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They're having a Social Media Summit at MIT next week. I have always been bothered by conferences that call themselves summits. Here's a picture of a summit. After WWII, FDR sat down with Stalin. That's an actual summit. BTW, not sure why Churchill is there. :-)

BTW, if it's a summit, you don't have to say it's a summit. The conference with FDR, Stalin and Churchill was simply called the Yalta Conference. My father once told me that a university doesn't have to say it's a university if they really are one. You don't see car window decals for proud parents that say Harvard University or Stanford University. Just Harvard and Stanford will do. He was putting down the window decal I got him for my school, which did proclaim itself a university. Even worse, they called themselves The Harvard of the South. Oy! That's not a good sign. I wonder if they still do that. And doing a search today I learn that Duke and Vanderbilt also consider themselves THOTS. Maybe they should forget it and just try to love their students more.

BTW my father was an undergrad at Rutgers, which, while a fine school, isn't exactly The Harvard of New Jersey. Just sayin. ??

The Harvard of New Jersey is Princeton, another school that can leave off the University part. Some people think it's an even better school than the other top most prestigious schools in the US, which imho would be Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Yale.

I like to listen to audiobooks on my daily walks and bike rides, they're good to have around when podcasts aren't so interesting to me. It happens. Right now I'm listening to Roots, narrated by Avery Brooks. It's a beautifully crafted story, and the narration is among the best I've heard. I'm still at the beginning, but I love it, I'm even listening when I'm not out getting my exercise.

BTW, to follow up on yesterday's posts about tabs and bookmarks in the outliner part of Drummer. It looks like I did get it stabilized yesterday. I have to qualify that because I saw some problems before I shut down for the day yesterday, after fixing a huge number of really serious mistakes and omissions. But I feel confident that I can start the post corner-turn cleanup and get ready for more fun projects starting tomorrow. (Update: Re the problems, oy there was a huge problem. In the main closure for a tab there's a background thread that I did not kill when the tab was closed. As a result it kept running. Whenever it saw a change in a file (not its file) it would save it, to the now-closed file, thus wiping out the contents of the closed file. This was hard to track down. Now everything is really smooth. Haha until I find the next horrible omission! Users never see these problems, hopefully, but this is what you have to deal with getting to the point where software is useful.)

Hope you don't mind me saying this, but the Mac Finder should have a Bookmarks menu.

I'm learning that more people from my Ulster County neighborhood are reading this blog. I find that exciting. Maybe we should have some meetups this summer? At the beer garden at the Colony? I love the idea of a beer garden in Woodstock, and as everyone knows, summers here are the best. There's a lot of planning to do now that cannabis is legal everywhere in NY State now. And Tuesday is 4/20. It looks like the weather is going to be nice.

I don't know if I've ever told this story about my uncle at his hippie commune outside St Augustine, FL. Once I went to visit, on vacation from my Silicon Valley startup. When I arrived at his little off-grid geodesic cottage in the woods, he showed me they had pinned up an article in Business Week with a picture of me, which labeled me as President Dave Winer of Living Videotext. My uncle who had changed my diapers when I was an infant, thought this was insanely funny. He told me they started calling each other President Ken, or President Dot, or President Pumpkin (one of their dogs) or President Dump Kitty (one of the cats). I didn't object because in my mind I had a terrible case of impostor syndrome. No one in California dared make fun of it, but here in the woods with my dear uncle and friends, it seemed fine.

BTW, there's a whole neighborhood on his 25 acres. Unbelievable how fast things grow, esp in Florida.

The current-events-osphere

I'd love to see an exercise bike that's tuned up for podcasts. Not sure exactly what that means. But I don't like competing on my bike rides. I more prefer to learn stuff. In a somewhat organized way.

Most of the podcasts I listen to are suffering from the same problem CNN and MSNBC are. They had a great knuckle-biter story to cover for the last five years, amped up by another knuckle-biter, and now the first one is gone, and the second is waning. Leaving them without anything to talk about.

I'm really not worried about Trump anymore, and I'm vaccinated, and I have the mask-wearing and social distancing down. I don't travel and I'm fine with that. I enjoy my work, and summer is coming!

I found for example that the Trippi podcast was fascinating in the run-up to the election, but now, I don't care so much about what's on the mind of a classical campaign runner (with apologies to Joe, who is a great guy). It's a very specific thing he does, and only vitally interesting to me in-season.

The whole current-events-osphere needs a re-think.

I've been reading Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan. It's a great book, but already dated. The missions he talks about for the future have already happened. Our understanding of Saturn, for example, has greatly increased since 1994. Now that Cassini has visited, so much more is known. Sagan of course is not alive to do this for us. But it seems someone should. Next up I'm going to re-read Cosmos.

