Webloggers feud
July 11, 2003 1:29 PM   Subscribe

Mark Pilgrim and Dave Winer are fighting, again. It started over a remark Dave made about various blogging services. Mark turned around and created a bot that reads Dave's RSS feed every 5 minutes and spits out the text, annotated to show what's been added/deleted/changed since the last time it ran. Dave's claiming copyright infringement, Mark's claiming fair use. Okay MeFi folks, which side are you on, and why?
posted by tommasz (60 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Isn't the bot a little self-defeating? Won't Winer be sure to keep his editing to a minimum, if he knows he's being monitored? Or will his ego keep him from changing his habits at all?
posted by jpoulos at 1:38 PM on July 11, 2003

Which side are you on, and why?

Nobody's. The best way to stop these egomaniac geek-trolls is to ignore them back into obscurity.

oops, did I say that out loud..
posted by PrinceValium at 1:42 PM on July 11, 2003

Okay MeFi folks, which side are you on, and why?

Neither, because really who cares? I mean seriously.
posted by moonbiter at 1:43 PM on July 11, 2003

This strikes me as an Internet ABC's type of thing.

Winer seems to think it goes like this:
a) I posted something on the Internet.
b) Since I posted something, people read it.
c) I edit what I posted before, and thus (a) disappears into the abyss. How dare you visit the abyss!

Here's the reality:
a) I posted something on the Internet and I'm a public figure.
b) Since I posted something, people read (or scraped, or copied, or saved) it.
c) I edit what I posted before, and thus I have published another version of (a).
d) Since I'm a public figure, and my works are excerpted for the purposed of commentary, and no profit is being made, and no libel is being committed, and perhaps most importantly it scrolls off the page before you can say "cease and desist" it's basically a fair use.

(And, of course, there are a million ways better than whining to efficiently deal with a bandwidth use issue).
posted by VulcanMike at 1:43 PM on July 11, 2003

In summary, don't let your ego take up more bandwidth than your site.
posted by VulcanMike at 1:44 PM on July 11, 2003

I have two questions:

Why don't those two just fuck already?
Who are they?
posted by creamed corn at 1:44 PM on July 11, 2003

I think it's interesting because it manages to encompass weblogs, weblogging, webloggers, RSS, and copyright all in one shot. If you can ignore the personalities involved, there are some fundamental questions here deserving an answer.
posted by tommasz at 1:46 PM on July 11, 2003

hugely funny, and dead on relevant to pretty much our whole existence. i mean, what are we to do about the infighting among the people who claim to have brought us frequently updated websites displayed in reverse chronological order with links to each item, said items often being links to other items? the sheer ingenuity of such a triumph of the spirit of invention and the dogged pursuit of engineering excellence demands action. perhaps regime change is in order.

monkeys fling poo.
that's what they do.

oo. oo. ee. ee.
posted by quonsar at 1:47 PM on July 11, 2003

if i could, i would edit that last line to read "ee. ee. oo. oo."
then it would appear against a green background when read by mark's bot.
posted by quonsar at 1:51 PM on July 11, 2003

OK, it's time to settle this like men -- break out the Rock'em Sock'em Robots and go 3 rounds!
posted by QuestionableSwami at 1:53 PM on July 11, 2003

If you can ignore the personalities involved, there are some fundamental questions here deserving an answer.

Be that as it may, the principals act like shrill, spiteful schoolgirls I can't get myself to give a flying f**k.
posted by moonbiter at 1:54 PM on July 11, 2003

If you can ignore the personalities involved, there are some fundamental questions here deserving an answer.

