Scripting News archive for September 2012

Ron Paul would probably like this permalink

I'm still on the mail list from the Berkeley neighborhood I used to live in. Today I got an email about a fire on the block. Here's the email, with the names and addresses changed.


Last night a bit before 3AM, Shirley Hellman looked out her window saw flames shooting up from the vegetation in front of George and Helen's home @ 202 Filbert. She called 911 while Barney went across the street and put out the fire using George and Helen's garden hose. He prevented what could have been a devastating fire by his quick, intelligent and brave actions.

By the time the fire department arrived with three vehicles plus a police car, the fire was no longer a danger. They completed extinguishing the fire and were gone by 3:20AM.

My thanks again to Shirley and Barney for saving our block from disaster.


Posted: 9/29/12; 6:01:32 PM.

Twitter is a tragic tale permalink

I've known Chuck Shotton since 1995, early days of the Mac web community. I was doing Frontier, an editing and database environment that turned out to be an almost perfect match for web design and programming. Chuck was doing WebStar, the leading HTTP server for the Mac. Our products complemented each other well, and we've been friends ever since.

I wrote a piece yesterday about Twitter needing a plan B for developers, and Chuck left a comment which I think is worth quoting in full:

Since day 1, I have been unimpressed with Twitter's management team and their ability to grasp the potential of their own platform and capitalize on all the huge opportunities that could come from it. This is just more of the same from them. "Let's take what could be the single biggest transformational change in peer messaging on the Internet and dismantle its value, bit by bit, over the next 5 years and see if anyone notices before we're dead."

What Chuck says is true.

And we still need to create the layer that Twitter could have created.

This has always been the disagreement between financial types and tech types. We want to make progress, that's why we got into this field in the first place. I want to be part of creating new layers of technology. So we can be ever more powerful. I like making money, and have made some -- but for me it's just one priority. And once I had enough money to own my own time, it dropped a lot as a priority. I love what I do, but the financial guys mock my love. I've seen them do it over and over, for decades. Jim Manzi, who was then CEO of a big software company, accused me of being Mother Teresa. He wasn't trying to be funny (or if he was, it didn't work).

They think that the only reason to create something is to make money. The more money the better. They're not wrong. When I buy stock in a company, I want them to feel the same way. I say this to counter their belief that I'm stupid or naive. I understand why the VCs want to maximize profits. But I don't think they're doing that. Because they've made a trade-off. By reducing Twitter to sell it as an advertising channel, they are cutting off possibilities that might make money from a wide-open market. And some might make a lot more money than the platform. I don't doubt that will eventually be the lesson of Twitter.

As an example, who made more money off the PC -- IBM or Microsoft?

Would IBM be better off if they had been able to foreclose on the openness of the PC platform (they tried and failed), or if they had invested in Microsoft?

There comes a time when a platform has a choice whether the innovation should take place inside their own walls or to let chaos reign in the open market. Having been around this loop a few times, I think the optimal approach is for, after getting to a certain point, the platform vendor to transition from being a programming shop to being a distributor and financier. The choice is between investing in employees or entrepreneurs. The latter is a better choice, always. You just have to look at the history of tech companies to see that.

Instead, Twitter is going to invest in employees. They won't be able to find enough. There will be disappointment. And there will be competitors. And in a while there will be another shiny new thing. With any luck one of them will be open and the platform will take a back seat to the innovation. And then Twitter will look like a very small place.

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

Posted: 9/29/12; 7:28:49 AM.

How Dave Develops permalink

"Don't Be Evil"

Is Google's commandment.

Mine isn't yet as concise.

But here it is...

Apps must...

Give instant gratification and

Convey a sense of purpose, yet

Be deep.

We serve




Starter apps

In 1984 the Mac could never have made it without MacWrite and MacPaint.

Gave developers something to emulate.

Helped form the coral reef.

Where's the catch?

My goal is to deliver an outline-based writing, design and coding platform, and have there be no catch.

No hidden business model. Nothing I have to prove other than you can do all this at the same time.

I may want to sell something, but you will always have choice to buy or not. Or buy from someone else.

Posted: 9/28/12; 11:18:55 AM.

This is another test permalink

I just moved the r2.ly url shortener to a different server.

If you came here through the r2.ly link, then everything is working a-ok.

This has been a test. :-)

Posted: 9/28/12; 10:57:56 AM.

Sites should have a "readable" button permalink

A picture named bug.gifI'm finding myself using Readability to link to stories that for whatever reason are not imho readable. If I can't read it without using Readability (my eyes are not young anymore, and need a bit larger type, and I will not send out links to interstitial-limited sites) then I send out a Readability-processed link instead. It in turn points back to the original, if you want to see the ads, or squint at the tiny type. I'm calling on all site designers to spend 2013 working on making their sites work for readers. We're the reason you make your sites in the first place. Otherwise, why bother being in the writing business. It's not very profitable, I hear.

Posted: 9/28/12; 9:09:43 AM.

Romney as human being permalink

I was shocked to hear the beginning of Romney's talk at the Clinton Global Initiative. Why?

1. He cracked a joke.

2. It was good.

3. It was self-deprecating.

4. It got the people on his side.

You gotta wonder why he doesn't show this side of himself when he's not talking to world leaders and fellow rich folk. Like during a debate. Or on the campaign trail.

But it makes his birther "joke" all the more certain to have not been innocent. Here's a guy who isn't tone-deaf to humor. He knows that a good joke has to be self-deprecating or relatively neutral or else it's flat. A good joke tells the truth in a roundabout or surprising way. Furthering an unfair racist insult against an opponent isn't funny. And it's not a sign of him being tone-deaf to humor -- it is however a sign of him having no moral compass. No place he won't go to win. He should have known that people aren't actually that stupid, we get it, even if we aren't in his social or economic class.

I read in Politico that he has plans to do bi-partisan deals in his first 200 days to ease gridlock in Washington and gain the confidence of capital markets. A Republican president has that power, where a Democratic president does not. I'm sure he'd face a rebellion in his own party, but they'd have to get in line. So the question is, if this is his plan, why isn't he telling anyone?

Maybe Romney, in a desperate last Hail Mary pass, could come clean, dump his own party, throw them under the bus, apologize, and tell the voters what he really plans to do. It's conceivable that might make the race competitive. Not likely, but not impossible. It would be good for the country, regardless.

If Romney has a human side, doing something good for the country, even if it might not be good for his candidacy or his party, might not be completely unthinkable.

Posted: 9/28/12; 9:02:51 AM.

Twitter may need a Plan B permalink

Sometimes the products of acquired companies fade away, but that's not happening with Instagram, bought by Facebook for $1 billion last summer. "Instagram has a greater pull than Twitter on mobile devices" says the latest Comscore report, according to Fast Company.

Problem for Twitter, with their current developer program, they're shutting down Instagram's photo sharing competitors. Which means there will be little opportunity for a challenger to rise, giving Twitter something to acquire -- assuming their own photo sharing service fails to topple Instagram. Which clearly is not what's happening.

Posted: 9/28/12; 8:40:29 AM.

Romney's 47 percent permalink

I've never seen a more powerful political ad.

Also note it was not necessary to quote Romney out of context.

Posted: 9/27/12; 7:33:01 PM.

The Angry Birds platform? permalink

A picture named pig.gifI bought Angry Alex, and really tried to like it, but got bored and gave up. I ended up going through all the old Angry Birds scenarios dating back to the beginning, instead.

Angry Birds is relaxing. I spend my days writing code and prose, communicating and creating. Playing Angry Birds is not about creating (obviously) it's about destroying. It's a perfect game.

I'm sure that Rovio wants to grow, make more money, hire more people -- but maybe that wasn't meant to be. Maybe they should be happy with the success of Angry Birds, and try to do things to make their fans happy. No one would begrudge them some more money if they're helping make our downtime more relaxing.

Anyway, I seriously think that Angry Birds could be a platform, and that's what they're trying to create with these other products -- including the new Bad Piggies, out today, which I admit I don't even want to try, because the idea seems like another Angry Alex, but this time with an element of the Angry Birds franchise.

Instead, why not release the design tools they use to create Angry Birds scenarios, and open a store of their own. Let creativity rule. Even if the scenarios were just ripoffs of the ones done by Rovio designers, so what. Let's see what people come up with.

An idea -- give the pigs and birds recognizable faces. Of movie stars, baseball players, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony. Or Republicans and Democrats! There could have been a special scenario around the death of Neil Armstrong that had him and Buzz as birds fighting off lunar pigs (whatever they might look like).

I think there's still room for a lot of creativity with Angry Birds. Stick with what works Rovio! :-)

Posted: 9/27/12; 10:14:11 AM.

