Scripting News for 3/26/2007

Today’s links 

Colorful Berkeley living room on a rainy day.

AP: Bush impeachment on the table, Hagel says.

60 Minutes podcast, useful format, broken into segments.

The future of UserLand 

It pains me to watch the traffic on the UserLand support lists, because it looks like there’s no one but Lawrence at the company these days. The person we hired to be CEO, Scott Young, now has a job at another company, PostPath, and it looks like a full-time job. But he hasn’t resigned, and doesn’t respond to requests for information about how the company is doing. It’s bizarre because I am the founder of the company, one of only two board members, and own the majority of stock in the company. It seems he has moved on, but doesn’t want to let those of us who continue to have an interest in the company take care of it.

It seems to me that this is unfair to the users of the Manila, Radio and Frontier. I watch them ask questions on the mail list, and help each other, but what hope is there for the future? Will there ever be a new release of the products? I see small fixes come sporadically, but I don’t know where they’re coming from.

So I wonder what the users think– what kind of future should UserLand have? Do you think we should try to revive the company and products, or perhaps it would be better if we GPL’d the remaining software, and let the community try to take care of itself? (Note that I am in the community myself, I continue to use the products.)

Post a comment here if you have some thoughts about this.

Doc Searls pays for Radio. He says: “I have great appreciation for Lawrence’s reliable and tireless help over the years.”

Respect from the BBC 

I got a link today from the technology page of the BBC.

Aside from delivering serious flow (thanks!) it’s great to have these ideas heard, esp since they’re about combining the power of amateur and professional media.

In this case, the link itself is a sign of hope.

PS: I have a column in the pipe for the BBC. Hope they run it soon, it’s mostly about archiving for posterity, so I guess in this case, it’ll keep. 🙂

Timing is everything 

I’ve been writing about ways to integrate blogging and news for many years. I keep coming back to it, hoping “now’s the time” — only to find out that it isn’t.

Well it appears now is the time. Maybe blogging has matured to the point where it’s earned the respect of mainstream press, or maybe they’ve fallen far enough into the hole created by the Internet that they’re giving up some of their assumptions about how news is reported. No matter, people are listening and listening is good.

So I’m going to keep pumping ideas out, and hoping they help bridge the gap.

A blogger on every op-ed page 

Here’s a piece I wrote in the summer of 2005, from somewhere in the mountains of Montana. I’ll add a little context from 2007.

By now it should be obvious that bloggers are part of the landscape of investigative journalism. If you doubt this, do a little investigation yourself into how the story about Alberto Gonzalez and the US Attorneys is being managed. You’ll find that this time it’s a group of bloggers playing the role of Woodward and Bernstein — the Talking Point Memo people, doing really kickass work. I’ve been reading Josh Marshall every day as the scandal has been developing. And he’s getting credit from some of the professional reporters I respect. Paul Kiel from TPM was a guest on this week’s On The Media, and Josh was a guest on Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

I was proud of the Powerline guys when they brought down Dan Rather, not because I agree with their politics (I don’t!) or because I dislike Rather (ditto!) but because the pros had gotten sloppy and careless, and they need the help we bloggers get from the communities we’re part of, they need someone watching over their shoulders asking how they know this or that, or if maybe this reporter has a conflict of some sort. They often do.

The Times has invented The People’s Editor, in response to the Jayson Blair scandal, a job that’s supposed to perform this oversite function, but it doesn’t. So far, they’ve only chosen from their own ranks, people with careers to protect, that keep them from looking deeply into things people don’t want looked into. Further, I can’t send an email to this person and have it taken seriously. He or she doesn’t read the blogs to see what we’re learning about their reporting.

I want them to have a blogger on their editorial page, two or three times a week, someone who comes from our world, someone who will hear what we learn. I know that even if they don’t agree with my politics and vice versa, I will get a respectful hearing from most bloggers. That’s a great first step for any publication to begin the integration with the blogging world. I suppose it seems risky, but you’re going to have to take some risks, big ones, to turn this corner and survive.

My favorite new soup 

60 responses to this post.

  1. Personally, while not a user of Radioland or any affiliated products, I would probably have a board vote to drop the guy. If he’s not responding to the board, then what good is it with him at the “helm” when it seems like no one is steering the ship?

    GPL isn’t a terrible idea, but I’d probably hate to wonder what about those users that have paid for the service/products. What do they get out of this? Those would be the immediate impacted users and I would imagine that if I paid for something expecting X,Y,Z, I probably wouldn’t like it to go to the wayside.

    That’s a decision for the company to actually make.

    Doesn’t sound good either way, but I guess that’s the way the cookie crumbles.


  2. Posted by -acs- on March 26, 2007 at 9:16 am

    I see this as 2 issues actually – The future of the software and the future of the hosting service run by Userland. Since Radio works for me as is, it’s really the no-frills hosting service I pay for every year.

    If Userland goes away… what happens to that. Will I have enough warning to move my blog elsewhere? I haven’t looked around for a replacement yet that will work woith Radio because I haven’t had a reason to. I guess I really should now… maybe to something that supports that OpenID “thing” people are starting to talk about.

