Michael Barbaro at the New York Times got access to a set of audio interviews in 2014 with Donald Trump, his ex-wife Ivana and his kids. 

It was presented in a two-part Run-up podcast. 

It's totally worth a listen with the caveat that some of it is cringe-worthy. 

In some ways Trump seems normal to me, for a guy raised in Queens in the 50s. But not all guys from Queens end up running for President after hosting a hit reality TV show, and all the other things Trump has done. 

Some of the judgements by the commentators are pretty harsh and condescending. But some, especially near the end of the second part, are insightful. 

There hasn't been anything else like this. I wonder if they're going to make the source audio available. It seems like a good idea. 

I have been working on my blog, Scripting News, since its inception.

There's always a hole being dug somewhere, and I whip through the home page and the stories on the home page, really quickly and move on to the next thing. I return to the home page a few years later, again very fast before jumping off to the other thing that's on my list. The many other things on my list. ;-)

But for the last couple of years, when I'd get back to the blog after digging other holes, I've been moving more slowly, and lingering longer. As a result the tools I have for editing the site are ideal. Really nice for the writer. I owe some of the inspiration to Facebook, which has a great JavaScript-based editor in their web interface. I think I've gone a number of steps beyond that. 

Anyway I got a nice bit of feedback from Vitor Miranda da Conceição on my Facebook page about the design work on Scripting News and thought it would be a good time to ask for any other comments or feedback on the new interface. I'm not stopping here, but I'm also not sure exactly where I'm going next. 

The constant motto of this site is and will be as long as I'm working..

Still diggin!

It's nice to see President Obama take the gloves off and tell the truth about what's been going on in Washington in very stark terms. 

But why did he wait so long?

What exactly did he have to lose?

I came across a video from the 2012 election yesterday where he did spell it out, he didn't name the right-wing pundits, Limbaugh et al, who control the Repubs, but he did show their faces in a cartoon.

Anyway, this raises the next question.

Did he negotiate with them? Did he try? Did he invite them to a meeting at the White House to discuss policy? If not, why? Afraid to go over the heads of the Republican leaders in Congress? I think they made it pretty clear early-on there was nothing to lose in doing that. 

One of the things he said in the video which is still true today is that there is a remarkable confluence of economics that pretty much solves all the problems that Trump has taken advantage of in this election.

1. Unemployment in manufacturing jobs in the US.

2. Low interest rates.

3. Need for infrastructure investment.

If you laid it out to Limbaugh et al, sought their opinions, as galling as it might be to do so, perhaps that would help break the logjam? Offer them jobs consulting with the new Department of Infrastructure. It's a sort of bribery of course, but relative to the benefit for the economy the price is small. (I can't imagine Al Sharpton would like it though.)

Anyway, assuming this never happened, perhaps Hillary Clinton, if she is elected, can reach out to them. Also the Koch's and Shelley Adelson too. And the billionaire hedge fund guy who's backing Trump. The worst they can do is say no.

To the purists who say you can't do business with these guys, you're wrong. You have to. They have power. If you want to get something done, they can help or hurt. We've had plenty of presidents come to Washington saying they're going to "drain the swamp." This is not a new idea. They always fail. You can pretend that it was possible they wouldn't but it's not.

Sometime in the mid-1990s, I was driving on Santa Cruz Ave in Menlo Park. Listening to NPR. They were interviewing a woman. She was talking about education, health care, national politics. Deeply intelligent. She spoke clearly, and it wasn't the usual spin, she was telling the truth. A very rare commodity in my experience. 

I wondered who it was. 

I got to my destination, a supermarket on University Drive, and waited in the parking lot until they identified her. It was Hillary Clinton. I was surprised.

Until that point I had a negative opinion of her, as many people do today. I don't want to say what I thought, it's a case study in snap judgement, coming to conclusions based on appearance, gender, the voices in my head acting out a movie for my entertainment and distraction. 

This isn't just about Clinton, or politics, it's a reminder to fact-check your impressions. Why do you feel that way about someone? How connected is the way you feel to who they really are?

The value of listening. Really hearing what someone is saying. Quieting the voices in my head rushing to judgement. Shhh. I'm busy listening. 

There was a flaw in my process. I remembered that years later when I supported her opponent in 2008. Don't underestimate Hillary Clinton. She's not what she seems to be. 

Why am I voting for Hillary Clinton on November 8? 

I want that person I was listening to on the radio in 1995 to be thinking about what we can do better in the US and around the world, and empowered to lead us there.

She has my support. Even if her opponent weren't so grossly inadequate, I still would be supporting Hillary Clinton. 

ObamaCare needs tweaks and updates, it is an ambitious program, but the Dems had two years to get it designed and passed through Congress, all while getting a stimulus through Congress to try to reboot the economy.

As soon as the Repubs took control of the House, it all came to a halt.