Just watched a bit of CNN. Overwhelming feeling ó they have no reason to exist.

Drummer has a feature that LO2 doesn't have -- Bookmarks. Here's how they work. There's a Bookmarks menu. When you choose the first command, Add Bookmark, a dialog confirms that you want to bookmark the current outline. If you click OK, the bookmarks file opens in a tab, and a link to the file you had open appears as the first item in the list. You can move the link where ever you like, and change the text. If you look in the Bookmarks menu, the changes are reflected. The menu can be hierarchic. As you have probably guessed the file is an outline, like any other outline. But it has this special UI. There are a number of other features like this. Anyway, Bookmarks are tricky because of the way asynchronous code works in JavaScript. If bookmarks.opml isn't already open, you have to wait until it is open to create the bookmark link. If you don't, weird things can happen. Now that I've changed how tabs work internally, this feature is broken. It drives me crazy because I depend on Bookmarks, and I'm starting to use Drummer for real work now. So today I must get this problem solved. I'm not getting up until it works. ??

BTW, it's not exactly true that no outliner I've shipped has had a Bookmarks menu. "Electric Outliner" has one. But I haven't exactly promoted it. I use it to write my blog, in fact I'm using it right now to write this. It has had a Bookmarks menu for years, and I've been able to manage lots of complex projects more easily because of it. EO is an Electron-based outliner that runs on the desktop. There will be a desktop version of Drummer, using lots of what's in EO, hopefully. It's possible we did a bookmarks feature for Frontier too. And menu sharing is something like Bookmarks. My memory sucks. Sorry.

BTW, there is a hair trimming product called Electric Outliner. It's screwing up my search for mentions of my Electric Outliner outside this blog.

Today I learned that the jQuery attr function, if you pass it a function, it calls the function. This. Is. A. Bug. It blew my mind when I figured out what was going on. Phewwww. That's the sound of my mind being blown. Back to work Davey.

Poll: Will Derek Chauvin be convicted?

I've been trying to watch the news on MSNBC and CNN, but it's really hard to get into. Their product transformed under Trump, and now that he is gone, or so it seems, knock wood -- what's left for them to cover? Here's what I suggest. This requires that you put the heat on Biden and Judge Garland. First I've heard it said that January 6 could happen again, which I think is too meek. It will happen again. And until the prosecutions begin, the news should be filling in the details the same way they were covering every detail of the Trump crime scene when he was in office. Who are the leaders? Their names, pictures, backgrounds, are they free, awaiting trial, on the run? These people, and the politicians that are covering for them, the six sentators who voted against the Asian hate crimes bill, to name a few, are vying for the position of The Next Hitler of the United States. We need a bunch of good enemies. And why aren't the Bidens prosecuting them. We need some bodies in cells for January 6, now. ??

So, instead of watching the news from 6PM to 10PM every night, as I did during the Trump years, I've been reading books, watching the Mets and Knicks, watching British movies, also the Godfather I and II. On the whole this is a better deal. More variety, it's more personal, much less repetitive, and besides the Knicks are playing entertaining basketball, and that's more than I can say for whatever sport they're playing on MSNBC.

On the Drummer front, I decided to rewrite the tab code to use JavaScript closures. Much simpler code and hopefully more easily extended to add new functionality. But right now the app is a mess. I learned some new jQuery tricks with custom event handlers and triggers. You can have a very isolated function with persistent and private storage but you can still make calls into it, for the times when the outside world needs to know something about what's inside.

Everyone above 16 in New York State can now get vaccinated, and where I live, without an appointment. So vaccination scarcity is over. All you need is ID. But people without ID can get and spread the virus. Whatís the plan for such people?

An unusual day is one where It's almost 6PM and I haven't posted anything to the blog. This is one of those days. I think I actually have to update at least once a day for the nightly mail app. Not sure what it would do if midnight came and there was nothing new. I don't really want to find out. Everything's fine, in the middle of a pretty heavy bit of development so my focus is there. See you tomorrow! ;-)

Hello. My name is Dave and I'm addicted to Granny Smith apples.

