Winning isn't everything!
Wednesday, October 20, 1999 by Dave Winer.
Did you watch last night's baseball game? I did.
The Mets were down 5-0 in the first. The announcers said, repeatedly, it's just about over for the Mets. "You don't study history!" I kept saying. "These are the Mets. They don't go so easy."
The lead would change four times, yes they caught the Braves, took the lead and lost it, twice. The final score, in extra innings, was 10-9.
Did the Mets win? They did not. Did they win my respect? They sure did!
What a team, what an inspiration!
In the mid-60s, so many years ago, a man with a sign at Shea.
After the first pitch of the first game of the season, his sign said "Wait till next year!"
Finally, even though the Mets will not be in the World Series this year, I still believe.
God speaks to us in mysterious ways!
It had been a while since I had watched TV sports and an old frustration resurfaced. Why do I have to listen to these jerks talk thru the game?
One would think that, by now, with the Internet and "convergence" that I would have my choice of talk-tracks. Why couldn't I do the play by play myself? Instead of making stupid comments about people and history, instead we'd make metaphysical observations. "I wonder what God meant by that?" Dave the announcer would ask. We'd call a random fan to ask his opinion. "Sir, are you watching the game?" I'd ask. "What did that last play mean to you?"
There are so many opportunities for creativity here. Sports could be an educational medium.
Just a thought.
Last Friday I had a chance to meet one of my heroes, Tim Bray, co-inventor of XML.
We went to lunch and I got a demo of his new service, which is still confidential.
On the way to lunch I told him that XML 1.0 was solid, we were using it to simplify our own spec, XML-RPC. When questions come up, very often the answer could be found in Tim's spec. This is the highest endorsement I can give. A spec that's good enough to use. And one that was timely so that it *could* be used.
We talked about lots of things, including the IETF. I complained about their complaints about my work. Typical comment: "It won't scale." Oh. I think there's a disconnect. I never wanted XML to be a substitute for DNS, or a protocol that would be understood by routers. I see XML as an interchange format that allows different environments and operating systems and applications to plug into each other at a very high level.
Speaking for myself only, the IETF is behaving like a platform vendor, jealously guarding its right to control what we do. My message is the same as it's always been to jealous platform vendors. "Get over it."
And to Tim Bray, a creative guy with bright eyes, the best of luck in his new venture. It involves XML, of course. We're going to work with Tim, and build some stuff off his stuff. Of course!
Before addressing the IETF directly, I know someone is going to send me email saying there is no such thing as IETF.
I know this is malarky. Of course there is an IETF. And I totally respect what the IETF has accomplished.
I played no role in the Router-DNS-Email-MIME-NNTP-FTP level architecture of the Internet. While they were doing that work, I was a grad student and then a software developer and entrepreneur during the 70s, 80s and early 90s. Many thanks to the IETF for managing these protocols and the magic they made possible, while I was busy doing other things.
However, while I was doing all those things, I was also inventing stuff that's now part of the Internet, as much a part as all the stuff that IETF did.
To whom it may concern, I was the first to do the expand-collapse outlining interface that's now commonly used in software from presentation tools, FTP clients, Java hierarchy navigators, you name it. With all possible humility, I think this contribution was as important as Doug Engelbart's or Ted Nelson's, perhaps more so, because we released commercial software for our "idea processing" vision, where others just did prototypes or wrote visionary essays about this stuff. When you see an expand-collapse display think of me, because I invented that, and I didn't take a patent, so that every engineer who needed a hierarchy browser would be free to use my design. And they have done that. Outliners are *everywhere* these days.
Is this part of the Internet? It depends on how broadly and ambitiously you think. Frontier, our mainstay software, is nothing but an outliner with an object database, scripting language, multi-threaded runtime, HTTP client and server, and (yes!) XML, behind it. We connect outliners to the Internet in ways that are so natural and obvious you'll wonder why no one did it before. Hierarchies *are* the Internet, and where hierachies show up, outliners can't be far behind.
So, the IETF, which I believe *does* exist, may have a small view of the Internet. It would be helpful if they could expand their vision, and not get in the way of necessary next-steps.
Thanks for listening.
I have another gripe I want to bring to DaveNet readers.
Earlier this year a new service and website came online with a very confusing name:
At a party a few weeks ago, someone asked what I do. I gave my usual rap, which includes saying that I write online essays called DaveNet.
"Do you mean DaveNetics?" the other person asked.
When this site first surfaced I asked my lawyer to tell me what I could do. "This is confusing!" I said. "What they do is quite close to what I do. Think about it, what if I started a software company called Microsoftics. Would that be confusing? Would that be fair?"
I don't want to sue these guys. But I'm still angry that this happened. I've been using the DaveNet name since 1994. These guys are newcomers, and are taking advantage of my goodwill. I don't like it.
In Sun is OK, 10/4/99, I hinted at Marc Canter's new project: "I gave them a quote for their website, from an old DaveNet piece I wrote for Wired about Jean-Louis Gassee. That's all I can say right now, or else they'll shoot me!"
The project is DigiScents, an inexpensive hardware product that connects to the Internet and brings smells to your desktop! Could it possibly work? I don't know, I haven't gotten my demo yet. But it's on the cover of Wired this month, and the reporter recounts a demo, and says that it works. I signed up as a beta tester of the product, as soon as I get my demo I'll let you know.
The DigiScents site is here:
And the quote they used is part of a story I like to tell about JLG and what he does when he sees a piece of software he likes. You can do it too. "Extend your right arm. Pull your pinky to your palm. Same with the fourth finger and your thumb. Extend your index and middle fingers and pull them together. Move your arm so that these two fingers are directly under your nose. Sniff shortly three times."
PS: IETF stands for Internet Engineering Task Force.