I want a Galaxy S3 but.. permalink

A picture named galaxyS3.gifI've been reading the reviews on Amazon for the Samsung Galaxy S3 and I want to buy one, but I don't know which one to get.

Here's are the constraints.

1. I don't want a plan or a contract, therefore it must be unlocked.

2. It should work with T-Mobile in the US.

3. Would be nice if I could use it internationally.

I don't want to buy a phone only to find it doesn't work with T-Mobile. I know I should learn what all the different terms mean. Right now it's easier to write a post and ask you guys to tell me what to get. :-)

Posted: 9/26/12; 11:51:45 PM.

I thought "stench" was real permalink

Now it turns out that Roger Simon's piece about Paul Ryan and the Stench was supposed to be a joke. A few observations.

1. I read the piece, linked to it from my linkblog, even posted a link to a Google News search for the word "stench" because I thought it was historic. Like Sarah Palin going rogue in 2008.

2. It doesn't say it's satire, and Simon is not a satirist.

3. This is why it's wrong to run April Fools stories, as has become a tradition in the tech world. They're never funny, and you're rarely surprised, and if you are -- is that something a reporter really wants to do to someone who reads them? It would be like a programmer deliberately making software lose data. Not just appear to lose data, and not an accidental bug, but really throw the data away, as some kind of joke.

4. We don't read Politico for this kind of fun. Had it been on The Daily Show or The Onion, we would have known to discount it. But they wouldn't have run it, because it's not funny.

5. News should struggle to be plain and straight, so we get the information, so we don't have to hunt for it. It's amazing how many times you read a story and they leave out the one thing you would need to know if to act on it. For example, a preview of a football game that doesn't tell you what network it's broadcast on and at what time. Happens far too often.

6. News itself should not be the story. What arrogance of Simon to think we care what he thinks is funny. If he wants to be a satirist become one.

Posted: 9/26/12; 2:31:40 PM.

47% was not a gaffe permalink

There are silly mis-statements that should have no bearing on the outcome of the election. To call them out amounts to "neener neener" and Americans who are undecided or could change their vote are not influenced by them. Who cares if Romney says windows on planes should open? People who are voting for him will forgive it. People who aren't voting for him think it's significant. But no votes change.

But the 47% line was not like that. It was an unusually clear statement of something very obvious about the Republican philosophy. Actually unprecedented. So important that it could not just bring down Romney, but it should also cause people who vote Republican to take another look at whether that's wise.

I used to vote Republican, for the reason I think a lot of people still do. I want a strong country, one that doesn't waffle. I thought the Democrats were nominating people who, as Romney suggests about Obama, were asking for forgiveness. It started with Carter, again, as he says. I see his election as a response to Watergate and Vietnam. We had just spent a decade doing horrible things, and when the truth was out, we didn't trust ourselves. So we elected someone who would never commit the sins of Johnson and Nixon. It was the right choice for 1976. But then we forgot, and we elected a series of Presidents who in the end were much worse than either Johnson or Nixon. How much worse? Well the 47% idea really spells it out.

What we need is to find a balance between the horrible governments of the Republicans and the anemic governments of the Democrats. That's why Clinton is so popular now. Even his Oval Office blowjobs look good. We don't want a saint. But we don't want Cheney or Romney either (don't kid yourself about who we elected in 2000 and 2004, it wasn't Bush, it was Cheney, Bush is a campaigner, a very good one, Cheney is governance).

It would be nice if we Americans could talk to each other about this, instead of talking through the assholes we keep nominating. That said, Obama is not a terrible compromise, despite the atrocities Greenwald keeps reporting. That will change when we change. He's wrong to blame the government. As long as the Democrats have to run in the Republican environment, they're going to have to keep doing the shit they do to keep the bankers, oil industry, pharma, defense industry etc happy. If we ever decide to use our power, even for a moment, that might change.

Posted: 9/26/12; 11:49:15 AM.

Why Obama didn't meet at UN permalink

I'm not a political reporter, or a partisan (really, I know Repubs think I am, but I'm not), so I can have opinions about these things, and express them, and you don't like it, that's okay.


This is why President Obama didn't meet with any heads-of-state at the United Nations meeting yesterday.

1. If he met with any of them he would have had to meet with Netanyahu. He certainly couldn't have met with any other leader from the Middle East or North Aftrica without meeting with Netanyahu. The noise from Repubs and the press would have been deafening.

2. He knows this, better than anyone else -- there is no light between Netanyahu and the neocon part of the Republican Party in the US. They coordinate. Share the same goals. It's as if the Republicans here were of the same government as Netanyahu, much more so than they are of the same government at Obama. The disloyalty to America is disgusting, but it's there nonetheless.

3. If he met with Netanyahu, it would be scripted by Karl Rove, they would all know what to say. Netanyahu, masquerading as the head-of-state of a foreign government, as someone independent from the Republicans, would say something that could be spun by the Republicans as showing that Obama was weak. They would have worked this out before-hand. Karl Rove approved this message™. :-)

4. Obama figured the cost of meeting with no one would be less than the cost of going through this charade. He's ahead in the polls. He wants basically nothing more than to run the clock on the election. Give the Repubs nothing to latch on to. A meeting with Netanyahu would give them the opportunity to push him into a corner.

The press, I suppose, has to pretend that there's no coordination between the Republican neocons here and the Israeli neocons there, but Obama actually isn't weak, and certainly isn't stupid. There's no reason he should give them ammo. Stay the course. Whatever negative publicity comes from this will pass quickly, because he didn't give the neocons any soundbites or photo-ops to grab onto.

PS: My link shortener chose this URL for this post. http://0bb.r2.ly/. I swear I didn't choose it.

Posted: 9/26/12; 11:31:50 AM.

Problem posting to Twitter permalink

I moved this note to the worknotes site.

Posted: 9/25/12; 10:50:51 AM.

Today's podcast permalink

When you've had a chance to listen to today's podcast,

1. Please post a note here using the OPML Editor.

2. Following the instructions on this page.

When you come back here look for the green button.

Refresh the page if necessary.

You can do it! :-)

Posted: 9/24/12; 12:26:37 PM.

Open fields for discourse permalink

Interesting post by Josh Miller on Medium about open discussions, in reply to a post by Fred Wilson. It's interesting because Josh is the lead developer of Branch, a discussion system -- and Fred is the backer, and public face for Disqus, the discussion software we use here.

Fred argues that his blog is open to anyone to participate, but I've noticed what Josh has. While Fred, admirably responds to every comment on his system -- we're not getting much engagement beyond -- hey I'm here. To which you can reply and I'm here, and so am I, etc etc.

These aren't really discussions, not in any sense that peoples' minds come open to being changed. People come to recite their beliefs, they skim the posts and comments for key words, and then choose from a set of schpiels they memorized, and type them in.

Online discussions can be a lot like those on CNN or MSNBC, which to me seem like concerts. People are invited to sing their songs, in harmony with other songsters. The songs never vary. The volume does, and each has their own style, but there are rarely any new ideas.

To me, a good discussion is where a new perspective or fact can surface, and everyone has the possibility come away from the discussion changed. Smarter, better informed, with a possibly shifted point of view. Oh that's what they mean when they say...

Miller may be on to something. Branch allows discussion among a pre-set group of people. The moderator, the person who started the discussion can add new people. And new discussions can fork off from previous ones, exactly as it worked on my LBBS system in the early-mid 80s, only prettier (that was in the day of 300 baud modems, and scrolling "glass teletype" displays).

I still like the idea behind the H20 system developed at Berkman Center about ten years ago. It also had the concept of invited participants. To start, each would post positions on a moderator-supplied topic, privately. Then at a previously announced time, all the positions are revealed. There's a commenting period where each participant can write a rebuttal, again in private. They're revealed all at once. And that's it. The goal is to cover all sides of a topic, intelligently and not personally. Not surprising this was developed at a law school, by lawyers. It's a very legal approach to discourse.

What we really need are experimental platforms for non-programmers to invent new methods of discourse. We've relied too much on programmers, who have a definite style of arguing. But there are other professions that are fairly far ahead of us in understanding how humans communicate and share ideas. We are not that good at it, and so far most discussion systems have been limited by the imaginations of programmers.

BTW, a final note -- in case it isn't obvious -- I am also working on discussion software. There is a place to comment in Disqus, that's open to anyone. There's another way to participate here, by installing the OPML Editor and clicking on the green button you will see when you reload the page with the software installed on your computer. Instructions are on this page.

Posted: 9/24/12; 9:35:03 AM.

Why didn't Apple ease into maps? permalink

When Apple switches basic technology it's almost always done in a gradual way, in stages.

