Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Scripting the Future
Dave Winer turned 50 today, and he asked for links toScripting Newsin lieu of presents.

I've had a chance to get to know Dave in recent years, first through his work and then through his visits to Northeast Florida, an area he prowled as a kid with his uncle, theGreat VavaVoom.

VavaVoom lived in Crescent Beach, a laid-back town south of St. Augustine, back when it could still be described as a"hippie commune."Today, suburbanites like me are scaring them off, subdividing the bucolic area into the kind of well-manicured, community covenant-ruled neighborhood that the feds shipped Steve Martin to inMy Blue Heaven.

Dave's had a unique impact on the technology that drives weblogging, creating or cocreatingRSS,XML-RPC,OPML, and theMetaWeblog API; developing the web content management softwareManila,Radio UserLand, andFrontier; and evangelizing the strange idea that millions of people would be blogging.

I can't decide whether he's prescient or he just makes his predictions come true by dragging the rest of us along. A May 1999 post he made to theXML-DEV mailing listshows how far ahead he saw this stuff:

RSS is an XML-based format that represents what we in the Frontier community call a"weblog". It's frequently updated site that points to stories on and off-site, that identifies an audience and feeds links to them. Until RSS came along the only format people were using was HTML. RSS changed that. ...

We're doing easy to use software to develop and maintain weblog sites, and of course they will all aggregate using the next generation of RSS and today's RSS. Who knows in what perverted ways this content will flow around the net? I'm totally looking forward to the creative chaos that's coming!

Back then, I thought weblogging was a fad that would receive aWiredcover story and an ignominious fate, likepush technology and the Zippies.

Shows what I know. Here's to another decade of perverting the flow of content around the Internet. Happy birthday, Dave!

Bob's Mother Won't Talk to Me
Ten years ago Melinda French Gates was a manager on Microsoft Home products such as Bob, Encarta and Expedia. Some reporters even claim thatBob was her baby.

Because bloggers are beinghyped to the gillsby the mainstream media, I figured it was a good time to start making interview requests of people who are ordinarily far too important to talk with the likes of me.

I began with Melinda Gates, hoping to clarify her role on social interface software like Bob. I even prepared a Mike Wallace question for the end of the interview: Why did you allow Bob to die in 1996 -- didn't you knowanyoneat Microsoft with enough pull to save the project?

My request was rejected, but I regard the speed of the reply -- under 48 hours -- as a recognition of the importance of the blogosphere.

"Melinda is not able to participate in this particular opportunity,"according to a publicist. No reason was given, but I suspect that she may be preoccupied improving the lives of millions of people throughcharitable givingon a scaleunprecedented in human history.

Take a Bite of the Apple

Michael Moore is swimming in money afterFahrenheit 9/11, according to aSlate analysisthat describes how the filmmaker and Disney rode the controversy over the movie all the way to the bank:

Under normal circumstances, documentaries rarely, if ever, make profits (especially if distributors charge the usual 33 percent fee). So, when Miramax made the deal for Fahrenheit 9/11, it allowed Moore a generous profit participation -- which turned out to be 27 percent of the film's net receipts. Disney, in honoring this deal, paid Moore a stunning $21 million. Moore never disclosed the amount of his profit participation. When asked about it, the proletarian Moore joked to reporters on a conference call,"I don't read the contracts."

I lovedRoger&MeandTV Nation, but over the years Moore'spenchantfor dramatic embellishment and sloppy facts made it hard for me to enjoyFahrenheit. He produces great diatribes, but documentary filmmakers are one of the last remaining groups who believe in the quaint notion that facts matter. If we lose them to spin, all we'll have left are reference librarians, theSociety of Professional Journalists, andBob Somersby.

I'm not surprised that Moore exaggerated Disney's actions in refusing to distribute the film, nor that Disney found a way to profit handsomely from a project it was ostensibly refusing to release. Their relationship is a lot like Tom Cruise publiclygrouting the esophagusof Katie Holmes right before both release summer blockbusters.

The same cynical game appears to be at work with the new Steve Jobs biographyiCon: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business. The book's print run was doubled after Apple, at the presumed behest of Jobs,banned the publisher's booksfrom Apple stores.

I haven't spoken about this with anyone at Wiley, a company that also publishesone of my books, but I have trouble believing that a marketing genius like Jobs took this action without knowing it would send book ordersthrough the roof. The guy runs a company with so much hype you'd never know it sellsfewer desktop computersthan also-rans likeAcerandLenovo. Apple's marketing is difficult to resist. I own five computers and a laptop, and I'm still convinced I need aMac mini.

Memo to self: Find a way in next book to anger Steve Jobs.

That's Quite a Spectacle
Whenever a character in a movie is a by-the-book square who never got over the end of the 1950s, he wears plastic-top, metal-rim eyeglasses. Tom Hanks donned them inCatch Me If You Can, and you can't make a film about Malcolm X, NASA, or the JFK assassination without ordering them in bulk.

The glasses are especially effective if the buttoned-up wearer is one bad day from a total nervous breakdown, like the downsized defense contractor D-FENS, who rampages across Los Angeles to protest incivility inFalling Down.

I wrote about these glasseslast yearwhen I heard the only manufacturer, ArtCraft NewYork, was discontinuing the style. This was crushing news -- I step on my pair of Clubman Art-Rim frames at least twice a year and can barely see through a SuperGlue smudge in one lens.

Since then, I've heard from an executive at Shuron, the company thatinvented the style in 1941and sold more than 17 million of them by 1970:

The Ronsir was in many movies and worn by many actors/celebrities -- Kevin Costner, Denzel Washington, Vince Lombardi, Nicholas Cage, and many others. The Ronsir is not going away.

Because I keep directing people to Shuron when they ask about the glasses, the company is sending me a free pair, which I believe makes me the world's first blogger/spokesmodel. I'm spending this weekend trying to come up with my ownBlue Steel.


1 Comments:

Blogger Admin said...

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7:05 PM  

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