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Scripting News

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

Published: Thu, 22 Mar 2018 23:47:40 GMT

Last Build Date: Thu, 22 Mar 2018 23:47:12 GMT

Copyright: © 1994-2017 Dave Winer.

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 16:54:09 GMT

Observed: People don't know what they don't know.

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 23:44:31 GMT

Lincoln had a team of rivals. Trump is assembling a team of nutjobs.

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 21:04:15 GMT

Today's Daily podcast was a disaster. They interviewed Zuck. And they have no idea of the context that Facebook exists in, as far as they knew they FB has no competition (there is Google of course), there is no open web, and it probably never crossed their mind that lock-in might be a problem. It's always the problem in tech. Poor Zuck, never thought he would have to deal with these problems. They actually have sympathy for him! It's still the baby squirrels thing. There's an easy way out Mark. Set everyone free. Let people use Facebook not because it's the only choice, but rather because it's the best. Eventually his monopoly will break, and it will be a shock to him and the economy. We might come to think of Facebook as too big to fail. Which btw, might have been a fair question to ask him too. I love the Daily, but this is the problem, when they finally get to a subject you know well, we find out what we always find out. They aren't doing a good job of representing the rest of us.

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 23:47:40 GMT

Tonight's Facebook gem.

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 16:50:46 GMT

A note for the Programmer's Ethos. All users shall be treated with respect. They will be listened to and assumed by default to know what they're talking about. On the other hand, users must take responsibility for their presence on the net, and beware of the costs and tradeoffs of using different services. All we have to do is clearly offer the information they need. If they don't listen, that's on them.

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 14:07:38 GMT

Facebook is what the web has become. Its closed nature (no linking) is forcing Google to try to hijack what remains of the web to try to compete, to co-exist. They should both disarm, and stop fighting for control and just provide compatible services and let the open web be.

If I were dictator

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 16:22:11 GMT

If I were benevolent dictator of the net in 2018, here would be my first decree.

  • Make it so that leaving Facebook is just a matter of signing out. And that does not mean leaving your friends behind.

This would would make it possible for anyone to compete with Facebook, which would keep Facebook (and their competitors) from grabbing too much power. It's Facebook's lock-in that makes the problems inexorable.

And Facebook would have to support all the protocols they currently don't support. Most important -- linking. That's how their walls are implemented. It's probably a fix they could implement in 24 hours. And would work wonders at turning the lights back on outside Facebook.

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 18:10:58 GMT

Since people are talking about regulating Facebook, how about requiring them to support the basic features of the web in their posts. So you can add links to what you write there. I don't do much writing on Facebook because they're basically killing what I love most about the web. I can't support that.

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 17:57:22 GMT

Assume Amazon, Google and Apple are listening to every word, grunt, angry utterance, fight with your SO, toilet flush, door opening and closing in your house through their speaker products. And remembering them. If you're not into the whole surveillance thing, unplug it, and put it away somewhere safe. I wouldn't just throw it out, I'm pretty sure it retains its ability to phone home on your behalf. Imagine what the Chinese version of these devices might do.

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 17:55:02 GMT

BTW, it's not a good idea to have big tech companies control the cash flowing into news orgs, because more and more news is going to have to look at them unfavorably. We don't want them to have any more leverage than they already have.

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 16:41:27 GMT

Poll: When Trump and Kim Jong Un get together, they will talk about...

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 16:11:22 GMT

For those who have been following my eye infection saga, here and on Facebook, I am happy to report that the eye is now clear. I'm wearing the contact lens. No double vision. But I have to keep an eye on it. 💥

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 14:23:38 GMT

Want to know what new scandal the Bannons are working on now? We're so preoccupied with what happened two years ago. Time waits for no one. I suggest reading this piece written just before the election.

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 14:13:21 GMT

Pro tip. If you want to know what I think about something, search my blog. If I have an opinion it will be there. For example, what I think of Battlestar Galactica.

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 14:16:51 GMT

I'm still using Facebook. I knew what they were doing all along. I'm happy everyone else knows it now too. That said, please also use your blog!

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 13:51:10 GMT

Re Trump congratulating Putin even though his advisors put DO NOT CONGRATULATE on the crib sheet. Lots of people are like that. You say please don't do this. They aren't really listening. So all that registers is the thing that you didn't want them to do, not the fact that you don't want them to do it.

