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Programming wisdom

Sunday, August 16, 2009 by Dave Winer.

Three bits of wisdom I keep forgetting to write up in a blog post. Permalink to this paragraph

1. The second time you write a piece of complicated code it will work much better than the first time. Especially if there are a few years inbetween and the original code was in production and you had to live with its flaws. Sometimes you have to write it a third or fourth time to really get it right. Permalink to this paragraph

2. Every year or so, re-read the docs for your programming environment. You'll always find a feature you didn't quite grok the importance of the last time you read the docs. It may make your code simpler, or enable you to approach a problem you previously though unsolvable. (I did this the other day for Amazon S3 and sure enough figured out a way through a tight bottleneck.) Permalink to this paragraph

A picture named ninja.gif3. This is the most important one. If you're planning on competing like a mofo in the tech industry to make billions of dollars, and then give it all to charity when you're middle-aged, instead, find a way to contribute to the ecology of the web while you're young, and make a bit less money (I suspect you won't actually make less money). We have much higher leverage on our home court and can do more good for the planet than we can, later, in medicine or politics. Obviously I'm thinking about Bill Gates, but I'm also thinking about Evan WIlliams and Biz Stone who are already worth huge money, and on their way to making a lot more. Guys...  Permalink to this paragraph

Deal with the URL-shortening issue now. It's an Exxon Valdez waiting to happen. You won't be able to make excuses that you didn't see it coming, cause I'm telling you now.  Permalink to this paragraph

There are already protocols in place that allow web apps to tell you how to shorten urls that point into their space. Wordpress.com took a huge step this week, doing their part. It would take about one hour of programming, if that much, for Twitter to look for the metadata and use it. If I had a Twitter client, I'd support it in a heartbeat. If I were Twitter, same deal.  Permalink to this paragraph

Shortlink: "URL shortening that really don't hurt the Internet." Permalink to this paragraph

But for some reason the business types at the companies never want to do anything good for the web. They just take for themselves and eat up the seed corn others put into the formats and protocols. At some point we're going to get through. These guys are supposedly people who care about the planet. Like Bill, when they retire, they'll spend huge money to try to prove it. Why they don't care about the ecology of the web now, when they have the most power to, I'll never get it. I have to assume they don't understand. It would cost nothing to care for the web. Not like carbon offsets, these aren't even hard problems. You just have to care enough to actually do something about it. 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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