Scripting News archive for December 2012

My tech new years resolution permalink

A friend who is a reporter sent an email saying they're looking for New Year resolutions from people in NY and in tech. Arrgh, I groaned out loud. I'll never come up with anything. So I put it out of my mind.

Then trolling Twitter thinking about doing something fun with a couple of hours free time this morning, I came across a tweet from Paul Ford, a New York tech guy who also happens to be an excellent published writer. He also makes a living writing docs about XML and scripting, and other technical topics. He occupies a unique cell in my brain. A techie who is also literate.

Every time his name pops up in my feed I think -- Man I wish there was a project I could do with this guy. Then I thought back to the question my reporter friend asked. And I had my opportunity.

Thus, my resolution for the New Year is: I will do what I can to make tech writing more literate.

Posted: 12/31/12; 11:03:49 AM.

What is Silicon Valley? permalink

Silicon Valley is an idea that represents an industry, analogous to Hollywood, Wall Street, MSM, academia.

Sometimes these concepts are geographic, sometimes the geography is totally symbolic. For example, there are people who are definitely part of Silicon Valley who live and work in New York. And there are people in New York also who are part of Hollywood.

Saying Silicon Valley thinks college is a waste is like saying Hollywood is fighting piracy. Or Wall Street supported Romney in 2012. Believe it or not I am part of Silicon Valley, and I sure don't agree with the idea that college is irrelevant, so it's not an absolute or unanimous thing.

We say things like this all the time, often to explain what we don't agree with. It doesn't make sense to spend a few paragraphs stating exactly what all the people in tech think in all its variants. Even if Paul Graham hasn't heard that Silicon Valley thinks college is a waste, the students have. I went to his Startup School and talked with a few of them. I worked at NYU for a couple of years, and saw all the energy drawing students out of school and into startups. That pull totally came from tech. The students hear it even if Peter Thiel is saying something subtly different.

So that's what I wanted to respond to. And I think I wrote a pretty good essay. It's certainly resonated with a few people (except in PG's backyard). I believe there's something there.

Posted: 12/31/12; 9:35:33 AM.

Silicon Valley is wrong about college permalink

Lately I've been thinking a lot about startup culture, and am reminded of its nobility -- having started three companies in my career, and learned from each experience, and even occasionally made some money. I'm more positive on startups these days than I have been in a while.

A picture named arrows.gifI have experience as an entrepreneur, but I also have an education. For me, it was a rough path. I dropped out, briefly, in high school. Got a chance to reboot my education, which was something I really needed to do. I had a professor in my freshman year of college who showed me that my mind could do math. And from there, I took charge. With mixed results. But at the end of the mess, I was educated. Not just in science and technology, but also in art, music, history, economics and literature. There were a few things I wish they had required I learn: accounting and psychology, foremost, so I wouldn't have been so scared of taxes and sex. But on the whole I think I got a pretty good deal.

Nowadays Silicon Valley says that college education is a waste. This idea has spread to academia too. They're trying to make the experience more relevant to entrepreneurs and their investors. I've heard it said at Harvard that they want to participate in the success of the next Gates and Zuckerberg, both Harvard dropouts. I find this disturbing. I want them to educate better citizens, not richer business people. If they happen to be better citizens and rich, all the better. But first comes the person, not the bank account.

I don't think Gates and Zuckerberg are good role models for young people. And not just because they dropped out. It's more subtle. Most kids who try to be the next billionaire entrepreneur will fail. There probably isn't even one such success in the class of 2013. So most will be disappointed. And if we push the kids toward that, we will lead them to believe, mistakenly, that it's enough to create a massive fortune. It is not enough. And if they fail to create the fortune, according to this standard, they will have failed in life. So, not only will we have set this generation up to fail, but we have just certified the mistake of past generations, that wealth itself has meaning. It has a lot less meaning, imho, than most people think.

When you look at the problems our democracy has, probably the biggest one is the "low information voter." The ignorant electorate that says they want government out of our lives, but keep your hands off Medicare and Social Security, for example. We should strive not to create better billionaires, we should set our sights higher -- to create better voters. I'm not saying they should vote the way I want them to. I don't vote the same way I did 20 years ago. We should however vote with a purpose. Not for style or appearance. For what's good for ourselves and for the country.

The education process could work better, so let's make it work better. But before you throw it out, think clearly and seriously about what we depend on it for.

Update: There's a Hacker News thread on this piece.

Posted: 12/30/12; 10:20:11 AM.

Two-minutes on Promised Land permalink

A picture named posterNarrow.gifWhat could be bad about a movie starring Matt Damon and Frances McDormand, that was written by Damon and directed by Gus Van Sant? What could be bad? Just about everything. :-(

There were two jokes in the movie. The first one they spoiled in the movie itself, and the second was in the trailer. The one Damon told had Damon's charm. Both appear in the first ten minutes of the movie.

After that it was all downhill.

The plot was taken out of the Handbook of Hollywood Scripts and then twisted so it made no sense. In other words they couldn't even get the standard plot right.

The plot: Corporate asshole falls in love, finds he has a conscience, struggles, decides to do the right thing, gets the girl.

The plot: Jerry Maguire, which I really loved, however with none of its charm, or coherence. Or Renee or Cuba. :-)

However, this time the reviewers got it right.

I don't understand how a movie can suck as much as this one did.

They had a great idea -- let's expose fracking -- something that's very important. That, and $9 billion corporations suck the life out of people and communities. And if you want to show us how, great -- but they didn't.

There were two people conversing loudly during the coming attractions, and I was thinking Oh this is going to suck. After the first half hour of the movie I thought they were more interesting than the movie.

My eyes were rolling so often I just decided it would be simpler to leave them permanently rolled. They are rolled right now in fact.

In case it isn't completely obvious: Skip this one.

PS: It did have a great poster. Probably why I was suckered into seeing the movie.

Posted: 12/29/12; 12:04:41 PM.

Amazon and static sites permalink

According to a post late last night by Werner Vogels, CTO at Amazon, and an email they sent to all AWS users just now, and a walkthrough on the AWS site, they appear to have finished the implementation of static websites on S3. I'm going to check that out right now and report back.

The problem was in the past you could only map a CNAME to a bucket, not the domain itself. This is because of a limit in the DNS system. They appear to have implemented a non-standard (and appreciated!) alias feature in their Route 53 DNS service, which many of us use.

What's not clear in the docs is if a request from mydomain.com is

1. Redirected to www.mydomain.com or

2. If the user of your site simply sees the content as residing at mydomain.com.

To some this may seem picky, but I won't be using the feature if it's #1, because I think it's just plain wrong to waste four characters at the beginning of a web URL. I'm a member of the No-WWW movement. I would rather pay the extra money for a host than have readers of scripting.com be redirected to www.scripting.com. However if the distinction is tranparent to users, then I'll use it, but hope that next year they get rid of this limit.

Cliff Notes version of the walkthrough

Their walkthrough is very verbose. I'm going to do the Cliff Notes version here.

1. Register a domain and set it up so it's managed by Route 53. For my demo, the domain is bloatware.org. It's a real domain, with a placeholder home page currently being served by other software. If this goes well it will be hosted in an S3 bucket.

2. Create an S3 bucket for the domain. Screen shot.

3. Upload the website. In this case, I just have an index.html file with an image on it. Screen shot.

4. You have to add a "bucket policy." Follow the instructions in step 4 of this howto I did a couple of years ago.

5. Next, configure your bucket for website hosting. Click on its name in the left panel, and then click on Properties at the top of the right panel, and then Static Website Hosting below that in the right panel. You should get a display that looks like this screen shot. Important, copy the endpoint because you'll probably need it in the next step. (We hope.)


6. Finally, go to Route 53, and set it up so it's hosting your domain. For that you can refer to the Amazon docs. But the key new feature is the ability to make the root name a CNAME that's an alias. I just guessed how to do it (the docs are too complex to follow) and it worked! Hey they did it right. Yehi. ;-)


They did it the right way, #2 above. I can host scripting.com in a bucket and the user will not see www.scripting.com. You can redirect from www.scripting.com to scripting.com any way you wish, you don't have to use Amazon's method. That's why the docs are so confusing, they assume you need to use their software to do the redirect.