    As far as Radio goes — I’ve been using Radio for 4 years now without any major problems but I haven’t even remotely stressed it. Most minor issues I can figure out myself but I like the idea of a paid support structure behind the product even if I never use it.

    Sure, improvements in the interface would be nice (I use it on a Mac with Safari but I have no problems entering html directly so the lack of real Safari support is only an annoyance. Someday I’ll write a Mac OS X or Yahoo widget to use instead of Safari — if it annoys me enough.)

    It’s the CMS aspect that I really like. And hope to utilize eventually for some of my own projects. All the stuff under the hood that I can change if I need to is very tempting.

    And then there’s always Frontier, now that you’ve open sourced it. But it requires more effort than just using Radio to do the same things. Or at least that is my impression.


  3. As soon as I find out what the viability of the company is I’ll let you know whether you have anything to worry about re the continued hosting. I couldn’t vouch for it now, because I have no idea how the company is staying afloat.


  4. Open-sourcing a commercial product can either be the pasture where a dying product is put to rest, or it can give the product a boost and a whole new life. If you had done this five years ago, it would have been WordPress/Moveable Type style success (probably bigger). Today, I am not so sure.

    What about open-sourcing it, and making it a platform specifically for ISPs to offer blogging services. Every successful open source project needs some champions and leaders, and you want someone else to take over, right? Just an idea.

    What is unique and different about Userland products? If someone gave you ten full-page ads in Linux Magazine to promote your new open source project, what would be your message?


  5. Mike, if it were my decision, I would be GPL’ing the code to do the right thing by the users and by the software. To keep it locked up the way it is now isn’t good for anyone, and I speak as the largest shareholder of the company, by far. There doesn’t seem to be any hope of commercial success, but of course I don’t really know that for sure because I don’t know how the company is doing.


  6. I think there is lots of room for improvement in blog writing tools — especially for journalists. WordPress is good, but it lacks some of the the functions (such as outlining) that we MORE-heads still miss, and which have been part of Radio Userland for many years. (Thank you very much for that.) But still, while we can write on the Web, it’s not as easy as it should be.

    While I don’t think there is much if any future in selling software, I think there is a huge future in services to bloggers, and to the businesses and business functions bloggers will increasingly serve (such as journalism). In fact, I think there are lots of big market opportunities here — ones that far exceed the perimeters of the apparent ambitions of Blogger, SixApart, and the rest of them.

    I pay for Radio Userland, by the way. And I have great appreciation for Lawrence’s reliable and tireless help over the years.


  7. I don’t have any standing in the discussion since I’m not a user of the products, but when someone mentioned support, it made me wonder if there couldn’t be some kind of brand new hybrid between a commercial product and open source, but more on the open source side. You sort of socialize it and pay active community members for support to other users on some kind of a point system like Linden dollars or company scrip.


  8. Amy, you totally have standing to raise that kind of question.

    Totally intriguing idea. I was thinking along those lines, of making users shareholders or at least cutting them in on profits, should they materialize.

    The way this company is structured, the people who are central to the support of the product have no stake in its success other than they get to use it.

    For a company that has played such a central role in the leveling of those kinds of structures, it has a pretty conventional structure of its own.


  9. Posted by pwb on March 26, 2007 at 10:05 am

    I’d like to see energy go back into the core Frontier engine. I know it’s been open sourced but I don’t quite understand what the roadmap is. I didn’t really understand all the Frontier flavors (Manilla, Radio, etc.). Frontier remains in my mind one of the great pieces of software. I still cannot find a) such an easy web site prototyping environment and b) a web site creation environment with a similar hierarchical, componentized approach.


  10. I pay for Radio Userland, several copies, and a Manila server, hosting both Manila websites and our own RCS.

    I want the software to continue to develop either way. It is very true that I have been disheartened with the doldrums they both languish in currently. … A good change would be good but, even a conscidered change could close the doors to the future. So please be careful because this software is something I use many times every day.


  11. I hope this has nothing to do with why the main RSS spec blog page is down. That’s a Manilla site isn’t it?

    The think is about all the products : Radio, Manila, Frontier etc, is that there’s a heap of simplicity with a heap of complexity (imho) – and there’s an ‘ahah’ moment with all of them. Then you get to understand why Dave loves OPML so much. 😉

    What I mean is simplicity made Radio a hit. But things have moved on since then and it’s still a great product. But to unleash the power of the systems, you needed to delve much deeper. And it’s that perceived lack of info and examples out there for the scripting language itself which I think bothers people.

    OPML is the BIG thing here in all these products and Outlining. Maybe if the UI for this part alone was ‘prettied up’ to an extent, people might love it even ‘MORE’

    Another unique feature these products have which I have yet to see anywhere also properly, is ‘OPML Subscription’ and the use of ‘Instant Outlining’ – I am currently kicking the code around to a kind of very simple forum system – with RSS and OPML at the heart of it.

    OPML could turn lists of ‘Tweets’ into ‘Conversations’ – with structure and therefore semantic meaning to all posts.

    Well formed, baby!


