If this article about feeds on the IndieWeb wiki represents their philosophy, then their name is wrong -- they're not about independence, because feeds give us independence.

For whatever reason these people seem to want a web without RSS.

Obviously that's not a cause I can support.

A picture named loveRSS.gif

Update #1

Principles: "With IndieWebCamp we've specifically chosen to encourage and embrace a diversity of approaches/implementations."

That's good!

But it's clearly in conflict with the Feeds page.

Update #2

Over the last 8 years or so, we've been caught between Twitter and Google Reader.

Each has been doing its part to redefine what a blog is. And the intersection between the two spaces is empty. Which has led to problems.

  1. Twitter's idea of a blog post is limited to 140 chars, has no titles and resides on their server.

  2. Google Reader's idea of a blog post is something that must have a title, is of unlimited length, and resides both on their server and yours (which imho is a good thing).

Our job, in the coming years, is to heal this.

To define what a blog is, independent of the commercial vendors.

Consensus is formed in the market, not on mail lists or in meetups. If the people who call themselves the Indieweb can get uptake for the formats they would like to replace RSS with, then everyone will support them. Until then, we use what works -- for us. And that should not preclude people from working together.

That would be my manifesto for independence on the web in 2014.

I'm trying to think but nothing happens!

03/15/14; 09:12:45 AM

The new Scripting News, coming soon (I promise!) is heavily influenced by the Scripting News of 2001. I like the way this blog used to work -- before Google Reader and Twitter. It was a mix of both kinds of blog posts -- 1. Short snippets with a couple of links, or 2. An essay, like the one you're reading right now.

Things got confusing for a while (years, actually) and it wasn't clear what role blogs were supposed to play in a "real-time" world defined by Twitter and Facebook and to a lesser extent Google Reader (probably due to their lack of enthusiasm for blogging, had they loved it I think GR would have been equal to either of the other two, after all it was the FriendFeed guys who blazed the trail for Facebook, as they iterated over new ideas for RSS apps).

All I ask you to do today is go back to 2001 -- a big moment in the history of blogging. The archive page is in reverse-chronologic order, so you might want to start at the bottom and scroll up.


That's the kind of flow I am going to have again. I've been blogging in this form, off on the side, since March 2. To me it isn't theoretical that it will work, I already know it will.

And it's a modern approach, using JavaScript and CSS, and eventually will have a node.js server component to connect systems together in new ways -- the kinds of places Google would have gone if (again) they had loved Reader.

Tomorrow may be the day the switch flips. Or perhaps the day after.

Still diggin!

I'm trying to think but nothing happens!

03/13/14; 05:41:15 PM

There was a lovely video making the rounds a couple of days ago.

20 pairs of gorgeous strangers making out. Then it came out that they were actors and it was an ad.

People questioned the good feeling.

I think it makes sense to ignore the story, because the reason it feels great is that we empathize and remember times when we've been there, and the body can't tell the difference so it releases the chemical that makes you feel all happy and great when you're making out with someone desirable.

The action isn't happening on the screen it's happening in your blood and your brain. You're getting high, and it's lovely. Who cares how it happened.

03/13/14; 12:34:37 PM

As I'm reaching completion on the new features of Fargo I'm doing, I realize that I'm no I'm no longer accepting the limits of Twitter or Google Reader.

These two products had us in a vise-like grip.

Twitter says our posts don't have titles, and can't be longer than 140 chars. And Google Reader said our posts had to have titles, and could be unlimited in length.

This is why my world is fractured, and so is yours.

If you no longer accept the limits, after all Google Reader killed itself, and Twitter hasn't moved since it started up, there are some pent-up cool things you can do.

Software can be a fog of war. But when the fog lifts, well that can be a great time.

03/12/14; 12:45:34 PM

Robert Morse, the actor who plays Bert Cooper on Mad Men was the star of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, which was a hit musical from the 1960s. It was both a Broadway play and a movie.

This came up in a post on Facebook by Michael Swaine. He wondered how a young fan of Mad Men would feel about this. I suggested they might listen to an old Rolling Stones song.

Mind bomb!

Here's something really twisted about Robert Morse/Bert Cooper. The movie, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying came out in 1967, which is roughly the time when Mad Men was taking place. The world of Sterling Cooper is contemporary with the movie.

That's a mind bomb. I'm sure the people who run the TV show are aware of this. I'm surprised they didn't have the movie show up in the story of the TV show. Wouldn't it be cool if an actor playing Robert Morse met Bert Cooper? Would the world have blown up? Is that like the butterfly in the famous Ray Bradbury short story?