One more thing

Now that they have this wonderful feature, it would be nice if they increased the per-user limit on buckets from 100 to something more reasonable, perhaps 10000. :-)

Or maybe no limit at all. It would be great to set up a hosting service based on this feature, and the arcane process of setting it up. It could be very useful, for example, to Dropbox users. But with a limit on the number of buckets, and buckets being the basic unit of this feature, it's impossible to set such a service up.

Gives Werner something to ask for next year? :-)

Posted: 12/28/12; 9:02:33 AM.

Blogger of the Year -- 2012 permalink

This is something I do at the end of every year, at least for the last five years or so.

I try to pick one person who exemplifies the blogging spirit, which is a multi-faceted thing. So each year there's been one face we take a look at. In the past we've looked at Joel Spolsky, NakedJen, Jay Rosen, Julian Assange and Seth Godin.

These days I start thinking about BOTY in the summer. I know no one is waiting to hear who won, but it's an important process for me, because it helps me understand what blogging is and isn't. And this year's decision came down to two people, and in the decision is some truth about what blogging is, I hope.

First, I thought it should be Nate Silver, who is most certainly a blogger, even though his writing now appears on nytimes.com. I thought it would be a good idea to say that blogging can take place even at a famous newspaper, even by someone who is paid to blog. Blogging isn't always an amateur thing, even though I strongly associate the word with the deed. Amateur means it's done for love, not money. Good blogging is amateur. But then so is good everything, pretty much. I don't really care how much money you made writing that book or movie script. I care about what it evoked for me, what you said, what it proved. On those grounds Nate Silver certainly belongs in the BOTY seat for this year. He proved that an individual with his brain and beliefs can conquer all the paid pundits the pros can muster. Politically and spiritually Nate is a carrier of The Cause. Believe your eyes and ears, and your mind, not conventional wisdom. But in the end, I believe his accomplishments in 2012 were not about his blogging. The blogging was a means to a different end. If there's an award for statistical modeler of the year, that award should go to Nate, without contest.

A picture named philipAndAlex.jpgMy choice for BOTY is someone you might not have heard of, unless you were a techie in the early days of the web. If so, then you defintely know Philip Greenspun. He was a blogger before there were blogs, writing his own web CMS so he could tell the stories of his photography, flying, his beautiful dog, teaching at MIT, and his startup. It was when he wrote about the startup that he caught my attention. I remember reading the story of the people, his mistakes with investors, what he learned. Oh man, this guy is a blogger, for sure! But he wasn't writing on an official blog. Yet.

At the time I said: "I think we're really onto something here. The people are doing their own press, and doing it damned well. Thanks to Philip Greenspun for showing us how it's done, and thanks for the courage to state your case so clearly. Amateur journalism at its best."

That came later when we started a blogging server at Berkman Center in 2003. It was probably at one of his Sunday afternoon parties in his Cambridge apartment when I said he should get a blog on our server. He did, and it's still there, and he's still writing. And it's great stuff. When a Greenspun post appears in my river, I post it to my linkblog to be sure I read it. His politics and mine are almost 180 degrees opposed, but he's still a read, because you can see how a brilliant mind can take the same facts, and get to a totally different destination. And when it comes to aviation, or any of the practical subjects he writes about, there's always a lot of wisdom, and entertainment, in a Greenspun post.

This is what I meant by the unedited voice of a person. That's what a blog is. That's all you have to do to be a blogger. But to be a great blogger, you must have something to say. That's Greenspun, for sure.

Posted: 12/27/12; 12:04:18 PM.

Reporting weather news permalink

A picture named storm.jpgSomeone should report weather news the way other news is reported.

I said this in a variety of ways on Twitter yesterday, as a blizzard was working its way through the midwestern US, and got back pointers to regional feeds. I could follow the weather in the midwest. Yes, I knew that. I already follow the weather for NYC, and for a few other parts of the country, but I'm looking for something different.

An example. The NYT has a feed for International News. One for Sports News. One for baseball and one for basketball. But they don't seem to have one for weather. The basketball feed has news about basketball where ever it happens. Not just for the NY-area teams. I would like to follow weather the same way. Yes, I have a particular interest in some areas. But I have a general interest in weather.

There are probably other areas that we're not covering very well from a news standpoint, but right now weather seems to be the most glaring. Yes I know about wunderground.com. It's not what I'm talking about. It's reallly simple. News. About. Weather. No matter where it happens.

It should be written like news, not like a meteorologist's report. I am not a meteorologist.

You'd think weather.com would do this, but they don't.

Posted: 12/26/12; 2:45:10 PM.

Heat-seeking missiles permalink

A picture named missile.gifAs someone who enjoys walking in New York, as many NYers do, I thought to take a walk relatively early yesterday. It was crisp, in the low 30s. Not windy. And it's Christmas Eve so I figured the sidewalks would be pretty empty. They were. However, that didn't mean that people talking on phones or reading/sending texts were paying any more attention than usual. If anything, they took license to occupy even more of the sidewalk.

They can be pretty difficult to avoid. I think this is because we have an inner mechanism that draws us to other people. Or maybe it's my personal energy. I'm walking toward someone whose eyes are looking into their device. I move a little to the left, they move to their right. Okay, let's try it the other way. No luck, they match my move. I end up stopping a foot in front of them as they walk into me. I don't want anyone to say that I walked into them. They're usually not pissed. I guess they're accustomed to finding themselves in this position?

I'm old fashioned. When I want to check for messages on one of my many devices (doesn't matter which, they're all synched), I generally pull off to the side and stop. In winter, I have to take off my gloves. And I'm just not fast or agile enough (fat fingers, fuzzy vision) to do this while walking. I'm also afraid that I'll end up walking into a city bus, which might have a rude effect on my future existence. :-)

A story I've told many times. I lived in Florida for a few months in 2005. I wanted to try living on the beach, and I had family in the area, so this made sense as a place to try out. In this part of Florida, you can drive on the beach, which goes for miles, between inlets on the intercoastal waterway. This stretch of beach was about 10 miles long, and except for a town in the middle of it, mostly empty. One morning I decided to take my swim via car. I drove a couple of miles south, on a stretch of beach that was totally empty. I laid out the towel, read for a while, then went for my swim. When I came back, there was another car parked next to mine. The people were gone, so I couldn't ask them why they chose that spot, when there were so many other places to stop that were totally secluded.

A picture named magazine.gifYes I am old fashioned. I still think it's hilarious to see a person walking down the street talking to no one. Hands waving wildly. I try to imagine my grandfather, who died long before this became a common sight, trying to figure it out. "David, vat ist dis?" he might have asked.

When you get the idea that things will always be the way they are now, remember that not long ago people thought there was something special about printed magazines. Then go look at a magazine rack, if you can find one. Someday, not too many years from now, you'll mention the idea of a printed magazine, and a young person will have no idea what you're talking about.

Posted: 12/25/12; 6:59:25 AM.

How to make a smiley permalink

I was talking with a friend who is a computer-using newbie who didn't know how to make a smiley.

Don't laugh. :-)

Here's how you do it.

colon hyphen right-paren

That's all there is to it.

Unlike most things to do with computers, this one is easy. :-)

Posted: 12/24/12; 6:42:57 PM.

Limits on HTML email? permalink

I was chatting with a friend the other day about using my outliner to write email, and later it struck me, why not?

So I wrote a script that took an outline and rendered it as if it were on a web page and then emailed it to myself.

When I opened it in GMail, not surprisingly, all the text was there, but the Javascript and most of the CSS had apparently been stripped.

This led me to wonder if there's anything like a standard or best-practices document that says what email clients typically do with emails that have script and style?

BTW, here's the text I actually sent, and a screen shot of the email. The wedges don't do anything when you click on them in the email.

Update -- I received a few pointers on Twitter.

Posted: 12/23/12; 6:11:02 PM.

People don't listen when you say something bad will happen permalink

I went to college in New Orleans, so over the years I've paid attention when scientists said that it was certain at some point that a storm would cause the levees to fail. I also heard about what happened historically when the levees failed in other parts of Louisiana.

A picture named ostrich.gifAll this information was available to anyone who lived in New Orleans. Yet, after Katrina, amazingly, people were angry that no one told them this was going to happen.

Again, with global warming, on a much larger scale, the information about what's coming is available to anyone. But many people push it away. It's too heavy to really contemplate. We all have problems in our own lives, things to worry about on a much smaller scale, to really be able to incorporate the kinds of changes such disasters will bring about into our thinking.

