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Simulated People

Monday, March 3, 1997 by Dave Winer.

Wired has a strong opinion about the web. They think it's dead. Read the cover of the 3/97 issue. I did. It made me want to puke!


"No, the 150 million Web pages now in existence won't disappear. They'll only proliferate, and at an increasing rate worldwide. We can expect a billion pages by 2000. Some of them will even be worth reading."

Sarcastic and disrespectful. An often repeated mantra these days. There's little interesting to read on the web, the story goes. I wonder if the people who say this actually read the web, because it's not true! There's lots of interesting stuff on the web.

In the Wired editorial they side-step the issue, ask the question, it fits into a groove in my mind, they presume I know the answer. No, of course not, there's nothing interesting on the web. Until you stop and think. Well, yes, there is a lot of interesting stuff on the web.

It's like a library Permalink to It's like a library

How to find the good stuff? When I'm feeling explorative and energetic, in the right mood, I don't mind doing a dozen InfoSeek or AltaVista searches to find what I'm looking for. Modes where I might take a detour and find something exotic or interesting. I had that experience several times today while writing this piece.

When I was a kid I loved the library. I'd spend whole days reading, browsing, looking for something to learn. Talk with the librarian for new starting points. That's how the web works for me today.

Sometimes I like to be taken somewhere. That's what Macintouch is for, and my own home page. There will be many other special interest sites whose purpose is to provide coverage to self-seeking and self-defining groups of people.

Editors and writers, just like the old days, except the editors have no control over what's being written, and under the new ethics, they don't want control.

Other clients Permalink to Other clients

Wired dismisses the web, I think they should check their reader's pages for a more positive view. But they also call for new kinds of browsers, and I agree. The battle between Netscape and Microsoft has left us with few places to go.

New languages or protocols aren't the answer. Ideas for new interactions are cool, but not at the expense of the diversity of the web. HTTP is powerful enough to take us a long way. So please, no baby out-throwing with the bathwater.

What won't you see? Permalink to What won't you see?

I sent Don's Amazing Puzzle out a couple of hours before this piece because it's fun and revealing and required you to use the web to get the answer, unless you're one of the few people who could see it without visiting the website.

Why do I miss half the F's? The puzzle makes me look inward. My mind is so stubborn! Even after I know why, I still miss one or two of them.

What else am I missing?

An example Permalink to An example

When I did the Rick Smolan site last month, I went looking for a picture of Rick.

I found a great one, Rick looking a little tired, posing with a couple of kids at a book signing. I thought it was a totally charming picture. It gave me a glimpse into Rick that I had never seen.


Rick made an impression on the dad, and I imagine the kids will feel a special connection with Rick and his pictures, for the rest of their lives.

Hey -- there are more pictures there now! Al Gore with the family. Getting a hug from the Bathtub Lady. Watching a Space Shuttle launch. Neat!

A story reveals. It's worth going back to an interesting site to see what changed. Spend 10 minutes at the site. You'll be moved and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Here we are Permalink to Here we are

The thing that's heavy about the web, unlike TV, is that it's real. A digital camera, a word processor, and some people, that's all it takes. The pages may not look incredibly great, but listen to what they're saying.

Here we are, that's the message. There's real drama in people's lives. You don't need to watch TV to get it. Use the web. The stories are moving and true. It can take a lot of courage to keep going sometimes.

The web may never look as pretty as TV or the movies. A guy in Indiana taking a snapshot of his kids can't afford $10 million to use the latest and greatest stuff. But his story is 10 times more compelling than anything you'll ever see on the commercial sites because it's real.

Behind the awkward interface is a real human being who didn't have his ideas filtered by committees and consultants before they appeared. The site isn't pretty, but it is elegant. Not a corporate head-trip. Lives viewed thru a page. Real lives. It's art because it comes from the heart.

Look a little deeper than the surface and you find what's real.

That's the message of the web.

Maggie Permalink to Maggie

I love Maggy! I always go back to her site. Watching her take the heat is funny! She's so sweet, so beautiful, so vulnerable and revealing. She grabs your heart in a totally big way.


She says her diary is done, but I have my doubts. She's a passionate writer. I believe the juice will start flowing again. I hope it will.

Simulated people Permalink to Simulated people

I also love The Simpsons and Law and Order. My favorite TV shows. I watch them whenever I can. Even repeats.

They're avatars. Simulated friends. Just like the agents that John Sculley and Wired dream about. They advise us how to live. Go here now! Go there! Do this. Buy this! OK. But when will someone listen to me?

TV provides a common theme in all our lives, at once. By coordinating us, they steal our diversity and choice and contact with each other.

So what? I love Bart Simpson, grandpa and the lawyers. I love them and I watch them anyway. I like TV. Going into a trance is OK.

Movies Permalink to Movies

Check out the movie "Network." Peter Finch plays a TV anchorman gone nuts. He starts telling the truth on the nightly news! He urges them to take control of their own lives.

Go to the nearest window. Open it. Loudly, firmly and respectfully say "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

What an elegant idea!

Stories Permalink to Stories

I love discovering that I have stories to tell. If it weren't for the web, I promise you, I would not be able to tell these stories. That's why I think the web is so damned cool.

The web is the ultimate story-telling medium, even better than the campfire, but different. People who compare it to TV miss the point.

When the web is most eloquent it captures a story, tells it in a revealing way, and leaves you informed or inspired or touched, and wanting to know more.

Editing Permalink to Editing

I realize that some writing needs to be edited. I wouldn't do a contract without having agreement with at least one other person. I wouldn't release docs for a software product without reviewing them. Some writing has to be collaborative. That's fine.

But some writing has to come from one person. Not be tweaked or revised to suit anyone else. Some writing has to express what comes from within a single person, not two or more. Writing without compromise, for the sole purpose of communicating from inside a single person to anyone else who cares to listen.

So I disagree with Wired. Not only is the web vibrant and growing, we need the web, for what it uniquely offers -- the chance to hear from real people, not computer simulations of people.

Dave Winer

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