O the humanity!

But wait there's more!

This is the first Scripting News post that's rendered specially so it should look good on a mobile device.

I know I know, it took a long time. That's why the title of this post is so relevant!

A picture of a slice of cheese cake.

03/12/14; 11:31:07 AM

Here's a technical problem I don't yet know how to solve.

I want to make a bookmarklet that will add a link to the current Fargo outline.

I don't think it's possible. What do you think?

03/11/14; 06:12:26 PM

If you sent mail to scriptingnews2mail@gmail.com in the last year, I didn't get it.

I heard from someone who sent an important email to that account, and it wasn't forwarded to my main account. Just checked, and the forwarding was disabled. I turned it back on.

Sorry for the outage. There's some really interesting stuff in there I wasn't seeing.

03/11/14; 02:17:29 PM

I heard one of the panelists at SXSW today talk about it being a thinkers conference. I thought that was worth a short post, because imho if you exclude even one thought from the flow, it's no longer about thinking -- it's about keeping the promoters happy. That's a skill too, of course, but it's not much about thinking.

I mention this about SXSW because I've asked numerous times to be included in the thinking that goes on there, and my ideas have definitely appeared on their stage, many times -- but the promoters say they were offended in some way by something I said (probably something very much like this).

It's a great conference for launching products. And that's why I have, at times, wanted to present my ideas there. We still need a great tech conference for people who want to cooperate with others -- and market. Both are possible at the same time, as long as it's done with care.

I've put my ideas to the test on this, I ran four conferences in the early days of blogging. They were good events, I got a lot out of them, and I hear that other people did as well.

Anyway, I'm not making a big deal about it, I never have. Things are what they are.

03/10/14; 01:46:26 PM

This is a follow-up to last week's CSS design question.

I wanted the ability to put a background image on any of the sections of the page.

I naively assumed that there would be an opacity property on the background image, but it turns out that's not so.

I did some research, got in touch with Nicolas Gallagher, who's been very helpful with CSS questions in the past, and arrived at an easy solution.


Here's a page that demonstrates.


I want the text to "pop" better. This isn't readable enough.

A picture named notReadableEnough.gif

I've thought about giving an opacity to the text, and increasing the show-through of the background image. But I wanted to put this out as a mini-design challenge, in case some of the readers have an idea how it might work.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.


Here's the second version of the demo.

A picture named demo2.gif

Thanks for all the great feedback, esp from Alec Perkins.

I took the opacity off the background, added a new div containing just the text, and gave it a white background with an opacity of .85. Added a little padding, and a border.

I tried it with a drop shadow on the border, and rounded corners, but I prefer this look.

03/10/14; 11:38:16 AM

At some point, soon, the Scripting News feed will have items without titles. The body of these items are in their descriptions, as explained in the RSS 2.0 spec.

An item may represent a "story" -- much like a story in a newspaper or magazine; if so its description is a synopsis of the story, and the link points to the full story. An item may also be complete in itself, if so, the description contains the text (entity-encoded HTML is allowed; see examples), and the link and title may be omitted. All elements of an item are optional, however at least one of title or description must be present.

How we got here

Scripting News started in this format, and Frontier News before it.

Manila, the first CMS to produce RSS feeds, supported title-less items in feeds.

In 2006, Google Reader had gained dominance, and didn't support title-less posts. As a result Scripting News didn't look great in their reader, so there was pressure on me to change. At the same time Twitter came along, and fully adopted the idea of posts without titles, so I split my blogging into two pieces, one on Twitter and my linkblog, and the other, just the essays that appeared on Scripting News before. Scripting News, the first blog to have a feed, conformed to Google Reader's omission (a kind way of putting it) or bug (more fair). Scripting News became Google's idea of what a blog is. Ugh.

I felt this was okay as long as Twitter held promise for being a revolutionary Internet-scale notification service with a powerful API. But they've backed off that. Their service hasn't improved in a long time. I didn't realize how much I missed doing the intermediate-length posts until I started using Facebook regularly. But stuff I post there has no lasting value. So I need a better place for that kind of writing, so why not use my own blog? Of course that's the right answer.

Undoing the mistake

I'm undoing the mistake I made in 2006. And that means you may either find that your RSS reader supports my feed, or it doesn't. I'm not going to let them hold me back. If you can't read my feed in their tools, then you can switch to one that works properly, read the site in a web browser, or don't read it at all.