Be that as it may, when the principals act like shrill, spiteful schoolgirls I can't get myself to give a flying f**k.
posted by moonbiter at 1:54 PM on July 11, 2003

And it makes me double post, too. [urk]
posted by moonbiter at 1:55 PM on July 11, 2003

Winer's a jackass. He has a long history of saying very inflammatory things, deleting them, and then claiming he never said them. Pretty soon we're going to need another internet, just to fit his online ego.
posted by SweetJesus at 1:58 PM on July 11, 2003

What Prince Valium Said.
posted by namespan at 1:58 PM on July 11, 2003

It's like watching a breaking story on FOX news, after a while it's not the subject that is the subject, it's the revisions.
posted by DBAPaul at 2:12 PM on July 11, 2003

Somehow I have managed to make it this far in life without knowing who either of these gentlemen are. If it's all the same to the rest of you I think I'll keep it that way.
posted by konolia at 2:35 PM on July 11, 2003

I was starting to appreciate Winer a lot more recently, and I still respect the guy, but his 'shaker out of the pram' hissy fit over this is pathetic and childish. Winer has a for coming out with crap, then editing it when it bites him in the ass, so it's interesting to see a record of it.

If he thinks this is copyright infringement, perhaps he should go hassle Google or the Wayback Archive, because they have up to date copies of ALL his pages!

And, as if to prove his childishness, he's now posting lots of quotes about how people change their posts. Of course they do! We all edit! But we don't spout out stupid crap, then totally edit it down to sound reasonable. Changing whole paragraphs is not the same as a tidy-up edit..
posted by wackybrit at 2:41 PM on July 11, 2003


Isn't that the technology that was explicitly designed to let other websites parse your content, programmatically, and republish it?

posted by effugas at 2:51 PM on July 11, 2003

i'm a bleedin' sod who boinks his mum and sis at every opportunity

too much information! (but don't be too hard on yourself, wackybrit, help is available.)
posted by quonsar at 2:53 PM on July 11, 2003

No shit? Childish idiot-cum-yellabellies use the web and their own web logs and websites to stalk people with whom they disagree because they can't refute or argue in any other way? No kidding?

No balls. No brains.

posted by fold_and_mutilate at 2:56 PM on July 11, 2003

What a sad and marginal foundation for an ego. His feat is to copy some other person and comments on it's timeliness? That is the very definition of an a$$h@!!.

The only pluss is that he is clever enough to make something that he doesnt have to maintain.
posted by xtian at 2:59 PM on July 11, 2003

I feel smaller just for having an opinion on this.
posted by rcade at 2:59 PM on July 11, 2003

Wow. I think the Winer Watcher is really impressive. Cool idea and nice execution.

But I can definitely understand the sheer horror of having one's own self-editorial process illuminated for the world to see.

I also frequently change a word here and there after posting to my weblog. And though, yes, anyone who's REALLY paying attention will be able to watch me mince my words, having the process color-coded for scrutiny would make my balls shrivel up something fierce.

You wanna post as soon as you're done. But you probably wanna polish a little bit after that. And you don't wanna show the world what an compulsive, wordy, awkward writer you really are.
posted by scarabic at 3:01 PM on July 11, 2003

Color me WHO CARES.

Who gives a damn whether two blog wankers are having a battle. It happens all the time and no one will win but I'm glad I clicked through to the comments just to see that Special Olympics jpg up there.

That's a keeper!

As for Pilgrim and Winer. Umm, why don't they get greased up and have a cage match to settle it?
posted by fenriq at 3:01 PM on July 11, 2003

Who are these guys again?
posted by pemulis at 3:02 PM on July 11, 2003

Quonsar: It's a good thing that you can edit what's on the internet. The number of stupid thing's I've said on MetaFilter that Matt's let me change - whooo. That whole "Where I'd leave the body thing"... whooo.

And what about the stupid things you've said that are still on metaFilter Quonsar?
posted by seanyboy at 3:07 PM on July 11, 2003

Isn't the S in RSS stand for Syndication now? Seems like Mark is being a bit of a crackpot, but calling copyright on a syndicated file, designed to be syndicated is silly.

Dave's the guy that publishes SalonHerringWiredFool.com, a site that republishes commercial content from four different sites, all using syndication. Is that infringement too?
posted by mathowie at 3:10 PM on July 11, 2003

Maybe it's just because I tend to blog inflamatory or pissy stuff very infrequently, but I don't see why has to be such a big deal. I don't know what Pilgrim thinks he's earning from this, and I also think Winer has turned this into a much bigger pissing match than it needed to be. They're both coming off looking like jerks.

