A Big Tree Falls!
Thursday, March 23, 1995 by Dave Winer.
It all flows sooooo much easier with ISDN.
The time from inspiration to implementation is much much shorter.
It's not quite like editing files on my hard disk, but it's not far.
I made a lot of changes at our website in the last few days. Filled in the To-Do page for the first time. It lists all the new stuff, including three tours of Frontier, written at different times for different audiences. I also uploaded six new DaveNet essays, and improved the SimCity piece. Added a screen shot of one of my recent city designs, and uploaded two cities that you can try out if you have a Macintosh and SimCity 2000.
We're going to keep the To-Do page current. If you want to know what's new on the website, hop to http://www.hotwired.com/userland/todo.html.
I was almost finished tweaking my site yesterday morning. Editing the homepage graphic in PhotoShop (I could use some help here!), having fun, listening to Prince, tapping, rocking, admiring the rain, when possible (and the wind!) when I heard a very loud cannon-like sound.
It was a *physical* sound, you could feel it. My desktop flickered off, back on, and then off. The room became very quiet as the fans in all my hard disks and printers shut down.
Life in the woods! Man. I took a walk outside to see if anything obvious had broken. The house is OK. The creek is OK. The garden is OK. But... my big crooked pine tree had fallen. It blocked the street! Power lines down. Smoke rising from the woods on the other side of the street. Fire!
I saw my neighbors yesterday... And policemen, firemen, reps from PG&E and Western Cable Systems. The city engineer. I learned a lot. They sent out smart people, engineers (like me!) but skilled in getting a real city (not a Sim one) back up when disaster strikes (and there's no Disasters menu in real life -- can't turn 'em off). I ended up paying for the removal of the tree, but it wasn't as expensive as I thought it might be. I'd do it again!
I'll miss that big old tree. Huge birds perched in it, sometimes whole flocks of them during migrations. It was a bent and brown tree, but very tall. Its roots didn't go that deep, it turns out. Not deep enough to withstand the flood of water that was undermining its roots. The winter of 1995 is a deluge.
Will those huge birds miss the tree as much as I will? Who knows. Life goes on. As Prince says, life is just a party and parties weren't meant to last. Let's have fun!
I'm browsing the web a lot more now that I have a faster and always-open net pipe. There are some wonderful new websites out there. The most impressive one I've seen in the last few days is the Waiters on Wheels site, http://www.sunnyside.com/wow. It's a comprehensive listing of the menus for restaurants that deliver, in seven western cities. You can order food over the net! Yeah!
Marc Canter is going to love this. [I think it's cool. But they don't deliver to my house-site, even if I can get to their web-site. Grrrr.]
I followed the link to the folks who created this site, Sunnyside Computing, www.sunnyside.com. Check it out! They're smart. Good people. and they're in Palo Alto, right in the neighborhood. Hope to meet these guys someday.
My impression of all that I've seen in the last few days -- if you're thinking about getting onto the web someday, today's the day! The growth is awesome. It's all happening even faster than I thought it would. There are huge lessons here for technology investors. All your resources should be directed at participating in the growth of networking. All of them. Stop thinking about distributing software via shrinkwrap. That distribution system is about to end. Think in terms of integrating your software with the web. Lots of possibilities.
I'd like to add outlining to the web.
My qualification -- I've written five outliners, the first commercial one, ThinkTank, shipped in 1983. I've got a new outliner on my hard disk, written originally as part of Frontier but made much prettier thru the use of color, graphics and icons.
And it's much more open -- it's designed to plug into all kinds of data, coming from databases, the file system, the net, actually anywhere. Why make it so open? I wanted to make my fifth outliner my last one. [Good luck! I can already see ways to improve it.]
OK -- so much for the technology. How do I want to deploy it? I have an answer. I want to marry it to a web browser. There are three ways I want to connect them.
First, I want to replace the Bookmarks menu with an outline that I can search and easily re-organize. Put the cursor on a line, press Enter and boom -- the browser takes me there. I want a command in the outliner to copy a reference to the current page into the outline. Add a few new wires to the browser and we can do it. Right now.
The second connection is to use the outliner to display indented lists. HTML already has enough tags to support an outliner. It's pretty similar to the way all my outliners have stored hierarchies in text files. It's totally trivial to transform an HTML outline into expandable and collapsable outlines. If you want to see what one of these outlines looks like, check out the masthead for the UserLand site, http://www.hotwired.com/userland/masthead.html.
The third connection is to use my outliner as a web authoring tool. That part is already working. The UserLand masthead page was developed using the outliner. A little script parses the outline, turns it into HTML and uploads it to the server. I can iterate quickly over the outline. If you want a copy of the script, and have Frontier, let me know.
We need to work with at least one browser developer to make this happen. Preferably more than one. The Bookmarks feature has the most immediate bang, and is the easiest to deploy, the need is the greatest.
If you make a web browser, or know someone who does, please ask them to send me email if there's interest...
PS: I got a lot of mail on my comments about SimCity being a guy thing. I never want to impose limits on anyone. Women who love SimCity are grrreat! I actually like a little nerdiness in my women friends. Maybe even a lot... When I said that networking makes women smarter, I meant smarter than men. I believe women are the networkers of our species. Men do other things well. There are always exceptions. I'm a pretty good networker. I'm a man. Not a big deal. IMHO.
PPS: If the much-rumored CyberDog from Apple is an OpenDoc container in a web browser, it would be, by far, the best selling device for OpenDoc. That would get me much more interested in OpenDoc. Probably a bunch of other developers too. Of course I could be dreaming -- CyberDog might be something else! [If so: never mind...] If it is, as Dr. Strangelove asked -- why keep it a secret?
PPPS: The UserLand website is ready to be promoted. It's safe for other sites to point into it. It'd be great to get a Cool Site of the Day reference. If you have any ideas of sites that should point to DaveNet or Frontier, please let me know and I'll check 'em out and send the sysop some information about our site.
PPPPS: Mama mia! You gotta checka out http://www.eat.com. A quote: "If you're using a laptop, show some respect. Put it on a table. This is my kitchen, not some crazy picnic, OK?"
As mentioned above, in the email version, I already have an outline-to-HTML compiler.
Here's what the source outline for the UserLand To-Do page looks like:
I've collapsed the password and postscript parts because I don't want you to see them!
Click to see what the web page looks like.
Note: this is not the new wizzy outliner, it's the one that's part of Frontier. I don't want to show the look of that outliner until it's time to roll it out. Dig we must!
If you have Frontier, you can download the "outweb" suite by clicking on the following: