kottke.org posts about Dave Winer

The Future of RSS is Textcasting

posted by Tim Carmody   Nov 03, 2023

RSS widescreen.jpeg

Earlier this week, Dave Winer (the inventor of RSS and lots of other notable software, and one of the earliest bloggers) made a podcast for me. He posted it publicly, so it wasn’t sealed like a letter, but it was addressed to me and responding to something I wrote on Threads. I don’t think I’ve ever been the personal addressee of a podcast before: like an @-reply, but in audio.

For some reason, it reminded me of the poet Frank O’Hara’s “Personism” manifesto:

[Personism] was founded by me after lunch with LeRoi Jones on August 27, 1959, a day in which I was in love with someone (not Roi, by the way, a blond). I went back to work and wrote a poem for this person. While I was writing it I was realizing that if I wanted to I could use the telephone instead of writing the poem, and so Personism was born. It’s a very exciting movement which will undoubtedly have lots of adherents. It puts the poem squarely between the poet and the person, Lucky Pierre style, and the poem is correspondingly gratified. The poem is at last between two persons instead of two pages. In all modesty, I confess that it may be the death of literature as we know it.

But this is a digression. The ideas Dave is talking about in this podcast are serious (even if he is laughing a lot), and he spells them out in text at a site called Textcasting.org. Here’s the philosophy:

  • The goal is interop between social media apps and the features writers need.
  • What we’re doing: Moving documents between networked apps. We need a set of common features in order for it to work.
  • The features are motivated by the needs of writers. Not by programmers or social media company execs.

It’s a proposal to build, using technologies we already have and understand very well, a very simple social media protocol that is completely agnostic about what editor you use to write your posts and what viewer you choose to read it. Writer/authors would have more control over styling, links, media enclosures, etc., and readers would have more control over how and where they consume it. It’s decentralized social media, but without the need to peer through ActivityPub or anybody else’s API and squeeze our toothpaste through its tubes.

Dave asked me to respond to his podcast, and while I thought about making an audio response, a blog post is more my metier.

If this is going to work, I think there are at least four problems we’d have to solve:

But in terms of philosophy and vision, I’m all for it. RSS remains incredibly vital to what I do, and its potential as both a reading AND a writing platform remains untapped. You can write using your own tool and broadcast it everywhere. And Dave’s right: this worked for podcasts (the phrase “anywhere you get your podcasts!” is a great advertisement for interoperability breaking any single platform’s dominance), it worked for blogs, and it can work for this strange multimodal thing we’ve created called social media. It worked for the world wide web! And I will be ride or die for the open web until my life comes to an end.

Now we just need to work together to make it happen. And I confess: my tools are limited here. I can’t (really) code, I can’t (really) design, I can’t build a moderation feature. I can evangelize, I can strategize, and I can write. But I can do those things (in all modesty) very, very well.

So let’s do this thing. Why not? Twitter is dying, and Facebook is fading. None of the replacements have eaten their lunch yet. Why not make a swing for the open web? Why not try?

The Macintosh is 30 years old today

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 24, 2014

Apple is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Macintosh with a special subsite.

Incredible that the Mac is still around; the 90s were a dire time for Apple and it’s amazing to see the current fantastic iMacs and Macbooks that came after some epically bad mid-90s machines. Here’s Steve Jobs introducing the original Mac in 1984 (a snippet of the full introduction video):

Steven Levy writes about covering the introduction of the Mac for Rolling Stone.

First, I met the machine. From the instant the woman running the demo switched on that strange-looking contraption (inspired in part by the Cuisinart food processor), I knew the Macintosh would change millions of lives, including my own. To understand that, you must realize how much 1984 really was not like 2014. Until that point, personal computers were locked in an esoteric realm of codes and commands. They looked unfriendly, with the letters of text growing in sickly phosphorescence. Even the simplest tasks required memorizing the proper intonations, then executing several exacting steps.

But the Macintosh was friendly. It opened with a smile. Words appeared with the clarity of text on a printed page - and for the first time, ordinary people had the power to format text as professional printers did. Selecting and moving text was made dramatically easier by the then-quaint mouse accompanying the keyboard. You could draw on it. This humble shoebox-sized machine had a simplicity that instantly empowered you.

Here’s the piece Levy wrote for Rolling Stone.

If you have had any prior experience with personal computers, what you might expect to see is some sort of opaque code, called a “prompt,” consisting of phosphorescent green or white letters on a murky background. What you see with Macintosh is the Finder. On a pleasant, light background (you can later change the background to any of a number of patterns, if you like), little pictures called “icons” appear, representing choices available to you. A word-processing program might be represented by a pen, while the program that lets you draw pictures might have a paintbrush icon. A file would represent stored documents - book reports, letters, legal briefs and so forth. To see a particular file, you’d move the mouse, which would, in turn, move the cursor to the file you wanted. You’d tap a button on the mouse twice, and the contents of the file would appear on the screen: dark on light, just like a piece of paper.

