Scripting News for 12/12/2006

A reprieve until April 

A lot of people are going to say “I told you so.”

So, to those, enjoy! :-)

I’m going to keep this blog going for a while longer, Murphy-willing, at least until April next year, its 10 year anniversary. It’ll be the first blog to make it to 10, and that’s a nice round number. We’ll see then what the plan is.

A few reasons. First, I’m enjoying writing on the web these days. Second, a project I’m working on that needs a rollout via the web, is taking longer than I thought it would (what else is new). And third, well, there’s some other stuff I can’t write about at this time, but I’ll want to have a platform and a pulpit. Someone is picking a pretty ridiculous fight with a guy who buys his ink by the barrel, and I want to be sure I got all the tools I need to fight back. :-)

Do I believe? No! 

Got this email today, a plea for a financial contribution to This I Believe. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Background: I wrote an essay for the show, and submitted it through their website. This is the first email I got from the show. No acknowledgement of the essay, no rejection or acceptance, just a request for money.

This feels like shit. I poured my heart into the essay, after spending a year thinking about what to write. Now I gotta wonder, if I don’t send the money, will they consider my essay. Or if I do send the money will they run it?

I really want it to be separate from money. If they waited until they decided about my essay to ask for money, that would have felt better. If they had rejected it, I could have been certain there’s no connection. But this way, well, I can’t give them money without retracting the essay.

It’s funny that reporters who care so much about their own ethics have such disregard for those of their contributors. I can’t withdraw the essay, btw, because I agreed to very one-sided terms (as usual) in order to submit it.

Get this guys — user-generated-content is written by people. For a show like This I Believe, you better hope they are people of the highest integrity, not the kind of person who would give you money to increase the odds. This kind of solicitation is off the wall. The answer is no. Emphatically.

Qube me baby 

The Qube 2 arrived today. I’ve set it up and it’s working. I was surprised at how big it is (my first one seemed a lot smaller, but that was probably about 7 years ago) and how noisy it is. First task is to learn how to get it to file-share with a Mac.

Google search for stuff about the Qube on this site.

QubeAfter a couple of hours fussing with it, I think history has passed the Qube by. I owe the designers of this product so much, without the Qube, I honestly think it might have taken a lot longer for browser-based blogging tools to come along. It showed me how a powerful software system could be entirely configured through a web server. Look at this screen for a clue. One of the very cool things in evidence is that the Web Server can’t be turned off, because that’s the only way to access the system. With that as a core assumption, all the rest of the functionality grew. Error messages come via email. Everything else happens in the browser.

From there, I got the courage to attempt to do a full web content management system in the browser, which led me to Edit This Page, and a list of stories and pictures, and a calendar, and reverse-chronologic blog posts.

That was 1999. First learn from the Qube, then apply the lesson to writing for the web. The result — blogging as we know it today.

Le Web 3 in Paris 

Tom Morris is reporting live from Le Web 3 in Paris.

I watched a bit of the Le Web 3 videocast today, and observed what you always see at non-unconferences — stiff, lifeless discussions, people who normally are quite interesting in conversation, totally in their heads, boring, nervous, too self-aware, no spirit to it. Only David Weinberger, the veteran teacher, shone (as he always does).

3/5/06: “The idea for an unconference came while sitting in the audience of a panel discussion at a conference, waiting for someone to say something intelligent, or not self-serving, or not mind-numbingly boring. The idea came while listening to someone drone endlessly through PowerPoint slides, nodding off, or (in later years) checking email, or posting something to my blog, wondering if it had to be so mind-numbingly boring.”

Two conferences ago I emailed with Loic about how to avoid this, why not adopt the latest in technology conference technology, pioneered by the blogging world itself, at a conference about blogging? He didn’t understand (no fault of his, there’s a language barrier). I asked him to invite me to lead a discussion at the next one, and assumed he would so I didn’t worry. The next conference came, no invitation, and this time I didn’t even ask for one. I got the impression that Loic had not heard of me (just an impression, he didn’t say so.)

I think if ever there was a time when letting the former audience drive the discussion, this was the time to do it. If he’s ever going to understand it, this is the year he will understand it.

18 responses to this post.

  1. When I was at the Daily Cal, we got a loaner Qube (which ended up being a gift) and it was indeed very cool. Then Sun bought the company and ended up killing off the whole product line. Basically, the Qube is the kind of server Apple would make if they ever got aggressive about the server market. Why doesn’t someone become the Apple of servers? Not a lot of consulting revenue there, I guess.

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  2. Actually the Mac Mini is pretty close. :-)

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  3. True in form factor! Not sure if the software is quite so easy!

    I just saw your This I Believe item. I agree this is an ethically slimy practice, it does not pass the smell test. It also, by the way, in very poor taste. Of all the people they could hit up for money, why hit up the people who make the show possible, who provide the actual material? If anything they should give YOU money.

    Of all the shows on NPR, one would think this one would need the least financial support.

