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Tomorrow's inspiration

Saturday, May 09, 2009 by Dave Winer.

For the last couple of months I've done a podcast every Sunday with Jay Rosen. Three Sundays ago he had a great idea, every week let's choose someone to honor as a source of inspiration to the new journalism we see emerging.  Permalink to this paragraph

We alternate weeks, the first time he chose Edison Carter, the reporter on the Max Headroom TV series of the 80s. Then I chose Jon Postel, the man behind many of the open protocols of the Internet, and the keeper of its spirit, who passed away just as the Internet was becoming a huge societal force. And last week Jay chose Josh Marshall of Talking Point Memo. Now it's my turn. Permalink to this paragraph

I gave it a lot of thought. It seems we're doing the Yin and the Yang. Jay comes at it from the journalism side, and I approach from the tech side. This week I will continue in this mode.  Permalink to this paragraph

My choice is Ted NelsonPermalink to this paragraph

A picture named dreamMachines.gifNelson wrote a book called Computer Lib/Dream Machines, in the 1970s, in which he chronicled, in a very bloglike fashion (long before blogs existed of course) the path that computers took to become the ideal tools for thinking and collaboration. This was a very radical idea at the time, I know because I was talking to people about the same concepts, and getting told that computers are not creative tools, by people who supposedly knew better. Permalink to this paragraph

There were a small number of hippie computer types, not much like the guys who wore the nerd pocket protectors. We got dates, were gregarious and outgoing, liked to do drugs, and music -- and thought computers fit into the groovy lifestyle. It was kind of a lonely thing. The hippies didn't know what to make of us and neither did the nerds. But when Nelson's book crossed my path, and the paths of people like me, it gave us a sense that others saw it the same way.  Permalink to this paragraph

Today, few question that computers are used for thinking and collaboration, although the people who say bloggers will never do the work of journalists sound a lot like the people who questioned computers as human tools in the 70s. The venture capitalists and entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley don't understand why someone would develop technology without a plan to get rich from it, but the hippie tech guys don't have a problem with that. Changing the world for the better is a good enough cause. Helping people share their knowledge and insight is most of what computers do, most people who use them have no hope of getting rich from using them, but they do it anyway. So while the attention focuses on the people who make the money, the real action is with the people who learn and teach and share with them.  Permalink to this paragraph

Further, Nelson believed, as I did and still do, that computers were primarily tools to connect up to networks. Later Sun Microsystems would codify this with the slogan "The Network is the Computer."  Permalink to this paragraph

For those who have read Nelson's book, you must have guessed that at some point I will choose Doug Engelbart, and you would be right. But I first learned of Engelbart's work through Nelson's book. I met Nelson before I met Engelbart. Neither of these heroes are perfect, but then heroes who are real people never are. But Nelson's work is monumental, it gave hope and confidence to a generation of people who did make a huge difference. That's good enough to be my choice for this week. ";->" Permalink to this paragraph

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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 54, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.


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