ObamaCare needs updates. Nothing has happened. It has remained frozen for six years. As soon as Congress and the president get together to update it, it'll be working better. It still works well. 

I am an ObamaCare user, who was very hard to insure before it. I pay my premiums, unsubsidized. I need health insurance. 

I don't like that Repubs have turned this into a political game. My health is my life. That's fucked up, and the more people understand that, the more real our elections will be.

Please help spread the message. As citizens we have no upside in throwing out ObamaCare, and it needs to be worked on. Thanks.

I'm as surprised as anyone at how powerful journalism has been in this election season. They seem to control how the mood swings in the country. I think they could probably make it so one candidate wins and the other loses. Is that rigging? Yes, I think it is. 

I agree with many of the things they say about rigged elections. But I don't think it was a secret, so if you entered the race in 2015, thinking you'd run for president, you don't get to call a do-over just because it is what it obviously was. That's bad sportsmanship. We wouldn't tolerate it in the NFL or NBA, why should we put up with it in politics?

Social media mirrors what's said on TV

On social media, a lot of what you see are just rehashes of what's said on the cable news talk shows. And they just rehash the same talking points over and over. Someone should make a list of them. Basic common-sense ideas that people say to fill the time. It feels at times like its an opera, with each singer asked to sing a part at various times by the conductor, Chris Matthews or John Dickerson or Rachel Maddow.

I guess that's journalism? Seems it fits the basic definition. It's not imho good journalism, but that isn't the point. (It's not good because questions that concern voters often don't get asked, just questions that concern insiders. Which causes all discourse, even among voters, to center on insider issues.)

What is journalism?

Then you have to ask the obvious question -- what is journalism? Here goes..

You can look at journalism as a process that yields a result. It begins with an interest or a question. Are young blacks voting for Hillary? Find young black people, ask them. Get expert opinions -- talk to pollsters and sociologists. All the time you're doing searches, read what people say on Twitter or their blogs. Write it all up, edit it, add pictures, maybe a video, give it a title, hit Publish. Feedback. Corrections. A process that yields a result, the mechanics of journalism.

Of course journalism is also a set of ethical rules. If you have an interest in the topic you're writing about, disclose it. Include context so you reflect not only what the person said, but also their intent. Never include something you know to be false without saying so. 

PS: This piece was inspired by a passionate essay in New York Mag about "citizen journalism." I think the author is correct, but the amateurs are doing it the way the pros do it. 

Good for the NYT buying Wirecutter instead of making their own.

I am a big fan of Wirecutter. When they say this is the best keyboard or router, I very often buy it, sight-unseen. The Bluetooth headphones they recommended are my favorite. I've bought a second pair (the first was spoiled in a rainstorm) and get them as gifts for friends. They really are that good and are also a good deal

I view Wirecutter as my gadget-savvy friend. I have one in real-life, David Jacobs, who started the Fetish column in the early days of Wired. When you know someone who knows what's good and can tell you why, just do what they say. It's a way of benefiting from their know-how without having to attain it yourself. 

I feel the same way about NYT reviews. If a movie gets a Critic's Choice from the Times, I go see it. Even if I end up not liking the movie, and that does happen, I still feel it's interesting to see how my point of view differed from theirs. 

If they got a cut from the sale of a movie ticket, I have no problem with that. I am pretty confident that their recommendation would be the same, either way -- as I am confident in Wirecutter. And it's good because it helps flow cash through the NYT and the readers know that, but as long as they're finding you good products, this is exactly the kind of stuff you like to pay for.

And maybe along the line, their editors will discover niches where there should be products, but aren't. It's good to write those things up too, and some of them could be projects the NYT Co could invest in. 

If you're gathering the best information first, that can have a lot of benefits, beyond getting people to pay for subscriptions. 

It's good to see the Times find other businesses that make more sense online than they did in print. Wirecutter and the things that follow from it are certainly one example of such a business.

A few days ago I realized I could change my name on Twitter without blowing anything up. I had sort of been aware of this feature, but had too many other things swirling through my mind to consider changing it.

My first change was simple: Dave The Blogger. It was an instant hit. 

Then the next day: Dave the Bad Hombre. 

But then I liked Dave The Blogger again, and so it is now. 

I like it because:

It's simple and friendly.

I am a blogger, and have been for a long time!

What blogging is has been muddied-up by reporters who decided they were bloggers. Then they decided blogging was over, which really means they realized they were journalists, and not bloggers, even though they never properly asked the question of what a blogger actually is. (It's never too late, and it's important.)

Since no one else wants it, I decided to claim it myself.

Which could result in the Tom Sawyer effect, which imho would be a Good Thing for blogging. Win-win!

No guarantees I won't be something else soon. Halloween is coming up after all! :-)

PS: The big controversy is going to be is the word the in the title capitalized or not? To confuse you I have done it both ways in this post! Haha.

