Two Views of OpenDoc
Tuesday, March 21, 1995 by Dave Winer.
On March 13 I ran a piece entitled "The Subjectives of OpenDoc." I didn't get that much mail on the subjectives, but I did get two interesting contrasting viewpoints, they follow.
I was also was contacted by the OpenDoc product manager and am scheduling a meeting with the developers at Apple. This is a sign of major progress at Apple -- in the past, a missive like that would have gotten me banished at Apple. These days we see a hungrier attitude. Good news for all those who have an investment in the Macintosh. A hungrier, more humble Apple is something we might be able to work with, which is all we have been saying we wanted for umpteen years.
I also had an empassioned phone conversation with an anonymous engineer at Apple about my bit about Metrowerks saving Apple's butt in the move to the PowerPC. He said it was unfair that I didn't mention that Apple had produced a set of tools for developing native PowerPC apps. I had two responses -- one emotional, and one factual.
Factually, yes, Apple did produce some tools for creating native apps. But they were for a development environment that's not widely used among commercial developers. If there had been no Metrowerks, we would be shaking our heads about how broken Apple is, that there was no major benefit to buying a PowerPC, because there would be very few commercial apps that were native.
Then he asked if I could imagine how it must feel to have your product so thoroughly ignored (we're now getting into emotional part). I said of course I could imagine that. All Mac developers who have ever had to fit into an Apple strategy understand that one.
While I had him on the phone, I asked one of my current hot questions -- which developers does Apple respect? He thought a little, and said they were forced to respect Microsoft and they were forced to respect Adobe. I asked if there was anyone they respected that they weren't forced to respect? He said Metrowerks. I said yes, I think you do.
These days I get that they respect *me* somewhat at Apple. But it seems like a forced respect. Speaking for myself only, I'd much prefer to be respected for my software accomplishments and support of the platform. My public rants serve as an insurance policy that my viewpoint as a developer will get out there, even if Apple doesn't want it out there. But as always, I'd much rather work with them than in opposition to them.
I've known Leonard Rosenthol, firstname.lastname@example.org, for many years. The first time I met him was at a MacWorld Expo back in the mid-80s. He had done the outliner in Persuasion, which was a competitor for my MORE product. Leonard is very sure of himself. He lectured me on how to *really* do outlining right. He was very young and bright, I didn't know how young. Ten years later he's 26. Hmmm. He must have been 17 then! Anyway I felt sure that he would play a big role in the Macintosh. I was right about that.
These days Leonard hangs his hat at Aladdin Systems, definitely a company that should have Apple's respect. They own the compression standard for the Mac, producing at least 18 different configurations all under the StuffIt brandname. Without StuffIt, the Internet would be half as fast for Macintosh users. Not to mention CompuServe, America OnLine, your local BBS, etc. [I'd love to see a Unix version of StuffIt -- it would make my webwork even faster.]
Aladdin supports everything. And Leonard knows about everything. Leonard knows everyone. A very valuble friend. Whenever I want to know who to talk about something with, I call Leonard.
So here are Leonard's comments on The Subjectives of OpenDoc:
Boy are you WAY OFF BASE! Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed that morning or what?!?!?!?!
I have been working with OpenDoc on and off for a while now, from planning/prototype stages to the current beta and it is LEAPS and BOUNDS above what OLE offers both technologically and from a user standpoint.
Let's look at the user experience first -- what kinds of things will users be able to do with OpenDoc that they couldn't with OLE. Here are a few that come to mind:
o live parts -- in OpenDoc you can have a part whose contents are live, updating without user intervention) such as a clock or more usefully something like a stock ticker-tape.
o non-rectangular parts -- in OpenDoc your parts can assume any shape so that their isn't any "white space" around your content. This is most obviously important for something like a graphic which is embedded in your document and you want the text to flow properly around it.
o transforms -- this allows you to perform an operation (rotate, scale, skew) on an embedded part without that part having the ability to do it itself.
Now for some technical things:
o NO PATCHES!!!!!!!!! OpenDoc is "application code", it does not patch the OS in any way! OLE on the other hand gets its hands REALLY DEEP into certain parts of the MacOS to make it work like Windows. :(
o Clean layered API -- OLE is (IMHO) too message based while OpenDoc is more procedural.
