White Boy Welfare
Sunday, December 24, 1995 by Dave Winer.
The power came back a few days ago. Cooool!
But it wasn't clean power. :-(
For a few days all my screens were flickering wildly. I thought maybe they all got hit by a power surge, melting or fusing coils or something. I'm a software guy, I don't know about hardware!
Then on Wednesday, I figured it out. The energy flowing into my house had changed. When PG&E turned the power back on I had been downgraded to dirtier electricity. I called the power company. Talked to an engineer. She listens (get this!) respectfully, even though I know almost nothing about what she does. I'm an engineer and so is she. I had isolated the problem. The next day (yesterday) I wake up and my screens aren't flickering anymore.
Thank you PG&E!
So who says that the spiritual world isn't effected by the tangible world? A storm hits California, knocks out the power. When it comes back my screens flicker. Call the power company. Give me clean energy! Coool.
Next day, no more flicker. Their clean energy cleans up my energy. My writing juices flow again. New stories to tell. Here we go.
A few DaveNets ago I asked if Java was the next OpenDoc. I've been learning more about Java and more about OpenDoc. The answer is no, it's not the next OpenDoc. But it's interesting to compare the two.
Apple shipped OpenDoc 1.0. The Macintosh version is on their website. You can download it at http://opendoc.apple.com/. I did.
I wanted to approach OpenDoc as a user would. I already knew that the APIs were horrendous. As a programmer I had no desire to get to know this thing. I've invested a lot in Apple APIs over the years. So far, there's been very little payoff in that investment.
I decided that this time around I'd take the risk of being a late adopter. I'd experience OpenDoc as a user first, and then decide if I wanted to build on it.
I decided not to get out ahead of this curve. I was busy learning the Internet protocols and getting ready to build on them with my own code and APIs. My head stayed down, I focused on what I wanted to do, I let Apple and IBM and Novell et al blaze their own trail. When they were ready to set up camp, I'd look at it as a user would. If I found myself excited at that point, I'd consider making a developer investment.
My conclusions -- OpenDoc is a very airy place. And it's very different from the Macintosh environment I've gotten so used to. I don't like differences! The File menu is gone, it's replaced with a Document menu. I know they're just words, but this change makes their new world seem tilted. Document is such long word. And it's not File. This kind of stuff usually just fades into the background, until they change it. Then it's bothersome. Very!
The OpenDoc menus are short. Not much there. The parts are clearly demos, like TeachText or a calculator desk accessory. No MacWrite or MacPaint in this package, no application of the technology that's so compelling to make you want to keep an OpenDoc window around.
If they had a SimCity or a Lotus 1-2-3 part, something new and pretty with really nice legs, a part that only worked inside the OpenDoc environment, I think I might keep it open, but until that happens it stays closed, doc.
So Apple did Part One of the delivery of OpenDoc. Now they have to get energy to flow thru their new platform. The only energy that counts at this time are parts.
So what about Java? It's got heat, it's got passion, it's got money, it's got fame. It's going somewhere. Unlike OpenDoc it's got magazines, books, tradeshows, and the endorsement of every major force in the software world. What juggernaut Java is! Takes your breath away.
So -- everything's going Java, but get this -- OpenDoc is more real that Java is! Ain't life funny? Both are airy places. But Java is more sparse. The parts are fewer. The potential isn't really understood. People still ask basic questions about what Java can and can't do. We're all confused. It's a puzzle. How do the pieces fit together?
Java and OpenDoc are airy. Both need balloons and gliders and airliners to fly in their space. Both are very short of elegant air travel devices.
OpenDoc has a couple of paper airplanes.
Java hasn't decided if wings work in their airspace!
The Java world is so loose, its limits are so unknown. Who's going to do the new APIs that are needed for persistent storage, interapplication communication and node-to-node communication? Script editing and debugging? How will these protocols compare to the current protocols of the Internet and the single-system wires already in place on the desktop platforms? Will the APIs be horrendous or airy and easy and low-tech like the APIs of the Internet? These APIs will be hybrids of the APIs used in desktop operating systems and the protocols of the Internet.
