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Scripting News

Scripting News, the weblog started in 1997 that bootstrapped the blogging revolution.

Published: Mon, 15 Jan 2018 23:45:34 GMT

Last Build Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2018 23:53:58 GMT

Copyright: © 1994-2017 Dave Winer.

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 16:29:51 GMT

The "glory days" of news readers are as irrelevant as the print edition of the NY Times. News readers were never that good. Twitter and Facebook are better as news readers. New news flows demand new approaches.

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 16:12:57 GMT

And RSS is here to help.

Yet more River5 michegas

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 23:45:34 GMT

BTW, the River5 discussion continues with Carsten.

He points out that the new method I proposed for adding items to rivers not only is more complex than the current method, and therefore more difficult to maintain, something I totally concur with, it still has a synchronization problem. Copying a pointer and deleting an object can't be an atomic operation. it's still possible something will be added to a queue betw the two steps. And that would result in a lost item.

We're now somewhat in the weeds, possibly, but we all agree it's better to have an approach that loses zero items, than one that maybe loses one item on (possibly) rare occasions. So I have proposed yet another approach in a comment. This one has the advantage of retaining the current simplicity and hding a bell/whistle that didn't need to be there in the first place.

Journalists, let's help journalism thrive on the net

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 15:31:59 GMT

If you're a journalist and you love RSS, please join me in an easy project to improve both. Let's put together a list of starter feeds for journalists.

I've kicked it off with a collection of news feeds that I know provide good value. If you have favorites, please suggest a few in a comment in this thread.

In order for this to work it has to be done primarily by journalists. I'm happy to help any way I can.

I started this project because I am sure that unless news thrives on the net we are totally screwed. I've never felt that we could trust Facebook to be the official distribution system for journalism on the net.

This is the first step to creating many distribution nets, so a competitive market can develop. I've bootstrapped successful tech projects before. This is how it begins! It's not that hard, it just requires cooperation and a clear goal.

Facebook is not thriving, for me

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 15:48:05 GMT

I'm guessing what Facebook saw in numbers is what I feel as a user. It's drying up.

The most interesting part of Facebook is the On This a Day In feature, and even that is starting to scare me as we relive 2016 and 2017.

It's very quiet on Facebook these days. And to the extent it's not quiet it's profoundly depressing.

I don't feel it's too hyper to say Facebook is dying.

Not sure there was anything they could have done to prevent it, but a dramatic U-turn away from news says, to me, they see it too now.

Mon, 15 Jan 2018 00:19:09 GMT

I changed the header image from the snowy winter scene, to Martin Luther King, in honor of his birthday tomorrow.

Sun, 14 Jan 2018 23:20:35 GMT

Can you imagine what would have happened if the Hawaii message had happened in NYC or DC. The panic would have been unreal. People would have died. And the odds of a retaliatory strike would have been there too. This is how wars start, btw.

Open source feeds for journalists

Sun, 14 Jan 2018 17:28:04 GMT

Yesterday Mathew Ingram, a longtime friend and professional journalist, put out a call for feeds for a reboot of his use of RSS.

This got me thinking. What if a community created such a list of feeds, and did it over a period of weeks or months, with discussion, and a certain amount of deliberation.

We could use the tools of open source to do this project.

So, I've set up a new GitHub repository where we can work on that list of feeds. I'll write a small piece of software that periodically turns that collection into an OPML file suitable for use in a feed reader. From there who knows what happens, but just getting a list of feeds for journalists to follow, collaboratively, while it doesn't involve much work or technical know-how, would be a major improvement over the way we all do this individually, for ourselves.

I'll post updates on this project to this blog.

Re the River5 file-reading problem

Sun, 14 Jan 2018 15:52:44 GMT

Following up on yesterday's report on River5's file reading problem at startup, with futher thought I realized I did not have a solution to the problem.

The way I proposed doing it yesterday would have resulted in just as many lost items at startup. The problem was that the central routine was sending the JSON text of the file to each of the callbacks. Each would then parse the text, producing a structure which it would then link into the cache. Only one of the structures would survive in the cache, the last one linked in, and it would have one of the new items. The other new items would be lost. In other words, no improvement.

