I've had the privilege to work with a number of young devs over the years, and helped develop their skills. When it really clicks there's a lot of learning going on, all around. And the combination of a graybeard and young turk as a devteam has a lot of things going for it.
It's probably a lot like Mike Woodson working with Carmelo or Ray Felton or JR Smith. Only the older programmer can still do it, if the mind is willing. It's like directing movies as well as basketball.
I know NakedJen who loves both basketball and movies will understand this. :-)
BTW, when NJ came to visit in December, I knew she loved movies, but I had no idea about basketball. How did that happen?
In tech, however -- we set those young talented people out to conquer the world on their own. Their coaches, unlike basketball players, aren't developers. So they don't know what to tell them.
No wonder we make so little progress from generation to generation.
I'd really like to change this.
Posted: 1/31/13; 10:41:23 PM.
The NYT just announced that they're opening up their newsroom to a few tech startups. It's a fun idea, but also a safe one. If I were starting something I wouldn't want to put my office in the NYT. That's a gimmick. Running a startup is noisy and messy and sometimes involves firing people, and major disappointments, and you really want to hide the messy stuff from reporters. Even small companies, real ones, care about the press they get. Which leads me to conclude there aren't going to be many heavy duty companies in the group they pick.
Then it hit me. The Times could do something not only courageous, but revolutionary for news. Give the space to bloggers. Qualify them the way you're qualifying the startups. Show us your blog. We'd like to read it. If we think it's interesting (and don't go for safety) and there's a reason it could benefit from locating both in midtown and/or the NYT offices, and we think the work you do would be stimulating for us, here's some space for six months.
They will never do it, but if they did, with their hearts in it, the NYT and news in general, would change much faster than it is changing. In my opinion, for the better. They won't do it because it's competition and they're scared they'll end up doing what bloggers do. But the sooner they do more of what bloggers do the sooner they can get on with it. That means not worrying what their sources think of them, and report the news like real people instead of people in an ivory tower. Get out there and do it. And if you aren't doing it, then bring it in.
Posted: 1/30/13; 5:27:50 PM.
A rabbi, walking down the street in NY, sees a sign.
Moishe Teitelbaum Chinese Laundry.
Puzzled, he goes inside. An old Chinese man stands behind the counter.
"Do you own this laundry?" the rabbi asks. Yes.
"And your name is Moishe Teitelbaum?" Yes.
"If you don't mind my asking, how did you come by such a name?"
"When I came through Ellis Island, the man before me said his name was Moishe Teitelbaum.
Posted: 1/30/13; 12:06:15 AM.
The difficult construct is if-then-else. All other statements have a single summit but it has two.
It's not ready for other people to use yet but it will be soon, Murphy-willing! :-)
Update: This capability is now available in the worldoutline software, released today.
Posted: 1/29/13; 1:55:17 PM.
I was on the subway last night coming home from a Nets game in Brooklyn and I thought to take out my iPod and do a Vine video between two stops on the 1 train. It came out great! I couldn't wait to share it when I got out of the subway and had a net connection. But when I got out, it was gone. Whoa. That sucks. But it is a really interesting way to tell a story. Consider this a bug report. ;-)
Posted: 1/29/13; 1:52:11 PM.
Jason Pontin of Tech Review asked a challenging question on Twitter today. What's the most beautiful software?
I answered his challenge with a podcast. I felt the idea needed verbal explanation. I offered three examples. Two written by others, and one I wrote myself. In every case it's the reflection of the software from another person that makes the beauty evident. That, to me, is what art is. It is in the experiencing of it.
If the Mona Lisa hung in a locked closet where no one could see it, it would not be art. Anything that evokes a response from an observer is art. And the beauty is a function of the experience. Beauty isn't intrinsic to the thing itself, as I illustrate in the story I tell.
So here's the podcast.
Posted: 1/28/13; 2:31:24 PM.
I bet they play this one in Colorado and Washington State. :-)
Posted: 1/28/13; 11:03:50 AM.
For the next sixty seconds this station will conduct a test of the emergency blogcast system.
Posted: 1/28/13; 10:57:41 AM.
On Thursday I wrote a piece about MacWrite and MacPaint, two pieces of software that influenced much if not all the software that followed. There are many other examples of seminal software products. In most cases, the products are not the first of its kind, as MacWrite was not the first word processor, but for whatever reason, put enough of the pieces together to lead the way to the future. It's not always obvious in the moment, but with the benefit of hindsight we can see.
They don't, for some reason, study these products in computer science. They fall between the cracks of "serious" study of algorithms and data structures, and user interface and user experience (which still is not much-studied, but at least is starting). This is more the history of software. Much like the history of film, or the history of rock and roll.
In film, the movies of the 1930s were unusually influential. Probably because it was the first decade of sound.
In popular music, the sixties and early seventies were seminal. The music of a very small number of artists and bands took music in a new direction.
It seems to me that the 1980s were like that for software. Before that, serious people dismissed the idea that ordinary people would use computers. You know, the clip from the Steve Jobs movie where fictitious Woz says no one will ever use this stuff. People believed that (not Woz, he's always been a visionary and an inclusionist, the movie did him a disservice). To be a believer meant being lonely. That is, until we all read Ted Nelson's book! So, if we were to make a list of art that led to the popular use of computers, Nelson's work would surely be in there. As would Woz and Jobs, and Bill Atkinson, Randy Wiggington and Susan Kare, who pioneered a little thing like graphic icons. Made a huge difference, and influenced software design for all who came after.
And Unix, sparse, bare-bones and character-based was also hugely influential. In the commercial software world it lay dormant during the 80s, mostly used in academia. But the seed was planted. If you got a compsci education in the late 70s or 80s you used Unix. And then, in the early 90s when networking boomed, it was Unix it boomed around. It became the server platform. The web basically is Unix with a somewhat friendly interface slapped on it (said with a bit of irony). I never thought users would tolerate http:// but it shows how wrong you can be (an idea always worth considering).
Other obvious products of the 80s whose influence are still felt today (and remember this is my list, not anyone else's): Visicalc, Lotus 1-2-3 and Excel in spreadsheets. The popular word processors and databases of the day. PowerPoint. The Finder. Hypercard.
