Dave Winer, 56, is a software developer and editor of the Scripting News weblog. He pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School and NYU, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in New York City.
"The protoblogger." - NY Times.
"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.
"Dave was in a hurry. He had big ideas." -- Harvard.
"Dave Winer is one of the most important figures in the evolution of online media." -- Nieman Journalism Lab.
10 inventors of Internet technologies you may not have heard of. -- Royal Pingdom.
One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.
"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.
"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.
"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.
8/2/11: Who I Am.
scriptingnews2mail at gmail dot com.
My 40 most-recent links, ranked by number of clicks.
FYI: You're soaking in it. :-)
Lots of new posts over on the threads site.
9/29/12: Twitter is a tragic tale
9/28/12: Developing in 2012
9/28/12: This is another test
9/28/12: Romney as human being
9/28/12: Twitter may need a Plan B
9/27/12: Romney's 47 percent
9/27/12: The Angry Birds platform?
9/26/12: I want a Galaxy S3 but..
9/26/12: I thought "stench" was real
9/26/12: 47% was not a gaffe
9/26/12: Why Obama didn't meet at UN
9/25/12: Problem posting to Twitter
9/24/12: Today's podcast
9/24/12: Open fields for discourse
9/23/12: Why didn't Apple ease into maps?
9/23/12: As a renewed Knicks fan
9/23/12: Humanity doesn't scale
9/22/12: Favorite movie reviews feeds?
9/22/12: Comments on Costolo talk
9/21/12: A comment *and* a blog post
9/21/12: An open note to Doc
9/20/12: A new feature sneak
9/20/12: Maps, Tweetie and dBASE
9/20/12: A day of construction
9/19/12: Un-Web 2.0
9/19/12: MP3 of Romney's fund-raiser
9/18/12: Question about SoundCloud
9/18/12: Dear Green Button People
9/18/12: Jury duty, voting and Romney
9/17/12: I feel a little like a kid
9/17/12: River with JSON-encoded OPML
9/17/12: OWS on its anniversary
9/17/12: Tech discussion of comments feed
9/16/12: Newspapers and blogging
9/15/12: To OWS -- please use the web
9/15/12: Why Google is OK
9/15/12: Whole post to Scripting feed
9/15/12: Dear @diveintomark
9/14/12: I don't think this is Kansas
9/14/12: A question about class warfare
9/14/12: YouTube in the developing world
9/13/12: Blogging in transition
9/12/12: A message to Republicans: Enough
9/11/12: Witting with Greenwald
9/10/12: Dead people on voting rolls
9/10/12: A test of outline comments
9/8/12: To TechCrunch hackathoners
9/7/12: app.net's impressive start
9/6/12: Breakdown of feed formats
9/6/12: Life outside Twitter
9/5/12: About Twitter's changes
9/5/12: scripting.com in transition
9/5/12: Why a second term for Obama?
9/3/12: The real liars are the press
9/3/12: Embedded registration form
9/2/12: Odd pic of two Presidents
9/1/12: Obama gets 1/2 of it
Un-Web 2.0: "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. "
With an active community, the first thing you need to know is What's New?
That's why the next new thing is, of course, an RSS 2.0 feed of all the new stuff posted on all the threads on my site.
What's new is what's new!
But there's more...
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. A post on the threads site, ready to accept OPML or Disqus comments, to answer questions and share observations on the new features. If you poke around the feeds, you may find some things that raise questions or possibilities.
7. 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.
In a speech at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference yesterday, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey urged developers to join a revolution. This speech for me was a punch in the gut. Because I had been saying things like that about Twitter myself, hoping that the founders wouldn't do the obvious thing and factor all the revolution in the service to squeeze as much money as possible out of the coral reef that had sprouted up around it. As they have. I don't think Jack Dorsey has any credibility left in the revolution department. He went for even more riches and sold out all the revolution-potential in Twitter, as far as I'm concerned.
Coincidentally, it was also the day when we reached the top of one of the peaks of our little mountain range of post-Web 2.0 software. In a simple announcement on the Frontier-user list, I asked people to try out a new feature -- OPML comments. They did, and it worked. Pretty flawlessly! And it is in every way the revolution that today's Twitter is not.
You can try it too. Here's a thread that explains how in five fairly easy steps.
Where is this going? Well, all the places I've been writing about here on Scripting News for the last two-three years, when I decided to no longer build my software on Twitter's platform.
