A Web Thanksgiving
Thursday, November 22, 2001 by Dave Winer.
A joke. How many Californians does it take to screw in a lightbulb? None, Californians don't screw in lightbulbs, they screw in hot tubs. Amen to that. To me, a hot tub is an essential utility of life -- much like a shower, or a kitchen sink. So on Thanksgiving, first and foremost, I am thankful to my hot tub for being a true friend, a place of meditation, a place to slow down, and enjoy the blessings of nature, both of the world, and of our species.
Anyway, California is about more than relaxing in lovely hot tubs. We're also into spiritual development. A story from a workshop in Big Sur a few years ago. Our teacher gave us an assignment. "Everyone walk around the building and let your eye wander, and whatever it falls on," he said, "thank it." This sounded dorky at first, but then it got worse. For the exercise, it's not enough to just say "Thanks" or "Thank you" -- you must also say why you're so thankful.
It was a life-changing experience. After the awkwardness wore off, it's actually a lot of fun, because it can get you to look at things you often overlook, and see how those things support your existence, and even better, how they can offer you new experiences, a richer more enjoyable existence. In other words, there's more to life than surviving (a test we all eventually fail). A secret to this richer experience is to unleash the innate human sense of gratitude.
There's a bug in many cultures, one that says that somehow it's dangerous to be appreciative. "If I thank you, you'll punish me," appears to be a common belief. But try taking a contrarian view and see what happens, put on your lab coat and try an experiment. Practice gratitude. At first the receiver of your thanks might not know what to say or do (it's so unusual). But say thanks often enough and relaxation sinks in, on both ends.
People say they're thankful for this or that, but when do we say thanks to that which we are thankful for? A bug, perhaps, revealed? (So let's try to fix it.)
A few months ago, relaxing in my living room with a friend, I told the story of my teacher and the thanks-giving exercise. My friend asked for a demo.
So I took a deep breath and started thanking all the things on the coffee table. Thank you pen, for giving me a way of recording my ideas. Thank you glass of water for cooling me off. Thanks to the magazines and Lego toys for helping my mind idle. Thank you to the deck of cards for giving me a way to play with my friends. Thank you candles for the light of my ancestors.
Then I looked up and thanked the track lights for helping me see things that I otherwise wouldn't. I thanked the books on the bookshelf for bringing me the minds of great authors. Thanks to the bookshelf for supporting the authors. I thanked the picture over the mantle for reminding me that it's OK to dream of beauty.
It's so easy to slip in to a self-centered view of the universe, to grieve your own insignificance, but it's also easy to let your mind wander outside your body and find that there is so much to be appreciative of, so many experiences that involve others, without the grief, to learn that our little nook of the universe is very cozy and warm and lovely and wet and comfortable, if you open your mind to seeing that.
Every Thanksgiving since DaveNet started in 1994, I've written an essay about the holiday, which is such a simple celebration, so inclusive, so easy to participate in. This year, in the spirit of my teacher's lesson, I'm going to wander around for the Web and take notes of thanksgiving to the people who inspire me, teach me, and give so much of themselves through the wonderful medium known as the World Wide Web. The list is in no special order, or maybe it is, if so, I don't know what order it's in.
Thanks to Apple Computer for supporting SOAP 1.1 and XML-RPC in Mac OS X. Thanks to Steve Zellers for making it happen. Thanks to Bill Humphries and George Ma for helping spread the weblog gospel inside Apple.
Thanks to Craig Burton for showing that it's possible to be a technology leader and still follow your heart.
Thanks to the developers who worked on SOAP interop in April. Thanks to Simon Fell and Paul Kulchenko for being our special friends in this community. Thanks to Microsoft for working with us on SOAP for the last three years, and thanks for sticking with the partnership, even though it's been rough at times.
Thanks to all the ex-Microsoft people who give me advice and encouragement.
Thanks to the growing community of XML-RPC developers for keeping the spirit of independent developers alive.
Thanks to Mike Krus for NewsIsFree.Com, a two-person company that provides great news feeds for our users and customers. And thanks to Mike for being the first to support every format and protocol that pops out of my mind.
Thanks to everyone who has the guts to operate a public server, for keeping the Internet diverse and decentralized.
