News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
cactus picture Mail Starting 3/24/97

From: gnu@toad.com (John Gilmore);
Sent at 3/26/97; 1:36:19 PM;
Re:Fat Web Pages

Thanks for trying to take on "easy installation". The "out of box experience" is very important -- and usually quite painful. Many times it's the OS that forces this (you have to stick things in particular places, reboot, have special permission, etc), but it is also frequently just poor design of the application's installer. (Even the standard MacOS "installer" makes you switch floppies more times than necessary -- for no reason I could ever discern. You have to stick in the first floppy at the end, again!)

Whatever you can do to improve this will be a big deal. Make sure your first attempt is VERY extensible though; you will discover numerous things to fix as the first hundred companies use it, and even more things you'll kick yourself over as the first thousand do. Try to get some real complicated apps early -- I don't use a Mac enough to point an obvious one out, but maybe something like AutoCAD.

Note that if this catches on, people will use it from CDROMs too! There's no reason not to put an HTML interface on your CDROM (and many reasons to do so). Rich Morin, rdm@cfcl.com, has been shipping free- software-collection CDROMs for some years using cross-platform HTML interfaces.

From: aj503@freenet.carleton.ca (Alastair Sweeny);
Sent at 3/25/97; 6:06:38 AM;
Re:NY Times on Push

Push is just glorified email, with attachments, in real time, with too many ads.

From: Shipley@aol.com;
Sent at 3/24/97; 2:53:11 PM;
Your comments about Demo

I was forwarded your comments about the Demo Web site. I'm a little confused as to where and when you were looking. Did you look at www.demo97.com where the program, speakers, and product descriptions all linked to more information on the vendors' sites where available and appropriate? Did you look on or after February 9th when the site opened concurrent with the conference? Of course, I'd appreciate your critique of that site.

As for live coverage, you bring up a good point. The Demo97 web site was developed to meet the needs of both paying attendees and those who could not attend the conference. After much debate, we determined that live broadcast of the event did not deliver the complete, quality Demo experience nor was there much, if any, call for it. Attendence at the 96 "virtual" conference was not significant. Because you can do something is not often reason enough to do something. I determined that live broadcast was not best use of resources given all the other things we wanted to do at the conference.

To your final question: "What are the promoters holding on to? Could their conferences be even more authoritative if they opened them up? Would people find less of a reason to go? I think not."

My objective in producing Demo is to create the highest quality experience for Demo attendees and subscribers. I will always deploy resources in their favor first, while striving to make the conference accessible to as many interested parties as possible.

Thanks for the coverage and the food for thought.

From: shields@crosslink.net (Michael Shields);
Sent at 3/24/97; 2:03:32 PM;
Re:NY Times on Push

> Oh I wish the New York Times didn't have a password-protected
> website!

Take a look at http://www.mapsonus.com for how this ought to be done. You don't have to register, so it still lets you link into the site and adds value to the web. But if you do, then you get benefits because it saves your preferences. They get the tracking information they want from most users, but without forcing it.

From: sgs@best.com (Steve Steinberg);
Sent at 3/24/97; 9:47:06 AM;
Re:NY Times on Push

Hey, if doing a column questioning Push is a sign of intelligence, can I point out that mine ran in the Los Angeles Times in _November_?

See http://www.steinberg.org/copy/push.html. My main point being:

" Watching Pointcast, I find myself more interested in the strange poetry created by the rapid succession of headlines than in any particular story. The headlines blur together, and I'm left convinced that with so much happening nowadays, it's a good thing that I have a computer to keep track of it all.

Contrast this with the process of getting the news off the Web. Here, I first decide which news site I want to go to, and then as I scroll through the stories at my own pace, I follow the hyperlinks that interest me until I find myself deep in a history of Yemen. I may end up feeling as if I'm lost in an infinite labyrinth, but I learned something from the journey. "

Anyway, the real reason I'm emailing you is because I'm working on an article about the future of groupware. For all the hype Netscape & Microsoft put out about "groupware", what they are actually doing is incredibly primitive compared to what people in academia are talking about in CSCW journals & conferences. With all your developer connections, do you know of any interesting work going on in this space?

From: bod@bod.org (Paul Chambers);
Sent at 3/24/97; 9:24:36 AM;
Re:NY Times on Push

'Push' as it stands today deserves to fail. It serves the needs of the people doing the pushing, not those on the receiving end. That's what triggers my 'gag reflex'. But the fundamental issue with 'push' lies in who has control over what's being pushed through the channel. If I have control, it can be information - content I want to see. If they have complete control, it is advertising (or some more palatable derivative).

I gladly pay my $7.95 a month to San Jose Mercury's 'NewsHound' service http://www.hound.com/ to have it push news stories to me by email. The difference is that I have fine-grained control over what is pushed to me. In a sense I initially 'pull' to configure it, and 'push' keeps the right kind of information flowing.

The problem I have with services like PointCast is that the customization they offer is coarse-grained selection between sources, for the most part. It's the kind of choice you exercise when you walk up to a magazine rack - if they don't have the magazine you want to read, you're out of luck, and your choice is between MacUser and MacWorld, not from a pool of Mac-related articles.

I want to choose articles based on their content, not who published them. Sure, I'd like to know the source, but only as a stamp of credibility, not the primary criteria for selection.

Perhaps that's the real revolution here - the 'filter' provided by traditional publishers is being bypassed. That's simultaneously both good and bad. The consumer is deluged with content of a much broader spectrum than he or she has had access to in the traditional publishing system. But the tools for extracting the wheat from the chaff are only embryonic at best. Now I get to choose what I consider wheat, though - and that's a huge change from the print publications. No longer is someone else deciding what is considered 'news' on my behalf, or deciding which articles will make this month's issue based on some 'average subscriber' demographic.

From: rich@richnet.org (Rich Santalesa);
Sent at 3/24/97; 3:54:19 PM;
Re:NY Times on Push

Frankly, I think the backlash against push is the biggest piece of puffery to come along, since it's really just a gag reflex engendered by the wave of too abundant push hype. Push has it's place, but everyone tries to frame it as some cosmic asteroid ready to impact on the web. It's like radio and tv, man. They co-exist fine. Push and the web, same thing. They both serve their purpose.

From: amy@home.cynet.net (Amy Wohl);
Sent at 3/24/97; 10:18:16 AM;

I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds Push personally revolting. We only want to push stuff to people who've asked for it.

Dave, you're so right about conferences. The ones that are just on the web are flat and uninteresting because there's no there, there. The ones that are all at the conference until it's over don't understand what you have figured out, which is that it won't hurt the elitist nature of the thing if 500 attendees (or 25,000) are augmented by thousands who can't be there looking on. It fact, it enhances their status.

This argues for a new kind of conference which is both at once. There (at the conference) and here (on the web). Can we do that? What would it be?

From: ameck@mecklermedia.com (Alan Meckler);
Sent at 3/24/97; 10:09:21 AM;
Re:NY Times on Push

Gleick was great and it appeared in the Sunday magazine also --- Dvorak recently ran a similar piece in PC Mag. Anyone who has ever been involved with serious research would have known the problems with push right from the start.

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