Tag Archives: Dave Winer

The Difference Between a Journalist and a Blogger

What’s the difference between a journalist and a blogger? I see this from both sides because I was mainstream journalist for 10 years in the 1970s, then entrepreneur and consultant, software guy, and lately I blog a lot. 

A real journalist tries to tell the objective truth, reports facts fairly, strives for balance, and discloses bias. Technology hasn’t changed the fundamentals. 

Real journalists have opinions. Editorial writers and columnists are also journalists, not just reporters. But if it’s real journalism, opinions are framed as opinions, declared openly, and not masked as facts. 

So I say lots of bloggers are journalists. And a lot of people writing for or appearing on mainstream news media are not. 

Earlier today I posted Are Tech Conferences Distorting the Business News? over on smbplans.com. I linked there to a trio of posts debating the ethics of the New York Times Dealbook conference, which brought tech company leaders together with opinion leaders and journalists. 

Dave calls this “access journalism.” He makes it seem sinister. He quotes the New York Times’  own columnist Margaret Sullivan writing, in her column, that the event made her “a little queasy. It didn’t include …

…A great deal of distance between sources and those who cover them — something traditionally thought to be a bedrock journalistic idea.

Dave links back to the early days of Silicon Valley in the 1980s and some run-ins he had with journalists and the dark side of popularity, plugs, and mixing business relationships with news reporting. 

And I say that’s been going on forever.  There are some very practical natural phenomena related to what Dave Winer is calling “access journalism:” 1.) Good journalism wants to quote legitimate sources to turn opinions into reporting. 2.) You can’t quote people you can’t reach. 3.) Good quotable experts and well-positioned people are good to know; access to those people is good to have.

In fact, tech conferences notwithstanding, What I love about these days in reporting and journalism is that access is orders of magnitude easier today than it was when I was doing it in the 1970s. We depended on phone calls to gatekeepers (assistants, receptionists, etc.) and treasured relationships that have us a direct telephone number, which was as good as it got. Journalists these days, who can easily use email and Twitter, have no idea how good they have it (in comparison to then). 

The ethics haven’t changed. Accessibility has.

Could it be Too Late Already for 2010 Trends?

The trouble is that by the time it’s obvious, in terms of ideas and opportunities, it’s usually too late. The winners are already entrenched.

The reef metaphor is a good one, but usually you have to be early on the reef to reserve your spot. Only the big creatures, sharks and all, can cruise in late and get traction.

Coral reefs are ecosystems. Creatures and more creatures develop. Technology is too. We’ve seen technology worlds develop around personal computers, the Web, mobile phones, and lots of others.

One of the smartest people I know, a technology wizard, tipped me off to Robert Scoble’s The Google Reef post last week. That post linked to David Winer’s 2007 Twitter as coral reef post. Way before the rest of us caught on, he saw Twitter coming. Here’s his reef description:

Scattered throughout tropical seas are coral reefs that started when a ship sank and sea creatures made it their home. Then the predators of those creatures started hanging out, and their predators, all the way up the food chain. Eventually, if the ocean climate was right, a coral reef would appear, much larger than the wrecked ship that started it all.

Does it have to be a sinking ship? Reefs develop on their own too, right? I could try to stretch the idea to say personal computers developed over the wrecks of their bigger predecessors, and the Web over the wrecks of the early bulletin boards; but that’s pressing the metaphor too far. What Scoble was talking about was the development of markets around Google.

You have to see it early to win with it. We see here Dave Winer caught on to Twitter earlier than most of us. But then he also caught on to outliners, scripting, and some other things earlier than most of us. Some think of him as the original blogger, and he was there as an early RSS pioneer too. I first met him in the early 1980s, as the man behind the More outliner (and ThinkTank, and others).

Notice the timing: Twitter about three years ago. I think it does us all very little good to be onto some of these trends (Twitter, mobile apps, ebook readers, tablet computers and all) now. Now it’s obvious. If you want to really win, figure out what’s going to be big in 2013 or 2014.

And don’t guess wrong, because that can be expensive. We all assume first in the market is a great advantage, but not when it means you’re there too early. Maybe tablet computers are going to be big when Apple gets there, but they’ve disappointed most of the entrepreneurs who started earlier with them.

And good luck with that.

Is Software Management Doomed?

Committees don’t make great software. It takes a single person, an author. Maybe he gets some help. Teams don’t do it. Nobody sees the whole elephant.

I’m pretty sure I heard that basic sentiment first in about 1986, from Dave Winer, who was then the author of a Macintosh outlining program named More (now he’s better known as the de-facto father of blogging).

What reminded me of this over the weekend was my son emailing me about Jeff Atwood’s Software Engineering: Dead post on Coding Horror. In his post, Jeff’s looking at this article by Tom DeMarco, author of Controlling Software Projects, a software management classic.

Creative Programming

What DeMarco seems to be saying — and, at least, what I am definitely saying — is that control is ultimately illusory on software development projects. If you want to move your project forward, the only reliable way to do that is to cultivate a deep sense of software craftsmanship and professionalism around it.

The guys and gals who show up every day eager to hone their craft, who are passionate about building stuff that matters to them, and perhaps in some small way, to the rest of the world — those are the people and projects that will ultimately succeed.

That sounds to me a lot like what Dave Winer was getting at about 25 years ago. And if it takes a single user, someone writing code and working the application because he or she wants to use it, then that’s hard to manage.

And if you’re interested in software quality, creativity, and management, you might want to look at an exchange between user interface designerDustin Curtis and an interface designer at American Airlines. It starts here with Justin’s rant about the hostile interface on the AA website; and gets more interesting here with an AA interface designer’s answer.

However, there are large exceptions. For example, our Interactive Marketing group designs and implements fare sales and specials (and doesn’t go through us to do it), and the Publishing group pushes content without much interaction with us… Oh, and don’t forget the AAdvantage team (which for some reason, runs its own little corner of the site) or the international sites (which have a lot of autonomy in how their domains are run)… Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is that AA.com is a huge corporate undertaking with a lot of tentacles that reach into a lot of interests. It’s not small, by any means.

And apparently frustration was had by all.

And it certainly won’t make you wish you had a creative or design oriented position in a large company.

Two guys wrote the original spreadsheet (VisiCalc), one, Paul Brainard, wrote the main part of the first page layout program (Pagemaker). One of the more interesting facets of a lot of Web 2.0 work is that the programs are smaller, written more by authors, less by teams.