More than a common export format

As discussed in the comments of the previous post on this subject, a commonly supported export format is an important first step, but it is not enough. Here’s what else is needed.

1. The export must be automatic. It must be done by the software, and kept up to date. The user must not be required to do anything to always have a good backup.

2. The backup must be stored on a static server, not on the vendor’s network. There should be a default backup service provider, but the user must be allowed to specify a different one. Apple, for example, could do this as part of their dot-mac service. I believe other companies would line up to provide such a service.

3. The user must also be able to remap their sub-domain. The user should have full control over the domain for the site, and it should not require any help from the vendor to map it to different server. An alternate, though not as desirable approach would be to allow a permanent redirect, again triggered only by a user action. The problem with this approach is that it requires that the vendor’s server be working in order for it to work.

With these three things, in addition to a common export format, even in an extended outage, the user would be in full control of his or her content. Users should insist on this level of support from vendors, or take their business to vendors who provide it.

Having been a vendor myself, I believe this kind of system will allow vendors to relax too, in addition to the users. When you have an outage, the users will have the power to move, and no doubt some will, but it takes the pressure off the vendor, and gives them time to fix the problem.

17 responses to this post.

  1. I remember when Wi-Fi was new and I went to a NYC Wireless meeting. I can’t remember who it was but someone revealed their vision of a wireless Internet world where you “hung your antenna out the window, logged on and chose what provider you wanted.” Similar to the way certain areas of the country can choose their electrical provider, despite knowing the power is all being generated in the same place.
    That’s the vision I see here, despite the analogy being far from perfect. A few clicks and you are with a new provider, with no loss of data, uptime, or dead URLs.
    As Tony Little says in the Geico commercial, “You can do it!!”

    Reply

  2. There are more reasons for switching than a failed server, like TypePad’s. I’d love to get out of my WordPress blog, because I find it overly difficult to customize, but I have no idea how to. I agree, an export function to an accepted standard would be a great idea.

    I think that once one major blogging service offers both an export and an import function, and does a good job of advertising it, others will follow in order to compete.

    Reply

  3. An interesting counterpoint to what you’ve mentioned, Ellen, is that TypePad’s had both full import and export since day one, but most of the subscribers I talk to say they pay for a service exactly because they *don’t* want to use those features. They want it to just work, and for backups to just happen.

    The exception to that rule has mostly been from people who want to migrate from other services. I haven’t yet seen any other major hosted service other than TypePad that lets you export all your posts to a single simple file you can keep on your own computer… seems from what you’re saying that maybe we haven’t pointed that out enough.

    Reply

  4. Exporters and importers have always been created where there is market demand for them. I haven’t seen one that takes a good programmer more than a few hours of work. Dictating a format is where this effort will get the most pushback.

    There is a backup plugin we’re bundling with the next version of WP which can email your backups. I’ve seen a ton of people registering a gmail address then emailing backups nightly to their 2gb+ account. I’ve heard services like StrongSpace are going to start offering something similar.

    I think #3 is the most crucial and the one not addressed (AFAIK) by anyone in the market. I’ll begin looking at what we’d need to do for WP.com to support this fully.

    Reply

  5. “2. The backup must be stored on a static server, not on the vendor’s network. There should be a default backup service provider, but the user must be allowed to specify a different one. Apple, for example, could do this as part of their dot-mac service. I believe other companies would line up to provide such a service.”

    I propose to rephrase this slightly. The value lies with the potential functionality, not the mandatory functionality. i.e.

    2. The user must be able to store their backup on a static server, not on the vendor’s network.

    This has the benefit of making the backup storage protocol transparent and meaningless (i.e. it doesn’t matter if one vendor implements it using FTP and another using WebDAV as long as the user bits go from A -> B without a problem). It also gives users the option to store their bits locally if they wish (which is probably what I would want to do to save a few $$).

    To Anil’s point about exports not being widely supported, Tucows Blogware has supported this since day 1.

    To Matt’s point, you aren’t going to get any pushback from this corner. Fighting over standards like this is a juvenile waste of time. Show me a spec that at least two other vendors support and I’m in headfirst. I’m even happy to help develop it as long as two other vendors commit to implementing the outcome before we go in.

    Reply

  6. [...] Update 12/19/05: Dave Winer has an excellent post on how exporting must be a standard. Unfortunately unless pMachine changes something they will not be able to participate, which means it is time for me to fire off an email…. by Tyme | posted in Blogging, Software Trackback URL | Comment RSS Feed Tag at del.icio.us | Incoming links [...]