Java has Big Mo. It's clear that it's going to be a standard like the programming model for the Apple II was a standard. Like the model for all popular personal computers, the IBM PC, the Macintosh, Windows, and presumably the minis and mainframes that preceeded PCs.
We're about to realize the great dream of computing -- people connected to people interfacing thru their own computers. It's all coming together technologically. The technical sociology of APIs will undergo a revolution. Then the people will. We'll walk a web of friendships, we'll hold hands in cyberspace.
In 1996 we're going to define what it means to be a friend, in technical terms, and we're going to shape the fingers with which we touch each other. It's going to happen in 1996.
Happy New Year!
Bill Joy is a player. So is Marc Andreessen. And Philippe Kahn. The icons of the software industry. We gravitate to their personas. We're a social species. Story-tellers. Stories need great heros. Each icon has a story. Bill Joy is the quiet and thoughtful introvert and Unix geek. Marc is the young rich brilliant rebel. Kahn is Pete Rose on the rise.
Read about these people in PC Week, Business Week and in Newsweek. The reporters need a dramatic hero to hang their stories on. I'm no different.
Persona versus persona, great struggles, the writers often miss that the real battle is fought in terms of executable code and developer tools, not in personal mudwrestling matches between the titans of the software biz.
Sometimes whole companies get this kind of aura. Apple hasn't delivered any interesting software since 1987, yet they're still given (some) credit for being a hothouse of innovation. It's taking a long time for that heat to disipate.
John Sculley, former chairman of Apple, was seen as a technological visionary, when the truth is that he didn't even use a personal computer. I've given a few demos to Sculley. I don't think he ever understood what he was being shown, even though the products were end-user products for an easy-to-use computer, the computer that his company made.
Sometimes whole industries get lost in the wake of a really good credit-taker. I could list a dozen examples, but this sounds so negative, and I like to be positive.
Please watch out for this.
Don't judge strategies by their pronouncements, judge them by delivery. There will be some new superstars in this platform, new companies no one has ever heard of. Keep your ears open. Delivery will be what counts.
Be skeptical. More than ever before, software has to be delivered for the pitch to have any credibility. Where would Netscape be if they hadn't delivered software? See where the power is now? Compare what's going on at General Magic (nothing!) to the clean energy that's flowing around Netscape and Java.
Netscape delivered a mass platform for developers to aim at. General Magic never has delivered. General Magic's chairman did deliver some beautiful speeches and white papers. But they don't have anything that can run on my desktop or on my server. Other people got there first. Delivered software can't be displaced by clever metaphors or developer white papers.
Features are what matters.
I've known Denise Caruso, the media columnist for the New York Times, since we were both rookies in the software business back in the mid 80s. I've always admired her spirit and intelligence. She's irreverent and experienced. There's a spike in Caruso's curve, a sharp edge, a clean anger. She's a powerful person.
Denise coined a great term -- White Boy Welfare. It's an angry term. And a elegant useful concept.
There's a club, here in Silicon Valley, of people with great stage presence, people with interesting names, or interesting backgrounds, who make sense to investors and CEOs of big companies.
They run software ventures.
Usually they run them right into the ground!
They're all white. They're all boys. They make huge money. They get in the way. They contribute nothing. They know how to manage large things. (Not!) They speak at industry conferences. They get quoted a lot. Press releases are written about them. They form alliances. They buy things they don't understand.
They move into something that's hot, and make it cold. They put out fires. They do this, and then they get another job, and put out another fire.
And they make shitloads of money doing this.
How does this lesson apply to our new world?
They're coming! Watch out.
After running this piece, Caruso sent a correction. She didn't coin the term, Cathy Cook, an independent Silicon Valley public relations consultant did. Many apologies! And thanks to Cathy for the term. It's still useful. [DW 6/16/98.]
