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Innovating outside the 140

Tuesday, October 20, 2009 by Dave Winer.

A picture named resed.gifI pitched a simple idea at yesterday's GigaOm meetup, one that is easy to explain verbally but I've not yet attempted to explain it in writing. So here goes. Permalink to this paragraph

When the Mac came out in 1984 it had a file system that worked much like a Unix or PC file system, it was hierarchic, had volumes, folders and files. But files had two "forks:" 1. Data and 2. Resource. The data fork was like a regular file, but the resource fork was really cool and different. It was like a file system within a file, but not quite.  Permalink to this paragraph

Resources had a type and an id. The type was a four-character string, and the ID was a number. There were standard system types like WIND and MENU, and in them you put designs for windows and menus. There was a resource editor that shipped with the OS that had tools for the standard system types, the menu editor let you add a command to a menu or delete a command. The window editor let you set the default size of the window, its initial title, and what WDEF routine was responsible for drawing it. A big part of learning how to program the Mac was learning what all the resources were and how to set them up. Then you'd write C or Pascal code to open the windows or draw the menus.  Permalink to this paragraph

But that wasn't all you could do with resources -- because -- and this is the key point -- you could define your own resources. You didn't have to get anyone's permission (okay theoretically you did, but we never bothered). So if I wanted to write a DAVE resource to my file I could. And then I could tell you what a DAVE resource contains and your app could read and write them, and all of a sudden we've just enhanced the platform. Pretty cool! And we did this kind of stuff all the time. Permalink to this paragraph

So why shouldn't tweets also have resource forks? Then if I wanted to attach a picture to a tweet I'd just pack it up in a blob and shoot it up to Twitter as part of a PICT resource along with the 140 characters which would then be a description for the picture. Or why not have a menu go with a tweet? Or a bit of HTML? Or whatever the fuck. Permalink to this paragraph

This would get Ev and Biz out of the loop, they could just kick back and run a storage system and stop worrying about what features to add to the platform. You see the users get to innovate inside the 140 characters, but there would be so much more action if the developers could innovate outside the 140.  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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