Tag Archives: Dave Winer

Dave Winer, comments, and blogging: some thoughts

Dave Winer has turned off comments on his blog, and I have just started reading him again after a hiatus of a couple of years.

I do not think that these things are unconnected.

These days, I don’t get that many comments here. That’s not surprising: I’ve gone from being a fairly prolific blogger who would happily churn out half a dozen posts a day to maybe writing a post a week. But my experience back when I had to deal with lots and lots of comments was that it soaked up a lot of your mental energy. More than that, it actually made you write in a completely different way, often more confrontational.

To put it another way, comments tended to make you more irritable. Comments often turned into silly little fights between people who completely ignored your original post, or had obviously barely read it. More often than not, those people also chose to hide under throwaway or anonymous names, too, which only made matters worse. If you don’t use a recognisable name (it doesn’t need to be a real one) you’re depersonlising yourself, encouraging others to treat you as a little less of a human being, a little more of an avatar they can have an argument with.

The best way to comment on anything – and the way I’d encourage anyone to comment on anything I write – is to write something on your own blog. Not on Twitter, where, unless you’re a brilliantly-pithy epigram writer, you’re likely just to indicate agreement or disagreement. Not – god help you – on Facebook or Google Plus, where you don’t own the space and it’s as much about engaging your community of friends as it is you.

(As an aside, one extreme example of this is MG Siegler’s Google+ stream. It’s pretty clear that MG doesn’t even read it: he simply “+1′s” stuff on this own site, which feeds it through to Google+. Every post is a cesspit of vitriol, a bunch of people screaming into the wind. A pointless waste of bits.)

Do it on your own blog, where you have time and space to write as much or as little as you want, to explore your own thoughts in depth, without having to be concerned about “your community” or anyone else. If you’re worried that the person you’re writing a response to won’t see it, email them or Tweet at them. Almost every writer who’s actually worth reading will engage with, and respond to, people who write interesting stuff. For major bloggers, this is much more likely to get their attention than any comment. On big sites, they may not even have the time to read comments anyway.

Looking through his posts, it feels to me like there’s a little bit of a tonal difference between Dave’s posts pre-comment turn-off, and after. He feels a little bit more relaxed, a bit more varied, more like the Dave Winer that I used to read and enjoy, even thought I often (maybe usually) didn’t agree with him. It sounds like he’s having more fun.

As for comments on here, I’ll keep them on for the moment, but probably turn them off at some point. It’s not that I find comments here arduous, or that people who comment fall into the category of “bad commentors” (often, far from it). But I’d like to do a little bit to encourage people to write for themselves, on their own blogs, and in a thoughtful way rather than just drive-by commenting.

And if you write something, email me, or tweet at me. It’ll be fun.

John Gruber, Joe Wilcox, and why comments are anti-web

Myself and John Gruber have had plenty of disagreements. John and I have debated the reasons for the relative lack of malware on the Mac. I’ve tweaked his tail over his habit of excoriating those who make predictions and get it wrong, and over some inconsistency in the way he views positive and negative figures for Apple market share. And I’ve argued that he’s flat-out wrong on occasions, too.

I see it as part of the cut and thrust of healthy debate on the Internet. You put out an idea, people test it, you respond if you feel the need.

However, recently John’s weathered some criticism for the lack of comments on his site, and in a particularly angry post Joe Wilcox got about as close as you get on the Internet to demanding John go outside with him and settle things like a man. Now I should make this clear: I like Joe. We’ve conversed online and over the phone for many years, since his days as one of the best analysts covering the Apple market, and although we’ve never met I think of him as friend. Continue reading

Dave Winer’s sub-text

Dave Winer’s been experimenting with a feature he calls “Sub-text”, which lets you get more depth from a story while still being able to skim-read it. The idea is simple: You can embed a piece of sub-text underneath a paragraph, which you can expand or contract at will.

The basic idea is that you should be able to skim the post without reading the sub-text, but that the sub-text provides additional depth to the paragraph it’s attached to. It’s one of Dave’s responses to the fact that people tend to skim-read online rather than actually reading things fully.

I think it’s actually a pretty neat idea, and one that I’d like to incorporate into this blog. At the moment, there’s some rough edges – most notably, RSS doesn’t support it which means you have to read the site in order to get the “full” text. But it still looks promising as a method for adding depth without linking off to other pages.

Dave Winer rewrites the history of the PC

From Dave Winer’s iPad review:

“IBM didn’t try to turn the world upside-down with the PC in 1981, however, in 1984, they did, with the PC jr, and failed.”

This is actually almost the inverse of the truth. Don Estridge, who headed up the IBM PC project, turned the way that IBM worked on its head in order to get the thing built. While he may not have intended to change the entire world, he certainly changed the internal world of IBM. He had to, in order to get the job done.

And the PC jr certainly wasn’t an attempt to change the world – in fact, it was a poor product largely because of the need to preserve the status quo for IBM. As Michael Schrage puts it in Serious Play:

“A primary reason for the failure of the IBM PCjr home computer in the mid-1980s was that IBM management had decided it might cannibalize sales from IBM’s popular line of personal computers. The product of a spec-driven culture, the PCjr was deliberately hobbled in the prototyping process to thwart that possibility.”

I’m not sure that Dave’s kick-off analogy is that good, either:

“If you’re old enough to remember the vice-presidential debate between Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle, you’re also old enough to remember the PC jr.

Quayle, a fit young man, probably chosen as a running mate because of his fitness, was likely told by his handlers to compare himself to the fit young John F. Kennedy. When he did, Bentsen, who was many years his senior, and was probably briefed to expect this, said: “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

Entrepreneuers make the same mistake Quayle made, they always compare themselves to the winners, never considering that losers outnumber winners by a huge margin.”

The winner of the 1988 vice-presidential election? Dan Quayle.

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