I think the best metaphor for it is straight from Metafilter: Winer is the guy who posts inflamatory comments in lots of threads, and Pilgrim is the guy who tracks down the one contradictory comment from a year ago, and posts a link to it, saying "Oh yeah?"
posted by GriffX at 3:12 PM on July 11, 2003

If Winer doesn't want people to have access to his posts and/or changes, why post an RSS feed anyhow? I mean, whole idea behind an RSS feed is so that others can track, view, and/or link to changes made on an external site.

Sure, the material may be copyrighted to Dave, but if Winer really wants to push this copyright issue then to me its like saying "I've got a bunch of oranges on my front porch. You can take them, but don't eat them. And if I decide to put Tangelo there instead, don't tell anyone I've swapped them out.".

Bad analogy? Maybe. But my point is that if Winer *does* alter his own text; all Mark is doing is showing what the changes are. Mark's not making the changes... he's just displaying them.

This whole thing makes me feel like Dave's been asked to have a co-valedictorian and complaining about it. Of course I could be, and probably am, wrong...

Oh, and if you're reading this, Dave, don't get me wrong: I like what you've done with Userland, RSS, etc. I just think it's a little silly to complain when someone calls you out for making changes. Goodness knows I do it all the time. In fact, I'm going to do it on my blog later on tonight. :)
posted by crankydoodle at 3:18 PM on July 11, 2003

I stand with Mark Pilgrim on this one.

Dave Winer is acting like a spoiled brat over the (n)echo project. A vast majority of weblog tool coders and thinkers agree that (n)echo is a good way to move the medium forward.

Like an eccentric, Dave Winer is trying to convince everyone that this new idea is wrong. Dave's ego, pride, and bad attitude toward the individuals in (n)echo are generating a predictable response by those he lashes out at.

IMHO, Winer deserves nothing less than to taste a bit of the venom he spews at others. If he can't take the heat, get out of the fire.
posted by Argyle at 3:19 PM on July 11, 2003

I'm guessing that there are (unspoken) rules to Syndication. If NYT lets you publish headlines, and they get a headline wrong, they wouldn't want you to highlight the fact after they put it right. This is what Mark Pilgrim is doing. In the past (when you wanted to syndicate a site), you had to sit down with several people to organise how you were doing it, and what the rules were, so I guess this wasn't a problem. RSS allows you to syndicate without an agreement, and as with all new technologies (phone cameras, etc) it introduces a whole new set of problems. Winer's right to make a fuss of it, and I'm glad that he's doing it in the public domain without recoursing to the more easily accomplished banning of specific IP addresses.
posted by seanyboy at 3:19 PM on July 11, 2003

Actually, there is a technical solution to the problem right here at metaFilter. If a field was added to the RSS feed to explain why a post was changed, (like a reason why a post was deleted), then people could syndicate away quite easily. The hypothetically hacked "wired.com" could change the headline "The martians are coming - run for the hills" headline back to the more reasonable "mars landing mission lands on a hill" with the popover text that the reason they changed the headline was because the original headline was added by a sullen teenager with too much time on his/her hands.

Syndication is by definition, your words on somebody elses site. You should have the right to change those words, and you should have the ability to do it in such a way as explain that you aren't (as could be implied) just trying to make yourself look more intelligent.
posted by seanyboy at 3:27 PM on July 11, 2003

An IP address ban wouldn't work -- Mark's so far 'round the bend on this one that he "uses a system of distributed mirrors," pulling Dave's XML feed from a secret cadre of Scripting News subscribers who have volunteered for this solemn duty.
posted by rcade at 3:33 PM on July 11, 2003

I'm with rcade. I've been trying to edit Winer out of my field of attention for years now, but every couple of months, something like this pops up and I get a ping on the radar again.

