I subscribe to Pando, along with several hundred other feeds in my personal river.
I click on one link in 100, and I post one or two a year to my linkblog.
If they improved the quality of their posts, I'd push more of their links. I don't have the largest reader base on the Internet, but I am part of a chain that pushes lots of info and ideas around the net. If you drew a net of the people who follow me and who follow them, it would be pretty damn large.
I use RSS because it means I can pay attention to more stuff. If for some reason Pando deleted their feed, I would almost never see a link to one of their stories. The other people I follow, and I follow a lot of people, don't seem to know they exist. It's a very small publication, relative to the size of others like The Verge, Mashable, Engadget, TechCrunch, etc.
Last night Pando ran a piece where they suggested that we "retire" RSS when Google Reader shuts down in July. This was hopefully the last gasp of a malicious thread started by Mike Arrington and repeated by his fanboys, many times over the last couple of years. Their promotion of this idea was out of nowhere, had nothing to do with anything that was actually happening. If they were right, the passing of Google Reader would have happened without any protest. I suppose it's wishful thinking on Google's part that we depended on them to sustain RSS. When the dust settles, I think we'll see that they were stifling RSS. When competiton enters the picture, when lock-in is no longer an option (and that dies with Google on July 1), we will see the market pick up where it left off before Google entered.
So to the extent that there was any thought behind Arrington's rants about RSS, it was incorrect thought. He misunderstood what was going on. And the people who echoed his mantra were equally clueless.
Posted: 4/30/13; 4:12:17 PM.
When users ask when a feature will be available, this is what I say.
Software takes time. Good software takes even more time. We know that so we don't make promises about when software is coming. It'll be here when it's ready.
Posted: 4/30/13; 2:32:37 PM.
It would, imho, be appropriate for users to ask Google what their plans are for Feedburner.
It seems that shutting down that service is even more problematic than the shutdown of Google Reader.
Why? Because it effects everyone who uses RSS, even people who don't use Google products.
There's a real opportunity to do this transition more carefully than the diaspora from Reader.
Posted: 4/29/13; 12:54:53 PM.
Watching this Chris Dixon interview this morning helped me appreciate that Google Glass has real-world non-trivial applications.
1. A teacher giving a lecture while drawing a diagram on whiteboard.
2. As a teleprompter for a person giving a speech.
3. A doctor reviewing test results while examining a patient.
4. An architect looking at designs on a site visit.
5. Watching your heart rate while riding a bike.
6. Sign-language interpreter for a real-time meeting.
7. In general, as a heads-up display for jobs that require use of your hands and access to information, at the same time.
Honestly, I had not thought of these applications until Dixon explained.
And of course there are trivial applications, like watching Green Acres while pretending to pay attention to someone talking. ;-)
Posted: 4/29/13; 12:13:24 PM.
I was writing a comment in response to a comment from Hanan Cohen, and decided to make it a post. It was getting so long, and said stuff that I wanted to say more prominently.
Hanan said that Word had outlining in the late 80s, and they never took it out. So we should look out for users of that outliner as people who might like Fargo. But I don't look for any magic there, because their idea of outlining and ours are not the same thing.
It's like the word unconference. It was a term we came up with for BloggerCon, and then was applied to a very different kind of conference and the result was confusion. That's what outlining in word processors was, from my point of view, confusion.
What they called outlining was more like outline formatting. Putting Roman numerals on the top sections, capital letters on the first level. Numbers on the second and so on.
Word is a word processor. Its primary function is writing-for-printing. The choices the designers made make it a relatively strong formatter and a weak organizer.
Conversely, we can put formatting capabilities into an outliner, but it would behave like an outliner, not a word processor. We fully explored this with MORE, the users loved it, but they still needed to export to Word or Pagemaker if print formatting was important.
Word is a production tool -- good for annual reports, formal papers, stories, books. Fargo is an organizing tool, good for lists, project plans, narrating your work, presentations, team communication. You could organize a conference with an outliner. The slides would naturally be composed wiht an outliner.
An outliner is designed for editing structure more than it is for editing text. The text is sort of "along for the ride." Or you could see an outliner as text-on-rails. Outliner text is always ready to move, with a single mouse gesture or keystroke. You enter text into an outliner so you can move it around, like stick-up notes on a whiteboard.
The reason a program has to be either a word processor or an outliner is this: There's only one keyboard, and one set of mouse gestures. The identity of a product is determined by choices made by the designer. Word processors are good at selecting words, sentences and paragraphs. Outliners select headlines and all their subs. Shift-click in the two apps do vastly different things, yet in both cases they are "extending the selection." Even the data structures used by the programs are different. Yet superficially they look similar.
Some great software designers were fooled by this in the first go-around. Probably the guys who did Word thought at first that they were equalling our outliner, but I guess over time they realized what we learned too. That you need to know what your product is supposed to do before you make those choices. Otherwise it ends up as a confusing unusable mess. That's why Lotus 1-2-3 was a magical product, and Symphony, that confronted this problem head-on and didn't solve it (because it doesn't have a solution) never had 1-2-3's balance and sharp-edge feel. Symphony was mush, 1-2-3 was fine.
Apple's iTunes is another good example. It's all over the map, doing a dozen different things, without a single idea tying it all together. You can tell that the designers are confused too, because in each rev the commands move around and are re-named. Things you depend on disappear, but if you know the magic formula you can make them reappear. One senses that it might be possible to do a beautiful music app that felt wonderful, but if Apple were to produce one, they'd have to start over.
People who used an outliner were never satisfied with what the word processors called outlining. Ultimately that's how you tell what you got. When you sit a person down in front of the keyboard, does magic happen?
