Scripting News for 10/24/07

Your living room on the Internet? 

New search tool 

I replaced the Google-based search tool in the right margin with one from Lijit.

Screen shot.

I found the Google one took up too much space, and I couldn’t easily configure it, I never used it, and I grimaced every time I saw it (it felt like an eyesore).

Let’s see if this one works better, it sure looks better. šŸ™‚

The regal Silicon Valley 

Watching various people (on Twitter) get on an airplane to go to Hawaii to an insider invite-only Silicon Valley conference, and thinking about the various business ideas the valley is floating these days, advertising, and how valuations work, and how unaccustomed the insiders are at having their ideas challenged, I came to a few rapid-fire conclusions last night on Twitter. (One good reason to follow me on Twitter is I tend to blurt out things there that would get me in trouble here on my blog.)

Twit #1: “I have a theory that ‘user generated content’ is a last-gasp of the regal outlook of silicon valley, where we’re all chumps or slaves.” (Before UGC we were just supposed to be eyeballs, consuming their shovelware, buying stuff we see in ads. They had to adjust their thinking when it became apparent that we were also interested in creating, though we’re positioned as generators not creators.)

Twit #2: “The role of the tech industry is to create tools and players. To enable creativity, not harness and control it.” (I think this is when it all works best.)

Twit #3: “If you’re scared to hear what people really think you’re not prepared for the world you live in.” (I finally figured this one out. The reason so many people in SV say I can’t be trusted (it’s observable) is because I’m equally likely to say your product sucks as I am to say it’s great. This is a culture raised on Gee Whiz editorial coverage, the adulation of MSM. When blogs came along they had to hear that not everyone thinks they’re so wonderful all the time. Who would you hate most but the guy who pushed the tools that made everyone with an opinion so audible. And would you expect such a person to keep his opinion to himself? Heh.)

Even though I think this, I know I’m actually full of shit…

Guy Kawasaki asked me once why so many people say I’m not a nice person, when in fact I am. If I saw you on the street I’d smile and say hello. I stop when someone is in the crosswalk. Nothing makes me happier than making a tool that people enjoy. I try to listen to everyone, and I don’t care how much money you have. I never answered Guy’s question, but here it is. If you asked me why some individual person thinks something, I’d say you’d have to ask them. That’s basic respect. Let people speak for themselves. If you ask me why 100 people think something, I’m even more clueless.

BTW, Guy and I weren’t friends for a long time after being good friends for a long time. I much prefer having him as a friend, I missed his company while we weren’t talking. He doesn’t suffer fools, and he’s the first person to question his own thinking if someone says he’s wrong. I’ve seen him do it, and I was totally impressed. People like that figure stuff out. People who don’t want to learn about bugs in their thinking go through life with a lot of bugs. Today, and beyond, everyone has great tools for saying what they think. If you can’t stand to hear it, you’re not going to like the future very much, sorry to say.

Doing a new build of the OPML Editor 

The next stop on my tour of development projects is to ship some new software that runs inside the OPML Editor. The software is designed to run on a Mac Mini that’s attached to a big screen HD-TV. So the way the OPML Editor boots up now is inappropriate for this application. It presents a dialog and opens a weblog editing window. Instead this app interfaces through a web browser, and runs in the background.

So I need to come up with a way to not run the startup code for the weblog editor. I’ll be taking my notes here, so that later when I want to do the same thing for another project I’ll know how to do it. And since the OPML Editor is open source, the notes can apply to other people’s projects if they want to do something similar.

1. How do you create a plain text file using the software Apple ships with the Mac OS? The TextEdit app doesn’t have that option, amazingly. I found one very ugly way to do it. Open a .txt file. Then the options on the Save dialog give you a way to save as plain text. The real answer: It’s a preference.

2. The OPML Editor will have an opmlStartupCommands.txt file in the application folder. The first line will set user.prefs.flStartupDotOpml to false. dotOpmlThread.script watches for this, and if it’s present and set false, it won’t start up.

3. Add this to the to-do list. I need to get Bonjour working inside the OPML Editor, with the minimum of fuss.

I never metadata I didn’t like 

Jacob Harris leads this piece about the metadata of the NY Times with the corniest tech quote I’ve ever heard.

I heart corny quotes. šŸ™‚

Jim Forbes evacuated in San Diego 

A retired reporter, Jim Forbes, was evacuated from his mountain home near San Diego, and tells the story on his blog.

Did TechCrunch screw a source? 

Nelson Minar says he likes TechCrunch, but they’re not journalists so be careful what you say to a TC reporter at a party. He cites two examples where he feels they acted unethically.

In one example, the reporter seems to use off the record comments exactly as they are supposed to. Most non-disclosures require that you keep the information confidential, but only until someone else discloses the information to you. If you get it from another source, on the record or off the record, the NDA is no longer enforceable. In this case they got confirmation from three off the record sources.

The other is just an example of a dumb story, not a violation of journalistic ethics. To say that a big company told a lie is hardly news. If it were about something material and not the age of one of the founders, then it would be newsworthy. But it’s not an example of an integrity breach. (You can make a mistake and still have integrity. It’s only a problem if you knew it was wrong when you wrote it.)

Imho, too much is made of whether someone is a journalist or not. You read reports like this one from a high reputation news organization, written by a journalist, that contain no information but leave a sensational impression for people who don’t know technology well enough to know that the reporter is talking nonsense. I’d rather read the opinion of a non-journalist who knows the subject and can defend his or her position, and clearly discloses their interest in the subject. At least I’d learn something, and no one would be misled into believing they were getting “news.”