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 13:20:48 GMT

I had to explain to a non-technical friend the significance of Google breaking HTTP in their browser. I offered an analogy. I've been building and living in a house for 24 years. Some of the annexes are falling apart. Others have skeletal remains, and others have become porn sites because I forgot to go to City Hall and re-register the deed for that part of the property (a rule with no exceptions). Honestly, it's a mess. But the core house is fine. Lots of parties and dinners happen there, and we have great photos of them all lining the corridors. It's a huge house for one person, but I call it home. I like it. Then Google comes into the house, uninvited, and says that electricity is too dangerous. We're going to run on new kind of power in our world. I honestly never think about the electricity. What? They say you may not remember where all the wires are buried, but you must dig them up and replace them and rebuild your whole house from the ground up with the new system. Since this neighborhood doesn't support the new kind of power, Google continues, you'll have to move the whole thing, too. Hope you don't mind. Hold on a minute. Here's the thing -- I don't have to do what they say. I can go on living in the house and have parties just like before and stick with the original way of powering the place. Right where it is. No need to change neighborhoods. It's just that people who use the new Google-powered system will get a big warning when they come to visit. "This place is awful," the warning will say. "It has terrorists. If you go inside they'll probably kill you." To which I say, whatever.

When the end is near

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 16:51:59 GMT

I'm having a back and forth with Brent on Twitter about maxing out on change, something that happens to every generation at some time. I was reminded of a story I told once about Don Hewitt, the creator of 60 Minutes. It was in a comment, I need to get it on my blog and in my archive, so here it is.

  • I remember seeing an interview with 60 Minutes producer Don Hewitt, as it turns out a few weeks before he died. He said in the interview that he just couldn't keep up with the technology anymore. And you could tell he meant it. This is a guy who had been at the leading edge of media technology for most of his life, was one of the major innovators. There does come a time, it seems, when you just can't deal with it any more. Your mind gives up.
  • I saw it in my own father, shortly before he died. I was trying to show him how Twitter worked. He wasn't getting it. This is a guy who prided himself on understanding computers, in every way possible, his whole adult life. He told me he would be pushing up daisies soon, and there was no point. His words. He had given up. And he was within his rights to do that. I didn't argue.

That said, Brent and I, we're still kickin up some dirt every now and then! 🚀

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 14:57:40 GMT

I've been saying this myself. That's why self-driving cars are exactly the wrong technology to be investing in. Move people closer together so we don't need cars to move around.

The tweeting president is here to stay

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 13:50:15 GMT

Imagine if you were alive during World War I and witnessed the first use of airplanes in war. You might have thought it was unfair, or novel, or a temporary thing, because airplanes were so new, they had never before been used in war. You might have imagined that things would go back to normal after the war, but of course that would have been wrong. Air power was used in World War II, and nowadays the country with air superiority has a huge advantage over ones that don't.

Same thing with the tweeting president. Repubs say they don't pay attention. In the 2016 campaign the Democrats made fun of tweeting Trump. Many people today expect that the next president will go back to using social media in a hands-off way, but I think they're wrong about that.

After Obama used social media so effectively in the 2008 campaign, I fully expected he would continue after taking office, using it as his bully pulpit, using the power to spread the gospel of democratic media all around the world. Instead he backed off, governed from the White House and Air Force One, and the presidential Twitter account was used for simple public relations, like the weekly radio broadcast. Nothing controversial or even informative appeared in the presidential feed.

Right now the press is making an issue of how social media was used in the campaign and beyond. It seems some decisions will now be made. It's essential that the coverage become better and more informed about what's really going on. The things they're calling Facebook on, what they call breaches are actually contractual, built into their terms of service and their business model.

We have to put some controls on Facebook and Google, that's for sure. But the controls should be very different from what's being contemplated by journalism. They should be prevented from taking effective ownership of publicly owned protocols. It's as if Exxon or JP Morgan decided to build in Central Park, to the exclusion of everyone else. We would of course see that as a violation. But beacuse it's happening right now in cyberspace, it can be hard to visualize. If things proceed as they have been, the press will tune into the hijacking of the open Internet five years after it is a fait accompli, long after any intervention can do any good.

You don't have to take my word for it. This is what Tim Berners-Lee was saying in his open letter on the anniversary of the web earlier this month.

Let's work together. Programmers aren't just coders. Some of us have had full careers in the public sphere, and have encountered the problems you're covering now, years ago. We know what comes next, because we're living it now.

Like air power in warfare, the power of networking is here to stay. We're at a formative moment. Let's break with tradition and do something thoughtful, so we can all benefit from the technology, not just the richest and most powerful among us, but everyone, as the technology has the potential to do.

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 20:37:48 GMT

I like public transit. I don't use cars much. I identify with the pedestrian who was killed in Tempe. I often cross streets outside crosswalks. I ride bikes in the city. I depend on interaction with drivers to stay safe. No one asked me if I want self-driving cars. If they did I'd say no. Let's invest in mass transit, and concentrate people, so we have a chance at saving our species. More reliance on cars is the wrong way to go.