I have to say, a consistent theme in my career has been, I create something, through a lot of work and trial and error, and years later it's out and people like it. And then people say thanks for doing that, now I'll take over. The first time I saw that in a huge way was with OPML. It came a couple of years after RSS's success, and a lot of people assumed OPML would be big and they could get rich if they owned it. I had a colleague at Harvard even tell me literally he was going to take over now. Those were the words he used. He had no idea what OPML was! I thought this is the height of ridiculousness. It got so awful I just dropped the project, to let them all fail, which is exactly what happened. These things aren't designed to get anyone rich. There is no lock-in possible so nothing to charge money for. How stupid can you be. Obviously, I learned the lesson that people can be very very very stupid. And unbelievably, larcenously, greedy. (BTW, the guy from Harvard was already very rich. He did not need more money. I had been to his house.)

So many more examples. Like the VCs and RSS. They all lost all their money because they thought a format can be owned. None of them were interested in where I thought the products were, they all created the same product, badly -- and failed. Podcasting, more of the same. My partner, Adam Curry, thought I was just a programmer, and therefore fungible. I am a programmer, for sure -- but I think about things in a different way, there's a part of the stack almost no one else gets into. I see new media before it exists. I work at it. You can't just hire someone to do what I do. That's why my consistent drumbeat is Let's Work Together. Instead of stopping here, there's much more to do and no one gets to do it all. The interchange format isn't ownable. But most people don't get that, and when they bet money that they can, they lose it all.

Drummer is going to be the anti-silo, as Frontier was. What this meant for Frontier is when we saw a new protocol, our first impulse was to implement it. I wanted it to be able to communicate with anything. A silo'd outliner would instead usually not to support a protocol, and implement everything itself. Watching Roam, I'd say they are a half-silo. When it comes to exporting content from Roam they seem to be fairly liberal. They don't want to implement their own blogging software, for example, they'd prefer to export to a static site generator. But, they are fairly closed to allowing other editing tools to be able to push content into their graph. I wanted to see how at least some of my writing here on Scripting News, in outlines, would look in their graph. As far as I can tell, it might be possible to do, but it would require a lot of work by hand, and no one has time to do that. It would make more sense imho to support some kind of standard interchange format. Luckily, I created one, in the 00s, for just this purpose, and it's pretty broadly supported. Anyway they certainly don't make it easy. They really want me to use their outliner. I'm sure it's very nice, but I already have one. Anyway, like all recent text products and services, you're pretty much locked into using their editor.

Follow-up to yesterday's braintrust query. Apparently WordPress still has an API, there's a Node package to interface to it, and even better, they still have the XML-RPC interface and support the Metaweblog API. So it should be possible to have WordPress support in Drummer and use the outliner to create and edit posts on a WordPress website, and who knows where that goes. What's especially cool about it is that in December 2019 I released a new reference implementation of XML-RPC in the form of a client and server for Node, in JavaScript of course, and a client that runs in the browser. So now there's a good reason to add XML-RPC support to Drummer, which I totally want to do.

BTW, if someone is looking for an interesting not-too-huge project, hooking up the JavaScript XML-RPC package to WordPress via the MetaWeblog API is a totally self-contained project and would be very helpful.

I'm glad the Free Software Foundation is standing with Richard Stallman. You don't get to destroy someone's life because you don't like him, or the questions he asks, or the things he says. This really is a question of freedom.

Braintrust query: Is there a way to post to WordPress from an external app? If it has an API, I'd like to get support in the first release of Drummer. It's an important connection. For years they had an XML-RPC interface. I think that's gone now. Has something replaced it yet? (Update: This looks promising.)

Earlier this month I wrote a piece called The Lost Apps of the 80s, wondering where the depth of early PC writing tools went. Also spreadsheets, databases, graphics programs. There were huge numbers of them. The reason imho is Microsoft and not just the Browser Wars which threw all of software into chaos for a number of years. There's another reason, and it might have happened even if the web hadn't come along. Microsoft Office. So quickly I forgot. It used to be that a word processor cost $495 as did a database, spreadsheet, and various other software. When you added up the retail prices it could easily come to $2000. Then one day, Microsoft bundled Word and Excel and a few other apps, for the price of a single productivity app. And over the years, they added more software to the bundle. This alone might have reduced the productiving software business to one vendor. The competitors couldn't afford to do what Microsoft did, they didn't have the royalties from the OS to support their price-cutting in apps. So that's another theory on where the apps went. Today, that's no excuse. Writing tools would have a different purpose today, writing for the network, rather than for printing. Different requirements.

Why doesn't Georgia get rid of the lines for voters? Isn't this the obvious question. Has anyone asked Gov Kemp? Is that something he can help with?

Someday users of network services, having been burned by lock-in, will only choose a service when theyíre sure thereís a way out.

We need a coach to get us through the pandemic. Whether or not you like him, Cuomo was doing that. Thatís why I say Fauci should have a podcast. The interviews he does with various people isnít enough.

