Monday, June 1, 1998 by Dave Winer.
Good morning and welcome to June!
Where I'm from it's starting to get hot, it's more fun outdoors than in. July is right around the corner and then another month of heat, August. Whew! Looking forward to it. For kids June means the end of school, and possibly more opportunities to make trouble. Same here!
For me June means a fresh start. I'm looking for ways to get rid of things that are holding me back. That means saying goodbye to old ways. I have a feeling that it's a good time to gain new perspectives, if I can pop up a couple of levels I'll see opportunity everywhere.
Look at how well it's working for Netscape!
They are recasting themselves as a marketing and operations company, not as much of a development company. They are linking services and software. It's a winning formula. Netscape should continue to look for ways to leverage their browser installed base in network services and e-commerce. If they really get this, buy their stock.
In the meantime people at Netscape have trouble listening to me, as Steve Jobs at Apple does. They don't get it, if I say they're blowing it in one area, that doesn't mean that I think they're blowing it everywhere; or if I say they're blowing it in May, that doesn't mean I can't change my mind in June. And I never think my opinion is the only valid one. Public commentary is good for everyone. If they listen it can help them get their message out, or correct mistakes more quickly.
If only the industry people would deal in a long-term way, they would have less to complain about when they get coverage they don't like. With the channels open everyone can grow. It's about relationships. The Netscape people I've been in touch with either sulk or get enraged when I say I don't like what they do. They cut and run, which means to me, they're only listening to people who say things they like.
Look at Microsoft. I blast them and they keep the conversation going. Last week I said "I have great plans for Microsoft," in a phone conversation with a Microsoft exec and he says he likes that. Even I was surprised.
I also have great plans for Netscape. But Marc Andreessen doesn't like it. I want to help. I admit I to saying it awkwardly. The answer that came back was an unmistakable blow off. Of course I keep plugging away.
That's why my motto is Still Diggin!
Barry Goldwater, who died last week, is not digging any more.
He wanted to run against Kennedy, his friend, in 1964. They were going to rent a jet and travel across the country, debating in the style of Lincoln and Douglas. You can be sure it would have been elevating. Instead he ran against Lyndon Johnson, and was painted an extremist, a cause he helped, because he admitted to being an extremist. I remember the TV ads. A mushroom cloud and a simple question, do you want Goldwater's finger on the button? I guess most people didn't because Johnson won in a landslide.
Goldwater was a conservative. I was raised to think that conservatives are unrealistic and weak. Can't handle the future? That's what I was taught to think of conservatives. But watching Goldwater's 1964 GOP convention acceptance speech on C-Span, I realized that his conservativism was different, it was positive and courageous. He wanted to return to the charter of the United States, the foundation of free speech and limited government. The United States of Thomas Jefferson was a great thing! Very innovative for its time. A good place to look for core values.
Goldwater was a team player, up to a point. When his line of integrity was crossed, he didn't go easily. He said his fellow Republican, Richard Nixon was the most dishonest person he had ever met. Goldwater was the conservative leader who eventually went for abortion rights and gays in the military. He said "All I care about is that they can shoot straight." Right on Barry.
Well, unlike Goldwater, I'm still alive and I'm still diggin!
Frontier has a been a long ten-year road, with lots of changes along the way. First it was commercial, then we gave up and freed it in 1995. Then we discovered a killer app for Frontier in 1996, I reinvested, we ported to Windows with the intent of creating a commercial product.
Now it's time to begin another transition, either we'll succeed and have a well-financed development and operations company, or we'll put Frontier in mothballs, and revisit it next year. So the stakes are high for us. It's shit or get off the pot time here at UserLand. Wheee!
In our old model, support was centered around a sprawling set of mail lists, where people would ask questions and get answers. But there was more and more discussion of our direction, and a broad focus across all features of the product, as we've been trying to narrow the focus to areas where our software has a unique and valuable contribution to make.
This created a conflict for us, and made it more difficult for us to move. Now we have to take some big steps, take some risks, so as of today UserLand is no longer hosting mail lists for Frontier users.
We'll happily point to Frontier-related mail lists sponsored by other people or groups. This is the norm in the software business. Independent discussions on independently hosted lists. No one is forced to participate.
And with this move comes the opportunity to invent new ways to communicate. As long as the mail lists were operating there was less room (or need) for people to innovate.
Let's use the web better, set up systems that encourage people to think before they click the Send button, and make it easy to revise their writing later after they see how other people respond.
I feel it's more appropriate for individuals to invest in a personal website for promoting their opinions. After all, Frontier is a great website management system! Maybe we can do *all* the communicating we need to do on the web, which is a more thoughtful medium than email? We'll see. We've created the space for that to happen.
I hope that the people who use Frontier will accept the challenge and fill the space with innovative new groupware.
By June 30 we'll have a plan for turning Frontier users into customers. Please don't ask how it will work, give us some time to get organized. If we fail we will go on sabbatical, get some new perspectives, and possibly start over in early 1999.
Now I hope that people on our mail lists understand why we turned them off. We're going to change now. We don't want to waste June debating with people. We have decisions to make, and have a right to make them unilaterally and without getting consensus, just as the people who use our products do. The mail lists made it difficult for us to move and that's why we stopped hosting them.
I'll write more about what we're doing with Frontier in the next few weeks.
First, I wanted to cross this line, let it sink in, and go the next few steps.
Thanks to everyone for helping us turn this corner.