With that as background, I highly recommend reading this article in the NY Times about what's happening in the Antarctic.

Posted: 12/23/12; 2:44:56 PM.

NBA All-star picks permalink

Pick#1: Omer Asik - Houston Rockets

Pick#2: Kevin Durant - Oklahoma City Thunder

Pick#3: Chandler Parsons - Houston Rockets

Pick#4: James Harden - Houston Rockets

Pick#5: Jeremy Lin - Houston Rockets

Pick#6: Carmelo Anthony - New York Knicks

Pick#7: LeBron James - Miami Heat

Pick#8: Tyson Chandler - New York Knicks

Pick#9: Deron Williams - Brooklyn Nets

Pick#10: Raymond Felton - New York Knicks

You can vote too. :-)

Posted: 12/22/12; 5:33:38 PM.

The easy stuff should be easy permalink

Anyone who's trying to create a platform should keep this in their mind when making decisions about which way to go. The point of making a platform is to encapsulate something that you've finally figured out how to simplify. Then you put the complex stuff behind an interface, and it becomes easy.

A picture named crane.gifI like to visualize a very huge ball at the end of a very long chain. I have it between my index finger and thumb, and with the least effort possible I should be able to make the ball swing as fast as I want in exactly the direction I want it to go. That's my idea of power.

There's a huge opportunity to simplify now that the web browser is being used as an application environment. We're pushing the envelope now further than we did in the age of desktop applications. But we've already simplified that once before, as the desktop platform matured. So I don't have any doubt that the simplification of the browser programming environment is coming. It will happen because it is happening. ;-)

Things we need all the time are getting simplified, factored -- and standards are emerging. jQuery, for sure that's a standard. And more and more so is Bootstrap Toolkit. But it can get simplified further. What we're doing now is exactly what we did in the early-mid 80s as we went from character-based apps to graphic apps. We know how to simplify here. And Bootstrap is very much on the path.

When I build in Bootstrap I have to worry much less about whether it will run in all browsers. And browser-makers should be sure they don't break Bootstrap apps or jQuery apps. The platform is being elevated. And the stuff that should be easy is becoming easy.

Posted: 12/22/12; 2:41:56 PM.

My 3-minute review of Lion permalink

I got my new iMac on Monday, and immediately switched out the old one after doing the hot-copy upgrade, which is fantastic. Probably the nicest thing that Apple does. Of course it makes it easier for you to give them money too, but wtf.

Okay, first the good stuff:

It is really fast. This is important because I like to run a lot of bloatware, concurrently. More speed is goodness. It means I can keep more balls in the air.

It's more beautiful. The screen is brighter, clearer, just qualitatively superior to the previous iMac.

Now the glitches:

They keep moving parts that shouldn't move.

They keep changing the plugs in the back. So old devices stop working because there's no more Firewire on the thing, for example.

The keyboard has the Control key in a different place. This meant that for the first few days I can't type quickly, everything has to slow. down. so. I. can. be. sure. my. fingers. are properly. positioned. over. the. right. keys. Try typing with a period after every word and you'll get a good idea what the re-learning experience is like. And what will it be like when I go back to the MacBook Air, which I still use when traveling? I'll let you know.

A few pieces of software I depend on required upgrades to run on the new OS. One of them wasn't free, VMWare, which charged $45 for the upgrade. Not sure if I get any features I need for this, but it does work on the new OS.

And the travesty:

A picture named guitar.gifThey fucking changed the way fucking scrollbars work. That would be a glitch. But the travesty is that there are things you can't do on the new scrollbars that you can do on the old ones.

I am a serious professional computer user. This would be like Fender moving around the frets on a Telecaster. Or the knob that adjusts the pitch of one of the strings. Maybe I can adjust by composing my song in a different key, but tell me, what the fuck were you thinking when you did this, Apple??

I'll forget eventually what bullshit this was. That's why I have to write this review now, to vent the sputum they added to what otherwise would have been a mostly-lovely experience, for which, btw, I paid $2500.

Posted: 12/21/12; 12:31:57 PM.

Share your large Twitter archive? permalink

The archives

Here are the archives, uploaded to static.scripting.com, a bucket on Amazon S3.

@adactio -- the HTML view, and the zip archive.

@ahynes1 -- the HTML view, and the zip archive.

@alecperkins -- the HTML view, and the zip archive.

@dino8352 -- the HTML view, and the zip archive.

@gartenberg -- the HTML view, and the zip archive.

@ijohnpederson -- the HTML view, and the zip archive.

@knunez -- the HTML view, and the zip archive.

@mathewi -- the HTML view, and the zip archive.

@sarahbourne -- the HTML view, and the zip archive.

The initial request

1. Has Twitter enabled your ability to download your archive?

2. Have you actually downloaded your archive?

3. Have you been using Twitter for two or more years?

4. Have you been steadily posting to Twitter?

5. Do you have more than a few thousand tweets in your archive?

6. Are you willing to make your archive publicly available?

If we had one of these archives to play with we could start developing software tools right away.

So, if the answer to all these questions is yes, especially #6, could you email your zip file to dave dot winer at gmail dot com. Important: I will upload your archive and link to it from Scripting News so any developer can experiment with it. It will become public. On the other hand, you might become famous. :-)

Please help the developers get started now creating interesting stuff with this new flow.

Posted: 12/20/12; 10:25:06 PM.

Madison snowstorm webcam permalink

Here's really great snowstorm webcam from the Memorial Union.

Posted: 12/20/12; 2:02:28 PM.

Don't deliberately mislead permalink

Sometime early in the boot-up of the blogosphere, April Fools became an odd tradition. People would put up stories that were intended to fool readers into believe something that wasn't true. I did it once or twice myself, but came to believe it was a bad idea. Instead I celebrated the birth of my blog on that day. It gave me an excuse to not participate.

Here's how I see it. One of two things happens:

1. Your prank is obvious, no one is fooled. Or

2. You pull it off. People are fooled into believing you.

You lose in either case. In #1 obviously you look bad. And in #2, you convince people you most want to trust you, to not trust you. It's like deliberate failure, on your mission. Analogously, it would be like a bus driver deliberately taking you somewhere that isn't on his route. Or a street cleaner dumping garbage on the street. Or a teacher telling you something he or she knows is false. It's not just bad, it's very bad. It undermines what you do.

This came up today when a blogger who I've followed on Twitter for a long time posted an item saying that Twitter had added the ability to edit a tweet. It looked like he was reporting a news event that's very significant. And since he covers Twitter itself, he's exactly the kind of guy I'd hope would break this big story.

All kinds of thoughts ran through my head after I RTd it. Would the press credit him with the discovery? So often they don't recognize news until a big publication reports it. This guy is an individual blogger, but one who I respect. I hoped that he would get credit.

A couple of hours later, when I had a moment I looked around to see if anyone else was reporting it. I looked for the command to edit a tweet. Didn't find it. I guessed that they hadn't turned the feature on for me yet. This makes new Twitter features particularly confusing to report. You often have to try to interpret other people's view of the feature, if you weren't randomly chosen as one of the first to get the feature.

I then responded to his tweet, asking where the feature was. I saw that others had responded the same. We all took his tweet at face value. Wanted to know more about it. One person commented that Tweetbot would have to add the feature.

I then checked my DMs. There was a message there from him saying it was a joke, and he was sorry for the misunderstanding.

BTW, apparently he deleted the original message, so I can't point to it.

Posted: 12/20/12; 1:24:12 PM.

Twitter enables new apps permalink

Something I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere.

A picture named tree.gifThe way Twitter packaged up the archives that people are starting to download enables new kinds of apps to be developed. That's because the data files are distributed in a very software-readable format called JSON.

It will be possible to make all kinds of interesting tweet-browsers without hitting any rate limits, because you won't have to access twitter.com to get at all your tweets.

One thing they haven't said is how frequently they will allow people to download their archives. Once a week? Once a month? Or is it a one-time thing?

But this is important. It will make a pretty substantial difference in the tech market, imho.

If I had access to my own archive I would start playing with this right away.

Posted: 12/19/12; 2:08:39 PM.

Some people like to eat out permalink

And some people like to cook for themselves.

And sometimes people who cook for themselves like to eat out, and vice versa.

So I use Flickr even though I could program my own photos site, and have. I find it convenient to use their front-end. But I don't have to. If I needed to cook my own meal, I would. I did.

