All I Want for Christmas
Monday, December 2, 1996 by Dave Winer.
I learn a lot from playing Solitaire on my Pentium.
Got a good game going but hit a dead-end? Here's a sure-fire way to create some new moves. Go for a walk. Come back. They're there. You just can't see them.
I notice that I often win on my first game in a session. More confirmation that a fresh perspective helps me notice things. Keeping your head down is a sure way to miss big opportunities.
A step backward can make a big difference. The goal in Solitaire is to get all the cards on the top. Sometimes taking a card *off* the top creates an opportunity to reveal a card that otherwise couldn't be revealed. And sometimes that makes it possible to win the game.
Ever wonder why all the web counters return pictures instead of just a string of text or HTML? It's because HTML doesn't support client-side includes.
Why not allow a page to call a script on a server to get a bit of HTML text? It would be easy to work out the interfaces; it's not rocket science, just a standard that's needed, unless I'm missing something (don't think I am).
This little feature would turn the web into a secure scripting system. Man, what power! Ooooh.
Another idea whose time has come are browser plug-ins that catch certain tags, overriding the browser's implementation. Outliners display outlines. A new table displayer that worked faster than the ones in current browsers. We'd need some help from the browser makers to pull this off.
In the grocery store, on November 29, they're playing Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Ohhh. I'm upset about this. Hey if they were playing Macarena!, and I knew I'd have to listen to it for 25+ days I'd be unhappy too. I enjoy Christmas. It's a fine holday, if not taken to extremes. This is extreme!
Think about it this way. We spend one month every year in Christmas mode. That's 1/12th of every year. OK. But it's also 1/12th of my life! Is any holiday worth that much? Please, you may think I'm a curmudgeon. But please, wait to wish me a Happy Christmas until a week before the holiday, OK?
I lust after one of those monster CD changers that can manage 100+ audio disks, but I'm waiting to buy one until they have an interface that allows me to control it over my LAN from my PC or Mac desktop.
It's such a simple idea, why hasn't anyone developed the software and interfaces yet? Add an API and sit back and watch the explosion. A standard here would happen instantly.
Over the weekend I saw a radio station that was broadcasting over the Internet to a small standalone Java app, running in a neat little 250-pixel wide window. It was a tingly first-love-like experience. I can see the future, but is there enough bandwidth to really pull this off? I love the idea. Along with personalized web pages, like the ones they're doing on Excite, I might not need that 100-CD changer on my LAN. Or flipped around, I might be able to do some great web apps if such a device existed.
On Windows, the second mouse button is the gateway to the properties of whatever you're clicking on.
A second mouse button for Mac users would be an easy revolution, at least as enabling as a protected-mode kernel or an Undo command in the Finder.
I was supposed to have my new full T1 line on October 8 to augment and ultimately replace my ISDN line. Things being what they are, it's December now, and the line is now almost ready to go up. The PacBell people tell me that it will be the equivalent of 24 full ISDN lines. Since I rarely get full ISDN throughput, I think I'm probably going to like this. Very much!
In The Little Bird, 6/26/95, I asked for a time capsule for the web. "I'd like to participate in a quick project to freeze the worldwide web on January 1, 1996, back it up, and bury the hard disk. Transmit the archive to the nearest solar system that might have intelligent life. Isn't this a neat idea? What do you think? I think it's juicy."
I liked the idea then, and I still do. I was reminded of it reading a piece in Friday's New York Times. Two historians in Maine claim the American Revolution wasn't fought for freedom, it was started because the weather in New England had been bad for 15 years. They cited diaries kept by students for the years leading up to the revolution.
Why were all those students keeping diaries? Because Jonathan Winthrop, a Harvard professor of the day, asked them to, for history's sake! Wow. They had a historical perspective then. We could have one now. Let's do a backup of the web!
We can all back up our own websites. Let's pick a time to do it. Copy your website to a floppy disk, and put the disk in a safe deposit box, clearly marked as being part of the backup-the-web project. Your heirs can pass it down thru the generations. Uncle Dave was a webmaster! Look kids, here's what he did. My disk could become an heirloom.
Even better, the web is actually being backed up every day by the search engines at InfoSeek, Lycos, Yahoo, Excite, Alta Vista, Web Crawler, HotBot, etc. A by-product of their indexing of the web is a full text traversal of all the sites they visit. Any of the search engines could take the high ground and leave a trail for historians to follow.
What great PR it would be! Don't underestimate the vision and imagination of people who write for the web. Someday the historians will ask for it. I am sure of that.
Lots of people experience the blues this time of year. Major stuff comes up. Here's a recipe for curing the blues, or at least giving them a chance to recede.
When you're in a good mood, grab a piece of paper and write down a list of things that make you happy. Activities, people, movies, memories, sensations, songs, whatever turns you on. Put people who listen to you even if you're in a bad mood at the top of the list.
Put the list in a safe place. Now, when you get the blues, go get the list, read it, and do one of the things, even if you're *sure* it will make you even more miserable.