So I changed the code and had the central routine parse the text, and call each of the callbacks with the resulting structure. Now all the callbacks add their items to the same struct, (unless I'm still missing something) and the result is zero lost items.

I've created a gist with the new code, and left the old gist in place. I have not yet released a version of River5 that uses this new approach. Testing it here first then thinking about how I want to deploy.

Note this version is more complex because it has to initialize the struct once and only once, so the central routne, readRiverFile, must receive a callback that initializes the structure when the read fails, which it will do when the river file is first created.

I haven't received any comments, but they are still welcome.

Sat, 13 Jan 2018 19:12:42 GMT

When I was a kid, at the height of the cold war, I had dreams of looking out my window and seeing dozens of mushroom clouds off in the distance.

Sun, 14 Jan 2018 02:52:22 GMT

The other night Julia Ioffe said something wise on one of the shows: Almost everyone who immigrates comes from a shithole. Immigrating is no fun. It has to be worth it. People from Norway don't want to leave because it's not a shithole.

Sat, 13 Jan 2018 18:32:30 GMT

Theory: If two reporters use RSS systematically to gather news, and they combine lists, each reporter gets more value than they would on their own. If interests are aligned, but not too aligned, there's potential value beyond that.

Sun, 14 Jan 2018 01:36:50 GMT

Maybe the thing to do is to start a group of journalists who love and understand RSS and want to use it in new ways to make their journalism better.


Sat, 13 Jan 2018 20:23:57 GMT

I wonder sometimes what goes thru people's minds when you offer to help and it's something you're expert in, and they ignore you.

It's been happening with news people constantly since I stared working on news software and formats on the web.

I can't imagine what ulterior motive they think I have. I don't make any money from the work. I do it because I am sure that unless news thrives on the net we are totally screwed.

Don't they see that too?


River5 file-reading problem

Sat, 13 Jan 2018 18:34:33 GMT

I've now had a chance to study the problem reported with River5 a few days ago.

The first part of solving it was writing down concisely what the problem was. Carsten Senger did a great job, but he isn't responsible for the fix, I am. And I wrote the code and am familiar with how it's organized and how it got to be how it is.

The problem statement

  • There are two kinds of rivers, ones associated with a list, and ones associated with a feed. The problem applies to both kinds of rivers, but is more likely to show up in the feed-based ones.
  • When a new item comes in, it is added to the rivers of all the lists it's in, and in the river for the feed it came from. The river files are stored in files on disk. We cache them in memory. When we want to add an item to a river, we first check if it's in memory. If is, we add the item and we're done. If it's not in memory, we read it from disk, and then add the item to the river. This is where we run into trouble.
  • The trouble is that there might be two or more new items from one feed for one river. The first item gets added okay. But when we try to add the second item, since reading the file takes so long, we will find it's not in the cache, so we start a second read. We add our item, but the first item probably isn't in the copy we loaded. It would be an amazing coincidence if it was. So no matter what, we just lost one of the new items from the river. If there are N new items in the first read, we will lose N-1 of them.

The solution

  • The best solution is this -- create a queue for each river when the first read is initiated. Add its callback as the first and at that time only item in the queue. If a new read comes in while we're still reading the first one, add its callback to the queue. Once the file is read, call all the callbacks in the queue, concurrently, and delete the queue for that file.
  • I also considered doing it brute force, simply reading all the rivers at startup before doing any feed reads. But I wanted to write the code. And when I did I was glad, it's really interesting how well JavaScript handles this kind of gymnastics. I laughed out loud a few times while putting it together. Code that makes you laugh is worth writing imho. 💥

Code review

  • I put the queue code into a Gist for review. If you spot any problems, post a comment there. Thanks.

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 21:45:08 GMT

President Shithole goes for his physical.