I had to start a separate paragraph for two long-gone and much-missed products: Think C and Turbo Pascal. I used the former, for quite some time, to develop serious software. It did something no one thought was possible -- instant compiles of huge C programs. This was a barrier that was broken by Turbo Pascal a few years earlier. Proves one of the fundamental rules of good software design -- always revisit your assumptions as time goes by and Moore's Law continues to change the rules of hardware. What you couldn't do a few years ago might work perfectly well today.
As I played around with this idea, I started thinking of people whose opinions I would value on this, and then realized this was turning into a software Hall of Fame, like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Something that the movie business doesn't do and should imho -- go back twenty or thirty years and recognize the films they missed when they were new, but turned out to be seminal. Honor people who you didn't know were great when they made their early contributions.
For my programmer friend who wanted to know about MacWrite and MacPaint, I suggested watching James Burke's great Connections series, which I've written about previously. Every "invention" is more of a synthesis of ideas that were floating around. This is the brilliance that makes change possible. If we had our priorities straight we wouldn't honor the lone inventor (an idea that I don't think even exists) rather we'd celebrate the synthesizer, the Rolling Stones, who loved the music of American blues musicians and figured out how to make it relevant to everyone, but never forgot their roots. Just one of a billion examples.
Perhaps we're ready to give up the mythology of tech innovation, and start studying how forward motion really happens.
Posted: 1/26/13; 10:13:40 AM.
Now this is very smart, well-educated guy. He has a computer science degree. Asking whether he knew about MacWrite and MacPaint, imho, is like asking a person with an English lit degree if he's heard of Shakespeare. In other words, we have to work on this. :-)
Anyway, I figure a fair number of people who read this blog are like my friend. You might not know about these two seminal products, and you should.
MacWrite and MacPaint were the only two apps that shipped on the original Mac when it was released on January 24, 1984.
The Mac was a new platform. It didn't run Apple II software or IBM PC software, or even software from its cousin, the Lisa, which shipped from Apple a year earlier. The Mac platform was a completely clean slate. So if you bought a Mac in January or February, or even March or April -- all you could do with it was write with MacWrite and paint with MacPaint.
They were not very powerful. Each could only open one document at a time. The menus were short. They were limited but they were also something of a miracle, because very few people had ever used a graphic app before. They had graphic menus, worked with a mouse, and they used a lot of pixels, for the day at least. It felt amazing to use these apps. Like driving a very sleek and fancy car. That is, compared to the tools that we were using before.
More important, they served as example-ware for the developers of the day. If you were working on Mac apps, as we were at Living Videotext, if you wanted to see how to do something, you could always look at one of these two apps for an idea.
Had the Mac shipped without MacWrite and MacPaint, it's kind of doubtful that there would be a Mac today. Or it might exist but there would be little consistency among the apps. The window I'm typing this blog post into now looks an awful lot like the window we typed into in MacWrite, 29 years ago.
Software evolves like a coral reef. I've written about this many times. Something happens, a ship sinks, some fish live in the wreck. Their predators come there too, because there's food to eat. Then they die and their skeletons form a new structure for life to cling to. Eventually you have a thriving ecosystem. No one uses MacWrite or MacPaint today, but in a sense we all do, all the time.
Someone who is planning on spending a career making software should know all they can about these two very important apps.
PS: When I write these pieces I feel like Tom Hanks in the final scene of Cloud Atlas. No spoilers. :-)
Posted: 1/24/13; 10:43:05 AM.
I just heard that Quora is repositioning as a blogging platform. That's (might be) very cool.
Hopefully that means that they're going to support the APIs that blogging platforms support. That would include the Blogger API and the MetaWeblog API. And of course we'll be looking for the RSS feeds as well.
Uhh that might be it. :-)
If you have any more info please post a comment here.
PS: I suggested just this move in May 2012.
Posted: 1/23/13; 6:18:39 PM.
A story in a list.
1. I love archive.org. It's essential. Without it, we would have absolutely no record of the early sites that are gone. Hooray for Brewster Kahle. No sarcasm. He should get a Turing Award. Researchers of the future will praise him, and rightfully so, for having the foresight and will to provide an archive of so much of the early web.
2. If you want to see how necessary it is, spend a few minutes clicking on links from the archive of this blog from the 1990s. Most of the items I linked to are gone. The only way to see the content they once pointed to is to go to archive.org.
I picked one random month, June 1998. Very depressing. All the links to DaveNet pieces in that month, for example, are broken. Oy. After a little investigation it's clear why. Umpteen migrations later, and in all that a dependency on .htaccess files. However S3 does not understand .htaccess files. Oh well. Not easily fixable in a few minutes. But the data is still there. You just have to know where to find it.
Who's the best? It looks like the NY Times. All their links still work. They have some amazing future-thinking people there, and they mean business. Good work.
3. However, sometimes that doesn't work, because the archive is imperfect. Sometimes the sites had bugs, and saw the archive.org crawler as a denial-of-service attack. A large number of UserLand-hosted sites are missing from archive.org for that reason. It was our fault, but in our defense, we were fighting fires with a very small staff and a company that was perpetually running out of money. Yet, we had as one of our goals to preserve the content we were hosting. Luckily most, but not all of our sites are still accessible at their original addresses. (See #6 below to learn why, it's not an accident.)
4. As the blogging art progressed, we realized we should be creating static content. That would make it easier to archive. So we were able to find a home for the Radio UserLand community, with Matt Mullenweg. He has a similar problem for WordPress sites, and Matt is young, and likely to be around longer than I am, so it made sense to trust him with this content. It's not by any means an ideal solution, but it's good enough. And I do trust Matt. He has a good heart and sees a big picture. I think he values history as much as I do.
5. We had a scare with the RSS 2.0 spec. It went offline in a server upgrade at Harvard a couple of years after I gave the spec to them, hoping it would survive longer there than on UserLand's servers. I learned a lot from the experience of trying to future-safe it. It's been at its current location for almost ten years. So I'm fairly optimistic that it will survive for a while longer. :-)
6. I am hosting a large part of the archive from UserLand and scripting.com. Jake Savin, a former UserLand guy is hosting the other large part, out of the goodness of his heart, and respecting our early mission to produce a record. Both of us are looking for a way to make this stuff much more safe than it currently is.
