What’s wrong with Dave Winer

by Mathew on March 21, 2008 · 33 comments

The inventor of blogging, podcasting, RSS and a bunch of other things has a post up about what’s wrong with Wikipedia — as he sees it — and as usual the post says a whole lot more about Dave than it does about Wikipedia. Not that there aren’t certain things about Wikipedia that could use some work, because there are. Like any social-media effort, it has its flaws. But I think most of what Dave doesn’t like about Wikipedia has more to do with him than it does with the encyclopedia itself.

The problems seem to revolve around Dave’s entry — something he has complained a fair bit about in the past — and how it doesn’t give him enough credit for the things he invented (or helped to standardize or popularize, depending on how you look at it). But of course, Dave doesn’t describe it that way: he describes it asa vendetta.” That says it all right there. For Dave, there’s no such thing as a difference of opinion — there’s what Dave believes, and then there are the unbelievers who want to destroy what is good and right. He blames the Wikipedia model for:

“Usurping authority, and replacing it with anonymity and giving power to those who who tear down creativity, to remove the incentive to share, unless you’re completely selfless and don’t mind if others take credit for your accomplishments. That’s not the nature of creativity, btw, creative people fiercely insist on credit, fight for it.”

See how that works? A different opinion of how RSS developed, or podcasting, or whatever isn’t a difference of opinion. It’s “giving power to those who tear down creativity.” But is Dave right when he says that the nature of creativity is to “fiercely insist on credit?” I guess for some people it is. Lots of creative people I know do it because they feel compelled to create, and because they want people to experience something — not because they want to “fight for” credit.

Dave then cites the U.S. constitution for support, arguing that Wikipedia should allow people who don’t like their profiles to “confront their accusers.” As my blogging friend Ian Betteridge notes in the comments on Dave’s post, this pretty much sums up why Dave is wrong about Wikipedia. The whole point of the model is to find the middle ground, the common ground, the mututally agreed-upon version of events — not for people to pursue vendettas and confront their accusers. On a side note, Frank Shaw of WaggenerEdstrom is also wrong about Wikipedia.

  • http://socialwrite.com Jevon

    You can't really have an “opinion” about how certain things were invented. If you were watching when it happened it was obvious what was going on. While his conspiracy theories might not help his cause, I think the facts are pretty simple on who invented RSS, OPML and Podcasting.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    I'm going to disagree with you there, Jevon. I think you can have an
    opinion about how things were invented, especially when they involve
    multiple people — the invention of the telephone, the telegraph,
    radio, television and many other things illustrate that just as well
    as anything Dave was involved in. But regardless of that, I guess the
    question is whether you think Wikipedia reflects Dave's
    accomplishments fairly or not.

    On Fri, Mar 21, 2008 at 12:10 PM, Disqus

  • http://www.scripting.com/ dave

    Indeed, why can't people just disagree? Why don't you say “What I don't agree with that Dave Winer says?” or if that's too long “What's wrong with what Dave Winer says?” This is a hateful way to frame a discussion. You need to take a look at your own internal process Mathew, because you're not practicing what you preach.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Dave, you're just proving my point for me. It's not hateful — I just
    said that you're wrong. I phrased the title that way because it's
    similar to your headline, that's all. It's a rhetorical device. At
    no point have I said that I hate you, or that you're a bad person, or
    anything even close to that — because I don't think any of those
    things. I just think you're looking at it in the wrong way, that's

    On Fri, Mar 21, 2008 at 12:59 PM, Disqus

  • http://www.scripting.com/ dave

    My main point is that you're not practicing what you preach. Take care Mathew.

  • http://www.independentreport.org Greg.Turner

    There's so much more wrong with Dave Winer than is suggested here…

  • http://www.scripting.com/ dave

    Before leaving thread, I wanted to give you credit for something. At least you put your name on this. I still think it's very bad to put someone's name in the title of a blog post with such a negative thought. You must know how the search engines treat those things. Eventually you'll develop a following who wants to hurt you, if you haven't already (it happens to everyone) and they'll do this to you, and you'll know how it feels. But like I said, at least you had the guts to put your name on it. That's something.

  • http://glasshouse.waggeneredstrom.com Frank Shaw

    FWIW, I just went and read the discussion page on Dave's wikipedia entry; hard to think of another way to describe what currently is there other than a vendetta.

    Frank Shaw

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    That may be, Frank — but the discussion page is not part of what most
    people look at when they look at a Wikipedia entry.

    On Fri, Mar 21, 2008 at 3:43 PM, Disqus

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  • http://glasshouse.waggeneredstrom.com Frank Shaw

    But they should — the discussion page is the only place where the tangible examples show up. In this case, it shows an enormous amoutn of effort by one person to change Dave's entry in a way that is not in line either Wikipedia guidelines. FWIW, it's good practice to look at the discussion page on any entry that has the slightest hint of controversy.

  • http://mickeleh.blgospot.com Michael Markman

    Credit is worth fighting for because it has economic consequences, not just ego consequences.

