O'Reilly, Microsoft and Seybold
Saturday, March 14, 1998 by Dave Winer.
A few quick notes before I head out of town for the Seybold show in New York next week.
Last Tuesday, O'Reilly Associates shipped "Frontier: The Definitive Guide," written by Matt Neuburg, a key contributor in the Frontier community.
I first met Matt electronically on the support mailing lists for Frontier a couple of years ago. He just showed up one day, answering questions for newbies and oldbies that showed that he had really studied the subject. I sent him a private email thanking him for his interest, and complimented him on his ability to teach and explain. He said he was jealous of Dan Shafer, who had written the first User's Guide for Frontier. "I wanted to do it!" Matt said. He also said that he believed he was the only person who could explain Frontier as it should be described.
I really appreciate that kind of confidence! Matt wrote two tutorials, one on website management and another on scripting. Both were successful, lots of people learned Frontier for the first time thru Matt's writing. Then, last March, I met with Tim O'Reilly to talk about a Frontier book. I recommended Matt as the author of the O'Reilly book. They hired him, and this week, after a lot of work, back and forth, and much struggling on both sides, the book shipped.
I read half of the book on two plane flights on Wednesday. For me it was a stirring experience. The words describe something I had written ten years ago, documenting design decisions that are still running. For me these ideas were buried in the past, but Matt brought them into the present for me. What a gift! I learned a lot about my own work. I think every software designer and developer deserves this experience.
Matt's book also highlights the problems in the process caused by the speed of development that's made possible by the web. We ship new versions on a weekly basis. We can do this because the pipe is shorter these days. We go from idea to implementation to deployment in weeks now, where it used to take months or years to accomplish the same results.
So the book isn't perfect because our process isn't perfect. It's Mac-specific and Frontier is cross-platform. It's about version 4.2.3; we're currently shipping 5.0.1. Even so, I recommend that every serious Frontier user get this book, even though it describes some features that have changed or were eliminated in the current version. Even Windows users will find a lot of relevant information that's available nowhere else. It belongs on every Frontier user's bookshelf.
We're very lucky to have Matt on our side, explaining our work. We'll learn to do better, to make Frontier more immediately learnable, with Matt's help and O'Reilly's support.
This morning Frontier is the top item on Microsoft's Site Builder Network.
They said some very nice things about us.
Microsoft is the platform vendor who has no fear, or at least no fear of us.
They continue to exceed all reasonable expectations of support from a platform vendor. We really like working with Microsoft. We don't expect this much support. What a pleasure to get it anyway! A lot of people say Microsoft can't work for win-wins, but my experience has been totally the opposite. You can quote me on that. It's the truth.
We've now been working with Microsoft for less than five months. In this period we've done more win-win deals with them than in ten years of struggling with Apple. There's no doubt that Microsoft has opened the door for us. People who paint them as an evil empire are over-simplifying. Have they ever tried to work with Microsoft? Can you work with another company when you question their integrity? I think not.
I accept Microsoft. They're here to stay. That doesn't mean that I'm afraid of competing with them. I think the world is more subtle, it's not just technology that counts. Right now we have technology that they don't have. I expect them to let their users and developers know we're here. I also expect them to study what we do, and it wouldn't surprise me if they edge into our functionality.
But they can't become us because they are Microsoft, and we are not. As I watch Netscape struggle with their future, based on the expectation that Microsoft will match or exceed their functionality, I think they miss an important point. A lot of people, especially web developers and publishers, don't see themselves as part of Microsoft's world, even if they use or develop Windows systems. A thread of independence that's precious. It's central to my purpose, and it was and is central to Netscape's.
Some say it's time to throw in the towel. Either you're Microsoft or you're dead, they say. That's too simple. It's a big world. It may appear to revolve around Microsoft but it doesn't. It revolves around users, the people with the money. More and more, systems are replaceable. The interfaces are less and less proprietary. Lock in goes out.
We can do what Microsoft does, and of course they can do what we do. But there's a difference, and in that difference is the hope for the future. It really is in the user's hands. If they want diversity they can have it. But they have to get their act together to guarantee it.
To me, what counts is the depth and accessibility of the software, its elegance as a solution to problems that people have. Your track record makes a difference. Do you upgrade relevantly? Do you move where the users want you to move?
Software, like a website, is about community. It's a conversation. It's easier to stay with what you know. Believe this -- Microsoft is taking a chance by promoting our software to their users and developers. Many people believed they would never do this. Take a look. Think again.
So I'm off to New York on Tuesday morning. I'll be speaking on the XML keynote, commercial concerns aside, I'll say what I have to say, and I didn't have to pay for the right to do it. Integrity will happen. I hope to learn a lot!
And, as has become a tradition, I will do an evening solo session on Wednesday night. This time I'll demo Frontier for Windows. It'll be interesting because past Seybolds have been pretty much Mac-only. I want to show how Windows makes an excellent web content management environment.
The evening session is free and open to the public.
If you're in New York on Wednesday evening, I hope you come.
Wednesday, March 18, Javits Center, 7:30PM, look for signs for DaveNet.
It's free and open to the public. Bring your questions!