Friday Loop Closing
Friday, June 11, 1999 by Dave Winer.
Just a brief piece today to correct something said in the last piece and to get some new ideas out there about fear and software and Microsoft.
First, a loop to close. Jakob Nielsen said you gotta have Microsoft Office or you won't be able to read the Word, PowerPoint and Excel files people send you via email. A couple of comments on that one.
1. There are reader apps. Microsoft provides them for Windows users. And the Linux guys are happy to point out that they have reverse-engineered all of Microsoft's file formats, so you don't even have to use Windows to open those files.
2. Maybe you don't want to open them? Opening email enclosures is the number one way for terrible viruses to enter your system over the Internet. This week a new virus came along, Worm.ExplorerZip, a very bad one, and yup it gets into your system thru email and propogates via email. It depends on people being fooled into opening something that appears at first to be a WinZip file (which would be harmless), but isn't. And the Melissa virus was just a Word document with macros. So be very careful what you open up thru your email program. Clicking on URLs is harmless, double-clicking on enclosures is something to do only after a lot of thought.
In summary, you don't need Office to open Office files that come via email, and you should think twice before you do.
My Tuesday piece got a brief email exchange going with a few Microsoft people about the role of Microsoft Office vs Microsoft Internet Explorer. It's also getting me to rethink my position on the regulatory loop that Microsoft is in with the courts.
I'm trying to parse my confusion. Did they snooker me into becoming an Office developer? I never wanted to do that. I like the web. But now the only browser with installed base and momentum and support from the owner (theoretically) is Microsoft's. This, to me, is like the fox guarding the hen house. As a web guy, this is very uncomfortable. The release of Office 2000 raises all my fears.
To Microsoft, I'm not sure it's possible to answer all the questions. Office is a huge piece of software, and along comes the Internet and screws with everything that Office does. Office 2000 is remarkable for the breadth of its embrace of the web. But in doing so, it alters the web, and that's pretty sacred turf, for me and for many other people. So Microsoft is scared, and in expressing that, they evoke my fear! This is not a good place to be.
My pitch to Microsoft, maybe not to the Office team, is to invest in the browser, independent of Office. As a developer who has made a substantial investment in MSIE, I don't like that all the good editing features came in Office. The browser is definitely a writing environment. I don't know if MS realizes this. Leaving the writing environment so barren in MSIE while building out so much in Office is a big problem for the web. That and the disappearance of Netscape.
We're in an awkward mode now. If you want to get out of a place of fear you have to lead a little. This means improving MSIE without tying it to Word. It's pretty simple.
If you doubt that the browser is a writing environment, try using Hotmail as your exclusive email interface for a week. It'll open your eyes. I think if you care about your users you'll generate a two-page feature and bug-fix list. Such improvements will allay much of the fear you hear in my piece, and would engage Microsoft in the web in a way that Microsoft knows how to engage -- feature requests and bugfixes. This is the culture, right??
Stated another way, the key is to embrace the *users* of the web, not just the technology of the web.
Last week there was a conference on women in computing, so there were quite a few articles on the web about women and their use of computers. That's cool, but it seems every article includes one or two sweeping negative statements about men. The following article has three. Can you spot them?
There are so many ways to say this is wrong. The Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, two wrongs don't make a right, what goes around comes around, you reap what you sow. Here's what I have to say. I'm a man and I don't like it.
Male bashing makes it difficult for people who happen to be men, like me, who want to do the right thing by women, to be respectful, to have fun with them, and enjoy the species we share. Sure, it was bad before we were born, and it's bad now, for some, but if you use your new power to hurt men, no matter how they are with women, you lose.
The best way to express your new power is thru love, not fear. And male bashing, that many women think is fun, is fear, the opposite of love. Be inclusive not exclusive. The women are just as bad as the men they complain about. And if you think men don't care, think again. We're people, we're not that different from you.
So if you're serious about being in your power, lose the snicker. If you want respect, give it. You'll be amazed what comes back to you.
Thanks for listening.