  12. pwb, I would be happy to create a roadmap for it, or participate in the creation of a roadmap, but the people on the frontierkernel mail list made it clear they don’t want help. Another part of the UserLand ecosystem that isn’t functioning very well.

    The things I want the most is better debugging tools, it drives me crazy that I can’t tell which thread is using all the CPU, or have the software alert me when some table or outline reaches an impossibly large size. These are the biggest issues in running Frontier as a server, and there’s absolutely zero progress being made on this stuff.

    Another one — in the OPML Editor community we’ve got some problems with the software running on Vista. There are no kernel-level developers who work on Windows, they’re all Mac users. So problems wiht Apple stuff get lots of eyes but big crashing problems on Windows get no attention.

    Further most of the people on the list aren’t C-level developers, so they really can’t work on the kernel at a very deep level.


  13. Posted by Ben Greenfield on March 26, 2007 at 10:25 am

    I gave up on Frontier after doing a lot of great things with it for about 3 years. They just started charging money for it agian must have been mid to late ninties. I bought 2 licenses for about $2,000. I was using the mac version and the mac had moved from HFS to HFS+ and I think it broke file.volumesize. I reported and never received a fix instead the best I could figure is my $2,000 was used for the windows port. I had to start to move to a new environment. I still use a lot of the desiging patterns I learned from using frontier and will always remember it as my programming instructor. I say gpl and let others sort it out.


  14. Posted by Scott Granneman on March 26, 2007 at 10:28 am

    My company uses Frontier/Manila to host many clients, and it’s been sad to see Userland lapse into a non-entity. Dave’s thought about releasing it all under the GPL is brave and bold, and doing so would probably lead to a huge resurgence in use.

    As for those worried about support, if you look at other GPL’d products, many in fact have paid support available for them, offered by third parties. That’s one of the beauties of open source.

    Dave, my vote is to push for the open source solution. It would be as significant as when Netscape open sourced its browser.


  15. Posted by Jim Posner on March 26, 2007 at 10:46 am

    Glenn Greenwald has a biting commentary on the state of political punditry. He uses a recent YouTube clip to effectively illustrate his point. (scroll down). I think the show/tell model is something we will be seeing much more of when it comes to media criticism. This approach also reminded me of Dave’s recent comment about leveraging YouTube as a platform.
    Glen Greenwald:
    “The most revealing three-minute You Tube clip ever

    I want to return to the video clip of the jovial and dismissive discussion of the U.S. attorneys scandal on yesterday’s Chris Matthews Show (embedded below). In one sense, this clip is completely typical of how our national media thinks and talks about political matters. But there just is something about this particular discussion and the giggling, vapid participants that is extra vivid and instructive on a visceral level.”


  16. My whole company is based on Frontier: for the last 8 years we have been developing our CMS and have created hundreds of web sites for companies of all sizes. We keep using Frontier not only because we have made a huge investment on it but also because it makes us different and help us thinking in alternative ways.

    We are not trying to sell our application anymore, we just use it for our own projects, but we would release under some sort of open source licence if this would benefit the community.

    And we would definetely be interested in investing on some type of effort to keep developing and improving Frontier. I’m not sure if and how UserLand would fit in such a scenario.


  17. I bought a one-year Radio licence so I could play around with it and figure out how it works. I’ve let that lapse. I think that the best way of getting the ideas to continue is to open source Manila and Radio, and then have UserLand run as a support company – providing hosting, commercial support and so on. The Frontier Kernel community and the OPML community could merge quite neatly with the Manila and Radio folks. The community is going to develop it in interesting ways more rapidly than UserLand will, and, in turn, the revitalised products will provide UserLand with the ability to sell support to users. It works well in the Linux and open source world.

    I like Amyloo’s idea of paying community participants, but I feel that it wouldn’t necessarily scale well. What UserLand could do though is open source the software, try and develop a user/developer community and then offer tasks with a cash bounty on them. So, if there was some new feature they wanted, they could offer it out on a blog and pay whoever produced it. (As could anyone else…)

    Doc Searls is right on. There is still a dearth of decent writing tools. I love using my outliner, but there feels like there is some nirvana of writing tools. Outlining – as per the OPML Editor – is darn near close to being it – and wiki too, but it surely *isn’t* the bloated PHP-based CMSes or even WordPress.


  18. Oh, and by “user/developer”, I mean users, developers and user-developers (ie. users who have become developers). Getting users to become developers and push the product the way they want it would, of course, be a cool aim to have in building an open source community around UserLand’s products.


  19. Userland Software.


    1. Userland would be at its best if it stayed commercial and competitive. New management, new people, give up control to the professionals and move on.

    2. Donate the corporation to Harvard or the Berkman Center, with the stipulation that it be run with the objective of making a profit.

    3. Turn it into a Co-op of sorts? Money earned gets distibuted to the users/owners.

    4. Go GPL? I wonder.

    5. Create a business entity that uses the GPL to make a profit.

    I say keep this important discussion open and developing.

    – GMS


  20. > The way this company is structured, the people who are central to the support of the product have no stake in its success other than they get to use it.

    That sounds a lot like something you’ve said about public radio membership billed as ownership but all you get to do is pay and listen.