This is just stupid, childish, ego-driven blather. My recommendation: Don't Feed The Trolls.
posted by majcher at 3:34 PM on July 11, 2003

Then why doesn't he stop his current rss feed, and add a new one that can only be accessed via some Terms and Conditions. One that can only be accessed via some sort of username / password authentication system. THEN at least, everybodys cards would be on the table.
posted by seanyboy at 3:35 PM on July 11, 2003

If you forget the personality issues and look at what Mark has done, it's actually pretty useful. By periodically polling some site(s) for content, and then showing what has changed and where, it leaves people who quietly revise history with little cover.

I could see this applied to on-line usage policies and privacy policies--things which companies change on the sly hoping that nobody notices.
posted by dws at 3:39 PM on July 11, 2003

If I was being monitored by a stalkerbot, I'd stop updating my RSS feed more than once an hour. Make the bot work a little harder and scrape my HTML. Then I'd obfuscate the HTML with lots of randomly changing markup that doesn't alter the presentation of the page.

Or I'd take a long walk.
posted by rcade at 3:40 PM on July 11, 2003

B) Just read the latest from A, WTF?
A) Peace on earth would be a good thing.
A) Apparently B disagrees with my assessment.
B) That's not what I was replying to! He was advocating hammering bunnies to a wall!
A) QUIT VIOLATING MY COPYRIGHT...er...I mean....that's not what I'm saying...

posted by effugas at 3:52 PM on July 11, 2003

Dan, that's perfect.
posted by delapohl at 4:00 PM on July 11, 2003

Or, I'd remember that I do this crap for a hobby and remind others that, if they need that much ego gratification, they should masturbate more frequently.

Sheesh. This is important enough to post? Two chuckleheads having a tantrum?
posted by FormlessOne at 4:39 PM on July 11, 2003

dws: I agree with your comments. But I also feel that people should have a right to protect their syndicated content.

Maybe Matt could jump in on this one. Matt, If I used the Metafilter RSS feed to produce a site called "WhatMattWantsHidden.com", and I linked to only the posts which were deleted, and I publicised it loudly on sites which were opposite politically to the MetaFilter ethos, what would you do? And how would you feel?
posted by seanyboy at 4:46 PM on July 11, 2003

sites which were opposite politically to the MetaFilter ethos

I knew it!
posted by timeistight at 4:54 PM on July 11, 2003

I knew it.

My bad. MetaFilter has no political agenda... I didn't tell anybody... I didn't... Please don't hurt me... I'm sorry.
posted by seanyboy at 4:58 PM on July 11, 2003

How is this stalking? Dave's published it all. It's public record. The other guy isn't even personally involved; he's just running a really high-frequency wayback machine.

Anyone who has ever posted on Usenet knows that once you've said it, it is out there forever, and you ain't never pulling those words back. It's not that hard: just think about what you are going to say before you say it. Edit your posts before you post them. And once you've fired it all down the wire, deal with the fact that umpteen million people all over the globe can read it from now til eternity.

Is Dejanews/Googlenews a stalking service?
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:29 PM on July 11, 2003

i'm a bleedin' sod who boinks his mum and sis at every opportunity

too much information! (but don't be too hard on yourself, wackybrit, help is available, and I'd be willing to care for your mother and sister in your absence)

Oh, quonsar, you're too kind!
posted by wackybrit at 6:15 PM on July 11, 2003

Matt, If I used the Metafilter RSS feed to produce a site called "WhatMattWantsHidden.com", and I linked to only the posts which were deleted

Someone already has.
posted by mathowie at 6:31 PM on July 11, 2003

Are we talking about this piece of subversion?
posted by namespan at 6:43 PM on July 11, 2003

that's no RSS feed. RSS feeds always stop partway through a sentence and end with a statement about illegal characters.
posted by quonsar at 6:58 PM on July 11, 2003

As with any blogger fight, taking sides is not required. Any way it comes out, we, the audience, can't lose.

I say Let's Get Ready to Rrrrrrumble!
posted by rusty at 7:37 PM on July 11, 2003

I respect both of them for their contributions, and for technical abilities and insights which far exceed my own.

That said, I think they're both close-on unbearable, for all the reasons enunciated repeatedly above - particurly Winer is the guy who posts inflamatory comments in lots of threads, and Pilgrim is the guy who tracks down the one contradictory comment from a year ago, and posts a link to it, saying "Oh yeah?".