I just found a 1991 piece by Steven Levy at MacWorld about Frontier, which was still in development at the time. Really interesting read because now, only 30 years later (heh), I'm doing a smaller version of the same idea, not on the Mac but on the open web, once again using standard protocols to connect apps. It starts on page 51 of this PDF of the August 1991 MacWorld. Here's a screen shot of the first page.

What neither Levy or I understood, at the same time in Switzerland, Tim Berners-Lee was working on the world wide web. Frontier's importance in bootstrapping the web as a content management platform, via blogging, RSS and podcasting, was where the real growth would come. It would require a pivot, of course. The Mac was entering middle age, as Levy postulated. But a new shiny thing that worked really well with the Mac was coming along and would soon change everything. The same vacuum that existed on the Mac at the time, now exists on the web. There is no simple-enough scripting language designed for power users to integrate the functionality of many and disparate apps. Why do I like this so much? I guess I'm just a pipes and wires kind of guy. And I think lots of new media will emerge from the ecosystem we'll create here.

I know this is just math, but 1980 is to 1940 as 2020 is to 1980.

Tweeted in 2014. "We are just beginning to come to grips with how over-reliant we've been on the imagined ethics of tech companies."

Embarrassing mistake. Yesterday, in a longish piece about bingewatching, I gave Kazuo Ishiguro credit for writing the novel Howardís End. He actually wrote Remains of the Day. There is a connection. Both were made into movies starring Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins. I corrected the piece, but here's a screen shot of the error. BTW, interestingly, I received an email from Netflix last night suggesting I watch Howard's End. Is it a coincidence, or does their algorithm read my blog? That would be amazing if it did. (I'm sure it doesn't but it's an incredible source about my interests.)

I find the resurgence of outliners inspiring, I wonder about all the addons, and Iíd like to see them support import and export standards, and most importantly, APIs.

BTW, for people who are trying outliners for the first time, may I suggest my own Little Outliner. It's browser-based, easy to use, has lots of features, isn't world-encompassing, just a way to make lists, plan stuff, think into your computer screen. It's free to use, no gotchas, and the outlines are in a standard format, and there's a command to download all your work to your local system, for backup or to use in another outliner. So there's absolutely no lock-in. ??

TimeShifter for vaccinators has a simple purpose. Instead of writing on someone's tag 30 Minutes or 15 minutes, you write the time at which they can leave if there are no complications from the vaccine.

I donít understand why CNN reports on what Fox says. Isnít there a risk of too many mirrors reflecting only on each other. News about news about news about news, etc.

A thread re NYT and the tech web

A thread from my Twitter account..

I was having a discussion with Taylor Lorenz about the difference between online media brought to us by the tech industry, and the world of the NYT and other journalism orgs. Here's a concise version.

  • The NYT et al present packaged stories and opinion. The presenters are vetted, conform to standards that are understood, but not well documented. (This is all my opinion btw.)
  • The online tech media presents largely unpackaged stories, with little or no vetting, and the standards are hard to implement because the systems are so vast.

They're opposites. Night and day. And in conflict, but imho they need not be.

I've long felt we need hybrids. Probably unknown to most people at the NYT, there was a time, between 2002 and 2005, or so -- when I personally worked with them on this stuff. So I had a strong opinion about what they should do. They did half of what I asked, and that was pretty bold, and very successful.

The other half they didn't do. It would have brought a lot more voices into the NYT, but they would have been vetted, by the reporters of the NYT, simply by quoting them in a NYT piece. So they couldn't avoid the vetting if their stories had sources. And the thought was that anyone who is a source for the NYT is worth listening to and could use a platform.

What would have come out of it is something like what Substack is today.

It's hard to know how that experiment would have turned out, but I believed in the idea. Unfortunately it was immediately turned down.

My main contact at the NYT at the time was Martin Nisenholtz, so you can confirm this with him if you like. The first half of the deal resulted in the RSS standard for distributing news. Another little-known fact, imho RSS would have failed without the support from the NYT. Their trust in my small company was amazing, and we took good care of their brand and rep in the wild world of the web. This was in 2002.

PS: There's also the story of how we found the cache of NYT syndicated content. That's what led to the deal we made a year later for RSS.

Should Netflix have a schedule?

About a year ago I decided to cut the cord and turn off the TV service from my cable provider, Spectrum. I returned my settop box, which I had never actually installed, because I used their Roku app instead.

I subscribed to YouTube TV so I could watch news and some sports. It concerned me that they didn't have MSG or SNY for the Knicks and Mets, but there wasn't much sports last year anyway, with the pandemic and lockdowns.