What works here?
1. Users creating content which is published on my site, but they retain the original content on their hard drive. So if they write something they want to refer to later and my system is down, or gone, they will still have it.
There's more coming.
2. A DNS-based identity system that's as easy to create an account on as Twitter or Facebook and gives you the flexibility to move your presence to some other server without any help from a vendor who may not be cooperative, or may not even exist. The robustness of DNS is something the Web 2.0 vendors don't want to give to their users because without it they wouldn't be trapped.
3. A gateway to a truly revolutionary web content management system that makes it easy for individuals to manage huge websites easily and naturally.
4. A design environment that makes CSS work in new exciting ways.
5. A way to build web apps that's also pretty new (I'm running out of adjectives).
But first let's start simply. Everyone can comment on my threads using an outliner. That's a pretty good first step.
A short while ago Twitter said they were going to move to JSON over XML, without much explanation other than they like JSON and not XML, so much, these days, etc. I'm a big believer that everyone has the right to support whatever they want when they want for whatver reason, whether they say the truth or not. Because of that belief, I take with a grain of salt every bit of support for every format and protocol. I assume that just because someone supports it today doesn't tell you for sure that they will support it tomorrow. Though the penalty is usually pretty high for removing support for interfaces people depend on. They tend to remember it next time you ask for their trust. All that is fair game too.
So anyway this got me thinking again about the possibility that JSON might take over from XML. What then? Should we give up all the interop we get from RSS just because it uses XML and not JSON? And it's because of all that interop that that day will never come. A transition may happen over a long period of time, and before it's complete there will be something after JSON. Because smart people see that, they tend to be conservative about switching just for the sake of switching. It's why the web, which is entirely an XML application, will keep XML support everywhere for the forseeable future.
In other words, I'd bet with virtual 100 percent certainty that it's safe to keep producing XML-based RSS feeds.
But people like JSON, there's no denying that. And a JSONified RSS can totally co-exist with the original XML. So let's have RSS in JSON? That's a question that seems worth asking about, at this time.
Turns out it is a very straightforward thing to do. I of course have an RSS feed for Scripting News, the blog you're reading right now. I wrote a script that maintains JSON and JSONP versions of the same content, automatically. When the RSS is built so are the JSON formats.
I learned a long time ago to embrace change. It's why there is a RSS today that is derived from the RSS that Netscape shipped in 1999 and has features of my scriptingNews format shipped in 1997. If the world wants to go to JSON, help it get there in a way that benefits from all we learned in the evolution of RSS from 1997 through 2002. It's stood up pretty well over the years. And there's wide support for it, and lots of understanding of how it works. If there is to be a JSON-based syndication standard, we can cut years off the development process by simply accomodating it.
So I put together an invitation to discuss this.
If you find this interesting, give it some thought, and if you have something to say, write a blog post of your own, or write a comment on that page. Obviously there's no moderation for what goes on your blog, but there will be moderation of the comments. Be aware of that. One feature of the past are personal attacks which are totally pointless and subtract from the discourse, and we should not carry that practice forward. That's why the moderation.
Otherwise, I totally look forward to hearing what people think.
All through the Bush II presidency, political discourse in the US got more and more bizarre. At times, the debate was over who could do the most good for Iraq. Or what the people of Iraq wanted from a US president. Were these people even listening to themselves. It was as if the voters and taxpayers of the United States only cared about one thing -- how well are the people of Iraq doing? And of course that was the cruel joke. We weren't nation-building in Iraq, we were destroying their nation. All based on a shameful lie that somehow Iraq was connected with the 9/11 attacks. There was no evidence of it, and if you listened to the arguments, none was actually presented. It was like the campaign the same people run about whether or not President Obama is an American citizen, which is of course very similar to the idea that Saddam Hussein was in league with Al Qaeda. They never actually say he wasn't born here. They just joke about it, repeat what other people say, suggest it in a million different ways.
The same people are still here, and are still running the show. Nowadays they're working on suppressing the vote in the United States so they can win elections that they aren't entitled to win, by disenfranchising voters. This should be a felony, they should go to jail for a long time. But they won't of course. It's a tactic for dealing with the fact that the demographics of the United States is changing to become less favorable to them. Their answer -- the new people won't vote. Like the birther nonsense, they wll never actually prevent anyone from voting, but by making them jump through more hoops, they reduce the numbers. None of this will happen in NY or California where most of the TV cameras are (and which aren't swing states anyway) rather in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, etc, where elections are often decided by just a few votes.