1. First, it's optional. Only for the most adventurous users, developers usually.

2. Next, it's the default, but you can still run the old apps in a compatibility box.

3. Then they require you to install special software to run the old style stuff.

4. Then they introduce a version of the platform that only runs the new stuff.

Apple technologies that have transitioned like that include the switchover from the 68K processor to the PowerPC. Then from the PowerPC to Intel. They brought in the NeXT OS that way. It took many years before they shipped a version of the OS that would not run Mac apps from before the transition to NeXT.

People think they're doing that with app distribution on the Macintosh. And some people even think they're phasing out the Mac OS and that at some point they will say that Mac apps are "legacy" and eventually will ship a platform that only runs iOS apps. But that would have to be a long ways off, five or ten years, if ever.

But this time Apple didn't do a gradual ease-in of their new maps platform. One day we had a maps platform by Google that mostly worked. It was replaced with Apple's maps technology which is most definitely not ready for end-users. And the Google maps platform is no longer available. It's a remarkably discontinuous change.

It seems they could have shipped iOS 6 with the Google maps platform, and with a new app from Apple that implements their new maps technology. That would get it hundreds of thousands of users, immediately. The most change-averse users would stick with the existing maps app. And the power users, the insiders, those closest to Apple would help them fix the glitches and smooth things out so it would be ready in a year or two for the average iPhone or iPad users.

They certainly haven't explained to users why they didn't also ship a Google maps platform. It's not as if the Google software won't run on the new version of the operating system. You can go to maps.google.com in Safari, and it works as before.

User communities are layered. Think of concentric circles, like the layers of an onion. There's an inner core of users who are developers. They get the earliest releases of software, and know that what they're getting is both buggy and subject to change. They want that stuff, because they want to be ready when it ships with their own apps. After that there are enthusiasts. People who get glory from being early with the latest stuff. They also don't mind so much putting up with buggy or incomplete software. It validates their view of themselves as pioneers. And there are many more layers of expertise and tolerance for weird behavior, all the way out to the prototype end-end-user -- our mothers.

It's surprising they would subject all levels of users to the quirkiest software, the stuff that usually only developers have to use, especially mapping software which is integral to using mobile devices. It's almost as if the NYC transit authority introduced new software for the subways, it's really that important these days to getting around. It's a very radical shift, with lots of problems, and they haven't provided an explanation of why it is this way. What other changes like this will they make? Why the change? What other Apple platforms are subject to this kind of change?

See also: Apple's Feud With Google Is Now Felt on the iPhone.

Update: Letter from Tim Cook to users re maps.

Posted: 9/23/12; 11:22:47 PM.

As a renewed Knicks fan permalink

I was a Knicks fan in the late 60s and early 70s. Then I went away until early this year. Jeremy Lin is what brought me back.

I know a lot about last year's roster. But I can only gather by listening to echoes of Knicks fan frustration that there were some horrible years before that. The names mean nothing to me. But one by one they come back, I read the stories, and they all say the same thing.

This is a crazy team.

And they reject luck. They have to be smarter than fate. And they make huge impulsive decisions that turn out badly. And keep doing them. Over and over.

If I didn't know better I'd say the team is run by an idiot.

Posted: 9/23/12; 11:10:06 AM.

Humanity doesn't scale permalink

A picture named corn.gifEverywhere you look there's evidence.

So many of the systems we've built work nice, for now, but when one component fails, how will all the others respond. How is Japan dealing with the Fukishima meltdown? This is a country that depends on nuclear heavily -- they have no oil of their own, and their economy isn't so strong, so what do they do now that they've had a taste of what nuclear-mageddon looks like.

Great piece in today's NYT about data centers. Nice illusion there, but it's not sustainable. Yes that's where our bank balances and medical records are stored.

What if something happened to corn? Or if we run out of antibiotics? Believe it or not the questions are related. Something that seems as as reliable as corn might not always be so.

And philosophically and intellectually our minds can't grasp the complexity of the world we live in. That's why politicians who talk nonsense are so convincing. What they're really saying is Relax don't worry, things aren't really as complex as they seem. I can reduce it down to grunts and snorts.

We have far more people doing far more with technology than our resources can support, than our intellect can comprehend. It's exhausting.

Posted: 9/23/12; 9:55:13 AM.

Favorite movie reviews feeds? permalink

Comments on Costolo talk permalink

I didn't catch the whole of Dick Costolo's talk with Emily Bell at ONA, but I did get to hear the part about developers and APIs. I think this part also relates indirectly to journalists who use Twitter.

1. Twitter will provide a way for users to download their history of posts to Twitter.

I was amazed by this. And I don't believe it will ever happen, or if it does it will be in GIF format or PDF, some format that makes it virtually impossible to move the data somewhere else. It would be completely inconsistent for Twitter to offer freedom to its users when it's paying such a high price in goodwill to take away that freedom.

I think Costolo was caught off-guard by a clever question asked by Ms. Bell, and did what a lot of tech execs do, promise a solution even when they have no idea how to do it, figuring later on they can excuse themselves with a shrug or a joke (as he did in several other instances in this talk, when asked about previous commitments).

Another clue is that he immediately qualified it as being subject to engineering realities. You could almost see the gears turning in his head. :-)

2. Think of 140 characters as a caption. This is consistent with what they're doing. People who argue that 140 characters is some kind of sacred limit are wrong. They should listen to what Costolo says.

I think this the right move, not just for Twitter but for everyone.

But it has implications that some journalists might not see. It means that there is no reason why Twitter couldn't host entire news articles. I am sure they will be doing that, probably fairly soon. I suspect this ability will not be open to everyone, and they will want favorable terms for those it permits to use this feature. Presumably there will be a revenue-share on ads placed on these articles.

Also play what-if -- what if Twitter acquires a news organization. Just because they say they are not a news org today does not say anything about the future. Twitter made all kinds of promises to developers that were broken, in total, within a couple of years.

3. Emily Bell did a great interview. The audience questions were also right on.

I thought Emily Bell did a masterful job of raising these questions to Costolo, but in a disarmingly friendly way. To Costolo's credit he didn't always take the bait. He stuck with the idea that they are a tech company providing a platform, and are not going to cross into content. But he didn't exactly say that.

If I were a betting man, I'd bet that before too long Twitter will be competing with its top content providers, the same way it's now competing with its top developers. Only they'll have to tread more carefully there, assuming the journalists and bloggers still have their own mechanisms to get news out. That's why this is such a dangerous situation. As we rely more and more on Twitter, our websites become less-used conduits for distribution of ideas and news.

Obviously I believe Twitter is today a totally inadequate platform for independent journalists or bloggers and it's going in the wrong direction. They score points for not turning over tweets to governments, but they have an awful track record of tiliting the playing field to favor their partners and even personal friends. This is a very sloppily run platform for both development and journalism. People either don't know the history or are choosing to ignore it, presumably because building their own platforms seems difficult, expensive, or unlikely to succeed. However, the longer you wait the harder it will become, not easier.

Monocultures don't work very well for news.

Posted: 9/22/12; 8:37:20 AM.

A comment *and* a blog post permalink

Now, any OPML Comment can be viewed as a blog post, with its own comments.

The links below show how it works.


An example of a comment on this page.

Flip it over and here's the blogpost view.

There's a feed of all the comments.

You can browse the comments here.

Of course that's available in OPML.

There's a link to the comments in the Scripting News menubar.

Posted: 9/21/12; 2:29:04 PM.

An open note to Doc permalink

My longtime friend Doc Searls and an outliner guy going back many years is now using the OPML Editor and has started to post items to the OPML Comments community.

The community starts with the humble concept of a comment, and develops out from there, to create all the essential elements of an online community, but one built around replaceable parts.

Small pieces loosely joined. It's the philosophy of Unix from the 70s, the PC world of the 80s, the Mac of the mid-late 80s and early 90s, the web and open source communities of the 90s, and the beginnings of Web 2.0 -- blogging, podcasting, RSS.

It's a good moment, because Doc has wicked way of writing about this stuff. His stories are very different from mine. He goes deep on photography, radio, geography, airplanes. But when it comes to formats and protocols, we are on exactly the same page. He's on the odd-numbered side, and I'm on the even-numbered one. But it's the same idea, flip sides.

A picture named dolls.gifIt's a good time to write this story, because the very people that Twitter is pushing out the nest are the ones we want to work with. There will be competition for their hearts and minds. Evan and Biz are launching Medium. One of their colleagues is launching Branch. app.net is out there. There will be lots of new communities vying for the attention for the most creative and intelligent people on the web.