Levy has also appended a never-seen-before transcript of his interview with Steve Jobs onto the Kindle version of Insanely Great, a book Levy wrote about the Mac.

Dave Winer participated on a panel of developers on launch day.

The rollout on January 24th was like a college graduation ceremony. There were the fratboys, the insiders, the football players, and developers played a role too. We praised their product, their achievement, and they showed off our work. Apple took a serious stake in the success of software on their platform. They also had strong opinions about how our software should work, which in hindsight were almost all good ideas. The idea of user interface standards were at the time controversial. Today, you’ll get no argument from me. It’s better to have one way to do things, than have two or more, no matter how much better the new ones are.

That day, I was on a panel of developers, talking to the press about the new machine. We were all gushing, all excited to be there. I still get goosebumps thinking about it today.

MacOS System 1.1 emulator. (via @gruber)

iFixit did a teardown of the 128K Macintosh.

Jason Snell interviewed several Apple execs about the 30th anniversary for MacWorld. (via df)

What’s clear when you talk to Apple’s executives is that the company believes that people don’t have to choose between a laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone. Instead, Apple believes that every one of its products has particular strengths for particular tasks, and that people should be able to switch among them with ease. This is why the Mac is still relevant, 30 years on-because sometimes a device with a keyboard and a trackpad is the best tool for the job.

“It’s not an either/or,” Schiller said. “It’s a world where you’re going to have a phone, a tablet, a computer, you don’t have to choose. And so what’s more important is how you seamlessly move between them all…. It’s not like this is a laptop person and that’s a tablet person. It doesn’t have to be that way.”

Snell previously interviewed Steve Jobs on the 20th anniversary of the Mac, which includes an essay that Jobs wrote for the very first issue of Macworld in 1984:

The Macintosh is the future of Apple Computer. And it’s being done by a bunch of people who are incredibly talented but who in most organizations would be working three levels below the impact of the decisions they’re making in the organization. It’s one of those things that you know won’t last forever. The group might stay together maybe for one more iteration of the product, and then they’ll go their separate ways. For a very special moment, all of us have come together to make this new product. We feel this may be the best thing we’ll ever do with our lives.

Here’s a look inside that first MacWorld issue.

As always, Folklore.org is an amazing source for stories about the Mac told by the folks who were there.

Susan Kare designed the icons, the interface elements, and fonts for the original Macintosh. Have a look at her Apple portfolio or buy some prints of the original Mac icons.

Stephen Fry recounts his experience with the Mac, including the little tidbit that he and Douglas Adams bought the first two Macs in Europe (as far as he knows).

I like to claim that I bought the second Macintosh computer ever sold in Europe in that January, 30 years ago. My friend and hero Douglas Adams was in the queue ahead of me. For all I know someone somewhere had bought one ten minutes earlier, but these were the first two that the only shop selling them in London had in stock on the 24th January 1984, so I’m sticking to my story.

Review of the Mac in the NY Times from 1984.

The Next Web has an interview with Daniel Kottke (no relation) and Randy Wigginton on programming the original Mac.

TNW: When you look at today’s Macs, as well as the iPhone and the iPad, do you see how it traces back to that original genesis?

Randy: It was more of a philosophy - let’s bring the theoretical into now - and the focus was on the user, not on the programmer. Before then it had always been let’s make it so programmers can do stuff and produce programs.

Here, it was all about the user, and the programmers had to work their asses off to make it easy for the user to do what they wanted. It was the principle of least surprise. We never wanted [the Macintosh] to do something that people were shocked at. These are things that we just take for granted now. The whole undo paradigm? It didn’t exist before that.

Like Daniel says, it’s definitely the case that there were academic and business places with similar technology, but they had never attempted to reach a mass market.

Daniel: I’m just struck by the parallel now, thinking about what the Mac did. The paradigm before the Mac in terms of Apple products was command-line commands in the Apple II and the Apple III. In the open source world of Linux, I’m messing around with Raspberry Pis now, and it terrifies me, because I think, “This is not ready for the consumer,” but then I think about Android, which is built on top of Linux. So the Macintosh did for the Apple II paradigm what Android has done for Linux.

A week after Jobs unveiled the Mac at the Apple shareholders meeting, he did the whole thing again at a meeting of the Boston Computer Society. Time has the recently unearthed video of the event.

