Just a potpourri
Saturday, March 17, 2001 by Dave Winer.
Please don't read between the lines of this piece. There's little rhyme or reason for the juxtaposition of these bits. It's just a flowerful potpourri, which is a fantastic word. I looked it up. "A combination of incongruous things." Yes, that's right.
Apple started it, back in the 1980s, with its friendly Macintosh, with an ease-of-use culture that crept into the developer documentation, which was a marvel of clarity. The Mac's super-simple programming model was described by the phonebook-size Inside Macintosh, followed by a small bookshelf of addenda that over the years got less friendly as the original Macintosh pioneers left and were replaced from the general talent pool of Silicon Valley, such as it is.
What a place of contrasts. Just forty years ago there was little here but fruit orchards and Stanford University. In springtime you can smell the few remaining fruit trees as the air fills with the smell of their flowers. This is that time of year in Silicon Valley, for the next few weeks it's like living in a perfume factory, perhaps just a shadow of its former opulence, but luxurious nonetheless.
Silicon Valley has been through four huge bursts of growth, speading out each time. Just like the Internet, the Valley is an onion, with the aerospace industry, chips, software, consultants and portals. Billboards that line its main artery, Highway 101, tell the story. The city at the south of the Valley, San Jose, is where MAE-WEST lives, 40 percent of the world's Internet traffic flows through San Jose; and up north are the artists and Hollywood types. Inbetween, in Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Los Altos, Palo Alto, Atherton, Redwood City, Burlingame, Daly City, are everything inbetween that's technnology related.
Back to Inside Macintosh, which was written in Silicon Valley. The docs were written for Pascal programmers, the more verbose dialect of Algol, the slightly older brother of the more concise C. Their variables needed names, so they called them things like myPort, myHandle, myMenu, myMouseLocation. At first I thought this was stupid, but eventually I drank the Kool Aid, and now I too put "my" in front of lots of my things.
Many people think I just write essays and weblogs and I don't make software, and that when I say I do I'm either pretending or am delerious. Let me say this on the record. I make software. Some people are just figuring that out and they're kind of surprised. Don't blame me, I've always fessed up to this nasty habit of mine. ;->
I've spent the last three years learning how to write aggregators, Internet programs that read lots of XML things and make it easy for users to configure flows from those things, and then late last year figured out how to make it easy for them to create their own output flows. Other kinds of aggregators are search engines, directories, weblogs, home pages.
The next step, when living in AggregatorLand, as I often do, is ourCalendar, ourDirectory, and ourWeblogs. Some things will always be "my" like the mouse and keyboard and my social security number. But much of the data and software we use will be "our". That's why we started a site called OurFavoriteSongs, using the term "song" liberally, believing that anything creative or interesting can be thought of as a song. Clearly there's room for poetry in our software.
I'm writing a press release for Monday. Paul Andrews, one of my newest friends, the former reporter for The Seattle Times who now writes for the Web and freelances for the NY Times, popped over by surprise while I was working on the press release. He read the piece and encouraged me to not be so bashful about my product. I usually hold something back. He said Steve Ballmer doesn't ever do it so why should I? Good point.
Everywhere you go in technology land these days people are wanting to charge for their stuff again. But in every story there's a halting point. We're waiting for someone to tell us what it's OK to charge for. Once we knew, now we don't.
In the meantime, AOL keeps growing and charging users $20 a month, and raking in all the money we wish we were here in California. There must be an electricity-related joke to go with this story, but I can't think of it right now.
Anyway AOL's pot of gold looks reallly good from out here.
Now it's time for an Ole and Lena joke. Ole was talking to his neighbor Sven who said, "Ole, you and Lena should really get some new blinds." "Why?" asked Ole. "Well last night, I saw, you and Lena, well you know, doing it." Ole thought for a bit, then said, "Ha ha Sven, the joke's on you, I wasn't home last night!"