Scripting News is taking a break.
June 29, 2003 12:39 PM   Subscribe

Scripting News is taking a break. "I'm shutting down Scripting News now, to give me some time to think, and to give you all a demo of what it would be like if it weren't here. These last few days have been really awful. You can't imagine what it's like to have so many people screaming at you. It's inhuman, especially considering that my health isn't that good. The only conclusion I can come to is that I shouldn't be doing this." That said, it looks like Dave is still making updates at
posted by mrbula (47 comments total)
The beginnings of the RSS soap opera are documented nicely in Mark Pilgrim's History of the RSS Fork. Funky RSS is also good for a laugh as legions of tea-leaf readers try (unsuccessfully) to divine the Words of Chairman Dave.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 12:51 PM on June 29, 2003

Yes, Dave's right. He shouldn't be doing anything. I've had more tit-for-tat conversations with that nut than I have fingers and toes to count on, and I'm not even part of any of the projects he works on.

He's bad-tempered, egotistical, overconfident, and he's a poor writer and communicator. He a lot of ideas, but his execution is horrible. Among others, I would personally be very happy if Dave Winer dropped off of the face of the internet.
posted by SpecialK at 12:58 PM on June 29, 2003

"and to give you all a demo of what it would be like if it weren't here."

Brace yourselves, the internet is about to collapse.
posted by tomorama at 1:22 PM on June 29, 2003

This conversation may be of interest. I mean, if you enjoy useless bickering.
posted by rhyax at 1:26 PM on June 29, 2003

someone wanna sum up what this is about?
posted by ph00dz at 1:32 PM on June 29, 2003

He'll be back. He craves attention, and that's all this stunt is about.
posted by jgilliam at 1:36 PM on June 29, 2003

This reminds me so much of just about any teenaged camgirl who pulls her site down the first time she says something that upsets a great number of people (or if someone says she's fat).

Nobody loves me. Everybody is yelling at me. Fine, you don't like what I am saying, so I am taking my site down. Now just see how awful the internet is without me. ~ an actual quote from some camgirl's page

Don't worry, in true camgirl fashion, I imagine he'll be back in two weeks acting as if nothing ever happened. He's just rallying his troops and reminding them how terrible the internet would be if he wasn't around. People yell at me too when I state an unpopular view on my web site and don't support it with some sort of facts or at least cohesive and informative opinions. I'm proud to say that I have never felt inclined to pull my web site because of it. I guess my skin is thicker than his. But then, I usually try to figure out what exactly people are screaming at me about and make the situation better as opposed to being egotistical and evasive about it ... or running away.

jgilliam: Exactly.
posted by Orb at 1:43 PM on June 29, 2003

My thoughts on this whole thing are on my blog. Honestly I don't know much about the situation at all, but while standards are good, they shouldn't be used to hold back innovation. If someone isn't use the standard you like, don't use their stuff.
posted by delmoi at 1:47 PM on June 29, 2003

ph00dz - as I understand it (and i really don't), Winer created RSS which lets blogs and other content producers offer their content for syndicaiton on other sites.

Other content management creators like the Trotts with MovableType and Evan with Blogger don't like RSS for a host of reasons. The main one seems to be that it requires ASCII text instead of unicode. This means it's only really good for English language content.

So, they're creating a new standard API tentatively called Echo and David it taking it personally. There probably is some personal animosity in it as well. I don't think very many people like Dave.
posted by willnot at 1:54 PM on June 29, 2003


I hesitate to stick a toe in this excessively discussed burbling stream but... Winer did not create RSS but is generally credited as one of the participants in the creation with some folks at the old Netscape doing somewhat more than a majority of the work. Winer (amusingly to me) carps about the pain others cause him through their posted writings yet I cannot tell you the upset I had the first time he flamed me over nearly nothing about two years ago.

You also state that the people behind both MT and Blogger do not like RSS but the facts are indisputable in that both products support publishing RSS files. Perhaps not exactly as Himself would like, nor were they as quick to release the feature (especially in the case of Blogger), but neither said negative words at the time when RSS was first becoming widely used in the blogosphere.
posted by billsaysthis at 2:17 PM on June 29, 2003

Yeah, like I said, I don't really understand what's going on. Still, no need to let a little thing like ignorance of a topic get in the way of my weighing in on it.

What I wrote were just my impressions from a cursory reading of the drama building over the past few days, and should in no way be taken as anything approaching reality.
posted by willnot at 2:22 PM on June 29, 2003

Just messaged the "I'm down" link to a pal of mine and he said: i think i'd offer money if he promised to keep it like that

I honestly don't know why Winer thinks vinegar wins in the honey vs. vinegar contest, but it sure as hell takes a lot more energy to be a jerk.