7. Not to be dramatic or anything, but no more than 40 days after I die, and probably much sooner, all of the content I'm hosting will disappear. That's just not acceptable. What was the point of trying to save it if that's the best we can do. (And after I'm gone it isn't my problem anymore.)
8. I'm looking to create new art for long-lived websites. I see this as more of a financial and organizational problem than a technical one. From a technical standpoint, the best approach are static files served by any software capable of serving folders of static files. I like Apache. The domains should continue to work.
9. More people would then create new content in this format, so that there will be no need to archive the sites. There should be the idea of content that's designed to survive as long as the web survives. This is especially important for sites that are trying to create a record. Government and news sites. Researchers who want their work to be built on in the future. Writers who think their ideas might be meaningful in a future context. Basically, anything that isn't completely ephemeral. We complain that the UGC companies aren't doing a good job of preserving their archives. But the awful truth is that no one is. The web is very very fragile. We can and should be making an investment in making it stronger and more resistent to damage.
10. Right now the archive of the early blogosphere is in an unknown state. There were sites at Blogger, Movable Type, we hosted some at EditThisPage.com, and weblogs.com. I would like to see all of it safe and ready for future readers and researchers. Not as museum exhibits (this is what an ancient blog looked like) but as literature that's available to anyone at any time. There probably were some great writers back then, and there certainly is history that we have already lost that can be resurrected. But every day that gets harder. We should do something about this.
I am mentioning this now because it's a long-term objective. I hope to be around for a while to work on this with others, hopefully younger people, who have a longer horizon than I do. I'm not looking for anything like a quick solution, because this is a problem that took many years to create. But I want to start making things better, one step at a time. I will go to conferences, if necessary -- but only conferences that are about preserving the early blogopshere. I am in favor of preserving everything, but one person can't take on everything. :-)
Posted: 1/22/13; 11:10:15 AM.
Football post-season ads are grand.
Two ads during the NFC championship, one from Apple, the other from Google. Both are selling the same product. One wins, the other a loser.
Apple has a protagonist playing ping pong with the Williams tennis sisters. They're very pretty. The ad is selling a feature of an iPhone that lets you tell it to STFU because you're sleeping. Aha. You're having a sexy dream with the Williams sisters. Do Not Disturb.
A mom reading to her baby daughter on a couch. The little girl is having a fantasy, involving the tablet computer. Completely unnecessary. At the end of the ad you see that the mom is reading the story from a tablet. Nexus. What? Not Apple. Fuck.
Apple is ceding the high ground to Google.
Posted: 1/20/13; 5:31:46 PM.
Yesterday at Aaron's memorial in NYC, Doc Searls said:
When you're young you think life is a sprint.
When you're older you see it's a marathon.
And when you're mature you see it's a relay race.
Posted: 1/20/13; 4:58:01 PM.
I've been a developer since I was 19 years old. That's already 38 years. I went to Silicon Valley when I was 25, and immediately met the most powerful people in the Valley. It was like that then, and still is -- if you're bright and young, male, strong, assertive, confident and optimistic, you can have access. Probably a lot like sport, basketball, baseball, etc. If you're young and think you're hot shit, and there's some reason to believe you are, you can go far, very quickly. This has been going on for as long as I've been in tech, and long before that.
Computers are amazing things, they really are, in ways most non-technical people aren't even aware of. For example, when I learned about the process of bootstrapping compilers I was blown away. Still am actually. I tried explaining it to everyone I knew who wasn't a programmer. The only person who got it, sort of, was my uncle, a mechanical engineer. He could see using a hammer to make a hammer, so what's the big deal. How about using a specific hammer to make itself? How about that! His eyes glazed over. Yours probably are too. But ask someone who has made a real life compiler and see how mystical they get.
So we programmers in a sense are a secret society. Until you learn the handshake you aren't one of us. And we can be pretty arrogant about it. Until the computer kicks our ass. Or the market. Or users. Then we learn really quickly that what we learned in school was just the beginning. That when we thought we understood everything that was just the arrogance of youth. It's functional. Because how else could you take on the world if you understood how huge and complex and fucked up the world actually is! :-)
This is when depression sets in. All of a sudden you see that you are not all-powerful, you can't handle everything the world throws at you. But then what do you do if you've told everyone you can deal with it, that you'll come out on top? When I got to that point, which I remember very clearly, I felt I couldn't possibly face failure. I was locking up the office of Living Videotext one night, knowing the next day I would be firing half the company, and having no idea how we were going to bail it out. Yes, you can get lower than that. But between the two paths, one up and the other down, there wasn't much margin for error.
When young people risk it all, it would be nice if there were people who understood what they're going through, who could offer some perspective. Even better, if there was an oldtimer around when the world is telling you you're a god and can do no wrong, to tell you that's bullshit, to kick you in the butt, in a friendly way, tell you you're a mortal human being, and you need to understand that life has its ups and downs, and you're going to be around for a long time, and this is just the beginning, part of the learning process, and while it looks like everything is great now, or falling apart, or whatever emotion is driving you at this moment, let's go for a walk, get a burger, see a movie and hang out for a bit, watch a game, and notice all the other stuff that's going on.
Whew. That took a lot to write.
The other thing we all can do, if we love the product of technical minds, is stop thinking it's magic. There is magic in computers, but the magic isn't in the programmer or the tech writer or the visionary -- it's in the whole thing. The miracle isn't any one person, rather it's that humanity can collaborate to create something much greater than any one of us. Then we can all have an accurate perspective on our role in it.
Posted: 1/19/13; 12:32:07 PM.
There's a group of football players in the wonderful Tim Burton movie Beetlejuice, one of whom delivers a great line, which goes as follows. "Hey coach, I don't think we survived that crash." I don't to spoil it any more than I have to, but it's funny in the context it's delivered in. :-)
I was reminded of this line when I read about the House Republicans finally realizing that they are the minority party. It's as if Cantor said to Boehnoer "Hey boss, I don't think we survived the election."
Now maybe we can resume having some semblance of government, the voters having spoken, and finally the Republicans having heard.
Posted: 1/19/13; 10:35:14 AM.