I'm sorry it has to be this way, but reader developers have been deciding arbitrarily not to support an important part of the RSS standard. I want to use the feature, I was using it long before any of them existed, and it's easy for them to support. Just a little bit of thinking and a little bit of coding.

03/09/14; 09:32:53 PM

As I was working on Fargo 2, I got more comfortable with GitHub, and did something I've always wanted to do -- I released the templates for the core types in as open source. I hope at some point (now?) this will help get a design community booted up around Fargo.

Why? Well I'm all thumbs when it comes to CSS. But I love the results that great designers can produce with it. Fargo is a design platform, and the templates, released as open source, can make that work as a real community.

For example, I had trouble making Disqus comments work with the medium template, so I tabled it. I never have gotten back to it. Maybe someone else has the patience or know-how to make it work.

To make this work, you have to learn how to use Fargo as a CMS. And that's another benefit. If we can have a platform that's equally comfortable for writers, programmers and designers, then we really have something. This is something we had working well in the early blogging communities, with my own Manila and Radio, as well as with Blogger, Movable Type, Tumblr. We can have it again, with the benefits of modern browsers and servers.

The templates are released in OPML and plain text. If you want to edit them in Fargo, of course you'd use the OPML. If you figure out a way to make it work when editing as plain text, more power to you, I still want to share.

Also this may seem like gibberish today, but I hope in a few months it'll seem easy.

03/07/14; 01:42:51 PM

Yesterday started with a breakthrough -- Newsweek, the beleaguered, mostly forgotten news pub, had done a bit of investigative journalism, and had found the great Satoshi Nakamoto. The virtuoso technologist, sociologist and economist who came up with BitCoin. Strike one for journalism! They still have the right stuff.

By the end of the day -- the breakthrough was a black eye. The good news was now bad news for Newsweek and for journalism. This, in all likelihood, was not the man. Not only was Newsweek wrong, they were spectacularly wrong, wrong on the cover, using up one of their last bits of credibility. From now on will Newsweek be anything but a punchline?

But what does this say about investigative journalism in the future, when the rest of us can quickly evaluate the cover of Newsweek and find it lacking? And how many wrong stories of the past stood, because there was no Internet to expose them?

In my own field, I can tell you that most of the stories Newsweek ran about tech were based on huge omissions. Their typical tech story was about a titan fighting to control the future, when the truth is they were fighting a losing battle against obsolescence. But the MSM never reports this, because they have too much regard for money and many of them want jobs working for the moguls they write about.

We still hear it, in the last gasps of 20th century journalism -- in the stories we don't read about moguls who are starting news companies (the reporters don't write them). They still worship money, when all money can do is buy you big houses, cars and spouses, lots of them, sports teams, and offices full of journalists.

03/07/14; 10:42:29 AM

I read an interesting piece by Brent Simmons yesterday about his passion for creating blogging systems. He's thinking about doing a quick one, running in node.js. As I read the piece I recognized a lot of the ideas as ones that we've already implemented in Fargo Publisher, which is an open source, MIT licensed, node.js app.

  1. My first thought was wouldn't it be great if Brent used Fargo Publisher as a starting point? That way we might get some new features, maybe some bug fixes, and more users. Having two pieces of software resting on top of an API gives it a much better chance to gain traction.

  2. My second thought was that he was planning on using the Metaweblog API, something I designed in 2002, to build on the Blogger API. But we've gone so much further in the intervening 12 years. Metaweblog views each post as a document, but Fargo views a whole website as a document. Suppose you had a computer that could only deal with one file at a time, and one came along that could have as many open windows as you want? Wouldn't you want to at least try it?

In that way Fargo 2 is the next step after Metaweblog. Yes, it's too bad progress happens so slowly in tech. 12 years for such a simple evolution. But at least it happened. It would be a shame if we had to wait another 12 years for adoption by users, esp very advanced ones like my longtime buddy, Brent.

03/07/14; 10:21:54 AM

These are the tech heroes of our day.

Snowden sacrificed to change our point of view of everything electronic. We had become too complacent, our blinders were on, we couldn't talk about the reality of the networks we are using.

Banksy uses new media to communicate strong messages via art.

Satoshi Nakamoto hacks the structure of our economic system, with pure tech.

These people are real media hackers, with very different approaches. They inspire and create and don't give a shit what Political Correctness says.

03/06/14; 01:32:55 PM

There's a generic kind of site, a product home page, divided into sub-pages.