Everyone always thinks the last turn of the cycle in tech was the first and the last time around the loop. It might be the last but it sure isn't the first.

A picture named pollock.gifFor Marc Andreessen, who Felix Salmon quotes in this piece, the first wave of the web was his first tech experience. And it made him a billionaire and launched a fantastic career as an investor and tech iconoclast.

For me, it was my third time around the loop (I'm a generation older than Andreessen), but I didn't make nearly as much money as he did, nor was I trying to. For me, the web was creative liberation. Seriously. I had given up on making software because everything was so jammed up and ugly in the tech world. The web freed up everything. We could create again, because I could set up my own net that no one owned but me. I didn't have to get anyone's approval to play with servers. I needed that to be creative.

Imagine if Jackson Pollock had to convince a big company that his art was worth making. That's why when everything is controlled by companies, we get stagnation.

Being creative with tech is not for everyone, but so what. It mattered to me that I could be free. Obviously freedom doesn't matter to everyone. And it was and is available to anyone who wants it and had the patience to keep it going.

And freedom matters to me in some activities and not in others. I feel no need to be free in creating new kinds of car engines. Or creating new paintings or works of music. There, I prefer the AOL/Facebook type of experience. I like going to art museums and Broadway plays, and to drive a fine car made by a big company I trust. But for me, I will always, till the day I die, want to run my own servers. Because that's where I choose to be creative. And if I let other people do it, there would be unacceptable limits on my creativity.

And I depend on the fact that people who create in other artisitic areas are free to do so. Who would want to see an endless stream of idiotic movies programmed for LCD intellect and emotional maturity. You see the problem, it is possible for us to die as a culture. It's happened before. But the human spirit is pretty strong. And there will be someone forcing the question of how to create, as long as there are new ideas to explore. It's never been an easy sell that this kind of creativity applies to tech, but it does.

If you've only seen one turn of the wheel, it must be hard to extrapolate that because there were turns before yours that it's likely there will be more to come. I don't have any trouble imagining it because I've seen it, I've lived it.

I don't say Andreessen is wrong, from his point of view the web never really was that wonderful. I accept his version of the truth, as his. But it's not mine. For me, the web was, and continues to be, liberating.

We're all like the blind men and the elephant. Salmon sees the web as broken, as do the others he quotes. But I see it as liberating. We're all just reporting on the color of the lenses in our glasses. (And btw, all this discourse is happening on the web.)

Posted: 12/19/12; 12:06:18 PM.

Instagram is for dummies permalink

That's what the change in terms says.

If you're using Instagram and in any way care about your creative work, or what your word means, you're an idiot to keep using it.

Now, there are a lot of idiots out there.

Me, I always prefer to make tools for the smartest people.

Schnooks are welcome to use my competitors' products. :-)

Posted: 12/18/12; 5:14:10 PM.

Elites in movie-going permalink

Just a quick comment about all the discourse going on in the press about torture in the new movie Zero Dark Thirty. It's very angering because I haven't seen the movie. Yet the pundits are discussing it, with lots of spoilers, in places where I can't miss it.

Okay, I live in NYC and it's opening here tomorrow. For three days, and then it goes away. When will it come back? They don't say. I have a funny feeling it's only opening so it can be up for the awards for 2012. And the pundits go on talking about it as if the movie is available to everyone.

This system is going to end, hopefully soon. Let the movies open when they open, and everyone gets to see them at the same time. I don't think there's any special wisdom with the reviewers. They all liked a really shit movie, the latest Bond -- Skyfall. Why? It's so much better than the previous Bond film. Wow. That must have been one seriously awful movie. (I didn't see it.)

It's even more aggravating given the totally aggressive way Bigelow, the director of the movie, went after piracy for her last Oscar winner, Hurt Locker. On the other hand this movie is supposed to be seriously great. I'm going to see it tomorrow, even if I have to stand in a long line at the theater.

Posted: 12/18/12; 3:53:26 PM.

Could we make Flickr into Twitter? permalink

A thought just popped into my head when Peter Rojas friended me on Flickr.

I wondered what if we used Flickr's API to implement a message system that worked like Twitter, with a timeline, and of course great picture support. Does the API have enough juice to do it?

I think a lot of it would depend on how much of a moving target the API is. If it's not moving, at least for a couple of years, it might just work.

I've said it many times in the last few days, but it bears repeating. The thing that makes Flickr so interesting is its broad and stable API.

Posted: 12/18/12; 3:39:59 PM.

Why is Twitter letting us export? permalink

With all the crazyness about Instagram and how they own your pictures (not mine, I never used the service) it raises the question as to why Twitter is letting us export our tweets now? You don't see how they're connected? Read on...

A picture named blackHelicopter.gifInstagram's answer for those people who don't like it is this -- opt-out. You can download all your content, close your account, and we won't own anything. They're banking on the assumption that most people aren't paying attention, don't understand, or don't care if they use their picture of their beloved Aunt Amy to advertise a brand of cookies that caused her demise. There are some truly bizarre possibilities.

So maybe Twitter wants to use our pictures that way too -- esp since they now have access to all the pictures we post from other services, the ones who support the Twitter Cards API. Which of course until last week included (tah dahh) Instagram.

The order in which things come public isn't necessarily the order they became known to the companies pulling the strings. It's quite possible Instagram gave Twitter a heads-up about the licensing change, and that Twitter told them to cut the cord, before dragging them into the mess. Or whatever. You just can't know what they're telling each other behind the scenes.

So back to the question raised in the title.

Maybe Twitter is letting us export because something bad is coming that they want to be able to offer an export-to-opt-out feature like the one Instagram is offering. A change in TOS that will be so unpalatable that if there was no way out, the FTC would stop the change (and rightly so).

Maybe it's just Twitter being good guys. Wanting us to feel good about them, and maybe even wanting to enable new applications, which the JSON-based archive certainly does. Unless of course there are onerous licensing terms lurking in here somewhere. ;-)

One more thing. To publishers who act as if Twitter, Facebook, etc are part of the open Internet, maybe now you're getting the idea that this is not true. These are corporations who think and act just like you do. They are very likely future competitors of yours. And if you don't think of them that way, at least as a possibility, you stand to lose, big.

Posted: 12/18/12; 11:24:37 AM.

Make Newtown a showcase? permalink

A picture named bushmaster.gifAccording to this NYT piece, Newtown had a problem with guns before the tragedy. It would be interesting to see if they have any will to do anything about it, now that they have the first-hand experience of a nightmare of guns-gone-wild.

Also there's a question whether the Sandy Hook school will re-open. Maybe it shouldn't. Maybe it should be turned into the National Gun Tragedy Museum. Re-create the horror scene, with dummies, fake blood, scattered body parts. Including the gunman. Everyone can come for a visit to see what guns do to the bodies of innocent school children, teachers, psychologists and school administrators.

Did anyone else notice that all the victims were women and children. What does that say about the honor of this country? (I'm sure they must have talked about that on TV, I have been avoiding the news the last few days, for the most part.)

Another thing I noticed that has nothing to do with this idea is that the school was named Sandy. What is going on here. Who is Sandy and why is he or she screwing around with the northeastern United States?

Maybe the thing to do is to confront the problem we have, whatever it is (no one knows, imho) and look at it straight-on. Instead of sweeping our feelings aside until the next horror comes along.

Now, it's not my town, so it's not for me to say. But I don't think new laws will stop the escalating tragedies. They are getting worse. I don't want to enumerate the ways, but they are growing more frequent and more horrible.

Posted: 12/17/12; 11:49:36 PM.

Bloated Republicans and Democrats permalink

Last night I caught a bit of Meet the Press after the President spoke. I turned the sound off and watched for a few minutes.

There was a bloated Republican dude talking aimlessly at a bloated Democrat. Neither of these guys held any offices. The Republican had been a secretary of something during the Reagan administration.

I watched while I cleaned up after dinner. No sound. Just thought. All these guys do is opine for the cameras. Does anyone care what they think? I can't imagine why they would. But David Gregory asks them serious questions about which they have serious bullshit to say. I don't actually know what they say, because the sound is off. Maybe one them has something interesting to offer, but I'd be willing to give serious odds they don't.

Posted: 12/17/12; 11:44:51 AM.

Sunday news is like opera permalink

A picture named fatlady.gifA comment from Jay Rosen reminded me that Sunday news programs are so totally predictable.