I love photos on blog posts, but the content management side of it is vexing. It has to be something I'll use. And the pictures have to show up in the preview of the story on Twitter and Facebook, and other places that pull the metadata we embed in our stories for those two services.

A few weeks ago, I made the metadata for each story user-editable, and to my surprise, I actually keep up with it.  So now it was disappointing when you see this clever or snarky or beautiful picture in Facebook but it doesn't appear on the story when you view it on my site. 

So I decided it was time to fix that. 

Now they show up at the top of the page. 

Let's see if people like it as much as I do. ;-)

Mets fans aren't dicks, so congrats to the Cubs. Okay I said it.

And there is the consolation of knowing the Dodgers lost. That was the silver lining of this year's NLCS. Either the Cubs lost or the Dodgers lost. Either way that's pretty good you know.

So while everyone else is saying how cool it is that the Cubs won, and the curse is over etc, as a Mets fan, well if the Cubs win the World Series the one team we have looked down on for the entire existence of our team, up till now, well, I guess it'll be hard to do that. But Mets fans are resourceful. We'll probably figure out a way to do it anyway.

Our motto used to be that the Mets only really need two other teams. The Cubs so we have someone to beat in the regular season and the Red Sox so we have someone to beat in the World Series. Well, we know what happened with the Red Sox and the Curse of their Whatever, geez so much drama, and now we have to suffer the humiliation of seeing the fucking Cubs in the World Series. Honestly, I enjoyed last year's postseason more. 

I'll watch the World Series, and it's hard to imagine that I'll root for the Indians, they are after all an American League team and we all know the American League is not a real league. But I don't really think I'll be able to root for the Cubs. I think they'll understand, and they probably won't even give a shit. I wouldn't if I were them. 


There's a story out there that Peter Thiel is forming a group to buy Twitter, making their offer as early as next week. 

Bid for Twitter by a new coalition backed by Peter Thiel won't come before Q3'16 earnings results on Oct 27, sources say.

That's astonishing

Thiel sued Gawker out of existence.

Spoke in support of Trump at the RNC.

Gave $1.25 million to the Trump campaign.

This could be part of Trump's post-election network strategy. Buying Twitter would be a brilliant move. In this context you shouldn't value Twitter as tech properties are generally valued. It's like CNN before the first Gulf War. It's where news makers go to make news. It has no peer, and with network effects, it could be a monopoly for quite some time. To have Thiel in control of that is a very bad deal for everyone who doesn't share his politics. The Gawker suit is all the evidence you need of that. 


I don't know who Kontra is, but he has a fair number of followers.

DHH takes the rumor seriously. 

Here's what I wrote about Thiel being on Facebook's board. 

Obviously Thiel owning Twitter is even more serious. 

PS: Ville Vainio observes "He could just do it as a revenge, again."

My longtime friend Doc Searls has a vision, one that I fully endorse, of turning the tables on vendors, in an interesting way.

They talk about Customer Relationship Management, which views the world from the vendor's perspective. 

Doc proposes Vendor Relationship Management, which is a similar idea, but designed from the customer's point of view.

In the CRM view, the vendor creates the products and then sells them to targeted customers. You end up being pitched on things you already have or things you don't want. Occasionally they hit the bulls eye and offer you something you really want. But that doesn't happen often. 

3D printing is an example of Doc's VRM idea. The vendor provides the means of manufacturing, you specify exactly what you want. The product is created, sent to you, and theoretically you're happy and the vendor makes a profit. But it depends on the customer becoming a product designer. I might not want to do that. I might just want the perfect product and am willing to pay for someone else, an expert, to design it for me. 

Responsive advertising

A more satisfying version of VRM goes like this.

I am watching a lot of TV these days, with the election and World Series, and the NBA season starting on Tuesday. I like my couch, but since I'm spending so much time on it, maybe it could be optimized. Or maybe I could add a new piece of furniture specifically for TV watching. 

How this works in the post-VRM world: I find a way to express the desire, and make it available to vendors, either making it public or putting it somewhere the vendors I've authorized can access. Their bots scan all the requests as they come online, decide if they have a product that might fit the bill. If so, they send me a proposal, otherwise known as an ad. 

But it's different from the ads we have today, it's responsive, to borrow a term from web design. They know what I'm looking for, because I told them, and it can present itself to me in that context.


