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Breaking Rules

Sunday, February 9, 1997 by Dave Winer.

Here's what I've learned in the last year about free speech and how it relates to technology and the new medium of the worldwide web.

The web is still about breaking rules. Editors want to give us deadlines. Software companies want to own their customers. Governments want to make the world safe for children, which really means isolating them.

These forces tend to control communication, to commercialize a medium, pave it over, snuff out individuality, catch your attention, hold it, and then destroy it.

Any editorial organization or software company could choose to jump over to the other side. Or could acknowledge other organizations that work differently. To facilitate free unedited (or lightly edited) speech. Or to define a community that empowers its developers and users instead of controlling them.

Or they could let new editorial organizations and software companies take their place.

Deals Permalink to Deals

It takes a lot of deals to become president of the United States. In turn, he makes deals with people in the software and publishing industries, whose goals, as a result, may not be complementary with your goals or mine.

It's all linked up. It's OK. Let's respect that. But let's remember that our ideas actually make a difference -- if we let them. My interests are linked up too. I need free speech in order to have free software, and vice versa. Not just free in theory, free in fact.

John Gilmore Permalink to John Gilmore

John Gilmore, http://www.cygnus.com/~gnu/, an entrepreneur, a board member at EFF, a friend, and a frequent guest on DaveNet, says:

"We haven't defeated the Communications Decency Act yet. It's been appealed to the Supreme Court and will be re-considered there.

"We lost Round One (in Congress), lost Round Two (the President), won Round Three (3-judge panel in Philadelphia), won Round Four (judge in NY), and are entering Round Five with the Supremes. We could still lose. And there are half a dozen similar bills in local legislatures in various states."

So who in Silicon Valley in 1997, will stand next to John Gilmore, a very smart and accomplished man, and call for the defeat of censorship on the Internet?

Who you attract Permalink to Who you attract

I see a huge connection between writing essays and writing software, when you let the web connect them. I like to attract independent people to my site, thinkers, writers, webmasters, script writers, software developers.

Other people specialize in broader audiences. That's OK. I want the most curious, high-energy, super smart people to experience and respond to my views and my software.

Put another way, anyone can appreciate Alta Vista, Pointcast, Four11, Suck, AOL, MSN, Excite or CNN. I want to associate with people who can *invent* the next Alta Vista, Pointcast, Four11, etc.

Listening Permalink to Listening

Listening is still a precious commodity. Nothing's changed there. If you want to make a contribution to making the world a better place, please listen to someone today, tomorrow -- every day. Have the courage to let them exceed your expectations.

If people don't listen to your story when you tell it, just act it out, act on your beliefs, and eventually the smart people will catch on, the lightbulb goes on, you make a new friend. This is the way functional markets, cultures and communities develop.

Some people will never hear you. That's the way it goes. Focus on the ones who do.

Linking and playing Permalink to Linking and playing

How remarkable the web is!

Websites are LANs but they are also documents. The documents we're creating today are unlike any that humans have ever produced. So revolutionary. So many barriers have been passed, have we noticed?

The most fundamental change is the idea of linking. A link is the ultimate salute, the highest form of respect. I'm going to share my flow. We're going to listen to someone else for a moment. I'm going to trust you to come back to me. Or not. I don't want to own your attention. I want you to listen to other people.

Being a web author is to be a flow-crafter. I place my links strategically. It's like designing the user experience of a software product. Hey, the navigation bars I'm putting at the top of my web pages today look a lot like menu bars. Stay tuned, if one of the browser vendors gives us the get-source hook that barrier will totally liquify.

I like writing. I move you this way then that way. I play with your intelligence, your emotions, your humor. I play with you!

Friendship and the web Permalink to Friendship and the web

So, come play with me and my friends!

A few days ago I rebuilt the 24 Hours of Democracy website and gave it a new home.


It links to over 1000 websites from last year, most are still there. Passionate and eloquent essays, some famous people, all explaining what freedom means to them.

Great pictures! George Burns, The Harley Mom and Justin Hall. Susan Kare contributed a page of graphics for use in the project.


A pretty website. And you can download the source code for the site for free.

Let's have fun!

One more friend Permalink to One more friend

I've known Rick Smolan for many years. He's a great photographer. He loves software. He thinks big. He does big too.

Last year Rick got caught off-guard in the web blackout. It seems like an accident, but I believe it was fate. What a turning point. How sharp the contrast was. Rick and I collided, in public, in a personal way. Ouch!

The best way to heal a public wound is to do it in public. Rick and I have been exchanging email, and decided we both wanted this. The result is on the web now.

I asked Rick to choose several of his favorite photographs from 24 Hours in Cyberspace and tell us why they're important to him. I've lightly edited his piece and posted it at:


Rick, welcome to my website! Photography is such an essential element in the web. I hope we get a chance to do more work together in the future.

And I'm glad we're friends again!

It's more fun that way...

Dave Winer

PS: I'm meeting with Woz next week!

© Copyright 1994-2004 Dave Winer. Last update: 2/5/07; 10:50:05 AM Pacific. "There's no time like now."