Let the word go forth from this time and place that we are long past due for a new generation of uber1337 code monkeys. Some female ones might be nice.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:57 PM on July 11, 2003

Whatever. if someone changes things a lot and lies about it, then someone else has enough time to track it good for them. Posting something in public does not give you the right to change that data forever in every copy. Can i change this comment after i post it? on the mefi server? on google? on your personal webcache? on the backup of your webcache? possibly, no, hell no, and hell no. and that's how it should be.

Also, to the wouldn't it be wonderful if there was some way to designate altered text. well, rejoice! the tags no one uses. well, some people do, see how nice that is? no fighting.
posted by rhyax at 8:20 PM on July 11, 2003

Isn't this exciting. Two A-plus students in a cloning war.
posted by Tin Man at 8:22 PM on July 11, 2003

*heavy sigh*

Quoting something for the purpose of comment and criticism is fair use, and has been forever. Academics do it all the time, often with a great deal of backstabbing and vitriol. Hasn't Dave himself been among those leading the charge against restrictive copy protection and other threats to fair use?

When you publish something, you have no right to control what people say about it. The New York Times has no recourse against the many people who spend their time tracking down and pointing out the errors they make. Nor does Dave have any right to control what people say about his public comments. He said them, he put them out there on the web, therefore they are fair game, even if he retracts them later. If he doesn't like it, he should learn to make sure his brain is engaged before he hits the post button. Welcome to the world of publishers everywhere.

The stink of sanctimony and self-congratulation that permeates The Scripting News is part of why I run my blog on Movable Type. From a safe distance, I find him merely amusing.
posted by kewms at 8:36 PM on July 11, 2003

It seems the Winer Watch is now password protected. I think that should end any argument about copyright infringement. The message to everyone publishing to the web remains: use the preview button before posting, and don't post anything you'll later regret.
posted by Stuart_R at 8:52 PM on July 11, 2003

well, this is certainly hilarious. in the comments for the blog entry linked above dave says something and it changes. in the comments of another person's blog turns out you can edit comments that you make if you're a userland user. Notable because not even the person whose blog this is was aware that that was possible.

Regarding accusation of Dave using special privilieges to edit/delete his Radio comments, I got upset. Thinking more about it, I realized that some blogs do offer commenters to edit their comments. So, if it did take place, I am going to switch to another blogging tool unless... full discussion

I don't want to watch, but honestly, it's like a soap opera.
posted by rhyax at 11:16 PM on July 11, 2003

On reflection, I'm a little madder - which makes me madder still, because this is a tempest in a teaspoon, and today of all days (I'm amidst a move) I *really* do not need to be wasting energy on the foibles of two sociopathic individuals.

Because that's what they are, the more I think about it. Winer more so than Pilgrim, by all the available evidence, but neither one of these guys is exactly a paragon of well-adjusted adult social behavior. (I speak, of course, as just such a pargon.)

It's a great thing for all of us that Winer and Pilgrim can make valuable contributions, which are recognized as such and put to use, with the appropriate gratitude rendered. But I am so very tired of giving the territorial pissings of maladjusted overachievers a free pass.

It is *not OK* that either one of them acts like this - Pilgrim occasionally, Winer on a regular basis. I don't care how talented they are. This pointless spite and acting-out - aside from being one of the less-delightful manifestations of maleness - is beyond childish and it really does need to be over.
posted by adamgreenfield at 1:31 AM on July 12, 2003

I quit reading http://www.scripting.com a long time ago. Not out of conscious choice, just the sad realization that yet another "hug the world" neo-hippy was really a meany underneath all that peace and love.

[mourns lost innocence]
posted by mecran01 at 7:16 AM on July 12, 2003

*eats popcorn*
posted by shadow45 at 9:07 AM on July 12, 2003

maybe this means the blog world has reached a whiny critical mass and it will soon implode?

one could only hope..
posted by shadow45 at 9:08 AM on July 12, 2003

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