Other things I would put in my VRM outbox --

  • I'm always thinking about a new place to live, here's what I'm dreaming about now. A place where I can afford a house with a hot tub and a pool, reasonably close to a major airport and at least one good university. Good bike riding. Nearby friends. Also if you find any AirBnB-type rentals in such a place, let me know, because it'd be great to try it out before doing something more permanent. 
  • I'm tired of the usual computer conferences. I don't want to pick up a new skill, or meet programmers, or venture capitalists. I'm interested in academic-style conferences about the convergence of news and technology. Or a conference about creating online spaces for reasonable people in red states and blue states to discuss the issues of the day in a civilized manner. I don't mind meeting other programmers and investors in that context, btw. 
  • I am tall, but my legs are average size. I have a very large torso. I have trouble finding a good fall or spring jacket that fits. No problem in summer (no jacket needed) or winter, (bulky jackets are fine). It's that inbetween season that's awkward. Send me a catalog of choices. 
  • I have newly configured vision. I have yet to find reading glasses that work well for computer use. I know there are people with experience with this, are there any vendors who specialize in such products?

These are just examples meant to illustrate the idea. I think when this idea is fully realized it'll feel something like a search engine combined with email-based alerts. And because it's centered on commerce, on money changing hands, there should be plenty of investor money available. Yet I don't see any evidence that investment is flowing this way. 

Someday commerce will work like this and it will be as revolutionary in comparison to today's net-based shopping as it was to physical-world shopping a few years ago.

BTW, on a humorous note, you could think of this post as a VRM query for VRM itself.

Let's figure out how to use online systems to create some kind of useful collegial communication across red-state/blue-state lines. 

Citizen-to-citizen. No professional politicians, no media, no campaigners. People who have different views about issues like abortion, the deficit, jobs, culture, even race and gender. The thing we have in common is the ability to listen, and appreciate that there are many valid points of view, and we are willing to compromise. We know that in a country that's so large and diverse, no one gets everything they feel they're entitled to. None of us are trying to get everything for ourselves. 

Maybe something like the UN after World War II. Right after you fight a war, plant the seeds to help lessen the chance of a new one at least for a few years. Learn the lessons of war. Take steps to foster discussion and listening. 

There are people in red states and blue states who aren't trying to make a point, to prove something, to achieve total victory -- people who see a bigger picture, that we're one country, and that you have to practice to be one.

A status report on the rebooted Share Your OPML project. 

I updated the feedlist.json file, but this is the last time that file will be updated, if you've built something that depends on it, you should transition to the next version, see below.

New file -- syo.json includes stats, when the file was generated, how many feeds are in the feed list, and a version number, so this file can be updated without breakage. 

BTW, I'm doing this work in Frontier, which is faster than JavaScript for this kind of work.

At this point the flow of new OPML files has slowed to a trickle. I'm going to leave this here for a while and see what happens.

If Trump doesn't respect the voters before he's in office, what's the chance he'd let an election vote him out.

I had dinner with John Hinderaker at a Harvard blogging conference in 2005. He seemed like a nice guy, and even though our politics at that time were opposite, I thought it was nice that we got along.

Over the years however he has gone more and more off the deep end. If he has any knowledge or intelligence, he's suppressing it. I guess it's a business model?

I let it slide, there are a lot of jerks in right wing blogging. But this howler on his site got me thinking. Like a lot of others in right wing media, he's comparing the recount in Florida in the 2000 election with the 2016 election.

There is no comparison. Gore didn't contest the results of the election, everyone did. I can say that with some authority because I voted Republican in that election. I wanted Bush to win. And I remember the torture leading up to the Supreme Court decision, which we all felt, not just Gore. And I applauded him when he conceded, saying he took one for the country.

That race hinged on which way Florida went, and it was a virtual tie. A few hundred votes either way made the difference. And there were enough voting irregularities in that election so that the outcome was in question.

Nothing like that has happened in this election. For crying out loud we haven't even had the election yet! 

Where Gore showed grace, Trump is putting his own greed ahead of our democracy. He is the opposite of grace. He's not taking one for the country, he's forcing the country to take one for him. So what if we have a 240-year tradition of peaceful transfers of power. Anything to keep himself in the news. Even shitting on the continuity of our government. 

I wonder what it will take to get the Hinderakers of the world to sober up. Do they get that Trump is a puppet for the Russian govt? If he wins we will be a toy for Putin to play with? We're the greater country John, by far. Why do you support such a midget of a man for president in his hour of maximum despair? What makes you so desperate?

Look I'm not saying you should support Clinton, but how can you support someone in his undermining of our democratic legacy? Is it really his to trash? Is that what you really want? Why?

Is there such a thing as a VR computer monitor?

If so it might solve a real problem for me.

It's a long story, but because one of my eyes has an artificial lens, I now have to wear a contact lens in the other eye. 

I know there are progressive lenses but I haven't gotten a prescription that works for me.

As a result I have to wear glasses while I use the computer and to read.

But my vision when reading the computer screen is awful. Blurry, I see double at times. No matter how I turn my head I can't get a good look at what's on the screen. It's demoralizing. Makes writing harder. Reading is much harder.

On the other hand, my normal not-reading vision is much better.

I don't know if I'm ever going to get the right reading glasses or get a progressive contact lens that works.