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 19:19:45 GMT

XML-RPC started in 1998, which means it's about to be 20 years old. I think this is the first post about it. Not very specific. We were already working on it, but we hadn't yet hooked up with the people at Microsoft. From a quick scan it looks like the actual protocol we standardized on didn't come out publicly until June. Pretty sure we had something working internally at UserLand in March or April.

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 19:27:39 GMT

Ooops. We missed the 20th anniversary of RSS. The format that became RSS was rolled out in December 1997. Here's the piece where that was announced. I guess we missed the party. Open formats don't have PR firms. 💥

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 19:40:16 GMT

It's really weird, the date on the piece is wrong. It was December 27, not December 15. You can see that in the copy, it talks about being between Christmas and New Years. And mentions a piece that wasn't written until December 23. And I actually remember that this was on the 27th. Somehow, at some point, my CMS screwed this up. Which is weird because this is a static file. Looks like it was rebuilt some time in 2004. In any case if anyone wonders, the date is incorrect.

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 16:28:42 GMT

An unusually long podcast about Occam, Wolff, war, medicine, programming, debugging, hacking, Russia, war again, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Watergate, Buzzfeed News, Ben Smith, the dossier, ladders, the elite, working together, and the day it hits us that this is not Watergate, will be another day like November 8, 2016. The gatekeepers, the elite, don't want to give up their positions on the ladder, so ideas that threaten that can't get through. Instead we have to be systematic about letting ideas in. There's a lot of tough love in here, but it's important.

Media Files:

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 13:53:16 GMT

I was out walking in the morning rush hour in Manhattan, everyone looks so nice. I wondered, since #metoo has the world been treating attractive women better? Has cat-calling diminished? Leery looks? Inappropriate comments?

Wolff is Occam's News

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 15:05:47 GMT

I've been pushing the idea of Occam's News, where we talk about what's obvious not what we can prove. Michael Wolff's approach is exactly that. It's not what you can prove, but it's what we know anyway. Both this and proof-based news are valid and needed.

Wars are fought with Occam's spy info, and guesswork about what the enemy is doing, and trying to figure out what's a decoy and what's real.

Also medicine. Sometimes they don't know what disease you have and they just start treating the one they think you might have and see if it works.

Programming, what I do, is most definitely not Occam-like, it's proof-based. But debugging is very much an Occam art.

MTP Daily is the worst cable show

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 14:05:54 GMT

I watched MTP Daily yesterday. For a few minutes, and then went back to work. It's an awful awful show. The worst of the worst. I hate the show because Chuck Todd only talks about the horse race. I swear, the day after the 2016 election he was already talking about how people were "positioned" for 2020. This kind of analysis never means anything. Go back and listen to the talk about the 2016 election in 2015 for a clue. And they don't even think about elections in a realistic way. Yesterday they were talking about how the Dems failed to sell competence last time (Hillary), so they probably shouldn't try that again. I wonder if they listen to themselves. There was a time, believe it or not, when both parties nominated people who were fairly competent. Even Ronald Reagan, who people thought was a joke, had served as governor of California before becoming president. Anyway, assuming competence is an attribute like hair color or gender, height or whatever, the next election is exactly the time to be selling competence. Why? Because the electorate flip flops. We always elect the opposite of what we elected last time. For example, we elected Trump to follow Obama. Obama is black and Trump is a racist. Trump throws tantrums and Obama's nickname is "No Drama." Trump is a complete idiot, drooling at the mouth, and Obama has a law degree, is a professor, a total technocrat who probably aced every test he took. Trump probably bought his grades with money or blackmail (probably blackmail). Extrapolating, the next president will probably be a woman, obviously -- but bland and reliable, not too old, known for listening and studious, even pious, and not rich. And not a celebrity. Although I don't know much about her, I would take a good look at Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota. She's intelligent, passionate, confident, speaks well, has a sense of humor, is well-educated, young but not too young, thoughtful, and has the right values to start to undo the damage done by Repubs during the reign of Trump. Why not Kirsten Gillibrand? She has many of the same qualities as Klobuchar, but she's from New York. I come from NY too, but I don't think our president should. NY is our largest city, but it's actually a pretty small place. Trump stood out in NY, but we're seeing how that doesn't work globally. But even if it's great to have a president from NY, remember we flip-flop, and I'd say the odds of two consecutive presidents from NY is pretty slim. Anyway, as you can see, there are some interesting things to think about for 2020, even though it's so far away. Of course they discussed none of this on MTP Daily yesterday. PS: You want a courageous Democratic ticket? Klobuchar for president with Keith Ellison as VP. Unlike most Democrats these two can complete a sentence without sounding like an idiot. Both from Minnesota, btw, but look at how different they are. They say to white men who vote Trump, fuck you -- you had your chance, this is the way things look now. Get a pair, growth the fuck up and let's really start winning. [...]