By actively participating, I hope to nudge all the new bootstrappers to share data with each other. So the users can not only delight in the experiences each of our software can create, but also in the magic they can create by combining our tools to create new online communities that the software architects would never imagine.

My belief is that if the right design, programming and writing tools are out there, and we foster easy movement of ideas, the amazing things we could only dream of in the past will come into existence. There are hundreds of millions of people in the world now whose minds share the space of the Internet. It can get a lot richer. They're ready for it.

Anyway, this is an invitation to Doc to post a response below, in the outline that's attached to my post. I would like to read a Doc ramble on these topics. It would be good for my soul. Then I will show you another way of looking at what Doc wrote.

Update: Doc posted a comment. And it appears on its own page, where you can comment on his comment.

Posted: 9/21/12; 10:56:01 AM.

A new feature sneak permalink

Tomorrow I'm going to write up a new feature that's now "out in the wild."

Very briefly, every OPML Comment now has a dual life.

1. It's a comment (of course).

2. It's a blog post.

If you're subscribed to the feed of comments from scripting.com, you have already seen this, if you clicked on a link to a comment. If you look at the RSS source, you'll see the <guid> element for each item points to the post.

More in the morning about what this means, and next directions.

Posted: 9/20/12; 11:09:02 PM.

Maps, Tweetie and dBASE permalink

Two examples of potentially disastrous "upgrades" --

Maps on iOS

In iOS 6 the maps functionality took a major step backwards. Just shipped yesterday so we're still figuring out how bad it is. Maps are critical functionality for mobile users. Why it happened, no one knows. Could be that Google pulled out on their own. They might not come back, hoping that maps will be a feature advantage for their Android phones. Remember these companies have been suing each other over patent issues.


I don't use Twitter clients, but I understand that their iPad app, acquired from Loren Brichter, was an exemplary iPad app. The new app apparently pales in comparison. Again, we don't know how this came to be. But it may be indicative of a similar kind of problem for Twitter.

Ashton-Tate's dBASE

Ashton-Tate is prior art for self-destructive upgrades. They had a theory that you could ship a new version of a product, in this case dBASE, without anyone in the company actually using it. It didn't work. They ended up selling out to a much smaller competitor after this upgrade ruined the company.

So the stakes can be very high.

Personal note

I learned this one in 1984, when we shipped ThinkTank for the Mac.

People thought we had removed features from ThinkTank, because they had used the Apple II or IBM PC versions. In fact this was a completely new codebase, and we shipped early because there was a lack of software on the Mac. So it didn't have a lot of the features of the earlier product. No matter, the users were outraged by this. They thought they had bought a better computer, and here was the product with less features. We totally didn't anticipate this, because from our point of view it was a major accomplishment to get something out at all.

As the story goes, the customer is always right. We quickly came out with a new release that added all the features that were in the other versions.

Posted: 9/20/12; 2:46:30 PM.

A day of construction permalink

You may notice some breakage in OPML comments today. I'm radically restructuring the code. In the end it should be totally transparent, except for things that break in the transition. Once they're fixed it'll be transparent again. :-)

Posted: 9/20/12; 10:31:53 AM.

Un-Web 2.0 permalink

You've heard of unconferences. They take the idea of a conference and flip it around. Instead of having speakers on stage, the speakers are in what used to be called the audience.

The term has been hijacked to mean something much softer, that the planning of the conference is deferred to the day of the conference. But the speeches are still speeches. The audience asks questions. The experts are on stage. Zzzz.

But the original concept, pioneered at BloggerCon and the term coined by Len Pryor, was deeply disruptive. And it mirrored what blogging was doing to journalism.

Un-Web 2.0 is to Web 2.0 as BloggerCon was to RegularOldCon. And as blogging is to journalism. The source and the destination become one. :-)

So Web 2.0 was nice, as training wheels for the next steps in the future web. A two-way medium. The people who pioneered Web 2.0 are to be congratulated and thanked. But now it's time to Un it. :-)

Because Web 2.0, while it started out as a freedom-inspiring thing, has been coalescing to being a dangerous form of locking-in the user's data so it can be applied to a corporate business model. We all know the dangers of this. It robs platforms of their openness. It makes moving data around impossible. And it makes creating hybrid systems impossible. It's not a very web-like direction for something that's inspired by the web.

If the Web is Small Pieces Loosely Joined, Web 2.0 is Small Pieces Trapped In A Silo.

Hat-tip to David Weinberger for the term.

In Un-Web 2.0 you get full control of your data, and the services just get pointers to it, or copies of it. The originals live with you. Pointers are much preferable to copies because then you can keep updating the content after it has been incorporated in someone else's content tree.

Food for thought. :-)

Posted: 9/19/12; 12:16:03 PM.

MP3 of Romney's fund-raiser permalink

Yesterday I posted a question about the availability of MP3s via SoundCloud.

I just wanted to listen to this on my walk yesterday. But I also think the MP3s of this should be available outside of SoundCloud's server so they have a chance of surviving over time. So I created an MP3 and uploaded it to my Dropbox account. It's mirrored in my S3 archive.

Romney Fundraiser MP3

BTW, I listened to the full recording as I prepared the MP3 and some of what he says is reasonable. But it doesn't seem consistent that one person would say all these things. For example he talks about what a blessing it is to be born in America. 95 percent of it is taken care of for you. Where did that come from? If you started life as an American you were better-off right from the start than most of the other babies born that day, elsewhere in the world.

As a child of immigrants, I can tell you it's true. My parents emphasized the importance of education and my grandparents did very well financially and were able to create security for all of us. So I got an even better start in life. But clearly none of this would have happened had they not been able to come to the US during WWII.

So how can you at the same time feel that America is great and think that 47 percent of us are losers. It doesn't make sense. At least part of what makes us great is that we have some greatness in our people. Or the system that we live in. It's not just a piece of paper, Mitt.

We aren't voting for Obama because we are victims, or losers -- some of us are doing pretty well. I'm voting for Obama because I think Romney would be a terrible President. Maybe you should try to earn our vote instead of throwing it away. I thought you worked hard? I thought you were a success? Is this how you achieved so much?

A note about SoundCloud. By now we should all see the danger of trapping our content on a Web 2.0 company's servers. People say that it was Mother Jones' decision to not allow this to be downlaoded, but there were limits on free accounts, so even if they wanted to let everyone download it, they couldn't as long as they used SC. There are other free services that don't have such limits. For example, Dropbox. We should all be working together to be sure that valuble historic documents like this are adequately preserved. It's not good enough to upload a recording to a commercial service that doesn't allow downloads.

Posted: 9/19/12; 10:12:59 AM.

Question about SoundCloud permalink

Earlier this afternoon I was looking for an MP3 of the Romney video.

I noted that Mother Jones had SoundCloud versions of the MP3 on the Mother Jones site. But I couldn't find an MP3 download, or a link to an RSS feed for their podcast.

It's quite possible that I missed it. And that's the question. Is there a link on this page for either the MP3 or the RSS feed?

I don't want to jump to any conclusions without clearly asking this question first.

Posted: 9/18/12; 7:54:19 PM.

Dear Green Button People permalink

I want to show you something about where we're going.

Here's a screen shot. That's how I edit the posts on this site.

Does that look familiar to you? If you've already written a few comments, this is what your Comments Workspace looks like.

Obviously it's a pretty straight line between taking what's in one window and treating it as if it were in the other window.


PS: Go here to learn about the green buttons.

Posted: 9/18/12; 11:01:02 AM.

Jury duty, voting and Romney permalink

1. Jury duty is amazing. Especially if you go all the way to a verdict. You learn how the architecture of our democracy places its faith in the people. You might think, if you listened to some of our political leaders, that this would be a bad idea. Because most of us are takers not makers. But it works, because people are a lot smarter, honest and hard-working than we give ourselves credit for. And when you trust people, when you really make that point, and the legal process does that, over and over, everyone comes through. Some people accept trust faster than others, but in the end, all twelve jurors accept their responsibility. When we passed judgement I was sure we had arrived at the correct decision.

As a juror this is impressive. Everyone stands when the jury comes in. But then everyone, including the jury, stands when the judge enters. Speech is formal, polite, even when they're saying horrible things. May it please the court. Your honor. Mr. Jones. It's all about respect.

And the jurors must remain silent, for days on end. But the irony is that everyone in the room is waiting for us to speak. You are left with your thoughts and your senses. You look, you listen. Think. What does that mean. What are they really saying. Look at the body language. It's deliberative, almost a meditation. Because the question they're asking is serious. Did this person do something horrible. Something they must be punished for. In the US we don't take this lightly.