I get a fair amount of grief for writing my blog and pushing links through my feed and to Twitter. It's been this way since before I started blogging. There are always people around who question your motives, and who project their own nasty theories about people on the easiest target to find. Often that's the most vocal and visible person, esp one without affiliation. There always seems to be one person who has a bone to pick with me, sometimes lots of people.
There are many reasons I write, but probably the least of it is for fame or fortune. I don't make much money writing, I actually spend money to write. And if I wanted fame there are much more direct ways to go about it. In fact over the years, I've done things to limit my fame, because I don't like being famous.
I write to express myself, and to learn. Writing is a form of processing my ideas. When I tell a story verbally a few times, I'm ready to write it. After writing it, I understand the subject even better.
I send links to Twitter and to my linkblog feed because I want to share them, and because I want to remember them. By linking to them they get into my archive where I can search. This way instead of hunting around for an article, trying to remember where it was or how I got there, instead I just scroll through the archive. As a by-product, I share it. Some people like this. I assume the people who don't like it know how to unsub.
I also write to create a record. In my programming work I've gotten a lot more disciplined about this. I have a rule that I can't make a change to my most mature products, the ones that are being used by others, without posting a worknote. It's a rule I don't have any trouble keeping, even though at the beginning, it was like a New Years resolution, it felt like a chore. Now it's a habit as ingrained as brushing my teeth or taking my meds or getting exercise every day. I don't feel right if I don't do it -- so I do.
I write to keep up the connection with people I care about. That way when we meet, they have a clue what's going on with me. I really like it when people I care about blog too, so its reciprocal.
I write to put a stake in the ground, so I can, over time, debug my prediction process, and hone my understanding of how things work. If you point to something I wrote ten years ago that turned out wrong, I don't feel ashamed. I take the opportunity to learn. By explaining my process then, I have a chance to debug it later. Why did I think desktop publishing was a bad idea? I don't know -- because I didn't write about it. But I do know why I thought the iPhone was a bad idea. This process helps me get smarter over time.
I write to give people something to react to. So you think the iPhone was a winner from Day One. Great. Tell me why. Maybe I'll change my mind. It's happened more than once that a commenter here showed me another way of thinking about something and I eventually came around to their point of view. And even if I don't change my mind, it's helpful to understand how another person, given the same set of facts, can arrive at a different conclusion.
Update: Another reason I write, which I remembered after publishing -- I develop writing tools. If I didn't write, I couldn't do that. I wouldn't be able to test them, refine them, and get new ideas for new tools. Writing and my software development process are integral. I couldn't do one without the other.
And maybe I write because I'm narcissistic. It's possible. You know it's hard to tell, because the only experience we have is our own. I don't know what you think, unless you tell me, and then I have to decide if you're being honest about it, or being honest with yourself. And I try not to worry about that so much. Because whether you're honest or not is something for you to deal with, and if there is a god, for he or she to judge you on. It's not my problem, thankfully. Because there are now 7 billion people on the planet. If we were to make each person's honesty our business, we'd have no time to live! :-)
So when someone gets on a soapbox and starts trying to rev up a crowd to hate me, and when they lie to do it, I have to learn not to give that any weight. What I do now is ask a friend to have a look and tell me what they see. Since the ranting isn't about them, they won't take it personally. If they say it's something I should pay attention to, I would -- but they never do. The most recent time it happened, a friend came back and said the person is a sadist. But my mind still circles around the abuse. I have a hard time not thinking about it. So what do I do? Write about it, of course. Now it's on the web, and hopefully out of my way.
One more thing. I remember being at a conference, chatting with someone and I saw at the other end of the room someone who had been a friend but had started trashing me on the Internet. I excused myself and walked over to the guy and sat down next to him, and asked why he was doing it. He started repeating the nonsense he was saying online. But I didn't think he really believed it, so I pressed him and asked why he was really doing it. He said he had cancer, and was in chemo, and was in a lot of pain. I felt sick myself in that moment. I said you know that's terrible, but it's no reason to do and say things that hurt me, and make me feel bad. We all have our struggles. Me too. He agreed, and we're friends again, but now when I see him online, I can't forget how used I was, and why, and the pain comes back, his pain and mine. This really sucks.
Anyway, I don't know why people do this. I don't think I will ever be immune to it. But I find that having good loyal friends helps make it a bit more tolerable.
Posted: 1/18/13; 9:32:43 AM.
LeBron James (Mia) 1,583,646
Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 1,460,950
Kevin Garnett (Bos) 553,222
Chris Bosh (Mia) 528,014
Tyson Chandler (NYK) 467,968
Paul Pierce (Bos) 294,213
Joakim Noah (Chi) 230,796
Josh Smith (Atl) 187,174
Shane Battier (Mia) 151,877
Anderson Varejao (Cle) 149,246
Amar'e Stoudemire (NYK) 147,720
Luol Deng (Chi) 130,744
Andrew Bynum (Phi) 111,902
Brook Lopez (BKN) 108,978
Jeff Green (Bos) 91,356
Dwyane Wade (Mia) 1,052,310
Rajon Rondo (Bos) 924,180
Deron Williams (BKN) 449,791
Kyrie Irving (Cle) 445,730
Ray Allen (Mia) 326,186
Monta Ellis (Mil) 123,096
Raymond Felton (NYK) 105,340
Jrue Holiday (Phi) 103,146
Jason Terry (Bos) 88,708
Paul George (Ind) 80,060
Kevin Durant (OKC) 1,504,047
Dwight Howard (LAL) 922,070
Blake Griffin (LAC) 863,832
Tim Duncan (SA) 492,373
Pau Gasol (LAL) 310,845
Kevin Love (Min) 283,458
Omer Asik (Hou) 240,467
Serge Ibaka (OKC) 197,063
Rudy Gay (Mem) 182,523
David Lee (GS) 165,875
LaMarcus Aldridge (Por) 160,197
Marc Gasol (Mem) 153,459
Zach Randolph (Mem) 146,980
Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 145,776
Chandler Parsons (Hou) 144,697
Kobe Bryant (LAL) 1,591,437
Chris Paul (LAC) 929,155
Jeremy Lin (Hou) 883,809
James Harden (Hou) 485,986
Russell Westbrook (OKC) 376,411
Steve Nash (LAL) 270,741
Tony Parker (SA) 176,168
Stephen Curry (GS) 169,083
Ricky Rubio (Min) 150,227
Manu Ginobili (SA) 118,293
Posted: 1/17/13; 8:55:55 PM.