I have no idea what Facebook announced

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 13:53:38 GMT

They announced something.

What this all means, I have no freaking clue.

Since the Algorithm is proprietary, I don't know what it did before that was so different. I gather they're reneging on their deal with professional journalism?

I always thought friends had huge influence over what I see in the timeline.

And won't Putin still be able to buy ads to fuel the virality of his mischief?

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 16:57:13 GMT

What if two networks, say Netflix and Amazon, did a deal. They would both do 1-hour-weekly dramas, one the reboot of The West Wing, and the other a Republican version. Find a prominent Democrat-leaning celebrity to be POTUS on the Democratic show, and a prominent Republican for the other. Offer the first job to Oprah, if she doesn't want to do it, how about Barack or Michelle Obama? Joe Biden. Hillary Clinton? Lawrence O'Donnell or Rosie O'Donnell or maybe someone from CNN like Brian Stelter. And then privately tell the president that he could have the second job, permanently, no impeachment -- president for life, on TV. Everyone can be entertained by all the crazy shit Trump tweets. He can nuke anyone he wants because it'll just be on TV. I think he might go for it. His "base" would go apeshit. Let Trump be Trump! (Note: He has to resign the real presidency before he can have the TV job.)

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 15:19:02 GMT

New truce with Facebook. Every day I try to write something with no links or style so I can post it to Facebook. I also post it to Twitter via

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 18:15:44 GMT

I got a Chrome deprecation message in the JavaScript console when I post HTML in some new software I'm working on. Encoding it fixed it.

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 15:22:42 GMT

I'd like to have a personal social net that's coffee house size. Play a few tunes, have a couple of drinks, tell a few stories, and come back tomorrow and the night after that. There's a bouncer at the door so if you come in all nasty and shit, we kick your ass out.

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 15:13:35 GMT

I saw Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri yesterday. I really liked it. The best acting. A bunch of sad stories, told with humor. You know it has to be good cause Frances McDormand is in it. Like I, Tonya and Lady Bird, two other movies I've seen in the last few days, it's a story of a mother suffering for a daughter. All beautiful movies. The thing that makes a movie great, as always, is suspension of disbelief. If you get into the story, the movie is good. If you are still in the story the next day, it's great.

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 14:48:01 GMT

In human relations there are no absolute truths, just points of view. That's why when someone says someone else is tone deaf -- the person who's doing the saying is the one who's out of tune. Further, if you're trying to rep a cause, you'd better do a lot of listening, or you won't do much persuading. No one wants to be proven wrong, and if that's what you're selling you're not going to be heard much. This is what my grandfather said to me as a very young person, he called it the art of living. I remember the words, even if I didn't understand the idea. Now I do. It's the thing life teaches you. Listen.

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 14:52:36 GMT

Who knew some people didn't like cilantro? Personally, I really like the stuff. But if it tasted like death, as Julia Child said, well I wouldn't like it either. This is one area where I got good genes.

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 14:53:27 GMT

A few weeks in and I love my Sony headphones more and more. The great thing about them is they are so easy to wear. I gather most high end headphones put weight on your neck that's hard to bear. Not with the Sony's. I also bought a fancy pair of Bowers & Wilkins headphones. They sound great, but they don't wear so well. For one thing, they lose the connection to the iPhone too often, leaving me stranded on the street fumbling with Bluetooth, feeling like an idiot. Never happens with the Sony's. They seem to have the Bluetooth thing down. And the sound! It's so luxurious. For all kinds of music, even for listening to a podcast. If you listen a lot and can afford an upgrade, these is a seriously nice headset.