On each topic there are a fixed set of talking points. When a news event happens, the conductors -- Bob Schieffer, Chris Hayes, George Stephanopoulos, David Gregory, etc get out the script, and call in people to sing each role in the opera of the day.

There's a male lead, a female lead, comic relief, someone to be murdered. All the usual characters. And they sing. If it's a big enough story, we just hear one opera per show. If it's a slow news week, we get a variety of songs.

The only thing that's new from week to week is which operas are performed. Maybe a little stylistic variation. But always the same plot, and outcome.

Posted: 12/16/12; 12:18:31 PM.

Let's explore Twitter downloads permalink

According to Next Web, the new Twitter feature to download your history is now active for some people.

It's not active yet for my account, but I'd still like to learn more about the format. So if it's available for your account, please consider sharing your archive with us techies so we can have a look inside.

If you have an archive, you can upload it somewhere or email it to dave dot winer at gmail dot com and I'll upload it so everyone can have a look. Thanks!

Update: Thanks to Navjot Singh, we now have an archive to explore.

Here's the readme.txt file from Navjot's archive.

Here's the HTML view of the JSON archive.

An example of a JSON file, representing one month of tweets.

Here's the compressed archive.

Posted: 12/16/12; 10:19:26 AM.

The Flickr API is a national treasure permalink

No joke, APIs are real, and are very important.

A picture named sam.gifAnd when a corporate vendor "deprecates" an API we've built on, it's really hard to shrug it off, esp since these changes usually modify the contract between developers and the platform. And it's very rare that the benefit accrues to the developers. Hey, very often when the API changes our apps are broken and gone, for good.

Recently new life has been pumped into Flickr by Yahoo, something us long-time users are surely glad to see. But -- with the new life comes concerns that the API will break. Because that's what big tech companies do when they move.

It's particularly important with Flickr because it has been unmoving for so long, which usuallly has a big downside, but it has one huge upside. It means that the API has been stable. Without breakage, we've been able to build some very good and useful systems on Flickr. Stuff Yahoo probably doesn't care about, but we do care about it.

I was looking for a way to express that idea, and it hit me -- start a petition on whitehouse.gov to declare the Flickr API a National Historic Landmark. That's how neighborhoods in the physical world protect their character from corporate wrecking balls. If we didn't do this, the city where I live, New York, would have a freeway running down the middle of it. The East Village would only have NYU dorms. There would be no Central Park. And on and on.

The founders of the city of New York were visionaries, and there's no reason we can't have vision for the future of the Internet. Let's make the revitalization of Flickr a complete win. Let's make sure Yahoo knows we want the API to remain stable, so we can continue to build on it as a platform. We think it's good business for them, but hey -- even if it isn't -- let's make sure our interests are represented here.

Let's do something constructive to save some of the DNA of the net. It's worth it. Sign the petition, now! :-)

Posted: 12/15/12; 8:19:33 PM.

New Twitter behavior permalink

I signed onto Twitter and saw a new message at the top of the page.

A picture named twitterscreen2.gif

When I clicked on the button it took me to a new page to compose a tweet welcoming Amar back to Twitter (whatever that means, they don't explain).

Update: The first reminder was interesting. The second one is starting to feel like spam.

I'm guessing the people at Twitter don't understand how casual a follow is. I follow people I don't know. Last thing I want to do is "welcome them back." I have no idea where they went. Twitter is not for friends. That's Facebook. We need a way to opt out of this.

Posted: 12/15/12; 11:43:44 AM.

Medium is moderated permalink

I posted an item asking a question on Medium yesterday, but I received an email saying it was "not approved."

I'm not complaining, just sharing a bit of a data. It's a moderated system. Neither good nore bad.

Here's a screen shot of the email.

PS: To be clear, the item is still there, it's just no longer part of the collection. I assume this means there's no way to navigate to the item through the user interface of the medium.com site.

Posted: 12/15/12; 11:41:31 AM.

The next web will grow faster permalink

Ben Barren says something very smart on Twitter, that bears repeating and amplifying.

The podcasting boot-up in 2004 happened much faster than the blogging bootstrap for one simple reason. We already had blogging to carry the message. "Hey there's this new thing you should try!"

Remember that when thinking about how high a barrier to entry the existing social silos have. How can they stop the message of their successor from propogating? Maybe they can. Better start thinking about it Dick and Zuck. :-)

Posted: 12/14/12; 6:11:01 PM.

The message of the web permalink

The message is simple and exciting. When the time is right, a very small number of people with a clear vision can build something with huge impact. I'm not talking about making huge numbers show up in their bank accounts.

Posted: 12/14/12; 5:42:53 PM.

Access journalism is poison permalink

A picture named hippieVan.gifFelix Salmon is a smart guy, a very good writer, so I recommend reading this piece about what he calls "access journalism."

He's responding to Margaret Sullivan's piece in the NYT about the Dealbook conference that was a huge demo of access journalism. I didn't go to the conference (wasn't invited) and neither did Salmon. But we've both been to conferences like it. And while Salmon is a journalist who believes in access, I am a source and subject of journalism who despises it.

BTW, I'm friends with Lance Knobel, who managed the program for the conference, as is Salmon (I believe). That's how I know Salmon. We met first at the Davos conference in 2000 where Knobel was the program director. I know Lance well, and know he's a realist about how these things work. However I speak for myself only.

If I were playing by the rules of access journalism I would temper what I said about this conference, for fear of losing Lance his job, or losing influence with Lance. I thought this disclaimer made a good enough demo to include in this piece, though imho it wasn't necessary.

In an earlier life, as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, I was good at the access game. I traded ideas and news with reporters, and in return they wrote nice things about me and my product. I'm sure many of them actually liked our products, but the reason they looked at them, or even heard of them, was this exchange of favors.

When you don't do this, they pretty much ignore you, or worse. I've had a fair number of very negative jobs done on me by the press after I gave up the favor-doing. I had become a blogger, had decided to route around the mess instead of trying to deal with it. I had good reasons for giving up, because when I tried to do something that was so ambitious that it tweaked my platform vendor, Apple, the press turned on me. All of a sudden my product didn't exist, I didn't exist. Crushed by the Great Company who in reality had shipped a vastly inferior product. Didn't matter. So we had to invent a different way to market. It's harder to go direct, but it's honest, and more satisfying. The people who control access to users through the press play a dirty nasty game. And many of them have business cards that say they're journalists.

I am glad that Sullivan has decided to challenge this corrupt mess, I felt it was very unlikely that she would. That's why I said she's the first public editor the Times has had. Becuase the previous public editors tried to dish up the mess in a recipe that's palatable to the journalists who are playing footsie with the people they cover.

Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with having conferences like the Dealbook conference. But there's also nothing wrong with saying the truth about it, that the system it exposes yields inbred journalism. People who are close friends with the people they cover aren't really covering them. If that's all there is, then we aren't getting news. And that leads to huge problems. Open technologies are ignored because there's no marketing budget for them. Housing markets are turned into gambling casinos by people who already have more money than they could ever spend. Ordinary middle class people are turned out of their own homes. There are real consequences to this system. And global problems going unaddressed because the reporter didn't want to piss off some guy they use as a source.

We need dozens of people working at the Times doing what Margaret Sullivan does. I think Andrew Ross Sorkin needs to feel the heat, he needs to feel pressure to stab his friends in the back when they do something awful, and we need to get Felix Salmon to use his intellect to expose their mediocrity, not defend their parties.

Sullivan's piece marked a beginning, perhaps. I hope.

A couple of postscripts.

1. My mother, a NYT daily reader for a long time, wrote on her blog that she might stop reading the Times because they weren't covering the Bradley Manning trial. She read about this in the Times itself in a Sullivan column. I said this is the reason to stay subscribed. That they now have the guts to criticize themselves so openly is a very positive thing for the Times, and a first. They are bending just a little to the advent of the blog. There's hope. In the past we wouldn't have known they were doing this. Now we do.

2. I remember a column in PC Mag written in 1983 by Peter Norton, who was fast becoming the go-to guy for technical information about the IBM PC which was booming. I had used his book to guide my implementation of ThinkTank for the PC. And I read every word in every one of his columns. In the previous column he had said that the new version of IBM PC DOS was awful. It didn't work. Crashed. Lost data. He was right. It was awful. But he had gotten reprimanded by someone -- he didn't say who -- and he would never again question the wisdom of IBM. I thought it was remarkably honest of him to write this one last column. And true to his word, he never again challenged IBM. That was a very lonely moment. Up till then I felt like we were all in this together. Even IBM could benefit from honest criticism. That was the end of something important.

