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Our all-you-can-eat lifestlye

Saturday, October 24, 2009 by Dave Winer.

First thoughts on our San Quentin field tripPermalink to this paragraph

I went for a late lunch in Sausalito with Scoble after spending most of the day inside the walls at San Quentin state prison. We were sitting on a quiet beautiful street with healthy, well-fed people walking by, driving in to eat at the Indian restaurant, riding bicycles and stopping to ask for directions. Scoble entered our location into Foursquare and a few minutes later a clean, friendly young man showed up with an infant wrapped in a blanket. He greeted us with a smile, Scoble instantly knew he was. We didn't in any way at any time feel we were in any danger. I was pretty sure most of the people with us there had never killed anyone. Permalink to this paragraph

That may strike you as an odd way to describe a lunch in the center of high-tech land, because that's our normal reality. We expect so much, and we get it. We live the all-you-can-eat lifestyle. But just a few miles away reality is very different. Permalink to this paragraph

We met a man who had never used the Internet, had never seen a cell phone, had no clue what Twitter is, and probably a million other things we talk about all the time. He's been in jail since 1987. He talked to us for a while in the courtyard just inside the entrance gate. He's in a "program" and my guess from the way it sounded, will be paroled in January. He murdered his little sister when he was 18. Blew her head off with a shotgun. He did it because she and her brother and mother hid his money and drugs. He told his brother that he'd kill his sister if he didn't tell him where the stash was. The brother said he'd never kill her. He did. Permalink to this paragraph

He didn't tell us this, Rudy Luna, the assistant warden who was taking us on a tour, did. Permalink to this paragraph

The warden said that, ironically, that prison is a revolving door for people who commit minor crimes, but for murderers like the guy we were talking to, sometimes they get out and stay out. He says there's a point, usually at 11 years, where they realize that they could change. The guys who get sentenced for smaller crimes don't get there. Permalink to this paragraph

The guy we were talking to might not commit another murder, but I don't see how he can live with himself.  Permalink to this paragraph

Everwhere we went we were being watched.  Permalink to this paragraph

By everyone.  Permalink to this paragraph

That may have been the oddest thing. I am accustomed to leading what I think is a fairly anonymous life. Sometimes on BART a stranger is staring at me, I imagine they recognize my face from my blog. But most of the time I move around without anyone paying much attention. Not inside the prison. Permalink to this paragraph

And it's not just us they're watching, they're all watching each other, all the time. Because prison is a dangerous place. Everything they do seems to be about keeping from getting slashed or beat up or killed.  Permalink to this paragraph

We saw thousands of people in tiny cages. Permalink to this paragraph

We saw the outside of a building where people are locked up all the time, their crimes so heinous or infamous, or they attract so much attention, or they are people who will try to kill anything that they possibly can. Permalink to this paragraph

It's the contrast that is so striking. And what it tells me about who I am.  Permalink to this paragraph

Having just lost my father, I'm thinking about what death means in a much more real and present way these days. Our guide tells us at one point that most of the people we're looking at, and there are hundreds of them, killed someone. And they're walking around like you and me in a park. Except it's nothing like the way we walk around in a park. Everyone is watching everyone. All the time. Permalink to this paragraph

I'm sure there will be other insights. Coming out of it, I think none of us knew what to write. That's the sign that we were doing something very different, something very very outside our normal experience. 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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