A Y2K-Safe Bank?
Wednesday, July 15, 1998 by Dave Winer.
Yesterday's piece was the result of a lot of hard work over a few months, explaining to business people and reporters, usually not successfully, why I was so excited about the idea of XML-RPC.
Yesterday, after running the piece, I got a phone call from Dan Gillmor at the SJ Merc, breathless, excited, speaking in superlatives. I think Dan had a glimpse of something more that the Net could do for him. It's great when the loop closes!
There were other similar phone conversations and emails yesterday. If it works, others will pick up the ball, and as more news happens in this area, hopefully the stories will be grounded in reality, not the Boy Kills Boy norm of the software industry. I hope!
One writer asks what's the difference between CGIs and XML-RPC. Good question! At a basic level, there is no difference. CGI is a loose protocol for doing RPC over the net. But unlike the *promise* of XML-RPC, which is to have some organization to the flow of control over the net, CGI is so loose that no order can be imposed on it at this late stage. If XML-RPC doesn't have standard interfaces then it will be no more useful than CGIs. The hope is that it doesn't go that way. More hope!
Anyway, now that the Newbies piece is done, my next piece, due by the end of next week, will be XML-RPC for Geeks. I'm going to work with Stewart Allen of WebMethods on this project. Their software and ours interoperate using the same XML-RPC protocol. We'll have more details, shortly.
Anyone else who wants to help, please let me know. We'll need reviewers, people to ask questions, so we can make sure the spec is a complete set of guidelines for implementing XML-RPC on other platforms, in other environments.
In the meantime, a couple of short items that have nothing to do with XML-RPC...
I read Burn Rate by Michael Wolff over the last few days. What a great book! I think it changed my life in the same way that Douglas Coupland's Microserfs did. As with Microserfs, I can easily put myself into his world. I've been there! In fact, I'm still there.
I thought it was just me who was bewildered by the incredible pace and lack of depth and substance in the online world. I'm surprised that Wolff and I never crossed paths, but his face is familiar, so I believe we must have met once or twice at some industry conference.
Anyway, after reading the book, I'm so captivated by the culture, now I want to be a VC just so I can experience the thrill of firing a CEO and replacing him with a "factotum". Wolff expresses the same doubts that I have, can the net really be a literary medium, or does everyone just skim, looking for sensual bits, ignoring the subtlety of the writing? I like to believe at least *some* people read the stuff I write. Maybe no one does? Hmmm. Oh well. We'll see.
Burn Rate is an excellent read, a little depressing, but it's an exciting story because he burns his bridges so thoroughly and so dramatically. If you're professionally or personally involved in the Net business culture, for better or worse, I highly recommend it.
My theory is that the Net, as a medium, gains and loses focus very quickly. When the DOJ takes Microsoft to court, or a security hole opens in IIS, lots of people zero in, looking for new info, experiencing the thrill of the real-timeness of the medium.
Between the major events, chatrooms, game servers and porn sites are where the action is. The challenge is to get in tune with the flow, always be ready to drop everything and cover the hot story, get into the mania, and then let it subside quickly.
But some stories play out over many months, like this one...
There are only 535 days remaining in this millennium.
Do you know where your money is?
Seriously, who doubts that there will be a financial crisis of some kind, before we cross the Y2K line? Do you think the press is finished with this one? I don't. Even if the banks are fully prepared, why haven't any of them started marketing their computers as being Y2K safe?
It seems that the first bank to step up and proclaim Y2K-safeness will get the full benefit of the financial panic that's sure to come (soon!) as we get close to the line.
Here's a proposal. A leading bank or brokerage firm does extensive tests of their computers, simulating the changing of the century. Take out the glitches. Do it again. Take out more glitches. Do it again. Run the test in every conceivable way, and then put their stake in the ground, proclaim their systems to be Y2K-safe and make a guarantee. Publish the methodology so other banks can do the same. I bet Y2K-safeness will become a marketing issue for banks, and perhaps in other industries.
While we're on the topic, is there a good website that explains, in layman's terms, how an organization can start testing their systems for Y2K-safeness? Over the weekend I was asked this question by some relative newbies, and I didn't have a good answer. My first take was, tomorrow, set the clock on one of your computers to 12/31/99 and leave it turned on for a couple of days. What worked? What didn't?
If you have other ideas or pointers, let me know...
PS: CGI stands for Common Gateway Interface. It's a way of sending a procedure call over the net, with the returned result as HTML formatted text.
PPS: There's also a public relations opportunity for software companies who help banks get Y2K-safe. Think of it as an insurance policy against a backlash among consumers who want to believe that computers keep their money safe as opposed to putting it at risk.