BTW, this is great. When I was selling outliners in the 80s there were no blogs, so I couldn't comment on how the various categories of software were handled by reviewers. Now the conversation can be multi-dimensional and lots of learning can happen quickly. Hope! :-)
Posted: 4/28/13; 8:21:01 AM.
This post was written quickly.
It was an interesting week to be in Boston, as in the Chinese proverb about living in interesting times. But not for the reasons people think.
I learned this last night, in a big way, at the Berkman Thursday meetup. We had about 15 people there, some original people from the old days, and some new people who totally fit in. Having new people there makes sense, because the Thursday group was like that. Every week we'd have a fair number of returning friends, and always a healthy number of newbies.
One man, whose name I didn't catch, said something that I found surprising at first. He said that the press got the story of Boston wrong. The people weren't cowering in fear in their houses as was reported on TV and on Twitter. That was a lie. I admit I found it irrational. Boston is probably about the size of Queens, in geography and in population. If someone was holed up in Astoria, people in Flushing probably wouldn't be too worried. It wouldn't make sense. It would be like worrying that you'd get hit by a bus on any given day. There are a lot of days when no one gets hit by a bus. And even so, the chances of you being that person, well, it's not a smart thing to spend a lot of time worrying about. (Though please, look first before you step out into a street!)
Everyone in the room who was from Boston immediately agreed, enthusiastically. They didn't like that they were being portrayed that way by the media. So we explored the actual story, what was really going on among the people of Boston. The answer was, they were working together to make their city safe. The city hadn't shut down on the Tuesday or Wednesday after the bombing. But on Thursday night, when the bombers were on the run, the police asked everyone to stay off the street. And the people did what they were asked to do, because that's what people do.
One person explained it this way: The police wanted to take all the pieces off the board. So if the bomber started moving he would stand out.
This goes back to one of the themes of my talk on Wednesday night at the Boston Globe. People feel a need to be part of the world they live in. Most of us feel like we're on the sidelines, spectators, consumers, eyeballs, credit card numbers, and that's not what we want. We want meaning. We want to make a contribution. We want do do good and have that good make a difference. If you look at what people actually do, not the stories you read in the paper or hear on CNN, this is obvious. The bombings not only worried people, for a short time when the scope of the danger was unknown, but people also saw the opportunity to get some of the precious stuff, meaning and relevance.
Why was this a theme of my talk at the Globe? Because the news industry has the ability to offer people exactly what they want, but they won't do it. Their view of the world is that we're out there and they're inside. They talk, we listen. They are relevant, their lives have meaning. The meaning of our lives is not important to them. As long as they view it that way, people will continue to be frustrated by them, as long as they pay any attention. And more and more they're chosing to not pay attention.
This week the people of Boston learned something about the press because they told a big lie not just about a handful of them, but all of them, collectively. This presents a unique opportunity for a whole city to wake up and take over. I suggested at dinner that the people of Boston buy the Boston Globe, and give it a new direction. You know a city the size of Boston could buy the Globe. And you know what, it's actually for sale. :-)
Posted: 4/26/13; 8:19:44 AM.
I had a flash yesterday, after doing a series of demos of Fargo here in Boston on this trip and my last one in March. In several cases, the people were close to my own age, and were former users of MORE and ThinkTank. For these people I just needed to show how Fargo picked up on the ideas in those products and brought them into the technology world of 2013. But in a couple of cases, the people, smart and accomplished, had no idea what I was talking about, so I had to start from the beginning. Just like the old days, before outliners were a semi-major category. I don't mind doing this, I actually kind of like it -- but the engine is rusty. I haven't done this kind of selling in many years.
The conclusion I reached, in an email, trying to explain it to a friend (who is 47) is that if you're under 50 you probably came into computing after the outlining category began to fade. If you're over 50 and a techie, you probably remember at least knowing someone who was a fanatical outliner, whose arms would wave as they tried to explain what they were so excited about. As they spoke, little bits of saliva would drip from the corners of their mouths. Non-inductees of the Club of Outliner Fanatics would stare, not knowing what to make of it. But at least they knew what they were, if only by the reaction they provoked with their acolytes.
Now, there are companies, notably Omni and Eastgate, who have made a good living selling outliners, all along. I think that's because, while the category hasn't been growing as a percentage of computer use, it is growing in absolute terms, because so many more people use computers today than did in the late 80s and early 90s.
I have my work cut out for me. I have to explain Fargo to a couple of new generations who don't feel so new, being in their 20s, 30s and 40s. This is going to be fun. ;-)
BTW, my father, who would have been 84 this year, loved my outliners. So it's not just people in their 50s and 60s. Some of the people who could explain why this software is so great, are no longer with us. My dad would have absolutely flipped over Fargo. I think about that a lot. Wish I had done this work sooner so he could have seen it.
Posted: 4/26/13; 7:43:14 AM.
My friend Anton Zuiker is our best tester. Anton is a really smart guy. And he's earnest. And doesn't give up. And he makes things break. Which is exactly what you look for in a tester. Because you want to find out about breakage as soon as you break something. Easier to fix then. And it helps make the software better sooner, which is what we're trying to do, all software developers.
Dave, asking this off-list because I'm not sure you've announced this functionality yet.
Something that I've never grasped is how to include an outline in another outline, or said another way, display Outline1 inside Outline2. I know you've referred to this, and some of the more experienced outliners on the list are mentioning it, but I'm not seeing includes mentioned in the HowTo or Fargo docs.
Sorry for my confusion, but I'm finally at the point where I want to connect my outlines. Am I getting ahead of the feature rollout?
I'm on a train and couldn't think of a better place to answer his question than in a blog post, so here goes.
