First, it's wonderful to see people get excited about the idea of a minimal blogging tool built around RSS. I think intuitively people are beginning to feel that it's time for something more than Twitter, and at the same time -- almost paradoxically -- something less than Twitter too. This is the unbundling that happens in a cyclic basis in the tech business. A new activity boots up, a corporation forms to make it easy, then as more people become familiar with the activity, the training wheels come off, the bundle breaks, and components emerge that solve various aspects of the problem.
But people still tend to think in terms of products, rather than an activity, and when they do that, imho, they miss the point.
I was at lunch yesterday with Chris Dixon, a NYC-based angel with a very sharp and inquisitive mind. He was thinking in terms of a website to replace Twitter. I kept saying no, that's not it. If you like using a Twitter client, you're going to keep using a Twitter client. If you like using a site like Brizzly, you'll use that. But if you'd prefer that the primary place for your ideas to be published is tumblr.com instead of twitter.com, that works too. Or wordpress.com. Or your own WordPress server. Or Drupal. There's a key point. If there isn't a choice in there somewhere for your content's public home to be on your server, then we're still just offering you a choice of hamster cages, instead of freedom. And I suspect there will be even better places to publish your content, once the activities of authoring and reading are coupled loosely instead of being tightly bundled.
Marshall Kirkpatrick, another really smart dude, made the same mistake in his version of my piece about reallysimple.org. So what if I do plain, even ugly, designs. That's a valid approach. Some people think my designs are elegant. I love minimalism. When I write, I want you to see my writing, not my designing. If you go "Ho ho what a beautiful design" and miss the words, then I've failed. Same thing with user interfaces. If you are dazzled by the design but can't find the command, it's like the tree falling in the forest with no one there.
But no matter. If my site is ugly, but people still love it, guess what happens. Someone comes along and makes a site that does what mine does, but hers is beautiful where mine is homely. You think that bothers me? Quite the opposite!
It's like Arlo Guthrie's famous song Alice's Restaurant. If one person sings the song they'll think he's a nut and throw him in jail. But if two people do it, it starts to look like a movement, and if three people do it, it starts to feel like a standard (again, I'm paraphrasing). The ability to do the same thing many ways creates power in the land of technology. It's like Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence. Make it look like fun, and then hope people rip off the idea. As long as we all do it the same way at the format and protocol level, then a thousand flowers can bloom. Becuase when users feel they have choice, they get excited, and when they're excited they move, and when they move we have growth.
And friends, somewhere in Washington enshrined in some little folder, is a study in black and white of my fingerprints. And the only reason I'm singing you this song now is cause you may know somebody in a similar situation, or you may be in a similar situation, and if your in a situation like that there's only one thing you can do and that's walk into the shrink wherever you are ,just walk in say "Shrink, You can get anything you want, at Alice's restaurant.". And walk out. You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he's really sick and they won't take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they're both faggots and they won't take either of them. And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. They may think it's an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day,I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may thinks it's a movement.
Think of RSS as the equivalent of USB. It just says how components are connected. What the components do -- that's totally up for grabs. That's where we want lots of new ideas to spring forth.