As I was working on Fargo 2, I got more comfortable with GitHub, and did something I've always wanted to do -- I released the templates for the core types in as open source. I hope at some point (now?) this will help get a design community booted up around Fargo.
Why? Well I'm all thumbs when it comes to CSS. But I love the results that great designers can produce with it. Fargo is a design platform, and the templates, released as open source, can make that work as a real community.
For example, I had trouble making Disqus comments work with the medium template, so I tabled it. I never have gotten back to it. Maybe someone else has the patience or know-how to make it work.
To make this work, you have to learn how to use Fargo as a CMS. And that's another benefit. If we can have a platform that's equally comfortable for writers, programmers and designers, then we really have something. This is something we had working well in the early blogging communities, with my own Manila and Radio, as well as with Blogger, Movable Type, Tumblr. We can have it again, with the benefits of modern browsers and servers.
The templates are released in OPML and plain text. If you want to edit them in Fargo, of course you'd use the OPML. If you figure out a way to make it work when editing as plain text, more power to you, I still want to share.
Also this may seem like gibberish today, but I hope in a few months it'll seem easy.
Yesterday started with a breakthrough -- Newsweek, the beleaguered, mostly forgotten news pub, had done a bit of investigative journalism, and had found the great Satoshi Nakamoto. The virtuoso technologist, sociologist and economist who came up with BitCoin. Strike one for journalism! They still have the right stuff.
By the end of the day -- the breakthrough was a black eye. The good news was now bad news for Newsweek and for journalism. This, in all likelihood, was not the man. Not only was Newsweek wrong, they were spectacularly wrong, wrong on the cover, using up one of their last bits of credibility. From now on will Newsweek be anything but a punchline?
But what does this say about investigative journalism in the future, when the rest of us can quickly evaluate the cover of Newsweek and find it lacking? And how many wrong stories of the past stood, because there was no Internet to expose them?
In my own field, I can tell you that most of the stories Newsweek ran about tech were based on huge omissions. Their typical tech story was about a titan fighting to control the future, when the truth is they were fighting a losing battle against obsolescence. But the MSM never reports this, because they have too much regard for money and many of them want jobs working for the moguls they write about.
We still hear it, in the last gasps of 20th century journalism -- in the stories we don't read about moguls who are starting news companies (the reporters don't write them). They still worship money, when all money can do is buy you big houses, cars and spouses, lots of them, sports teams, and offices full of journalists.
I read an interesting piece by Brent Simmons yesterday about his passion for creating blogging systems. He's thinking about doing a quick one, running in node.js. As I read the piece I recognized a lot of the ideas as ones that we've already implemented in Fargo Publisher, which is an open source, MIT licensed, node.js app.
My first thought was wouldn't it be great if Brent used Fargo Publisher as a starting point? That way we might get some new features, maybe some bug fixes, and more users. Having two pieces of software resting on top of an API gives it a much better chance to gain traction.
My second thought was that he was planning on using the Metaweblog API, something I designed in 2002, to build on the Blogger API. But we've gone so much further in the intervening 12 years. Metaweblog views each post as a document, but Fargo views a whole website as a document. Suppose you had a computer that could only deal with one file at a time, and one came along that could have as many open windows as you want? Wouldn't you want to at least try it?
In that way Fargo 2 is the next step after Metaweblog. Yes, it's too bad progress happens so slowly in tech. 12 years for such a simple evolution. But at least it happened. It would be a shame if we had to wait another 12 years for adoption by users, esp very advanced ones like my longtime buddy, Brent.
These are the tech heroes of our day.
Snowden sacrificed to change our point of view of everything electronic. We had become too complacent, our blinders were on, we couldn't talk about the reality of the networks we are using.
Banksy uses new media to communicate strong messages via art.
Satoshi Nakamoto hacks the structure of our economic system, with pure tech.
These people are real media hackers, with very different approaches. They inspire and create and don't give a shit what Political Correctness says.
There's a generic kind of site, a product home page, divided into sub-pages.
Each sub-page has a different background color or image, and uses a different kind of layout, and format and fonts. They are like panels in a brochure. You scroll through the site with the mouse on the desktop, or by flicking with your index finger on a tablet or a phone.