Thanks to Bryan Bell for being the first designer to really partner with geeks. Thanks to Derek Powazek for designing with RSS feeds. Thanks to all the geeks who make Web tools that support templates so that designers can make our geekish spaces easy to use and beautiful to look at.
Thanks to all the out-of-work Web developers, designers, writers, producers and entrepreneurs for sticking with it.
Thanks to developers working on outliners in 2001. You're working on the next wave of the Internet, even if you don't know it, yet. ;->
Thanks to our beta testers for being brilliant, tireless, positive, supportive, helpful, and necessary to our success. Thanks to Scott Loftesness for being so patient with our bugs, and for introducing us to Doug Kaye. Thanks to Sam Devore, Faisal Jawdat, Jeremy Bowers, Ken Dow, Andy Fragen, for being so generous with their time and ideas. Thanks to Adam Curry for always pushing the envelope. Thanks to Stewart Brand, for patiently awaiting the beta test of our next product. (We haven't forgotten.)
Thanks to Tim O'Reilly and his company for writing great books about technology, and supporting the spirit of independent developers. Thanks to Eric Raymond, Richard Stallman, and the leaders of the open source developer community for insisting that software is more than business. Thanks to Edd Dumbill, Nathan Torkington, Simon St Laurent, Leigh Dodds and Rael Dornfest for informing me of developments in the XML world from a pragmatic point of view.
Thanks to Doc Searls for being my very true friend. Thanks to Sylvia Paull for reading every word I write.
Thanks to the RIAA, Disney and other media companies who remove their content from public networks creating room for new musicians, creative artists and journalists to take their place. Thanks to patent users for helping us to look at software as an art requiring free speech protection. Thanks to Lawrence Lessig for preaching political activism to developers. Thanks to the EFF for defending us in court. Thanks to Dmitri Sklyarov for going to jail to protect our freedom.
Thanks to my critics, who lovingly nuture my self-doubt, and thanks to Jean-Louis Gassee for teaching me a long time ago that the higher the monkey climbs the tree the more people can see his derriere.
Thanks to developers who support new standards, who believe in choice for users, who see the value of competition.
Thanks to our competitors for believing in the Web, for keeping us on our toes, and supporting our ideas.
Thanks to Wes Felter for keeping me informed of news from the open source and Unix worlds.
Thanks to Dictionary.Com for putting language on the Web in such an easy to use way. Thanks to Google for helping me find all the good stuff on the Web, and for upgrading the Web with the JIT-SE vision this year (it's nice to take an item off my wish list, however I still am waiting for a great text editor and easy vector graphics in the browser). Thanks to Daypop for bringing together all the content of all the weblogs.
Thanks to Brewster Kahle for archiving the Web so we can see where we came from. Thanks to Ray Ozzie for working to make P2P a reality. Thanks to Evan Williams for popularizing the weblog concept. Thanks to Joel Spolsky for making editing text for the Web an easier, faster and a richer experience.
Thanks to all the people who shared their stories and pictures on September 11.
Thanks to Patrick Scoble for being my friend. (He's just seven years old, but what a wise person he is.)
Thanks to the UserLand team: Brent Simmons, Robert Scoble, Jake Savin, John Robb, Lawrence Lee and Doug Baron, for pouring endless hours and all their creativity into building the network that I want to see built.
Thanks to the Weblog community for growing at leaps and bounds, for exploring every niche of introspection and anticipating a network of independent journalists that will keep us informed, inspired and free in the years to come. Thanks to Glenn Fleishman, Deborah Branscum, Sally Richards, Lisa Rein, Paul Boutin, Lance Knobel, JD Lasica, Amy Wohl, and Dan Gillmor, professional journalists who write for the Web for free.
And finally, thanks to technology for bringing me the Web. Every invention of the last thirty years is a necessary part of the thing we call the Web, which isn't a thing at all -- it's a macro-human intellect, with imagery, words and hyperlinks. Holding hands in cyberspace, and so much more.
I've tried to be inclusive in this piece, to be thankful to people and ideas who, on other days, I might not be so thankful for.
I'm also imperfect, especially my memory, so if I failed to thank you properly in this piece, please accept my apology and gratitude, in advance, for understanding my imperfectness.