Amidst all that, almost forgotten in all the ideas promoted at the excellent Democratic National Convention, was the idea put forward by the President that we do some nation-building at home. This is the kind of idea that can take root with people of both parties. It might be so good that the Republicans will have to say they invented it. And there can be little doubt what "nation building" means. Schools, roads, better Internet access, public transit, hospitals and health clinics, fire departments and police stations, and maybe even god forbid some institutions to inform and inspire the electorate -- libraries, museums, parks, bike trails.
I think more than anything we are exhausted, tired of the messes our government has created, the wars we didn't need, the lies that we never really believed. The broken trust. Naive we were to believe Colin Powell when he went before the United Nations to explain why Iraq was such a threat we had to tear them apart. We're not so naive any more. Tired, wasted, so depressed we forgot why were are so depressed.
What we need desperately to hear in this election is what you are going to do to help us. Not just by lowering taxes and getting us jobs, but also to inspire us, to give us a sense of purpose. We just spent a few decades meandering all over the map. The last time this country had any idea of what it was doing was the moon mission of the sixties. Before that there was World War II. Everything else has been pretty much bullshit. Expensive and deadly bullshit. Planet-wasting bullshit.
The idea of making America work better, in ways we can see, in ways that make a difference in our lives, that's the next thing to do. I recently took three auto trips, to Toronto, through the South, and to Madison. In all directions I saw a country that's falling apart. It's really gotten bad. It's opposite to the way it used to be. New York City, when I was young, was falling apart, and the rest of the country was clean and functioned smoothly. Now New York is a marvel of efficiency, a rich city with busy people. But there are huge problems everywhere else. We can't wait for the mythical trickle-down to not work, again, for another collapse before we turn our attention to fixing things.
Even if jobs returned, the depression won't end until we start working on making this place work.
If you're a regular reader of this blog you know that I am a big proponent of River of News feed readers.
I've also been promoting a JSON-based format that serves to communicate between aggregators and browser-based apps that display the rivers. Until now the format was undocumented and unnamed.
Media Hackers is an example of such an app.
There are enough other developers using the format now that it seems possible that it will become a standard alongside RSS and OPML. Obviously that can't happen without some docs and a name.
I considered a lot of possible names, and then hit on river.js. The domains I needed for that were available and there were no hits for the name in Google, so I went with it. And wrote the first pass at the docs.
A note that for a while I'll be doing more posting on the Threads site.
Soon, I think, scripting and threads will merge. The threads site will become scripting.com. Not quite sure how to manage that transition yet.
There's more collaborative writing stuff coming, hopefully soon, and that's how I plan to stage it.
BTW, here's a tip. Always look to the menubar at the top of the page to see where the related sites are. That's going to remain a fixture through all the transitions.
The set is a bit of a mess right now. The hope is that it'll settle down to be a very nice concert hall. As they used to say somewhere..
Yesterday at a party I was talking with a guy who works for IBM doing "agile" development. It was the first time I had a chance to talk with someone who actually does this, for a length of time, so I could play Q&A to figure out how it maps onto how I do software development. I was pretty sure it did.
I think what I called We Make Shitty Software is in other words the same thing as the agile process. Whatever it's called, we all acknowledge that our software is imperfect, it's a process, but we're working to make it better, and more responsive to users.
I may have other concepts to contribute, such as Narrate Your Work, and Instant Outlining, which have made big differences in the development process for me and the people I have worked with. We developed Radio UserLand in 2001 and 2002 with instant outlining. And I've been doing Narrate Your Work, which is an individual thing, for well over a year. It gets better all the time. I can't do any development work these days without telling the story in my worknotes site.
For me, the development process itself is really the work I do. Because that's where my tools have the greatest impact. Not just for software development imho, but in other project-oriented activities. I think all kinds of production are better managed with NYW and I/O. And someday there may be movies or paintings that are iterative, so will benefit from the agile process. Perhaps there already are?
Another thing that works is the idea of code as a weblog. At the top of each part there's a section where each change is explained. The important thing is that with elision (expand/collapse) comments don't take up visual space so there's no penalty for fully explaining the work. Without this ability there's an impossible tradeoff between comments and the clarity of comment-free code. No manager wants to penalize developers for commenting their work. With this change, with outlining, that now works.