    Reply

  7. Posted by mcdmcblog on December 19, 2005 at 11:17 am

    Dave, I don’t think anyone understands the real benefits of interoperable file formats like you do… You’re one of the few successful software developers who has switched to fighting for the needs of the user. I just removed 69 posts from a wordpress.com blog and now regret not having a backup. I might find thoses posts in Google’s cache but that’s a really hard way to fix a misunderstanding that caused me to just delete when I should have backed up, deleted and had the ability to reuse that content. Everyone says “Don’t just delete, backup.” Well, someday I might have a choice. Last friday I did not. I couldn’t back the data after it was in wordpress so I terminated with extreme prejudice.

    Keep figthing the “man” on this one. We should have access to our own data by default ’cause shit happens… daily.

    Reply

  8. [...] Dave Winer is on another crusade. This time it’s for file import/export formats for bloggers. He writes at scripting.wordpress.com: 1. The export must be automatic. It must be done by the software, and kept up to date. The user must not be required to do anything to always have a good backup. 2. The backup must be stored on a static server, not on the vendor’s network. There should be a default backup service provider, but the user must be allowed to specify a different one. Apple, for example, could do this as part of their dot-mac service. I believe other companies would line up to provide such a service. 3. The user must also be able to remap their sub-domain. The user should have full control over the domain for the site, and it should not require any help from the vendor to map it to different server. An alternate, though not as desirable approach would be to allow a permanent redirect, again triggered only by a user action. The problem with this approach is that it requires that the vendor’s server be working in order for it to work. [...]

    Reply

  9. I think your blog is pretty amazing. Keep up the great work. I’m going to add you to my blogroll, would you be able to do the same for me???

    Thanks,
    Eric Schleien

    http://deepthoughts.tk

    Reply

  10. Yes, brilliant, it’s very similar to phone number portability in the mobile phone world.

    Let’s hope it doesn’t take regulation to make blog providers do this.

    Thankfully however, the blogosphere is still not a regulated medium (and hopefully never will be.)

    Unfortunately, it’s likely only the top one or two best blog services will want to do this and all the others won’t, for obvious reasons.

    Reply

  11. [...] Dave Winer: “Having been a vendor myself, I believe this kind of system will allow vendors to relax too, in addition to the users. When you have an outage, the users will have the power to move, and no doubt some will, but it takes the pressure off the vendor, and gives them time to fix the problem.” [...]

    Reply

  12. On my site Leslie Camacho said pMachine is “interested and listening”. However, she does say that it would be “tricky” because of the Expression Engine works.

    There may be other vendors like them that are interested and are just watching and waiting..

    Reply

  13. Posted by mcdmcblog on December 23, 2005 at 8:46 am

    I think if WordPress and the OPML Community Server create a proof of interoperability then Typo (Rails-based Open Source) and other Open Source projects will adopt the approach that Dave Winer and Matt Mullenweg use…

    The commercial apps will be driven to use the same approach or die.

    Reply

  14. I’ve reread this a few times and this one sticks out for me:

    The export must be automatic. It must be done by the software, and kept up to date. The user must not be required to do anything to always have a good backup.

    Ideally, there would be a configuration parameter where you would enter the information for your backup server and every time you posted, your blog tool would syncronized automatically, right after it sends out pings.

    Reply

  15. Posted by mcdmcblog on December 25, 2005 at 7:37 am

    FYI… I deleted 69 Blog Posts and later wanted them all back.

    I tried the Google cache and got back 12.

    I had a reader that subscribed to my blog in bloglines and he sent me a missing post.

    I went to bloglines and subscribed to my blog’s feed and hit the All option and it showed every post I ever created. That served as my backup.

    Everyone should consider subscribing to their blog in bloglines.

    All shows every post in one big html page (which I have saved to disk).

    Reply

  16. [...] In the lofty world of wordpress.org this maybe didn’t happen so much. Or if it did, you could just reload from a backup. WordPress.com is a land without backup. Here, deletion is forever. My guess is that we’re too used to having Recycle Bins on our desktop to nod quietly and accept that. [...]

    Reply

  17. There is actually a backup plugin that comes on WP 2.01 but it is just of the MySQL tables.

    A more generic backup plugin is the Export WordPress plugin available for WP versions 1.5 and lower from Eric Pierce (http://epierce.blog.usf.edu/2005/04/26/wpexport-02 ) that exports to Movable Type format. A lot of blogger tools can read this.

    I upgraded Pierce’s version to WP 2.0 and also added 2 XML exports, one to plain XML easy to hack to your own XML format and one to WikiMedia XML (I wanted to import Blog entries into my Wiki). You can see it here

    http://blogger-bee.com/index.php/Blog_to_Wiki_import

    Reply

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