  21. I bought and used Radio a while back. Several months ago I tried to talk myself into buying and using it again but that didn’t happen because I hung around the forums long enough to know that the company was essentially MIA.

    It’s a very good product. It would be very difficult to sell Radio as a “hobbyist” blogging tool (ask Six Apart) but not necessarily as a “pro” tool. It might, also, be possible to reposition it as a hosted blogging service with Radio thrown in for free.


  22. I cut my CMS teeth with (for me very expensive but worth every penny of it) Userland Frontier mid-to-late nineties, and then discovered the joys of blogging with early Radio. Now I do not use either product but that’s more about my life changes than changes at Userland. I now use free services but none of them offers the degree of excitement and sophistication that Userland gave.

    I don’t know whether GPL is the answer but I do think that a CEO that doesn’t answer the calls of major shareholders, and especially somebody who has done so much for this communications revolution, ain’t worth having. He should step down gracefully and make room for somebody with more energy, dynamism, and commitment. Userland and Dave Winer played a vital role in the development of the user internet – don’t let it go down the tubes please.


  23. A couple of quick notes:

    1. The code to build a Radio UserLand version of the kernel already has been released by Dave Winer as part of the Frontier Kernel project. At one time, while working with Scott Shuda and Scott Young, I had a working Universal Binary of “Radio”. That went a long way on the Mac side but nowhere on the PC side.

    2. The kernel relies on some hard to replace/debug code to do string manipulations. I had always understood that this was one of the major roadblocks to solving problems like kernel speed, threads and more.

    3. There is no other tool I know of that is shipping and mature, that offers a scripting language, a database and a consistent user interface across Mac and PC platforms. The barrier to entry is low and the “weekend geek” can get things done quickly. I miss writing UserTalk code every day for that one reason.

    4. There is an intellectual property issue that which only Dave Winer and the owners of Radio UserLand, Incorporated can control. It’s my understanding that the IP of Radio and Manila are not owned by Dave Winer or the old UserLand Software so parts of this conversation might be moot.

    5. Talented software programmers have tried for *years* to get people excited about writing outlines and have failed to build enough interest to reach the tipping point. Writing in outlines is like owning a Jeep–if you don’t do it, you’ll never understand. That’s why it will take an evangelist to do it. Dave can’t for a variety of reasons, especially his health. I tried to do it once and was stymied at every turn by people outside the company. I would be willing to try again–that’s how much I love the software.


    Steve Kirks


  24. Posted by Ralph Hempel on March 26, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    I bought a Radio license arount the time 8.0 shipped. I used a bit unconventionally, generating static files that I FTPd up to my own host. Radio/Frontier has a lot of cool stuff under the hood that I’ve tried to emulate in the two attempts I’ve made at writing a CMS for myself.

    The first was written in Tcl, and the latest one I’m using I rewrote completely in Lua. Frontier/Lua are really pretty decent scripting languages, and they have a fairly good debugger too!

    I think that open sourcing the core will be the sink/swim moment for the package. I’d hate to see it drown, and I’m sure Dave has a lot of sweat and emotion tied up in that package. Sure it’s gotten a bit crufty from supporting Mac/Windows in the same code base, but again, there’s a LOT of good ideas in there ready for mining.

    Maybe it will be like Moses in the rushes, waiting to be found, taken in, loved, and allowed to mature and lead a nation to greatness. Or not – it all depends on who finds it.

    As far as commercial hosting goes, there might be a marginal market for that, but good luck. Most hosting companies are standardizing on something else. On the other hand, with high speed almost everywhere and dynamic DNS being available, why bother? Host yourself. Chances are your bandwidth is not that huge, and when it is, redirect to a static site.

    Good luck Frontier, and may you find love in the open source community.


  25. Posted by schmoozer on March 26, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    move it to NYC and it will thrive,,, we can find a real CEO, raise some money hire sales etc.. by that time, you would be finished developing new stuff for userland … we raise another round at a huge valuation and were off and running


  26. Posted by schmoozer on March 26, 2007 at 1:59 pm


    big Daaave,

    ya forgot to mention Stewart Alsop was editor at Infoworls when he started Agenda.
    ya also forgot that we met for the first time at the same west coast computer faire 🙂 🙂


  27. I still use Radio, & used Manila when I was still “working”; people really liked the ease of using Manila… I”m not sure if they are still using it, but even computer novices could use it… probably easier than blogger.

    But I haven’t re-upped my copies of Radio… they work, but categories still come out scrambled. The fellow from Mo left and there’s no more action in that direction, so I’m putting effort into blogger & using the open sourced Frontier for static site work. And waiting on Mozilla Composer. And using other tools that are css friendly.

    Manila still has potential, but it needs more support. For my own reasons, I’d love it if it were open sourced, but if people have businesses making money with it I’d go easy on that.

    No conclusions.


  28. Posted by Roberto on March 26, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    I have been using radio (hosted) for 5 years and after trying blogger, wordpress, movable and typepad my vote goes for radio. Yes, to become an expert you need to be somewhat of a programmer so a lackluster forum and no support was more of a sad experience than an annoying one, just because of the thought of all the things I probably missed (learning).