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 14:29:21 GMT

George Girton: "OMG thank you for posting such a funny article about Powder Mountain, formerly a ski resort in a relatively flat area of the Wasatch Mountains in Utah. I skied there about 30 years ago with my young daughter. We had a great time. In a good year, they still get enough snow that you can ski there. I think the only ski areas for sale these days are the ones that aren’t really worth anything anymore.(At least as ski areas). Anyway, thanks for that Guardian article, what a send up. That was great!"

I'm no fan of Facebook, but...

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 20:01:18 GMT

I've been writing about tech companies mishandling PR catastrophes for the whole time I've been blogging, about 24 years. The first one was Intel, with their Pentium chip and its floating point errors. When it came out that it made errors at times, that would show up in Excel spreadsheets, the press had a field day. Intel protested, we've always said floating point has errors, it's not news, but they ended up losing the argument and had to replace a lot of chips.

Microsoft of the 1990s was a series of self-inflicted PR disasters, culminating in a consent decree. They seemed to feel at the time, about the Windows economy, the same way President Trump feels today about the Department of Justice.

Now Facebook is dealing with something similar. They have been providing free of charge, through their API, the ability to crawl the social graph and get info about many times more people than use your app. Like Intel with the Pentium floating point problem, this isn't news. But the press is reporting it as a data breach, and implying that the users weren't asked for permission, when they certainly were, and certainly gave it. The problem imho isn't what Facebook does, it's the naïveté of users, and the press not knowing or caring how the systems actually work. This should have been a story a long time ago. Users of Facebook have known about it for a long time. There's even a cute way to explain it. "On Facebook you're not the customer, you're the product."

I've written software against the Facebook API, and accessing information about the social graph is part of the API. We may not like what Cambridge Analytica did with the data, but I don't think they did anything that every other company that makes products that work with Facebook doesn't already do. Including of course Facebook itself.

Techmeme's new podcast

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 13:28:48 GMT

I've listened to a couple of episodes of the new Techmeme podcast. I was really excited to hear about it. I imagined something like the Daily podcast or Fresh Air, or any number of podcasts built around an interview with an interesting person, with the focus on tech. The Techmeme podcast takes a different approach, one more like radio news programs of the past, where the presenter, Brian McCullough, reads summaries of stories that are presumably the top items for the day on Techmeme.

Called Ride Home, each episode begins with the headlines followed by what I assume is its positioning statement: "Here's what you missed today in the world of tech," followed by a synopsis of each story, read from a script. There are other podcasts that assume this voice -- notably the Whistlestop podcast with CBS newsperson John Dickerson.

I want to like this podcast because I'm a longtime reader of Techmeme, and a fan of McCullough's Internet History Podcast. I was hoping it would be like a short version of that podcast every day, a candid interview with a tech newsmaker or a reporter at one of the pubs that Techmeme covers. I will keep listening because this is potentially an important podcast.

On the other hand, I understand that this is the format they would arrive at by adapting Techmeme to a podcast. But sometimes a literal translation isn't the most useful approach. Techmeme is of course useful as a web page, refreshed many times during the day. Voice offers an opportunity to approach the mind through a different channel, to spread new ideas, more than "what you missed."

It is of course one of the podcasts available at

Eye report

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 16:05:11 GMT

My right eye is much better.

Went to the doctor. Now I'm taking a steroid.

Next appointment on Wednesday.

Until then I can't wear the contact in the right eye.

So my vision remains very dysfunctional.

I have managed to be able to write and write code, even.

My brain is learning to cope. At all levels.

And the sense of humor we develop with age is helping a lot.


Sun, 18 Mar 2018 18:19:22 GMT

Braintrust query: Does your podcast client support RSS?

Sun, 18 Mar 2018 19:04:35 GMT

I hope Mueller has a dead man switch, that dumps all his accumulated evidence if El Orange succeeds in firing him.

Sun, 18 Mar 2018 18:01:52 GMT

At some point the majority that does not support Trump, even at his most moderate, will have to act if the Republican leadership doesn't. And I don't see how waiting for the election can work. We have to act as the Florida high school students did.

Sun, 18 Mar 2018 16:16:07 GMT

Poll: If Trump fired Mueller, Repubs in Congress would..?

Sun, 18 Mar 2018 17:15:51 GMT

If you don't believe the network is our civilization, it's in your face.