Each sub-page has a different background color or image, and uses a different kind of layout, and format and fonts. They are like panels in a brochure. You scroll through the site with the mouse on the desktop, or by flicking with your index finger on a tablet or a phone.

I've got one example of this kind of site.

Question #1 -- Does this kind of site have a name?

Question #2 -- Are there any good how-to's on setting one of these up? Or generic examples? I just don't know what they're called or I could probably find them on my own.

Obviously I want to make a Fargo template for this kind of site, to make it easy for writers and graphic designers to create them quickly. I, myself, have an application for this kind of site.

Thanks in advance for pointers.


A simple demo page illustrating the ideas.

Thanks for all the suggestions from commenters.

It's really very simple. Several fixed-height divs, styled as a table, containing a block of text that's styled as a table-cell.

03/06/14; 12:02:52 AM

My brother was in town a few weeks ago. We went to a Brooklyn Nets game on the subway and got lost and had to take a cab to Barclays in the snow and cold. It may not sound like fun but it was.

We talked about how various software projects turned out. I had a memory of a product we did that never shipped, it was called Broadway, or Boxes & Arrows, or PowWow, it had a lot of names over the years. The idea was this -- if you wanted to do layout right, presentation-type layout, you have to have graphics that have relationships to each other that persist, even as the objects are moved and resized.

So I could say that box A and box B are always centered relative to each other. When I move one the other would also move to maintain the relationship.

This was meant to be a tool people would use to create designs for PowerPoint-like presentations, designs that other people would use, and that would look good even if they had just a little text here and a lot of text there, or the other way around. Designers would set it up so there were rules that made it look great either way.

It followed the usual formula for software platforms. The authoring tool trades off ease-of-learning for power. The runtime must be trivially simple to use. Ways for people who invest to pack knowledge into their designs, and have it blossom to delight the neophyte.

(Sounds like something Walt Frazier might say.)

Whenever I have to do tedious layout of web pages, and find in the end the result is unsatisfactory and fragile I think of how it really should be done, and hope someday we make a popular platform that has these recalculating graphics in all their glory.

And I think it's also the way we'll ultimately solve the "responsive design" question.

03/05/14; 08:13:41 PM

I'm working on a new scheme for the scripting.com home page.

A picture of a slice of cheese cake.

03/05/14; 11:54:36 AM

03/03/14; 11:06:01 PM

A few days ago I tweeted: "Professional blogging --> no. It can be incidental. A professional reporter can blog. But being a blogger is not a professional thing."

At the time, I promised I'd write a blog post to explain. This is that post.

  1. It is possible for a professional reporter to blog, even when they're doing their job as a reporter. But it is not a professional act. A reporter might blog about what they learn being a reporter, or covering a certain story. The reporter is an expert on reporting, at least. But a reporter could also be an expert at model trains. Or skiing. Or even be a kibitzer about politics or sports. Expertise comes at all levels. Let's not judge someone as not being expert enough. If you have something to say, it's cool to say it, and a blog is a great place to say it.

  2. However, a blogger is not a reporter who uses WordPress. Yes it's a blogging system, but it's also a content management system, fully capable of running the web presence of all sizes of news organizations. How your writing is transmitted to readers has nothing to do with the act of writing news. It's a trivial distinction.

  3. What's the harm in letting reporters call themselves bloggers? Well, we need a word for a person who shares his or her expertise for free. And we have such a word -- blogger, which derives from the word weblog which was coined by an early blogger, Jorn Barger, and shortened by Peter Merholz to blog and adopted by the community, years before reporters started calling themselves bloggers.

  4. We need a word for what we do because it is an important activity. You can't understand how news works today without understanding the role that bloggers play. So in a sense professional reporters hurt themselves by usurping a term that meant something before they applied it to themselves.

  5. Why are bloggers important to reporters? Bloggers are your sources. They are the people who previous generations of reporters had to reach by telephone. These days reporters can skim hundreds of perspectives on the web, prioritized by search engines. The reach of reporters in the age of blogging is far greater that it was in the age of the telephone. Understanding this synergy is key to understanding how news will evolve in the future.

  6. But the real reason to let amateurs have this word is it's the right thing to do. It's fair. Reporters already have a word to describe what they do. Let us keep ours.

See also: Why blog?

03/03/14; 01:21:33 PM

This season's Knight News Challenge is going to fund projects that strengthen the free and open Internet. That's what we're doing at Small Picture and in the Fargo community.