However I do applaud what Nelson wrote because he had the guts to openly criticize TechCrunch. People from outside Silicon Valley must wonder why hardly anyone does, given that they are at or near the top of most lists ranking tech news sources. Why should they be immune to examination? Answer — they shouldn’t.

I wish TechMeme had an item-level opt-out 

Of course people would like to have an item-level opt-in, to guarantee a post would earn a top position on TechMeme, but obviously that’s impractical, so why not give us the power to say please don’t include this story in TechMeme, it’s too meta.

When I say a piece is too meta, it’s not news, it’s news about news, what the Big Media guys call a process story. For example, I would prefer to not have this piece, the one you’re reading right now, on TechMeme. It’s now meta-meta, because I’m talking about the meta-ness of the piece. You can see this could go on forever, now I’m in meta-meta-meta mode. For a brief moment I went into quadruple meta mode. (Sometimes I get so deep into a joke I wonder if people are still with me.)

Seriously, some pieces just shouldn’t be on TechMeme. And I know which ones those are. So instead of making me turn off the TM spider for my whole site, why not give me a way to say “Stop TechMeme spider, this item is off-limits.” We could come up with a TechMeme namespace for RSS 2.0. I’d be happy to help. šŸ™‚


11 responses to this post.

  1. So if I comment on your meta meta piece and you comment back that’s a meta meta comment and thus something you’d want to opt out of reading? (like comments on are relegated to this Annex)

    I thought a major part of the point of TechMeme was to pull together people who are talking about a certain topic. In a sense the most linked story is the source and everything that follows is a process story at some level.

    Dave, it would be nice to see some examples of cases where you would have opted out to make it clearer what you mean.


  2. There are many pieces I would have opted out on.

    For one, any piece where someone could accuse me of trying to spam TechMeme. It’s happened, Arrington did it, in a CrunchNotes piece. I would have liked to have been able to respond that he was wrong because I had specifically opted out. I think that was the TechMeme is a Cesspool piece. (Turns out I was right, Calacanis acknowledged that his piece was linkbait. I think people were right to feel that stuff didn’t belong on TM, it wan’t news.)

    I’d also have opted out of the piece where I said Facebook sucked, because that one was obviously destined for top position because of its headline, and that wasn’t my intent at all. The real point of the piece was the part where I said how Facebook could unsuck, and how Google, if they hoped to compete, should not suck from the start. But people who read the piece quickly, who normally would not read it on Scripting, took away “Dave hates Facebook.”

    I might just find that I’d rather opt out of TechMeme altogether, but there are pieces that I would *like* to get play there, like the innovating I do, but those never get play on TM.

    Maybe I’ll just introduce the metadata myself so you can see, and maybe Gabe will decide to support it.

    Something like this (assuming WordPress doesn’t mangle the brackets:


    I know that’s too cute to be the actual way to do it. But what the fuck. Sometimes the worst name for something turns out to be the best. šŸ™‚


  3. To an exent I agree with both David (Winer) and TDavid. The point is that it seems like nearly every Techmeme-thoughts automatically becomes a Techmeme-meme now. At the same time, the reason it ends up there is because there is a hyped-up focus on Techmeme at the moment, something that will surely go down over time. In the meantime, all this attention should also hopefully end up leading to a better Techmeme, so why not have it be read on Techmeme so that more people will publish more meta-thoughts, ultimately forming the greatests meta-thought of them all. If that makes any sense


  4. Thank you for the detailed response, Dave. That helps.

    “but those never get play on TM” — are you saying none of the stuff with your New York Times reader made it to TM? I remember reading something there about it but in all honesty I believe I first heard about it following you on Twitter.

    Curious: were you able to see this as a @davewiner reply on Twitter since you don’t follow me or was it only here that you saw? You responded pretty fast.


  5. TextEdit – in the Preferences you can set TextEdit to create new documents as plain text. Once you have checked that you get the .txt extension by default, and, plain text.

    The default as shipped would be more aptly named “RichTextEdit”.


  6. About textedit, if you don’t want to change the default, you can choose “Make Plain Text” from the format menu or hit shift+apple key+T, and the document is converted to txt format and saved as such


  7. Why does this show up in my google tool bar each time I load your site?

    “Rockridge Furniture Company” 5601 College Ave, Oakland, CA

    I searched your site and didn’t see anything mentioning you were testing something.



  8. Everybody delivers “shovelware”, given the promise of sufficient cash.


  9. @Lijit: It might look better, but it doesn’t do much good. At least not to me using Opera (haven’t tested in any other browser, so I don’t know if it’s a browser issue). As I’m writing, it [the search widget] haven’t been able to find any hits on a search for “Valley” in the 5+ minutes it has been running. It just gives me “Searching” accompanied by the spinning arrows. Have tried a couple of other queries as well, same (non-)result…


  10. Posted by David Mercer on October 25, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    I can’t get to even load here, and I’m on a 100Gb fibre at the office!


  11. Dave.

    RE: the regal Silicon Valley …

    In my view, user-generated content is about mutual respect and link love. It’s about sharing and connection. The people going off to Hawaii feel entitled to respect, but don’t give any flow back outside themselves. And as I am writing from Chicago, let’s not forget that a world exists beyond the Bay Area.

    Screw ’em (and go Cubs!)


    Michael E. Rubin
    Call me ā€” 312-932-9000 x204
    See what Iā€™m up to ā€”
    See a picture of an orangutan ā€”


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