And the news became important…

Dave Winer: RSS on the desktop, 15 years later

Distilled, in a tweet, this is what it’s about to me. “One of the most patriotic things you can do is to upgrade the quality and breadth of the news you read. Invest in your personal news flow.”

Even just a few months ago, that statement would have seemed arrogant, even unhinged. But today we know that control of information flow is essential to basically everything. It will be even more so in the future.

That’s the anthem of my new product, Electric River. It’s now available for the Mac, hopefully soon on other desktop platforms. It boots up reading the feeds I set it up to read. But you can and should make it your own. I want to work on making feed discovery better next, but for right now, you can build your own news network and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to make it work.

[Dave’s vision for this has been clear for very long time, but is as fresh as ever. So, if you’re reading this, and you’ve been actively seeking and sharing stories in places like Facebook, do yourself a favor and try this out. Seek the news feeds that you find important and add them in. Most of all, continue to seek the truth that lies beneath the reporting, editing, and biases.]

NY State bill that bans the sale of smartphones

Why Apple Defends Encryption:

Now is the time when we get to decide if we have a right to privacy and security, and the limits of our government for the digital age. It won’t happen because of public statements by tech leaders. No, it’s up to us to make our opinions about online privacy and security known to our elected representatives, in order to determine the limits of policing (and protecting) by consent.

In fact, you have an opportunity to weigh in right now. A bill has been introduced in New York State that would ban the sale of smartphones within the state unless they can be decrypted and unlocked by the manufacturer. It’s astonishingly misguided, and for those who want express their disbelief that elected representatives could be so ignorant of technology (and geography), you can set up an account with the New York State Senate, vote against it, and even leave comments.

Then, just sit back and wait for the next ignorant statement or misguided piece of legislation, because these issues aren’t going to be resolved easily, quickly, or definitively.

[I’ve nothing to add here. Go let your feelings be known!]

Apple Car Thinking

More Apple Car Thoughts: Software Culture | Monday Note:

Just because the software running inside Apple’s personal computing devices is considered high quality doesn’t mean that the culture that produces it is capable of producing the high-reliability, real-time embedded software needed for an electric car.

I am one of the many who believe culture always wins. Culture eats strategy for breakfast, it causes mergers and acquisitions to fail and, above all, it resists virile executive calls to change. Culture evolves slowly, as if having its own independent will, or not at all.
The bottom line is this: For the hypothetical Apple Car project to succeed, a necessary (but not sufficient) condition is a culture change of a kind rarely, if ever, achieved by large organizations.

Perhaps the new software culture could arise in a new, separate group, well protected against the corporate lymphocytes always prone to attack what they see foreign objects. But that would break Apple in two separate cultures, and be the beginning of a dangerous process for a company that, today, strives on having a united functional organization.

[What’s more interesting to me is whether the “high-reliability, real-time embedded software needed for an electric car” can be brought to all of Apple’s products (and back ends)? Might be a greater cultural revolution than what Apple could bring to world of cars.]

Open source license usage on GitHub.com

Open source license usage on GitHub.com:

Open source simply isn’t open source without a proper license. Unless you’ve explicitly told others that they can modify and reuse your work, you’ve only showed others your code; you haven’t shared it. Here at GitHub, we’re big fans of open source, so we set out to better understand how our users approached licensing their code by looking at license usage across public, non-forked repositories, in hopes of encouraging more users to share their work with others.

[snip -ed]

Share your code

If you haven’t already, we encourage you to add a LICENSE file to your project. To make things a bit easier, if you begin to create a file named LICENSE via the web interface, we’ll even provide you with a list of common license templates to choose from.

This is just the start. Look forward to a more in depth analysis over the coming weeks as to how license usage affects project success, as we delve deeper into the numbers. Of course, in the mean time, we encourage you to explore license usage on GitHub using the Licenses API.

Happy open source licensing!

[One of the many parts of software development that I truly enjoy is making easy things easier. It’s not hard to include a license in a project, but time is always at a premium and discipline is as well. When something requires even a little bit of both the chances that a large community will consistently perform those actions diminishes. Of course, even better, is when someone does it for you. Sadly, the vast majority of the code I’ve written will never see the light of day. But that’s the way it goes. We (at work) open source what we can, when we can.]

David Carr’s sad story

Nytimes hq

Scripting News:

The end of David Carr’s current column in the NY Times is, I think, meant to outrage us. Reporters are being asked to deliver papers. I’m trying to think of what the analog would be in programming. We have to do a lot of menial tasks. Without a pulpit like Carr’s on which to tell our tale of woe. But I agree. Having a professional reporter deliver papers is ridiculous.

[snip -ed]

Summary: You have to let more of the world in. Or eventually the world will invent what you have with a different name. That’s always been the option. The Times should have fully made the transition to the web by now. The biggest part of that transition is allowing more voices to speak directly through your platform.

[I think what Dave has is still true (he’s said this before many times, he’s just not being heard (yet?). But I also think that David Carr missed something that he wrote about at the top of the column.

When the Forces of Media Disruption Hit Home – NYTimes.com:

I read on Friday that the price of taxi medallions in New York City had fallen about 17 percent, a drop created by competition from ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. The impact is remarkable because neither company possesses big capital assets, or a huge number of employees. Instead, they put a new user interface over cars and drivers already on the road. In the same way, Airbnb has remade the rental markets, not by buying properties, but simply by surfacing available units on the web to people in need.

What he ignored is that there is a new interface for journalists too. It’s called blogging. And while the Times could potentially lose exclusive access to those people, no one else has to. And in fact, the Times doesn’t have to either if they do what Dave suggests. The Times no longer needs to have “big capital assets, or a huge number of employees” or at least as much or as many. They could take advantage of the new interface for journalism to rebuild their business.

I don’t mean to belittle the pain the people involved in these changes have to go through. Many probably liked the way things were, and worked hard to do their part and make it the success it was. But nothing lasts forever, and the old model is going away.]

→ President Obama’s statement pushing for net neutrality

→ President Obama’s statement pushing for net neutrality:

And isn’t it sad that a U.S. president can have such a strong opinion on a regulatory decision that’s such obvious common sense, so obviously beneficial to consumers (and the lack of which is so obviously harmful), so well-supported by the citizens, and falling on the shoulders of someone he appointed, yet it still has such a low chance of actually getting done?

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[More than sad, it’s everything that’s wrong with government in the US today.]