Monday, June 1, 2015 at 1:25 PM

How I try to work with journalists

I read this piece by Charles Arthur thinking maybe this is the breakthrough. Maybe we can start this discussion in earnest. Maybe in fact a lot was gained by putting programmers and journalists in the same room, if only to prove that's not the way to do it!

Here's how I think it should work, and I think the germ of the idea is there in Charles' piece. He says he is an amateur programmer. He can do some PHP and AppleScript. In the past he's worked a bit in COBOL and C++. That's awesome. We can use that.

How about if we make great tools that are designed for people like Charles to create their own wonderful web projects.

Two good things could come from it.

  1. They might make some good software. Don't doubt it. One of my best programmer buddies was a lawyer. He had a good programmer mind, but hadn't really exercised it. Now he teaches me stuff about Node.js. By giving ever-easier and less complex development tools to people who aren't developers, we're going to as a result find some of them are better devs than they are journalists. I believe those people will be uniquely able to listen to journalists, because inside their own mind there is one.

  2. They might create a breakthrough. It might also be an egregious hack, that you can't believe a human mind could possibly do it so wrong, but it might still be a great idea! That's exactly how Adam Curry showed me how to do the "last yard" idea he wanted to do that resulted in podcasting. He took my source code, and hacked it in awful egregious ways (I can't say that enough) but it did something I had not thought of. He had tried to explain it in words, but couldn't get through my thick skull. But showing me that he believed in the idea enough to so thoroughly humiliate himself was enough to get me to listen.

There probably are other great reasons, but these are two that I have personally experienced, so can vouch for the fact that they're real.

So believing this, for a very long time actually, I have been working at trying to lower the barriers. I called one of my companies UserLand, because I wanted the users more involved in creating software.

I have shipped a bunch of tools that make it easy for an inspired user to cobble together their own web server, their own CMS, without the limits of the software that was created by a priesthood, one that's invested in keeping things complicated and inaccessible. (I'm sure journalists are familiar with the idea of an elite priesthood.)

That's why I say to Charles, to think of all programmers as having the same outlook, the same goals, is as ridiculous as thinking all columnists and reporters do. I want you to win. Most of the others don't really care if you do or don't.

I keep saying this, let's work together. Maybe now we can?

Last built: Mon, Aug 24, 2015 at 9:05 AM

By Dave Winer, Monday, June 1, 2015 at 1:25 PM. Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.