2. Voting is the same idea. You have to look and look at the people who are asking for your vote. Sure they're lying. So was the defendent in the trial. Everyone lies, even if they took the oath saying they wouldn't. Dirty little secret is that if you're on trial, everyone understands that you can lie to defend yourself. And so do politicians. But if you really think about it, you know who they are and what they're really saying, behind the lies.

3. So nothing was actually revealed about Mitt Romney in yesterday's tapes. If you had been watching this guy, like a juror watches every actor in the courtroom, you recognized the pattern. He might have been the guy who runs a company you once worked for. The principal of your school. Your friend's grandfather. To me, he was a Silicon Valley venture capitalist. He was the kind of guy who doesn't know what it means to speak the truth. His existence has nothing to do with the truth. He's a goal-oriented person. He's trying to get something from you. He doesn't care what he has to say to get it. Since he's running for President, a lot of the times that means he's out of his element and you can tell. He's not comfortable with teachers, with working people. But speaking to the rich donors in that dining room, that was his element. He was comfortable. The same way the defendent in our DUI case would have been comfortable in a bar slamming down a few whiskies before going for a drive. No juror would have been fooled by Mitt Romney before the tape, but what we saw confirmed what we already knew.

I believe in the American system, and totally reject the idea that your vote doesn't matter. You think it doesn't matter because you haven't discovered what it means. If you had a little faith in it, if 25 percent more people had more faith, it would work a lot better than you have imagined. Because given enough time, no matter how much they lie, we figure it out. Change will come slowly but it will come. But don't tell me it can't change if you haven't even tried.

Posted: 9/18/12; 8:11:14 AM.

I feel a little like a kid permalink

When I was a kid, my friends and I used to ride our bikes down to Shea Stadium and sneak in the back, through the bullpen and out on to the field. Only during the off-season. They didn't have much so security back then.

We'd run around on the field, marvelling that we were running in the same place that the great players of the day were playing. Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, Ron Swoboda, Ed Kranepool.

Anyway, that's what I feel like now. Like someone left the gate open and I get to run around on the field and play whatever game I want. :-)

Posted: 9/17/12; 2:47:02 PM.

River with JSON-encoded OPML permalink

This is a very bizarre animal.


It's a river.js file that has an item that contains the OPML source encoded as JSON.

This means that a jQuery app that loaded this file would find the OPML structure already there in the DOM.

We're a short step from having Media Hackers be able to do something much richer with content.

Posted: 9/17/12; 12:35:55 PM.

OWS on its anniversary permalink

I've started a half-dozen posts about Occupy Wall Street on its anniversary. Here goes another.

This close to a national election, I wish they were doing something to try to influence the outcome. What they're doing will just remind people about last year's occupations. I think most people who sympathize with or agree with the premises of OWS (I am one) were concerned with how it would end. Is this really a protest we want to associate with? Becoming homeless and going to jail to make headlines is not my idea of good craftsmanship of political message.

I've felt in my gut that the right place for freedom-loving people to invest effort is to oppose the most heinous of the plots to control government to favor the rich -- voter suppression. If you're going to march somewhere, why not call attention to the places which are most dangerous to democracy?

Also unlike most people who march I believe votes absolutely do matter. I believe in government of the people, by the people and for the people. True, we've given up most of our power. But what's the best way to get it back? By voting. I'm really serious about that. You can't take it back by getting arrested. You take it back by literally taking it back. And help other people whose votes are being obstructed to get around the obstructions.

BTW, what taught me the value of the vote was doing jury duty about 15 years ago. The trial went all the way to verdict, so I had a chance to really think about how it worked and what it means. I had always glossed over this part of government. But here we were, 12 very random people, being trusted with a fellow citizen's liberty. We started out as raw cynics, but by the time we had to pass judgement we were true believers in the Constitution. It was an amazing transformation, in all of us, myself included.

People died to undo the terrible methods of voter suppression in the past. Now we're sitting by and doing nothing while they put it all back in place. Something very wrong about that.

Posted: 9/17/12; 10:43:01 AM.

Tech discussion of comments feed permalink

Today I released a new feature for OPML Comments, which is explained with links, on this Scripting News post.

The core feature is of course the new RSS feed for comments.

If you poke around the feeds, you may find some things that raise questions or possibilities.

1. The JSON and JSONP versions.

2. The microblog namespace, which is used by the feed.

3. The roadmap post that shows where we're going.

4. A screen shot of a permalink on comments, a necessary feature for the feed.

5. My personal river, which subscribes to the feed, so it's an easy place to find the latest comments on the threads site (along with news from quite a few other sources).

6. What's next? There's a full CMS behind the comments, with a templating system for designers. Lots of formats and protocols for developers. The only part that's visible is the writing tool. And that's as it should be, because the people we are doing this for are writers and readers.

Please post comments here, either in OPML or Disqus.

Posted: 9/17/12; 9:42:30 AM.

Newspapers and blogging permalink

Henry Blodget has a graph showing newspaper ad revenue over time.

Jay Rosen observed that its fall started as the blogs rose.

Proves that the right thing for the news industry to do back at the beginning of blogging was to fully embrace the change. Open the floodgates, and help the new amateurs create news for each other.

I wrote about this over and over, urged them to offer blogging to their communities. But change doesn't come easily esp when you've climbed the ladder. You don't want to hear the ladder doesn't matter anymore.

Posted: 9/16/12; 4:18:33 PM.

To OWS -- please use the web permalink

I wish I knew what OWS was doing now and why.

If you don't have a website, here's a space to write.

Please let me know. I don't understand. Thanks.

Posted: 9/15/12; 10:44:25 PM.

Why Google is OK permalink

At a recent meeting we were talking about the reversal of fortunes for Twitter and Facebook and wondering why Google wasn't suffering as much.

It isn't about money because Twitter is shrinking in order to make more money. But the stuff that was exciting about Twitter, the way it acted as a conduit for other software, it was sort of a message operating system on a global scale, the exciting stuff is exactly what they're taking out to get to profitability.

Facebook is wilting because the thing that was lifting them up was their stock, and that's not working for them anymore. In fact it's working against them.

True, Google has multiple revenue flows, but I theorized that that isn't why they have a strong future. It's because they're open where Twitter is not. Think about it. I don't have to be vetted by anyone to be part of their search engine. No one says yay or nay, and there are no funny rules about stuff flowing in or out, or using their code to display search results. Google is fairly laissez-faire. All you have to do to be in their index is to put it on the web, and we all know the web is the platform with no platform vendor. Anyone can put stuff there.

A picture named sorryWeHaveOurHeadUpOurButt.gifI believe Twitter would have a much brighter future, Facebook too, if they trusted the web. If they let every bit of their service be replaced. That would force them to compete based on service, value and features. Now they get to be lazy and that's fine for a while. But the crazy chaos of the web will eventually do something exciting that you won't be able to match on Twitter. Had they been more trusting they would have guaranteed that whatever excitement comes along would automatically include them.

Google, on the other hand, has a better chance. It would be good for them if they were more open-minded about accepting formats and protocols from people who don't work for Google, but even with that inefficiency, they still have a pretty strong basis for continued growth.

And of course Amazon is the smartest of them all. They're automatically part of everything because they do everything to support and enhance the protocols of the Internet. They are very respectful of the web and choice. I can deploy my apps on Amazon if I want, but if Rackspace gives me a better deal, Amazon won't fight me. Same with Rackspace of course. This is the way we like it. :-)

Who did Apple bet on in this field? Twitter. They'll never get networking right, imho. (I am a very happy Apple shareholder, btw.)

Posted: 9/15/12; 3:01:31 PM.

Whole post to Scripting feed permalink

David Nichols on Twitter said: "Just realized 'Thread: whatever' posts don't contain the full text in Google Reader. I'm sure you have a reason, I don't get it!"

He's right. The connection between threads and my Scripting News feed is a little temporary glue to connect the old world feed with the flow from the new world. When I did it, I did it quickly, because I was juggling a lot of stuff and didn't want anything to break.

I gave it a little thought and realized I could easily broaden the pipe to allow full thread posts to go into the Scripting News feed.

This post is a test, to see if that works. :-)

Posted: 9/15/12; 2:41:11 PM.

Dear @diveintomark permalink

Just before Mark Pilgrim committed Internet suicide he posted a tasty little flame about me on Twitter.

A spammer picked it up and every few days it shows up in my Replies tab on Twitter, a reminder of how much Mark loved me. Or whatever.

Here's what it says.

RT@diveintomark: Just a reminder @davewiner ran http://weblogs.com w/o a privacy policy for years & sold all your ping data #blork

It's a wonderful slam, something a Republican would be proud of -- because some of it is true -- but it's ridiculous at the same time. And it's packed with intrigue and innuendo.