Here's an example of a piece of code that's been developed iteratively over a couple of years. Look in the Changes section near the top, you'll see that it tells a story. This is real code that's very much deployed, in fact the text you're reading now was rendered with it (as was the code listing). You might see it more easily in a screen shot of the same bit of code in the outliner-based code editor we use.
We did this at UserLand, starting in the early 90s. There's code in our system with over 15 years of mods to it made by different developers, and you can, if they were careful about it, know what they were thinking as they changed the code. The code tells its story. I have never seen any other devteam do this. If there are other examples, I'd love to compare experiences.
These days I include links to my worknotes in my code, because there is a level of detail I will go into on the website that I won't go into in the code. One of the reasons is that the project is not the same thing as the code modifications. The reasons for making the changes may apply to several objects in the code. So it makes more sense to explain it outside the code. In other words there's a level above the code. That's where my worknotes tie things together.
And an example of day's work in the worknotes site.
Update: Another principle -- when you're developing something new, where you don't have much prior art, get something usable as quickly as possible. Your thikning becomes much more concrete once you have something that you're actually using. Answers come more quickly and you end up throwing out less work, the blind alleys aren't as deep. That also works for the code too. You work much more quickly as soon as you can start regression testing each iteration. The longer you write code without using it, the harder it's going to be to debug it.
Another one -- prior art as a design method. That's a big one. Always see if someone has done this before. If so, why not leverage all they learned. And you get to use something before you have to write any code. This led to one of my mottos: Only steal from the best.
Yes, I've started writing about politics again, and the cynics are weighing in also, as usual. Don't you know it's all theater, and there's no difference between the candidates. The world is run by a few rich people, and they don't care what we think.
I've never really addressed this, and thought now was a good time to do so.
My answer is this -- bullshit. That's not the way it works. You wish it worked that well, but it's actually chaotic, nonsenical, Dilbertesque, crazy, dysfunctional, self-destructive, suicidal, nutso, etc. Can you think of any more adjectives for we, as a species, net-net, have lost our minds? Go ahead and add them.
The problem is evolution. Up until a few generations ago, there was no possibility of a global consciousness, and luckily for us, no need for one. Humans simply weren't powerful enough to matter. So what if we were run by crazy kings and popes and political bosses, worst that could happen is we could spoil a small piece of land and kill ourselves, and we surely did a lot of that! But now the stakes are much higher. We've cured disease enough to fuel a population explosion. And while we seem to be able to feed ourselves, the planet just can't support that many people in many other ways. The problem is that we don't have a collective consciousness that can change things so they work. We're still arguing about the crazy stuff we used to argue about before we became the problem for the planet. You could even see that wise-ass Mitt Romney joking about it in his speech. He says Fuck you if you think the President's job is to worry about the level of the oceans. Well it's not just his job, it's all our jobs. Every damned one of us. And thanks so much for setting us back, just a bit, Mr Republican Presidential Candidate for 2012, a title which already holds some sway. God help us if this bozo gets more responsibility.
If the world were ruled by a secret cabal of rich people and their muses, I would know about it, because I know some of the people who would either be in Category 1 or Category 2. Sure they fly around and go to important conferences and they're quoted and talked about in the Economist and the Times, but they don't really run things. They fly around a lot. Look busy. They play a Captain of the Universe on TV, but they're just people and they don't have any idea about what to do. They work at making more money, and that's fine, but it doesn't really accomplish much, one way or the other.
The people we talk to with our vote is ourselves.
A vote for Mitt Romney communicates this: I'm exhausted trying to keep up with everything. I want it all to be simple. Like when I was a kid and my father made all the decisions.
And a vote for Barack Obama means the same damned thing.
That's where the cynicism is correct. But where it's not correct is in the assumption that that's all it can mean. And in that they suffer from a lack of imagination.
Even with a ridiculous choice, just a larger-than-normal number of people voting would make a difference. And then you have to judge for yourself how possible it is for us to change one of these guys to doing more of our work. For that, you have to understand that they are people too. When Obama makes a decision in term 2 he may be thinking about how the election went and what he feels he has the mandate to do. That might change things. Listen to the guy and judge for yourself.
