Creating a maintainable and thriving web
Monday, November 19, 2007 by Dave Winer.
1. Steve Rubel writes about the danger of routing all our URLs through TinyUrl. I love what URL-shorteners do, it's especially important in Twitter when you're limited to 140 characters to express an idea. If you have to include a link, that could use up a lot of the space you have. The problem is if everyone uses TinyUrl, as Twitter does, what happens when TinyUrl goes down or is sold to someone we don't like, or disappears forever? I admit I don't know the owners of TinyUrl and what their motives are. Their service is reasonably long-lived, reliable and quick. Even so I've written my own URL-shortener and am running it on one of my servers, and I try to use it whenever possible. However, like all my sites, this one will likely disappear within a few days of my passing. I have to maintain my servers to keep them running. A better solution is surely needed. Rubel's epiphany just exposes the tiniest sliver of the huge problem below, creating a sustainable web. We're nowhere as far as that's concerned.
2. Fred Wilson writes about how TechMeme is causing the blogs he loves to focus on the same topics. I've noticed the same thing. Steve Levy writes an article that appears in Newsweek about new hardware from Amazon, and it's an instant coral reef, within an hour or two it's the top item on TechMeme and there's a whole ecosystem of thought about it, published by people who have no information other than what they read in Levy's article. Did anything real happen here? Not very much, it's like the rush of information that appeared about Leopard in the first few days of its release. The real news becomes apparent in weeks and months, not days.
This way of doing news is a remnant, it's anachronistic, a relic of the way news used to work, when guys like Bezos and Jobs would go on a press tour, seed Pogue, Markoff, Levy and Mossberg, they would write their pieces and the rest of us would settle for the very limited and highly spun information they provided. It's not that way anymore. I'll probably write about the Amazon device, I'll probably have to buy one, and like a lot of the hardware I try out, it'll go into a box I keep in the den with other stuff that I learned a little from but never found a use for. We'll get to the bottom of it, and it probably won't appear on TechMeme. Nothing unusual about that -- in the past my blog posts didn't appear in MSM, and that's what TechMeme has become part of, MSM.
Don't kid yourself (and Wilson doesn't) the pubs that used to be blogs, Mike Arrington, Rafat Ali, Om Malik, etc are now pubs that compete with the other top entries on the TechMeme Leaderboard, and they function much in the same way. Are you interested in understanding Disqus? You'll get one brief piece in TechCrunch on their launch day, but if you find a blogger who uses it, you can really understand how it works, because they will know, and because the publishing tools are now distributed and free, you'll find out what they think. That's what's changed. The press still reflects what the press cares about, competing with other press. But the blogs, who aren't trying to climb the top 100 lists, are doing something else. We're just trying to share information with each other so we can learn, so we can use stuff better, make better choices, improve the products, and eventually create new products.
You can see this philosophy reflected in exciting new products from companies like Chumby and Bug Labs. Create open platforms with widely available development tools and let the blogs take over. Google came close with Android, and there's still plenty of time, but they don't really trust blogs at Google, like most big tech companies they trust other big companies first.
That's the revolution I've been writing about since I started blogging -- when product designs come from the experience of the people, of bloggers. It's already happened, it's so recursive you may not see it. We designed blogging itself on the early blogs. And RSS? It was a product of blogging too. Every company that Fred Wilson touches is affected by blogging, every pub that Rex Hammock works on is. Every political candidate that benefits from the vetting of ideas in the blogosphere is touched by this power. It's the old decentralization thing that the Internet does so well. The reason TechMeme is doomed to be part of MSM is that it goes the other way, it centralizes. It's almost mathematics.