Headlines in outlines, sometimes called nodes, can have hidden attributes that tell software how to do special things with it. One of the things we can do is include an outline in another. Include is the right word.
The way you do that is to add a type attribute to the node. The value of the type attribute should be "include" -- leave out the quotes. It should have another attribute called "url" and its value is the address of the outline that's to be included. That's all there is to it.
Now, how to do that?
In Fargo, we have a command that lets you edit the attributes of any headline. It's called, unimaginatively, Edit Attributes, and it's in the outliner menu. So if I wanted to add an include node here, pointing to my states outline, I would edit its attributes like this:
The "created" attribute is automatically put there by Fargo, on every headline you create, so we can tell when it was created. It also gives each headline a unique identity, unless you manage to create two headlines in the same second (us programmer types are always thinking about things this way, they're called "edge" conditions, and every one of them eventually happens, it seems).
Massachusetts has played a significant historical, cultural, and commercial role in American history. Plymouth was the site of the colony founded in 1620 by the Pilgrims, passengers of the Mayflower.
The area was inhabited by Native Americans for more than 2,800 years, with historical tribes such as the Lenape along the coast. In the early 17th century, the Dutch and the Swedes made the first European settlements.
Houston was founded in 1836 on land near the banks of Buffalo Bayou, now known as Allen's Landing. and incorporated as a city on June 5, 1837. The city was named after former General Sam Houston, who was president of the Republic of Texas and had commanded and won at the Battle of San Jacinto 25 miles (40 km) east of where the city was established.
I'm sure this is confusing at first. But if you try it out, ask questions, and do it again, eventually it'll make sense. You're learning a pretty cool computer science concept -- pointers. But it's really not that hard, once you understand it. ;-)
Posted: 4/24/13; 3:16:37 PM.
This was written very quickly.
At the beginning of my blogging career, in 1994, I expressed doubt that PDAs would become general-purpose computers.
Randy Battat, then an exec at Motorola, rebutted that people used to say that about personal computers, and that I would come around. I never did, and I was more or less proven right. We're still struggling with mobile devices, trying to figure out what they're good at. One thing they are not, is being a general-purpose computer. The reason is simple. No keyboard. No way around that. Without a keyboard, they are good for reading and relatively short messages. They work well for text messaging and Twitter. I marvel at how some people can write full blog posts and emails with their tablets and phones. But I think that will continue to be something that only some people can do. I'm an excellent typist, but I have to use two index fingers on a virtual keyboard. There isn't room for both my hands.
Other people opined about PDAs and I ran a roundup piece.
Now to Google glasses. I want to put my stake in the ground. (And I know the product is called Google Glass, but I think they're glasses, so I'm inclined to describe the product my way, without using their brand name (and hence the lowercase G.))
I think they will make an excellent display device for the obvious reason that they're mounted in front of your eyes, the organ we use for vision. The idea of moving your fingers to the side of your head, of winking to take a picture, well I don't like that so much. I admit I might be a luddite here, and am going to keep my eyes and ears open for indications that I'm wrong. It happens, quite a bit when it comes to brand-new tech.
I think they could be a great part of a mobile computing platform. With more computing power and UI in my pocket, in the form of my smart phone, or in a big pocket, in the form of a tablet. They communicate over Bluetooth, and together form a more useful reading and communication device, but probably still not a very good writing tool. The idea that I would use glasses without tethering them to something more capable for finger-work, well that's what I thought was wrong with the PDA idea in 1994. It turns out, in 2013, for some people -- that the PDA of today can be used without tethering. But it doesn't have the same utility as the desktop computer I'm typing this blog post on. IMHO of course.
Posted: 4/24/13; 11:53:59 AM.
1. I have an iPad LTE.
2. When I was at the Knicks game on Sunday, I wanted to send some pictures to friends, but the iPad said I maxed out my data plan.
3. I haven't used it once this month. How could that be.
4. Then I remembered. My credit cards expire in May. Maybe that's it.
5. When I got home I checked on the iPad, and sure enough, that was the problem.
6. I enter the new credit card info, and re-entered my address, as it required me to do, even though the address was the same as last time.
7. Invalid address.
8. Every way I tried to enter the address it objected. I did this for about ten minutes. I thought I would take care of this during halftime of the Nets/Bulls game. We were already well into the third quarter.
9. I decided to call the company and ask if they could just take the credit card info over the phone. After waiting on hold, I was told no, they couldn't do that.
10. The very nice person said she understood why I was so frustrated (I didn't say I was), and called me by my first name even though I asked her not to.
11. Enter it again, she said. This time it will work. Optimist!
12. I entered it again. It did not work. It's worth mentioning that every time I try, I have to enter my email address and password, the iPad doesn't offer to remember these for me. A lot of hunting and pecking. We repeat this three times. No go. She has no advice to offer, but she is willing to escalate it.
13. Her boss comes on the line, Frankie, who of course understands why I am so upset (this is a script they hired a psychiatrist consultant for) and said I should just enter the information again and this time it will work. I said I was unwilling to do this. He asked is there anything else he could help me with.
So you want to know the answer?
You have to type the address exactly as it appears in the credit card company account. No variance, not even whitespace. It's not case sensitive (lucky thing because the iPad determines the case and it doesn't agree with my bank's) but otherwise you have to type it literally exactly as they have it. Once I did that, after learning this on an Apple support discussion board, the request went through.
Now tell me something -- why didn't the Verizon people know this? They should hire a systems person not a psychiatrist. Instead of trying to sooth understandably frustrated customers, they should make happy customers, or at least not insanely unhappy customers. Or they could teach their people how to use Google.
Anytime you have to do business with one of these companies you're in for a lot of trouble, that's for sure.