Posted: 12/14/12; 11:03:35 AM.

The Internet as ecosystem permalink

There are huge parallels betw the Internet and our planet.

Open formats and protocols are like the DNA of endangered species.

A picture named tryHarder.gifThe proliferation of corporate networks is like the spreading of corporate everything from coffee to big box stores to airports. Sameness, lack of diversity, individuality withers. What makes life interesting fades away, conformity reigns.

But there still is art, even if most people don't live artisitc lives. And you can still use the open Internet even if most people don't.

Google owning Reader is bad for open stuff the same way it was bad that GM owned the public transit system of Los Angeles. It's like the fox guarding the hen house. Read the story in Buzzfeed and see if the analogy holds.

It was strange reading Gruber's account of the evolution of system scripting on the Mac, because all the diversity that was present as it was evolving is gone from his story. As if it never happened.

So the thing that matters on the net is choice. If you choose something other than what everyone else is using, you're helping the net. You can still use the stuff everyone is using. But find a way to express yourself that's unique and that you know has value. And when you do that you're helping our intellectual and informational planet. And that probably can help the real planet too because if we're communicating and sharing ideas and information, we're better able to see problems, and perhaps find ways to solve them.

Freaking out isn't going to help anything. Instead do the the opposite. Think, and act, and do something full of thought, for the Internet. Roll up your sleeves and do some good work.

Posted: 12/14/12; 12:26:43 AM.

AppleScript was not alone permalink

John Gruber has a piece in MacWorld about AppleScript in which he says that Open Scripting Architecture was supported only by Apple. That's not correct.

AppleScript was not originally intended to be the only OSA scripting language, but it was. The idea was that OSA was language-agnostic, and the plan was for there to be several of them eventually. AppleScript was the friendly language, derived from HyperCard's HyperTalk (therein another story entirely) and intended for use by non-programmers. The theory being that a programming language that looked like prose rather than code might enable a broad swath of 'non-programmers' to, well, program.

UserLand's Frontier scripting environment supported OSA, both as a client and a server. The syntax of our language, known as UserTalk, is most like Python -- though it is a contemporary of Python, development started in 1988.

The OSA compatibility and the struggle with Apple to allow us to co-exist with AppleScript is well documented in the archive of Scripting News.

Working With AppleScript: Shows how to run AppleScript code inside the Frontier environment.

UserTalk Everywhere: Frontier implements the Open Scripting Architecture, making it easy for scripting clients to hook up to the Frontier system.

A Google search for "AppleScript" on scripting.com.

Update: There's a JavaScript OSA component too.

Posted: 12/13/12; 10:34:33 AM.

The API makes Flickr great permalink

A picture named glue.gifJust read the review of the new Flickr mobile app from Nick Bilton at the NYT.

I'm a Flickr user from the beginning, and I've stuck with it.

I like Flickr for the API. It enables me to mirror everything I put up there on S3 which is really important to me.

Hope they don't break the API. It's another of their big advantages, a huge base of compatible software. Lots of it hasn't been updated in a long time, all the more reason to leave it alone. (They've been talking about deprecating stuff for a long time, but my stuff still runs, which is good.)

Installed it on my iPod Touch . That's where I take most of my pictures.

It took me a few tries to remember the combination of username and password. Eventually got in.

Was able to browse my photos. Took a new photo of a couple of soda cans on my desk. Used a filter to reduce the glare and give it an oldtime look. Not trying to demo the camera -- just want to see how the software works.

I'm glad they updated Flickr. It works. If more people use Flickr I'm happy. It's a mature photo service with tons of users and lots of photos, and a full API that I've built on. If it has a more assured future, I'm happy.

But don't break my apps. Please. :-)

Posted: 12/12/12; 7:49:00 PM.

An idea for a product permalink

A picture named windowsPhone8.jpgThis is not a simple or obvious idea, so if you're skimming and expect to get it -- you probably won't. Just a caveat from someone who's accustomed to comments from people who aren't paying much attention. :-)

Anyway, here's a little background for motivation.

The last week I've been helping my very good friend NakedJen get started in the world of smartphones. Until now she had a Blackberry that could do SMS, but had email disabled. I don't really understand why, but it's not important to the story. She was hard to reach via email, and she couldn't use any of the apps we all like to use. She didn't have maps or any of the other cool stuff we're all playing with these days.

Once I understood where she was, I gave her a phone I wasn't using, one of the first Google Nexus phones. It was a gift from Google. So it was totally appropriate that I pass it on to NakedJen.

I think she stayed up all night playing with the phone. When I checked in with her, she had done all kinds of customizations. The next day she was installing apps. She was giggling with glee at every revelation. I think she saw that this mode of computer use is actually pretty simple. And she's taking it back with her to Salt Lake City, where her family there will be very happy I'm sure that Jen will be part of the 21st Century (something I like to kid her about).

Next part of the story. This morning I got a Fedex from a longtime friend at Microsoft. In the package there were two new smartphones, a Nokia 920 and 810. Since I am a T-Mobile guy, I started with the 810. It's a lovely piece of tech. The performance and color are amazing. It's also very easy to guess where everything is. I had it set up to work over wifi with my GMail account in about five minutes. A few minutes later I was taking pictures and had installed the Twitter app. I sent a text message. Then we went out for a walk. I took my iPod Touch, iPad LTE and Nexus 4 with me, in addition to the 810, and of course NakedJen and her Android phone. It all worked just fine. Everything that didn't have its own service plan connected to the net via Bluetooth through the iPad.

When we came back it was time for Jen to go home to Utah. She tried to get Glympse going but for some reason it didn't work, so I fell back to using text messages to follow her progress to La Guardia and her flight to Milwaukee.

Now finally I'm able to explain the idea.

A picture named jenInNy.jpgWhen I tried to send text messages from my desktop Mac, all of a sudden I was dropped into a horribly complex maze of things that make no sense. I can't even figure out how to send an SMS without someone sending me one first. I tried reading all of Google's docs, installed all the software they told me to install, and in the end I went back to the Nexus 4 to communicate with Jen. Later I realized I could do what I needed to with the Voice website. But there were problems there too. I ended up having to enter the number manually, my contacts list was useless in that context.

The idea is this -- Google or Microsoft or Apple -- create a new app that runs on the desktop that's designed with the parameters of a smartphone. Leverage the skills I already have. I was able to set up the Windows Phone in a few minutes, on an OS that I had never used. I am a relatively expert Mac user, but failed after a half hour. The lesson is pretty clear. At the very least the desktop has to do what the mobile device does, with the same care of design and simplicity. What I'm left with is a hodgepodge of stuff that wasn't designed to do this. Time for a fresh look.

Posted: 12/12/12; 7:05:25 PM.

More than a tweet, less than a post permalink

There's a place for something between a tweet and a blog post.

That's what I've been trying to explore here on the threads site.

Quick little bits that wouldn't fit into 140 chars, and can benefit from having a place to comment with more than 140.

Maybe we need a name for this. Pweet?

Posted: 12/11/12; 1:33:19 PM.

There are a lot of assholes out there permalink

Re the Guardian profile of Julian Assange, which I wrote about earlier today.

1. I'm sure the Guardian has profiled lots of assholes.

2. I'm also sure they don't make most the articles about what assholes they are.

3. How do they decide to make the story about what an asshole the person is?

My theory is that they do it if and only if other publications do.

And of course if Barack Obama were a huge asshole they wouldn't make the story about that. Or Mitch McConnell (who surely is as abrasive as any public figure ever profiled) because to do so would show bias. It would not be balanced.

A picture named admittingIt.gifThat's how school kids decide who to bully, for example. If everyone makes someone their bitch, then it's okay for you to. So the Times runs a magazine profile about Assange's socks and other minutia, so the Guardian can find other scabs to pick at. Even if their readers might feel more than a little empathy for the guy.

I wonder if their profiles of the Royal Family include this kind of stuff?

Would they interview the Queen the way they interview Assange?

In British culture is that even considered a reasonable question?

Assange isn't a founder of Google. Doesn't control a huge budget. Isn't a military commander. He's broke and lives in exile in a closet. He can't really do anything to you. He certainly can't pull his ads! :-)

Kicking someone when they're down is considered poor style in the US. A sign of cowardice. How about in Britain?