    On the show website it quotes Edward R Murrow: “In this brief space, a banker or a butcher, a painter or a social worker, people of all kinds who need have nothing more in common than integrity, a real honesty, will write about the rules they live by, the things they have found to be the basic values in their lives.”

    How do they reconcile this with hitting up contributors for money and implying money is needed to win acceptance of your essay?

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  4. You know, I’m not seeing the quid pro quo element in their email or the prima facie evidence that this is sleaze. To be clear: It IS unfortunate and probably incompetent. My guess is that the fund-raising letter is the product of some ham-handed development types who are operating independently of the editorial side. Of course, I’m suggesting that your essay’s acceptance doesn’t matter one way or the other on your giving them money (and I can’t feel too upset that they’re out raising funds; I think if you check you’ll find out Murrow’s originals were sponsored, too; maybe by a cigarette company ;->).

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  5. My first web server ‘proper’ was a Cobalt Raq3. (Then Raq4) Which had a very similiar interface.

    Very handy it was too. Especially for a first timer!

    But pretty soon, I wanted to roll up my sleeves and break out the Putty (ssh/telnet client). I learned alot doing that and still do.

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  6. Posted by Klark on December 12, 2006 at 5:03 pm

    “It’ll be the first blog to make it to 10″

    Macintouch has been around since 1994.

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  7. At a mainstream newspaper, providing the advertising department with information about who the reporters and editors are talking to for the next issue would be considred unethical. And for the advertising department to use that information to try and sell them ads, with the clear implication it might determine whether their quotes or op-ed pieces are used, would be even worse.

    The fact they are asking for a “donation” instead of an ad does not make this any better.

    And it doesn’t look like a nut in the development office — the letter was signed by Bob Edwards, a longtime NPR on-air anchor. And it was clearly written specifically to solicit from people who have submitted pieces to This I Believe, so Bob knew what he was doing.

    Stranger still, Bob Edwards left NPR two years ago. So I guess they’ve been doing this for a while?

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  8. Yay. I’m glad you are continuing to blog. I couldn’t see ever stopping.

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  9. Glad for the reprieve. I hope you’ll keep blogging after April, but if not… That’s four more months. :)

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  10. The this-I-believe thing is unfortunate, and I can certainly see why it would leave a bad taste in your mouth, but I think it’s more inept than sinister.

    The fact that the letter was signed by Bob Edwards doesn’t mean that ham-handed development types weren’t involved. But even then, lets cut these people some slack. I don’t know how big the “This I believe” operation is, but chances are, they aren’t flush. Whoever is doing development, they are probably trying to keep a bunch of balls in the air.

    I’m sure the same goes for the people responsible for reviewing submissions. Yes, they should have acknowledged your contribution in a prompt and personal manner.

    The text of the letter suggests no quid pro quo. That they think you might want to support the show seems reasonable. The main issue seems to be be the timing, which could simply be a matter of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing.

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  11. Posted by Diego on December 12, 2006 at 7:20 pm

    Don’t give up blogging Dave. All the blogosphere heat and trolling is being directed towards Mike Arrington these days. So just keep going. :)

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  12. Dave: Good call on the blog. “Keep it continue,” as Sammy Sosa once said. Long past April!

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  13. I dunno, I’m not sure you guys get it. Edward R Murrow, to a journalist, is an icon and a hero. To have his show resurrected and then handled in this way is truly disappointing.

    “Not everything is about money.”–Michael Keaton, The Paper

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  14. Thanks Uncle Dave for the reprieve.

    The planet needs ya bloggin’.

    — stan

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  15. Posted by john on December 13, 2006 at 1:48 am

    Two things about a noisy Qube.

    1) the tiny fan can be removed. don’t worry about it over heating.
    2) hard drives as they get older make a lot of noise. replacing the drive with a newer modern up to 120 gig drive will make it a lot quiter.

    The software for it is wildly out of date and getting it to now takes a lot of work. Better to get a new (or last year) Mac mini and install Fink on it. You’ll get modern everything without hassle. Plus you can easily add hard drives and RAM to the mini. The Qube is kind of a hassle to upgrade. Running the Mac Mini headless is possible because you can turn on Desktop Remote and use VNC to screen share it. But the best part is that file sharing is super simple.

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  16. I’d like to echo the comments above welcoming the reprieve. Why were you thinking of giving up blogging anyway?

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  17. Posted by Jeff Imig on December 13, 2006 at 7:06 am

    That kind of email would p me off too.

    I was going to say maybe they didn’t get your submission, but the email implies they did.

    As for slack, there are a zillion dollar making scams going on the internet; I think if they are trying to be ethical seriousness for the new media, it behooves (what a word) them to have not a taint of money grubbing.

    AND… boy if scripting.com disappears I will be lost… BUT life moves on & I bet there’ll be a way to find out what D.W. is up to.

    I will say thanks for a great 10 years (I saw them all from day one)!

    Jeff

    Reply

  18. The first blog to make it to ten years by your unneccessarily restrictive definition of “blog”. My blog passed the ten year mark four months ago, and it wasn’t the first.

    Reply

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