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 14:57:48 GMT

Everybody's crying mercy when they don't know the meaning of the word.

My unHappy iPhone

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 16:44:43 GMT

My iPhone is complaining about how I'm almost out of space. it says I can get more space by letting it upload all my photos to iCloud. The phone needs some AI because I deleted all my photos in an attempt to get rid of the message (copying them to a local 5TB disk, no I don't need your storage Apple).

I wish my iPhone had a button that I could click that would say -- delete all the shit that I never use or listen to or watch to free up 1/2 the space on the phone.

It seems the computer would be better at this than I am. I can't find all the shit I never use or listen to or watch. That's probably why I never use it, listen to it or watch it. ;-)

Tue, 09 Jan 2018 21:47:29 GMT

Really interesting River5 bug reported.

Our challenge is to work together

Tue, 09 Jan 2018 21:58:12 GMT

Suppose you expend X effort to get a job done. Further, suppose if you spend another 10% someone else will get the same job done. Another 25% and you leave enough behind so someone else can do the same job in a year, without your help.

Given the challenges we have now, I'd say the value of just working cooperatively eclipses the value of the what you accomplish with the work alone, no matter how important it is.

Every day I see more evidence that each of us is working for our own individual glory. I'd say that's the biggest problem we have, bigger than climate change, bigger than nuclear armageddon. Because if we can't get past this way of thinking we have no hope of solving the other problems in front of us, because they clearly require massive unprecedented cooperation.

The moral is the story is this -- slow the fuck down and work with other people. Measure your success by the success of others.

We flip flop each time

Tue, 09 Jan 2018 14:55:58 GMT

On Twitter, Touré says: "I don’t understand why Trump’s failure means we should ban wealthy celebrities from the Presidency."

To which I said: "Banning is the wrong word. We flip-flop each time. The next one will be boring so we can all get some rest."

I've noticed something -- each time we switch presidents we choose someone very different from the one before.

In my lifetime here are the switches I've witnessed.

  • Nixon to Carter to Reagan to Bush I to Clinton to Bush II to Obama to Trump.

And how I'd characterize the change.

  • Evil to saint to actor to bureaucrat to scholar to beer drinker to professor to idiot.

Yes I know I left out Ford, but we didn't choose him, Nixon did.

According to this theory the Dems should nominate a former librarian to oppose Trump in 2020, if he makes it that far.

Also, if we're going to have another celebrity president, have them run for governor first, and serve, and let's find out if they can do the job. Let them find out too.

Mon, 08 Jan 2018 19:39:42 GMT

Poll: Oprah Winfrey for president?

Mon, 08 Jan 2018 19:43:41 GMT

Quick demo of Radio3, my browser-based linkblogging tool.

Mon, 08 Jan 2018 16:25:32 GMT

Oprah for president really is fake news. The press should back off. There is no presidential election coming up any time soon.

Mon, 08 Jan 2018 14:42:51 GMT

I watched the beginning of the Golden Globes, the hubris still fully on display, with added depravity. I bet most of the people there used to kiss up to Harvey Weinstein. The "joke" about his death in 20 years seemed to tempt fate. Turned it off. These are not moral leaders.

Something I wrote on Facebook three years ago

Mon, 08 Jan 2018 14:27:41 GMT

I am not a Muslim, so what Muslims believe and what I believe are not the same thing.

I think the story of religion as told by the Qoran and the two versions of the Bible are nice stories, but have no basis in reality. They are bedtime stories our ancestors left for us so we wouldn't have to live paralyzed with fear over what dying means.

We are all searching for meaning in our lives. My guess is that if we actually knew the answer it would be horribly depressing to our egos. The answer isn't to force your will on other people it's rather to learn to live with uncertainty.