Posted: 12/8/12; 7:43:46 PM.

Twitter copying Instagram permalink

It's a shame that Twitter is copying the features of Instagram instead of giving us features only Twitter can. The web is crying. :-(

Posted: 12/8/12; 6:56:28 PM.

Central Park hawk permalink

Came across this hawk perched in a tree in Central Park today.

A picture named hawk.jpg

Posted: 12/8/12; 6:52:36 PM.

Twitter do something nice for users permalink

Give us a way to delete a tweet from someone else in our Replies tab.

From time to time you get someone directing a speech at you, instead of to all their followers. They must have no idea how 20 messages from them look in someone else's Twitter equivalent of an inbox.

It's lazy and inconsiderate.

I went to the trouble to write my ideas in the form of a blog post. Where I could use full sentences, and not use cryptic abbreviations which are often impossible to decypher. I tried to link to my sources so you could see what I'm talking about if my prose was too dense.

They're rants.

If it were email, you could just delete them, and that would be that. But in Twitter, they just stay there, until they scroll off. And that could take a long time.

Even the most interesting person gets longwinded communicating in 140-character chunk after chunk. And most of these tweets come from people who are angry, exhausted, highly opinionated, and not very respectful (or else they would realize how much of your space they're taking up).

It would be nice if we got one new simple user-oriented feature in Twitter in 2012.

Posted: 12/8/12; 2:28:40 PM.

What is wrong with the Guardian? permalink

For some reason I started to read a long news piece on Julian Assange on The Guardian website, and it was interesting, until the reporter started trashing Assange. I've included a brief excerpt below.

What about the fracture with close colleagues at WikiLeaks? "No!" he practically shouts. But Domscheit-Berg got so fed up with Assange that he quit, didn't he? "No, no, no, no, no. Domscheit-Berg had a minor role within WikiLeaks, and he was suspended by me on 25 August 2010. Suspended." Well, that's my point ­ here was somebody else with whom Assange fell out. "Be serious here! Seriously ­ my God. What we are talking about here in our work is the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people ­ hundreds of thousands ­ that we have exposed and documented. And your question is about, did we suspend someone back in 2010?" My point was that there is a theme of his relationships turning sour. "There is not!" he shouts.

The piece continues in this mode, mocking him, as if they were children.

Assange stuck his neck out for all of us, and whether you agree with him or not, it doesn't matter whether you like him.

They need better editors at the Guardian, and more respect for their readers.

Posted: 12/8/12; 2:08:10 PM.

Idea for a new democracy permalink

This idea isn't for today's United States, but if we were to ever try to boot up a new democracy, I'd suggest thinking about only offering the vote to citizens who had served on a jury that reached a verdict.

Then at least we'd get voters who understand how the government works. And maybe we'd actually get a government that tackles the real problems.

For example, we need a decision on climate change, and we needed to start implementing it 20 years ago, long before the effects could be felt by voters.

Even now, when the entire NYC metropolitan area was shut down by Sandy, things are returning to normal, and we are deciding to postpone change for another year, until next year's miracle happens. Sandy, imho, is as ominous as the attacks of 9/11 were.

Many things changed between 1776 and today. Instantaenous mass communication. Science appears to have conquered the elements. There's a sense that no matter what you see and hear and feel, that things can't really change that much.

But things have changed hugely in the last couple of hundred years. And we, for the most, feel these changes were positive. But that's changing now too. We've run out of frontier. We've run out of space. And we're more efficient at creating and sustaining human life. But that may be about to change (probably is) -- and we can't react until -- when? Not clear.

If jurors were making the decisions, we'd suck it in, figure it out and do what needed to be done. That's what jury duty teaches you to do.

Posted: 12/8/12; 1:52:51 PM.

Twitter and Instagram break up permalink

A picture named webdead.gifNick Bilton at the NYT reports that Instagram removed their Twitter cards metadata from their pages. This means that to view pictures taken by users in Instagram, you'll have to visit the Instagram site.

Forgotten in the drama is: 1. Users and 2. the web.

Having our pictures show up in Twitter isn't always the right thing. For example, when I link to a Flickr picture from a tweet, they take the picture from Flickr and show it directly in Twitter, without the reader having to visit the Flickr site. As a photographer, I would prefer this feature not be there, so people can comment on the pictures in Flickr, where there is no 140-character limit, and where the comments will have a relatively long period of visibilty. In Twitter they scroll off very quickly.

I don't use Instagram, so I don't have an opinion about whether my (non-existent) Instagram pictures show up in Twitter.

I also think it's good for the web if there's separation between these websites. Twitter is rapidly becoming something bigger than the web, sort of a mega-web. That's not cool. The thing I liked about Twitter re Facebook is that it was a way of pointing people to other sites. Over time, they've stopped doing that so much. That has meant that we've only got 140 characters to play with. Some ideas require more than that. Only very simple ideas can be expressed in such limited space.

2005: "People come back to places that send them away."

So it's not black and white. Not "Twitter Bad" or "Instagram Bad." Imho the only thing that's bad is the lack of diversity. These sites are growing too large, and we're growing too dependent on them. And as often happens in tech, the users and open standards become an afterthought to the warfare between large companies. But the good news is that this kind of fighting is a sign of an implosion coming soon, and a new period of expansion and innovation. When companies and the press become too focused on each other, and forget the users, the users seem to always break out, and invent a new layer.

Hugh MacLeod: "Billionaires squabbling about who gets to own the commons."

Rene Ritchie: "Twitter doesn¹t want eyeballs on third-party clients. Instagram doesn't want eyeballs on Twitter. No one cares what the eyeballs want."

Posted: 12/5/12; 11:38:58 AM.

Why The Daily failed permalink

A picture named bobcats.gifI don't even remember what the initial proposition was on The Daily, but I think it involved me giving them money to find out what it was. They told me it was great. They got lots of other people to say they were impressed. And that was the end of the pitch.

Everyone on the net is busy. All the time. I was riding the LIRR the other day from Queens to Manhattan, and everyone around me was staring into the screen of their smartphone, tapping, typing, clicking. I watched the faces. They looked like the people sitting around in the system lab at the UW Comp Sci Dept in 1978. Same damn thing. Except now instead of a handful of misunderstood geeks, now it's everyone.

BTW, they didn't look "engaged" or entertained, or even aware of what they're doing. Most of the time we spend pecking and nibbling at stuff on the net we sort of wish there was something more interesting to do. But there isn't, so we keep nibbling and pecking.

And if you're the rare contributor on the net, you might tweet something once in a while. I would call that grunting and snorting.

That's why I like to write blog posts, btw -- it keeps my writing muscles working, for the day when they might be needed again, which I hope I live to see. It would be justice though if it didn't happen. After spending a life selling this idea that people should live on the Internet, to find out that the life wasn't worth living! :-)

Anyway, back to The Daily and why it failed. You might as well ask why the Charlotte Bobcats failed. Because they can't dribble, pass, shoot, block shots, get rebounds or avoid fouls. As in Charolotte, they didn't even field a team over there in MurdochLand.

Anyway this is the topic du jour. I'll write the same piece again and again, as I have been for decades, in different contexts. We have the power to do much better, but it's not a requirement.

Posted: 12/4/12; 12:07:37 PM.

What's like RSS? permalink

A picture named loveRSS.gifTo be like RSS, it would have to be some open tech that is free to be used by anyone without royalty, with no individual, corporation or standards body that can make your development work obsolete. To me, as a developer, that's what open means.

If Apple can deprecate and then remove an API, or not approve an app because it doesn't conform to a rule that didn't even exist when I wrote it -- that's very far from the ideal.

Lots of APIs these days are like that. And since they have corporate sponsors, they're the ones they talk about at tech conferences. Because they can pay for sponsorships. That's how the conference promoters get paid.

I have a reason for asking this question -- I'm wondering if there's enough open technology out there that's not corporate-owned that we could have an interesting meetup among interested parties and get some good cross-pollinating done.

I think this is the core of what Stallman's free software idea is about. I really don't care that much about software, though I respect that he does. What matters to me is that I can ship something and have it keep working indefinitely, without worrying about someone outlawing my work. That kind of power always gets abused (I wonder why anyone would think it wouldn't).

Anyway here's a list of some ideas, but please post comments or send me mail of any formats or protocols that you think should be on this list.