I went without HBO because I was getting that from Spectrum, and I binged on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and a few other services from time to time, but those were the main ones.

Then the Knicks season started. I could see from the highlights and news that this season they were actually an exciting team, very unusual, I wanted to watch, so I set out on a lengthy search, because the information out there is so poor, only to learn that there is literally no way to get MSG and SNY, the broadcasters of Knicks and Mets games, without Spectrum. The local sports teams are not available to cable-cutters, at least not where I live.

As I wrote about this on my blog, I got lots of emails saying that this service or that would give me what I wanted. I even tried using Spectrum's "streaming" service, which you can order online, but none of them had the Knicks.

So I decided to undo the grand cable-cutting experiment, called Spectrum and got back on board with the cable TV service, got a new settop box, which will never be unpacked and will stay in a closet, and happily watched the Knicks during this very interesting, exciting and fun season.

But this piece is about HBO, not the Knicks.

Now as a Spectrum user, I can use the HBO Max app. I've paid to access it. And at the same time, HBO appears in the Listings in the Spectrum app. So I added them to my favorites. So now when I have to choose between something to watch, HBO is one of the choices. And the big difference here is that they pick what to offer me, just like the old days. They have a schedule. And guess what, I watch a lot more HBO this way than I did when I have full choice over what to watch through the streaming app. This is the point of the story.

An example. Last night just before Ari Melber comes on at 6PM, I got bored with the usual stuff on CNN and MSNBC, so I looked around, and saw that The Godfather had just started. I switched to it, and there's Don Corleone sitting behind his desk with the cat in his lap, listening to Bonasera, the undertaker, completely blowing his pitch to the Don. It's a riveting scene. So much to watch. The performance of it. Comparing it to the boring plays they act out on CNN, for months, is ridiculous. One is a masterpiece, the other is completely lost, worthless, not even good for passing the time while playing games on my iPad.

BTW, I watched The Godfather all the way to the end. I didn't get up once. It was the best couple of hours I had spent on entertainment in years.

Browsing on HBO Max, I would never think to click on The Godfather as I'm bored looking for something to watch. I think other people have observed this too. Most of my time on these apps is spent looking for something to watch, as opposed to watching.

The idea of scheduled broadcasts is actually very appealing, to my surprise! I thought for sure the revolution was permanent, that we would always be programming our TV-watching experience for ourselves once we had the chance. But there are real problems with that approach.

  • How do I know if something is good? I have no idea. And to find out, I have to search for the title on Metacritic, see the total score, and then skim the reviews. A lot of typing and waiting and reading, so I don't do it very often. Much faster just to go on to the next one.
  • I might have heard of a show or movie I want to watch, but I have no idea if it's playing somewhere I can access. For example, I was looking for Remains of the Day, because the story was written by the author of a book I had just read and loved. Amazon has a big advantage here, you can get almost everything, but mostly they are not included in the video bundle, so you have to pay extra. I figure I'm already paying enough to all the streaming services, I should watch something that's included, and eventually Howard's End will show up.

On the other hand, I guess I'll pretty much always watch The Godfather, Babe or Kill Bill 2 when given a chance to. There are actually a lot of movies like that. And now, unlike the past, there are no commercials, and they leave the sex and violence in. And the Knicks, which I watched instead of Maddow, oy! What a game. The ups and downs, tragedy and heroic play, the back-stories, the history -- all in just an hour. MSNBC, comparitively, is transparently nothing. The best they have is a powerless Congressperson who is ridiculously and obviously corrupt and popular (maybe) on Fox who has been caught. Nothing is at stake. They can't explain why anyone should care. They need a new purpose.

Journalism is not accountable. We canít impeach the NYT, or remove them from office in the next election. Yet they pretty much determine what we talk about, so much so that Wolf Blitzer on CNN actually negotiates with politicians we do elect, who are accountable.

If Congress wants to get the attention of tech companies, make them liable for lock-in.

I've been catching up on the Chauvin trial every night on the news. The testimony is damning. He is obviously guilty of murder. But, the defense isn't trying to win all the votes of the jurors, they only have to convince one juror, and I'm pretty sure they'll do that.

One reason Manchin might want to vote to cancel the filibuster is that it would maintain his power to veto non-budget Democratic legislation. With the filibuster in place the only power he has is to keep the filibuster. If he sticks with that he might as well switch parties now. However, if Biden and the Dems sold the voting plan that the Repubs will certainly block, if 90 percent of West Virginians supported the reforms, I would imagine that Manchin could change his mind. It all comes back to the same thing. The campaign never stops.

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