    I will continue to support hosted radio for as long as Dave Winer or the BOD keeps it going. Hate to see the whole thing die…


  29. Personally I think Userland has lost all its value. I felt betrayed and robbed by the lack of support of Radio. To me Userland day last year when I changed from it to a customized system. I wrote several posts about how bad I got treated by Userland… responses? zero. It is very clear that when you, John and Robert left the company the company stop functioning as such. People are suffering from the lack of support the quirkiness of the comment system (try to write a comment with the word Socialism in it), I just tell them to move on. I don’t think anyone can save the company now.


  30. Posted by Doofuse City on March 26, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    What kind of idiot does it take to start a company, not do the legal work, hire a CEO for it, and then not understand how it’s being run? Geez, the more I read Dave, the more I wonder how he invented his way out a box, much less a piece of software….


  31. Posted by Doofuse City on March 26, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    PS – Let old software die. Even Dave uses WordPress to comment, because it’s better.


  32. Lawrence is fab. UserTalk is delicious. Manila’s API is super. Radio connected to Manila is too sexy for anybody’s shirt.

    The community has dispersed. It’s ever so lonely. Breaks my heart every time I hear of a Manila server switching to another platform.

    I don’t know how you attract more developers. I guess publicity, and more publicity and helpful forums are and were the trick. As was/is free software. Certainly, I’d like to help newbies, giving back–since I too was a newbie, 10 years ago. If I could get some cash back for that (and fame) even better.


  33. I’ve been using Userland for over 3 years. Lawrence was great while I was learning it, but I haven’t had a problem in a long time. Community support is a good idea (it’s the only way I get good support information from Apple).


  34. Posted by Matthew Carrico on March 26, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    Like Paolo I am involved in a business (manufacturing support systems) based on Frontier and am very eager to see Frontier and all of its incarnations flourish. A more stable, faster, spruced up Frontier would leave us with less doubt as we continue to develop in Frontier and with a brighter future for our codebase. To echo Paolo, we are willing to invest in Frontier’s development and are also not sure how such an investment would be directed or if Userland would have a role to play.
    In regards to the future of Userland, it seems possible to me that something close to what is in place now could still be the best solution for users, developers, and shareholders. Stripped down of truant management but still providing Lawrence as a resource to the community, Userland could direct any extra revenue from Radio, Manila, and other services to dividends for shareholders and toward helping to fund leveraged improvements to the Frontier kernel. By leveraged I mean improvements that have the potential to attract and retain new developers to the Frontier platform (especially the kernel). I would include things like the Linux port, syntax highlighting, better debugging tools, and “More” like features in this class of improvement. Ideally these and subsequent improvements to the kernel and platform would lead to Userland being able to attract larger, more “safety conscious” clients as well as maintain existing subscribers. Again ideally, all of this activity, interest, and forward momentum would crescendo in a flurry of new Manila plug-ins and Radio Tools which would attract more subscribers and projects. Um… possibly!


  35. Dave, a few follow up thoughts:

    1. Would GPL be the best license? What about MIT license, so people can use it to create commercial products… would it increase the chances of someone picking up the ball and running with it, and wouldn’t that be best for the users?

    2. Unfortunately, if something can’t be a commercial success, with very few execptions won’t have much chance of being an open source success… so maybe what’s best for users is to help the community in building conversion tools to other solutions. Of course, making it open source would do that, but it is less focused and may give people false hope.

    Anyway, I appreciate very much that you want to do what’s right for the users, even though it’s not the easier path. Thank you for that.


  36. Hello Dave,

    While not a developer, I have been a paying user of Radio for probably 7 or 8 years -multiple copies [from memory] and have been a paying user of Frontier/Manila for 4 or 5 years now. I have current licences and will be renewing my frontier in the next 20 days?

    The potential in the education and NGO markets for your product are enourmous, I have never been sure why organised marketing has not occured?

    I have no doubt in the brilliance of this product or the value it has brought to my peronsal and professional pursuits.

    Could a variation of the GPL solution you put forward Dave and AMY’s suggestion of “socialising the licence” be a third path?

    I agree with Doc Searles when he says he believes there is little future in selling software, but a large future in “services and support to bloggers and to the businesses and business functions bloggers will increasingly serve ”

    What about the Manila Licence acting as a partial/full share in the organisation? A socialised but monetized option? Investement in the community and development of the product by the users and developers of the product?

    Just a thought.



  37. A separate note of Lawrence Lee.

    The guy has almost single handedly grown and nurtured the community. He is clearly one of our communities most valuable resources. LIkewise, he has mentored others who are now just as valuable.




  38. No one has ever responded to my Edgeio Gumbo Ya Ya listing.


  39. It is a weird, sad situation.

    Perhaps you could sell UserLand to someone like Paolo Valdemarin or similar : one of the companies which is already invested in the UserLand platform as a user or reseller and which cares about the products.

    Alternatively, given your other current interests, perhaps there’s scope for a product pitched at newspapers and newsrooms, which combines outlining, blogging, river of news etc. Might be worth talking with people like Rob Curley and Adrian Holovaty. Maybe some integration with Django?