RSS (of course)



Posted: 12/3/12; 6:24:05 PM.

Should feeds require HTTPS? permalink

A picture named accordionGuy.gifI said no, feeds should not require using HTTPS, and got an email from a developer friend asking me to explain, which I am happy to do.

If you think everyone who wants to read your feeds uses an aggregator that's being regularly updated then you won't lose any readers. But maybe you'll miss the one person who could help everyone understand your product.

Engineers tend to think users are fungible. One user is as good as every other user. So if you lose 1 percent or 5 percent, no big deal. But it might be a big deal. And it might be more than 5 percent.

However if your users are creating great stuff that a lot of people want to read, then it might not matter, because eventually everyone will get to read your feeds, no matter what they're using. Over time, all aggregators will support HTTPS if enough developers of feeds require it.

If it should turn out that way, it'll be a pain in the butt to get my aggregator working with HTTPS, but if you make it compelling enough I'll do it. And I'll be pissed because it's time I'd rather spend doing something creative. Not make-work, because I can't see for the life of me why you need to push RSS over a secure connection. :-)

Posted: 12/3/12; 5:52:03 PM.

Cloud Atlas mini-review permalink

The critics didn't like Cloud Atlas, so I almost didn't see it. That would have been a mistake, because I loved the movie. Much more than some other movies that got universally good reviews -- Lincoln, Flight and Argo, all of which I thought were yawners.

I loved the way they wove all the stories together, and how they all reached the same places at the same time.

A picture named cloudAtlas.gifMost important, it's very much a continuation of The Matrix series. Hugo Weaving even plays the Agent Smith role in a couple of the segments. And like Argo, it mixes slapstick comedy with heavy action, but unlike Argo, they make it work.

I like movies that make simple political points, and I like the message of The Matrix, and I like that they picked it up in Cloud Atlas.

The simple message -- non-conformist -- be original, don't be a clone!

Some of the reviewers said the story was confusing, but I wasn't even slightly confused. And I liked that it's also a love story, like The Matrix, but it's sweeter and grabs you at a more emotional level. Not to take anything away from The Matrix which is one of my all-time favorites.

NakedJen arrives tomorrow for our annual film festival, and I'm going to recommend that she see Cloud Atlas after we see the three Matrix movies. And if you've seen and loved The Matrix, I highly recommend seeing Cloud Atlas. Unfortunately it's probably too late to see it in theaters around the country. It's still playing in NYC on 42nd St and in Kew Gardens.

Moral of the story -- if critics universally pan a movie that don't mean they're right! :-)

Posted: 12/3/12; 2:51:08 PM.

Sidewalker map app permalink

Here's an idea for a map-based app.

A picture named beetlejuice.gifThe other day I was walking down Columbus Ave, on the west side of the street, and passed an Italian restaurant that looked like a place I'd like. Just a neighborhood restaurant with waiter service, but nothing fancy. They have a place like this in Lexington, Mass that I like to eat at. And one in Mountain View, Calif. There used to be one of these in every neighborhood in NYC, but nowadays mostly they have are upscale places, which are nice, when you feel upscale. But sometimes you just want a plate of spaghetti with a couple of meatballs and a nice mixed salad with Italian dressing, a big glass of ice tea, for about $10 to $12 plus tip.

And there it was!

I looked back and made a mental image of the place. I didn't write down the name or address. Now I want to find it. What I'll do is slog through Google Maps street view of the neighborhood. But it would be nice to be able to take a virtual walk down the street, a little faster than I walk IRL.

Obviously this would have other applications. You get to play virtual tourist. Or do window shopping. Look for a nice nieghborhood to live in a town that's far away. Etc.

Update: The solution to the puzzle is Francesco's Pizzeria. Didn't find it via Google Maps. Instead I went by foot to the location and scoped it out. Even took a picture this time. :-)

A picture named francesco.jpg

Update: Had a nice plate of spaghetti and meatballs on the 7th with Ryan Tate, at Francesco's. Hit the spot perfectly.

Posted: 12/2/12; 12:18:29 PM.

Just found Talkatone permalink

30 minutes ago I found Talkatone. I came across it because I'm wanting to make phone calls from my LTE-equipped iPad 3. Honestly, I thought when I got around to this, I'd just use the Google Voice app the same way I make calls from my GMail account on my desktop. Apparently it's much more complicated. On my Android phone it was just a matter of asking an automatic dialog that asked if I wanted to use Google Voice instead of T-Mobile for my calls. Of course being a totall Google Voice fan I said yes. Is this because Apple doesn't want GV to work on the iPad? Hmm.

Anyway, Talkatone seems horribly complicated. But I'm sure it's the kind of thing where it makes more sense the second and third times you read the docs.

PS: And then I came across this. :-)

Posted: 12/1/12; 8:33:26 PM.

iTunes is an outliner permalink

Doc Searls posted an item yesterday explaining how journalism is an outline.

Then also yesterday iTunes 11 came out, and it's the topic du jour. Pogue says it's great, overlooking the features they took out. He says if you complain about iTunes you're a bad person. This, in the Paper of Record. I'll remember that next time they pan a movie I like. (Seriously the Times tech reviews are pretty awful. They used to be great when Sandberg-Diment was doing them.)

His actual words: "iTunes 11 is, on the whole, better than what came before it -- if only because it's faster, far less cluttered and laid out more sensibly. Yes, change always ruffles people's feathers -- you could argue that Apple's specialty is feather-ruffling -- but this time, at least, the overall direction is up."

Bleh. This is typical Pogue. Nasty shit they should edit out, on the chance that their reviewer got it wrong.

Anyway, luckily if you know what pref to turn on, you can get iTunes working again. The way it ships you can't use it to move content onto an iPad or iPod. Not exactly a minor function of iTunes.

Farhad Manjoo says it's time to take iTunes out back and shoot it. It's bad software he says. I'd like to offer the perspective of someone who has made his share of bad software. Go watch the great documentary, The Fog of War. Most software is like that. A big Ouija board. In one rev you try to solve a problem, but in doing so, you lose the solution to the problem three versions back. So you fix that, and undo something else.

It's like renting office space for a growing company. In the first office you were on the ground floor but had windows that didn't open, so the office was stifling in the summer. So the next office has windows that open. But you forgot how nice it was to be on the ground floor.

The only way software really flows is if you focus relentlessly on a very small set of features, and write down what the rules are, and never break them, and take lots and lots of time to Get It Right.

A picture named iTunesIsAnOutlinerSmall.gifThat's why it's important to study something like iTunes to figure out what it really is, and don't just tack on annexes and add-ons to suit the needs of the next "Stevenote" demo. When you step back and look, and think and think some more, you'll see that it's an outliner. You have devices to hook in, and apps on those devices, and songs and playlists. Every one of which is a hierarchy. And you're moving and copying things from one hierarchy to another. When I realized that everything in computers was like this, I decided to make a tool that was really excellent at editable hierarchies, so I wouldn't have to keep making shitty little outliners for every one-off problem. Because managing iPods is a lot like managing documents on a hard drive or ideas that make up a presentation or a business plan or a set of software reviews. Why have five miserable iTunes-like tools when one really great one will do? That way you keep the fog down to a minimum. (Remember to go see the movie if you haven't already.)

I thought Apple would copy us and put an outliner in the Mac Toolbox. Should have happened in the late 80s. But for whatever reason they didn't do it. So they're still stuck in the fog of outliners shuffling stuff from one rev to the next. Until that major reconceive happens, it won't do any good to start over.

Posted: 12/1/12; 11:16:03 AM.

Don't blame the Repubs permalink

A picture named chockFullONuts.gifWho can blame the Republicans for their lies if the press is willing to carry them, verbatim, as if there were some truth to what they're saying?

It's like the SUL fiasco in the Twitter world a couple of years ago.

Who can blame Twitter if pubs like TechCrunch, Mashable, GigaOm, ReadWriteWeb were willing to take bribes in the form of millions of followers, openly. If I were running Twitter and could get away with that, I'd seriously consider doing the same.

Business people have an obligation to follow the law, as do Congress people. But their first obligations are to their shareholders and to get re-elected. If the press is willing to sacrifice its integrity and it helps your cause -- you might want to go for it. Twitter did, and the Repubs do.

None of this will change until we change the way journalism works.

Posted: 12/1/12; 10:22:32 AM.


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