I've got one example of this kind of site.
Question #1 -- Does this kind of site have a name?
Question #2 -- Are there any good how-to's on setting one of these up? Or generic examples? I just don't know what they're called or I could probably find them on my own.
Obviously I want to make a Fargo template for this kind of site, to make it easy for writers and graphic designers to create them quickly. I, myself, have an application for this kind of site.
Thanks in advance for pointers.
A simple demo page illustrating the ideas.
Thanks for all the suggestions from commenters.
It's really very simple. Several fixed-height divs, styled as a table, containing a block of text that's styled as a table-cell.
My brother was in town a few weeks ago. We went to a Brooklyn Nets game on the subway and got lost and had to take a cab to Barclays in the snow and cold. It may not sound like fun but it was.
We talked about how various software projects turned out. I had a memory of a product we did that never shipped, it was called Broadway, or Boxes & Arrows, or PowWow, it had a lot of names over the years. The idea was this -- if you wanted to do layout right, presentation-type layout, you have to have graphics that have relationships to each other that persist, even as the objects are moved and resized.
So I could say that box A and box B are always centered relative to each other. When I move one the other would also move to maintain the relationship.
This was meant to be a tool people would use to create designs for PowerPoint-like presentations, designs that other people would use, and that would look good even if they had just a little text here and a lot of text there, or the other way around. Designers would set it up so there were rules that made it look great either way.
It followed the usual formula for software platforms. The authoring tool trades off ease-of-learning for power. The runtime must be trivially simple to use. Ways for people who invest to pack knowledge into their designs, and have it blossom to delight the neophyte.
(Sounds like something Walt Frazier might say.)
Whenever I have to do tedious layout of web pages, and find in the end the result is unsatisfactory and fragile I think of how it really should be done, and hope someday we make a popular platform that has these recalculating graphics in all their glory.
And I think it's also the way we'll ultimately solve the "responsive design" question.
A few days ago I tweeted: "Professional blogging --> no. It can be incidental. A professional reporter can blog. But being a blogger is not a professional thing."
At the time, I promised I'd write a blog post to explain. This is that post.
It is possible for a professional reporter to blog, even when they're doing their job as a reporter. But it is not a professional act. A reporter might blog about what they learn being a reporter, or covering a certain story. The reporter is an expert on reporting, at least. But a reporter could also be an expert at model trains. Or skiing. Or even be a kibitzer about politics or sports. Expertise comes at all levels. Let's not judge someone as not being expert enough. If you have something to say, it's cool to say it, and a blog is a great place to say it.
However, a blogger is not a reporter who uses WordPress. Yes it's a blogging system, but it's also a content management system, fully capable of running the web presence of all sizes of news organizations. How your writing is transmitted to readers has nothing to do with the act of writing news. It's a trivial distinction.
What's the harm in letting reporters call themselves bloggers? Well, we need a word for a person who shares his or her expertise for free. And we have such a word -- blogger, which derives from the word weblog which was coined by an early blogger, Jorn Barger, and shortened by Peter Merholz to blog and adopted by the community, years before reporters started calling themselves bloggers.
We need a word for what we do because it is an important activity. You can't understand how news works today without understanding the role that bloggers play. So in a sense professional reporters hurt themselves by usurping a term that meant something before they applied it to themselves.
Why are bloggers important to reporters? Bloggers are your sources. They are the people who previous generations of reporters had to reach by telephone. These days reporters can skim hundreds of perspectives on the web, prioritized by search engines. The reach of reporters in the age of blogging is far greater that it was in the age of the telephone. Understanding this synergy is key to understanding how news will evolve in the future.
But the real reason to let amateurs have this word is it's the right thing to do. It's fair. Reporters already have a word to describe what they do. Let us keep ours.
See also: Why blog?
This season's Knight News Challenge is going to fund projects that strengthen the free and open Internet. That's what we're doing at Small Picture and in the Fargo community.
I think that's a great idea! And I'd like to flip things around a bit. I'd like to help people who want to use Fargo, or the open source publisher software or outliner component, to do projects that help strengthen the Internet, and apply to Knight for funding.
Or maybe developing some compatible services on Dropbox, using templates, OPML or RSS. Or even making node.js servers easier for tech-savvy users to deploy.