I unplugged it and plugged it back in. All is well. Imagine if the user believed their stupid dialog.
Posted: 4/23/13; 6:11:00 PM.
We've gotten a lot of feedback on the initial user experience for Fargo, and decided to take another look at it. The result is a new intro dialog. Screen shot below.
The actual dialog is a little bigger, the full image is scaled to fit into the web page.
Let me know what you think of it...
PS: This is deployed in Fargo 0.51.
PPS: As I was writing this I was thinking of the Matrix. Clicking on the Dropbox button is like taking the red pill. Clicking on More Info is the blue pill. :-)
Posted: 4/23/13; 1:05:40 PM.
In the early days of the web, I remember (vaguely) marveling at the idea that I could put software in a machine that had a persistent connection and have it be accessible anywhere. This was great until I created something that became moderately popular and learned the wonders of scaling. And then I learned about ISPs who don't react well to outages. After all that it didn't seem so magical.
Today, almost 20 years later, we've pivoted to a new architecture and it's got me puzzled again, at times, looking one way then another trying to find the app, and not getting it right at first -- even though I wrote the app myself. Here's what's weird.
2. But those apps have limited ability to store stuff. Little Outliner proved that even though there are limits, you can still create something useful that runs in the page, with absolutely nothing else. Every computer that runs a modern browser has decided that each virtual "site" can have a few megabytes of storage. That might not be a lot for movies or audio, but for outlines, it's plenty.
A user asked if Fargo could write to the local sub-folder of Dropbox even if he didn't have a net connection. I actually had to think for a moment. No, it can't. Think of the circuitous route the data goes through just to end up right back where it started. And think about all the efforts to sandbox web apps so they couldn't get at the local hard drive. That barrier is gone. Now we have to trust the Box-Drive folks to make sure the sandboxes they maintain are really solid. So far they seem to meet the challenge.
But we are, once again, in a strange new world. Maybe there are ways it will get weary and will break. But if there are, we don't know what they are yet. And for now, it's just a mysterious kind of fun. The gee-whiz factor is high again. ;-)
Posted: 4/22/13; 5:21:58 PM.
I love that WordPress and Tumblr have APIs.
As it stands now, unless I'm missing something, if I want to connect to either service from an app running in the browser, I have to run a proxy server that does nothing more than act as a gateway between my browser-based app and their server.
It would be incredibly helpful if they ran that endpoint. They already have to run a server since their apps are entirely server-based.
We're trying to keep server load to a minimum in Fargo. It's one thing to deploy a server that provides some visible functionality for users, but this is just getting around a limit in the browser.
Over time, more functionality can migrate to the "edge" computer. Smoothing out and optimizing the interface between the browser and the server will help move that process along.
Update: It looks like Tumblr has what we're looking for!
Posted: 4/19/13; 10:16:18 AM.
Some people have expressed surprise that I'm still programming. Yes I am.
I had an idea for what I wanted to do when I was 22, and I've pretty much stuck with it. I've had a few detours and setbacks. Some pretty big setbacks. But I kept going. I've always been straight about it. I guess a lot of people didn't believe me. I could tell. And it doesn't feel good, when people -- especially friends -- humor you. Sort of like "isn't it cute the old dude thinks he's a developer." One of the things that comes with age is patience, with stupidity. :-)
I am 57 and I am a programmer, the same way Martin Scorcese is 70 and is a movie director. Or Ron Howard is 59, and Rob Reiner is 66. And that's just film. It's not unusual for people who decided in their teens or twenties that they were going to be creative in a certain field to stay with it through their lives. I heard an interview recently with Austrian actor Christoph Waltz (56), that he considered at a low point in his career possibly being creative in some other area -- painting, or music -- but realized he'd have to put in another 20 years to get started, and when you get going with a career, you know how important the head-start is.
Jeff Bridges is 63.
I didn't get into programming because I saw it as a way to get wealthy, although I have made enough money to be financially independent. But there's a catch. I was financially independent when I was broke too. If you've chosen a creative path, or more likely if you're compelled by it, or obsessed, or posessed even -- well, it's not about money. It's about expression. It's about bringing change to the world, it's about being the change. This is not a cliche for me because I've always made tools that were first and foremost designed to help me express.
At 57, yes, probably most of my creative years are behind me. But the best ones are right here and now.
Why am I so productive again? Because I've hooked up with an excellent programming partner. Every day I revel at how good this guy is. He's 28. Not better than I am, and I am not better than him. We are different, and part of the difference is age. Fargo is very much a product of two generations. This is hardly unprecedented, in most creative areas it's the most common thing. Hitchcock worked with young writers and actors, editors, designers. If you want to take a long-term view of an art, you have to have cross-generational sharing. Otherwise you never get anywhere. Yet of course the prevailing wisdom in tech says there's nothing there. That's part of the reason our ship is sailing in circles. :-)
I did my work on blogging and RSS in my 40s. Before that I worked on outlining in my 20s and 30s. Programming languages and databases all throughout. But my real work has been myself. Developing a base of experience that can't come any other way other than by living a creative life.
So if you think creativity in programming is only for the very young, you're thinking about it wrong. I suspect you're probably not yourself a programmer. Yes, some arts and sports do thrive off the youth of their participants, but there's Carmelo Anthony and there's Coach Woodson. Walt Frazier and Red Holtzman. Want to be inspired? Go see Any Given Sunday. That's what I'm talking about.
Posted: 4/18/13; 3:15:41 PM.
When we started our new company, Small Picture, late last year, we set out to create the most powerful editing environment running entirely within a web browser.
