people.

But what a surprise! Because I never hear from either of these people. They don't blog so much, and they don't post comments. Not complaining, just searching for some kind of balance, a little reciprocity. Look at it from my point of view for a moment. It often feels like I'm casting these posts into a void, or worse -- that only people who hate me are reading what I write. Both were kind of surprised at the rage that I encountered for writing one of the pieces I wrote on gender in August. How would they know? I don't like to write about other people's rage. That's for them to do.

Anyway. First, if you're what Stephen King calls a constant reader -- thank you. I don't want you feel guilty or any other negative emotion. But there is something you can do to help.

If you read a post here that you like or feel makes a strong point, even if you disagree, either "like" it on Facebook (I post links to most of my posts there these days) or retweet it on Twitter. With this gesture, not only will you help me influence more people (which is one of my goals) but you'll also connect with me, in a not-so-small way. It'll give me a chance to think of you, and how you might read the piece you just forwarded. I get a lot out of every one of these gestures. Even though it may seem small to you, it's not small to me.

And thank you for reading.

Here's a nice piece of cheesecake.

A picture of a slice of cheese cake.

PS: A bonus, if you read this far. I have a linkblog a lot of people don't know about. It has a feed, and it's chock full of good stuff.

 10/23/2013; 10:15:10 AM.

Scripting News feed fix

This is a test post for people who read this blog in a feed reader.

Before this fix, links inside posts would be broken when read in a reader. Now they should work. For example, here's a link to the National Weather Service site for New York City. If you click on it, does it work?

Here's another link, to a Gizmodo article about a noise-cancelling speaker that goes on your apartment window. I would have loved to have such a device when I lived in the East Village. Especially when the bars close!

Hopefully it works. If so, could you visit my site and post a comment saying so. Or if it doesn't work. And sorry for the breakage. Still diggin!

 10/23/2013; 10:00:18 AM.

The way tech covers Apple is ridiculous

At some point everyone is going to realize this. They're going to look down at next year's iPad or iPhone or whatever, and realize that it's just a small improvement over last year's.

They said it had such-and-such CPU in it, but how do you really know, and then it'll hit you -- why should you care?

It's all been a trance. Do 500 paid reporters really need to crowd into what amounts to a super-nice Apple Store with a really nice stage and listen to the guys that Steve hired explain the incremental improvements they made to a product that everyone uses, that has become so transparent that you don't even really see it. A new iPhone? Well, it's nice, but..

All the while, tech news has come to dominate all the news, only Apple isn't it. The big story is the NSA. It's huge and has been building for 20 years. While we were all watching the public Internet grow, a private, secret one was being developed by the US military. But was it actually hidden? Where were all the comp sci grads going? Some were going to Redmond and Silicon Valley for sure. But a lot of them were going to Maryland and Virginia. The story was available to be grabbed by any enterprising news organization. It wasn't.

We can learn from the Snowden leaks and adapt and reorganize the way we cover tech. Instead of accepting the stories that the industry feeds us, we can look more broadly, ask our own questions, and seek the answers outside the public relations departments of the big companies. This might result in small rebellions, like asking why the companies remove features from their products that users depend on. And big ones, like sensing things like the NSA's social network before the leakers show up with all the documents spelling it out.

The sheer size of the Snowden leaks are themselves a judgement on the inadequacy of tech journalism. Why were none of these stories broken before? Couldn't sources have been found to talk off the record? Weren't there people of conscience inside the tech companies who might tell the truth? Or were the reporters even available to listen to these people?

Tech is where big news is happening this decade. It's time to start doing it seriously.

 10/22/2013; 6:18:39 PM.

Scientific American and genital mutilation

While we're on the subject, and this is going to be a brief one, because the subject is so horrific, Scientific American ran what I consider an ugly post, making light of a subject that is in no way funny, at least to men. That women find it funny, is imho a serious problem.

Try to imagine an equivalent piece about female genital mutilation. Instead of severing something, try inserting something, awful and destructive, into a human body. I can't imagine it would run as anything other than a very serious subject, which it would be, of course.

I objected to the piece, to the author and to believe it or not, Bora. The only response was dismissive (from the author). A pat on the head and no follow-up. Bora did not respond.

Let's strike some kind of balance. It's so easy to flip things around, if you're having trouble understanding what the problem is, imagine it from the other gender's point of view. To a man, there are few ideas more horrible than the subject of this piece.

 10/22/2013; 12:50:51 PM.

A programmerish Fargo feature

I just released Fargo 1.29 with an interesting new programmerish feature.

If you look in the Code panel for Settings, you'll see a new item for code that's run when Fargo saves a public outline.

Notes on the feature:

1. It only runs for outlines that have been given a public URL, using the Get Public Link command in the File menu.

2. You can get the URL of the outline being saved through the variable tab.publicUrl as shown in the example in the screen shot.

3. This feature would most likely be used to link Fargo to a content management system that renders the outline after it's been saved, but that's not the only possible application.

Update 10/23/13 DW

Implementing a new verb, takes one parameter the url of the server to ping.

It's much faster than the http.readUrl method, which has to use an intermediary server to make the call. can call straight from the browser without an intermediary.

One caveat, the server must use the Access-Control-Allow-Origin header on the HTTP request to allow requests from

 10/21/2013; 1:25:45 PM.

