Dave the Disintermediator
Saturday, July 24, 1999 by Dave Winer.
Yesterday I reviewed a draft of a report on syndication by Kevin Werbach for Esther Dyson's RELease 1.0 newsletter. The report covered all aspects of syndication and aggregation, ranging from content management systems, distributed computing protocols, and syndication formats and servers. Kevin did a very thorough job, he talked to a lot of people, including people who read DaveNet and who participate in discussions at UserLand.Com.
I had one longish phone talk with him as he was researching the piece. I always wonder how my story will come through, and this time it came through clearly. I hope they post this piece on their website, or allow us to post it. I understand that this isn't always possible, since the newsletter costs $700 per year. I think everyone involved in this area should read the report. I feel so strongly about this that I will now link to their subscriber page.
Since Kevin spoke with many of the companies we're working with he was able to carry messages between us. Very interesting! Reading the piece I learned more about how the market is shaping up. His piece closes a few loops that have been opened in earlier DaveNet pieces about Allaire, Netscape, Microsoft and others.
One thing I can report now with some certainty is that we're working productively with Netscape again.
There's a new version of their syndication format coming soon that embraces almost all that's in our syndication format. This is excellent!
We will continue to work with Netscape with the goal of reducing both formats to a single compatible format.
Also from Werbach's piece came a reminder that we need to bring WDDX and XML-RPC together. Allaire is moving into content management, and we're branching out too, producing editorial tools that could benefit from connecting to Allaire's software. Working together we arrived at a plan early this year. Both companies have been busy developing other software in the interim, but we intend to implement our plan to bridge the two most popular Internet-based object serialization formats and to give Allaire developers a way to call procedures running on Internet servers written in Python, Java, Tcl, Perl, PHP, Visual Basic, and of course Frontier.
At the same time, yesterday, came an InfoWorld story by Bob Trott quoting Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer at a financial analyst meeting talking about this developing market. The report was quite confusing. Perhaps something got lost in the translation? I couldn't figure out what they were saying, but I definitely want to know more.
This week we also saw Microsoft move aggressively into the Internet chat space in competition with AOL. My contacts at Microsoft had given me a heads-up that fireworks were on the way. I doubted it. Now I've seen their technical/PR team in action in Summer 1999. I'm a believer. Microsoft can still command a full share of mind.
I've never seen anyone try, to the extent that I do, to be both an analyst, writing for the public, and also working behind the scenes as a technologist and entrepreneur with product (actually four now, in various stages of development).
My algorithm remains the same as it has been since we restarted UserLand in Spring 1996. I am a software developer who writes for the public. I talk about what I can publicly, and I don't talk about what I can't talk about. The web made this kind of entrepreneurship possible, and to varying degrees other people are doing similar things.
The closest examples are the venture capitalists writing for Fortune, Bill Gurley and Stewart Alsop; and Guy Kawasaki writing for Forbes. Their points of view are interesting because they are in some of the most interesting business meetings happening in 1999. I am very lucky to be in the loop on what I think is the most interesting technology of our time. I think I can help it move forward productively by chronicling the experiences in DaveNet and other places.
I also know, and you should too, that I help my company's cause by writing publicly. Everything I say should be taken with the grain of salt that I represent a certain set of interests, but I try to be clear about what those are. If we're developing in a new area, I tell you about it as we enter those areas. I don't want a competitor to be blind-sided working with us if we're going to be offering choice in a market they consider important. (For the record, we're active in four areas: consumer-level content management; net-based writing tools; Frontier, which is a developer platform for content management; and a web-based aggregation engine.)
On the other side, I have always felt that the technologist's point of view has been under-represented in business publications, and now on the web. Details often gets lost when a technologist talks to a business analyst. The ongoing purpose of DaveNet continues to be "disintermediating" the flow of information from the mind of a developer to people who are interested in knowing how that mind works. That's why I point to Dan Bricklin when he writes about spreadsheets. It would be great if every person leading a development team would do the same -- narrate their work as they go along. Then software development becomes a teaching environment, people don't have to relearn the lessons if people are open about the lessons they've learned.
PS: You might not find "disintermediate" in your dictionary. It's a verb. To disintermediate is to eliminate an intermediary. When you talk to a reporter and that reporter explains what you said, he or she is intermediating. You disintermediate when you write your own piece and publish it on the web. The word has usually applied to commerce, buying and selling of goods, where disintermediation eliminates a distributor or retailer.