But we didn't stop there. We hooked into Dropbox, the deeply transformative and open networked storage environment. Users don't have to export their data. No lock-in here. It's all sitting in a folder on their desktop (and tablet, smartphone, desktop, server, you name it).
Today, we're ready to unveil the full vision. It runs in any HTML 5-compatible browser, including Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer 10, or Firefox.
The name of our new product is Fargo.
And if you're still here, and reading, thank you. :-)
Here are the bullet points:
1. Fargo is a rich, networked text outliner.
2. You can use it as a notepad, todo list, to organize projects, narrate your work, for presentations, brainstorming, design, programming, specs. Investors use Fargo to organize deals, lawyers for cases, educators for course outlines, project leaders to organize the work of team members.
3. Fargo is deceptively simple. You edit documents within documents, nesting them and organizing to as many levels as you need. Reorganize structures with a single gesture. Expand to see the detail or zoom out to see the big picture.
4. Dropbox is brilliant and transformative. Coupled with the deep power of Fargo, you get a profoundly powerful work environment that goes everywhere.
5. You can share outlines with friends and co-workers, or publicly.
There's lots more info on the site, but most important -- please try the software. It's right there in your browser.
This is the beginning of a journey. We plan to hook Fargo into everything. And because it uses an open document format, OPML, other developers can hook into the idea flow of Fargo users. The possibilities are endless.
If you've made it this far, thank you so much for your interest and please let me know if there are any questions, feature requests, etc.
Dave Winer, co-founder
Small Picture, Inc.
Posted: 4/17/13; 8:30:52 AM.
We had planned to introduce a new product yesterday, around the time of the tragic explosions in Boston. Of course we postponed the announcement. I'm sure marketers all over the country faced a similar decision, and today are evaluating what to do.
The best approach to us seems to wait a couple of days and see where we're at.
However, in the meantime, we have users waiting for the new stuff. So we decided to quietly give our closest users and friends a chance to preview the product, report on any problems, and in the meantime we can fix bugs and prepare for a formal announcement later this week.
So, without fanfare: http://fargo.io/ is the new outliner from Small Picture.
In the right margin of the app are links to docs and a press guide.
If you have questions, you can post them here or on the Q&A page for the product, or on the support mail list.
We'll be back with more news later in the week.
Posted: 4/16/13; 10:16:01 AM.
When I got back to work at 3:46PM this afternoon, I got a message from Kyle after checking in: "Assume you saw the news."
The change in body chemistry was palpable. I assume this is a moment I'm going to remember.
I had not seen the news.
I went to Twitter, but not before imagining what might have happened. I formed a theory. North Korea had destroyed a Japanese city. Or maybe an American city. We're on the verge of World War III.
I found out quickly. Twitter is good for that.
I went back and said: "Wow that was some strong medicine."
The imagination is a powerful machine.
Posted: 4/15/13; 9:47:08 PM.
Jeff Jarvis loves whiteboards.
I never want to say an idea guy like Jeff is wrong.
Rather -- there's a tool that could make that kind of work much easier, faster, and get better results. It's called an outliner. I happen to make one.
For an idea guy, an author, an outliner is like a spreadsheet for an accountant.
Posted: 4/15/13; 10:40:25 AM.
Someday a VC is going to invest in a startup that:
1. Employs a fleet of Glass-wearing unemployed 20-somethings in major cities.
2. Like TaskRabbit, you can rent these people on an hourly basis.
3. They will go where you tell them to, and look at what you want them to look at.
4. Public places only. Places where no one has a reasonable expectation of privacy.
5. You will be able to watch the world through their eyes.
Lots of applications! The innocent-looking Glass-wearing hipster is spying for your wife or husband. Or your ex. Or your boss. The IRS. :-)
Posted: 4/15/13; 9:00:09 AM.
I love football metaphors.
The quarterback pulls back to pass, the defenders rush in, the offensive line holds them back.
Receivers go long, when all of a sudden the defenders turn around and race back to the line of scrimmage.
The quarterback stands there for a moment, shrugs his shoulders and lobs a bomb to one of the receivers, who catches it and trots into the end-zone.
Fans are agape, chins drop, eyes widen. Huh? What? Is that football?
I see the same thing happening in online news.
The publishers have fallen in love with paywalls. That's like the defenders retreating back to the line of scrimmage. The quarterback is Twitter. Gradually supporting new media types, bringing in the talent that used to populate television and print with their imagery, songs, athletiticsm, drama, looks, humor, celebrity. The raw materials of media.
Posted: 4/14/13; 11:28:57 AM.
Two lovable TV commercial campaigns.
1. The GEICO pig.
2. American Airlines hires Don Draper.
They're both playing games with the fourth wall. They're including the viewer in on a joke that the humans don't get.
Jon Hamm explains first class to us exactly the way Don Draper explained the Carousel to Kodak. It's amazing to be pitched a real airline by a fictitious character, and one as compelling as Draper. And it's an account the character wanted to close! A big airline. Oh the humanity.
This is a great commercial, but the last two bits are not necessary. Where the narrator says -- eh, we can talk about it later, that's when the American Airlines logo should come up with the plane soaring through the sky. Fade out.
The client probably insisted on having the last part. But this is an ad about you and me, not really about the airline. Yes, it's a little self-deprecating on our behalf, but we don't mind because it's Don Draper. He's our friend. And he's telling us something is new at American Airlines. We know he's lying. But we still like it, because it's sweet and funny.
I love being involved in the commercialism. I love that kind of art. Great stuff.
Posted: 4/11/13; 11:54:55 PM.
Little Outliner v0.42 is up.
The main new feature in this release is the ability to import outlines from Workflowy, a popular browser-based outliner.