    However, frankly, I don’t think you can have it both ways. You can’t dictate the future of the company and still remain as hands-off as you’ve been. You’ll need to get back in there and become CEO again if you really want to both stay as majority shareholder, and see UserLand flourish. And after all, if Steve Jobs can return to Apple …


  40. Thanks for all the great comments…

    To Phil, it’s not so much that I want to dictate or even influence the future of the company, it’s just that having a half-dead company lying around is somewhat dangerous. So either it has to get cleaned up and cleanly functioning, or we need to cleanly shut it down. It’s no good being in limbo like this.

    I don’t really want to be the CEO of anything now. I like writing, traveling, kibitzing, writing the occasional bit of software, generally doing the stuff I liked to do when I was being a CEO.


  41. Hi all,

    I’m hoping that you keep the hosting going. Radio is fine. It’s a bit slow. I like the user experience and have avoided moving to another platform for that reason. I also have a good deal of time invested so:

    1. Keep the plant running.
    2. Speed up Radio on Macintosh if possible.
    3. Better comments feature.

    John Orr


  42. Posted by theodp on March 26, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    Back in the old days, big software vendors welcomed the opportunity to pick up a down-on-its-luck competitor’s package – both for the product’s customers as well as its technology. Vendors like Oracle still do a pretty good job of this (think PeopleSoft). And while the acquired software often eventually “dies”, the upside is that its innovative features often live on as they’re incorporated into the vendor’s existing software line (and copied by its competitors!). With this in mind, how about approaching Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, WordPress, Amazon, etc. about a sale? Seems like Radio, Manila and Frontier might also provide some relatively cheap “prior art insurance” for firms/VCs whose billion dollar+ products were later to the marketplace – MySpace, Facebook, etc.


  43. It is amazing how little has happened that is new at Userland is seemingly a long time. There was so much that was vibrant and moving forward that has stopped. I have used Frontier for a really long time and would like to think that in some small way I helped it get to where it is today (or at least was along for the ride) I know people who had some of the very first licenses in the pre-aretha days. It was so much fun to develop stuff in and for. It does seem that it has stalled. Nothing really new or inovative has come out the doors since the departure of you, brent and jake (not to mention doug, andre, and so many others) I remember the vibrant community that existed around that product, and I love that I keep seeing those old names pop up in the most unexpected places.

    And Dave keep pissing people off and keep digging. Long live Claybasket the app that made the net really feel alive to me.

    And I still run more every once in a while just to feel nostagic (and keep an old lc 3 around just to do that)


  44. Dave,

    I also really want to see Frontier/Manila/Radio survive, for my own selfish reasons. It works well, and it is simple to use. It is time to talk to friends like Guy Kawasaki, Marc Canter and Sylvia Paull. I think they can help advise you as to the best way to procede with these products.

    There is also a big community with a vested interest in helping you succeed.


  45. I’ve been using Radio on a business site for several years now, and I choose it because it did exactly what I wanted it to do. It’s a great product, and I’d hate to see it go purely because nobody can be bothered to do anything with it.
    Having said that, if it doesn’t start playing catch up real soon, it’s going to get harder to defend my continued use of it.
    Just a sign that ANYTHING at all was happening with it, would be viewed as a very positive move.


  46. Lawrence isn’t the only one still “at” the company, but he is by far the most visible and without a doubt the most indispensable. He is dedicated, hard working and smart as a whip. Enough good things cannot be said about him. Everyone in the UserLand community owes Lawrence a huge debt of gratitude.

    As for the future of UserLand, my preference is for the company to be revitalized with fresh blood and money. Where this is to come from, I don’t know, but certainly having this open discussion is a great way to attract resources. If no resources are forthcoming, then I would support the open source release of UserLand’s software assets.



  47. Posted by Bob Hooker on March 27, 2007 at 1:44 am

    In 1999 I had to manage a large number of web sites for 2 jobs I had and a lot of my own stuff. Dreamweaver was not doing it for me.

    That was when I download Userland Frontier. WCMS! I didn’t no that term but the thing save me weekends of effort and was fun.

    And when I wanted to give feedback Sir David himself answered my emails with a lot of class.

    I still have the product on my Mac and though I use other CMS systems now for work and development Frontier will always have a place in my heart as the tool that oppened Web 2.0 vision back in the 20th Century.

    As for its future, no specific code base has a future, but Frontier and Userland will live on as the technology that paved the way for CMS and blogging.

    For me the future of Userland is the fact I drop its name over and over again in Web 2.0 discussions as the “origin myth”, not bad. I would even go so far as to say robotwisdom and jorn’s early blogger was really a creative application of Frontier, in fact it was from robotwisdom’s link that I learned about the tool.

    Jorn may have turned, but I will remain true.


  48. Posted by kentompkins on March 27, 2007 at 3:06 am

    There isn’t much that I can say that hasn’t already been said.

    We have used a Frontier server at this college since 2000 and, until recently, were proud to tell everyone. I had an EditThisPage blog and bought Radio when it appeared. I was and still am convinced that owning your data is critical and I loved Radio for that reason.