If we, collectively, as if it were a Kickstarter project, decided to fund our election, and, as a political demonstration we all voted, that would be felt. Not by some mythical powers-that-be, but by us, by you and me and everyone else. It would be shocking. And if you're cynical you will be surprised by how much things will change in government.
Everything that happens now is premised on the fact that you're dumb and you don't vote. If you change one of those perceptions and you have the power to do that, the other one will change too. Think about it.
Voting does make a difference. The more people do it, the more power we will have as we go forward.
The most effective voter suppression is the lie that your vote doesn't matter. Don't give in to cynicism.
BTW, today's random header graphic influenced this piece.
What's new: The World news tab.
I started with the international feeds from major news outlets such as the ABC from Australia, Ria Novosti from Russia, Al Jazeera, Ha'aretz, The Hindu, NYT international feed, etc.
Then I asked people who read the site for other feeds. English-language. Covers news for their geography, as well as world news, but not be too focused on the United States. We already have lots of American news in other tabs. It was a community project which was wonderful, that's why we have such a rich set of feeds, and such an interesting tab.
Lots of other stuff in the pipe, as well as a tab for the US election, as it heats up.
Keep the cards and letters coming and keep spreading the word. Especially people who work at news organizations and bloggers. I want them all to do rivers for their communities. They don't have to be as fancy as this one. And we can help. It's important to have these streams running all over the web, not just on Twitter and Facebook.
I watched the Republican convention last night. I've watched many of them, dating back to Nixon. I've voted Republican, always holding my nose, because I found the Democratic alternative so abhorrent. But last night was over the top. Here's a guy who presents himself as a honest and honorable man who helps people, but the lies he tells, oh man. I just don't know. His campaign is like a wish list. I wish the current President had gone on an "apology tour" so I'll just say he did. I'll say we lost jobs under his watch, when actually under any reasonable view of things he created jobs, a lot of them. He failed to lead, he says, without saying that the Republicans were willing to be led. They weren't. Openly.
Our credit rating suffered a downgrade under this President because, unfortunately, the Republicans, who control one chamber of Congress openly toyed with the possibility of the United States not paying creditors. We had the money. Of course our credit rating went down. They must have had a meeting where they came up with the line they would use now, in the campaign, to make it sound like this was President Obama's idea! These are seriously depraved non-America-loving people, who choose their words very carefully and know that most people aren't listening carefully enough to understand what they're saying, if there's any truth to it, which lately there hasn't. Why bother, these are just stories. Why not say Obama started World War III with our closest allies, Poland, Israel and England. Threw them under the bus! Great line Mitt.
It is so disgusting. To think the purpose of Republican obstructionism of the last three years was only to give this guy a better chance of winning. It's such a bad punchline. How much suffering there was for this end. It tells us that net-net the United States can't find its ass with both hands. All the grand talk about how great we are is belied by the evidence, starting us in the face, in the being of Mitt Romney. Is this the best we can do? Is this it? A venture capitalist is to be our new leader? I've worked at companies that were run by people like Mitt Romney. I've seen many more of them flushed down the toilet, dying a premature death, because the people at the top were tone-deaf to the actual people who made up the businesses they somehow accidentally ended up running. Usually into the ground. Fast.
On Twitter last night I said some things that, if I were a Republican, would sound horrible, and probably would cause me to unfollow. So be it. I should say them here too. I hate Romney. I want to see that stupid grin wiped off his face. I think he's a condescending superior sumbitch, to steal a line from the Republican presidential candidate played by James Brolin in The West Wing television show. And, as on the West Wing, I seriously hope our current President mops up his ass in the debates. An America run by Mitt Romney is a disaster. And we just can't afford any more disasters.
To Republicans who follow me, I would be a hypocrite if I didn't use my communication channel to say what I think about an election in my country. Some years I have totally pissed off Democrats. If you have to go, I'm sorry to see that. But I'm not going to sacrifice my principles and become an equivocating floppy noodle like Mitt Romney. That doesn't mean the technology I create is only useful to one political persuasion. It is agnostic. I wish there were a way to create tech that Karl Rove or the Koch brothers couldn't profit from, but I haven't figured out how to do that and be open at the same time. If you figure that one out let me know.
I watched the Republican speeches last night. There were lots of repeating themes, but one that caught my ear that I haven't heard anyone else comment on is that President Obama should not blame President Bush for his problems. He should accept responsibility for the economy as it is.