I've been having fun with icons on Twitter, mixing things up, same way I put images in the right margin of Scripting News.
Peter Rojas of gdgt had an interesting idea. Why not start a feed of the icons. Indeed. :-)
I can't add something to the feed without it going out to all my followers, so I'm not going to put the old icons in there. For that, here's a zip archive.
And if I forget to put an icon in the flow, please don't be pissed, just remind me. :-)
Posted: 1/17/13; 7:02:38 PM.
I was talking with a friend the other day, and remembered I had learned this lesson a while back, but don't think I had ever blogged it.
In Silicon Valley, when I was coming up, it was common practice to pay everyone you could with stock. They were go-go times, like now, but we weren't raising the kind of money people raise now. Vendors wanted to participate in the boom, so often you could work out deals for stock from people who printed your packaging, or did contract work. I'm still okay with that, however, not for lawyers.
In a way it's counter-intuitive. Why wouldn't you want your lawyer to be incentivized for your success?
The answer is, sure it's great -- when incentives are what it's about. But maybe the company won't be the shooting rocket everyone thinks? Maybe there are tough times ahead? Could happen. And then you'll have one shareholder with a huge advantage over everyone else. He or she will have set up the company. If there's any kind of shareholder action, the lawyer is going to have a big advantage over everyone else.
So pay your lawyer in cash, not stock. Keep them on your side. Everyone will be happier.
Posted: 1/16/13; 3:21:32 PM.
The word gamify is kind of weird but nice.
It means to take something that isn't a game and give it game-like features.
Twitter is gamified because it shows you how many followers people have.
It seems the NYT could benefit from a little of that.
How might it work?
1. Everyone starts out with 10 free article reads per month. As it works right now.
2. When I tweet a link to a piece on the NYT site, I get my own code, so they can tell that a hit came from me. For every 100 clicks, I get another free read.
3. That way we can put aside all that michegas about 99 cents for 8 weeks, which seems pretty crass, because I'm a veritable flow machine for the Times. Or at least I would be if they would gamify. :-)
What do you think?
PS: They can give us twice the reads for traffic generated for competitive articles, ones where they want to beat out the WaPo, BBC etc. And when the NYT gets their own Twitter-like system, which they will have to do someday if they want to stay independent, they can offer triple-points there, to encourage use of that system.
Posted: 1/16/13; 2:33:44 PM.
When a great baseball or basketball player leaves the game they retire his or her number. That means the jersey hangs from the ceiling, or there's a plaque at the stadium, and no player on the team ever wears that number again.
On the web, retiring a number would mean the website is permanently registered, and the content is preserved so it lasts as long as the web does. That means the contents of aaronsw.com will be there forever. It will never become a porn site, or a landing page, or whatever.
Right now there is no way to do this. Isn't that strange. We could fix it if we want. The Internet is just software. It would be a small but worthwhile hack and could set a precedent for future memorials.
Something to think about!
Update: There's an active Hacker News thread on this topic.
Posted: 1/15/13; 10:45:41 PM.
Like everyone else in the part of the web that I exist in, I've been reading lots of stuff about Aaron Swartz over the last few days. The stuff written by professional reporters are mostly vain attempts to explain something they don't understand. Even the ones who have been covering tech for a long time miss what's important. Imho.
I read one piece, written by Aaron himself and published in Fast Company yesterday, that really nailed it, about who he was. It was in the form of an email he had written to Ronald Lemos of Creative Commons Brazil, explaining, among other things, his involvement with RSS.
He said he had been writing web apps, after visiting Philip Greenspun's web class at MIT, and trying to make reading news sites more automatic. Sounds about right. That's the frustration I was dealing with too, but I didn't know Aaron at the time. He says that then, when the RSS 1.0 effort became visible, he immediately wanted to be involved. That's when our paths crossed for the first time. You can read all about it in the archive of the RSS-DEV mail list on Yahoo Groups. Here's the first message Aaron posted. It was the second message of the group.
To the extent that I participated, it was to express my dismay that this format was incompatible with what we were using. I didn't think they should call it RSS, because that would add confusion. Of course that's ancient history. But people have asked why they don't see my name on that spec. That's why.
"When I was a kid, I thought a lot about what made me different from the other kids. I don't think I was smarter than them and I certainly wasn't more talented. And I definitely can't claim I was a harder worker -- I've never worked particularly hard, I've always just tried doing things I find fun. Instead, what I concluded was that I was more curious -- but not because I had been born that way. If you watch little kids, they are intensely curious, always exploring and trying to figure out how things work. The problem is that school drives all that curiosity out. Instead of letting you explore things for yourself, it tells you that you have to read these particular books and answer these particular questions. And if you try to do something else instead, you'll get in trouble. Very few people's curiosity can survive that. But, due to some accident, mine did. I kept being curious and just followed my curiosity."
After spending a lot of time in the last few days reading about his intellectual explorations, I'd agree. He nailed it. That is what made him unique. And that's of course a great thing. The world would be a better place if more people were driven by curiosity. Too many people accept things as they are. Aaron wanted to know why things worked the way they did, and wanted to see if there were other ways that might work better.
Amen and right on Aaron, who now belongs to eternity. We'll try our best down here on earth to remain curious and keep following where it leads.
Posted: 1/15/13; 10:48:17 AM.
Lots of stuff gets invented that never makes a difference.
Invention isn't the important moment with any format or protocol.
The moment that's important is adoption. If it got adopted then we call it "good enough" and go on.
In RSS, the moment of adoption came when the NY Times published feeds in RSS 2.0 format in 2002. That got the users going, and gave other pubs something to shoot at. Blogging software already supported the format. We were off to the races.
Also, a lot of the early users were reporters and editors, which drove the need for other pubs to get on board. If all the users had been in some other profession, the uptake might not have been so quick or large
It wasn't an act of invention, or even design -- it was adoption and then uptake that make RSS as a format significant.