Sun, 18 Mar 2018 18:34:04 GMT

This is a test, please ignore. ;-)

Sat, 17 Mar 2018 14:40:47 GMT

Trump is Morrie in Goodfellas. Putin is the character De Niro plays.

Sat, 17 Mar 2018 15:15:14 GMT

I did some work on the xmlviewer app. I have some ideas on how to improve it, which I explain in this braintrust query.

We're in an asymmetric war, not Watergate

Sat, 17 Mar 2018 19:42:11 GMT

I guess the Trump people feel they have to move now. I don't think they'll have much support. Even his base will be split. Obviously there's something explosive about to come out. But this isn't Watergate. It's more like BattleStar Galactica. It's a war and we're fighting an inhuman enemy, one that doesn't behave like a human. It's an amalgam of all of humanity.

Trump being gone won't help us very much because so much has changed. A silent war has been going on. We have not had any defenses. It's an asymmetric war, unlike any we've ever (not) fought. The press is oblivious, still, focused on the Watergate-ness of the situation and missing that now our society and economy are fully wired, to an extent not even foreshadowed in the time of Watergate.

The press ought to listen to techies. We're still seen as low-level workers. But our counterparts in Russia and elsewhere are undermining everything. Here too probably.

Nailing Trump won't fix it. It would be like killing a comedian, a distraction. The real action has been on our networks.

Remember what McLuhan said. It's not about armies anymore, it's about media. And we, all of us, are media now.

Imagine journalism as a rectangular box. They've tried to move what they do from print to the net without changing the shape of the box. In their world this all as a replay of Watergate. It's familiar, they know what to do, and btw it had a happy ending. That's what we call wishful thinking. A bit of a bedtime story.

We always prepare to fight the last war. We're doing it again.

Fri, 16 Mar 2018 16:08:27 GMT

My brain is somewhat adjusting to the new vision situation. I have five old pairs of glasses to try out and think I have settled on one tha's best for computer work. I did a podcast (below) because that doesn't use my eyes for much. My brain really wants to do something creative. Let's see if I can figure it out. ;-)

Fri, 16 Mar 2018 15:19:43 GMT

A podcast about Linux Journal, Doc Searls and why he became its new editor-in-chief. Doc, one of the Cluetrain authors, has a vision for advertising that works. If it works, it will not only revolutionize advertising, it will also help get software development back on track. His project really has the potential.

Media Files:

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 20:32:17 GMT

The other day a friend asked for a reference that showed the role I played in the bootstrap of podcasting. I looked around, and most of the stories written by journalists are wildly innaccurate. Then I realized there's a better way to show the work. I archived the earliest podcasts so they'd be easily found. This is imho the best anchor point. There's no question these are podcasts. They were a collaboration between myself, Chris Lydon and Bob Doyle. There was important work that predated it, with myself and Adam Curry, and podcasting came together as a growing medium in the summer of 2004 after the DNC with the iPodder group, all independent of what we were doing at Harvard. But these podcasts, the BloggerCon sessions, and the Berkman Thursday meetups, all were central to the bootstrap. Others have managed to insert themselves into the story, they don't belong there. It's important, if we want to create more open media types, to tell the story accurately.

Linkrot is a kind of API breakage

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 15:14:59 GMT

There are APIs everywhere you look on the web.

Yesterday, Jay Rosen reported on Twitter that the NYT, in a redesign, had eliminated its paragraph-level permalinks (like the ones you see on Scripting News). He was peeved, for sure, and imho had every right to be. I asked if this broke existing links, i.e. had he been using the feature (I assume so) and did the links still point to paragraphs on the NYT site (yes, of course they pointed there, but did the links work when clicked). It's hard to phrase this question for non-developers, but the issue is real.

Users don't like steps backwards. This applies equally to word processers and websites. It's all software. Only in this case they're developers too because URLs are an API, and as we know APIs break. 💥

Does the NYT have an obligation to continue to support this feature? Of course not. But one of the unwritten rules of the web, going way back, is that linkrot sucks and we should do everything we can to minimize it. The NYT has been conspicuously excellent at not breaking links, btw, over the 20-plus year history of news on the web.

To get an idea of how bad linkrot is, here's an archive page for this blog for November 1999. Try clicking on some links. So many of them are broken.

PS: As far as I'm concerned credit for the concept and the term linkrot goes to Jakob Nielsen, but it's hard to find any references to his authoritative piece on the subject. How nice that his 20-year-old piece is still there and renders nicely in a 2018 browser. It would be ironic if it had been lost to linkrot. 🚀

Umlauts, day 2

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 15:06:07 GMT

Re: yesterday's River5 issue.

Okay we know what the problem is, and the solution as well.

