Monthly Archives: August 2009

There is no mobile web

Steve Yelvington has seven points you should consider about what we’ve been calling the “mobile web,” the most interesting one of which is the first:

  • There is no Mobile Web. There is only one Web, and it is the real Web. All the pseudo-Webs and WAP-services and walled-garden fakery are dead.

Good stuff. It’s all here.

Apple in my eye

I see these a lot while driving around:

Apple sticker on a Honda Element

Now, maybe it’s because I drive a Honda Element with an Apple sticker on the back that I notice everyone else that goes by me in a Honda Element with an Apple sticker, but I think that somewhere at Apple or Honda there’s a Venn Diagram on the wall showing a high overlap of Element and Apple customers. Because Element drivers sure seem to over-index for Apple sticker use.

Then again, I could just be seeing patterns where there are none.

Brit makes Baltimore reporters look like gits

Healthy skepticism — in blogging and in Big Iron reporting for a metro daily — is a necessary tool to have at all times.

Take yesterday’s YouTube embed, allegedly from Baltimore’s tourism office, suggesting that Baltimore, the city, is safer than you’d think from watching The Wire on television.

My initial reaction was shock at the thought that someone in Visit Baltimore could make such a colossal mistake in judgment to sell the city on the stacked-up backs of the dead. But after a few minutes, and a second watching, my BS meter pegged. Nobody could possibly be that clueless, even in Baltimore.

fakemayorApparently, this makes me more skeptical than several reporters in town. The City Paper took the bait. And so did Peter Hermann of The Sun, who got snared by another piece of the same hoax, a fake Mayor’s site.

It was all a hoax by british blogger Alex Hilton. Peter Hermann, to his everlasting credit, corrected his original and wrote at length about what happened.

I hate to say it but this all happened simply because of a Reporting 101 failure: neither reporter bothered to verify it.

When I saw the YouTube video yesterday morning, my second action (after sputtering an some unprintables) was to DM both the Visit Baltimore office and the person who manages their Twitter account and ask whether they had actually created the video. I asked at 8:06 a.m. and had my emphatic answers — No! — a half-hour later.

I was able then to change my blog entry  from “this can’t possibly be real, right?” to a note that it was, in fact, a hoax.

The old newsroom saying was “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

If she says it on YouTube or elsewhere on the internet, that goes double.

Having my say about “Say Everything”

sayanythingSay Everything is about people.

But first, the news.

The destruction of two buildings in lower Manhattan marked the end of a lot of things — mainly our assumptions about how the world worked — and the beginning of a lot more. It also marked the moment when both traditional online news and the then-nascent field of blogging came of age.

If they didn’t know it on September 10, 2001, managers of traditional news sites knew it the day after that they had become the primary source for news during the work day. What they didn’t realize, as they struggled to restart their servers brought to their knees by the crush of traffic, was at the same moment, individual writers and their comparatively tiny audiences were discovering that there was a second path to enlightenment and information.

The blog.

The funny thing about people who think they’re smarter than everybody else is that, sometimes, impossibly and wonderfully, they are. And thanks to the rise of blogging, they no longer have to be famous and useful only to their closest friends.

“Say Everything” is a book full of stories of such smart people, each of whom, in his or her own way, thought there was a better solution to the problem of how to communicate better, whether the problem was technical or one of voice.

In a very straightforward and absorbing book that should probably come in a blister-pack with some SPF-90 as the perfect geek beach-read for the summer, Scott Rosenberg, a co-founder of, lays out the second-draft of the history of blogging in book form (Rebecca Blood, as he notes, got there first with an online essay, and then the book We’ve Got Blog.). Wisely, he centers his chapters around individual stories which, given the very personal nature of blogging, often means that the focus of each chapter is one individual.

  • There’s Justin Hall, who Rosenberg makes the case as being the first actual blogger, even if he didn’t use that term himself. Described as “looking like one of Tolkein’s elves,” Hall is the king of TMI, sharing all details of his life and his body for all to see, until… Well, I won’t ruin it, but the ending is a classic story that began long before there were computers, or even clay tablets, I imagine.
  • We meet Jorn Barger, the man who probably was the first to describe his frequent jottings online as a “weblog.” More importantly, his was one of the earliest and most popular linkblogs, serving up Jeff Jarvis’ favorite online currency long before most of the rest of the world.
  • And then Heather Armstrong, the woman whose online persona - Dooce – turned into a verb when she was fired from a job – dooced — for blogging about, well, her job. Later she emerged as one of the earlier mombloggers and, even later still, as a book author.

The key to the success of “Say Everything” is Rosenberg’s focus on all of these outsized personalities. Without the story of how Ev Williams never gave up in the early days of Blogger or the “it just works” philosophy behind the controlled anarchy of Boing Boing or the dueling business plans of Jason Calacanis and Nick Denton, Say Everything could easily have tilted into a battle over the minutia of blogging history worthy more of a Wikipedia article (much-edited) or a conversation with the cast of Fanboys.

And standing in the middle of much of this is one outsized personality who strikes me as the most important to this story: Dave Winer.

If you haven’t heard of Dave Winer, you should. Without his efforts, it’s arguable that blogging, RSS, podcasting and even, to a lesser extent, online news would not be what they are today. Dave gets his own chapter here, of course (the very appropriately named “The Unedited Voice of a Person), but he’s also a presence that is felt explicitly and in the back-story throughout Rosenberg’s story of blogging.

You can currently find Winer at Scripting News, the site that, often, has absolutely nothing to do with its name and everything to do with one guy pushing and prodding the rest of us to think in new ways online.

Back in 1995, as noted in “Say Everything,” thinking different(ly) meant what we now know as blogging:

In 1995 he sent out a DaveNet (the precursor mailing list to Scripting News) essay titled “Billions of Websites.” At the time the number sounded ludicrous, even to Internet optimists, but Winer was serious:

“Every new website begets more websites. If I have one, I want my friend to have one, so I can point to it. And so they can point to my site. Someday, I’ll be able to walk a network of friendships, automatically knowing that each of us has mutual friends. It’ll be cool … The breadth of the web is limited only by the available space on hard disks, and the availability of human thoughts and feelings to fill that space … Every writer can participate in the web. Someday, very soon, I believe, every writer will.”

Winer didn’t just spout dreams. He shipped code — “shitty software,” by his own admission, but software that could iterate and inspire other efforts — and he beat the drum. He also famously got into a number of loud online arguments, but that’s not the purpose or the focus here; love him or not, there’s no denying that Dave Winer helped create the notion and the reality of the web you’re using at this very moment.

There’s more in Say Everything, including a chapter entitled “Journalists vs. Bloggers” that you can read in its entirety on the book’s web site. Also, there’s a treasure-trove of endnotes to the book featuring link after link to original source material for the book, much of it in the words of the bloggers themselves.

Years from now, Say Everything will serve as a valuable contemporary lens on how we got to the end of the first decade of the 21st century online. Today? It’s an entertaining and well-researched look at the early history of blogging that will keep you interested whether you’re sampling a chapter at a time or plowing through the entire book in a few sittings.


Hah! It figures that the moment I decide to start writing about WordPress, my fancy-schmancy custom theme decides that it’s going to explode on the single posts.

There’s work to be done…

EDIT TO ADD: Looks like I’ve reverted to the stock theme. Marina hated that picture of me anyway. So enjoy the stock imagery for a few days until I have an hour to throw at fixing the theme.