How Bout Them Niners!
Friday, January 27, 1995 by Dave Winer.
These days I can't write a DaveNet piece every morning. But this is a DaveNet morning. It's 6:18AM. Looking out over a dark city. I see the lights of the Golden Gate Bridge. Before this piece is over it'll be daylight. On KRQR they say it's going to be in the 70s today and clear! Hope you're not digging out from a Nor'easter. We're going to *basking* here in California on the first of February. Come visit!
My writing is choppy. I haven't really gotten comfortable in San Francisco, but I'm loving it. Getting used to a new keyboard and monitor, new table, new view, new walks, new bay. Lots of new!
So I pick this day to approach one of the most difficult and sensitive subjects around. It's the last section of this piece. But please read the first few sections first. They'll set up the mood.
Five SuperBowl victories! Man.
It was a boring game, as football goes (it was the only game I watched this year), but the commercials were great! We rated them on a scale of 1 to 10. The best one: the guy is trying to get a Pepsi vending machine to take his dollar bill. But you don't know that until the end. As the plot unveils, clearly this is either a 1 or an 11. The punchline is delivered -- we rollllled on the floor, hootin and hollerin. An 11. Yeah!
The worst commercial was from Taco Bell. A beautiful moment of love. Our hearts soften and open, we're ready to accept a lovely, sentimental, even sappy and gushy message. What do they do? Tell us how great they are, without telling us why! I hated it. [And who owns Taco Bell? Pepsi!]
Like everything else that's entertaining, a great commercial involves you in the story without hurting or insulting you. Pepsi rules.
Was there an Apple commercial? If so, I didn't catch it.
Monday afternoon I visited the headquarters of Wired magazine, met Louis Rosetto, email@example.com, and the people that produce the HotWired website, Andrew Anker, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Chip Bayers, email@example.com.
The first thing I realized on walking into the big room with about 30 people and a network of Macintoshes -- this is probably the biggest website in the world. Maybe not in terms of hits-per-day, but in terms of the size and professionalism of the organization behind it.
The URL for the HotWired website is http://www.hotwired.com.
After getting the tour, we had a two-hour discussion where we touched on all the current issues of doing business on the web.
We hate the word "content." The technology suppliers view web writing as peripheral. Andrew said it should be called context instead of content. We laughed. Ain't it the truth! Think about it.
They're having fun at HotWired. We're going to be friends.
In the last few days, instead of writing DaveNet essays, I wrote the docs for AutoWeb 1.0. They're a little drier, but I did manage to include some of the humor and irreverence of DaveNet rants in the AutoWeb docs. [See the Requirements page for an example.]
The manual is a structure of web pages. They're the best docs I've ever written because they're infinintely updatable, nothing is locked down. But they're also the best because I know people will read them! That makes a realllll difference to Dave-the-docs-writer.
In the past, we shipped our docs on paper -- which means you can't easily change the product after shipping the docs. This is good, it forces a certain discipline as you approach version 1.0. If we document it we're going to have to live with it and support it forever. Think! [Aretha!]
But paper is also an *awful* way to document software. We're still shipping docs that were written in 1993. We've learned so much since then, but it isn't reflected in the manual, and therefore it can't be reflected in the software. As a progress-inhibitor, printed docs are almost as bad as FUD.
Then we evolved. Like a lot of other software companies, we have AOL, CompuServe and AppleLink forums. When we'd release a new module for Frontier, it would be uploaded to a data library with a short blurb, two paragraphs, max. Inside the package is a Word 5.1 text file with simple markups, screen shots, installation instructions, programming tips. As I wrote these docs, I was aware that most people wouldn't read them. It made the docs impossible to write. And achieved the expected result. No one read em! This system didn't work either.
I think docs on the web really work. I have been able to document features and bugs in 1.0b5, knowing that I can revise them when 1.0 ships, and when 1.1 ships and on and on. Yesterday I started a FAQs page. A testimonials page. I responded to the experiences my users were actually having. The docs evolve to fit the product, and that makes it possible for the product to evolve to fit needs.
The net: we're going to be able to support a lot more people more effectively because the new medium has so many advantages.
The URL for the AutoWeb docs is http://www.msen.com/~dwiner/autoweb10docs_119.html
Steve Michel, firstname.lastname@example.org, really influenced my thinking on this. He told me a story -- at first he used to copy and paste text from his web browser to store on his hard disk. Then he realized he didn't have to. His net connection is a free local call, and the Netcom connection costs a flat $15 a month, no matter how much time he's online. Steve now views the web as just another part of his hard disk. That's right! I'm doing the same. No more copying text onto my hard disk. I use the web as god intended me to.
I hope every AutoWeb user adds the UserLand website to his or her Bookmarks menu and checks it frequently.
Here we go...
Woman says: "Men are helpless." Look at her face. There's a wide grin. This is a joke. Don't be offended.
Man agrees. Laughs. Smiles. Inside the man is furious. It's condescending. He doesn't say anything.
It happens all the time. Women dismiss men as inferior, incompetent, helpless, disorganized, worthless people. It's disrespectful. Negative energy. If women knew how this makes men feel, they'd stop doing it.
And, as always, there are exceptional women who view each man as an individual, and don't place limits or expectations on him. They see the positive things the person, regardless of his or her gender, has to say and contribute and share.
There's lots more to say about this, but I want to see what comes back first.
Peace & Love!
PS: I just had my first PowerPC/MORE crash. Luckily I had just saved and lost no work. Thank you! I was afraid I lost the last section of this piece.
PPS: I'm getting ready to write about OpenDoc. To Apple: I've received almost no information on this technology. Could you please send me an evaluation kit -- whatever you have -- docs, specs, white papers, software? Thanks!
PPPS: It's 8:18AM, the bay is like glass, great visibility, but lots of fog.
PPPS: As always, if you aren't interested in this kind of stuff, send me email and I'll happily delete your name from the list. And it's OK to forward it or repost it anywhere you like. The list is expanding -- I'm always happy to add new names. Send email to email@example.com.