News and the mighty Mississippi
Monday, April 18, 2016 by Dave Winer

A long-time tech journalist Jason Pontin has a longstanding grudge with me about my use of the term Sources Go Direct.

I've never understood his issue. When he writes about it, and he has at length, he talks about how I don't understand advertising. 

I will concede that all I know about advertising is this:

  1. I've had ads directed at me since I was a kid. So in a sense I'm a user of advertising. 
  2. For a short while in the 80s I spent a lot of money on advertising, hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, to promote my products. Without advertising we wouldn't have sold any product.
  3. I don't run ads on my blog. Never have. Don't want them. They interfere with getting my ideas out there. I don't want any distractions when people are reading my stuff. I'm not saying anything about anyone else, btw, just me. 

But what does that have to do with Sources Go Direct? I don't see how they're connected.

Here's an analogy. I'm fascinated by the way the Mississippi River flows. In the big picture it flows from northern Minnesota to the mouth of the river in the Gulf of Mexico. It will do that as long as there's a North America, and as long as the land tilts the way it does. On its way south it flows past the city of New Orleans. 

I've read a bunch of articles over the years that say that the path of the river changes all time. It still flows north and south, but eventually it will not flow past New Orleans. And the third largest port in the US will be out of business. 

So if I wrote a blog post about that, I might say that it could be smart to buy real estate on the new path, and that the economy of New Orleans must eventually change to depend on something other than being a port. Would I be responsible in some way for the change of flow of the river? Would there be any way, I, a mortal human being could alter the flow of something as great as the Mississippi River?

No, of course I couldn't.

Now -- my role is a little different when it comes to the flow of news, and I'm sure that's what JP is thinking. I'm a software developer. Really that's what I do when I wake up in the morning. I develop software. I've been doing it pretty much full time since I was in my early 20s, and I'm in my early 60s now. 

In the early 90s, I figured something out, before a lot of other people did. That the flow of information was about to be radically transformed by the Internet. It's something I had been sure of for a long time before that. I loved computers because they enabled people to communicate more effectively. The advent of the Internet with its open low-tech protocols would change the way we communicate. Now it wasn't just something I expected to happen, in the early 90s it was actually happening, and it was every bit as big as I had hoped it would be.

So I started writing about it, and that turned into blogging, and I developed software that made the writing easier so more people could do it, and that was blogging software. That's what I did. 

I want journalism to succeed. I love news. I don't want the news business to collapse.  I want it to thrive in the new environment. But it can't unless it changes. Yet what I see is journalists trying to keep things the same way, much the way New Orleans and the Army Corps of Engineers have heroically kept the Mississippi from changing course. But they know someday it will, no matter how much money they spend. And the same is true of journalism, imho.