Gnomedex: Dave Winer notes

Dave Winer gets a big round of friendly applause as he starts. No Wi-Fi connection, so the demo seems to be shot.

Dave urges us to ignore that he is facing us, talking, and that we are an audience. An unconference (a conversation). We’ll all be talking soon, but the first person Dave calls on says they don’t have anything to say.

Dave is recording the session. Unconferences are kind of like blogs. Blogs say you don’t need an editor to approve what you write. If you want to publish it, that’s good enough. The same is true of the Internet development environment—a platform without the platform vendor. The Internet lets us slice up everything (protocols, content, apps) and let’s everyone participate.

The Microsoft people are going to show you that they get this now, that they are going to go with the same flow as the rest of us. We all get to participate, but none of us gets to be the platform vendor who decides what everyone gets to do.

He says the companies thriving on the Net did not have to invent the technology. I think he’s missing how much politics went into the evolution of commerce, advertising and other foundations of the business successes. “Technology control is behind us, it’s not the way of the future.” That’s true, except that there are many currents of influence that shape the lack of control we perceive.

A comment from the floor: Open standards are carefully built to preserve openness. With RSS, there isn’t a standards body and that’s bad. Dave says: “I don’t think the W3C was effective. I don’t think it did what you said it did. The Web they were managing has been there a long time… and there hasn’t been any evolution…. There was a dominant vendor in the Web who decided how the Web would evolve. But what did happen was that we routed around them, which is why RSS is the juggernaut is as big as it is.”

Question, folks: Why does RSS work? Answer: XML, a standard. TCP/IP, a standard. FTP and other retrieval standards. RSS rides the network, it isn’t the network.

Ah, the demo works (and the network IP address allocation is fixed). The OPML editor Dave uses doesn’t require switching from reading and editing modes. He shows a blog editor for scriptingnews, switching between modules on the page, editing his blogroll. It’s fast and neat; he moves modules with by dragging in his list of modules. He shows adding a podcast by embedding a link with automatic enclosure generation.

That’s the blog editor…. He turns to OPML. Importing an OPML file and editing it in the same interface as he was using for the blog. Next, he shows directory editing in an outliner view with integrated OPML file linking to populate the outline, which is a big virtual view of a collection of OPML files.

Argh, the Net’s down, again. Dave says there is instant outlining capability, but the broken connection prevents us from seeing that.

I want a community of users and developers. It’s open source, so someone can add a spell checker. “I think this is the next Web after HTML.” The current RSS is fantastic system for delivering news, but there is a lot of information that doesn’t change—if you wanted access to information that we think of as knowledge, the information that is most important is how the bits relate to bits, the relationships.

“I don’t think you could get a commercial project off the ground,” Dave says, and I hope we can do it this way (open source). “Putting a piece of software out that people don’t have a good experience with is a waste of time.” He expects the project will be there in about a month.

Question from the floor: Why do you think that each posting doesn’t need a headline, comments or its own web page?

Dave: I had comments (a long time ago). It was a wonderful collegial society and then it became by flamers. People went away and started their own blogs and therein was born the blogging community. I have comments (now) when I want them, and if you read those comments you’ll see that they are all flames.

Question: I read your blog almost religiously, but it’s also the one that I hate the most. You say “this is cool.”

Dave: I don’t just say that! Hating my blog is okay, as long as you just keep coming back to read it. So, what is the title for this post?

Same questioner: Wining about Winer.

Question: Maybe I missed it, Dave, but what were you demoing?

Dave: The OPML Editor

Steve Gillmor: What does instant outlining look like?

Dave: It looks like outlining through instant messaging. Shows a group of people in his user list. Each person’s messages to the group are shown… in outline form. Basically, we’re just polling to see if there are updates to outlines.

He expects the blog editor to take off quickly. The OPML editor will be a slow burn. There’s a “configurable” server located in a folder in his WWW folder, with an upstreaming capability to update a server at hosting.opml.org. “I haven’t decided” how it will be made available. I don’t want to be in the same kind of flame war as I was over weblogs.com.

Question: How easy will it be to get the editor to recognize the modules on my blog?

Dave: I’m making it general…. he doesn’t really answer this question about usability—if it takes a lot of work to get individual parts of a blog into the editor, it’s not very attractive. “The blogging feature is about 24 hours old, but it works.”

J.D. Lasica: Naming. You say you want this to be a hugely popular phenomenon, so it might need a different name.

Dave: Why did I take the job at Harvard? (This is not an answer to the question) I wanted to show the scholars at Harvard how to do information. Turns out the scholars at Harvard don’t care about blogging. I did sell a couple hundred thousand outliners for the Mac in the 1980s and I think we can do better now. I have 60 users, so there is time to change the direction, but you’re not stuck with the name. NetNewsWire is not called “RSS.” If you come up with a new name, we’ll have two names for this and that’s a million times worse than one bad name.

Scott Mace: See CalendarSwamp.com. We’re going to make calendars interoperable. Can we use OPML or RSS to do that?

Dave: OPML may be better. But let’s not create a new standard to do it, let’s use what we’ve got.

Question: Can you talk about OPML in the workplace?

Dave: The key concept is narrating your work. You show up for work in a virtual workplace and it’s like showing up for work in an office. You start by seeing what other people are doing (using OPML) and feeds that you subscribe to to keep up on what others are working on. Some people are good at this and others are not. In my experience, the people who could tell you what they were working on were most effective. I liked working with those people. It makes me feel more effective.

Question (follow-up): One of the great things would be knowing who read what. Is OPML open to handing that?

Dave: OPML is totally open to that. But you should also think about the sociology of it. You can also right a script that marks everything read. You have to trust people you work with.

Marc Canter: You added blog tools, but there is a perception that you don’t want to offer certain features. But the tool is open for anyone to add what they want.

Dave: The philosophy is David Weinberger’s “small pieces loosely joined.” The idea is that any tool can participate as long as there is a common file format and you should use formats that are discoverable.

Now, the song…. Ideas were Yellow Submarine, I Can See Clearly, Here Comes The Sun, Louie Louie. And the song is…. Yellow Submarine. Paul McCartney’s going to want performance rights fees for this, I’ll bet.

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Author: Mitch Ratcliffe

Mitch Ratcliffe is a veteran entrepreneur, journalist and business model hacker. He operates this site, which is a collection of the blogs he's published over the years, as well as an archive of his professional publishing record. As always, this is a work in progress. Such is life.

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