It would be simpler if they supported OPML import and export, as our outliners do, but you take what you get. The users want to go back and forth, so let's make it as easy as possible.
Here's how you do it.
1. In Workflowy, get the section of the outline that you want to export on screen.
2. Hover with the mouse just to the left of the main headline and nudge the mouse down to reveal the full menu, and click on the Export command. (Screen shot.)
3. A dialog appears containing the exported text. Be sure to click on the Plain text option. (Screen shot.)
4. Copy all the text, then go to Little Outliner. Position the cursor where you want the text to go, and Paste. (Screen shot.)
Posted: 4/11/13; 11:07:52 PM.
We've been trying some experiments liveblogging with the outliner.
For now, I think outlining doesn't add much to liveblogging. But there is an area where I am pretty sure outlining makes a big difference in a group setting, because we've done it -- in meetings.
You can try it with one other person looking over your shoulder while you outline a project you're doing together. For example, imagine you're buying a house with your spouse. Start by listing all the things you want and don't want in a house. As you list your ideas, the other person will get some too, you add them to the outline.
Pause for a moment and group them.
Start listing neighborhoods.
How much money you want to spend.
How many bedrooms. A yard? A nice view? Schools? Close to public transit?
Jump around. If your partner has an idea in one category when you're in the other, just do what they ask. It's about being fluid with your thinking.
Pretty quickly you start using the outline to organize the problem. It becomes a shared space between the two of you, and it really doesn't matter who is at the keyboard, who controls the mouse. The ideas come from both of you.
The same idea works in a larger context if you can project the outline on a screen.
It can have magical results in organizing a project that has resisted organization.
Don't make a big deal about using the outline at first. It's just being projected, maybe one or two people will start looking at it while you type. Then someone says "Move this item under the other category." They have trouble explaining so they get up and show you. Do what they ask you to do. Now they're controlling the outline by pointing to the projected image of it.
Sometimes the power of technology is less important than the communication between two human beings.
This process was possible 25 years ago. I know because we did it back then.
Give it a try.
Posted: 4/11/13; 4:41:03 PM.
I had lunch a couple of weeks ago with Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo. They're just three stops south of me on the A train. We should do this more often, political bloggers and tech bloggers getting together to share a meal and talk about what's possible.
At one point in the conversation Josh asked me what new technology they should be looking at. I didn't hesitate -- I had an answer prepared. This is what I suggested.
1. Let's ask your readers for their OPML subscription lists.
2. Read the lists into a database and rank the feeds, figure out which are the most popular.
3. Then let's start a river with those feeds. Let it run for a few days so all the feeds update a few times, and see what we've got. My bet is that we'll have a pretty fantastic and totally unique news service.
4. Give it some space on TPM and let it live and breathe. We'll all read this river, and get ideas for more feeds to add to it. You'll learn about other, smaller, political blogs, and they'll get exposure to a wider audience. Win-win. (You'll also run links to stories from Politico and Buzzfeed, so oddly it'll be the place people come to find out what's new on your competitors' sites.)
5. Make deals with them Josh. Ask them if they want to run some TPM ads. Share revenue.
This is a way to build community in new directions. Encourage people to step out from the discussion boards and start their own pubs. It would instantly make TPM the technology leader in the political blogosphere.
I promised I would write it up so that the idea could be presented to those people in their community who are RSS-savvy.
This is something I talk about all the time with news people who will listen. You never should have let Google own the news distribution system. But now that they're evacuating, hurry up and fill the void, before another tech giant owns the space. News publishing is something news publishers should at least have a say in.
Posted: 4/11/13; 8:07:32 AM.
I know most of the developers working on replacing Google Reader are doing just that -- creating products and services that do more or less exactly what Google Reader does.
But there is another kind of aggregator, river of news, and its needs are pretty simple, compared to the Google Reader approach which requires synchronization among different clients. If I had the time here's the software I would write.
A feed scanner that accepts OPML subscription lists and generates river.js files.
This is the core of a River of News aggregator. It doesn't say how to display it, but there's an excellent jQuery app that does this, written by a group of developers led by Nicolas Gallagher. And it also leaves subscription management to other tools.
It would be great if this core feed engine could easily be deployed in an EC2 instance and very lean so it could scan lots of feeds for lots of users.
It would be really nice to have this simple problem solved once and for all. And it's relatively simple compared to the problems of synching.
For some reason this isn't being discussed. It should be. River of News may not be the only way to read RSS-based news, but it's a good way. And for some people such as myself, it's the only one we need.
Posted: 4/11/13; 8:00:32 AM.
Good morning and welcome to your Daily Tease of what's coming soon from your friends at Small Picture (i.e. Kyle and myself).
We've been working on Little Outliner's big bro. We're getting close.
The big thing in this release, other than the ability to edit more than one outline at a time, is that your files reside in a folder in your Dropbox. This gives us the ubiquity we seek for our simple idea outliner, note-taker, todo list, project organizer.
As we've gotten deeper into this project we've realized more and more that it's the right move. It makes all kinds of things possible. :-)
I expect I'll talk a bit about this in the Thunderdome chat I'm doing later today, so I wanted the readers of my blog to hear it first.
Posted: 4/10/13; 11:23:36 AM.
I read an interview with Dropbox founder Drew Houston that ran in MIT Tech Review in early 2012. Really interesting story, well worth a read, especially for this bit about where the idea for Dropbox came from.
"For me, it goes all the way back to MIT, where there is a campus network called Athena. You can sit down at any of thousands of workstations and your whole environment follows you around: not just your files but where your icons were on your desktop. Then I left and discovered that no one had really built that for the rest of the world."
I thought -- how interesting, the idea for a hugely important, transformative technology came from using the campus network as a student at MIT.