All of this is preamble for the question.

Can I get a pair of goggles that can be hooked up to my Mac's video, and give me a clear, adjustable view of my computer screen? Adjustable in the sense that I can vary the correction, like switching between 1-strength reading glasses, to 2 or 2.5 or whatever.

If they weren't too cumbersome, I would use it to read on my iPad too.

Hopefully this question makes sense.

I've been following the FiveThirtyEight  polls-plus number through the summer and into the fall. My mood goes up and down with the percentage chance that Hillary Clinton will win. 

I've always wondered what exactly does the number mean?

Look at it this way. If the polls accurately measure people's votes, then there is zero probability that she will lose, because the votes add up to enough electoral votes to win the election. 

So why is there a non-zero chance of her winning? What could happen that would cause her to lose if the chance of winning is accurate at approx 84 percent?

I gave this some thought and listened to Tuesday's edition of the Run-up podcast and came up with this way of expressing it.

The polls do not accurately measure people's votes. 

Here are some ways errors are introduced.

  • Pollsters don't weigh demographics accurately. They make assumptions about what percentage of voters will be white or black; Hispanic or Asian; college-educated or not; rural, urban or suburban; rich, middle-class or poor, etc. Those assumptions are wrong. That's a fact. How wrong? That's part of the uncertainty.
  • People don't always tell the truth. The Bradley Effect. They tell the pollster something that makes them feel good about themselves (I'm voting for Mother Teresa) but in the end they vote for someone bad (Adolf Hitler).
  • People change their minds. Something happens, a new leaked email shows that Hillary has a nasty habit that we think is awful and disqualifies her. Or Trump turns out to be a sexual predator (oops that's already factored in). 
  • Who is likely to vote? A poll respondent who isn't going to vote won't be part of the result, but they might be counted in the polling. You can't simply take them at their word. How should you weigh that?

The statisticians at FiveThirtyEight know about these errors, based on past experience with polling vs actual elections, and have theories about how much they affect the outcome. And that's weighed against how close it is. If 9 of every 10 respondents say they are going to vote for Clinton, no matter how big the errors are, they're going to say she's got a near-lock on the election. Not much chance the errors could be so big as to turn that kind of polling into a losing result. On the other hand if it's just 6 of 10 then the errors matter a lot and the election becomes a tossup, "within the margin of error," a pollster might say.

So when they say it's an 84 percent likely Clinton win, that means the numbers overwhelmingly say she's going to win, enough to give the statistician a lot of confidence in the prediction. How much? 84 percent. Heh.

Today, sad news that David Bunnell died yesterday at 69.

My thoughts.. When when he ran the PC and Mac news mags he was accessible. And he helped small developers like my company, Living Videotext. I got to know him better, personally, when I lived in Berkeley a few years back. He was of my generation in the tech industry. The milestones in his career correspond to milestones in mine. When the PC was new we read his PC Mag and PC World. The day the Mac came out there were copies of his MacWorld Magazine on every seat. It's a very sad day for those of us who knew Dave.

I have a small inkling of what it must be like to be a woman in a world of grabby entitled men, because of a near-miss I had on my bike last summer.

I was riding downhill on the west side of Manhattan, toward the Hudson River, which is one of my regular rides. A car weaves in and out of the bike lane in front of me and forces me to hit the brakes to avoid getting hit by him. This is a dangerous move, if you brake too hard you go over the handlebars. Not a good thing, it happened to me a couple of years ago and I was in bed for a week. Lots of blood. 

But I didn't go down, and continued west till I came to a red light and I could see the car that cut me off waiting for the light. As I passed I tapped his window and said he cut me off, very loudly so he and everyone else could hear. This is the kind of loop-close you dream of. Usually the cars just speed away and you're left with all that anger and adrenaline in your blood and nothing to do with it.

So I pull up about four car lengths in front of him and wait for the light to change. I hear him getting out of the car, and I think oh shit what if he's a big guy, but I see he's not. He's a little creepy dude. 

As he approaches, he pulls a familiar west coast passive-hostile line. 

"Why all the aggression?" 

Deep breath. I said firmly "Because you almost killed me." 

"Oh I get it. I have all this metal around me, and your bumper is your skeleton, so I'm sorry I almost killed you." He gets back in the car and we're all okay.

But that isn't what happened.


He said "I want to give you a hug." 

To which I thought, my god a hug is the absolute last thing I want from this piece of shit. I want him to implode and disappear from the face of the earth, or at least get back in his fucking car. But he comes and hugs me. What can I do? Strangle him? I'd go to jail. So I had to let this piece of shit do his thing. And the whole ride and the rest of the day I couldn't get this ugly feeling of having been invaded by something vile and corrupt. 

And that was just an unwanted hug. 