Of course it's an encoding issue.

Explained here.

My eyes, day 2

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 15:04:13 GMT

My eyes don't work very well this week. As a result I can barely see when I'm out walking. To look at the price on a cash register I have to put my face in it. Add to that my hearing isn't so great, it's like a comedy when I'm out and about.

It's kind of fun to walk around Manhattan barely being able to see. No chance of eye contact. Which means I win every faceoff. That's one of the rules of being a pedestrian in NY, if fail to avert your eyes, you lose. ​

With the hearing it's age. I've had it tested and functionally it's fine.The brain, as you age, has trouble separating sounds in noisy places. So at Chipotle, for example, that plays fairly loud music as background, renders my hearing pretty much useless.

However it activates my sense of humor. And wonderment that I can function like this. I couldn't drive a car, however. And I might have trouble navigating a new neighborhood, because I can't read street signs.

Until Monday I'm kind of in limbo.

It's bad timing because I just started working with a bunch of testers on my new product. Please stay tuned, hopefully my eyes will be back in commission next week. Until then it's going to be a lot of Netflix and book reading for Davey.

Thu, 15 Mar 2018 02:07:58 GMT

As Trump's Saturday Night Massacre comes into focus, students walk out in protest and Pennsylvania voters throw a Repub out of a safe Repub district. Looks like the showdown is coming soon.

Umlauts in River5

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 14:46:12 GMT

Braintrust query: Christoph Knopf reports re River5 a problem with reading umlauts.

He offers a feed that illustrates the problem.

I wrote a simple Node app that reads the file using the standard request package, and what he reports is observed. The umlauts appear as � characters.

I found this Stack Overflow thread that says the answer is to use iconv-lite. Others seem to confirm this is the way to go.

Before I contemplate making a change to River5, I wanted to get the opinion of the braintrust.

Thanks in advance.

Doctor my eyes

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 14:02:21 GMT

I have an eye infection. This is a new thing for me since I started wearing contact lenses last year. This means I have to try to get along wearing glasses for a few days. My eyesight with glasses is terrible. Writing is kind of an adventure! So it may be slow going here for me, for the next few days until (hopefully) the infection clears up and I can resume life as a normally sighted person. I am of course getting help from my doctor.

Tue, 13 Mar 2018 15:36:44 GMT

I'm looking for a few people to help test a new product. You should be an RSS user, have an OPML subscription list or two (or more), and are ready to read docs, report problems, and ask questions. If you'd like to participate please post a note here. Thanks! 💥

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 18:29:20 GMT

Why isn't SSL just a checkbox in the prefs for the an S3 bucket? Amazon already knows who I am. They know more about me than the IRS. 💵

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 17:47:25 GMT

If Google were honest they'd explain they're trying to create a Facebook-like experience in the web, and label sites as being inside or outside their domain. If they don't want to make a web browser, use some of their wealth to subsidize one. A thinking-big company would do that.

Google and HTTP status report

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 17:36:53 GMT

Happy to report that I'm starting to get more reasonable and thoughtful responses to my Google and HTTP faq. I have toned it down, remembering that some people came to the belief that HTTP is bad for the web honestly, and therefore may respond to more simply-stated objections. And this has led me to a distillation of the moral case against what Google is doing.

I've been around the tech industry almost as long as anyone. I've yet to see a tech company grow past the "break things and never look back" stage. What comes next, imho, is understanding that the people they serve are not who they think they are. I highlighted the word serve in that sentence. It's an unfamiliar concept to the tech industry, but they should learn it. It's more humble, more achievable than the godlike status they feel they deserve, an adolescent way of thinking.

What Google is planning on doing to the web is unnecessarily damaging to the work of millions of people. Google could step back and look at their objectives, and let's see if we can compromise, so they can get what they really want and the web can remain what it always has been, an open space for experimentation, free thought, and the development of world-changing ideas. It's where Google itself came from.

Let's see if they gained any maturity and sense of perspective of their place in the world in the 20 years since their founding. When you achieve adulthood all of a sudden you can see the context in which you exist. Blowing things up is the way children approach the world. Adults try to work things out, we hope. 💥

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 14:45:42 GMT

Braintrust: Can you format a Mac without logging in?

Sun, 11 Mar 2018 20:09:36 GMT

Journos generally fail to explain why steel tariffs cost American jobs. Here's why. GM or Ford can choose to make cars in Canada that cost $100 less than the same cars made in the US. Hence layoffs in car factories in the US.

Sun, 11 Mar 2018 20:10:28 GMT

My site has no ads. If you run buggy ad blocking software that blocks my site, the remedy is to trash the software.