1. I did run it without a privacy policy. No one ever asked for one. And it was still pretty early for privacy policies (it started in 1999 I think).

2. A privacy policy would have read like this -- No privacy. The point of weblogs.com was to broadcast all the data to everyone that wanted it. It was a central ping server. For a while it was the only ping server for the entire blogosphere. If you wanted to let everyone know that you had updated all you had to do was send a message saying so to weblogs.com. We then would publish the ping as part of our XML feed.

3. I did sell weblogs.com to Verisign, but just the domain. No software, no data. The data, to the extent that it ever existed is in a remote folder on one of my hard drives. An Old stuff folder inside another Old Stuff folder, etc etc. All the data was public. In the end it was almost all spam. Not worth anything, that's why they didn't want it.

Anyway, I thought it was worth a rebuttal on a lazy Saturday afternoon, after seeing this message about a thousand times since Mark first posted it. It'll probably be echoing around Twitter's network from now until the end of time. Long after we're all dead people will be wondering who Dave WIner was and why he sold all your ping data and what was #blork and who cares anyway cause they're all long gone.

Happy trails! :-)

Posted: 9/15/12; 12:07:00 PM.

I don't think this is Kansas permalink

A picture named dorothy.gifIn the 1990s the very small web community, compared to today's web, had a lot of self-important ideas about the future of the medium. We were living in the future and prepared for it, or so we thought. In one way we believed that this would someday be the most important medium, or it already was, but on the other hand, not really. This was the kind of stuff you read about in science fiction, it didn't happen in real life. Well now it's happening. And it's freaky, and who knows where it leads.

None of us are prepared for the world we find ourselves in. Not even the net natives.

We don't know what comes after attacks on our embassies, all over the world now, but it's serious and unprecedented and couldn't happen without the net. Communication used to be controlled by governments. It would take days or weeks for stories of a war-like event in one part of the world to reach another part. I know this because it wasn't much better in the United States. When I was in college in New Orleans, I'd go downtown every Tuesday to get a copy of the Sunday NY Times. That, and the evening news, was my access to world wide news. It wasn't that long ago.

Now Google has told the US government that it won't take down the video that's theoretically causing all the trouble. That's weird but it's right. Google is a multi-national company. Sure its founders are American. But it can't be anymore beholden to the United States than to any other country. If they did, they would disappear pretty quickly because someone has a good reason for every piece of content to be removed. Whether they obey an order from the US is another matter.

Remember, this is all coming after WikiLeaks. And think of where Assange is now. It's only the respect the British govt has for the sovereignty of embassies that keeps him out of jail. And it's exactly that sovereignty that's under attack elsewhere.

And meanwhile in Kansas some people aren't embarrassed to say the President's name should be taken off the ballot because he's a black man, and they're white and they can't handle it. I know they'll say it's not that, but they're lying.

All this is happening at the same time.

Posted: 9/14/12; 8:42:56 PM.

An idea for reporters conducting live interviews permalink

Just heard part of an interview between George Stephanopoulos and Mitt Romney.

It went something like this.

George: You going to take back what you said?

Mitt: No, basically the White House agreed with what I said.

George: They agreed that the President sympathizes with the people who attacked the embassy?

Mitt: Basically the White House agreed with what I said (repeating his previous statement).

George: You refuse to answer a direct question.

Now, that's what I thought I heard Stephanopoulos say, but he actually went on from there.

I propose that when you're interviewing someone who doesn't answer a question, that you say exactly those words. "You refuse to answer a direct question." It's like a receipt. Play back for them how you're interpreting. You still get to maintain your lack of a viewpoint. You're just saying what's obvious to everyone watching the interview. And it puts the burden on the person being interviewed. He could smile through it, and that would become the clip you use to summarize the interview. Or you might actually get a response to the question you asked.

Posted: 9/14/12; 11:34:03 AM.

A question about class warfare permalink

Was just thinking about the Republican tactic of liberal use of the concept of class warfare.

If you say taxes should be increased for the richest people, that's class warfare.

If so, isn't it also class warfare when rich people want to cut health care and retirement benefits for middle class people? Why aren't both ideas equally off-limits?

No tax increases for rich folk in return for no cuts in benefits for middle class people. Great. Now what? :-)

Posted: 9/14/12; 9:58:44 AM.

YouTube in the developing world permalink

Pretty amazing that YouTube is playing such a central role in the battles in North Africa and the Middle East. And of course Twitter. A few notes on what's happening.

1. The rioters in Egypt and Yemen say they're incensed by the video. I haven't seen it myself and I don't need or want to. Much of what's there is crap and highly insulting to someone. I'm sure some of the rioters are sincere. I'm equally sure some of the rioters are no more sincere that the American assholes who look for excuses to get "angry." They're not really angry. They're just using some pretense to try to violently and unfairly shore up their own power, in a highly undemocratic fashion.

A picture named uncleSam.gif2. Clearly some of the people on the "Arab street" -- whatever that is -- are being manipulated. They need to understand that not only do we have free speech in the US, there's no guarantee that any video on YouTube actually came from the US. It could have come from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. If not this time, next time. Now that they see how powerful YouTube can be at stirring up mobs, it will be used again and again.

3. The solution is not to censor YouTube, the solution is for the citizens of the new democracies in the Middle East to get clued-in, fast -- to how they're being used. Use your own free speech to expose the assholes. Your assholes, not ours.

4. We should get rid of any premise in press reports that the rioters are upset about the film. The only thing we know is that they are attacking the US embassies. Are they really so stupid as to believe that the US produced the film? Shouldn't the press check that out before reporting the premise as fact. Could this possibly be some great drama whose purpose is to impose censorship on YouTube? It seems the press has a small conflict of interest here.

5. This is what I mean about tech and politics being inseparable. That the political and tech blogospheres are divided makes the whole thing much weaker. There aren't any divisions any more.

6. On a similar topic, Twitter decided to turn over the tweets of an OWS protestor. It's about time. Either tweets are public or they are not. Twitter needs to answer that question, very clearly. I thought they were public. Just like blog posts. If they're not, Twitter needs to clear this up right now. By not turning over the archive when asked for it, what pretense did they offer? I honestly don't know. Some sense of privacy? Tweets are the opposite of private.

Posted: 9/14/12; 8:28:35 AM.

Blogging in transition permalink

A picture named dolls.gifA little over a week ago I wrote a piece called scripting.com in transition. I was getting ready to show people OPML Comments, and wanted to give you all a heads up. Now you've seen the next step. I've opened up a little window into the CMS running behind the threads site, called the worldoutline, to show you a bit of what it can do.

Over the last couple of years I did a transition of my blog. First, I rewrote my CMS which had evolved in a disorderly research-driven fashion over several years. That was called Scripting2. Then I started a new CMS called the worldoutline, which was actually begun with the seeds of a way of organizing web content that goes back to Clay Basket in the mid-90s. But this time I achieved the goal I had been trying to reach the previous iterations.

My goal was to create a way of writing, designing and programming for networks that was unified. Where a new domain is just a matter of putting a label on a node saying "Start something new here, and this is its name." Its analogous to a page-break in a word processor. On the net the equiv of a page-break is a domain-break.

Things that used to represent large conceptual changes, like the difference between content and its rendering, are shrunken so you just have to save a document to effect large change on the web. Why not? We already have tools like this for printing and page layout. We're 15 years into the web now. We all create lots of sites, so many that they're hard to manage. We live at the edge of our capacity to manage it. But our tools, the file system and IDEs have only made incremental improvements in the last couple of generations. We're not using the great new capacity of our machines very well.

So I don't think most people have an expectation for what comes next. That's why this is going to be so much fun. I think you will be surprised at what you will be able to do. :-)

Posted: 9/13/12; 11:42:46 AM.

A message to Republicans: Enough permalink

The problem with what the Repubs did last night is that we hadn't even begun to process the events. It was six hours before we even knew a US ambassador had been killed. The Repubs are trying to take control of the story. We, the press and the informed electorate -- Republican, Democrat and independent, need to tell the Republican leadership, in unambiguous terms that their behavior, as Americans, is unacceptable.

Yes, these events are inevitably political. But our first priority has to be the safety of Americans. Maybe our fiftieth priority is wanting to know what Mitt Romney thinks about it.

Posted: 9/12/12; 9:52:47 AM.

Do you see a green button on this page? permalink

1. You have to be running the OPML Editor to see the button.

2. We've had some reports of people using Chrome on Windows 7 who don't see the green button. If you're a geek, can you help us figure out why? I'm a Chrome user on the Mac, and I see it fine, and there haven't been reports of problems with other browsers. Help much appreciated.