It's a nice coincidence that Knight is focused on this now. If you have an idea you'd like to work on with our support or technology, either send me an email, or post a comment below.
I have a dream of having a real-world (not online) conference next summer with 15 teams working on these projects, and looking for all kinds of great ways to connect them together. I even have a venue in mind, and when you hear what it is it'll blow your mind.
A blog post has lasting value.
A tweet stream is more ephemeral, it can evaporate almost instantly.
Not saying that quick comments shouldn't be tweeted, but when you figure something out that's not trivial, if it has value, you're wasting it if you put it on Twitter or Facebook.
The mission of blogging is to empower all of us to go directly to each other with our expertise. So if you know something as well as anyone else, or you learn something or know something that should be shared, then you should share it on your blog.
Blogging needs your help. There's cobwebs in the blogosphere. I want to dust everything off, and start linking our stuff together, and get some developer energy flowing, and let's do some new stuff.
Blogging is a good idea. Most people aren't compelled to share their ideas, thinking, knowledge and expertise. But if you're one of them, please use the tools, or if they fall into disuse, we'll just have to invent them again. Let's keep it growing.
Software is a process.
It's never finished. There are always bugs to fix, features to add.
Usually, when one company buys another, they buy the software, not the process.
It would be more realistic to contract with a developer or group of developers the way book publishers contract with authors, or studios contract with directors. You buy N books, or movies, or albums. Then the creative person gives you what they contracted for.
Don't try to hire employees to make products. You need to be able to take creative risks. It's hard to do within a corporation. By "hard to do" I mean impossible.
Unlike movies, books, music -- software continually evolves. So even if the initial creator moves on, there always has to be the equivalent of a show runner that stays with the product, the kind of person who does what Vince Gilligan did on Breaking Bad, for example.
I've now moved on from two products, one through acquisition and one by passing off to a new management team. Both times the product died.
I'm still trying to figure this out.
A throwbackthursday picture of me as a grad student at UW-Madison in 1977 or so, programming on a Unix system, probably working on my first outliner.
There was a nice Facebook thread re this picture.
2009: Natural Born Bloggers.
We gave everyone a broadcast station and a printing press.
Not everyone does it.
Say 1 percent are NBBs.
They all can do it, but most don't want to.
News orgs will be machines for processing huge amounts of news, adding/teaching quality.
Evan Williams is doing this at Medium.
But I don't like that he has a bottleneck, that his publishing system requires that you write and store your writing on his servers.
Here's a great A-B example.
On Twitter, a nothing.
On Facebook, a discussion!
Many of the comments I get on Twitter are really for someone else -- they're responding to the headline of a link I've posted, that I didn't write.
And they're very often not responding to the story, just to the headline. And they respond as if I'm the author. Always leads to misunderstanding. Example.
And 140-characters is a severe limit for people who are good writers, for people who aren't good writers (i.e. most people) it's impossible to understand what they mean.
So you have to ask for clarification, if you have the patience, and the follow-ups are usually just as cryptic.
I think Twitter is a failed experiment. Something about its limits needs to be eased. Or maybe it's time to start over, with a different idea altogether.
A Facebook discussion emanating from a picture of me as a grad student in 1977, programming in the Unix lab at UW-Madison.
The same picture posted on Twitter.
Other people's long distance travel is virtually instantaneous.
For example, I just saw a post from NakedJen saying that she's leaving Paris. I expect to see a post from her in a few minutes saying she's home in Salt Lake City.
You'll see. It'll happen almost in the blink of an eye!
Speaking of perfectly targeted ads.
And in the right margin an ad for a tech conference put on by O'Reilly.
I would put in my profile something like this: "No more offers of tech conferences that don't include speaking offers."
That would be what Doc Searls calls a "conversation."
We're getting closer.
Reminds me of a story about me, John Doerr, Google and Philip Bump.
A long time ago I wrote a story about John Doerr, and it ranked very high on Google in a search for John Doerr. I joked that my investment in Doerr was doing well. As if "owning" him on Google had some dollar value.