Technologists and reporters should understand this is a process, not a moment.
Hopefully that sheds some light on a subject that now seems to be interesting to people, which imho is a good thing.
And obviously all this is just my own opinion. Like a guy whose been around a sport for a long time and thinks he understands what makes it tick. Not presented as anything other than that. :-)
Posted: 1/14/13; 1:47:31 PM.
When I went to my grandmother's funeral, in Rockaway, in 1977, I was surprised at how people were laughing and exchanging gossip. It was a family event. She died young, at 66, so the family was still pretty large. My grandfather was there, even though they were divorced. I knew her pretty well, and I don't think she would have approved all the laughter. But dead people are dead. A funeral can be the place where that fact sinks in for the first time, and people are entitled to express themselves however they want. As long as it doesn't interfere with others expressing themselves, in their own ways.
When my uncle died, her son, many years later, I waited a day before writing about his passing. He had been a character on Scripting News, my blog. My uncle, along with Dan Gillmor and Jamis MacNiven, were the first people to use my Manila blogging software while it was in development in 1999. I often pointed to his site, and wrote about his adventures in Jamaica. But when he died, I didn't feel I was ready to write about it publicly for a bit of time. Probably because he was so close in age to me, just ten years older. A role model for me. And someone whose death hit me hard. I wanted to learn something from it before writing about it. At first I was just dazed. Stunned. Speechless.
Then, when my father died, a number of years after that, I wrote about it the day it happened. It was one of the pieces I am most proud of. Short and simple, and deeply truthful. I don't read it very often but when I do, I am reminded of the sadness, of the letting-go, of feelings that had been long held inside, becoming part of the past. In an instant. No longer issues. My father loomed large in my life. But I was ready to write about it because his death was a long time coming. We got a chance to talk about it, me and him. It still haunts me. But I didn't need a lot of time to process it, before I could say what I had to say.
In family, and online, I've come to respect the way people grieve is different for everyone, as it was for people at my grandmother's funeral, so many years ago. Everyone has a different process, and it could be different every time depending on who-knows-what. Death is something that I find impossible to understand. That's why it's so damned frightening. Maybe it's no more unpleasant than taking a trip. Maybe god is merciful and death is a pleasurable release full of spritual oxytocin. There are reasons to believe this might be so. Maybe death is something that's impossible to experience, much as we have no memory of existence from before conception? Death is a mystery, a horrifying one, if you love life. All the more horrifying if someone reaches a place where death is a choice they make. I find it especially hard to reach any conclusions about that.
When I was young, the father of the kids across the street, one winter day, killed himself in the basement of the house, with a gun. His son discovered the body. I've had a whole lifetime to process that event, and you know what -- I still don't have any wisdom from it. I don't understand, and my guess is that I never will. And it's hard to find anything meaningful to say about something you have no appreciation for.
I knew Aaron Swartz, not very well, but I did know him. I spent a fair amount of time yesterday reading his blog. Aaron was a voracious reader. And he really could write. And his ideas were good. I don't think enough people read his blog. Maybe more will do so now. And to repeat an oft-repeated theme here, maybe we can do something to make sure that his blog remains online as long as there is a web, which hopefully is quite a long time.
What good can come from his death? I think we have to set more reasonable expectations for our brilliant young people. It's true that Aaron was smart, and had a great capacity to learn. But he was just 26. And for many of the years we knew him, he was much younger. He was very much his age, emotionally, even if he had knowledge beyond his years. To expect so much of such a young person probably puts too big a weight on shoulders that aren't prepared for it. I feel that there's a connection between Aaron's suicide and the suicide of Ilya Zhitomirskiy, one of the founders of Diaspora, and Gene Kan, who was one of the developers of Gnutella.
I've had to deal with my share of death in my life, and one message I get from every one of them, approached from any direction, is that the dead are dead. Expressing love for their memory, support for the person, doesn't have much value, because they are not here to receive it. If you want to do something to honor a loved one's memory, be loving and kind to people who are still alive. That's the best thing you can do, always, every day.
PS: The shortened URL for this post is http://2ea.r2.ly/. A message?
This is part of what I mean about not judging people's way of expressing grief.
In some cultures funerals are drunken celebrations with songs and sex. Life-affirming parties to honor a friendly soul who liked to have a little fun every once in a while.
But the Internet that has gravitated around Aaron's soul is a very stern and gray one. Even puritan.
No matter. If I feel a sentence needs a smiley, then I'm putting a fucking smiley on it and if you don't like it fuck you. :-)
Posted: 1/13/13; 8:17:36 AM.
People are asking about the history of RSS today because of Aaron's passing.
In April 2004 I put together a timeline of the various specs that led to RSS 2.0 being published on the Berkman Center website in 2003.
Hopefully this adds some light! :-)
Posted: 1/12/13; 1:18:50 PM.
If you're using the new static sites feature on S3 here's something to watch out for.
I decided over the holidays to move scripting.com to a static site running on Amazon S3.
It went pretty well, though uploading a folder with a huge number of files is something that we don't have good tools for with S3. But eventually I got it all up there, using a Firefox plug-in, called S3Fox Organizer. I had been using it for years, but forgot about it when I switched to Chrome last year. If you're managing large static S3 sites it's nice to have it around.
Then at the end, I had as a loose-end to do the same for www.scripting.com. I wanted to have it simply redirect to scripting.com from an S3 bucket. I thought this would be a simple matter, but it turned out to be impossible, leaving me in a tough bind that I'm still in.
I haven't tried to figure out who it is, but I probably should, and ask them nicely if they could give it up.
Right now I have a dynamic server running on EC2 doing the remap. But www.scripting.com gets a lot of traffic. It's the primary name the site went by until I became a fan of shorter names. :-)
Posted: 1/10/13; 11:52:53 AM.
I'm a movie fan, but I am a software guy. Spike Lee is a movie guy and a basketball fan. I know what he thinks about movies and basketball from Twitter, which happens to be the kind of software I make. So I make software that guys like Lee use, and I love movies that guys like Lee make. That's something we have in common.
As a software guy I encourage people to use software. I'm never going to judge a piece of software without using it. There may be software I don't like but not software I don't like that I haven't used.