Looks like for Mr. Winer, it's taken its toll. The guy has some good ideas, but how does it behoove him to cultivate people's dislike of him?

Here's one possible history of RSS, which I'll admit I hadn't seen before googling it.
posted by artlung at 2:46 PM on June 29, 2003

I think The Google Toolbar's "Blog This" may also be giving him pause; if Google is going to turn into a tough competitor (and I'm not talking Microsoft tough, I'm talking just playing-fair tough), his big little enterprise might just get trampled. On top of that, if the reaction to his RSS battles are showing him how few real allies he has, he definitely should be taking some quiet time to reconsider his business plan. Still, his irascible personality (euphemism) is not necessarily a total liability; how many people would notice he was taking a hiatus from his blog if he weren't the Loudmouthed Nutcase (not euphemism) he is?

Still, he's no quonsar.
posted by wendell at 3:32 PM on June 29, 2003

someone wanna sum up what this is about?

there's a good explanation of the rss/echo doodah here (via lambda).
posted by andrew cooke at 3:46 PM on June 29, 2003

Thanks for the link mrbula. I dropped Dave from my bookmarks quite some time ago, so his (apparent non-) disapperance is news to me.

Anyone have the link to his actual kiss off posting?
posted by turbodog at 4:36 PM on June 29, 2003

Well, as I and other suspected, that lasted all of about 4 hours...

"I'm going out for dinner and a movie and Scripting News will return bright and early tomorrow morning. "
posted by ltracey at 4:42 PM on June 29, 2003

I'm going out for dinner and a movie and Scripting News will return bright and early tomorrow morning

Well, that was quick.
posted by drinkcoffee at 4:43 PM on June 29, 2003

correction: "I and others suspected."

Link to original goodbye here.
posted by ltracey at 4:43 PM on June 29, 2003

That, I think, was record time for one of these online ego trips. I guess enough people assured him of his dominance in the herd quickly enough.
posted by Orb at 4:46 PM on June 29, 2003

You know, I just can't see putting a lot of faith in standards that are controlled by a guy who does stuff like that.
posted by Bryant at 4:48 PM on June 29, 2003

Anyone who posts a letter of support from his mom on his website is probably in serious need of help. Funny, I have quite a lot of respect for Dave and what he has done for blogdom, but he does have a very thin skin. I very nearly reduced my Winer number to 1 once for a mild criticism I made.
posted by cbrody at 5:15 PM on June 29, 2003

Dave Winer = Dave Whiner. I've said it before, and it seems it still applies.
posted by tomcosgrave at 5:36 PM on June 29, 2003

Well, look, as someone who's decided not to continue posting in the last 30 days, made a public explanation of my reasoning, and had some convincing arguments put to me as to why I might not want to choose this, I have to say it's not *always* a call for attention.

That said, good riddance.
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:02 PM on June 29, 2003

"Okay, I think I made my point." But, to most of us, not the point he wanted to...
That's why I think the Winer is one of the more entertaining bloggers out there, if you keep a safe distance.
But I'll stand behind my point that this would be a good time for him to re-examine his business plan.
posted by wendell at 6:40 PM on June 29, 2003

It's a shame that Dave is such a whiny jerk when he doesn't get his way, because in this case I think he might actually be in the right. It seems like RSS caught on mostly because of its simplicity and relative human-readability; the more complex 1.0 version might be more feature-complete, but is much less likely to be widely used. (I think Aaron Swartz in particular is really missing the point here:

There seems to be a lot of confusion here, that RSS files are meant to be written by hand.


You don’t need to be messing with the XML by hand—that’s not what it’s designed for, it’s designed for programs.

It's a popular format because you can mess with it by hand. It's the same reason HTML caught on, and SGML didn't, even though SGML was, from a programmer's standpoint, "better". Saying it's ok for the new format to be messy and complicated, because everyone can just use a pretty GUI tool to avoid having to deal with the messy and complicated part, seems a bit thick.)

Winer's wild accusations of theft and his "you'll be sorry when I'm gone" tantrums sure do make me want to disagree with him, though.
posted by ook at 7:17 PM on June 29, 2003

Well it's obvious none of your people have ever had to deal with a geek.

geeks are irritating ppl, doesnt make them bad. they are kinda like gay queens, complete with self-love and temper tantrums, except with a fetish for finickiness rather than young boys.

and the fact is DW is actually *correct* in most of his arguments.
posted by carfilhiot at 7:25 PM on June 29, 2003

Dave stored the original goodbye in a file named defaultJul29.html. Should we try to derive some meaning from that file name? Why not name it defaultJun29.html?
posted by bravada at 7:46 PM on June 29, 2003

and the fact is DW is actually *correct* in most of his arguments

What does that mean? The arguments Dave creates are not about issues that have correct answers, even when they should be. Dave gets upset about perceived slights or the manner in which someone asks a question--try asking him a simple question he doesn't want to answer; no matter how polite you are, he'll attack your approach.