Fixing Twitter’s suggested followers list

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 07, 2009

Dave Winer has been irritated for some time at Twitter’s suggested users list. I don’t like the list either…it steers Twitter in a direction I don’t care for. Winer suggests several ways in which Twitter can address the problems with the list but there’s a really good simple solution:

Make the list entirely random consisting of selections from the entire Twitter userbase. After signing up, each new user sees 100 recommended accounts randomly chosen out of a HUGE pool of non-spam accounts (where HUGE = hundreds of thousands) that have been active for more than 3 months, tweet more than 5 times a week & fewer than 10 times a day, and have 2 times as many followers as followees (or something like that). Twitter has to be doing similar calculations to find spam accounts…just reverse it and whitelist accounts for the recommended list. That way, Twitter gets what they want (new users following people) and the super-user & conflict of interest problems are eliminated.

An official decision has been reached in

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 01, 2008

An official decision has been reached in the Long Bet between Dave Winer and Martin Nisenholtz of the NY Times. The bet was made in 2002 when Winer asserted that:

In a Google search of five keywords or phrases representing the top five news stories of 02007, weblogs will rank higher than the “New York Times” Web site

Winer won the bet but it’s worth noting that the Times has a growing stable of good blogs itself. (via workbench)

Rogers Cadenhead has beaten me to the

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 20, 2007

Rogers Cadenhead has beaten me to the punch in calculating the winner of the Dave Winer/Martin Nisenholtz Long Bet pitting the NY Times vs. blogs to see who ranks higher in end of the year search results for the 5 most important news stories of 2007. The winner? Wikipedia.

The Times has really improved their position in Google since 2005opening up their archives helped, I bet.

Dave Winer’s perceptive comments on the future

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 09, 2007

Dave Winer’s perceptive comments on the future of advertising:

Advertising will get more and more targeted until it disappears, because perfectly targeted advertising is just information. There’s little point in saying something until the time is right, then you just have to say it once, and the idea takes over and does all the work.

That sounds overly optimistic to me but there’s definitely something of substance there.

Rogers Cadenhead, after receiving a letter from

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 15, 2006

Rogers Cadenhead, after receiving a letter from Dave Winer’s attorney: “I’ve never been more retroactively embarrassed to have paid someone a compliment in my life.”

Blogs versus the NY Times in Google

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 30, 2006

In 2002, Dave Winer of Scripting News and Martin Nisenholtz of the New York Times made a Long Bet about the authority of weblogs versus that of NY Times in Google:

In a Google search of five keywords or phrases representing the top five news stories of 2007, weblogs will rank higher than the New York Times’ Web site.

I decided to see how well each side is doing by checking the results for the top news stories of 2005. Eight news stories were selected and an appropriate Google keyword search was chosen for each one of them. I went through the search results for each keyword and noted the positions of the top results from 1) “traditional” media, 2) citizen media, 3) blogs, and 4) nytimes.com. Finally, the scores were tallied and an “actual” winner (blogs vs. nytimes.com) and an “in-spirit” winner (any traditional media source vs. any citizen media source) were calculated. (For more on the methodology, definitions, and caveats, read the methodology section below.)

So how did the NY Times fare against blogs? Not very well. For eight top news stories of 2005, blogs were listed in Google search results before the Times six times, the Times only twice. The in-spirit winner was traditional media by a 6-2 score over citizen media. Here the specific results:

1) Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans.
Search term: “hurricane katrina”

3. Top citizen media result (Wikipedia)
13. Top media result (CNN)
56. Top NY Times mention (NY Times).
61. Top blog result (Kaye’s Hurricane Blog)

Winner (in spirit): Citizen media
Winner (actual): NY Times

2) Big changes in the US Supreme Court (Rhenquist dies, O’Conner retires, Roberts appointed Chief Justice, Harriet Miers rejected).
Search term: “harriet miers”

4. Top media result (Washington Post)
5. Top citizen media result (Wikipedia)
8. Top NY Times mention (NY Times)
11. Top blog result (TalkLeft)

Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): NY Times

3) Terrorists bomb London, killing 52.
Search term: “london bombing”

1. Top media result (CNN)
2. Top citizen media result (Wikipedia)
21. Top blog result Schneier on Security
No NY Times article appears in the first 100 results.

Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): Blogs

4) First elections in Iraq after Saddam.
Search term: “iraq election”

1. Top media result (BBC News)
6. Top blog result (Iraq elections newswire)
6. Top citizen media result (Iraq elections newswire)
14. Top NY Times mention (NY Times)

Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): Blogs

5) Terri Schiavo legal fight and death.
Search term: “terri schiavo”

2. Top blog result (Abstract Appeal)
2. Top citizen media result (Abstract Appeal)
4. Top media result (CNN)
65. Top NY Times mention (NY Times)

Winner (in spirit): Citizen media
Winner (actual): Blogs

6) Pope John Paul II dies and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger appointed Pope Benedict XVI.
Search term: “pope john paul ii death”

1. Top media result (CNN)
3. Top citizen media result (Wikipedia)
58. Top blog result (The Pope Blog: Pope Benedict XVI)
No NY Times article appears in the first 100 results.

Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): Blogs

7) The Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
Search term: “gaza withdrawal”

1. Top media result (Worldpress.org)
31. Top blog result (Simply Appalling)
31. Top citizen media result (Simply Appalling)
No NY Times article appears in the first 100 results.

Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): Blogs

8) The investigation into the Valerie Plame affair, Judith Miller, Scooter Libby indicted, etc..
Search term: “scooter libby indicted”:

1. Top media result (CNN)
15. Top blog result (Seven Generational Ruminations)
15. Top citizen media result (Seven Generational Ruminations)
43. Top NY Times mention (NY Times)

Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): Blogs

And just for fun here’s a search for “judith miller jail” (not included in the final tally):

1. Top media result (Washington Post)
3. Top blog result (Gawker)
3. Top citizen media result (Gawker)
No NY Times article appears in the first 100 results (even though there are several matching articles on the Times site).

In covering the jailing of their own reporter, the Times lagged in the Google results behind such informational juggernauts as Drinking Liberally, GOP Vixen, and Feral Scholar.

Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): Blogs

Here’s the overall results, excluding the Judith Miller search:

Overall winner (in spirit): Media (beating citizen media 6-2).
Overall winner (actual): Blogs (beating the NY Times 6-2).

Some observations:

Methodology and caveats

The eight news stories were culled from various sources (Lexis-Nexis, Wikipedia, NY Times) and narrowed down to the top stories that would have been prominently covered in both the NY Times and blogs.

The keyword phrase for each of the eight stories was selected by the trial and error discovery of the shortest possible phrase that yielded targeted search results about the subject in question. In some cases, the keyword phrase chosen only returned results for a part of a larger news story. For instance, the phrase “pope john paul” was not specific enough to get targeted results, so “pope john paul ii death” was used, but that didn’t give results about the larger story of his death, the conclave to select a new pope, and the selection of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI. In the case of “katrina”, that single keyword was enough to produce hundreds of targeted search results for both Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Keyword phrases were not tinkered with to promote or demote particular types of search results (i.e. those for blogs or nytimes.com); they were only adjusted for the relevence of overall results.

The searches were all done on January 27, 2006 with Google’s main search engine, not their news specific search.

Since the spirit of the bet deals with the influence of traditional media versus that of citizen-produced media, I tracked the top traditional media (labeled just “media” above) results and the top citizen media results in addition to blog and nytimes.com results. For the purposes of this exercise, relevent results were those that linked to pages that an interested reader would use as a source of information about a news story. For citizen media, this meant pages on Wikipedia, Flickr (in some cases), weblogs, message boards, wikis, etc. were fair game. For traditional media, this meant articles, special news packages, photo essays, videos, etc.

In differentiating between “media” & citizen media and also between relevent and non-relevent results, in only one instance did this matter. Harriet Miers’s Blog!!!, a fictional satire written as if the author were Harriet Miers, was the third result for this keyword phrase, but since the blog was not a informational resource, I excluded it. In all other cases, it was pretty clear-cut.

Dave Winer comments on the weblogs.com/

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 07, 2005

Dave Winer comments on the weblogs.com/Verisign deal…odd omission of a link to my post even though he references it several times. Bad luck that I caught him traveling; if I’d realized that beforehand, I would have held off. Dave seems to trust Verisign to do the job; I think Verisign has shown itself to be an untrustworthy, terrible company.

Verisign confirms their purchase of weblogs.com from Dave Winer.

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 06, 2005

Verisign confirms their purchase of weblogs.com from Dave Winer.

Weblogs.com sold to Verisign

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 06, 2005

Boy, the scent of money is in the air these days. The latest report is that Dave Winer has sold weblogs.com to Verisign (~$5 million is the figure being bandied about for $2.3 million). This is an interesting one because it seemed crazy (see below) when I first heard about it, but now that I’ve heard it from multiple sources, who knows?

Verisign is interested in blogs and RSS (another of their acquisitions in this space will be announced soon) and it’s not hard to see why Dave would sell weblogs.com (the site needs some firm financial backing to keep from buckling under the ever-increasing strain of all those pings), but to Verisign? To me, Verisign embodies the idiocy and ineptitude of the BigCos Dave often rails against…the BigCo to end all BigCos. If true, those are some odd bedfellows indeed.

Update: Silicon Beat says they have confirmation that Verisign bought weblogs.com:

We’re getting confirmation that the rumors about Verisign buying Dave Winer’s Weblogs.com are true. The price is $2 million. What Verisign wants with Weblogs is another matter. Weblogs was one of the first, if not the first, centralized ping servers that blogs could use to alert the world to new content.

I like how when a weblog has two independent sources on something, it’s a “rumor”…

Update #2: Verisign confirms the purchase.