I don't want to even think what it would be like if it was more than that. And yes, I had the option at any time of snapping his neck, an option most women don't have. 

So I have a small idea, a very small idea of how awful it can be.

Imagine that a big banking firm has a corporate event in Central Park. They not only trash the place, but they leave behind such a mess that the park isn't usable again for at least ten years. It's possible it may never recover.

Now no one told the bank they had to have their outing in the common space. They could have bought their own land and trashed that instead. 

That's how Google used and then walked away from RSS. We're trying, slowly, to clean up after them, the best we can. And they keep digging out the foundation underneath us. 

To create such a mess and then just leave as if it has no responsibility to clean up after itself, I think eventually we will understand that that is corporate narcissism in the spirit of Exxon and Enron. Goldman Sachs and AIG.

It seems so crazy for Google of all companies to trash open infrastructure on the net. It seems their whole business depends on it.

In the old days Steve Jobs used to talk about personal computers being like fractional horsepower motors. 

The kind of thing you'd use to create an air conditioner or lawn mower, for example. A Mac was like that, but for computers.

We had much success a few years back with the idea of a fractional horsepower HTTP server.

And we can do the same for social media server.

They're interesting things!

I'm playing around with one such community at screen2.io. Join us there at 9PM Eastern tonight to watch the final presidential debate, share your observations in real time.

The technology is nothing revolutionary, but it is easy, both to use and to set up as a server. It may not be the final toolkit, but it's on the path. If there's a next one it will be even easier. 

Facebook doesn't have an exclusive on easy-to-author content management. And the cool thing is, if I create my own we don't need to accept their limits on what we can do with it. I'm thinking of the basics of the web -- linking, styles, titles and podcasts. Essential features that Facebook refuses to support for users. Unacceptable.

And Twitter? Well the 140-char limit is, for me, also unacceptable. There are so many things I can't post to Twitter because I won't hack up my writing to fit into such a small space. You may be a better writer than I am, but I am me, and ideas coming out of my head have to flow through my writing interface. So I'm experiencing a long-term inability to communicate, thanks to Twitter. Again, unacceptable. Finally it's time to do something about it. 

As I like to say..

Still diggin!

I'm trying to think but nothing happens!


PS: Summary: 9PM Eastern, screen2.io, debate watch party.

You know how years ago reporters would do profiles of people by following them around for a few days. Here's an idea. Do that on social media. Go everywhere they go and see how they interact with others. Key thing, these days they don't have to know you're doing it.

We need a Be Kind To Others Day on social media. 

I don't know about you but I'm burning out on how SERIOUS all this shit is.

And of course this famous Captain and Tennille song would be the theme for BKTOD.

It's really interesting how many "format collisions" there are with the # character.

  • First, it is used to delimit #hashtags.
  • In Markdown, when it appears at the beginning of a line, it's treated as a headline.
  • In XML it's used in the representation of a character with its numeric code. For example F is a capital F.

This came up when I added Markdown support in screen2.io. When a hashtag appeared at the beginning of the first line, the Markdown processor would remove the # and embolden and enlarge the line text. Not the intention of the author.

How I worked around it. If a # appears as the first character in a post, I replace it with the XML encoding, # -- and so the Markdown processor doesn't see it as anything special and leaves it alone.

When the text flows to Twitter, if that connection is enabled, the # is left alone.

On John Naughton's blog, a link to an article that suggests it might have been a mistake for news orgs to go "digital first." Why? Most of the readers and money are still in the print versions of the news.

A disclaimer. Naughton occupies a warm spot in my heart because he was the only print journalist to acknowledge the 20-year anniversary of the blog. None of the other great news orgs thought it was newsworthy, either when it happened, or 10 or 20 years hence. That might appear random, but actually it's not.

See it's not exactly a good controlled test they've done in journalism-land, which is more of a priesthood than a hotbed of innovation. Yes, there were some journalists in the early days of the web who thought it would revolutionize their art, I even learned from them early-on in an experiment I did with the striking San Francisco newspapers. But for the most they have gone to the Internet with a feeling of necessity not wonder. You almost never hear a journalist or a journalism exec speak of all the possibilities that open up with electronic distribution, in the way a tech person ponders the exciting future opening up in front of them.

The big missed opportunity of electronic distribution of news is that there is no cost of goods. You can include as much content as there is. And therefore you can let the sources, esp ones who are good writers, and who have an ability to put their own interests aside, and write passionately about the issues and opportunities of the day, speak directly to the readers, without having reporters filter and dumb-down what they say. If you've ever had the experience of being interviewed by a reporter and then see how your thoughts are expressed, you know how valuable it would be sometimes to cut out the middleman. They go for the salacious, try to make you look like a hypocrite, on the theory (I guess) that that sells subscriptions. Why should I as a reader care if it sells subscriptions? I read in order to be informed and inspired (and yes, titillated and amused).