Then I remembered where Zuck was when Facebook was being hatched. In case you're not familiar with the legend, it was down the street in Cambridge at Harvard. His co-founders were also Harvard undergrads.
In my own case, the idea for outlining came in a hallway conversation with a fellow grad student at the University of Wisconsin. He told me about editors for Lisp systems that understood structure. From there it was a few steps to editable structures for non-programmers.
Universities, for people who really use them, can be incredible places to make connections between people and ideas.
Posted: 4/8/13; 8:44:04 AM.
Earlier I wrote about how podcasting got its name. I wrote it because there's a reporter who says he gave podcasting its name. He didn't. It pisses me off when people who know they didn't do something claim credit for it anyway. I don't need to explain why it's wrong, do I? ;-)
Now, I want to say that even though I have never made a dime off podcasting, and I did a lot of work to make it happen, and I even spent money on it, it was still worth it.
Because it's a form of literature that's valuable and it persists.
To this day, when I go for a walk on a sunny day, or a frigid one, in NY or Seattle or Europe, I can listen to the people that I want to hear from, with no gatekeepers in the middle. I still listen to a lot of programming that is professionally produced, but I think it is better because it has to compete in a free market. One where the cost is pretty close to zero to distribute the programming.
So even though it didn't make me money, it gave me something much better. Ideas! :-)
Posted: 4/7/13; 9:08:59 AM.
An interesting chain of thought.
2. So I looked it up.
3. Decided to participate, so I tweeted a link to the page.
4. Got a tweet from Sonal Chokshi saying that Streisand has a shopping mall with all her collections, in the basement of the house.
5. I thought about being rich. I couldn't imagine that shopping mall really made Streisand feel good. But I imagined that a poor person could dream that it might. I tweeted to that effect.
That led me to another train of thought that I didn't blog.
I have opinions about what money does to people because I have been lucky enough to have money do it to me. Having money is nice, but not nearly as nice as poor people (which I have also been) imagine it is. But then I wondered how other people deal with money, and I wondered if they all reach this conclusion.
Now, I'm sure I'm right that money doesn't buy happiness, but when you first get that message, what's your response? I think perhaps some people go into denial, and insist that it must.
What led me to that was a piece I read last week about a guy who, like me, never stopped programming. He had a theory why people think that's unusual. Because being in charge of programmers has more status than being one. The more you are in charge of, the more status. It isn't the quality of the work that matters, it's the size of the subservience.
It's funny because I never felt this way! And of course since I didn't feel this way, it didn't occur to me that others did.
I always thought the greatest gift was to be able to do stuff yourself, without having to do it through others. It was the act of creating that was the priviledge. If you had a choice between being a player or a coach, wouldn't everyone choose to be a player? I guess not.
Mitt Romney is a symbol of this for me. It didn't occur to him, I guess, that we wouldn't love him. If we don't love him, then what was the point of making all that money? I think a lot of rich people never put that to the test, and go through life assuming that they are loved for their money. This explains, imho, a lot of the behavior I see. Being rich seems to equate to "behaving badly."
Another person who helped put this together for me is Frank Langella, in the Fresh Air interview that ran this week. He recounts what age does to you. And how actors deal with it, or don't. It was both rich and chilling. And a good perspective for anyone who gives money or fame too much credit for giving meaning or happiness to life.
Time for a walk! :-)
Posted: 4/7/13; 8:46:17 AM.
In September 2004, the activity we called audioblogging was starting to gain traction. There were a dozen or so regular programs. We had tools for creating audioblog feeds, and an aggregator that could pull them all together into a river of audio programming.
I had my own show, Morning Coffee Notes. Adam Curry had Daily Source Code and together we did a short-lived audioblog called Trade Secrets. Adam was working on an open source tool that would bring Apple's iPod into the mix. In September he opened the iPodder-dev mail list, which I publicized on Scripting News.
In the first days of the iPodder-dev mail list the term podcast was introduced and adopted as the name of the activity.
Here's the sequence of events, with links.
1. On September 13, Adam posts the inaugural message on the iPodder-Dev list. (You will get a warning from Yahoo when you click on the link because the mail list has since been overrun by spam for porn sites. Oh the humanity!)
3. On September 15, Gregoire posts a message where he uses the term "podcaster." I read this message, as did Adam.
4. In a phone talk, Adam and I discussed this, and agreed we needed a name for the activity, and that Gregoire's suggested term was pretty good, so we agreed to use it. The conversation was recorded and distributed as one of the Trade Secrets shows. (Note: I'm not sure of the date of this podcast.)
5. Gregoire recalls the sequence of events in a post to the list on September 20.
6. On September 24, I wrote a definitive page explaining what a podcast is.
7. On September 27, I decided to rename the audioblogging session for the upcoming BloggerCon, Podcasting. Adam was the discussion leader.
8. On September 28, Doc Searls wrote a post entitled DIY Radio with Podcasting. I couldn't locate a subsequent post where he did a Google search and found zero hits for the term, predicting that there would be a lot more, as the idea caught on.
On second thought, that post might have been written by Rex Hammock.
Update: Apparently it wasn't Rex, but he has a quote from Doc's missing post.
Finally, a Google Trends graph clearly indicates that the term was introduced in September 2004.
Posted: 4/7/13; 8:06:18 AM.
Update: Thanks to elasticthreads, in a comment thread belog, for helping with a few workarounds, and the first one I tried worked. I have a fix I can release if other Frontier/OPML Editor users are seeing the same problem. Right now since I've not heard from anyone, I'm not going to do a release.
I have a question to ask other people who do web development on a Mac using Chrome. I'm not trying to make news, this is just a question. I'm using my blog to ask it.