I think that's a great idea! And I'd like to flip things around a bit. I'd like to help people who want to use Fargo, or the open source publisher software or outliner component, to do projects that help strengthen the Internet, and apply to Knight for funding.

Or maybe developing some compatible services on Dropbox, using templates, OPML or RSS. Or even making node.js servers easier for tech-savvy users to deploy.

Maybe you want to do JavaScript toolkit that flattens-out the various storage APIs: Box, Google Drive, Microsoft, Dropbox, etc?

It's a nice coincidence that Knight is focused on this now. If you have an idea you'd like to work on with our support or technology, either send me an email, or post a comment below.

I have a dream of having a real-world (not online) conference next summer with 15 teams working on these projects, and looking for all kinds of great ways to connect them together. I even have a venue in mind, and when you hear what it is it'll blow your mind.

A picture of a slice of cheese cake.

03/02/14; 01:16:04 PM

A blog post has lasting value.

A tweet stream is more ephemeral, it can evaporate almost instantly.

Not saying that quick comments shouldn't be tweeted, but when you figure something out that's not trivial, if it has value, you're wasting it if you put it on Twitter or Facebook.

The mission of blogging is to empower all of us to go directly to each other with our expertise. So if you know something as well as anyone else, or you learn something or know something that should be shared, then you should share it on your blog.

Blogging needs your help. There's cobwebs in the blogosphere. I want to dust everything off, and start linking our stuff together, and get some developer energy flowing, and let's do some new stuff.

Blogging is a good idea. Most people aren't compelled to share their ideas, thinking, knowledge and expertise. But if you're one of them, please use the tools, or if they fall into disuse, we'll just have to invent them again. Let's keep it growing.

03/01/14; 10:45:10 PM
  1. Software is a process.

  2. It's never finished. There are always bugs to fix, features to add.

  3. Usually, when one company buys another, they buy the software, not the process.

  4. It would be more realistic to contract with a developer or group of developers the way book publishers contract with authors, or studios contract with directors. You buy N books, or movies, or albums. Then the creative person gives you what they contracted for.

  5. Don't try to hire employees to make products. You need to be able to take creative risks. It's hard to do within a corporation. By "hard to do" I mean impossible.

  6. Unlike movies, books, music -- software continually evolves. So even if the initial creator moves on, there always has to be the equivalent of a show runner that stays with the product, the kind of person who does what Vince Gilligan did on Breaking Bad, for example.

  7. I've now moved on from two products, one through acquisition and one by passing off to a new management team. Both times the product died.

  8. I'm still trying to figure this out.

03/01/14; 06:02:09 PM

A throwbackthursday picture of me as a grad student at UW-Madison in 1977 or so, programming on a Unix system, probably working on my first outliner.

A picture named daveMadison1977.jpg

There was a nice Facebook thread re this picture.

03/01/14; 10:04:32 AM

A 14-minute podcast follow-up to the previous podcast on the future of news.


2000: How to make money on the Internet.

2009: Natural Born Bloggers.

We gave everyone a broadcast station and a printing press.

Not everyone does it.

Say 1 percent are NBBs.

They all can do it, but most don't want to.

News orgs will be machines for processing huge amounts of news, adding/teaching quality.

Evan Williams is doing this at Medium.

But I don't like that he has a bottleneck, that his publishing system requires that you write and store your writing on his servers.

02/28/14; 03:51:32 PM

Here's a great A-B example.

I posted the same image to Twitter and Facebook.

On Twitter, a nothing.

On Facebook, a discussion!

It's even worse

Many of the comments I get on Twitter are really for someone else -- they're responding to the headline of a link I've posted, that I didn't write.

And they're very often not responding to the story, just to the headline. And they respond as if I'm the author. Always leads to misunderstanding. Example.

And 140-characters is a severe limit for people who are good writers, for people who aren't good writers (i.e. most people) it's impossible to understand what they mean.

So you have to ask for clarification, if you have the patience, and the follow-ups are usually just as cryptic.

I think Twitter is a failed experiment. Something about its limits needs to be eased. Or maybe it's time to start over, with a different idea altogether.

Another A-B example

A Facebook discussion emanating from a picture of me as a grad student in 1977, programming in the Unix lab at UW-Madison.

The same picture posted on Twitter.

02/27/14; 02:46:58 PM

Last built: Sat, Mar 15, 2014 at 8:44 PM

By Dave Winer, Saturday, March 15, 2014 at 8:44 PM.