That's why I wish Spike Lee would go watch Tarantino's movie, Django Unchained. Yes, they say "nigger" a lot. I find myself using the word in my inner conversation a lot after watching the movie (in my head it's Samuel L Jackson's Django character saying it). I don't dare say it out loud, cause I'm white, I guess. I think that kind of sucks, btw. Why can Patti Smith whose music I love sing a song with nigger in the title, but it's not cool for Tarantino or me to use the word? I don't get it.
I honestly don't understand what the problem is. I'd like to understand. Maybe it's that Spike Lee would like to do a movie about slavery but can't get it funded? Surely he doesn't think no movies about slavery should be made? I can't get behind that idea. I think a lot of the BS in this country going on around the Tea Party and all the gun zealotry is all part of the legacy of slavery. We're still living in the country that was founded on slavery. Even right here in New York. (A lot of people don't know that the slave trade came through NYC.)
You know Mississippi is still a shit state. Maybe if more people see the movie they'll understand why it's such shit. It's because their ancestors treated human beings as property. It wasn't that they used a disrespectful word. It was something much worse.
Tarantino is an artist who communicates with audacity, but also with a wink. I saw Inglorious Basterds and laughed at the idea of a bunch of Jewish vigilantes in the American Army in World War II in Nazi Germany. I esp liked that Hitler liked Tarantino movies. And you know what -- I'm Jewish, and while I don't want to try to compare the pain my people feel around those events to the feelings of blacks have around slavery, there is something to be said for looking at these events with more of our senses, from different points of view, and thinking about them in ways different from the ways our ancestors taught us to think about them.
I just don't support the idea of not listening to the artist because -- because what? I don't even understand what the issue is.
Posted: 1/9/13; 4:42:23 PM.
It's been about a year since wordpress.com released their RSS reader functionality.
If you have an account on wordpress.com, this link should take you to the reader.
It'd be interesting to speculate on what might be in a new reader.
1. I have subscribed to several feeds but only one appears to be updating today. That should change after I publish this post, since I am subscribed to this feed.
2. Their UI says that you can subscribe to a blog, but that's confusing -- I have feeds that are not in any way associated with a blog. How can I subscribe to them? (I assume they will accept the URL of a feed, in addition to a blog.)
Update: You can enter a feed URL.
3. There's a ton of whitespace on the reader page. It's nice to have a little space between items, but it's also nice to get some news on the page too! (Sorry for the sarcasm.)
4. Is there a way to import or export an OPML subscription list?
5. I would, if I were them, strip the markup from descriptions. When I'm skimming, the markup is disruptive. The goal should be to have every post take exactly the same amount of vertical height, and not very much. They human brain is great at skimming, if you set things up the right way.
6. This is what my ideal for a reader looks like.
7. BTW, I like that they did a river of news, and not a mail-oriented reader. It's the right way to go, imho.
Posted: 1/8/13; 1:01:00 PM.
I have a lot of thoughts about this development, but first -- to note it.
The first ads are for Samsung. They don't use Twitter's ad platform. Twitter is sure to object.
A few questions follow from this.
1. How did the AP get 1.5 million followers? Did Twitter promote their feed? If so, it seems Twitter has a legitimate right to the revenue flow from their ad feed. Do they have a contractual right to it?
2. What happens if Twitter shuts them off as they did with developers? What might a shut-off look like when it comes to a content feed? For developers it meant that their API calls were not handled.
3. What do other content companies plan to do here? Do you all think of Twitter as another channel for your content flow? Do you have plans to monetize it? Do you envision your paywall, if you have one, ever extending to your Twitter feed?
4. Why is there a picture of a frog on the AP's Twitter page? :-)
Now, my ready-made answers.
1. Don't put ads in your feed, instead think of your feed as a flow of ads pointing to your content. Put ads on the pages you point to from your feed.
2. Don't depend on Twitter to be a common carrier. They are a media company, like you. You're using a competitor to connect with your readers. This is not a healthy situation.
Posted: 1/7/13; 2:56:42 PM.
I made a point to sit down and try to watch a Sunday morning news show today, but I couldn't make it through five minutes. It's not that I was bored, it wasn't boring. They were just freaking me out. These people have lost their minds. I've never seen it this dysfunctional. It was like watching a very drunk person get behind the wheel and drive away, down Highway 1 north of San Francisco. A windy road 1000 feet up a sheer cliff. At the bottom of the cliff, rocks and sea. Make a wrong turn at the wrong moment and everything goes. Isn't there someone who can take the keys out of their hands? It's so weird.
Posted: 1/6/13; 10:14:29 PM.
Is anyone else using the Time-Warner iPad app?
It's surprisingly useful, because it turns your iPad into a remote for the cable box. The remote it comes with is the usual piece of junk. Mine is worse than usual because about half the keys don't work. So to get to channel 48, I have to enter 5 then a 0 and click the downarrow twice. I've learned how to find the most important channels this way, but I can't believe I'm actually willing to do this.
Then I got the iPad app, and have set up my favorites, and I can just click on the name of the channel I want to go to and the iPad sends a message to TWC's mainframe in the cloud, which then sends a message to my set top box to switch to the channel I just clicked on. It all happens in an instant. Pretty cool.
But last night it stopped working. I get a tune error message at the top of the screen when I try to switch to any channel. Here's a screen shot of the error on my iPod. Same app.
Really sucks. I'm putting this out there in case anyone else is having problems or knows what box I have to kick to get this working. I have already recycled the power on everything in sight.
Posted: 1/6/13; 6:16:12 PM.
You know how I say there's room for something between a tweet and a blog post? Like this one. A simple idea worth a few words, but not too many.
I like watching Knicks games on MSG because one of the guys calling the plays is an ex-NBA superstar, and a really smart guy, who takes his job very seriously -- Walt Frazier.
His narrative, I realized watching the game last night, is what goes through the mind of a player on the court. And because he's so smart and cares so much, it's quite a narrative. He loves the sport, and he loves the players, and he loves great basketball. And while the nature of the job isn't to be overly critical, if you listen carefully you can hear what he doesn't like. In a word, lackadaisical play, a term he uses more than he should. :-)
1. Cross-court passing.
2. If you don't play D.
3. Lazy players.
"They're still paying homage to JR for his antics."