    I could never figure out why Frontier didn’t penetrate the higher education market. We have over 1400 sites on our server and each literature major is required to have a Manila blog in two basic courses.

    But something has slipped. Other software has raced by Frontier — in terms of necessary capabilities (e.g., security). Finally, Lawrence Lee and others have issued updates that help us control aggressive spammers.

    I don’t have a solution except to say it will be a sad day if Userland ceases to exist. But something has to be done.

    Were I CEO, the first act I would take would be to reward Lawrence Lee with whatever he wanted. He may not be the only person left at Userland but he is the most visible, most helpful and most capable support person I’ve dealt with in some time.

    As far as Dave’s future is concerned, he’s right — as usual. Who would WANT to be a CEO. He has a job and to lose him in that one would be a greater loss than losing Userland. He can’t do both.

    ken tompkins
    richard stockton college of nj


  49. Posted by User on March 27, 2007 at 5:27 am

    the AP press link is to something behind a paywall. This worked for me instead:,1,804986.story?coll=la-headlines-politics


  50. First of all, a big thank you to Lawrence for his continuing and heroic efforts on behalf of the Frontier/Manila/Radio community. With a lesser person in his role I’m afraid that the problems would be even bigger.

    I’ve used – and relied on – Frontie and Manila for a long time now, both for my own web presence and for faculty and other web sites at my college. I have tried some of the other solutions and I still don’t find them as powerful and flexible as Manila/Frontier. Manila has its shortcomings, but it also has great strengths as a solution to many needs that go way beyond whatever we mean when we talk about “blogging.”

    It has been painful to watch the tool languish for the past few years.

    As to whether reviving it as a commercial product or releasing into the wild would be the best thing, I don’t know. But I do know that either would be far preferable to letting this wonderful and powerful tool continue to die a slow death by neglect.

    I have a feeling that if the code were to be released in a way that allowed folks to support, develop, and improve it without too many restrictions that we might see – again – a powerful community assemble around it.

    Take care,



  51. I hope that some way is found to continue and develop Radio. Radio was my first “real” blogging software, and there are features in it that I still miss.


  52. Aloha Dave, I started using UL’s tools when you put out Aretha, followed by buying several copies of Frontier for both personal and office use, then Radio. I really enjoyed all of them and it was a very sad day for me when I decided not to renew my license for Radio last year, and it was simply because of the lack of Unicode support. When I tried other blogging tools – WordPress, Moveable Type, iWeb, they all handled it gracefully. I know this isn’t something easily rectified and I’m assuming that at least on the Mac side it would require significant upgrading of the kernel.

    I really do miss a lot of the cool features of RU and the fact that I could pop open the hood and tinker with the scrips, but in the end I really couldn’t live without the extended language support. I do wish Userland luck with its current struggles, and hope it emerges a stronger company for it. I’m still a fan 😉


  53. I used Frontier before it had manila. I’ve never sat down to learn UserTalk and not sure where to start. I still use it, and it’s an important part of my business and I’ve hopes that it will increase. I run two servers but a liscense is lapsing. I want to keep one current. Don’t need the other one now. (long story about THAT) I recently introduced a client’s new “web” employee to manila and he says this is leaps and bounds better than anything he’s ever seen.

    This is an awesome product and deserves to be saved. I see a couple of problems.

    1) We’re missing a few features.
    2) Marketing has been non-existant from where I sit for years!
    3) It’s hard to compete with free. (provide more value!)
    4) Documentation could be better.

    But most of those are not that difficult to get a handle on. Like any other employee, CEO’s can and should be fired. If I left my job and went to work elsewhere, I doubt that my old boss would still send me a pay check or consider me an employee. Why is this tolerated for one minute from any CEO???? The board needs to immediatly come to a resolution on this, the guy’s all in or all out. CEO’s need to be “all in” kind of people. Replace him and get a fireball in his place. {wild speculation} Why not Lawarence? I’m sure HE has ideas about what needs to be done. He’s probably the most connected to the users.

    While there is a community based around this product, I think what it really needs a loud-mouthed evangalist. (loud-mouthed in a good way.) Pull those frustrated word press users over to manila.

    It’s worth repeating what Jim said, “It is time to talk to friends like Guy Kawasaki, Marc Canter and Sylvia Paull.”

    …and seth godin… and steve jobs… and anybody else that’ll listen and provide good advice and alternative viewpoints.

    I don’t have millions or even thousands but I’d be interseted in a sort of co-op campaign that would be sure to improve the product.

    Please save this product. Make it better, everyday.

