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.
A 28-minute podcast that tells the story of how Fargo 1 led to Fargo 2.
Okay so people who used to blog now prefer to post their observations on Facebook for the immediate interaction of it. I know what they mean now that I've been using Facebook for a few months. Hearing the likes and the comments is a kind of Pavlovian reward. It's true, I know the feeling.
But Facebook's search engine sucks, I hear. Nowhere near as good as Google's. So while you're getting more likes over there, you're not creating an archive, or a resource for others.
So that kind of settles it. If you're doing serious work, knowledge accumulation, relating to other people's work, the kind of stuff researchers, developers and academics do, Facebook is a dead-end. It's good for sharing pictures of the kids with grandma, but not for sharing your ideas to be referenced later. And you can share links to your stories on Facebook, just don't expect to be able to find them later, that way.
For that, you still need the web and Google's search engine.
You hear it so much -- I never blog anymore. I just post on Facebook. Etc etc.
It just occurred to me why that is. The blogging tools developers aren't giving the users anything new and/or interesting to do.
Maybe that's why there was so much interest in Ghost. At least it looks different.
Since when does a software category survive without introducing new stuff every so often?
Is this as good as it gets?
Or maybe I'm missing something.
Set me straight.
I had a thought the other day that Google could have achieved its goals much more directly and quickly by gradually embracing and extending the existing social fabric of the web, that they were basically owners of and more or less still are.
Their search engine was and still is the glue that holds the web together. So, why didn't they build around that?
They should have gradually enhanced the glue, offering tools that shore up its deficiencies.
Where others, Twitter and Facebook, notably -- delivered functionality that depended on centralizing the content of the web, Google should have built around decentralization with caching, and new standards for helping content be viewed in many contexts, many different renderings.
The nascent standards were there as early as 2001. I was writing about this at the time, urging them to help us with RSS and OPML. You know what they did instead. We're still waiting for them to help us be independent of all the centralized services, which whether they like it or not, is what they do.
They had everything needed to help make it work, they just had to build architectures not products. Google Reader should have been a structure that welcomed apps connecting to it, running on App Engine of course. Hack at the APIs until they're simple, but also deploy AMIs that run in Amazon's cloud. And on the other side, disassemble Blogger into its components, open sourcing it all, and provide APIs, that get simpler over time, to cover the other side of content creation. And as before, the software is all open source, and available as App Engine modules and Amazon AMIs.
It's dawning on smart people now that we collectively made a mistake in turning over the judgement of what we see to Facebook and probably to Twitter (we don't know what they're doing or planning to do with the content flowing through their servers). I made the same mistake. The technology of the last 10 years should have all been open to experimentation by developers without locking users in. There are a lot of developers who believe in this. It's central to the mission of WhatsApp, btw, so if you doubted that it could be lucrative, you should think again.
It's not too late. But they have to help us, and not be so cynical about the power of individuals. I think that's more evident today than it ever was. Their biggest mistake was their attitude about the rest of us.
See also: Why people like Facebook.
I'm sure there are many reasons, but this is the one I'm thinking about today as I deployed Fargo 2.
Now that I have my server running in Node, and deployed on Heroku, adding more server capacity is as simple as it can possibly be.
I love this power, never had it before. Deploying additional instances was always a huge process. They've really factored the UI so that even for a geek like me, there's no effort involved. See how it works, it'll make you laugh.
Now starts the process of showing everyone all the cool stuff it can do because the CMS is in the user's machine not in a central server. And I look forward to helping lots of people get their publishing systems up and running, so it isn't all dependent on me.
Anyway, here's the blog post to Fargo users announcing the change.
Lots more to come in the weeks and months ahead now that this is no longer just a development project, it's now a platform.
So in preparation for Fargo 2, which is now in the bag, awaiting a little more burn-in, before the switch gets flipped, I did a new much shorter video, with the same content.
It's the quickest way to create a blog and write your first post. Here's the video.
Last week I was telling the story of how the NY Times played a big role in getting my first company, Living Videotext, off the ground. It was 1983, and I had just shipped the Apple II version of ThinkTank, a product that's actually a lot like Fargo. I was having trouble getting anyone to look at it. I was pestering Erik Sandberg-Diment at the Times because I was reading his software column, then a very new thing for such a mainstream publication. I felt he'd get the idea, because he approached software from a non-traditional point of view. He was the kind of person I had made ThinkTank for. I could just feel it.
His review came out at almost the exact moment I was giving up, and getting ready to look for a real job. I looked up the review today, it's in the Times archive, and read it again, 31 years later. The computer industry still doesn't understand outlining software, and Erik's review still cuts through all that, especially the last paragraph:
It was after running the tutorial that I came upon what may be one of the best uses of all for Think Tank, and it's not any of the myriad organizational tasks stressed by the program's producers. Rather, it's simply putting people at ease using a personal computer for something besides games. Think Tank is so easy to use, and so relatively errorproof, that even a first-timer feels as if he's in charge of the computer, instead of the other way around. And being in charge of the computer is what enables you to do with it things you may never have thought of doing before.