We aren't going to die so you can keep believing in the lies your religion tells you. Much better if you let your religion die and join the rest of us and develop a sense of humor about the fact that your life has no meaning.

While I wrote this I developed hiccups.

I think this is God telling me I'm on the right track.

Sun, 07 Jan 2018 18:40:35 GMT

Remember what's really going on in DC.

Sun, 07 Jan 2018 18:44:42 GMT

I made more improvements to the Trolling howto. Added section headings, and Twitter and Facebook metadata. I'm glad I did it this way. Some topics require continued investment. Trolling is certainly one of them. The new site has helped me organize it.

Sun, 07 Jan 2018 17:54:21 GMT

This is where the Republican Party turned.

Sun, 07 Jan 2018 01:54:05 GMT

A new Trolling howto. It was originally a blog post during the election. Simple idea, don't feed the troll, explained.

Sat, 06 Jan 2018 19:26:24 GMT

If you feel you are part of the #resistance, then you must not quote-tweet Trump. His great power is that he gets so much attention when he does something. If that lessens, his power diminishes. It might be the single best thing you can do to resist.

The Slow Burn podcast RSS feed

Sat, 06 Jan 2018 17:02:37 GMT

First, here is the URL of the Slow Burn podcast feed. And here's the story of how we found it... On Maddow last night she had a segment on the Slow Burn podcast, a series from Slate that replays Watergate in real time (I think, not entirely clear). I had heard of the podcast but wasn't that interested because I lived through Watergate, and don't have fond memories of it, reliving it doesn't sound like fun. And I have podcasts that I regularly listen to that I'm falling behind on. There's a lot of good stuff out there. But Maddow said it was a must-listen, so I set out to see if I could find a link to its RSS feed, so I could add it to the rotation at This is always much more work than it should be but I always in the end get the feed. So I looked. There doesn't seem to be a single page for the podcast. There is RSS metadata in some of the pages, but none of them appear to point to a feed just for this podcast. So I did what I often do, I posted a tweet asking if anyone else can find the feed. This is often how I get it. People like to show off, and many of the people who follow me are technically proficient. This time a friend forwarded it to the show runner, and he responded, with instructions to become a member of Slate Plus, then the feed would be apparent. Well I'm not going to do that. I just wanted to try listening to it, and maybe tell people about it on my blog if I thought it was interesting. Lots of confusion, as you can see in the ensuing thread. It turns out you do not have to join Slate Plus to get the feed. Rob Fahrni figured it out. "To find it I had to subscribe to it from iTunes then go to the Podcast menu and select Copy Podcast URL to find it." Oh god. Any answer that involves using iTunes is total nonstarter. I wonder if people who produce podcasts know how bad iTunes rep is with users? Here's an xmlviewer link to the feed. It avoids all the disgusting tricks that browsers do to try to keep you from looking at the contents of a feed. We still have much to do here to make this stuff usable. I'd be happy to work with the people who produce them, but honestly almost none of them seem to know how podcasting came to be or what the value is in having an open ecosystem that isn't part of a silo. Podcasting still very much is open, but we're not getting much of the benefit, because it's so damn hard to find the openness. ;-) [...]

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 13:51:11 GMT

A comment on the way journalism covers Trump. Too much emphasis on the legal case against him. Too many lawyers. It's really easy and cheap to pick up on the scandal du jour in the NYT and invite lawyers to discuss it, but I want to also be informed on what the government is doing. We can "track" the case against Trump as one of the stories, but it's not the only one. What's going on in Puerto Rico, Pakistan, Israel, legal marijuana (Maddow did cover this yesterday, to her credit). I'm thinking of giving up my nightly habit of two hours of MSNBC with a bit of CNN added-in.

Fri, 05 Jan 2018 15:40:13 GMT

Writing and publishing threads on Twitter is a big deal. Twitter is adding the feature to the core product, but is more of an editor, it automates a bunch of things that Twitter makes you do by hand, such as wrapping tweets, numbering them, adding hash tags. It also creates an RSS feed of your threads, so they can be shared in other environments.