As with everything, the net offers the opportunity to disintermediate. But journalism has instead approached the Internet as the electronic equivalent of the paper distribution system. Nothing more than that. So why should we be surprised if it fails to achieve the potential promised by the hype?

As Upton Sinclair once said: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

Imho, that is exactly what's been happening in journalism.

Once blogging took hold, there was no excuse for reporters and their bosses to not see the opportunity to help the sources to go directly to the readers. We're still waiting for journalism to embrace that opportunity. 

Note that other activities online haven't stagnated the way news has. Discussions (Facebook), singles (Tinder), classifieds (eBay), Amazon, airlines, pornography, gaming, entertainment, politics -- all have all embraced online distribution, and all those activities are forever changed.

And even news hasn't waited for the news industry. It happens on Twitter now. Why didn't one of the established news orgs see the opportunity to give newsmakers a platform from which to make news? Instead it happened by accident, to a tech org that still doesn't understand how revolutionary what they've created is.

Sometimes it's good to flip a statement around and see if it makes sense. "Journalism will always be printed on dead trees." How does that sound? Does that even begin to make sense? 

Personally, when the web started carrying news I noticed that my print subscriptions to the NYT and WSJ were staying unread, so I cancelled them. I can't even read a printed newspaper anymore. I've tried. I used to have a ritual where I'd buy a printed paper for a plane flight, or treated myself to breakfast out with a printed newspaper. Last time I did it, I took out my iPhone and read the news there instead. It just works better electronically. I can't imagine ever going back.

PS: The study cited by Naughton in his blog post is also cited in this story by Jack Shafer on Politico.

Cross-posted from Facebook.

I freshened up my Facebook profile.

Took off Small Picture, the company exists but it didn't become what I hoped it would.

I added my time at Harvard to the profile, though they don't have a way to express non-degree work. I was a researcher and in-house innovator. We got a lot done in just two years.

I also added a 100-char bio. "Media hacker, blogger, software dev, residing in NYC. Always playing with new tools and ideas."

Starting to think about next things I want to do.

I've more or less created the software I set out to create when I retooled in JavaScript three years ago. It's all there. Now it has become more of a hobby and less of an obsession.

Also thinking about relocating. I love NY but now I find I want a hot tub and a pool and more suburban living. Maybe Boston or Portland. Not sure.

If I were teaching computer science, I'd start with a working piece of software, probably an HTTP server, and give the students a series of assignments. 

Assumptions: The software is documented, has users, and bugs, avoiding breakage is important. 

0. Set up and install the software on your own server. Verify and demonstrate that it can handle a request. You can add a new page to the site. Authorize a new user. 

1. You've encountered a problem. Write a great bug report.

2. You've got an itch. You wish the software could do X. Come up with a plan for adding the feature, outlining the steps, and how you're going to test the new version. (Two versions of this assignment, one with X specified, and another where the student comes up with X.)

3. Write a doc showing the user how to turn on a feature in the product, with all the configuration options.

4. Here's a bug report. Find the problem and fix it, without breakage. How will you verify that there was no breakage. Document the change, and circulate the change note to the users of the product.

5. One of the features of your product is new and competitors are copying it. It's time to document the file formats and protocols it uses so your competitors can interop with you. Write the spec in clear language with numerous examples so users won't get locked-in to their products, or yours for that matter.

Most important, this would all be with an existing working piece of software that real people use. Most student projects are scaled-down versions of real-world projects. They don't behave like real communities. Esp because the users have expectations about how the software works.

Buzzfeed reports that Jon Podesta's email was hacked with a straightforward phishing attack. 

The emails, which were sent to DNC and Clinton staff appeared almost identical to the standard warnings Gmail users get asking them to reset their passwords. Once clicked, the links took users to a page that imitated a Google login page, but which was stealing their password information.

It's great to have insight into the systems that the campaign was using. Presumably by now they have better control over email. 

An important point -- what are the chances the hackers also sent phishing emails to members of the Trump campaign and the RNC? Why wouldn't they. And even if the emails weren't disclosed, they could still be useful to the hackers. Think about the potential for blackmail.

Anyway, more articles like this please, translating technical reports into terms that anyone familiar with computer systems can understand. 

How to avoid phishing attacks

Basically if you get an email saying "change your password and here's the URL," ignore the last part and go to the site yourself. Or you could probably just skip it, figuring that if they put the URL in the email they're probably phishing you. 

Same if you get a phone call saying it's your credit card company and they ask for your password. Say I'll call you back at the number on the card.

The writers of Battlestar Galactica were incredibly prescient.

Some small spoilers follow, so if you haven't seen the series and want to stay a virgin, hit the Back button now. 

The basic plot: a fleet of starships are at war with a race of robots that also have starships. 