3. BTW, this is what the button is supposed to look like in case you can't see it.

4. The button is generated by a page on a server on the user's machine.

Update: Problem solved! :-)

Posted: 9/11/12; 12:57:02 PM.

Witting with Greenwald permalink

This post came about from a brief twitter exchange with Glenn Greenwald.

Glenn thanks for listening. Here are some simple ideas. (And if you just want the conclusion skip to the end.)

1. Discourse on the net is much like discourse was during the print age. I can write about tech stuff, you can write about political stuff, neither of us gets access to the other's community if you should happen to have something to say to the tech world or I should have something to say political.

2. This is working against us because today almost everything that is political is tech, and vice versa. We've got some smart people writing publicly who can put the pieces together, but we haven't yet actually put the pieces together.

3. You talk about Arab Spring type demos. I say that won't work in the US and I don't think it worked in Egypt.

4. What works here, and I know this sounds idealistic in a Mr Smith Goes to Washington way, is voter turnout.

5. Kickstarter. Look what happened there. Why? Because people crave power. They may only be able to put down $10 or $100 but it magically mulitplies quickly to become $1 million.

6. People are desperate to be involved. To be effective. To do something with their lives that's good. We are missing meaning.

7. We are blessed with a democratic system that is actually a lot like Kickstarter. If we were to use it, that would change things right off. If voter turnout increased by just 10 percent it would be seen as a revolution in Washington. It would be felt.

8. I believe it's possible to transform Obama, even just a little. I think he can be manipulated. If 10 percent more people turned out than were expected, it would shake him up.

9. If somehow we could attach to that a message that the filibusters had to stop, that when we elect a majority to Congress we expect them to have the power to legislate, and that there will be a memory of any politician who threatened that. (Think about the power the Tea Party has had with a small minority in just a few states.)

10. I want to do more than vote and give money. Right now, other than knock on doors, which I did in 2008 and when I was a teen, that's about all that I can do. But I desperatelly want to do more. I thinkn there are a lot of other people like that.

11. I don't care what pundits think.

12. I believe in demonstrations, but not meaningless ones. Showing up to vote is the best tool we have right now. I can't believe we're not doing more with it.

Anyway, short term there isn't much we can do. I know that. The change that I want has to be something I create myself. I want to break down the walls that say only Josh Marshall, you and Ezra Klein (etc) can write about politics. And that the people who use the tech have the most important opinions, so I want to hear more vision about where this stuff should go from smart people like yourself. We're creating a new system for political discourse now. The tools are still early. We can make them much better. But first we have to create the expectation that they will get better, and the places we're looking for change are the places it can't and won't come from. The VCs will never give you the power that I will. The President will never bring about change on his own. But you and I and others like us can.

Posted: 9/11/12; 8:18:53 AM.

Dead people on voting rolls permalink

I love how the Repubs are so alarmed that there are thousands of dead people on the voter rolls. OMG. We have to purge them. It's a sign of fraud! This is terrible. Well...

There are also thousands of dead people on Facebook and thousands of dead people with driver's licenses. Every university has thousands of dead people in their alumni databases. Why? Because voters die. And so do Facebook users, and drivers, and alumni.

My father died three years ago, and while I miss him still, even more today than I did right after he died, I still haven't called the State of New York to say "You need to take my father off the voter roll." For all I know if he showed up at the right voting place on November 7 they would let him vote. But I promise you he's not showing up anywhere. He's a former voter even though he may still be on the voter rolls.

You have to check what the Repubs say very carefully, because while it may be true, what they say might also be designed to lead you to believe something else, something outrageous or fraudulent. That's not happening.

Posted: 9/10/12; 5:10:31 PM.

A test of outline comments permalink

Welcome to a test of some new software I've been developing. This is a test you can participate in if you have the OPML Editor running on your Mac or Windows PC.


1. If necessary, download and install the OPML Editor application.

2. Fully update it by choosing Update opml.root from the File menu.

3. Choose the Your name command from the Misc menu and enter your name. This will be used to identify your notes in the comments box.

4. Important: Reload this web page. You should now see a green OPML button near the bottom. Click the button.

5. The OPML Editor comes to the front and a window opens with a place for you to enter some comments. Please do so. When you're ready, click the Save button.

6. Come back to this page and reload. You should see your comments below. You can go back to the OPML Editor and change your comments and Save as many times as you like.

It's a social experiment. Let's see what you all do with this. I have some ideas, of course, but let's see how it goes.


If there are problems, you can use the Disqus comment box below to explain.

Posted: 9/10/12; 9:42:58 AM.

To TechCrunch hackathoners permalink

I hear today is the TechCrunch hackathon!

If you're looking for something to do, how about picking off one of the ideas on the roadmap for the open Twitter-like ecosystem.

You could do a nice linkblogging tool. Or a beautiful rendering of river.js in the browser of your choice (or hopefully all of them).

How about a nice way to manage susbscription lists in a way that can be shared with all applications. One place where users can subscribe or unsubscribe.

Remember to give your users' data to other apps, to be part of an ecosystem. Closed silos are for the big guys. It's how we disrupt them, by working together. :-)

Posted: 9/8/12; 12:38:29 PM.

app.net's impressive start permalink

The Verge has an interesting story with an awful headline, so rather than point directly to it, I wanted to get a chance to frame it in a way that I think is fair to app.net.

They say that only 250 users account for over half the messages posted on the new system. There are over 20K users, each of whom paid $50 to use the system.

They say this means that app.net is off to a "slow start" but I wonder how that compares to Twitter. I have never seen any good numbers, but I think there are really several classes of Twitter users, I have a sense of how they break out in numbers.

1. Celebrities, whose grunts and snorts are fascinating to their fans. They don't really provide information, just the tiniest glimpses into the reality of their lives, which are suprisingly like those of normal people.

2. Link machines, like myself -- people who spend a lot of time online reading stuff, and share links with followers. We post a lot more than the people in category #1. We're not very famous and we don't share a lot of our lives. The product is a linkflow. Another way of looking at it, we use Twitter the way others use del.icio.us (perhaps why the YouTube guys bought it, to turn it into the interesting part of Twitter, imho).

3. Active readers who use Twitter as if it were a river-of-news aggregator, which of course it is. Yesterday I posted a screen shot that illustrates that sometimes Twitter is providing almost exactly the same flow as the Media Hackers tabbed river.

A picture named greattweets.gif

4. Darknet users. I have no idea who they are or what they do or if they are even real people. A huge portion of the numbers on Twitter. Who they are is totally unknown. Like the interior of Alaska or Siberia.

Unless we know how things break down for Twitter how can we judge what's happening on app.net. For one, I am impressed. They have managed to get uptake, with a $50 pricetag, for an offering that is actually less functional than Twitter in many ways, from a technical standpoint. And it's a very small community relative to Twitter. Even so, they have managed to get a lot of people to part with a significant amount of money. And they're smart to go into a quiet period for a while to consolidate, and presumably get some new software ready, and perhaps some content deals.

Posted: 9/7/12; 9:57:46 AM.

Breakdown of feed formats permalink

A question came yesterday up on the river-of-news list -- a list of developers who are creating tools and designs for rivers.

Dody Gunawinata, is doing an aggregator and wanted to know if he should support RSS 1.0 format. I said that River2 does, but I didn't know the breakdown of different feed formats.

So I wrote a script that recorded, when a feed updates, whether it's RSS or Atom, and if it's RSS, which version it is. Only feeds that updated in the 24 hour period would be counted, and each feed would only count once. The idea was to count feeds that were actually updating. Dormant feeds really don't matter for Dody's question.

I ran the script overnight on the server that maintains my rivers. So this is a very unscientific test.

The numbers: RSS 2.0 -- 338 feeds. Atom -- 36. RSS 1.0, 0.92 and 0.91 had 2 each.

Posted: 9/6/12; 4:23:30 PM.

Life outside Twitter permalink

I've made an investment over the last year, building up the rivers I use, both from a software and content standpoint. I've realized more and more that's how I was using Twitter. To be in the loops of writers, both professional and bloggers, in a systematic way. I wanted to see how rich I could make it.

Turns out it's pretty good. I still use Twitter, and for now that's okay.

A few minutes ago there were five posts on Twitter, in a row, that I would love to have outside of Twitter too. Expand this headline to see the screen shot.

A picture named greattweets.gif

Except for Newyorkist announcing that he is making his bed, each of the tweets is from people I feel I know well through their online personnas, and each is pointing to something worth reading.