It's a trick. And maybe it might work against the Democrats, but there's no reason that voters shouldn't be realistic about how we got into the deep hole that we're in. I don't take orders from the Republican Party, or the Democrats. I know how it happened, and can't forget just because the Repubs want us to.
It would be stupid for voters to elect Republicans, esp when they're in denial about how the mess got created. They're going to keep doing the same things they were doing before the collapse of 2008. And they think the result would be any different? It won't.
What we need to do is as it was before.
1. Reform the banking system, break up the huge banks so that they aren't too big to fail. Don't accept the current situation where they privatize the profits and socialize the losses.
2. Invest in stimulating economic activity, taking advantage of the low interest rates, to repair infrastructure, invest in education, and start building an economy around much lower energy consumption.
3. Encourage people to have fewer children, not just in the United States but around the world. The biggest problem we have is overpopulation. It's unfortunately not a long-term problem, the problem is immediate. We have too many people. Catholics may not like it, but this isn't a Catholic country, or even a Christian country. We were founded on a strong separation of church and state, for good reasons. Freedom to worship includes a freedom not to worship, and a freedom to think and be smart rather than blindly accept the orders of someone else's church.
4. Double-down on health reform. The Affordable Care Act was a decent start. But we're still paying too much for health care. There's much to learn from the way other economies do it. Let's be smart and steal the best ideas from them.
5. We need to amend the Constitution to undo the Citizens United mess created by the Supreme Court.
6. The next war won't be fought with traditional armies, guns, or even nukes. Our infrastructure is heavily computerized and networked. We don't need to spend so much money on bullets, guns, tanks and battleships. They're this generation's Maginot Line. Beyond that I don't know what to do about this, and I'm a computer expert.
Those are just some beginning ideas. Neither party is going to talk about any of it. But it's still what we need to do, to have a fighting chance to be prosperous in the future.
Sometimes it helps to draw a picture to summarize where these big companies are going. Because you can't evaluate them as static things. They're in motion.
Note that of course a lot of other companies are going there too. But I don't have a good feeling for how they get there. Twitter and Apple, that's kind of obvious. Apple has their hooks in distribution of entertainment. And Twitter has interactivity. But you shouldn't forget that the TV networks are already, in a sense, there. They are the incumbents. They could respond like Nokia and Blackberry, and by the time they realize their products have no future, they could already be losing huge business to the upstarts. Or they could prepare by starting to build their own interactive networks to hook into their television programming.
For more, see my previous post.
Checkbox news is an obvious idea, so don't try to patent it.
Hypercamp is on the path too.
Some thoughts about Twitter in late summer 2012, re the news industry.
Twitter is starting to get aggressive and territorial with news organizations the same way it's been with developers. We're all in the same boat re Twitter. They just started earlier with developers and they're further along. I think this is because they understood development better, and other media companies have more to give them than developers did. They've done some big partnering with TV networks. And you see their logos on every bus in New York, and on every TV screen on every cable system in America, and probably by now all over the world.
And they have a big partnership with Apple that gets Twitter a lot of user interface presence on Apple's mobile devices and on the Mac.
I think Twitter and Apple are headed to the same place -- halfway between TV networks and the Internet. More video, more programming, users pressing Like buttons, making wheels spin, watching celebrities and of course commercials.
Twitter has to make what's flowing over their network more appealing, and somehow figure out some more interesting interactivity than they have now. The innovation has been with the users, but Twitter hasn't given users any new tools in a long time. That's where, imho, the competition is going to be. This is still very undeveloped. And Twitter has a problem here because the talent on their network doesn't work for them. But they have so much cash, they can change that.
They'll likely keep partnering with TV networks, as long as none of them have a realtime distribution system that can compete with theirs. Once that happens, it'll be like Iran getting nuclear weapons. If CNN had their own Twitter, and had some good media hackers working for them, they might get a leg up on Twitter. It would be pretty easy to go to another website. I do it, with my tabbed river, and a bunch of other people are using it too. I'm looking for more ways to take this idea on the road. I'd like to fill the channel with these things. I don't care if I do them all. This is the kind of crazy cacaphony that will make Twitter look like old news, give them a reason to start adding new features. That's going to happen pretty soon. If not here, elsewhere. Because Twitter is making themselves smaller and less interesting. Deliberately. I wonder if that's the right move. They're playing as if they have a pretty good hand. Might be bluffing.