Philip Bump, a clever dude, bought an adword next to that search, knowing that I would look at it, and the ad said "Hey Dave Winer..." I laughed. But that's as perfect as targeting can get. He had a market of one. And I actually did see it and loved the attention.
He now writes for The Atlantic, and he told me the story when I went down there to visit last year.
In today's podcast/blog post this line is the one that resonated most with people.
But it's not the first time this idea has appeared on scripting.com.
In 2006, I wrote a piece entitled "Making money with ads? Not much longer..."
Here's the key paragraph:
I read two pieces today that stimulated a 14-minute podcast.
20th century news was about information flowing through small numbers of reporters to large numbers of readers.
This was necessitated by the technology, which was one-to-many.
21st century technology doesn't have this limit.
Advertising is evolving, it's becoming more like a todo list to follow up on the things you're interested in.
Eventually you will be able to write your own queries, and have companies make offers to you. This is the model Doc Searls has been talking about for years.
Perfectly targeted ads are just information.
News organizations will evolve too.
Their mission is to make information flow effective.
To facilitate, as before, but with far more writers. Open, like Wikipedia is open.
The quality of a news org will be in its writing, research, integrity. Their challenge is to scale that to meet the demand, and the capabilities of the new technology.
Old thinking -- news writing is exclusive.
New way -- news is written by many (but nowhere near everyone).
The power of a news organization is limited by the capacity of the wires. An organization like the NYT has more than a small interest in making the infrastructure of Manhattan world class. Right now it's far from it.
I'm a Knicks fan. I spent the winter in denial, but gradually as the season progressed, I realized I was following them more closely than any other team. And identifying with their ups and downs. And this year of course it's been mostly downs. It's okay. I was a Mets fan too.
I have some weird theories about the fortunes of the Knicks. I think last year they did well because they had Jason Kidd at guard. It seems like a very long time ago. This year, they have a void at point guard. And their star, Carmelo Anthony, needs a great point guard to work with. Pretty simple reason for this. Someone has to know who else is hot on the floor and make sure they get the ball almost as much as Melo. Otherwise the other team just double or even triple-teams Melo. It's easy to defend a team that has just one shooter, even if he's the best shooter in the league, as it is pretty clear Melo is (either #1 or #2).
But Kidd turned 40 last season, so they knew it couldn't last. If Melo had been a bit more open-minded, I think he would have seen that Jeremy Lin, with his sharp eyes and mind, would have been a good student of Kidd's and a good distributor of the ball for a team that tends to rely too much on Melo.
I think this is a lesson for everyone in business or sport, anywhere creativity and seizing the moment matters. Don't always look for the answer where you expect it. Lin wasn't one of Melo's classmates from 2003. Melo is a superstar. But he could have forged a partnership with Lin, made him his little buddy, and and built from there. It's amazing to see what Houston was able to do with creativity, and how it led to their signing of two players who, if they were playing with Melo, might have made New York, along with Anthony, a championship contender. The Knicks might not have been able to afford Dwight Howard and James Harden, but then New York is the center stage in the basketball world, and Houston is a backwater. But they're a backwater with a team we would love to have in New York.
I'd like to go to a conference once a year, where I hear from people who are developing apps in other environments, and have them explain the significance of their work, relying on my understanding of basic computer science principles. I understand databases, network protocols, languages, user interface, web apps, content management.
Here's an example, where Brent Simmons explains how he's working on his new database synchronization technology.
We have lots of conferences for tech marketers and investors. We have conferences for specific technologies, and various companies have developer conferences. O'Reilly has tried to cut across the disciplines, but they don't welcome everyone equally.
I want the kind of conference they have in academia, once a year, where leading technologists get together for a few days, get on stage and tell us what they've discovered and developed. I know we need this because I find huge gaps in what I know about.
I can understand things much more quickly if they're explained by people who know what they're talking about. I want to meet the leaders of other communities, shake their hands, and get to know them, so we can work together more effectively in the future.
People like blogging software that allows them to export their content.
In Fargo 2 we do that, and take it one step further. Your content is always exported. It's the only format for the content.
For example, here's the exported content of Scripting News.
Click on the tab with Scripting News content.
Choose Get Public Link from the File menu.
Click OK to confirm.
Copy the URL.
Paste it into the post.
It took about five seconds.