1. Back in Netscape days the browser supported a set of interapplication messages called "Apple Events" that allowed other apps to make calls to the browser to get it to do things.
2. The most useful one, imho, was the GURL message, which said "Here's a URL, please open it in the browser."
3. This feature is deeply integrated in my CMS. I put my cursor on something, right-click and choose View in Browser. It figures out what its URL is and shoots a GURL message over to the browser, and within a second I'm viewing the page.
4. This feature was copied by every browser from then on. You could shoot a GURL over to any of them and they'd open the page. This included Chrome. Until sometime in the last few days. Then it stopped working.
Here's the Apple Event I'm sending:
appleEvent ('rimZ', 'GURL', 'GURL', '----', string ("http://scripting.com/"), 'cwin', nil)
No error is returned, the event eventually times out.
5. I rebooted the system, relaunched the browser and my CMS, it still doesn't work.
So my question is this -- if you do web development on Mac with Chrome, did this stop working for you too?
PS: I started a Hacker News thread for this, in case you prefer to comment there.
PPS: Losing this feels like losing the right rear-view-mirror on a car. Very jarring.
PPPS: Gradually our development environment is being whittled away by Google and Apple. If I were paranoid I'd think they want to slow us all down, for some reason. That's the net effect.
Posted: 4/6/13; 9:45:55 AM.
Now that I've started a new business, my first business mentor speaks to me again, from childhood.
My grandfather, Rudy Kiesler, was a businessman. He came to the US during the war, a Jew fleeing the Nazis, with a few diamonds sewn into my grandmother's coat, which was stolen on the way. So they arrived in the US, to their new home in Brooklyn, like many other imigrants, without a dime.
He started a sewing shop, and grew it, and grew it, until when he retired after having a stroke in his 60s, he had a dozen factories in the South, and a nice bit of cash in the bank.
When I was a kid he didn't seem like a wise person. He yelled a lot, loudly, and had hard opinions about everything. But there was an intellect in there. He was a good card player, and a good provider, and he did teach me one important thing about business, an idea that keeps coming up.
"Pay for your sins," he would say. It's one of those ideas that means different things depending how you approach it. You're going to pay for them, one way or the other. So knowing that, think twice before you do it. And if you try not to pay for them you're only making it worse. There's a compound interest to sins.
Compare this to the lame "Don't be evil" -- which has none of the subtlety. Why not be evil? My grandfather knew the answer.
Posted: 4/5/13; 1:33:56 PM.
I love how the new outliner is so lightweight and "transparent", yet powerful. It's a great mind mapping tool sans the cognitive load of layout and "making it pretty". I would love to see native experiences and sync to cloud (Evernote and the like are IMO becoming too heavyweight and start to get in the way of quickly taking notes or thinking)
When I ship a new outliner that's where people are looking for them, and today that is on the web -- I get to meet a lot of outliner people. And that makes me feel great!!
And that gets me thinking about why I do it. Because now the part about whether or not we attract users, which was speculative a couple of weeks ago, is no longer speculative. They are here, and more are coming.
This is why...
We need better tools for thinking. With those tools we might do more of it, and be more effective. I want the thinkers to be more powerful. That's it, that's why I work on outlining software. It's for the thinking.
The rest of it, open formats, keeping choice in the software, valuing users, that's all so we do more thinking.
Posted: 4/3/13; 10:39:16 PM.
The story he tells is pretty typical of the software industry. He wrote about an online outliner a few years ago, but it's gone now. His favorite outliner, Grandview -- long-gone. My early outliners, gone too. A few products took their place, but nothing like the great start we got at the beginning of the PC software era.
What changed is the way we finance software.
And that seems to be a story reporters appreciate now, because one of their most-used products, Google Reader, is going away. Probably wouldn't happen if a smaller company made it, if they depended on revenue from the product to make payroll.
The wave that's undermining journalism crashed over software many years ago. That's why when journalists want us to make their mission the center of our attention, it's a bit of narcissism on their part. Because what's happening to their profession happened to mine long ago.
We human beings aren't that good at creating sustainable systems. The bees are dying. The globe is warming. And we lose great ideas in software, and it takes generations to reinvent them, only to lose them again.
I'm bringing back a little of it now. Outliners are my thing. Now let's see if we can make this work as a business. :-)
Posted: 4/2/13; 5:42:02 PM.
As you may know, we shipped Little Outliner one week ago today.
It's done pretty well. I've been watching our stats page regularly and there always seem to be at least a couple dozen people using it. Sometimes as many as a thousand people are outlining with our simple browser-based notepad.
But all the users, and esp Kyle and myself, want the full-featured product. And we'll have something for you to try out, pretty soon. We did most of the development on the full product before releasing Little Outliner. We wanted to be sure the basic outlining code works, and we wanted to start off with the simple, no-brainer product.
We will always have Little Outliner, because power-user products can get too complicated for beginners. Just like a ski mountain has a bunny slope, with a hot cup of cocoa close-by, we want to make sure there's a super-easy outliner so people can get comfortable with the idea.
Okay, so we've built a rich product, it's coming soon -- but I want to also hook up tools to produce different ways of viewing text that was written and organized in the outliner. The prototypical example of this is a slide show. That's what MORE did so well, why it won all the awards, and caught the attention of the press and investors, Guy Kawasaki and Apple, and a whole boatload of users. So that's where we begin with the plug-in story today.
So now we're ready to show, dear developer, how plug-ins will work with our outliner. Right now you have to jump through a few hoops to enable the demo. This howto shows you what to do.
Hope you like! :-)
Posted: 4/1/13; 1:00:16 PM.