The only advantage that OLE has going for it is technical and that is that it is easier to take an existing app and make it support OLE than OpenDoc.
I love this guy!
The second, less passionate viewpoint is from another longtime friend, Amy Wohl, email@example.com. Amy has appeared on DaveNet several times, so I assume she needs no intro...
Dave, the real killer for OpenDoc will be that if it can't have a presence before Windows 95 ships (and with the new delays, I'm betting that it won't), it will simply be ignored by developers with other things on their mind. By the time the smoke clears, the game will be over and OpenDoc will simply never have happened. You can't miss your (time) window and still make the market.
I expect to put another day into my OpenDoc thinking sometime in the next few weeks. I'll report back when that happens.
There are other signs that Apple is opening up. I wrote a quick email to Shirley Stas, firstname.lastname@example.org, Apple's manager of developer relations, asking if we could add Frontier to Apple's website covering Macintosh scripting languages. Very quickly and efficiently (and respectfully) it happened!
So a small part of the world is right. We have our positioning statement right next to AppleScript's. Interested script writers now have a balanced way to make a choice. You can see that they're very different kinds of products. Thank you Shirley!
The URL for Apple's scripting website is:
From there, you can quickly get to our Nerds Guide to Frontier, originally published in MacTech magazine in early 1994, but newly available on the worldwide web. Other, less nerdy web stuff coming soon!
This DaveNet piece is the first to go out over ISDN!
I'm totally delighted with my ISDN connection. It's much, much faster than my old way of getting on the net. It's also on all the time, so there's no phone to dial. I'm always connected to the net. Reallllly nice. Also, I have a fixed IP address, and a new domain name, scripting.com. We're going to move userland.com real soon now, and set up some servers, so our email act will get even better real soon. Dig we must!
Also, I apologize that the website hasn't been staying current. We're still working out some glitches in the connection to the server, but now that I have a faster pipe and a fixed IP address, it should be a matter of a few more days before everything is smoothed out and automatic, and we can start rolling again.
I had a fun email exchange with Louis Rossetto, email@example.com, the top guy at Wired and HotWired, about my Billions of Websites piece. In that exchange, I realized that a website, as I'm imagining things developing, isn't like a magazine or a newspaper. It's like a front porch. Decorated with all the things you like, things that say something positive about you. And unlike real-world front porches, my porch will point to my friend's porches. Walk a web of mutual friends. Those will be the Billions of Websites, IMHO.
Will these billions of sites be art? Yes and no.
In the broad sense, they will definitely be art, in the same way that the world itself is a work of art. Is the collection of all the photographs taken on a single day by random people art? Yes. Is each individual photograph a work of art? I think so!
But there's also great art, highly expressive stuff, which influences a lot of other practitioners. There are all levels of art. Every photograph, and every front porch that attempts to say something, attempts to influence you, is art.
What is the web's potential for influencing the evolution of the species? I believe it's very great. That makes it an artform. Art and war. Change the world. The same damn thang!
Jeffrey Cheney, network manager at Hearst Magazines writes "Dave, knowing that your list has a good ratio of female subscribers (no doubt higher than the net average) I thought it might make an ideal place to post the following request from one of Cosmopolitan's staff writers."
Here's the request:
Cosmopolitan is profiling eight to ten women nationwide. The topic is singlehood and dating life upon graduation from college. Article will appear in Fall 1995 issue of Cosmopolitan's annual Life After College issue. Looking specifically for college graduates between ages of 21 and 25, preferably in smaller towns in midwestern states or interesting states such as Hawaii and Alaska (although I will not rule out any state). Interviewee must be gregarious, well spoken, smart, and willing to talk openly about good and bad sides of single life. Contact Tina Chang at firstname.lastname@example.org or days at 212-649-3559.
Please pass this request on, and ask them to mention DaveNet when they call or email.
PS: IMHO stands for In My Humble Opinion.
PPS: ISDN stands for Integrated Services Digital Network.