I've been dealing with a really bad cold for almost a week. I got really sick last Thursday, and spent a few days sleeping and watching Netflix series. I started feeling better yesterday, and today I felt much better, but still called-in sick. I've learned over the years that my downfall when managing colds is that I declare victory too soon, and then relapse and lose more days. So I spent an extra day reading and sleeping and doing a little light writing and thinking work.
One of the little projects I did was a review of the to-do list for Fargo 2 today and decided that nothing on it is important enough to wait for, so the next mini-project will be to archive Fargo 1 and make 2 the default. It'll still be marked a BETA to alert users to be extra cautious and make backups periodically.
After this release, I'll be free to start new projects, or pick up some others that were on the back-burner, something I'm really looking forward to. I love Fargo, I use it all the time, but I'm itching to create something brand new.
There's a brief thread on Twitter with interesting participants from different parts of the web design world. Not sure exactly where I fit in, but I found I had a perspective to offer, and decided to write a post instead of a sequence of 140-character chunks.
The idea of Bootstrap, as I see it, is to add a layer of standardization between the app developer and the "hardware," in this case, the user interface offered by the modern HTML 5 web browser. When you view it this way, there's nothing controversial about it. It's what engineers always do. When we see complicated chaos, we try to figure out what's really going on, and produce a simplified and rational view of it. Then all the code that rides on top of the new layer can also be rational and relatively simple.
I want to tie-off the details of how menus work, for example, in one place, and once done, I never have to do it again. But there's another view of it. If there's only one place I do menus, and we have a rational abstraction of what a menu is, then we can slip in a whole other implementation behind it, and the upper-level code, unaware of the change, will still work.
Even better if a large base of software agrees on how menus are done. Then people can create tools for authoring menus. So we get to a higher level. Something everyone had to do for themselves at one point, now is part of the toolkit that everyone can build on.
This is how all software is built. Bootstrap is just another instance of this process, and a much-needed one.
Another example, when I write Mac software, I don't get to say how menus or dialogs work. That's up to the operating system. That makes the developer's life easier, but it makes the user's life easier too. If you only have to learn how to use one type of menu, you can learn to use more types of software. Why waste time learning two ways to do something so common and simple?
Same with dialogs, typefaces, layout, the details of style-creating. Almost everything you see on this website, scripting.com, flows through Bootstrap in some way.
Over time the innovations of the past become commodities, and then are baked into the OS, creating room for innovation at a higher level. When software is flowing properly, this should be a process that's repeated frequently. Never too soon, never before the pattern of use has emerged, but hopefully not too late. We are ready for what Bootstrap does. It's good that it exists, and I think it's something everyone should build on.
One thing you hear a lot when the subject of Netflix series comes up is that unlike other popular series, such as True Detective and Game of Thrones, is that there's no long-lasting online discussion of binge-watched series because of spoilers and because everyone progresses through the series at a different rate and at different times. For example, I just binged my way through Orange is the New Black many months after the series premiered. There's no online place for me to discuss these shows.
It occurs to me that the one entity that could neatly solve this problem is Netflix itself. They know where you're at in the series, and what would be a spoiler or not. So they could offer, at the end of an episode, to whisk you off to an a place where you could read commentary that was current up to exactly that point in the series, and no further. No spoilers. You get the sequential-ness that people get from non-binge-watched shows. A perfect feature that Netflix could offer that really no one else is as well-positioned to offer.
PS: Who's your favorite Orange is the New Black character? Mine is Alex. Makes me wish I could be a lesbian and have a girlfriend like her. (I have a couple of women friends who Alex reminds me of. One is married (to a man), and one I lost track of many years ago.)
I've had a cold for the last week, which has knocked me out pretty thoroughly. Lots of sleep, hot tea, a little writing and coding here and there when I feel unfuzzy, but most of the time, my brain isn't up to very rigorous thinking. I've come to terms with this. I'm a person who's used to moving toward a goal at almost all times. It's a bit distressing for me to be still. But it's also good.
I felt very lucky to get sick at almost the exact moment a new Netflix series came online, House of Cards, season 2. I had watched both the first season on Netflix and the BBC show it's based on. I thought the second season on Netflix was pretty awful. Lots of scenes that were obviously stretched out, presumably because they didn't have enough plot to fill the allotted time, or maybe enough money to fund the production. I watched because I had nothing better to do, but I wasn't impressed, or particularly entertained.
When it was over, there was a void. What to do to fill the time now? A good friend suggested Orange is the New Black, so I gave it a try. It was a little slow and stupid at first. I really wasn't all that interested in a girly show about a yuppie who goes to prison for a year, but by the second and third episode, it was clear it wasn't that. It is a comedy, there are lots of LOL moments, but it's also a great story, with hugely compelling and interesting characters, and the acting is fantastic. By the time the season is over, you have a real kinship with many of the characters, they all have depth, including the main character who most people seem to dislike, but I think that's kind of the point. She's going through a morphing process. Finding out who she really is. Prison is removing the yuppie veneer one step at a time. It's really great television, right up there with the best. Makes you wonder why it isn't the show everyone is talking about and House of Cards is?
There's a chain of beating hearts connecting back in time from you to a fish that crawled onto land, one of your many ancestors.
Here's another interesting idea. That entire chain is entirely female, all the way to the last link, and if you're a woman, including the last link.