I’d like to be able to subscribe to bundles of users.
Use-case #1. Suppose I’m going to a conference, like Gnomedex last week. For the duration of the conference I’d like to be subscribed to every person at the conference. This would form the complete back-channel. I would hear what everyone was saying during the conference. But maybe that would be too much when I got home, if so, I could just wholesale unsub from the lot.
Use-case #2. Say I’d like to see what it’s like to be someone famous for a day or two. So I would say “Subscribe me to all of Steve Jobs’s friends.” Then I’d see what Larry Ellison, Al Gore and Bill Campbell were doing. Then when I wanted to see the world through someone else’s eyes, I’d unsub from Steve’s friends and sub to all their friends.
Use-case #3. Think of “mutual funds” of people, reading lists managed by experts. So I could subscribe to a list of Macintosh experts as we’re approaching an Apple product announcement. Or people in Peru after the earthquake there. Or a U.S. news list that would automatically recalc according to the judgement of an expert when the news shifted from topic to topic. As we approach the New Hampshire primary, news of that state would be heavily represented. After that’s over, we’d move to news of South Carolina.
Obviously this feature would work for any news-oriented social network. Originally I proposed it for RSS, they were called “reading lists,” but I couldn’t get the community of reader developers to implement the feature. I did implement reading lists for the NewsRiver aggregator that’s built into the OPML Editor. Maybe the time is right, in the developing social networks, which are very much like the world of RSS.
I’d like to experiment with this. I wonder if it’s possible to add it using the Twitter API. I’ll have to think about it.
Any thoughts are welcome. Post a comment here.
Bizzle found a Facebook “feed of my own status updates.”
What becomes possible with this? Well, you could write a bridge app that allows you to use Facebook to enter status messages to Twitter, for example. This is the opposite direction from the one Fred Wilson wants.
Jeff Sandquist: How to publish your Facebook status to Twitter.
I found myself writing an email to friends at Google about Google’s religion about Atom (these guys came to Google from different companies, relatively recently). At the end I realized that I had written a blog post, so here it is.
Everything would be okay if they didn’t push it so hard.
Remember that users don’t care.
Edit all docs and specs accordingly. Everywhere it says “Atom is better” remember “Users don’t care.”
Facebook is doing the same thing, and I’m pulling back from endorsing them until they take the religion out of their docs. I won’t help propogate the myth that one format is better than the other. Users don’t care.
If you must answer the question “What’s the difference between RSS and Atom?” just say they’re different flavors of the same thing. Even better would be to find a way to avoid raising the question at all. Test your reader against all formats with significant installed bases, and do what you can to keep the number of formats to a minimum. That’s not only my advice, it’s also Jon Postel’s.
Further: If people want to debate the merits of one flavor over another, fine, but the discussion should be banished from all places that are visible to users (users don’t care). I like chocolate, and someone else likes pistachio or butter pecan. But all are cold and sweet and desserts. The argument should stop when it gets to the qualities of the people who like one flavor over another. “People who like cheddar cheese are inherently better than people who like gouda.” Now that’s obviously silly. But when you look at some of the discsussions, esp things people say about me, that’s what it comes down to. Dave is a bad person because his feed is RSS 2.0. That’s when people tune out any discussions of progress as “syndication wars.” That’s how we get stuck.
There’s a Wikipedia page on Postel’s Law.
Two events happened in Washington politics in the last couple of days that puzzled me: 1. Karl Rove, on his way out at the White House, said Hillary Clinton is a “a tough, tenacious, fatally flawed candidate;” and 2. Douglas Lute, our “war czar,” said the option of restarting the draft was “on the table.”
I figured out why the czar said what he said — it’s the military, sending a message to the President, in clear terms. We can’t keep running the way we’re running, and if you won’t do something about the shortfall of soldiers for the war in Iraq (really an occupation, of course) we’ll take the issue to the people, in a way you’ll feel. No doubt, even talk of a return to the draft changes things. I think it’s a good idea to talk about it, and quite possibly a good idea to reinstate it. That would get us out of this mode of life-as-usual. We are losing in Iraq, pointlessly, and eventually we’re going to have to leave. Yes, cut and run is looking like the right way to go, esp when the cut part could be explained as “cut our losses.”
Why Rove said what he said, though, is a total puzzle. I am uninspired by Clinton as a candidate, I think a vote for her is a vote for another four or eight years of not dealing with our problems, and she’s the most Republican of the Democrats running. But Rove is no idiot, not about things like this, so he must figure that it would serve the Republicans if Hillary was the candidate, because that kind of hype really helps her. I found myself, inside, rallying behind Clinton because I so despise Rove. No kidding. So there must be some reason Rove thinks she’d be easier to beat than Edwards or Obama. Or maybe he’s figured we all understand how his (twisted) mind works, and he’s telling us this so we won’t rally behind Clinton because secretly he knows she’s the strongest Dem, and would much rather run against… Oh fuck it, this is pointless.
While I applaud their first steps at exposing previously trapped data, they still have a long way to go. Fred Wilson, a user of and investor in Twitter, says he’ll feel Facebook is open when he can use Twitter to update his Facebook status. It may require an agent to bridge the two systems, there doesn’t seem to be much hope that they’ll support identical APIs (though it’s not too late for that), and at this time Facebook doesn’t provide enough in the way of APIs to do this (please correct if wrong) while Twitter does.
There would be hope for a lot more compatibility if engineers weren’t such jealous folk, and weren’t so inclined to reinvent what already has been invented. The guys at Twitter do it, as do the guys at Facebook. It’s seems to happen where ever there is expertise, a tendency to lock up power in the hands of the experts and not share it with competitors and smart users. I saw this happen in the medical industry, recently, where a friend who is not a doctor had an absolutely brilliant idea that would save lives, but he couldn’t sell it to the medical profession. Why? It would create more work for them. These are the people we trust with our lives. And having been in the software business for over 30 years, I’m sad to report, we’re no better.
So maybe Facebook is filled with visionaries who want to build on the work of others, but I’m pretty sure there are also people there who would be happy to hold things back so they don’t have to work so hard. But don’t worry, they have them at Google, and Yahoo, and Microsoft and Apple too. It’s just the way things are done in the tech world. Ths isn’t going to make me a lot of friends (something my friend Fred Wilson says he blogs for) but that’s not why I blog.