The thing is rivers don't take a lot of CPU. They work really well on Amazon S3, and the content software can maintain a bunch of rivers with lots of feeds on a micro instance on Amazon EC2. That makes rivers realllly cheap relative to the systems Twitter is running. And the feeds are everywhere. Think about that. There's no adoption curve to climb here. Love it.
Anyway it's a fluid time because now Twitter is coming out and asserting their rights to content that flows through their servers. I don't think they have a leg to stand on. But that's waking up the news people. I'm sure Twitter knows it will do that.
There's more to what I wanted from blogging when it was starting up in the 90s.
I envisioned user communities that would figure out where products needed to go by pooling their experiences. I got this idea from my own experience as a product developer, and one event that I'll never forget.
Guy Kawasaki came to a Living Videotext party at the St Francis Hotel in San Francisco. Probably in 1987. He gave me a slip of paper with a list of feature requests from an Apple exec, his new boss, Jean-Louis Gassee.
I read over the list, handed it back to him, and said I wanted to meet Mr. Gassee. Why? I recognized the items. They were the top feature requests from users of the product. From that list I could tell that Gassee was using it, and was using it well and often.
Moral of the story: You only learn where a product needs improvement through serious long-term use. Users gain that kind of experience, but reviewers and pundits generally do not. Their observations tend to be superficial. That's why reviews written after a few days using a product often miss the mark. The real greatness or lack of greatness in a product doesn't show up for a few weeks or months. Sometimes even longer.
This was a secret of mine, because most of my competitors not only didn't listen to their users, but they didn't even use their own products. If you want to make great products, never mind the degree in finance or marketing, though those skills are certainly important to running a business. Be both a user and a developer. That way you understand users, and you can make their dreams come true, because they are your dreams too. The reward for that is success.
Once when I was giving this schpiel a very wise and smart man, Yochai Benkler, asked if a doctor had to have the disease to be able to treat a patient. He got me. Sort of. Comparing the use of a wonderful software product to a terrible disease misses the point. Of course the doctor doesn't have to have the disease. On the other hand, why should you make a product that you don't love? Find something you really care about. Can you imagine loving a movie from a director who didn't love it first? (Yes, I just watched a documentary about the career of Woody Allen. He hated Manhattan, one of the greatest movies of all time. But he didn't stop making movies, and if you asked him if he loved movies, if he said he didn't, well, I think he'd be lying. Regardless, we love his movies, even if he doesn't.)
So my hope for blogging was this. That users would write up their experiences with products, and good developers would study what they wrote. And if they didn't some users would learn how to develop, and they would take over the markets, because user-driven products generally win out over ones that are not user-driven.
It's why Twitter, for example, is in trouble -- imho. Their execs are not serious users of the product. And they don't do a great job of listening to users. That's why they are drifting. Facebook, on the other hand, has a strength that Twitter doesn't. Zuckerberg, whether you like him or not, does use his own product.
Also, I never liked the term "eating your own dogfood." Yuck. What does that say about the users! So many of the ways businesses talk about their users are degrading and condescending. This goes back to Respect, which I wrote about yesterday. Respect comes from listening. A developer who does not listen to their users doesn't have much of a future. And if you're a user yourself, you're the most powerful kind of developer there is.
The Romney "joke" about his birth certificate was no accident.
It got birtherism back into the conversation about the election. It had dropped out, and had been replaced with the abortion discussion around Congressman Akin. No doubt Romney felt it was unfair to tag him with that (arguable, he did pick Ryan as his VP). So he hit back with birtherism.
Democrats treat it as a moral issue. An appeal to Republican reasonableness, which does not exist. The best response is to not take the bait. Accept it as a joke. No more discussion. Change the subject.
I wonder if they recorded the talk I gave in Madison because I think it might make a good podcast.
A question came up -- what did I hope to accomplish with blogging. I gave an answer that I would like to amend.
I said Democracy. That by giving people their own platforms to speak on that there would be more listening and better government. By implication, I was saying that it had failed. But that's not all I hoped to accompish.
I wanted to disintermediate journalists. I had learned that the journalism system we had required intermediaries who I felt were not trustworthy. They created the stories based on their own filters, instead of finding out what was actually happening.
Of course this is an illusion. Because my view of what was actually happening was just as wrong as theirs.