Posted: 1/6/13; 4:10:29 PM.
This is the best piece you'll read all day, maybe all year.
When people are near death they start telling the truth. I know this from experience. I got to hang out with my father for a full week when he was in hospice in the week before he died. He was never a big truth-teller. He used to say "Don't truth me and I won't truth you." But that week was different. He had a bunch of things he wanted to get off his chest. He didn't go so far as to forgive anyone, or say things that would make him vulnerable or embarassed. A lifetime of holding back on these things doesn't break in a week, no matter how close you are to death. And it wasn't his fault. He grew up into a world that told men that they had to be strong. And any emotion other than anger would scare the people around him. That such a person would grow a hard impenetrable shell is no surprise.
I've had the near-death experience myself, twice -- once when I was very young, and once a little over ten years ago. I suppose it's a reason some people find me hard to accept. But it's also the reason, I think, that the people who love me, do. If I presented an image of who they want to see, or who I think they want to see, then it's the image they love, not the person. Now that does not mean you should tell people what you think all the time in every context. But you can change, and apologize and forgive, at any time, without asking anyone's permission, and without fear of offending. Even if you come in a package that most people don't associate with change, regret or forgiveness.
Don't miss the opportunity to clean house and have a great rest of your life, even if you haven't narrowly escaped death.
Posted: 1/6/13; 11:03:10 AM.
var inputs = document.getElementById ("myDialog").getElementsByTagName ("input");
Now, I have a global called myValues that I want to get all the values from the inputs into.
myValues [inputs [i].name] = inputs [i].value;
I've looked at various Stack Overflow pages, of course.
Any help much appreciated!
Here's the actual test app.
Still getting my wobbly JS sea legs to settle down. :-)
Thanks for all the help!!
Posted: 1/4/13; 10:40:52 AM.
It's now 2013 and I hear that marijuana is legal in two states.
If you're in Colorado or Washington, what's it like?
Do you see people smoking in public places?
Have any stores opened?
Any unforseen consequences?
Really curious to know what legal marijuana is like...
Do tell! :-)
Posted: 1/4/13; 8:32:44 AM.
BTW, I try not to discuss stuff on Twitter. With its 140-char limit, hard to express anything complex or subtle.
BTW, I try not to discuss stuff on Twitter. With its 140-char limit, hard to express anything complex or subtle.-- Dave Winer .& (@davewiner) January 3, 2013
Posted: 1/3/13; 7:41:26 PM.
At 57, I see doctors pretty regularly. They take blood, listen to this, look into that. I don't do nearly all they want me to do, but I would like to do more. I understand there's a connection between how I feel and look, and how long I'll live.
I would do more of it, if it integrated with the rest of my life better. Having to wait for returned calls when ever I have to do something with my doctor's office -- so wasteful. Makes me avoid doing things with them. Why can't we use the new communication tools.
While various professions and industries have changed the way they communicate, doctors and their staff have not. For example, there's an app for the iPad from my pharmacy. When it's time to re-order prescription drugs, I don't have to call anyone, or wade through a voicemail tree, I just click a few buttons on a couple of screens, and the meds are waiting at the pharmacy down the street.
But if for some reason they have to talk to the doctor, it all reverts to faxes and phone tag. The contrast is stark. The doctors themselves probably don't have to deal with it, but they do have to pay for the human beings who implement all the steps manually, when they could do it with websites and email. And their patients have to deal with it too. BTW. :-)
I'm sure there are doctors that use the new communication tools. Does yours?
Posted: 1/3/13; 2:17:02 PM.
This is an important subject.
I just moved scripting.com, a site that goes back to 1995, from an Apache server to an S3 bucket. In the process we generated a zip file that contains everything. It seems to me that archive is a piece of history.
What university is ready to receive such a gift?
Background: I have a famous great uncle from Germany who was an author and translator. His work is studied in universities. My mother ended up with (paper) copies of all his books from his own collection. We went on a search for a university that would add them to their collection, and found one, and now we're fairly confident we did the right thing for Uncle Arno's legacy.
But with digital stuff, who is going to make a big deal out of receiving a zip archive, when anyone's copy is exactly the same as all the others?
In other words, how can I make this bit of history safe? I have no clue.
Posted: 1/3/13; 1:24:00 PM.
My mother's uncle, Arno Schmidt, was a published author in Germany. It's a long story how she ended up with a small collection of his books, but a couple of years ago she decided she wanted to donate them to a university. I've been interested in archives, so I volunteered to help.
I wrote a blog post, got some interest, and in the end we donated the books to Portland State University. They had a scholar there who studied my uncle, so we felt we did a good job of finding a home for his writing.
Posted: 1/2/13; 8:07:09 PM.
Yesterday, the first day of the new year, I walked through Times Square to see what aftermath of the big party. The square was more or less empty, except for a few bits of random glitter blown about by sanitation workers, not much was going on.
So I had a chance to look more carefully at the incredible array of light shows in the square. One of them apparently had some image detection software, it tuned into me, and put my picture on the billboard for all to see. In a variety of ways! Wow.
We're getting pretty close to Minority Report stuff. I shot a picture and showed it to some friends. Everyone found it confusing. Who took the picture, they wanted to know. Me, of course. See if you can figure it out. Then watch the video on Vimeo that explains.
Posted: 1/2/13; 2:08:24 PM.
With the new static sites feature in Amazon S3, it should now be possible to host scripting.com in an S3 bucket.
This is my first project of the new year. We hope. Knock wood. :-)
I have a script that will upload all the files from scripting.com, some dating back to 1994, to the bucket.
I would like to, if possible, preserve the creation and mod dates on the files. Through all the transitions over all the years, I have managed to do that because my scripts have been careful to transfer this metadata along with the actual data.
Now I'm trying to figure out if this is possible with S3. I see how you can associate metadata with a file as you upload it. However I don't see a way to transfer the modification and creation dates. If anyone has a clue, the help would be much appreciated.
PS: I know scripting.com is down for most people now. Unfortunately this transition has not been without glitches. And there are broken images too! Still diggin.
Posted: 1/1/13; 4:11:21 PM.