    /kelly thomas
    Manila Hosting

    ps I feel like somebody just told me that they were going to take away my Mac/Photoshop/boat/dog


  54. Posted by steve on March 27, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    i’m on the frontierkernel mailing list and had almost forgotten that there was anything that anyone might take as a consensus that you shouldn’t participate in the OSS effort; looking back, this was fully two years ago, and i don’t see a consensus at all, just a little tiff; (this is a concise summary with color added); fwiw, i think it’s too bad that you took a few words in March 2005 as a permanent brush-off; but there are a lot of big egos involved, so it makes sense, in a Chernobyl sort of way, that a wasteland was created

    what’s really missing in the frontierkernel effort, i think, are a critical mass of people who know how to make hay with the kernel code; even though i use just odb and Apple Events, i have a business sideline based on Frontier, and i once owned two Manilla licenses and a Radio license; i think maybe open-sourcing Manilla would bring more experts to the effort


  55. I will be renewing my Licence for Frontier/Manila in April.

    How worried should I be?



  56. I’ve been using Radio UserLand for my blog since 2002; while I occasionally think of moving to another platform, every year I conclude that 1) Radio does what I need it to, I neither want nor need any other bells and whistles; 2) I don’t have the energy, expertise, or bandwidth to move 5 years of posts, fiddle with another service, etc. etc. If UserLand remains viable, I’ll continue to use it. If it dies, I’ll move on. Life’s like that.


  57. Posted by Thomas A. Creedon on March 28, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    Dave Winer said “I would be happy to create a roadmap for it, or participate in the creation of a roadmap, but the people on the frontierkernel mail list made it clear they don’t want help.”.

    Dave are you referring to the Frontier Kernel Yahoo Tech Group?

    As a fairly heavy contributor to the Frontier Kernel Project I am interested in any help we can get! I’ve never had the impression that your participation wasn’t welcome. Keeping in mind that the Frontier Kernel Project is a group effort and I’m only one voice of many.

    Dave also said “Another one — in the OPML Editor community we’ve got some problems with the software running on Vista. There are no kernel-level developers who work on Windows, they’re all Mac users. So problems wiht Apple stuff get lots of eyes but big crashing problems on Windows get no attention.”.

    I’m not on Vista right now myself so I can’t help with this problem but at least drop a note in the list or file a bug report and lets see if someone can help out.



  58. Posted by ManilaNewbie on April 6, 2007 at 11:29 am

    Can I just echo the sentiments praising Lawrence Lee for his sterling work?

    As above per Bill Coppinger, I will need to renew at the end of this month. Worry or not?


  59. Posted by Derek on April 20, 2007 at 10:39 pm


    I’ve been a Frontier user for many years, and turned in to something of a wannabe scripter as a result of learning from you and others like Matt Neuburg. Allow me to boost your ego here: the more I learned about how Frontier works, the more I realized what great vision you had in designing this app. I think you once called it a gap-filler where AppleScript lacked, but to me it’s way more than that. The concept of using outlines, the brilliance of using directives that inherit their valules from higher levels- it was all extremely cool stuff in my opinion, and seemingly way ahead of its time.

    Then the dark times came- I felt uneasy when it seemed that development of Frontier wasn’t being lead by you. The stunted growth of the Frontier user community became apparent- the whole Radio-blog thing seemed to become the only focus, and then I started noticing dead links where Frontier developer pages used to be and I became reluctant to continue using the platform. It made me sad. I’ve been much less of a Frontier user lately, and it sucks. I’ve looked as much as I can for an alternative and just haven’t found anything as cool. I would be extremely happy to see Winer-esque development continue.

    Now, since you asked, my wish would be to see development resume, with some more brilliant concepts. Perhaps there could be better and more user-friendly integration that would allow people to use MySQL and php the same way they could use AppleScript and FileMaker before. I’d probably want it all to work behind Apache, as it seems to work quite well for most people serving web pages. If I could continue to use Frontier as an writing environment, outliner, a way to dictate site structure, etc. and use scripts of whatever flavor, all talking to MySQL, I’d be in 7th heaven!

    I have no idea how this could all be made possible, but regardless I was very compelled to write all of this, and I’m glad I did.

    Best regards,


  60. Hi, All.

    Manila took me from hand-crafting a blog to the joy of edit-this-page. I still pay for hosting years’ of my life on my blog. Radio was pretty good to me for a while, but I foolishly tried to tweak things that broke it and I can’t extract my posts. I’d gladly pay for someone to help me extract and migrate my archives and objects from Manila and Radio into WordPress.

    As for the business, I think the products, especially Frontier, aren’t viable in terms of sales. You’d want that cash flow to fund marketing and engineering. I don’t know the nut for keeping the doors open, but you’d want more income if you want UserLand to invest in growth.

    As for the products themselves, if you were starting from scratch today, wouldn’t you build with a different tool set, incorporating the last decade’s advances in software engineering and the Internet?

    Most importantly it comes down to purpose. Dave-era UserLand infectiously spread a dozen big memes while paying Dave to tinker and experiment. Nobody knows what happened to Leonardo DaVinci’s studio after he left or Gregor Mendel’s garden. Without a Dave pursuing passions that spin off bold innovation, UserLand’s role can only be custodial.

    If you’re looking for a mission, I completely agree with Doc. We are far from having the smart, flexible, intuitive, adaptive tools for reading and writing the web that we deserve. The fundamental look and feel of blog authoring and reading haven’t changed since Manila’s launch and the 6a/WordPress/Blogger people don’t seem interested in breaking through to order of magnitude better experiences.

    See you at Sauls,


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