Scientific American and Bora

I wish Scientific American had taken a different approach to the problems of Bora Zivkovic. Without him there would be no science blogging community. They didn't fire the community he brought to them. As far as I can see they di d nothing to help him, yet all his actions could be clearly seen as desperate cries for help. They could have helped, but it appears that they did not.

We have a lot of problems relating to gender in our society. We're not very evolved about them. We give all the blame, all the punishment, to men. But we fail to see how this is a product of the way we, as a society, view men and women.

I'm reading an eye-opening book by Terrence Real about male depression. I recognize what he's talking about, based on personal experience. The stories of other men's lives are totally eye-opening. I am very much a man, and was raised to project my feelings outward, to even deny that I had feelings. That of course did not get rid of them, they just were expressed in different indirect ways. I learned about this years ago, went through eight years of therapy, and changed my lifestyle and goals, so that I could stop pretending to be someone who I wasn't. I've had some degree of success with that.

So I feel kinship with Bora, and I wish that Scientific American, a publication that I have great admiration for, could have taken a pioneering approach to this situation, and said yes -- we have exposure, and we need to control that and mitigate it, which they clearly did. But we also love this person Bora, and he's hurting. He hasn't been saying it clearly, but we also haven't been listening. And instead of basically destroying him, which I don't doubt his firing will do, we could help him. And in doing so, learn about the science of human gender. Why we do what we do. And how to grow from these experiences. Be scientific about being human, based on what we know now, in 2013.

You know people say men shouldn't talk about gender. That's half the problem, but we don't see that part. We see the acting-out that comes from pretending that half our species doesn't even exist. As if men could fix this on our own. We can't. We are a whole species, we create each other. There's no such thing as solving the issues of one gender without also solving them for the other.

Now, it could be that I don't know all of what happened, so I have to offer that caveat. But if it is what it appears to be, I think they could have done much better, and I wish they had.

A note about this piece

I thought long and hard on whether I should write this piece, and talked privately with a few people about it. I decided that if there's a reason to be scared about providing some limited public support for Bora, that's all the more reason I should do it. If it were easy, there would be no point doing it. Everyone would be.

But we're afraid to do this -- because we're afraid to get harmed by the rage that almost always spills over when a man expresses a contrary opinion on gender. So we get a very small section of what people really think and feel about these issues in the public sphere. Privately, people are much more expressive.

This prohibition is what's so bad about the way gender issues are discussed in 2013. Never has there been more fear. I have theories about why this is, but that can wait. What couldn't wait is trying to find something positive in the terrible thing that's happening around Scientific American blogging community right now.

 10/21/2013; 10:49:22 AM.

The core JavaScript code of Trex

Here's a link to the core JavaScript code of Trex.

You can browse it there in a read-only version of the Concord outliner.

Now here's an idea. The core functionality of that code, rendering a page in a website defined by an outline, is designed to run on a server.

There's no reason it has to just run on a server

It's JavaScript. It should be possible for it to run more or less as-is, in the browser. And with that we could do static rendering of whole sites without using any server bandwidth.

We already generate RSS this way inside Fargo. No reason the same idea couldn't be extended to a CMS.

The code has been licensed under the GPL, with all that that entails.

At some point I will do this, but the opportunity exists today.

Why JavaScript is the place to be

Code moves across boundaries nicely, in theory.

We have to get good at this.

 10/20/2013; 11:51:00 AM.

Every university should be home to an open source development project

Such a simple idea, and a decade from now it will seem so obvious -- in hindsight -- but today it isn't common practice.

At university we teach students the arrogance that they have acquired all the skills they need to compete in the real world. As if that were enough.

We must learn to create systems that have lasting value, work for real human beings, software that creates freedom instead of consuming it.

Software that embodies the values of the academy.

In other words we can do even better than teach students how to create commercial quality software.

We must, if our species is to have a chance.

I could write a dozen blog posts about how this will work, but let's just do it.

 10/19/2013; 5:36:15 PM.

When to let go

I'm watching a person die on one of the social networks, second-hand, in the words of an adult child. I keep wanting to say it might be time for hospice, but it's not my place to say anything. I'm not a family member, I don't know the people. But the story is a familiar one.

There comes a point when cancer has got you. Until then there's a tradeoff between quality of life and survival. I can have a good few days, weeks or months, or I can maybe have a few more of them, but be tortured. Not be a person, as much as someone who is operated on, stitched up, kept alive. Up to a point you fight, but then at some point, you take the prize, pain killers, and figure out what you want to do with the remaining time.

You can spend the time remarkably high, even, at times, happy. My father chose morphine, and spent his last weeks high as a kite, doing nothing, sad for sure, but also able to reflect on his life, and spending lots of time hanging out with people who known him, instead of being an object of the health care system. He was at home till the end.

I spent a lot of time in the hospital with him when he was fighting, and I didn't want him to give up. But now, a few years later, it's very obvious he did the right thing. He might have had another year or two, some of the doctors said that, but there wasn't really much he could do with the time, and most of it would be spent in a hospital, steadily losing the battle, and what remained of his dignity.

Every family goes through this. The process doesn't end with death. But how you come to feel about it has a lot to do with how much fighting there was, and at what point the finality of it was accepted.

 10/18/2013; 1:37:56 PM.

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