Take the recent argument over "funky" RSS. Dave picked a fight with people all over the web, unable to contain himself on several website comment pages, but he has never once deigned to describe what he even meant by "funky". And when people asked him to explain, he told them he wasn't tech support for other companies' weblog software and that they needed to have more respect for his position in the RSS world.

Dave gets upset when someone points out bugs in his software--even serious security holes! Dave gets upset when he writes a spec that's unclear and confusing and then people don't implement it to his interpretation. Dave gets upset when people have different needs than he does and his specs--which are written to accomodate the way his software works--aren't sufficient and they dare to say so and suggest ways to improve or replace his specs for their applications.

Dave begs and pleads people to work with him, share ideas, build to a common purpose, and then blasts them when they try in a way he wasn't expecting. He'll complain and whine when people implement RSS in a way his software can't understand, but then he whines and complains when someone whose APIs he uses dares to change them.

Dave refuses to acknowledge the leadership role of other prominent figures and software in the weblog world and complains that he doesn't get enough respect. Dave treats other people like dirt and shuts down his website when people call him on it.

Dave has come up with some great tools and protocols, but he wants to be known as a god of the Internet for it, and yet he keeps acting like a spoiled baby. I stopped giving him the benefit of the doubt years ago, and until he starts giving other people the respect he claims he deserves, he can shut down his site forever, and I won't blink.

[RSS is] a popular format because you can mess with it by hand

I'm not so sure about your assessment, given that it's most often created and read totally automatically with no human intervention; but nevertheless, Dave's software uses RSS in wholly unhuman ways, made by machines for machine purposes. So any argument he makes to this effect is disingenuous. He's got his reasons to extend RSS, he should stop complaining that other people do, too.
posted by daveadams at 8:37 PM on June 29, 2003 [1 favorite]

Kinda reminds me of something I've been reading in a parenting book. Kid asks for a Twinkie, mom says no. Kid asks again and again, mom still says no. Kid is getting more and more obnoxious, and then finally screams "Fine! I'm going to kill myself and then run away from home!" DW sounds almost as unpleasant as Carl Steadman.
posted by Shoeburyness at 8:38 PM on June 29, 2003

Dave is a great big crybaby, with a long history of bizarre outbursts and childish behaviour. His petulance, like his ego, is apparently unlimited.
posted by websavvy at 8:57 PM on June 29, 2003

Is this whole debacle over rss 0.91 vs. rss 1.0?

Why haven't everybody moved on to rss 2.0?

If someone creates this Echo thingy, and people start using it, is there some reason I can't have both on my website?

In short: Why should I care about this?
posted by spazzm at 9:05 PM on June 29, 2003

In the end, won't newsreaders be designed to handle any form of syndication feed that gains significant user base, just like many do with multiple flavors of RSS? I cannot imagine RSS drying up overnight. if Winer believes RSS is technically the best, I can't see why he isn't content to compete? Or am I missing something?
posted by samuelad at 10:29 PM on June 29, 2003

Where has WinerLog disappeared? I can't find it anywhere. Its last known location was here.
posted by madman at 11:51 PM on June 29, 2003

Yep. Echo and RSS are perfectly capable of existing side by side. Despite the fear and doubt tactics, there's really nothing here that should scare people.
posted by Bryant at 4:14 AM on June 30, 2003

I think one of Winer's main problems is the amount of work that would be necessary to ensure that RSS-like information flowing from Userland's products is valid XML. As long as they support using IE's rich-edit control, or free-form HTML source editing for item entry, there will be validation issues.

He refuses to engage constructively with those arguing for well-formed, syntactically correct, or god forbid, semantically rich syndication formats. Every attempt to try to move the technology on he seems to take as a personal attack on him.

For him, because Userland is a small company, anything they do that mimics the tactics of the BigCos is perfectly excusable.
posted by cbrody at 5:28 AM on June 30, 2003

Is this something one would have to have a computer, a weblog, and an overblown sense of importance to understand?

I was curious to understand for a minute until I figured out this was another of those "weblogs > everythingelse" things.

Particular method of information transfer threatened!

Particular backer of said method cries to mommy!

Dozens left asking "Why God, WHY!?!?!"
posted by Ynoxas at 8:19 AM on June 30, 2003

Ynoxas, that was quite possibly the funniest thing i've read here on metafilter in months.
posted by jodic at 8:45 AM on June 30, 2003

I am no fan of Winer myself (although I don't /know/ the guy, and perhaps I'd get along famously with him if I did) but I do have to agree with a lot of his insights. I think Echo is somewhat 'tearing up the pavement', and that instead of reinventing the wheel in the name of standards, we should actually stick with what the users want.