What I really wanted, and knew it, was to arm creative people with tools to communicate with people who wanted to know what they think. I wanted to hear from the software developer what he wanted to accomplish with his software. I knew this was needed because I was having trouble communicating about my own software. I was reduced to the ideas that I could convince reporters to pass on. I learned lots of tricks, and as a result my products were successful. But I wanted to eliminate the trickery and talk directly to users.
And where I was a user, someone who read a book, or watched a movie, bought a car, went for a trip, needed medical care, I wanted to hear directly from people who knew what was going on.
However, I did not want to forgo what the journalists add. I want to emphasize that point. I just wanted to give them more sources and honestly, some competition from people who know what they're talking about, to encourage them to be better at learning and really listening.
Anyway, that's what I would like to have said when answering that question.
I started this thread called Scripting News back in the mid-90s with the theme of Respect. It wasn't the only topic, but it was at the core of everything. I had just been through a collapse of an industry because it didn't do enough listening. I wanted to share what I had learned in the hope that we wouldn't have to repeat the lessons again. Back then I tried to say what respect means to me. And I wanted to learn to practice it.
To me, respect means listening to what someone is really saying. It's hard to do. It requires you to quiet your mind, and accept that the world looks different from every point of view. You can do exercises in listening. Sit across from someone, they talk, you don't lean in, or tune out. No hugs, nods or head-shakes. No interruptions. Hear them out. Completely.
I find that when I get stuck it's because I don't listen.
There are lots of corollaries that fall out from this view. People don't listen to people who work at BigCo's any more than they listen to independent developers. People who have the guts to make their own software and put their name on it. This is a mistake a lot of entrepreneurs make. I've seen them do it over and over. A random guy at a big company has no more sway than you do. But you do what they tell you to do in the hope that their company will help you be successful. It does happen sometimes, but not very often. Only in special times.
Another one is that you can do much better at listening to others if you learn to listen to yourself. At all levels. First the gripes, then underneath that, what are you really trying to accomplish. What do you want to do with your time. Who do you want to co-create with, and on what terms?
That's why long trips by yourself are good for respect.
In software what I respect more than anything is this.
I respect people who ship software that's open to competition, and then write specs to show people how to compete with them.
It's just like the web. People come back to places that send them away.
The last decade has been one of people not pointing outward with their code. Or even worse, pointing out and then when people build on it, pulling the rug out from under them. From this must come a better appreciation for trust. Don't be blind with it. Don't give your trust without thinking it through, without really listening.
We're back in the mid-90s again. Will we do any better this time? I hope!
I spoke at a conference in Madison last week about venture capital, among other topics. The panel that was up before I spoke were talking about how to get VCs to love you and respect you and treat you well (by giving you money to begin with of course).
I thought most of it was bullshit, and said so (in a nicer way of course). People treat you well when you have power. Otherwise, don't count on it. It's a hard lesson to learn, but it's mostly true. When you have power, you can decide to change the rules. But my guess is that people won't like you or respect you for doing it. That's why the people who show people how to compete with them are so incredibly gutsy and special. It probably won't profit them immediately or directly. It might lead to their downfall. But it will make the world greater. And if that's what you're into, then I want to work with you, because I'm into it too.
These are not easy ideas to understand. I know that.
Three people have asked me to "weigh in" on a new protocol called tent.io. I looked over the site, and I don't understand what I'm supposed to weigh in on. Anyone can write a spec. What matters is what software is supporting the protocol, what content is available through it and how compelling is the content.
RSS won not because of its great design, but because there was a significant amount of valuable content flowing through it. Formats and protocols by themselves are meaningless. That's what I say about specs. Show me content I can get at through the protocol, and I'll say something.
Sometimes a protocol can be so bad that it kills any chance of it catching on, but that's usually because the proponents are too scared to let people at the content behind the protocol. That's probably what happened with SOAP.
Think of a protocol like a road. You could have a wonderful road. Well paved. Wide lanes. Great rest areas. But if it goes from nowhere to nowhere, it's not going to be very popular, no matter how nice it is.
If you're in Madison tomorrow with a little time to kill, come hang out on the patio at the Memorial Union at 3PM. I'll be there with Andrew Shell, drinking beer and telling wild stories. Hope you can make it!
Here's a picture I took this evening of sunset on the lake from the patio.