This was the second war, one of the lessons from the first was that you couldn't network the fleet because that was an attack vector from the previous war. I think it might have even been how the humans lost the first war, but my memory is fuzzy.

In one episode they had to, for an instant, reconnect the network, and as soon as they did it was flooded with sentient viruses, cousins of the robots they were fighting. Clever, right? I mean if beings in human-like bodies could be intelligent robots, why not mere pieces of software flying around at the speed of light over a computer network?

This is of course one of the reasons geeks loved Battlestar Galactica so much. The writers were smart and they thought of stuff like this. 

Now they were prescient because that is exactly what is starting to happen in a pretty huge way to our civilization, only instead of robots, it's Nazis. We've been seduced by network technology, from Napster to Tinder to Snapchat, Amazon, airlines, your bank, the power grid, cars, everything has an Internet address. We're like the denizens of the BSG world before they learned that there's a price to pay for all that networking.

Trump was the best troll ever, but there were already some great trolls that had a lot of practice. Trump was able to troll himself to the Repub nomination. CNN and CBS et al were able to make billions promoting him as a TV show. Now they're running propaganda programs designed by the Nazis and other really evil people who were very effective at creating chaos before everything was networked. 

The election? That's just the first act. Twitter will still be running after the election.

PS: The tech industry appears tuned out, the news industry barely understands the tech.

I just wrote a simple data gathering script that loops over all the OPML files that people have uploaded to SYO and generates a list of feeds that more than one person subscribes to, ranked from most popular to least.


It's obviously a very small sample of users, but it is enough to be interesting and it might give you some ideas for feeds to follow, which is the whole point of doing this.

It's funny that my blog is not #1, but it wasn't the last time I ran the service, that was TechCrunch (since they helped promote the service) and that's totally cool. And the person who is #1 totally deserves it.

If you want to upload your own OPML data, follow the instructions in this post

My uncle, had he lived, would be the same age as Donald Trump. Like Trump, he grew up in Queens

I loved my uncle, but I have to say, he judged women by their bodies in the same way Trump does. He didn't do it on TV, in front of rallies. But he also didn't make much of an attempt to hide his opinions.

He had what I felt were very bizarre ideas about sexual relationships. I've tried to even write down some of his ideas, but I can't even find the words. Things he thought of as betrayals were just people being more complex than he thought they were, or people changing.

I heard someone describe Trump as an anachronism, a man who acts as if he just came out of a Las Vegas steam room with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. A man who thinks of women as broads or dames. A pinup girl, a Playboy bunny.

On the other hand, he does hire women for senior jobs. Not sure how to make sense of that. 

But most if not all of who he is, as we're learning about his sexuality, is rooted in America's fading past. It's as if the old Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson was back on the air, and life seemed simpler, because the people were younger and happier. 

Boys will be boys! 

But as we're seeing through Trump, it was also a mean time, not something we should want to return to.

When you look inside other people's families what you see can be disturbing. But to the people inside the family, it's just normal, it's life as usual.

A story...

I once dated a woman, I'm not going to say her real name, so let's call her Beth. An attractive, smart woman. I met her at a workshop and we hit it off. We went out a few times and it became a relationship, if you know what I mean.

She invited me to spend the weekend at a house her family owned in the mountains north of San Francisco. She had two brothers, and that weekend they were there too. It was a large house.

Something weird was going on. The brothers were incredibly rude to her, and then after a bit it started to get physical. They would bump into her. Push her. Not exactly hitting her, but the contact was deliberate, and clearly not affectionate. They called her ugly names. 

Privately I asked her what was up. She said they had always been like that and I shouldn't worry about it. But I did! I wanted to say something to the men, hey Beth is a good person, stop fucking around. But there were two of them, and it wasn't my family and it didn't seem to bother her. So I didn't say or do anything.

We spent the weekend apart from them. We ate by ourselves. Went for hikes, went to a movie in town. 

But I never saw her the same way. I was aware this was happening to me, that something was shifting, and I tried to figure it out. The way her brothers treated her still disturbs me to this day. But to her, and presumably to them, it was normal family life. Each of them had their role to play. Her role was to be the outsider, part of the family, but not really.

I wonder where this behavior originated. Did their father have a sister who the family treated this way? Was the mother a sister of brothers who they pushed around? How does a family get to a place where this is normal?

I mention this now because I see friends trying to figure out Donald Trump. The answer is that we have no insight into what happened in the house he grew up in. What his relationship was like with his parents and siblings. We have little clues, but it's likely even DJT himself couldn't tell you much about it. He doesn't seem like the type of person who has done a lot of self-discovery and digging through his past. It seems as if he just accepted what was given to him as the normal way things are. 

September 2005: "Ask a fish to describe water. It can't because it doesn't know that water exists."

  1. I know DJ Trump is a very bad person. I know. I really do.
  2. Everything he does says "I need love, and I don't know how to ask for it."

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