Of course, from what everyone else seems to be saying, there are lots of areas where Dave is being inflexible and unwilling to move. Come on, give him a break, the guy's in his 40's. He has a brain to feed like the rest of us. Open source is all well and good until some jumped up ten year old rewrites your software in PHP! I think you get the picture.

That said, I'm a big fan of Joe Clark, who has been tarred with a similar brush to Winer, so perhaps some of us shouldn't be so quick to judge.
posted by wackybrit at 9:17 AM on June 30, 2003

geeks are irritating ppl, doesnt make them bad. they are kinda like gay queens, complete with self-love and temper tantrums, except with a fetish for finickiness rather than young boys.

oh good heavens. You're joking, right? If not, you need to spend some time working with functional dev teams for a change.

re/the link: I'm still trying to figure out why I should care what Dave Winer thinks.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:52 AM on June 30, 2003

My nearly uninformed opinion: For a fellow who quotes the Dead on his webpage, it really sounds like he might benefit from smoking a lot more weed.

Just sayin'.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:23 AM on June 30, 2003

any teenaged camgirl who pulls her site down
I totally read that as shirt. Need to go wash my mind's eye to clear out that image... *shudder*
posted by mimi at 10:40 AM on June 30, 2003

The infamous "I'm leaving and don't convince me to stay" call for attention.

We have enough of those here on mefi.

And we've never missed anyone that follows through with that threat.*

*Speaking for myself, of course. Although I do miss johnb, if only for our fun globalism discussions.
posted by norm at 12:07 PM on June 30, 2003

PPS: And by the way, my Mom reads Scripting News, and she says I can come home for a break anytime I want. That's coool.

*sniffle* moms are cool. always there for you...

you man-sized baby
posted by shadow45 at 2:27 PM on June 30, 2003

The internet is pretty neat. Global economy stuff, mobilizing interest groups in democratic countries (or so they tell me!) ... I love how it forces the world to change and adapt. However, I despise how it's become a catalyst for global suicide threats and tantrums. It was bad enough making an ass of yourself in front of your friends before. Now you can piss off the entire wired world through your tantrums. the internet rules! thanks, al gore :)

I always knew he was a rude person with a vendetta to argue, but I respected his skills as a programmer and he seemed to have quite a presence and following. I also like(d) how he designed Userland's HTML.. very nice looking design for being so close to basic HTML (complete with default link colors).

Oh, and 4 hours? that's just icing on the cake.
posted by shadow45 at 3:00 PM on June 30, 2003

I only have a vague understanding of the complexities of RSS etc, but when I read his responses to people on their blogs, sam ruby etc. I feel frustrated. I can only imagine what they must feel if they're actually trying to put something together.

What I don't understand is why people still talk to him or care. I mean, there comes a point where, even if you are technically proficient, you bring the group down. I think that point is so far behind people they can't see it anymore.
posted by rhyax at 9:17 PM on July 1, 2003

shadow45: I think the HTML design was Bryan Bell actually (extra Geek points, he also did the NetNewWire icon) he may also have done Doc Searls' and other prominant UserlandBloggers. Alkthough of course I could be wrong; if I am may christ preserve me from the wrath of Dave.

Orbie: I totally hear everything you're saying above, and more. That's a metaphor to die for.
posted by nedrichards at 4:11 AM on July 2, 2003

Take the recent argument over "funky" RSS. Dave picked a fight with people all over the web, unable to contain himself on several website comment pages, but he has never once deigned to describe what he even meant by "funky".

You must've missed some of that (as did I for weeks). A funky RSS 2.0 feed is one that drops core elements in favor of namespace elements that do the same thing. It hurts interoperability to do that; if namespaces poach all the core elements, a lot of existing software won't work as well.

I think one of Winer's main problems is the amount of work that would be necessary to ensure that RSS-like information flowing from Userland's products is valid XML.

That's a problem for any syndication-supporting software that takes hand-coded user markup. If Echo takes on that challenge, good luck to them.

What I don't understand is why people still talk to him or care.

Because he co-created RSS and XML-RPC, created OPML and the MetaWeblog API, created the XmlStorageSystem API, and evangelized all of these protocols and APIs (and others).

Because his main products -- Internet development platforms integrated with an object database, scripting environment, outliner, weblog editor, news aggregator, and content management system -- are insanely innovative.

Because his one-person weblog has nearly as much juice as our 17,000-person weblog.

Because he offers indispensible Web services like Weblogs.Com.

Other than that, though, I can't see why people care what he says.
posted by rcade at 4:25 PM on July 2, 2003

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