We are radical about empowering users. It's your content. You shouldn't have to export it.
Update: I changed the way they work. I am now happy with the way they look.
I used to have a feature on Scripting News that I called paragraph-level permalinks, but other people called them WinerLinks, because I was apparently the first to have them. Whatever you call them, they're nice to have. And I heard from a few people that they missed them, so I put the feature on my to-do list.
Notice that this post has them. Over in the right margin, you should see little purple hashes. If you click on one, it'll open the page scrolled to that paragraph.
They're useful if you want to comment elsewhere on a specific part of a post. Since I want to encourage people to do that, I like the idea of these links. What I don't like is how distracting they are. I like the feature, but I'd like to have it be less visible.
For that I ask you, Ms or Mr Designer, to give it a try. Mock up a page with these links and try to come up with something that looks better.
PS: To see how distracting they can be, look at a longer post as an example.
Update #2: I tweaked the implementation to use the first characters of the first five words in the paragraph to form the permalink. This allows you to reorder the paragraphs without breaking links. However, if you change any of the first five words, the links break too. Trade-offs, always. This idea was stolen from the NYT implementation of paragraph-level permalinks.
Today I want to write about my blog and formats it uses to connect with others, and how that might work with Facebook and Google -- at the same time.
I'm "still" posting on my blog, and have no plans to stop. In fact, I hope to help other people get back into their own blogs. I think we can reboot a little, maybe not in a huge way, but blogging as an activity could use a little love, a little sprucing up, some spring cleaning. There are a lot of cobwebs in the blogosphere. People have left junk around that isn't getting used anymore. And we could use some fresh ideas about how to connect stuff up.
But while all that rebooting is happening, maybe Facebook et al could help facilitate the reboot? After all, they employ programmers and researchers who need to share knowledge with each other, and need places to record their ideas where they can find them again, and where others working in the same field can find them.
One way they could help is by adopting some of the standards of the blogosphere, so their content can integrate with ours. For example, if I paste the URL of an RSS feed or an OPML file into a Facebook post, they could do something nice with it. Today they don't, at all. I discovered this yesterday by accident when I pasted a link to an RSS feed into a Facebook post. I just tried an experiment and pasted a link to an OPML file, the canonical test outline -- states.opml, into Facebook. Again, nothing happened. OPML with its ability to structure information for presentation, would be a perfect complement to Facebook. Both are outgrowths of graph theory, a subject that I studied as a college student many years ago (it was so funny to see Facebook use the terminology of my once-obscure avocation).
If Facebook supported OPML and RSS, we could probably find some interesting ways to integrate our tools with their environment. That's how we're going to fix this silo problem, by knocking down some of the walls. If they'll let our content in, without having it hosted on their servers, it can have a dual life. "Out here" it can be indexed by Google and shared among other interested people, over long periods of time. And inside Facebook, we can share our thoughts with our friends and family, so they can keep up with what we're doing.
During the last few months, I would occasionally share my development progress with my Facebook friends. They were some of my most popular posts. Possibly because what I do is so much in vogue these days, there's so much curiosity about how software developers work. I love this. I've always had to wave my hands when people ask what I do, while their eyes glaze over. But these days it's quite different.
I want to keep using Facebook, but my professional work must be done on the web, or it doesn't work. Perhaps we can make that a win-win?
People like Facebook because when they post something there, they get responses from people they care about.
Another thing: When I post a picture on Facebook, it looks magnificent. Far better than it used to look on Flickr, which was pretty good, at one time. These days Flickr is an embarrassment. The only reason I post pictures there at all is because it's hooked into my archival system.
Anyway, what this tells me is that Team Blogosphere has to deliver great people to our blogs, people with ideas, and people who are sympathetic, not the usual trolls who pick at every scab they can find. I'm fairly optimistic about this because I get great engagement at Scripting News, most of the time, and the trolls don't bother because they know I delete their turds without a second thought.
The answer to having a great web outside of Facebook, to accumulate knowledge that works for all of us, for a long time to come depends not only on getting Google on our side again, but also in taking matters into our own hands, and solving problems instead of arguing about stuff.
I'm going to keep learning why people like Facebook, to build our to-do list and then start asking people for ideas and help.