Chuck Shotton and Glenn Davis are both white boys, but they aren't on welfare. Both of them are friends, and both deserve the honor of being chosen for Newsweek's Top-50 most influential people on the Internet.
Newsweek says that Chuck Shotton, firstname.lastname@example.org, is the Marc Andreessen of the Macintosh platform. Coool. Chuck is one of the sweetest guys I've ever worked with my 16 years in the software business. He's a great coder and community-builder. We're very lucky to have Chuck working to make Macintoshes such flexible and fast web servers.
Glenn Davis, email@example.com, is a man on the move. He left infi.net to set up his own server and run his own show in California, right in my neighborhood. I can't wait to tell you more about what the Cool Site Man is doing. Tune into www.projectcool.com, that's where he's going to do his thing. It'll be fun!
I am very lucky to have these guys as friends, and it's so nice that they're getting the recognition they deserve. The coolest thing about the Internet boom is that it has attracted the neatest, smartest and cleanest-energy people. These are excellent people. I'm proud that they're my friends.
Good Job Glenn and Good Job Chuck!
Go get 'em guys!
Check out http://www.delphi.co.uk/delphi/wavey/. No that's not me, it's Davey Winder. Pretty darned close. And you gotta know, some people call me Davey. I don't really like it, but some people do it anyway. I wonder what I'd look like with a Mowhawk? I've even been called Winder, by my college buddy Pete Vanderveer. Even spookier: they call this guy Wavey Davey. When I was a high school student in the Bronx, they called me Gravy Dave. Sometimes even Gravy Davey. Ohhhh this is reallly spooky. [Please don't anyone start calling me Gravy Dave! Please!!!]
Last week I wrote a piece for Upside Magazine. It's the first essay I've written that didn't go out via email within hours of writing it. I've never dealt with a lead time, but this time it looks like it's going to work, I hope the piece is timely when it appears in print in early January.
The Upside people are great. This is the magazine that asked in 1989 if Silicon Valley had gone pussy! That's what it said on their cover! Wow. Yeah, SV had gone pussy. And Upside had the guts to ask.
So, we did a little rock and roll. And rhythm and blues. It's a DaveNet piece that fits into Upside. I spent about a year putting this one together. A lot of new people will see it. It'll be fun. It's a closer. As soon as the piece appears in print I'll roll it thru DaveNet. Watch your mailboxes in early January.
Finally... it's the eve of the eve of Christmas Eve so...
And Happy Christmas!
It's time to become a pumpkin again. Wooops, wrong holiday. Let's see, we could all become turkeys! Nahhhh. Think again. How about let's all be... Christmas presents. What a gift! Yes. Cool.
So to all my friends who celebrate Christmas...
Merry Christmas and many happy returns. It is the season to be happy. It's also the season of love. Let's share that.
1995 has been a totally great year. 1996 is going to be even better!
And, finally, finally, this DaveNet was brought to you by John Lennon and his family, from the John Lennon Collection, Track 8, Happy XMas (War is Over)...
"And so this is Christmas. And what have we done? Another year over and a new one just begun. And so Happy Christmas! I hope you have fun. The near and the dear ones. The old and the young."
"A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!"
"Let's hope it's a good one, without any fear."
And Lennon's closer is: "War is over, if you want it."
Thank you John. You knew what's important.
We miss you!
And Merry Christmas to us all!
Without any fear.
The world is so young.
Let's have fun!
Lots of love!
PS: PG&E stands for Pacific, Gas & Electric, the utility company for most of California.
PPS: Big Mo is short for Big Momentum, a term coined by George Bush, former president of the US, to describe a phenomenon that was about to get him elected. George Bush understood theater and the software business.
PPPS: Check out Track 15 on the Lennon CD, Beautiful Boy, for a real emotive song that can help you access your ideal inner-father. "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans." I know. "Before you cross the street, take my hand." Thanks Dad! I love you.