Bora Zivkovic is a scientist blogger from North Carolina. Philip Greenspun is a genius entrepreneur, systems guy, developer, pilot, libertarian. Highly opinionated, great writer. Jay Rosen is of course always on-topic, a thinker and linker and media observer. Miguel de Icaza is a great community leader, programmer, and is politically outspoken (like me and Greenspun) and Chris Dixon is a NYC-based entrepreneur, VC and also a wise guy. :-)

I would subscribe to any of these guys in my rivers, and in fact I do. Most of the content they're pointing to exists on the web, outside of Twitter, but I'm not subscribing to all of it. I want people like Chris and Miguel to have a linkblog, so that their links live outside Twitter as well as their writing.

These are all super smart people and I think they will immediately understand why it's good to have feet on both the platform and the train, at the same time.

Posted: 9/6/12; 11:29:42 AM.

About Twitter's changes permalink

There's nothing surprising in the changes Twitter announced today.

A picture named silo.gifThey telegraphed clearly, a long time ago that they were phasing out their earlier developer program. Earlier this year Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said they wanted more content flowing into Twitter and less flowing out of it. So of course that meant that they would cut back on API access. If anyone had been building on these resources, they now face a setback, but it was one they could have seen coming.

Twitter could have been something very different from what it's becoming. That's neither good nor bad. Every business has an opportunity to define itself, by what they do as well as by what they don't do. Twitter has had very strong positions like the 140-character limit and the decision to put links in the text that users type. These have become such fixtures that we hardly notice them. But different decisions could have been made, and a different environment would have resulted.

When Twitter pulls back from features, they create room for new potentially valuable networked products and services that are radically different from Twitter, with different tradeoffs. I think we're at the point in the evolution of the net where there will be a lot of experimentation, in part fueled by the new space Twitter is opening up for competition. It's good for innovation. I think we may well be getting unstuck in some very big areas, very soon, as a result of the changing developer landscape.

See Media Hackers for an idea of what can be done with news, entirely outside of Twitter, based on flows in RSS, Atom, XML and JSON, all of which are strong open formats with huge content flow from professional news organizations, bloggers, universities, schools of all sizes, scientific institutions, corporations, non-profits, media networks and government agencies.

It's important to note that none of this is in any way subject to Twitter's terms. None of these feeds or JSON rivers will stop flowing because Twitter is placing limits on its own ecosystem.

There are new projects from many developers that look promising. I believe there will be strong reasons the new projects will want to share user content more fluidly as a way to compete with the giant companies that are trying to carve out private areas of the Internet, as Twitter is.

Working together is how new markets are always created. There's lots of new stuff in the pipe, much reason for optimism and excitement. :-)

Posted: 9/5/12; 5:18:25 PM.

scripting.com in transition permalink

I'm doing more of my blogging over here on the threads site.

This was always the plan. When people say that I turned off comments, that wasn't exactly true. I wanted to start a transition from a site where discourse was more controlled, and set off from the main blog content.

There is more transition coming, some things I hope that many people will find exciting.

I think there's a new kind of writing for the web coming. I want to be a major proponent of it, and participant, as I was in the early days of blogging and podcasting.

Feel free to post a comment below (but keep it nice). :-)

Posted: 9/5/12; 10:23:20 AM.

Why a second term for Obama? permalink

Economist: "A president who has had a patchy first term now needs to make a convincing case for a second one."

Pretty simple. Romney repeats a promise that he'll "repeal ObamaCare."

Obama will implement it. By the time his second term is over it will be a done deal.

Even if Obama did nothing else, it would be worth it to re-elect him just for this.

A little background

Ten years ago I had life-saving surgery. It cost over $400K. And over the years since, my health care has been pretty expensive. I'm well-off. I can afford my health insurance. And I've had continuous coverage since I was in my 20s. So the insurance companies have to cover me.

But I understand what it would mean to not have the money and not be insured. I would have died ten years ago. So this means something to me personally.

I also have friends whose life requires maintenence from the health care industry to hold death at bay. If you look around you, and ask -- you'll find that there are many people who are in a similar circumstance. Not everyone likes to talk about it, but it's happening anyway.

People who don't understand are imho:

1. Young.

2. Have never experienced the death or serious illness of someone they loved and/or depended on.

3. Are not paying attention. Probably an alchoholic or drug abuser, because it's all around you. You have to work at not seeing it. Work hard.

That we would play games with health care for our families is ridiculous. I guess Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney don't have any friends or family who might be at risk. But that can't be true for most Republicans. So I honestly don't understand. But I don't have to understand if we simply re-elect President Obama.


Posted: 9/5/12; 8:09:06 AM.

Ann Richards 1988 keynote permalink

One of the best speeches ever.

Repubs lie and obstruct, but Obama does not lead permalink

The Repubs tell the truth about one thing, and it's the one thing that damns the president. He hasn't been leading. Campaigning for re-election is not leading.

I'm going to vote for Obama no matter what. Not voting is not an option, and voting for Romney is most definitely not an option. If the Repubs were to control both the executive and legislative branches we're in for a whole other level of catastrophe. Last time they ran the country we almost lost everything, economically, militarily as well as our freedom. The whole thing.

What has to happen is the Repubs have to be reined in. And the President has to lead us to that future. He can't just get re-elected. It has to be more than that.

Posted: 9/4/12; 5:15:44 PM.

The real liars are the press permalink

Who can really blame the Repubs for lying if the reporters let them get away with it.

I read a piece by Emily Bell about how media neutrality is fueling lies. It's pretty radical considering she teaches jouralism at Columbia.

But the truth is much more radical. The Republicans are finally taking down the press. What will be left of journalism after this election will not resemble in any way what it was before. This is a moment of breaking with the past, a discontinuity, reformation.

Finally it's obvious to everyone that the news is not being reported accurately. What we see and hear in the speeches in the cable news broadcasts is different from what they report. Could not be clearer. We see A, they report B.

If the headline is wrong, then now is the time for the press to stop lying. I would love for that headline to be wrong, but right now, it's correct.

Posted: 9/3/12; 10:22:29 PM.

Embedded registration form permalink

Note: I used the Obama campaign's embeddable form. You can too. It's easy.

Posted: 9/3/12; 10:08:46 PM.

Odd pic of two Presidents permalink

This picture will accompany an article in The New Yorker, to be published tomorrow.

A picture named barackAndBill.jpeg

Is it just me or does it look like President Clinton is "submitting" to President Obama?

I can't imagine they don't see this at the magazine.

Posted: 9/2/12; 12:22:33 PM.

Obama gets 1/2 of it permalink

Political Wire: President Obama "has fundamentally shifted his view of modern presidential power" and "is now convinced the most essential part of his job, given politically divided Washington, is rallying public opinion to his side. As a result, if he wins a second term, Mr. Obama plans to remain in campaign mode." He's quoting a WSJ article, which unfortunately is behind a paywall.

This is the most sigificant thing I've read about his presidency. He realizes now that he has to be in full-time campaign mode. That's the power of the presidency. You'll have no leverage with Congress unless they know you have the voters on your side. All he had to do to understand this is read a little history about the most effective presidents. They were the ones who had open channels of communication to the electorate, and used them well.

This is, btw, the one valid part of the Republican campaign. When they said he wasn't showing leadership, I didn't know what they meant until Christie's speech at the RNC. "Real leaders don't follow polls. Real leaders change polls," he said. He was absolutely right. A president who doesn't get that is one who isn't using his power effectively. Then there's the question of what the president would use the power for, and that's where I can't go with the Repubs. They would try to take us back to some fantasy United States that never existed.

Today is different. We're switching the way economics, communication and war work. The military that the Repubs wants to double-down on is, as always, designed to fight the wrong war. The next war will not involve terrorism or huge armies, you can attack the infrastructure of your enemy and cripple them with algorithms, code and passwords.

A picture named tr.jpgBack to the bully pulpit of the president of the United States. The unique opportunity now is that communication doesn't have to be 1-way. This is where media hackers come in. I hope they open their doors and minds to us so we can get involved, not just as voters, but as innovators. This is why I was so disappointed when I saw the whitehouse website in January 2009. It told me everything I needed to know about what they didn't understand or want to put into practice.

It's like everything. Just getting funded doesn't mean your business is successful. The hard part is yet to come. You can practice medicine after getting your degree, but whether you're a great doctor is still yet to be determined. Getting elected President is a huge accomplishment, but that's just where teh fun starts. And it's not just the Republicans you have to get to line up, you have to get members of your own party to do it too.

This was all covered on the West Wing, btw. :-)

One more thing. If you're good at communicating the Repubs know what to do then -- they'll impeach your ass. So be prepared for that too. OK?

PS: Seeing the President on Reddit was a very positive sign, btw.

PPS: Doc Searls could play the mature Teddy Roosevelt in the movies.

Posted: 9/1/12; 10:37:22 AM.


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