Monday, July 22, 1996 by Dave Winer.
There's a piece about Microsoft on the front page of today's New York Times. It's also on the web, at:
The usual caveat applies about the Times on the web. You have to supply a password. I hope you have one, because this article is worth reading, if only because everyone I've talked with this morning is talking about it.
There's nothing new in the piece. We've known for at least a year that the influence of the web on PC application software is complete. Every tool is being adapted to be web-aware. All apps will export to HTML. Even better, view HTML as your native file format.
Our computers are connected. If a document has web-based multimedia capabilities, that's just being competitive, not revolutionary. The web is the platform we write software for. Not Windows and not Macintosh. Microsoft, very wisely, is adapting to this reality. Smart move. Is it insidious? No way. Is it revolutionary? Hmmm. No. The trend may be revolutionary. Microsoft's courage certainly is remarkable.
In the last couple of weeks I've gotten messages from officers of two very large companies saying that I'm not making them happy. People are taking my stuff personally. They're not liking it. They want me to stop.
The answer is no. Most of my readers don't work for these large companies. Many of them are small developers or webmasters or people who work at other large companies that use technology products. Hey -- some of my readers are just people who have computers. They deserve to know what's going on. A frank unwashed discussion of one person's opinion is my job. That's all it is.
My stories are just stories. My point of view. Occasionally I make personal comments, and I always regret doing that. So I'm more careful, but sometimes they sneak thru. In these two cases, people were reacting to pieces that contained no personal comments. So taking the comments personally is not appropriate.
People may be casual about these comments, they have the right to do that. The warning may be couched in friendship, but they are not seen as friendly comments.
They raise an interesting question -- am I a journalist? Should I be accorded the same tolerance as a writer for the Times or the Wall Street Journal or the Palo Alto Weekly? Yes, I think so.
Bill Gates writes a column for the New York Times where he speaks his mind, and presumably doesn't have to make anyone happy but himself. Stewart Alsop is now a venture capitalist, but his editorials still run on the back page of InfoWorld, where he used to be editor in chief. They're still worth reading, even more so, because both Alsop and Gates are entering new territory. I'm interested in what they have to say, not despite of their other jobs, but because of them.
Our world is in flux. Even a small developer can have a big voice. This is cool! It levels the playing field. I feel, that as long as I stay true to what I believe, there's value in what I write. As soon as I start trying to achieve an effect at one or more large companies with my pieces, they would lose their relevance.
Some people ask whether they're meeting Dave Winer the journalist or Dave Winer the software entrepreneur. I say there's only one Dave Winer. I'm a software developer who writes, or viewed from the other side of the coin, I'm a journalist who develops software. If I have to grapple with this, I can definitely understand the confusion with people I work with. So I treat business conversations as off the record. And I object when, during a business discussion, someone whines about something I said in DaveNet not being flattering enough.
Being an independent developer and an independent writer are similar things. The ethics of one are just like the ethics of the other. People, by default, seem to respect journalists, or at least fear them; and sometimes that seems like respect. I've also learned that many people judge developers by the size of their companies, not by the quality of their work. I hope to change that.
If you respect my writing, I hope you take my software seriously. To do one without the other is to miss the point.
If I criticize Microsoft, Netscape or Apple, or you -- that's because what they're doing is important or interesting enough to be examined.
I speak for no one but myself. I've had my opinions lumped in with the opinions of other people, and I don't like that.
If you don't want to be looked at, get off the tree. As Jean-Louis Gassee says, the monkey who climbs to the top of the tree runs the risk of having his butt visible. It's hard to cover your ass when you're on top. If the buck stops on your desk, be thankful, lots of people want what you have. Take the heat, or as someone said, get out of the kitchen.
Thanks for paying attention.