A Batman New Year
Monday, January 3, 2000 by Dave Winer.
And welcome to our 2000s.
Sing the old Beatles song. Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise.
It's a great song to repeatedly play on a CD. The Beatles put end-of-track pauses in the middle of the song. How many? I can't tell because I've listened to the song about 254 times while I wrote this piece.
What are we going to do about Y2K?
Many of us imagined, as children, where we would be and what we would be doing when the calendar flipped over, and we all got it wrong.
For me, it was a toss-up. If the Y2K story had been worth covering I would have stayed on the Internet, learning whatever I could. But there was not much of a story.
A few weeks earlier, a friend who runs the local gas station, an Indian man, asked me "What are we going to do about Y2K?" (I can totally hear his voice saying this!)
I exclaimed: "There will be problems. And we will fix them!"
It's a joke I play on new programmers. A bug is reported. The problem isn't fully understood. I put a serious professorial look on my face. "I know what you should do about that bug," I say to the unsuspecting programmer. "What?" he asks. "You should fix it!" We all have a good laugh.
Of course since we added the millennial rollover bugs to the software, we can fix the bugs too. We have a heightened appreciation for this now that programmers have to keep servers running smoothly 24-by-7. We'll remember this in the future, the human race is good at this kind of stuff. Fixing things. We do that really well!
Speaking of servers
Remember EditThisPage.Com? It's now serving 1500 sites. That number blows people away. So I like to say it often. 1500 sites. On a single inexpensive Windows 2000 box.
Boy are we learning! My friend at Microsoft, Mohsen Al-Ghosein, gave me some good advice a few weeks ago before we released Manila. He said "Just open it up." I shuddered. "What if people really use it?" He said that when people open up Internet services, they rarely know in advance where their scaling issues will be. Memorize that. It is so true. Better to open the service, let the issues reveal themselves, and then respond quickly.
Here's some of what we learned. Most sites rarely change. And most sites are rarely accessed. The key is to optimize the server so it can handle huge amounts of infrequently updated and accessed content.
Were it not for a design glitch in the Frontier kernel, which we are now fixing, I think we could serve 100,000 sites from a $2000 server on a T1 line. Not static sites, but dynamic sites with Edit This Page buttons on every page.
A bright new beginning?
As a child I imagined the dawning of a new century as a bright thing.
After a Spanish dinner, and a half-hour breathwork, I rang in the new century with a group of friends on the roof of a three-story building in downtown San Francisco. We had a view of the ancient San Francisco bus station, with its bright digital clock, and of the fireworks on the Embarcadero. By the time we reached the roof it was already 12:03. The fireworks were exploding.
But it wasn't a bright thing. Why? It was midnight! It's dark at midnight! Duh. Dark and techno (the fireworks), and retro (the bus station) at the same time.
Just like Batman and the villains he fights.
The new century sneaks in, in the dark of night.
Blackbird fly. Blackbird fly.
Into the light of the dark black night.
All your life you were only waiting for this moment to be free.
What it means
That's what the new millennium means to me.
It's over. The rest of my time on this planet is a bonus.
I made it. Into the light..
Of the dark black night!