  • http://blogs.opml.org/amyloo amyloo

    Mathew, that's off-point. You're the one who got into motives when you said the claims of credit are based on mere differences of opinion, also something you wouldn't see on the current version of the main entry page. The systematic attacks on Dave's entry have descended even to marking it for deletion. I'd feel a lot better about reading your blog again if you admitted there has been an element of vendetta here. Because that's a fact.

    A Dave partisan, so sue me

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk ianbetteridge

    And it also shows that ultimate that one person couldn't actually change it to suit himself – the person you're referring to has effectively been barred from editing Dave's entry.

    What that discussion page shows is the exact opposite of what you're arguing: it shows that people with vendettas don't win.

  • http://www.scripting.com/ dave

    Thanks Michael. I just read this piece on one of Ingram's favorite blogs.


    It's all about people getting credit for their accomplishments.

    Damn right it's important.

  • http://www.technovia.co.uk ianbetteridge

    And yet, the entry is still there – and it still gives Dave reasonable credit for what he's done. Yes, people HAVE tried to attack Dave through his Wikipedia entry. But, thanks to the very mechanisms that Dave has criticised, they have failed – and they will continue to do so.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    I'm going to agree with Ian on this one, Amy. Nice try, though :-)

    On Fri, Mar 21, 2008 at 8:33 PM, Disqus

  • sorenj

    The problem with non-artists is that they lack a certain depth of understanding within the creative process and therefore are denied the reward intrinsically present in the act of creating. As such they seek credit.

    Seeking or even demanding credit is the scarlet letter of the non-artistic. Which, is fine, it makes it easy to differentiate creative from artistic

  • http://www.scripting.com/ dave

    And you know this how?

  • http://www.stealthmode.com hardaway

    Gentlemen: If you think true “creators” and artists don't want credit, you're hopelessly naive. Why do you think artists and writers sign their creations. True creative people may not care about remuneration, but they certainly care about credit. Dave's a creative, which is why so many of you find him difficult; I managed a shop of creatives, and they are often moody. But they are also dreamers and visionaries, and the people who move things forward.

  • webframp

    some valid points raised in each, but there's too much mudslinging and too few substantive comments. not to allude that you do matthew, but some people really have developed a vendetta against dave.

  • http://www.scripting.com/ dave

    We had a monthly salon in Berkeley in the 90s, techies, writers, journalists and bloggers and plenty of artists. Every time, the artists would steer the discussion into “how do we make money doing this.” Of course they never did make money, but they wanted to talk about it. I think the sentiment is they were tired of people thinking they just did their work for love, they wanted to get paid too. Hopeless. Only very few artists get paid. So you make up for that by making sure you get the credit. Then along comes Wikipedia, and takes that away too.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    I never said that artists and other creative people don't want credit — that's ridiculous. But there's a big difference between wanting it and “fiercely fighting” for it the way Dave suggests everyone should. That seems to involve turning everything into a vendetta, and people with different opinions into “accusers” who have to be confronted.

  • http://www.scripting.com/ dave

    You should write for a tabloid, you'd be good at it. :->

  • http://www.puntiglio.com/blog sorenj

    I listen more than I talk…

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  • http://www.technovia.co.uk ianbetteridge

    Dave, adding a smiley to a rude comment doesn't make it a polite one. “Practice what you preach”, indeed.

  • Colon Ostomy

    webframp, I expect that's because Dave is a kind and gentle soul who treats others fairly and with respect.

  • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

    “The whole point of the model is to find the middle ground, the common ground, the mutually agreed-upon version of events — not for people to pursue vendettas and confront their accusers.”

    …and that remains a problem.

    Facts are facts, and “consensus” is too often becoming a model for wishing away a conflict instead of resolving one. Are you going to have the moon-landing hoax people have their say on the Apollo page? Do the Flat-Earthers get equal time on the Plate Tectonics entry?

    I think I see exactly where Winer is coming from. (I don't know him, he doesn't know me. I don't care.) In this case, Wikipedia wants it both ways: they want the authority of a truly-vetted source, and the anonymity of those submitting. The vast majority of people reading Wikipedia never go to the discussion pages.

    Present the facts, and let the truth bear itself out. But “middle-ground” should not be the goal for a purported reference source. We might as well write tomorrow's history books to include such gems as “Saddam was involved in 9/11″ and “Bush lied to get oil.” Neither is true in any sense of the word, yet at times majorities of Americans believed them. That is where worshiping the Middle Ground leaves us.

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  • Jerry Phelps

    In all of his bellyaching about how creators want credit, has Winer ever been a person to credit others for *their* accomplishments? I can't recall a single time where he mentioned that Ramanathan Guha and Dan Libby created RSS 0.90 at Netscape. His burning desire to see people rightfully credited extends only to himself.

  • Jerry Phelps

    In all of his bellyaching about how creators want credit, has Winer ever been a person to credit others for *their* accomplishments? I can't recall a single time where he mentioned that Ramanathan Guha and Dan Libby created RSS 0.90 at Netscape. His burning desire to see people rightfully credited extends only to himself.

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